BINAY – ARROYO GOV’T HAS FAILED TO PROVIDE AMPLE WELFARE PROTECTION FOR OFWS; SAYS MALACANANG’S TAKE ON ECONOMY MISLEADING
JULY 19 2009
REF: JOEY SALGADO
Makati Mayor and United Opposition (UNO) president Jejomar C. Binay today said the Arroyo administration has failed to match its aggressive marketing of Filipino labor with ample welfare protection for millions of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).
“Many of our OFWs find themselves facing difficulties abroad all because the Arroyo administration has put premium on remittances instead of welfare. They are pushed out of the Philippines so they can bring in dollars, without adequate orientation and welfare protection,” he said.
He also described as misleading Malacanang’s claim that the rise in OFW remittances was proof that the economy is in good shape.
“What the figures highlighted is the dependence of this administration on OFW money to keep the economy from totally sinking,” Binay said.
The opposition leader said Malacanang’s optimistic take on OFW remittances needs to be tempered by a report from an economic research group that remittances have been declining as compared to the previous year.
The economic think-tank Ibon said overseas remittances in the first four months of 2009 had already fallen in 10 out of 20 countries which account for 96 percent of overseas remittances to the Philippines .
Binay said the policy direction on overseas employment is embodied in Administrative Order 247 signed by Mrs. Arroyo last year setting a policy of market development and aggressive deployment of OFWs.
But the aggressiveness in seeking new markets and deploying OFWs is not matched by a similar aggressive move to protect OFWs from contract violations and abuses, he said.
“Remittances from our OFWs are keeping the economy afloat, and yet the Arroyo administration has failed to provide them with adequate protection in foreign countries,” he said.
The Makati mayor said the lingering problem of contract substitution – wherein the job description and compensation of OFWs are altered upon their arrival in the host countries – has not been addressed. In many cases, Binay said OFWs who refuse to comply with the terms of the substituted contract are considered as having absconded.
He also said departing OFWs often find themselves encountering difficulties in adjusting to the culture of foreign lands. What is also sorely lacking is the upgrading of welfare protection and assistance in the host countries, he said.
Overseas employment also carries social costs, especially to the families of OFWs who are left behind, and Binay said government has yet to address these issues squarely.
“The Arroyo administration has yet to comprehend the social costs of its aggressive marketing and deployment strategy, a strategy that speaks more of the administration’s failure to provide decent domestic jobs for Filipinos,” he said.
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said OFW remittances in May hit an all-time high of $1.48 billion, bringing the total remittances for the first five months of the year to $6.98 billion.
But Ibon said even BSP figures show that actual remittances have slowed down in the first quarter. From 4.9 percent in February and 3.1 percent in March, BSP noted that remittances were at 2.2 percent in April.
Citing BSP figures, Ibon said actual remittances from the U.S. – which accounts for 48 per cent of foreign remittances – fell by 10.4 percent for the period January to April 2009 compared to the same period last year.
Remittances from the U.S. totalled $2.29 billion for the period, and Ibon said this was $266.4 million less than $2.55 billion in the same period in 2008.
Ibon also said remittances from other countries where Filipinos are deployed have been going down. Kuwait registered a fall of 52.7 percent; Taiwan , 32.5 percent; Italy , 24.5 percent; Hong Kong, 22.4 percent; South Korea , 12.6 percent; Bahrain , 10.4 percent; the United Kingdom , 9.4 percent; Spain , 10.1 percent; and the United Arab Emirates , 1.9 percent. Remittances from these countries were $458.6 million less than the first quarter of the same period last year. (30)