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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Advocates want say in Malacañang OFW bank bid


MANILA – MIGRANT advocates may be split on Malacañang’s go-ahead to build a bank of overseas migrant workers via migrant workers’ pooled funds but they agreed OFWs should be given say; some even ownership of the project.
“This government move again insulted many unsung heroes by diverting our money without due consultation,” wrote Ronnie Abeto of the Saudi Arabia-based Pusong Mamon Task Force, one of several groups of overseas Filipinos connected to the Internet.
“The issue here is not actually the creation of an overseas Filipino workers’ bank, but the use of OWWA funds,” an email by another Saudi Arabia-based OFW, Francis Oca, said.
Abeto and Oca were two of many OFWs consulted via email by the OFW Journalism Consortium after President Gloria Arroyo reportedly approved taking P1 billion from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to transform the Postal Bank into an OFW bank.
Francisco Aguilar Jr. of the Federation of Migrant Workers (FMW) said in an e-group discussion that he is apprehensive over the president's pronouncement since it would involve use of OWWA's resources without any consultation.
We reiterated the clamor to have proper representation and consultation with the OFW sector and to put in place full transparency of the project, wrote Aguilar, who is also president and chief executive of FMW Group of Companies.
Robert Ceralvo, who claims leadership of a Filipino community in New Jersey, United States, shared the “same fear”.
If OFWs will not be consulted, included, and vested in this OFW bank project, chances are, it will benefit more the powerbrokers than any of us [and] OFWs, Ceralvo’s email ran without explaining how this would come about.
Edna Aquino, trustee of the Centre for Migrant Filipinos (CMF) in London, England, also wrote that the decision “seemed like a unilateral one”.
She posited the following questions: “Why should the [Postal Bank] be given this kind of authority solely on the basis of its 18 branches and P30 million profit? How can it compete against the other mega banks with track records in the remittance services? And if the bank is for OFWs and the money for running it will come from OFW contributions, the more they should be consulted on the issue.”

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