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Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nearing burial, Gulf War claims issues haunt RP govt unit

by Alexis Douglas B. Romero

MANILA–It was given a second lease at life; yet even as its death is imminent this October, issues surrounding money claims of Filipino workers affected by the Iraq-Kuwait war continues to haunt a government unit.
As the United Nations final deadline nears for the Philippine government to finally compensate victims of the 1990 Gulf War, critics of the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee remain suspicious that something is amiss in the committee’s operations.
“Deliberate” was how claimant Freda Contreras phrased the delay in informing Filipino workers and/or their families that they can still get money even as committee officials told her otherwise.
Officials of the committee, which is responsible for releasing UN money, are adamant there was nothing irregular about the processes of finding out who should and should not receive cash.
“The DFA did not neglect its duty in informing the claimants,” Michael Lorenzo of the committee secretariat told the OFW Journalism Consortium. He stands pat on the work of his agency, which is under the Department of Foreign Affairs, adding that majority of the claimants already filed their claims.
The minority, he added, includes those whose claims were disapproved “because they failed to produce or submit ‘sufficient’ documents to the committee.”
Lorenzo explained that of the 48,000 Filipino workers killed, maimed, or displaced when bombs and bullets flew in labor-receiving countries Iraq and Kuwait 16 years ago, some 46,000 “were able to file claims.”
The UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) tapped from a war reparations money pool to compensate migrant workers, depending on the gravity of the strife’s impact on their lives. It gave each government six months to satisfy the claims of their respective citizens affected by the war.It suspends governments that fail to remit the compensations within six months and report the amount distributed within three months.
Some claimants and migrant groups believe the UNCC stopped giving money to the Philippine committee because of such alleged delays in the processing of claims.
The committee appealed and was given a final chance to compensate claimants estimated to be 2,000.A press release dated May 3 this year from the Department of Foreign Affairs website, however, said that the UNCC would no longer entertain the Philippine government requests after the September 30, 2006, deadline.
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Group seeks neglected Japanese descendants via poll

by Trisha Marcelo

QUEZON CITY–Some rely on just their surnames to carry them to Japan and, hopefully, a better life. A group here wants to help.Since August, the Federation of Nikkei-Jin Kai Philippines Inc. is undertaking a poll of Shin-Nikkei-jin (Japanese descendant) in the Philippines who were abandoned by their Japanese fathers.
The federation of 16 groups spread throughout the archipelago perceives these people to number in the thousands but government statistics remain unavailable or inaccurate.
The Philippine government and Japan have no record of the number of neglected Japanese descendants in the country because their birth certificates show their citizenship as Filipino.
Worse, some Japanese fathers refuse to recognize these children as from their blood despite the Filipino mother declaring otherwise.Like the mother of 17-year-old Shilla-Mei Murakami who brought her to the office of federation-member Manila-Central Luzon NIPPI (Japan-Philippines) Association Inc. for inclusion into the group’s census.
“I want to meet my father and work in Japan,” said Murakami, a single mother to a seven-month old baby.The five-foot Murakami stopped going to school after getting pregnant during her senior year. She works as a waitress in a coffee shop in Quezon City while living with her mother, who has since retired from working as an entertainer in Japan.Beside her is 13-year-old Toshiyuki Ito Jr., who is more fortunate: he was able to meet his father.
Since Ito’s Japanese father was an entertainment promoter in Japan, he would make it a point to visit the young Ito when he was in Manila despite separating from the mother in 1996. The young Ito was just three years old that time.He said they went to the federation’s office to seek help since his father has stopped seeing him since December 2000.Murakami and Ito were among the 16 Shin-Nikkei-jins who registered with the MCLNAI the day that the group began its intensive search for an estimated 100,000 Japanese descendants in the country.The federation expects to confirm that number when they reveal partial results by November this year.
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Data crunchers say RP has proxy migration data

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

QUEZON CITY— Just how many Filipino workers are there really in Lebanon?
In a country that constantly relies on money sent by Filipinos like them overseas, finding their exact or near-exact number could spell a difference. Having such figure could help in computing the cost of flying them home from discordant labor-receiving countries, for example.
However, as demographers –people who study population movements– lament, the country only has “proxy” data on overseas migration.
Hence, demographers like Nimfa Ogena and Josefina Cabigon of the University of the Philippines-Population Institute said the country is missing out on probing deeper a century-old phenomenon that is tearing apart the country’s socio-economic and political fabric.
But the Commission on Population remains undaunted, planning to include in the fourth edition of the State of the Philippine Population Report the economic, social, and demographic links between international migration and development.
The report, coming out November this year, “is bringing to the fore (Filipinos’) international migration as a population and development issue” since the overseas emigration of the country’s skilled workers “will challenge the country’s socio-economic future,” according to Deputy executive director Mia Ventura. [Disclosure: The author was hired by PopComm as technical editor of said report. –Eds.]
The first three editions of the report carried themes such as unmet need for family planning, youth development, and urbanization.
Still, Ogena told the OFW Journalism Consortium she could only wonder how PopCom will discover the links between international migration and demography since the country’s migration data leave much to be desired.
Both she and Cabigon said that while migration data and surveys in the Philippines—from stock estimates abroad, household surveys, to remittance inflows—are abundant, the validity of findings could be questioned due to the “fluidity” of international migration as well as misconceptions on the phenomenon.

For instance, using data on the evacuation of Filipinos from Lebanon as example will throw a monkey wrench into the business of crunching data.
Media reports citing the Philippine Embassy in Beirut as source cite there are an estimated 34,000 Filipinos there.
As streams of Filipinos come home from that discordant country, the December 2005 stock estimate of overseas Filipinos would reflect they are flying in trickles.
According to that estimate, there is a total of 48,031 Filipinos there, with 41,912, or nearly 90 percent, comprising temporary contract workers.
The figure comes from the state-run Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which said the number also came from Embassy officials. Of that total, the CFO data says 19 are permanent residents while some 6,100 are dubbed irregular or undocumented migrants.
Another example is the stock estimate, also from the CFO, of the number of Filipinos overseas.
That estimate, which the CFO compiled based on information from multiple government agencies and the country’s diplomatic posts, showed the country now has 7,924,188 Filipinos in 193 countries, the figure being lower than the December 2004 stock estimate of 8,083,848 (see table 1).
Of that total, some 3,651,727 Filipinos were identified as temporary contract workers while 3,391,338 were listed as permanent residents. Undocumented migrants, on the other hand, are reduced to 881,123 from 1,297,005 last year.
That set of data, Cabigon said, “is not accurate, and the figure may be more or less.”

CABIGON wonders how that stock estimate information from CFO plays a role in the country’s Census of the Population, where the country had a 76,504,077 population during the 2000 Census.
“The (use of the) stock estimate as a fraction of the total population, let’s say it is a tenth, is inaccurate. And if the 76.5 million in 2000 includes Filipinos overseas, that seems questionable,” she said.
Not only that the estimates of overseas Filipinos must be deducted to the domestic population count, Cabigon added. “There also seems to be a distortion of concepts between overseas contract workers and immigrants. (The latter is) not counted anymore as part of the Philippine population”.
Corazon Raymundo, another Pop-I colleague, agrees.
“Immigrants have a different definition (in demography) because they left the country with the intention to leave and stay out of the home country permanently.”
However, Cabigon said temporary contract workers or permanent residents should be enumerated in the household data “if [they] return to the country.”
Cabigon also thinks there is a “distortion” to the concept of overseas Filipinos. For one, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which specifically pertain to temporary contract workers, are “misconstrued” to include permanent residents and undocumented migrants.
Others even lump international labor migration, which covers “OFWs,” as international migration in general, Ogena observed.
“It is not necessarily so.”
Another complication to the equation are situations when Filipinos abroad who were registered prior to their flight abroad as temporary contract workers become permanent residents, or even undocumented or illegal migrants, Ogena added.
Undocumented migration also reveals a difficulty in tracking down the number of Filipinos passing through those channels, said Ogena. “Even those Filipinos who go through regular channels,” she added: “we can’t document them properly.”
And thus, Ogena and fellow demographers think there is still no way “to put together a coherent (set of) data that can be used for analysis and research.”

CFO’s Planning, Research and Policy Office’s Golda Roma said the stock estimates are annually prepared by an inter-agency committee composed of CFO, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the country’s 80 diplomatic missions.
Likewise, each of this government office has its own statistics and recording system of Filipinos who leave the country.
The CFO monitors those leaving as permanent residents or as spouses of foreign nationals, the POEA the newly hired and re-hired temporary contract workers, and each diplomatic post the Filipino presence in their respective countries.
Other agencies like the National Statistics Office use three household and income surveys related to Filipinos abroad: the quarterly Labor Force Survey (LFS), which is 72 pages thick; the annual Survey on Overseas Filipinos (SOF); and the triennial Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES).
The SOF looks at salient characteristics of OFWs and other Filipinos abroad, including remittance patterns and behavior, from April to September every year. It also presents data on remittances sent through banking and non-banking, or informal, channels.
Another government agency that has its own monitoring system is the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, which records Filipino migrants passing through air and sea ports.
Roma, however, said the BID doesn’t use the embarkation and disembarkation forms that Filipinos fill up when exiting and returning to the country.
There is also the Philippine Retirement Authority that records the number of Filipinos who availed special retirement retiree’s visas.
Roma, however, explains that because Filipinos abroad can now avail of dual citizenship as a result of Republic Act 9225, “only a few retirees avail of the visa, thus leading to a fewer number in the agency’s records.”
Despite these figure-watching schemes, Roma, Cabigon, and Ogena are dissatisfied.


RESULTS of migration-related surveys such as those in the SOF lean towards migration’s economic consequences, particularly remittances, the three former directors of Pop-I observed.
Knowing that international migration has a social cost to Filipino families, Cabigon said “non-economic hard data” about migration are nowhere to be found except in case and micro-level studies.
“It is hard to counter-argue those who project the positive economic benefits of international migration,” she added.
This data paucity also constrains demographers from looking at migrants’ and migrant households’ demographic characteristics, or from seeing international migration as part of population policy (see related story).
While CFO’s has stock estimates of overseas Filipinos from 1997 to 2005, Ogena cautions using time-series comparisons of the data, because migration “can be defined differently” by people.
Lack of funding to conduct a national migration survey (to even include internal migration) is also a constraint. Cabigon said the idea of administering a National Migration Survey covering both internal and international migration have been discussed as early as the 1970s,
Having accurate international migration statistics is a global concern because many countries do not have those.
“The low response levels regarding data on international migration flows stem from the lack of data collection systems that provide those data and the difficulty of producing all the data required by users from a single data source,” a paper of the United Nations Statistics Division stated.
UNSD added that for countries to obtain a comprehensive view of international migration processes, “the combination of different data sources that produced different types of data (border statistics, residence permits, population registers, etc.) is needed”.
UNSD, since 1997, is trying to harmonize international migration statistics worldwide, following the document Recommendations on Statistics on International Migration, Revision One. Its pilot test of an “International Migration and Travel Statistics Questionnaire” three years ago revealed there is an estimated 200 million migrants and refugees worldwide.
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Demographers decry downplayed diaspora dynamic

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANILA—It’s not about fertility, but about people.
Demographers from the University of the Philippines said the country’s overall population policy, which is currently “too focused” on lessening population growth, should be changed to include the international migration of Filipinos.
“People are moving out, and people are the population. That’s very obvious,” said Nimfa Ogena, former director of the UP Population Institute.
Since population growth reduction remains to be the focus, Ogena observes Philippine population policy is “misconceived” to be wholly about fertility, and this puts occurrences such as the overseas exodus of Filipinos “into the background.”
“Unless we correct the misconception that population (policy) is about fertility, we can’t go anywhere,” she told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
In a paper about population and international migration, which Ogena wrote as early as 2003, she has maintained that fertility has been the anchor of Philippine population policy since the 1960s.
The clamor for population reform from demographers like Ogena came at a time when President Macapagal-Arroyo did not mention any population policy in her recent State-of-the-Nation Address.
Deputy executive director Mia Ventura of the Commission on Population confirmed the country’s current population policy is oriented” towards the family, towards regulating population growth, and towards reproductive health.”
However, the opportunity to include migration framework in the country’s population data has been lost as legislators failed to pass the 2006 national budget.
Without a budget, the National Statistics Office cancelled the conduct of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Even preparatory activities by NSO, like the recruitment of data collectors and supervisors, cannot proceed, an August 4 statement by the agency said.
These delays, it added, could "compromise the quality of the data.”
The NSO is mandated by law to conduct a census every five or ten years. The last census it conducted was in 2000.
Despite this handicap, Ventura said PopCom will use quantitative and qualitative studies on Filipinos’ international migration, as well as the surveys of agencies such as NSO related to overseas migration by Filipinos, to discover the links between migration and demography.
Fertility, mortality, and migration (both international and internal) are the three population processes involved in demography, says the Philippine Center for Population and Development in its website (
These three processes should be part of Philippine population policy, Ogena said, citing its impact on a country’s population “outcomes” (age-sex structure, etc.) and development “outcomes” (employment, educational and health statuses, income distribution, etc.).
The National Statistical Coordination Board said last May it expects country’s population growth rate to slow down by 2010, when the country would have an estimated 94 million people, from an estimated 85.2 million (2005 NSO projection).
In this population growth projection, the NSCB considered international migration as “negligible,” saying international migration “has little effect on the national total population.”
With the lack of current data, the NSCB appears to play it safe, especially in linking, for example, international migration and fertility.
Even Cabigon cautions against linking the two, citing figures from the 2000 Census.
She pointed out that 800,051 households with overseas Filipino worker (OFW) dependents have larger average family sizes than the 14,478,757 households without OFW dependents.
Some of these OFW households have members coming from the extended family, and the Census might have counted them, Cabigon added.“What the data warrant us to do is to ask further questions,” Raymundo said.
For full story, click here