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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Suspension of Domestic Worker Deployment to Jordan Partially Lifted

Filipino household service workers returning to work with the same employer in Jordan have been exempted from the temporary suspension order earlier imposed against the deployment of HSWs to that country.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque has issued Department Order No. 93-08, Series of 2008, granting the partial exemption, “provided that the salary of the returning HSWs shall in no way be lower than the prescribed monthly pay for Filipino household service workers of US$400.”

DOLE, concerned about the growing number of distressed Filipino workers being housed in the Filipino Workers Resource Center in Jordan, earlier issued Department Order No. 88-08, Series of 2008, temporarily suspending the deployment of HSWs to Jordan effective January 21, 2008.

Upon the issuance of the new Department Order, Roque instructed both the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Jordan (POLO-Jordan) to resume processing the employment documents of the qualified returning HSWs.

Roque also instructed the POEA and POLO-Jordan to disseminate the information and to monitor the terms and conditions of employment of the HSWs returning to the same employers in Jordan.

DOLE set the monthly pay of HSWs to US$400 to ensure that only legitimate and capable employers can avail of the services of Filipino HSWs and eventually eliminate abuse and exploitation against them.

An Open Letter for President Arroyo

Her Excellency
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Malacanang, Manila

Subject: OWWA Diagnostic and Consultative Process on Administrator Appointment

Your Excellency:

There has been considerable public interest, in general, and utmost concern of the global Filipino community, in particular, on the governance and appointment of the Administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

We appreciate Your Excellency's support of the objective of ensuring the efficient and sound operations of OWWA, cognizant of the impact on the well-being of contract workers and their families. To that end, the global Filipino community submits for your consideration its twin proposal for:

1. an institutional diagnostic of OWWA to be carried out by a team of qualified international consultants; and

2. the adoption of a consultative process, which includes the global Filipino community, the stakeholders of OWWA, of developing a short list and choosing a qualified candidate for the OWWA Administrator.

The Diagnostic

It is timely to undertake an OWWA diagnostic in light of the departure of top management. A fresh diagnostic will provide an objective assessment of the past and perspectives for the future. It will serve as the performance benchmark for a new management team.

We respectfully suggest that the appointment of a new management team should await the completion of the diagnostic.

The diagnostic will cover:

a. a SWOT analysis (covering OWWA's strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities);
b. an assessment of:
i. OWWA's legal framework and operating environment;
ii. institutional strategy, programs, policies, and organizational structure, in the context of
meeting OWWA's mandated goals;
iii. financial performance, financial condition (including, in particular, the quality of the
portfolio) and audit; and
c. assessment-based recommendations, including, among others:
i. greater and real representation of the global Filipino community in the Board and
ii. independence of the Board;
iii. professionalization and autonomy of management;
iv. safeguards to protect portfolio quality and enhance financial performance;
v. content and format for quarterly report on operations, financial performance and financial
condition; and
vi. a capacity-building program.

The diagnostic will take one month to complete. It would initially build on the past assessments, audits and capacity building initiatives on OWWA. The entire process will involve consultations with relevant authorities and OWWA's stakeholders.

The global Filipino community will fund the cost of the international consulting team. The Leader and members of the international consulting team should be registered with multilateral or bilateral financial institutions.

Consultative Process for Search for OWWA Administrator

The global Filipino community proposes to develop a methodology, in close collaboration with the Office of the President, the Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Civil Service Commission, for the consultative process of finally choosing the new OWWA Administrator. The methodology will involve the following elements:

a. the job content and description;
b. the required qualifications;
d. a weighted Candidate Rating System (CDS) that would include:

i. the appropriateness and depth of experience;
ii. track record of professional performance;
iii. familiarity with issues relative to the position concerned;
iv. extent of interaction with the global Filipino community;
v. adequacy of exposure to and knowledge of the relevant bureaucratic environment;
vi. personality fit of the candidate in relation to the position concerned; and
vii. the vision defined by the candidate.

Thank you.

GFN Convenor

Poverty and Economic Data Point To Severe Governance Problem

Press release of Social Watch Philippines

Social Watch Philippines, a civil society network that led citizens groups' engagement in the national budget process and campaign for financing for development, called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stop blaming the global crisis for the severe hunger felt by millions of Filipinos and face the truth that poverty in the Philippines is caused by a grave governance problem.

"If all countries are affected by the global crises, how come other countries are not as hungry as Filipinos are? How come Vietnam has 7.4 percent growth rate, Malaysia 7.1 percent , Indonesia 6.3 percent, Thailand 6 percent, and the Philippines 5.2 percent? The crucial factor is governance," SWP lead convenor Leonor Magtolis Briones said.

Briones, who is also a former National Treasurer of the country, said that the slowing down of the economy is a manifestation of the inherent weakness in how GMA has managed the economy. She stressed that GMA has wrong development priorities, as manifested by the lack if funding for social development, particularly the Millennium Development Goals. These wrong economic priorities rendered more Filipinos vulnerable to rising cost of living and threaten to push more people into poverty.

The group reminded GMA that the growth of agriculture, fishery and forestry went down to 3 percent in the first quarter of 2008 as compared to 4% in the first quarter of 2007. The industry sector has gone down from 6.6 % during the first quarter of 2007 to 3.9 percent in 2008.

SWP also assailed GMA's high dependence on Value Added Tax--a regressive form of taxation--to fund government programs.

"The Philippine government should resolve revenue administration so that the government will not be dependent on VAT which puts heavy burden to the poor. It should resort to a progressive system of taxation with higher dependency on income and real property taxes," SWP convenor Filomeno Sta. Ana III said.

SWP called on PGMA to concentrate on collecting taxes from the rich instead of putting the tax burden to the poor through VAT. The group pointed to a study that companies availing themselves of incentives such as tax holidays are also among the country's largest and most profitable companies owned by the wealthiest people.

"The surging prices of rice and food items and oil exacerbated by the VAT will diminish the purchasing power of people's money, which will lead to lower consumption and may affect business profitability. This, in turn, could lead to closure of firms and greater unemployment," explained Sta. Ana.

Latest NSCB data reveal that the number of families whose income is not enough to cover basic food requirements increased in 2006 to 1.9 million from 1.7 million. As of 2006, there are already 12.2 million food poor million Filipinos as compared to 10.8 million in 2003.

SWP, which convened 48 NGOs to form the Alternative Budget Initiative that pioneered civil society-legislature partnership for better allocations to finance the MDGs, asserted that subsidies and direct transfers are palliative and addresses only present, day-to-day needs. The group believes that subsidies are by no means long-term solutions to alleviating hunger and poverty.

"The only sustainable and effective way to addressing poverty is to invest on human capital, such as education and health which, unfortunately, shows disturbing trends," said Mercy Fabros of Woman Health Philippines which is one of the most active members of the ABI health budget advocates.

Fabros called attention to the fact that the Philippines is second among the ASEAN 5 countries (Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Indonesia) in terms of highest number of deaths among infant and children under five years old.

Meanwhile, Rene Raya of Action for Economic Reforms and also a convenor of SWP, stressed that the national enrollment rate is on a decline for the past five years.

SWP also called on Congress to check on the legality of providing subsidies under Unprogrammed Funds. "The General Appropriations Act is very specific that there has to be a showing that there is excess income. It is also clear that subsidies should go to health and education and that a special law on appropriations should be passed before the government can use any excess funds," Briones said. "Moreover, it is another opportunity for corruption," she added.

"PGMA should start reversing the government public expenditure patterns. Declining economic growth, soaring cost of living and increasing unemployment does not bode well for the worsening poverty," Briones said.

Briones stressed that PGMA should not be proud of the state of employment in the country during her SONA. "Gains in employment are already erased by the fact that unemployment now stands at 8% and underemployment at double digit levels. This resulted to a net loss of 168,000 jobs since April last year, Briones said.

SWP warned that the present administration has been measured and found most wanting in the area of governance. The group reminded PGMA that The World Bank has pronounced the Philippine government under Arroyo as the most corrupt government in East Asia.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

GFN Letter to Vote

Dear colleagues in the global Filipino community:

Starting December 1, 2008, Philippine authorities will resume voter registration for overseas Filipinos.

The process will be a great opportunity to enrich the suffrage rights of global Filipinos.

The harvest potential is great. We need "lead harvesters" to mobilize global Filipinos in different parts of the world.

Our goal is to raise the number of registered global Filipino voters from 504,000 to, say, 20 percent of all Filipinos living abroad. That means about 2 million offshore voters. Together with their families onshore, they could reshape the Philippine political landscape.

Let us shift our preoccupation from complaining about governance issues to resolving those issues by enlarging our suffrage power.

Instead of predetermining the lead coordinators in different countries and cities, we invite all global Filipinos who wish to be "lead harvesters" to please email us the following information:

1. Name
2. Email address
3. Country and city
4. Cell phone
5. Organization and position (optional)
6. Assistance offered (optional), e.g., email brigade, writing articles for publication, talk shows, organizing community events/announcements, coordination with the nearest consulates, posters and flyers, etc.

We address this request also to Filipinos living in the Philippines who have a global mindset and committed to good governance.

After we get all expressions of interest, we would cluster all interested parties in a given country and let them decide the lead coordination roles in their country of residence.

Let us all move to make governance change a reality.

Magrehistro. Ihalal wastong gubyerno!

Dual citizenship. The best of two worlds.


Victor S. Barrios
Global Filipino Nation

Landbank-Laguna Finances Malunggay Farming Through CLAP

Landbank of the Philippines in Laguna has opened a financial facility for malunggay growers through the Cooperative Livelihood Assistance Program.

Last June 24, the Enterprise and Sustainable Livelihood Multi-purpose Cooperative, together with the Laguna provincial government and the Sangguniang Kabataan, unveiled the project entitled "Miracle Malunggay: Kikita Ka Na, Lulusog Ka Pa" in Magdalena, Laguna. It was the first ever malunggay nursery funded by Landbank-Laguna.

According to Dolly Libunao from the Development Assistance Center Area 4B of Landbank-Laguna, their head office is already conducting a research dedicated to malunggay. Landbank is also working on its Development Advocacy Program to help finance livelihood projects like this one.

"Kung ang isang kooperatiba ay hindi makapasa sa regular lending program ng Landbank, mayroon pang advocacy program kung saan kailangan lamang na magkaroon ng marketing program ang income generating project, para sigurado ang pagbalik ng pera," said Libunao.

Wilmer Lebria, chairman of ESLMPC, said that he wants to propagate malunggay farming because of the vegetable's health and nutritional value, as well as its agribusiness potential since coop members would gain additional income.

This project also aims to teach the people of Laguna the importance of malunggay. "Gusto kong imulat ang Sangguniang Kabataan, ang mga local government units na mag-engage sa livelihood na hindi lang basta kikita kundi lulusog pa." Lebria added.

ESLMPC converted 3-½ hectares of unutilized land into a malunggay nursery and seedbank that will provide for the seed requirement of malunggay plantations in the second and third districts of Laguna. The local government of Laguna provided logistical support and technical assistance to the project.

The coop has been tapped to plant malunggay in over 60 hectares of land. This is apart from the 40-hectares in Sta Maria, 8 hectares in Majayjay, 3 hectares in Pila, and 2 hectares in Sta. Cruz, among others. SECURA International is also reported to have acquired the harvest of the nursery.

Laguna is also one of the supporters of the BIONet-BIOCommerce project of the DA-Biotechnology Program Office. No less than Laguna Governor Teresita Lazaro herself confirmed this during a seminar-workshop conducted last year. Such support includes disseminating information on the livelihood opportunities that biotechnology provides, participation and support of municipalities in BIOCommerce activities and active membership in Biotechnology Information and Organization Network.

The provincial government believes this will contribute to attaining food security, help farmers and fishermen to have additional income and livelihood opportunities and boost agricultural modernization.

Lazaro says with the BIONet-BIOCommerce program, the quality of life of her constituents may eventually be upgraded.

Each district of Laguna will embark on a BIOCommerce – Malunggay project, now a priority of the province, and the inauguration of ESLMPC's malunggay nursery actually jumpstarted it.

Through the wonders of biotechnology, the processing of matured malunggay seeds into edible and essential oil, biofuel feedstock, animal feed ingredient, and water purifier is now available. The many applications of malunggay is one big draw for investors and poor farmers and the marginalized.

The program was attended by local government officials led Dennis Lazaro, the provincial administrator of Laguna, and by officers of the DA-BPO, baranggay officials of Magdalena, Sangguniang Kabataan leaders and executives of the Department of Education (DepEd) in Laguna and the Philippine Information Agency, health and nutrition scholars, women, farmers, and local residents. (biolife news service)

DA Biotech Experts Develop Method to Detect Genuine Hybrid Rice Strains

When a typical Filipino starts on a meal, the first thing he takes from the table is not salad or any other appetizer, but rice.

Rice, which was domesticated in the Indian subcontinent about 6,000 years ago, has become an indelible part of the diet and culture as well.

Today, Filipinos are considered as one of the world's biggest consumers of rice on a per capita basis.

However, one of the most serious challenges that Philippine agriculture is its inability to provide enough grain to feed more than 88 million Filipinos and biotechnologists are in the thick of the battle to increase yield and develop pest-free and high-yielding strains that use less inputs.

Estimates vary but the official figure is that the 1.8 million hectares of rice farms could only provide 90 percent of the country's rice requirement.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has set a rice sufficiency target of 98 percent by 2010 and 100 percent sufficiency by 2013.

Soaring rice prices worldwide due to demand have made the grain a precious commodity. Only 7 percent of the total global production of the grain is sold in the world market.

China, the world's most populous country with 1.36 billion people, keeps its rice production figure a state secret and its huge purchases early this year had been fingered as the reason why the price went sky high.

With the high demand for rice, the world's biggest exporters, Thailand and Vietnam, have dominated the sellers' market and the Philippines eventually became their most avid customer.

However, there is another problem besetting rice, and this is the presence of what has been dubbed as a "varietal impostor." Fakes abound in the real world in defiance of Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) but bogus rice is not an everyday occurrence.

The Department of Agriculture Biotechnology Program Office (DA-BPO) and the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) have found the solution to fraudulent identity of commercially released hybrid rice through the establishment of genotype identity analysis, assisted by Simple Sequence Repeat (SSR) and Sequence Tagged Sites (STS) molecular markers or microsatellites.

A microsatellite is polymorphic or an organism having more than one adult form (carrying different functions as to the castes of social ants).

PhilRice is specifically conducting the study on the Mestizo rice variety, since it is one of the most popular varieties of commercial rice. Through the identification of the variety's gene traits, the application of the SSR markers will allow the identification of the authentic variety from the varietal impostor.

The application of the SSR and STS markers is the more convenient way of testing the hybrid lines than the use of typical "grow-out" test.

This way, farmers are protected from fraud in purchasing hybrid rice varieties for planting.

Bacterial blight is one of the most fatal pests that can hobble rice production. It is caused by Xanthomonas oryzae pv oryzae. It is a vascular disease that results in a systematic infection that produces tannish-grey to white lesions among the veins. Symptoms are observed at the tillering stage, disease incidence progresses with plant growth, peaking at the flowering stage. Infection at seedling stage may result to wilt or crop failure. The disease causes losses that range from 20 percent to 50 percent of production loss in the rice fields.

DA-BPO and PhilRice came up with the technology to improve and enhance the parental lines of the Mestizo rice variety by incorporating Blight Resistant properties, through Background Marker Selection (MAB) using genomewide SSRs.

This can be considered as a major breakthrough in the country's current campaign to increase rice supply and thus achieve modest gains in the battle to achieve food sufficiency and food sovereignty in the long run. (biolife news service)

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Ople Center Warns of Unabated Trafficking of Filipino Women to Malaysia

Press release

Blas F. Ople Center raised an alert on the growing number of cases involving the trafficking of Filipino women to Malaysia as it called on local governments to help stamp out human trafficking.

According to the Center, local “scouts” of Malaysian syndicates and recruiters have been penetrating residential areas particularly in the countryside in search for new victims.

“We are alarmed by the growing number of cases of women trafficked to Malaysia via our international airports. The illegal recruiters here and their Malaysian bosses in Kuala Lumpur and Sabah have developed a more sophisticated way of enticing women to work there illegally without even a shred of protection,” the Blas F. Ople Center reported. It added that some recruiters entice their unsuspecting victims with fake letters of invitations from employers or educational institutions that they in turn show to their families and concerned relatives. Upon arrival in Malaysia, these women are shocked to when forced to work long hours with little food or rest under abusive employers who refuse to give them salaries citing an agreement with their illegal recruiters.

Local government units should embark on an information campaign to prevent these syndicates from preying on their unsuspecting constituents. “Without the mayors and barangay officials knowing it, these scouts are knocking on doors, offering jobs under a fly now-pay later scheme that is just a euphemism for white slavery and exploitation of workers,” the non-government organization stressed. The Center offered to help LGUs in launching an anti-trafficking information and education campaign together with the POEA.

Former DoLE undersecretary Susan Ople, who now heads the Center, noted that the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur recently sent home 24 victims of human trafficking and illegal recruitment. Of the 24 workers, at least 15 of them were victims of a single human trafficking syndicate that has been recruiting women from rural areas. Most of the victims were fresh graduates and single mothers who were desperate to earn money for their families.

“The Ople Center appeals to job seekers especially women to be on guard against the handiwork of these syndicates. When in doubt please ask the POEA before accepting job offers abroad.”

Ople Center has been working closely with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Justice and Department of Foreign Affairs in the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking. Last month, the Center signed a Memorandum of Agreement with the POEA for a joint advocacy against human trafficking.

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An Online petition Supporting a new OWWA administrator

To President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
President of the Republic of the Philippines
Malacanang Palace, Manila

Dear President Arroyo,

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is one government agency that has been the center of criticism by the very sector of society that it seeks to serve – the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

The appointment of the Honorable Marianito Roque as the new secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment opened the door for the appointment of an OWWA Administrator who knows what is in the mind and can feel what is in the heart of OFW, like him.

Yes Madam President, it is high time that someone from among the OFW community leaders be appointed to the post of OWWA Administrator; one who understands by heart the every day problems faced by our overseas workers inside and outside their jobsites, and during and after the tenure of their work contracts; one who has been in the field, and has seen and attended to many OFW cases that were brought to his attention as a trusted community leader.

With those in mind we, the undersigned Overseas Filipinos together with our families and friends, respectfully recommend for your consideration, Madam President, the appointment of Dr. Carlito L. Astillero to the post of OWWA Administrator.

Dr. Astillero has been an overseas worker, serving in various medical positions in three Middle East countries from 1976 up till now. Within those 32 years as an OFW, Dr. Astillero has been an active community leader, serving either as founder or head of various organizations engaged in sports, economic, social, and welfare activities. He is also one of those who worked hard for the passage of the Overseas Absentee Voting Law.

In recognition of his contributions to the welfare of the OFW community, Dr. Astillero has been given the “Most Outstanding Filipino in Saudi Arabia” award by the Philippine Embassy in 1990, the “Bagong Bayani Award” by President Corazon Aquino in 1992, the “San Lorenzo Ruiz Award as Outstanding OCW” by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1994, and the Special Presidential “Banaag and Sikat Award” also by President Fidel V. Ramos in 1996, among other prestigious awards given to OFW in recognition of their services to the overseas Filipino communities

We are confident that once appointed Administrator, Dr. Carlito Astillero will provide the missing link between OWWA and its member-OFW.

For once, please do not take our fervent appeal for granted. For once, hearken to our prayers, we the 11 Million Filipinos in Diaspora.

For once, be on the side of history instead of being influenced by the ordinary processes of political quid pro quos.

We pray that you heed our most fervent appeal, Your Excellency.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Women OFWs Many But Remit Less Than Men

BY Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

Filipina overseas workers inside the Kota Raya mall in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (including a manicurist) visibly prove that women working abroad still have the numbers, even if a recent government survey showed that they remit lesser amounts than men.
Photo by Jeremaiah Opiniano

KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA–FOR 12 years, Rita’s family in the Philippines was fed through two shoe-box sized containers at her feet.

The rectangular matte-black boxes, scuffed with use, contain Rita’s tools of the trade: nail clippers, nippers, two-inch tall bottles of silver, gold, and red nail polishes, blush-on brushes and mascara.

For more than a decade, Rita relied on her being a manicurist and pedicurist, enabling her to send money to her family in Bansalan, Davao del Sur.

Rita is one of millions of female laborers and unskilled workers who remain the leading number of OFWs in the annual Survey on Overseas Filipinos (SOF) of the National Statistics Office.

But their meager salaries abroad have not made them the top remitters compared to their counterpart male low-skilled workers.

While not revealing how much she sends monthly, Rita says she earns an average 100 ringgits (a minimum of P1,365.40 at current exchange rates) a day.

Notably, that is still below the RM150 daily cost of living allowance that the Malaysian Trades Union Congress (MTUC) said the government provided to public sector employees last year.

Malaysia, where Rita is, hosts some 244,967 Filipinos there, according to newly released stock estimates of the government-run Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
Of this number, the CFO estimates nearly half are undocumented; the rest have declared Malaysia their permanent home (26,002) while the remaining are temporary migrants with legal travel and working documents.

The CFO data, sadly, is not gender-disaggregated.

The SOF, however, is. In 2006, it affirmed there were more women OFWs: 764,000 versus 751,000 men working and living outside the Philippines.
That year, they poured into the Philippines an estimated P102 billion in cash and in-kind remittances.

Cash remittances refer to those sent from host countries, as well as money that OFWs brought home.

That estimated total cash and in-kind remittances was higher than the PhP85.1 billion total in the 2005 SOF.

For cash remittances, the 2006 SOF saw OFWs remitting nearly P76 billion from April to September that year.

But while there are more women OFWs, male migrant workers sent more during that period: nearly P51 billion as against the P26 billion by women.
Analysts expect remittances from women to drop as there was a decrease in the deployment of Filipino domestic helpers last year.

WHILE laborers and unskilled workers were the most number of OFWs from the 2001 to the 2006 editions of the SOF, two occupational groups of male workers have been the leading remitters.

From 2001 to 2005, male "plant and machine operators and assemblers" have been the top remitters –from nearly P8 billion in 2001 to just above P10 billion after five years.

Two years ago, male "trades and related workers" grabbed the top spot by remitting some P13 billion.

The NSO survey aims to know remittance amounts and channels by OFWs by age, sex, country of work, and region of origin in the Philippines.

Female laborers and unskilled workers alone make up the largest OFW group by type of occupation and gender.

Of the estimated 1.515 million OFWs in the 2006 SOF survey, a third of them are laborers and unskilled workers —including some 313,000-plus females. There were some 268,000 female laborers and unskilled workers in the 2003 SOF.

OFWs categorized as "trade and related workers,” are those who “apply their specific knowledge and/or skills in the field of mining, construction, form metal, set machine tools, or make fit, maintain, or repair machinery, equipment or tools produce or process food stuff, textile or wooden, metal and other articles”.

“Plant and machine operators and assemblers" are workers who “operate and monitor industrial machinery and equipment on the spot or by remote control, drive and operate trains, motor vehicles and mobile machinery and equipment, or assemble products from component parts”.

Laborers and unskilled workers are made up of those workers "who perform simple tasks which mainly require the use of hand-held tools and often some physical effort”.

Rita is under this category.

For 12 years, Rita has provided manicure and pedicure services to Filipino, Malaysian and foreign customers at a shoe store inside Kota Raya mall. Her “office space” is a half-square-meter floor filled to the ceiling with boxes of shoes that she also sells.

She shares the space with a Malaysian with a dining table for two customers.

She and women and unskilled OFWs like her have the lowest six-month average cash remittance sent, according to the SOF.

The average monthly remittance by female laborers and unskilled workers was pegged by the SOF at P36,000.

The 2001 to 2006 SOF results showed laborers and unskilled workers, trade and related workers, and plant and machine operators and assemblers always outnumbered professionals in terms of actual worker count and remittance volumes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Letter from Juan de la Cruz

Note: A forwarded message

When I was small, the Philippine peso was P2.00 to the US dollar.

The president was Diosdado Macapagal. Life was simple. Life was easy.

My father was a farmer. My mother kept a small sari-sari store where our neighbors bought sang-perang asin, sang-perang bagoong, sang-perang suka, sang-perang toyo at pahinging isang butil na bawang.

Our backyard had kamatis, kalabasa, talong, ampalaya, upo, batao, and okra.

Our silong had chicken. We had a pig, dog & cat. And of course, we lived on the farm.

During rainy season, my father caught frogs at night which my mother made into betute (stuffed frog), or just plain fried. During the day, he caught hito and dalag from his rice paddies, which he would usually inihaw.

During dry season, we relied on the chickens, vegetables, bangus, tuyo, and tinapa. Every now and then, there was pork and beef from the town market.

Life was so peaceful , so quiet, no electricity, no TV. Just the radio for Tia Dely, Roman Rapido, Jonny de leon Tawag ng Tanghalan and Tang-tarang-tang. And who can forget Leila Benitez on Darigold Jamboree?

On weekends, I played with my neighbours (who were all my cousins). Tumbang-preso, taguan, piko, luksong lubid, patintero, at iba pa. I don't know about you, but I miss those days.

These days, we face the TV, Internet, e-mail, newspaper, magazine,grocery catalog, or drive around. The peso is a staggering and incredible P44.00 to the US dollar.

Most people can't have fun anymore. Life has become a battle.
We live to work.
Work to live.

Life is not easy. It was in Saudi Arabia in 1983. It was lonely, difficult, & scary. It didn't matter if you were a man or a woman. You were a target for rape. The salary was cheap & the vacation far between. If the boss didn't want you to go on holiday, you can't.

They had your passport. Oh, and the agency charged you almost 4 months of your salary (which, if you had to borrow on a "20% per month arrangement" meant your first year's pay was all gone before you even earned it).

The Philippines used to be one of the most important countries in Asia .

Before & during my college days, many students from neighboring Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Japan and China went to the Philippines to get their diplomas. Like Thailand, they went to study agriculture in UP Los Banos and earned their bachelors in the Philippines and now we import rice from them. It's the opposite now.

The Philippines used to be the exporter of any agriculture product but now it's different. We import because not much land (farms) they can cultivate due to private sectors who focused on developing houses, buildings, supermarkets, mall and others.

What happened now?

Whats the government doing?

Checking their own pocket, their own personal interest and pork barrels.


Until 1972,like President Macapagal, President Marcos was one of the most admired presidents of the world.

The Peso had kept its value of P7.00 to the US dollar until I finished college . Today, the Philippines is famous as the "housemaid" capital of the world.

It ranks very high as the "cheapest labor" capital of the world, too. We have maids in Hong Kong, laborers in Saudi Arabia, dancers in Japan, migrants and TNTs in Australia and the US, and all sorts of other "tricky" jobs in other parts of the globe.

Quo Vadis, Pinoy? Is that a wonder or a worry? Are you proud to be a Filipino, or does it even matter anymore?

When you see the Filipino flag and hear the Pambansang Awit, do you feel a sense of pride or a sense of defeat & uncertainty?

If only things could change for the better...... . Hang on for this is a job for Superman. Or whom do you call? Ghostbusters.

I want to help the maids in Hong Kong ...

I want to help the laborers in Saudi Arabia ...

I want to help the dancers in Japan ...

I want to help the TNTs in America and Australia ...

I want to save the people of the Philippines ..

But I cannot do it alone. I need your help and everyone else's.

If you say you love the Philippines, prove it. And if you don't agree with me, say something anyway.

It's time for a change of leadership!

Indifference is a crime on its own .

Juan de la Cruz

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overseas Filipinos, Retirees Still Top Buyers of RP Residences

Demand in the residential market remains strong, says CBRE official

Overseas Filipinos and retirees remain the most active buyers of residential property in the Philippines, boosting market demand, a top official of an international real estate services company said.

The bulk of overseas Filipino workers and retirees from around the world residing in the Philippines or considering residence here who invest in the property market target mid-end residential development projects, Mike Mabutol, Director for Investment Properties and Capital Markets at CB Richard Ellis Philippines told delegates to the recent Asia Pacific Marketing Power and Sales Effectiveness property and marketing conference in Macau, China.

Overseas Filipino workers have long been a lucrative market for residential properties because of their desire to provide a better life for their families. According to Mabutol, OFWs prioritize investing their hard-earned income in residential properties.

Retirees have also ramped up property spending, mostly from life savings and retirement benefits. Mabutol said.

“This trend started four to five years ago and now we see these retired buyers becoming more active in the market,” said Mabutol, despite property woes in other parts of the world, in particular the U.S.

To address increasing demand by OFWs and retirees, real estate developers are developing affordable housing developments and condominium projects, with investments ranging from PhP 1 Million to PhP 2.5 Million, according to a CBRE Philippines report. In the period 2008 to 2013, 28 residential condominiums are expected to rise in Makati City, providing more than 18,000 units. In Fort Bonifacio, 33 residential condominiums are expected to be completed between 2008 and 2013, which will provide more than 11,500 units.

High-end residential condominiums are also in demand. As a result of increased demand, prices for high-end residential condominiums in Makati City have risen from Php 90,000 per square meter in 2006 to Php 100,000 to Php 130,000 per square meter this year. Low interest rates and flexible financing terms have helped boost the residential property sector. According to Trent Frankum, CBRE Philippines General Manager, mortgage rates are hovering in a range of 8.5% to 12%.

Another bright prospect for the Philippine residential market is the development and market positioning of retirement villages for expatriate “empty nesters.” Studies show that retirees from the US, Europe and other countries in Asia, such as China, South Korea and Japan are flocking to tropical countries like the Philippines for their retirement. The retirement market is a potential multi-billion-dollar industry, and the Philippines has stepped up efforts to entice foreign and local investments in such projects, Mabutol said.

The Philippine Retirement Authority, a government owned and controlled corporation, and the Philippine Retirement Institute encourage local and foreign investors to support retirement community projects. Road shows in Korea, Japan, and the United States, have promoted Philippine retirement villages, offering tax incentives for pioneering projects in the country.

Monday, July 21, 2008

GFN's Statement on RP Govt's Pop Policy

Press statement

Global Filipino Nation, an international association of global Filipinos, their families and onshore Filipinos advocating good governance, has cautioned national officials from labeling divergent views on population policy and control as “narrow-minded, parochial and stupid”.

GFN asserts that worldwide economic history and empirical evidence do not support the policy premise that population control measures effectively bring down birth rates, thus advancing poverty alleviation goals.

Evidence shows that population growth rates decline, not a result of deliberate population policy, but due to economic growth, education and the rise of women’s rights.

At the lowest stage of economic development, population growth rates tend to be high. Children, including sons and daughters of age and married, serve a social insurance function: working in the fields, contributing to family income, fulfilling household tasks, helping finance the schooling of siblings and providing for the old age of parents.

As societies grow economically, incomes rise and formal forms of social insurance develop -- resulting in the reduced value of children as an informal form of social insurance. Awareness and expectations of social mobility spread, inducing the youth to postpone the age of marriage and couples to reduce the number of children. Movements promoting women’s rights and gender equality have contributed to a decrease in the number of children.

Worldwide population control measures adopted have not been effective. They have been introduced generally when population growth rates have been on the decline in many countries, including China. Even the Philippines is undergoing a perceptible population growth decline, with the rate dropping from the 3%+ levels of the 60s to the current level of 1.95% as estimated by the Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board. Growth rate data would be more meaningful if net migration figures are revealed.

Birth rates in highly-developed countries have decreased to bare replacement levels. Many Western nations, such as the U.S. and Canada, grow only due to immigration. Some European countries are facing an absolute decline in population. Japan would experience a declining population as the post-World War II generation dies off. More and more observers are becoming fearful of too many elderly people rather than too many babies. Ironically, the still relatively robust birth rate of the Philippines has served as a national social safety net, given population migration cum remittances.

Policy makers should exercise caution lest they succumb to the geopolitical goals of developed countries and the perceived post-Cold War era concerns about immigration pressures, national security and environmental degradation. Policy makers, especially politicians, should also resist the temptation of formulating judgments on what is good for families and making major decisions in the lives of the people.

GFN urges policy makers to focus on pro-growth policies, including dismantling the special interest obstacles to growth, rather than apply resources to misguided population policy.

This statement focuses on population policy in the context of poverty alleviation goals of the country. The main contention is the fact that population control measures are not effective in bringing down birth rates. The statement abstains from contentious debates relating to women’s rights, health issues, pro-life vs. pro-choice polemic, the religious stance, environmental impact, eugenics and nativism. Those important debates, which should be reserved for separate fora, do not directly relate to poverty alleviation.

Ambitious Zero-illegal Recruitment Bid Faces Many Hurdles in La Union

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANDALUYONG CITY–A BID to stomp out illegal recruitment in La Union province within a year got off on a slow start, with the nonprofit group leading this ambitious project bracing itself for “booby traps” along the way.

Marge Madiguid of Kanlungan Centre Foundation Inc. said there was no formal launch yet for its “zero illegal recruitment campaign,” planned to start this June.

The campaign won for Kanlungan a P0.92-million grant in May from the World Bank-sponsored contest called “Panibagong Paraan”.Madiguid told the OFW Journalism Consortium that while there’s no formal launch for the project, they have met and discussed the campaign with local government and nongovernment groups and agencies.

She’s hoping that all committees they plan to organize for the campaign would be formed before July.But the slow start is the least of Kanlungan’s problems as Madiguid said a lot of hurdles await the project.

The biggest hurdle, she said, is the alleged links between recruiters and executives of the local government, which is one of Kanlungan’s partner in the project.La Union, some 235 kilometers north of Manila, hit the headlines in 2006 when former Agoo assistant provincial prosecutor Catalino Pepi was reportedly sentenced to life imprisonment for illegally recruiting factory workers bound for South Korea.

The conviction decision of the Regional Trial Court in Agoo read that Pepi connived with a Manila recruitment agency, and even used his office, to collect placement fees ranging between P40,000 to P150,000 from each applicant.Another news report cited the arrest of provincial board member Pablo Olarte after three people filed a case against the former mayor of Agoo, La Union, for not being sent overseas.

A 2006 POEA release cited Olarte as proprietor of Sabloak Philippines, a consultancy firm offering paid services for jobseekers wanting to meet immigration requirements for Canada.Madiguid, however, defended Olarte, describing the government officials as a “victim, too.”

She added that Olarte, the former mayor of Agoo, is a pro bono lawyer for three illegally-recruited provincemates.

That explains his attachment to recruitment regulations, Madiguid said.Olarte apparently lobbied for the provincial ordinance requiring recruiters to apply for license from the provincial government before practicing their trade.

Still, she thinks the project will “test his sincerity”.

La Union has the largest number of recorded illegal recruitment cases for the Ilocos region, according to government data.Kanlungan Centre, a 20-year-old counseling center for domestic workers, has provided service to more than 300 IR cases in La Union over an 11-year period.

This meant on the average, the Quezon City-headquartered group’s satellite office in La Union, handled 27 cases a year.Deployment data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in 2006 showed that La Union was the birthplace of some 9,677 land-based and 1,717 sea-based temporary contract workers.On the other hand, 1988-2005 data of registered emigrants from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas revealed some 15,343 permanent residents abroad came from La Union.

According to Madiguid, some 30 recruitment agencies are active in the province.POEA’s directory of licensed agencies shows that La Union has a homegrown recruitment agency, Beldevere Manpower, and nine Metro Manila-headquartered licensed recruitment agencies that have branch offices in the province.

Ten of these are in San Fernando City: 2000 Miles Placement Agency; Active Works Inc.; Aim High International Placement Corp. (two branches); Greenworld Placement Services; Humania International Inc.; Interworld Placement Center; and, St. Georges Recruitment International (two branches).Another recruitment agency, AD’s Overseas Placement Agency, has a branch office in the municipality of Bauang.

Beldevere Manpower (, for its part, even has extension offices in Manila and in London, United Kingdom.The La Union provincial government website showed that Beldevere and three Metro Manila-based recruiters placed job orders in 12 countries through the provincial government’s Public Employment Services Office.

PESO hosts job fairs for local and overseas jobs.In a State of the Province Address, Governor Pablo Ortega reported that in 2006, the PESOs tapped 250 firms, recruitment agencies, and government offices for local and overseas jobs. Out of 3,589 applicants for local and overseas placement, some 1,713 were employed, Ortega reported.

However, the website of the Labor department’s Bureau of Local Employment noted that a dozen of the 21 PESOs in La Union are “non-operational”.Four of the nine areas of Kanlungan-La Union’s project sites, namely Bagulin, Naguilian, Santol, and Sudipen, have non-operational PESOs.“They do not screen the companies involved in their job fairs,” said Madiguid.She cited an IR case that Kanlungan handled wherein the potential OFW learned about an overseas job opening through the PESO.

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

GFN reflections on managing unity amidst diversity

These observations, prepared by Victor S. Barrios, Global Filipino Nation Convenor, are drawn from interfacing over the years with different global Filipino leaders and organizations all over the world. GFN acknowledges the contributions of many global Filipinos to the insights in this note. GFN is an association of global Filipinos, their onshore families and onshore Filipinos with a global mindset – all committed to good governance.

We are on the road to “Building the Global Filipino Nation”.
We have locked our sights on the final destination, conscious that the road is long, winding and traversed by freeloaders, obstructionists, opportunists and predators.
We have learnt lessons in consensus-building, which, if internalized and applied, would strengthen mobilization efforts to empower global Filipinos politically or otherwise.
We share constructive lessons, not intended to be “Sermons on the Mount”, but designed to energize the mobilization process:
1. It is productive of relationships if one faithfully, sincerely and transparently heeds Rotary’s Four-Way Test:

· Is it the TRUTH?
· Is it FAIR to all Concerned?
· Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?

2. Define and elicit acceptance of the stakeholder consultative process, which, when applied consistently, would lead to broad consensus.

3. Focus on issues of substance rather than trivialities and tittle-tattle that rattle the rational mind.

4. Encourage healthy discussions and bring out the substantive brilliance in everyone, without anyone’s self-esteem being wounded and sacrificing the truth.

5. Avoid argumentum ad hominem, the lowest form of logic and intellectual wit, including, in particular, pejorative attributions and name-calling.

6. At all times, respect the rights, prerogatives, sensitivities, and, importantly, the dignity of every person.

7. The test of leadership is to be “situational”, with the ability to listen, reformulate proposals that address legitimate issues and win over elements who obstruct the common good.

8. Where there is a diversity of opinion, there should be an effort to preserve unity and evolve a win-win mix for all; but where a vote needs to be taken, all should fully embrace the collective decision.

9. When a person cannot agree with another, they should, with civility, agree to disagree and revisit the issues in a future date – while keeping an open mind about changing one’s position.

10. In the heat of an argument, when all genteel efforts have failed, one can with certainty disarm a perceived adversary with the words: “God bless you” -- with grace prevailing over justice.

11. At the end of the day, after the dust has cleared, we should ask ourselves: “What have we contributed to our goal? Have we moved forward in ‘Building the Global Filipino Nation’”?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Group Banks on Social Enterprise for Peace to Sprout in Lanao del Norte

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANILA–It would take nearly a thousand kilometers, millions of pesos, and a year for peace to be sown in Lanao del Norte.That is the hope of Unlad Kabayan Migrant Services Foundation, a socio-civic group banking on a project to spur “social enterprises” in Kolambogan municipality.Social enterprise is an old concept yet to seep into the fabric of violence-riddled Philippine society.

According to the West Oxfordshire District Council of England, a social enterprise is a “local community acting together to provide services needed by the local population, particularly where the service cannot be provided through the market economy”. Simply put, social enterprises are geared more to plow profits back to the community through a business run nearly by the community.

That is what Unlad Kabayan’s project is aiming for in the municipality of Kolambogan in Lanao del Norte, some 790 kilometers south of the Philippines’s capital. The project called “New Lives for Old: Peace, Growth, and Good Governance through Social Enterprises” was one of 33 chosen during this year’s World Bank-sponsored Panibagong Paraan contest.

Unlad Kabayan won a grant of P1 million for the project that involves working with government officials and a cooperative in the municipality.Bernice Roldan explains Unlad Kabayan would have to work with Kolambogan Mayor Bertrand Lumaque and the Lanao Comrades Multipurpose Cooperative so that three pilot enterprises in the farming and coastal municipality start off within a year.

Roldan said Lumaque committed nearly P2.2 million while Unlad Kabayan promised to set aside P0.9 million for the project.With the grant via the World Bank contest, these enterprises would be started with P3.079 million ($69,977.30 at US$1=P44), merely ten percent of what the municipality received as internal revenue allotment in 2006.

Roldan told the OFW Journalism Consortium that Unlad Kabayan will start up an integrated bio-resource farming enterprise, a coco-coir processing facility, and setting up of recycled container gardens at some residents’ backyards.

The first two enterprises are among the enterprises that Unlad Kabayan had set up in other provinces, such as Bohol, Bukidnon, Surigao del Norte, and Davao Oriental, as well as in Davao City.

The container gardening business, meanwhile, was a request by local residents, Roldan said.

Unlad's Roldan, without citing actual figures, said “many residents went overseas” citing the peace and order situation, aside from lack of gainful income, as reasons for leaving Kolambogan.Kolambogan is one of 22 municipalities in this province tagged as the gateway to the four cities of the Mindanao island group.

According to its Website, Kolambogan was a small barrio inhabited by native Maranaos and Christians before American migrant settlers began harvesting timber.Currently, the fourth class municipality of the second-class province of Lanao del Norte has vast agricultural lands which are mainly planted to coconut.

The Website, however, cited that nearly 14,000 residents are poor and some 3,683 households “are not gainfully employed”.

The municipality’s 24,180 total people form five percent of the total population of Lanao del Norte at 473,062, according to recent government census.According to its latest report, a total of 17,269 OFWs were recorded by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in 2006 as coming from Lanao del Norte.

Government data that year also showed Lanao del Norte, located in central Mindanao, has 7,103 temporary contract workers (5,621 land-based and 1,482 sea-based).

Some 3,282 of registered overseas permanent residents from 1988 to 2005 also cited the province as their home town. While some residents have joined the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, even some OFW families have their own domestic problems that escalated into a public safety issue, such as the shooting incident between a returned seafarer and his wife, Roldan added.

“The disturbed peace and order coupled with labor disputes in Kolambogan’s biggest industrial firm was a major setback in its population growth,” its Website said.

News reports cited a dozen people were kidnapped by bandits mid-June this year, overshadowed only by the kidnapping in Sulu of television journalist Ces Drilon and two cameramen.

More than the money and the dream enterprises to be set up, Roldan said the project proponents will confront peace and order issues, as well as visible poverty, in Kolambogan.

Recently, a shuttered timber company displaced more than 2,000 workers while typhoons of recent years hit half of the population’s farmlands. Kolambogan farmers earn P1,500 monthly while fisherfolk earn less, at least P1,200 monthly.Kolambogan’s IRA reached some P25.636 million in 2003 to a high of P30.237 million in 2006.

The website said “limited resources” plague the municipality.

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Monday, July 07, 2008

Pinoys Top Foreigners in 16 Countries

By Madelaine Joy A. Garcia

MANILA–Filipinos are slowly conquering various countries through sheer numbers.
A recently-released report by the World Bank identified Filipinos as among the top 10 foreigners in 16 big and small countries in Asia-Pacific, Europe, and North America.

The WB’s Migration and Remittances Factbook 2008 cited Filipinos lead the number of foreigners in Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Canada, Cyprus, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Malaysia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Oman, Palau, Saudi Arabia, the Solomon Islands, and the US.

Five of these countries are members of the bloc Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

The World Bank report bared data on the estimated number of migrants –or what it calls “immigrants”– based on the 2005 United Nations Population Division report.

The tiny island of Palau, some 800 kilometers east of the Philippines, hosts the most number of Filipinos among 3,036 foreigners. This diving haven is home to some 20,000 people.

Data from the state-run Commission on Filipinos Overseas show there are 4,495 Filipinos in Palau. Twenty-one of them are considered permanent residents while some 4,434 are temporary migrant workers. CFO estimates the rest are undocumented.

Manila to Koror, Palau’s capital, is 90 minutes apart. It takes half that time if flying to or from the southern Philippine province of Davao.

Meanwhile, Filipinos are the second biggest foreigner group in Malaysia, Brunei, and the United States, according to the World Bank report and CFO estimates.

The US, the Philippines’s top source country of remittances, has some 38.4 million foreigners, says the WB.

Filipinos are behind US neighbor Mexico as the biggest foreigner group, as CFO estimates that there are now 3.4 million Filipinos in that continent.

The WB report showed that of Malaysia’s 1.6 million foreigners, over a hundred thousand are Filipinos (100,233). The CFO June 2007 data confirms this.

Brunei, for its part, has some 124,193 foreigners; CFO estimates some 22,939 are Filipinos.
Filipinos form the third-biggest number of foreigners in Korea (50,165 of a total 551,193 foreigners) and the Marshall Islands.

The Marshall Islands, located in the western Pacific Ocean, have a thousand Filipinos as the third biggest foreigner group out of its estimated number of 1,667 foreigners: 2.7 percent of its total 65,000 people.

Solomon Islands has some 3,279 foreigners out of some 489,000 people. CFO estimates there are 758 Filipinos there.

Filipinos are also the fourth-biggest group in Italy, which has roughly 2.5 million foreigners. Some 119,083 Filipinos are estimated to be in Italy, says CFO.

Saudi Arabia, the workplace of an estimated 1,016,820 Filipinos according to CFO data, shows that Filipinos are the fifth biggest immigrant group. The Muslim nation of some 24 million has some 6.36 million immigrants.

Filipinos form also the fifth-largest immigrant group in Japan; the country having some 2.05 million foreigners, according to the World Bank report. There are an estimated 313,291 Filipinos in Japan, CFO data reveals.

Cyprus is estimated to have some 116,137 immigrants and Filipinos are ranked sixth. CFO data show that there are 12,406 Filipinos in Cyprus.
Filipinos are also the sixth-biggest in Oman, which has some 627,571. CFO estimates there are some 33,000 Filipinos.

Filipinos are the seventh-biggest foreigner group in Canada (total of 6,105,722 foreigners) and Iceland (23,097 foreigners). In these countries, CFO estimates there are 789,943 and 1,400 Filipinos in Canada and Iceland, respectively.

The eighth-biggest group of foreigners in Australia’s 4.1 million and Cambodia’s 303,871 immigrant population are Filipinos, which are estimated to number to 232,447 and 1,572, respectively.

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Sunday, July 06, 2008

Migrants Slam Treatment of OFWs as Commodities

A group of international migrant workers groups has asked the government to address not only the issues of increased remittances but also the responsibility of the country to uphold the rights of overseas Filipino workers wherever they may be found.

They confirmed that a meeting of migrant workers NGOs will convene in Manila on July 11 and 12 to launch the People's Global Action, which will group together hundreds of migrant workers' organizations that will campaign for the protection of their rights in the Philippines and in all other countries capitalizing on the OFW market.

The Global Call to Action is also organizing a parallel meeting in Manila to coincide with the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development, which the Philippines is hosting in October, to oppose perspectives being promoted by governments that "perpetuate migrants' exploitation, reinforce gender oppression, undermine human rights and surrender State responsibility for development."

The Philippine Working Group on GFMD and the Migrants' Rights International said in past meetings, governments focused on maximizing the development benefits of migration while reducing discussions on the human rights of migrants, the causes of massive migration like failed economic development programs and widespread poverty in many countries.

This time, according to the migrant workers' alliance, a broader framework would be set in place with a parallel forum that will call on governments and other parties involved to renounce the treatment of migrant workers as commodities.

The meeting of government officials in Manila should now veer away from the themes promoted by banks, remittance companies and corporate giants, which centered on treating migrants as sources of revenues and as financiers of social development programs.

"These are all consistent with the neo-liberal agenda of making the people bear the burden of development, reducing government responsibility and accountability and ensuring more profits for the companies," the organizers said.

"We oppose the perspectives of making the GFMD an extension of neo-liberal globalization so that it becomes an instrument of the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to promote corporate globalization, this time capitalizing on migrant workers," they said.

Organizers emphasized the Manila forum should be an opportunity for hundreds of delegates from all over the world to discuss the impact of migrant workers who remit more than $300 billion annually to their home countries.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

RP Gov’t Hikes Funding for OFW-related Agencies

By Ruben Jeffrey A. Asuncion

QUEZON CITY–TWO government agencies expected to help overseas Filipino workers received increases in funding for this year, budget records showed.

The 2008 General Appropriations Act bared that assistance projects for OFWs by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs got the increments the agencies proposed in last year’s budget hearings.

The labor department got a P33.3-million increase in allocated funds for its “Social Protection Program,” where the budget item “Workers Protection and Welfare Service to Overseas Filipino Workers” falls under.

The program was given P383.3 million this year, up nearly ten percent from its P350 million budget last year.

In addition, the labor department’s “Emergency Repatriation Program,” an item absent from its budget last year, was given P50 million. Another P50 million was allocated for the one-year-old National Reintegration Center for OFWs.

The center was formed during then-Labor Secretary Arturo Brion’s watch. It is expected to provide economic and psycho-social reintegration services to returning OFWs and to OFW families.

Another attached agency, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration also received increases in its budget. The POEA’s “Workers Welfare Assistance and Overseas Placement Services” line item received a budget of P39.5 million. This was nearly two-percent higher than its P38.8-million allocation last year.

A similar increase has also been made in the POEA’s line item “Adjudication Services” with P28.5 million for this year, compared with P27.6 million for last year.

But while these Manila-centric units got majority of the labor department’s total P6.3-billion pie, DOLE’s offices in the regions got a measly share for “workers’ amelioration and welfare services”.

In addition, these regions, where most prospective and former OFWs and OFW families live, saw budget for these services reduced by nearly P3 million to P36.6 million from the P38.2-million budget allocation last year.

In contrast, the labor department’s allocation for personal services (PS) continued to see year-on-year increases as against, for one, maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE).
For the item “Workers Protection and Welfare Service to Overseas Filipino Workers,” for example, around P207.6 million for personal services was allocated for this year.

This amount is nearly double than the P168.2 million allotted for maintenance and operating costs for this year.

Last year, the program received P202.7 million for PS while its MOOE was allocated only P145.3 million.

Over all, the labor department’s budget this year increased by 28.24 percent to P6.271 billion from nearly P5 billion in 2007. POEA’s budget, which is part of the total budget, also increased to P238.9 million this year, from P231.6 million in 2007.

POEA’s budget is merely 20 percent of the total collection of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, if OWWA was able to collect the $25 from 3,000 OFWs leaving every day.

Since it is a government-owned and controlled corporation, the OWWA is excluded from the annual GAA and relies mainly on the membership fees being paid by departing OFWs, and not from taxpayers’ money. The US$25 contributions are for the provision of welfare and economic services to OFWs.

Assuming the a million OFWs left last year, OWWA’s coffer would be around a billion pesos at an average exchange rate of US$1=P42. That amount would just be 17 percent of the labor department’s budget.

OWWA’s Board of Trustees provides the annual budgets, which must be requested to them.
In 2006, says a Commission on Audit report, OWWA spent some PhP910.715 million while earning P2.062 billion.

Another agency tasked with the welfare of overseas Filipinos is the Department of Foreign Affairs, which also received an increased budget.

The DFA’s provision on the “Implementation of RA 8042” was increased by 170 percent to P236.7 million this year from only P87.7 million in 2007.

Being funded under this category are the Legal Assistance Fund for the litigation cases of OFWs and the Assistance-to-Nationals Fund. The latter is the department’s funds for the repatriation of OFWs.

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Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Study Says High School Drop-outs Not Children of OFWs

By Luis Carlo S. Liberato

MANILA–DISTANCE not only makes the heart grow fonder; it has also kept most children of women overseas Filipino workers from dropping out of school.Thus cites economist Alvin Ang of the University of Santo Tomas in his recently released study titled “Determining the Social Costs of

Overseas Filipino Workers’ Remittances: A Check through Education Indicators”.

Amid the tide of a nationwide rise of drop-outs and the slump of kids’ school participation and cohort survival, Ang rides against the commonly-held belief that distant parenting strategy doesn’t work.He asserts a contrarian belief that this strategy keeps OFW children in high school.

The results for children of OFWs are even more encouraging, says Ang of the UST Social Research Center, if women are the ones abroad.Women’s migration pushes children to stay in school, Ang told the OFW Journalism Consortium.Using mathematical formulas in Economics called “regressions,” Ang’s study showed that international migration positively affects education indicators such as drop-outs, school participation, and cohort survival.

The effect is also regardless of gender, his computations revealed. Drop out rates lessen in number, while school participation and cohort survival rates rise. It’s just that in all three indicators, women get more positive results, Ang said.

Ang admitted getting surprised with the results, knowing first-hand the social costs associated with parental absence: he was away from his family for a long time in Japan on a study grant.Contrast also Ang’s findings with data from the Department of Education: secondary education drop-out rates nationwide rose as of school year 2005-2006.Drop-out rates for both elementary and secondary levels, according to the government education agency, went up by above seven percent and nearly 13% in school year 2005-2006, from 6.98% and 7.99%, respectively, in school year 2004-2005.

High cost of education coupled by lingering poverty has been cited by pundits as reasons for these increases.Ang’s study cited the reasons for those who didn’t drop out.

In Ang’s study, which was presented at the Sixth National Social Science Congress last May, overseas migration of parents increases cohort survival rates and school participation rates.His data on cohort survival and school participation looked at children belonging to the 10-14 and 15-19 years-old age groups, across Philippine regions, as well as the number of male and female OFWs coming from the annual Survey on Overseas Filipinos. As for drop out rates, the age bracket of his data covers 13 to 16 years old.He chose these age brackets because a recent paper by another economist, Rosemarie Edillon of the Asia-Pacific Policy Center, wrote that high school children of OFWs “are worst off in terms of time and money.

”This was where Ang hurled what he called “interesting conjectures.”
“The absence of the female migrant is a strong incentive to remain in school…[indicating] that OFW children are studying hard despite the absence of mothers (and) thereby dispelling that they are worst off.”He added that “absent mothers increase the chance of children completing (high school).
”But if the mother is here in the Philippines, all the more that “children want her attention,” says Ang.He posited that children adjust to a situation of parental absence while children with no OFW parents prefer the “traditional family set-up” where both parents are present.

Still, money is part of the story: Ang’s data were on the number of OFWs, not on remittances.While his study doesn’t mean discouraging results for male OFWs who also bankroll children’s education, Ang noted women OFWs make the difference. “The absence of mothers is already the worst case scenario for a (Filipino) family tradition where the father is the breadwinner, so children really must study hard.”Of course, he says “it is but proper (for the children) to study hard, returning the sacrifice and finishing (school) on time.”
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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

OPAP Membership Directory now off the press

Press Release

Overseas Placement Association of the Philippines President Eduardo T. Mahiya announced on July 1 the release of the 2008 edition of the OPAP Membership Directory.

The 80-page volume, last published in 2004, is a comprehensive guide to the history, programs and services, and membership of the OPAP, one of the country's largest associations of licensed overseas recruitment agencies. The OPAP was organized in 1977 with Emilio C. Bonoan of Foreign Manpower Services Inc. as its first president. Since its founding, the OPAP has evolved as a leader in the Philippine overseas recruitment sector, always standing at the frontlines in fighting for fair and better policies for licensed overseas employment providers.

"The OPAP Membership Directory is a definitive guide to the country's overseas recruitment sector, the partner of government that contributes a great deal to employment generation," said Mahiya.

Mahiya added that the directory could be of great use and value to job seekers, policy makers, and overseas employers who would like to recruit Filipino workers.

Apart from the directory, the OPAP also publishes regularly the OPAP Gazette, its official newsletter, which is now on the third year of its continuous publication.