"The 15 OFWs are going to starve to death if the government will not act on the situation immediately. The company refuses to let them leave the plantation and have likewise denied them of their food supplies since June 17, last Wednesday," warns Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.
The said OFWs are Joenel Caro, Roland Casis, Nelio Casquejo, Ruben Cortel, Moisis Cortel, Michael Duran, John Mark Libuna, Vicente Libuna, Rene Lim, Ariel Lorena, Ian Rey Lorena, Butch Pastolero, Quizy Pastolero, Romeo Pedregosa and Zandro Camda. They are all working in a company called See Hoy Chan Plantations in Jalan Jeroco, Sabah.
"The OFWs are being held against their will without any food in retaliation for their refusal to work due to inhuman conditions in the plantation. The OFWs are calling for help and needs government intervention so that they can be repatriated back to the Philippines," Martinez added.
Migrante claims that the Philippine embassy is well aware of the conditions of the OFWs since April 29, 2009 but has not acted on the matter. The Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants, an NGO base in Hong Kong, has already requested assistance for the workers more than a month ago.
"If only our embassy officials have acted on the case immediately, the OFWs could have been spared of their predicament at present. Unfortunately, we have now come to a life and death situation due to the inutility of our embassy officials," laments Martinez.
The OFWs are allegedly being paid meagerly from RM100 (Php1,300) to RM500 (6,500) only, depending on their work load or the quantity of produce they were able to harvest. Migrante explains that the said income will then further diminish with the monthly deduction for the levy, working permit and food supplies.
"This is modern day slavery. We call on congress to make an inquiry on this matter. The situation of the 15 OFWs in See Hoy Chan Plantation is not an isolated case. We have recently participated in a Fact Finding Mission in Sabah and we were appalled by the conditions of our kababayans in the said region," exclaimed Martinez.
Martinez reveals that Migrante together with other NGOs went to Sabah, Malaysia from June 11-17 for a Fact Finding mission that aims to document the situation of migrant workers in Sabah.
Other NGOs who participated in the Fact Finding Mission were the Asian Human Rights Commission, Rep. Luz Ilagan of Gabriela Women's Party; Tenaganita; Migrante International; APMM; Legal Aid Institute of Yogjakarta Indonesia; ENGENDER; Osan Migrants Center; and the Asian Students Association (ASA).
"The Arroyo administration along with its embassy officials is going to be accountable if they fail to rescue the 15 OFWs. We urge them to visit the said OFWs immediately and insure their safety along with their demands for a just compensation," Martinez concluded.###