Spare us from media gimmicks — Pinoy migrants

BAGUIO CITY — Local migrants group hit pronouncements over media that OFWs laid off due to the global financial crisis are being well assisted by the government. They assailed these as media gimmicks or a media blitz of the Arroyo administration to make up for their inability to protect Overseas Filipino Workers.

According to Flora Belinan of the Migrante-Cordillera, Igorot workers have not been spared from the retrenchments. She said she has met retrenched Taiwan workers who came home empty handed at Christmas time and attest to the uncertainty of government assistance.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in the region has yet to receive the returning OFWs who should come for assistance after the retrenchments. Regional Director Manuela Peña said no one has reported yet, that makes it difficult to account the number of Cordillerans affected.

Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International said, “Contrary to the publicity stunt of President Arroyo, the retrenched OFWs from different countries have not received any relief from government and have spent their Christmas worrying how to pay their loans that they left behind.”

Martinez explained that the red carpet treatment at the airport and the assistance package being announced by government has not generated anything but certificates from government which they deemed useless to OFWs who were prematurely sacked from their jobs abroad.

“Instead of using returning OFWs as an opportunity to get a positive media image, Arroyo should heed the advice of its labor attaché in Taiwan, Rodolfo M. Sabulao, to go after recruitment agencies which excessively charged OFW applicants,” chided Martinez.

Sabulao reportedly wrote POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili on December 18 for government “to do something to ease the pain of the workers by requiring recruitment agencies which deployed the workers to Taiwan to refund the placement fee corresponding to the remaining period in the employment contract.”

Under RA 8042 or the Magna Carta for Overseas Filipinos, overcharging is tantamount to illegal recruitment. But instead of denouncing the illegal practice, however, POEA officials now serve as apologists for recruiters by persuading OFWs from Taiwan to accept P5,000 as settlement, out of the P95,000 they have paid for their placement fee, according to Martinez.

The group also claims that the Arroyo administration is in a state of denial when it announced that the Middle East region as a labor market for OFWs is insulated from the massive retrenchment due to the global economic crisis.

On Christmas Eve the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce stated that thousands of laid off construction workers have applied for visa cancellations.

“This does not include the 3,000 OFWs who were already laid off in UAE as admitted by Secretary Roque himself,” Martinez added.

Migrante also launched on December 28 its petition signing campaign calling for the sacking of Philippine labor officials in Qatar due to its failure to provide legal assistance to OFWs who were forced to beg from fellow countrymen in Corniche and fish market for their daily subsistence.

“The impact of the global crisis will be more severe by next year. With the Arroyo administration opting for media gimmicks instead of concretely responding to the immediate needs of OFWs is an alarming indication that more of our kababayans will be force to become beggars in different countries abroad,” Martinez concluded. # Northern Dispatch


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