Notes by A.M. Ociones
Coordinator, Migrante-Saudi Arabia
First, the meager of income of overseas Filipinos (OFs) especially in Saudi Arabia was cut by as much as 25-30% because of the strong peso, now running close to P40 against the dollar.
Data from Migrante Saudi Arabia shows that in December 2006, one Saudi Riyal costs PhP14-15, but in December 2007, actual remittance exchange rate is P10.80 per Saudi Riyal, meaning Filipinos in Saudi Arabia lost as much as 30% of our income.
Then, despite enchanting inflation statistics by the government and the strong peso (it takes fewer peso to purchase crude oil), the oil prices continue to surge and dragging with it, the prices of basic commodities.
And even as we toil under extreme woking conditions, salaries abroad remain fixed as stated in the contracts we have shackled (signed, may be an understatement) into. In fact, first timers now get lower rates compared to first-timers five years ago.
Overseas Filipinos therefore, confront static wages, yet actual income gets slashed by the strong peso and the families' budget gets saddled by unforgiving rise in prices of commodities, goods and services.
This is the triple whammy of overseas Filipinos and their families (OFFs).
Thus, we welcome with wide open arms, the recent government plan to balance the strong peso by adjusting the denomination of incoming foreign loans next year, as announced by Department of Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.
According to Teves, the government would increase to 70% the share of foreign borrowings in peso currency by issuing additional P20 billion peso-denominated government securities.
The plan (which we heard first not from Teves but from Senator Mar Roxas) they hope, as we hope, would stabilize the peso at its current exchange rate.
Frankly, any rate below the present rate of P40 would be a "death sentence" worse than Ranario's because it would mean death to whole already-suffering families.
But wait, Teves said the DoF would seek the approval of inter-agency Development Budget Coordinating Council first to implement the plan.
So knowing this government's penchant for enchanting, PR slogans - like the government's frequent mouthing of a "strong peso, strong economy" while most kababayans, including OFFs, reels in poverty - nothing is really certain.
And that is why, I said, OFs are pushing for luck.
Because in the end, it may all that we could hope for from such a government as Gloria's.