Thursday, July 24, 2008

Migrante condemns Malacañang's refusal to remove remittance charges

Press Statement
July 24, 2008

Migrante International, a militant alliance of overseas Filipino workers' (OFW) groups worldwide today condemns the refusal of Malacañang to remove charges and fees on remittances sent by OFWs.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelie Fajardo earlier stated that the government can not easily scrap or even lessen because they contribute largely to the economy.

"The refusal of this government to grant immediate relief to the OFWs and their families, which the government called the Bagong Bayani, shows that the Arroyo government sees OFWs as nothing but "milking cows".

Migrante likened the rejection of scrapping remittance charges to the refusal of Malacañang to remove 12% VAT on oil and power to provide a little relief for the people.

Migrante also warned President Arroyo not to use the plight of OFWs in her SONA.

The group said they will instead join People's SONA to demand the scrapping of remittance charges and to support the workers' demand for P125 wage increase, the removal of VAT on oil and the junking of the oil deregulation law.

Migrante said their chapters in different countries will also launch their own protests on July 28, the date of President Arroyo's SONA.

Migrante International is pushing for the scrapping of remittance charges because OFWs are also affected by skyrocketing prices of basic needs and services in the country.

Foreign exchange remitted by OFWs through banks reached another new high record of $1.4 billion in May according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

"While government through remittance taxes and big business, specifically banks, telephone carriers and other financial institutions are enjoying huge profits, OFWs are tightening their belts even more just to ensure that the average $200 that they send to their families can bring enough food to the tables," Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said.

An initial study conducted by Migrante International revealed that for every $200.00 remittance sent every month, at least $15- 22 in service fees are charged. With 10 million OFWs sending this minimum, $1B are earned by the banks on a monthly basis alone.

On the other hand, not only have the billions of dollars worth of remittances been used by government to keep the economy afloat, but it also directly profits from taxes imposed on remittances, such as the .15% documentary stamp tax for every remittance transaction.

For every billion dollar remitted monthly, government is able to collect an average of $1.5M or P62M. This is apart from all the other fees that government charges even before the ofws leave the country.

Regalado said that the scrapping of remittance charges and taxes is but a just demand. She said that this predatory practice is practically feeding off the blood, sweat and tears of millions of OFWs.

For reference: Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson (0927-2157392)
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