Monday, August 25, 2008


International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees
Manila, Philippines
28-30 October 2008
This is a collaborative efforts of
the International Migrants Alliance (IMA)
and Migrante International
with the cooperation and support of
Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM),
Ibon Foundation, Bayan-Philippines,
Asia-Pacific Forum on Women in Law and Development - Task Force on Labor and Migration (APWLD-TFLM)
and CARAM Asia. 

Monday, August 18, 2008

Defy stamp tax collection on remittances

Press Release
18 August 2008

Defy stamp tax collection on remittances, money transfer firms urge by OFWs and families

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations based in the Middle East today urges remittance firms which are mandated by the government to charged 0.15% on every remittance sent by OFWs abroad as per the proviso in the Tax Reform Act of 1997.

“We are urging Western Union Co. and other money transfer firms to defy the collection of documentary stamp tax (DST) on OFW remittances as an act of good will in the performance of its company’s social responsibility to OFWs and their families,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante ME said that though Western Union and other money transfer companies are mandated by law to collect 0.15% on every OFW remittance, as a matter on internal policy, it could consider not doing so in the performance of its company’s social responsibility to OFWs, thus easing the burden of OFWs and their families in time of economic crisis.

“Money transfer companies like Western Union should not allow the government to encroach its operations and thus use them as a channel to collect more taxes on OFWs. It’s like OFWs are the cows which Western Union is told by the government to milk until they bleed dry,” Monterona averred.

Migrante ME deplores the Arroyo administration that never contented and never ends up on imposing new taxes and additional fees that adds up to the worsening situation of OFWs and their families.

“The Arroyo regime is “over-killing” OFWs and their families. She said she cares for OFWs, but what her government doing is a lot more of tax impositions and exactions; even making OFWs huge remittances a collateral for more loans from International banks and financial institutions such as the IMF-WB and ADB,” Monterona said.

On 2006, OFW remittance posted more than double the total allotment for the government’s external debt service, five times (5x) more than Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), twenty-two (22x) time higher than the total Overseas Development Aid (ODA), and even more than a half of Gross International Reserves.

Not contented with the above benefits from OFW remittances, the Arroyo regime imposed a 0.15% Documentary Stamp Tax on every remittance transaction.

This would mean a deduction of P12.48 on every US$200 remittance; on a US$1 billion remittance monthly, the government is earning US$1.5 million or P62 million.

Migrante chapters around the world along with millions of OFWs are demanding to the Arroyo administration to scrap remittances fees and stamp tax by launching a signature campaign early this month.

Migrante lambasted the Arroyo administration whose only reply to the proposal to scrap remittances fess is that “it could be studied”.

“Malacanang’s reply to the demand of OFWs and their families to scarp remittance fees is nothing but just a word to pacify the growing discontent of OFWs around the world against the most anti-OFW Arroyo regime,” Monterona averred.

“This grave insensitivity of the Arroyo regime on the worsening economic plight of OFW families, who are basically families of workers and farmers, are pushing OFWs around the world to collectively speak and act on its behalf,” Monterona ended.

Migrante chapters and member-organizations from around the world along with other migrants from all over the world will gather in Manila on October 28-30, 2008 and will speak for themselves when the intergovernmental Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) holds its second session to discuss about issues surrounding migration and development.

Migrante and migrant workers’ organizations will challenge participating governments to unmask the anti-migrant agenda of GFMD. (end). # # #

For reference:
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Sunday, August 17, 2008

“Ten days that will shake the GFMD” campaign

Press Statement
17 August 2008

Reference: Eni Lestari
Tel. No.: (852) 96081475

“Ten days that will shake the GFMD” campaign
Grassroots migrants prepare to confront inter-government-led confab on migration and development

For grassroots migrants, the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) is a process that shall intensify the labor export industry, aggravate the conditions in many backward and poor countries, and perpetuate forced migration of people. Its adherence to the framework of neoliberal globalization of the monopoly-capitalists shall make it so.

The 10 days leading to the GFMD, from October 19 to 29, shall be marked by the strongest opposition mounted by grassroots migrants all over the world. For 10 days, we shall shake the GFMD down to its core agenda.

The second GFMD is convened amidst the worsening crisis of the world’s capitalist countries that aggravates the condition of poverty and underdevelopment in the world. The promises of globalization have failed and instead of creating a better economy for everyone, it has greatly increased the disparity between superpower and poor economies and has plunged the globe into crisis and war.

Now, prodded by the world’s leading powers, many countries are jumping into the bandwagon of utilizing migration for development. While the GFMD nominally declares its non-adherence to such a policy, migration remains to be one of the main, if not the major, source of income that prop up sinking economies while also providing the needed cheap labor to work in factories, agriculture and service sector of the more advanced ones.

Combined remittance of migrants around the world total US$2.26 trillion dollars and such a huge amount is irresistible for monopoly capitalist banks as well as international financial institutions that are anxious for debt-ridden economies to pay off their loans.

The GFMD is not made for its supposed main stakeholders – the migrants themselves. What it aims to do is to cover up the devastating impacts of neoliberal globalization, address the crisis of monopoly-capitalist themselves and further constrict the severely limited “development aid” powerful countries and IFIs such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank give to underdeveloped countries.

For the GFMD to talk about the rights of migrants is devoid of sincerity and full of hypocrisy.

Violations of rights of migrants are rampant. To name a few: the arrest and threat of deportation of Chilean activist and political asylum seeker Victor Toro of the May 1st Coalition for Immigrant and Workers Rights in the United States; the torture, abuse and deportation of Bangladeshi workers from Malaysia; deportation of 1,000 Bangladeshi workers who went on strike due to non-payment of wage and other worker’s rights violations in Kuwait; the criminalization and violent crackdown of undocumented migrants in South Korea; labour rights violations against foreign workers in Canada; the unified contract in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; the sponsorship system in the rest of the Middle East countries that is reminiscent of slave-buying; the proposed policy on undocumented migrants by the European Union that shall impose stiff penalties, detain, and blacklist arrested migrants, and; the continuing wage cuts, levy and discrimination against foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong.

Attacks to the rights of migrants, immigrants, refugees and other displaced people are happening everywhere, everyday. Ironically, the violators of the rights of migrants – through grave anti-migrant policies – are the same countries in the GFMD.

As the forum is to be held in Manila, it is evident that the GFMD holds in high-esteem the Philippine government’s system of labor export. To make the country a model of migration is short of scandalous given the Philippine government’s worse than poor record in upholding the rights of its overseas nationals.

Grassroots migrants shall let our stand be known and our voices heard during the GFMD.

We, who work in foreign households, labour in agricultural lands, sweat in factories and work in restaurants and other similar fields, will not stand aside as states discuss our future. Under their hands, there is nothing there for us but further exploitation and intensified commodification.

The International Migrants Alliance or IMA – formed and run by grassroots migrants – will be there to face the GFMD. Spanning the global regions of Asia-Pacific, Oceania, North America, Latin America and Africa, the 112-member organizations of the IMA effectively cover hundreds of thousands of grassroots migrants.

For years, many have spoken on our behalf. This time, we shall speak for ourselves and the GFMD is the most opportune period for us to speak out.

The “10 Days to Shake the GFMD” campaign will feature dramatic actions from different countries that will highlight the migrant’s national and international concerns. Such actions will complement the efforts of migrants and their families in the Philippines to bring out the migrant’s agenda to the GFMD.

IMA’s presence in all global regions will pose the most formidable challenge to the GFMD. We, being the grassroots migrants who are at the receiving end of numerous anti-migrant attacks, are the living proofs of the GFMD’s anti-migrant agenda and direction

This campaign shall culminate in the International Assembly on Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) on October 28 to 30. With the theme "Migrants' Challenge to the GFMD: End poverty, ensure jobs at home, stop forced migration! Uphold and Protect the rights of Migrants and Refugees!” the IAMR will be the genuine assembly of migrants where the real and concrete issues shall be discussed. The IAMR speaks for the grassroots migrants.

Our future is bleak and our rights are at stake in the GFMD. We vow to confront it with the power of the unified stand of grassroots migrants.#

International Migrants Alliance
The first-ever global alliance of grassroots associations, organizations, unions,
networks and alliances of migrant workers, immigrants, refugees and displaced peoples
Founding Assembly - June 2008
Contact the IMA Secretariat at

Note: Migrante Saudi Arabia is one of the founding members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA).

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

No Whitewash!

13 August 2008
Press Release

For Reference:
Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson

No Whitewash!
Migrante demands Justice for Victim of Foul Play Eugenia Baja

Members of Migrante International and families of victims of mysterious deaths trooped to the Department of Foreign Affairs to demand justice and a more thorough investigation on the death of Eugenia Baja, a Filipina domestic worker who allegedly committed suicide in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia last February 24. The autopsy report which the family recently received from the KSA further fueled their suspicions that Baja was a victim of foul play. The group presented to DFA officials pictures of the dead body.

Elizabeth Garcia, elder sister of Eugenia, said pictures of her sister's dead body tell another story. "May mga bugbog at galos ang iba't ibang parte ng katawan ng kapatid ko. May saksak pa ng kutsilyo sa may tagiliran," Garcia said.

"How can this be suicide?" questioned Connie Bragas-Regalado, Chairperson of Migrante International. "The autopsy report revealed that Eugenia was starved for 28-35 days. The wounds and marks indicate that she had been severely maltreated. Why didn't DFA officials investigate at all?"

Baja's alleged suicide happened days after her family received text messages from her that she needed help. There were also conflicting reports about the cause of her death. The DFA informed the family that Baja killed herself by banging her head in the toilet tiles after three days of locking herself up in her room. Meanwhile, documents from KSA authorities which arrived with the corpse stated that Baja died in a hospital due to ulcer. It was only after a campaign by Migrante and her family that Baja's body was repatriated to the Philippines three months after, with the support and immediate assistance of Senate President Manny Villar.

Regalado continues, "This is again another case where the DFA and embassy officials have not only proven themselves to be callous and useless in protecting Filipino citizens. They have also shown how blatantly they can become so servile to a foreign government, turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to the truth, so willing to sacrifice yet another victim in return for the chance to export cheap labor and profit from our remittances! "

"How dare President Arroyo say she cares for OFWs, in no less than her SONA statement, when we have so many other Eugenia Baja whose deaths cry for justice! If she continues to do nothing about this case, it is a "blatant toleration of human rights violations against OFWs and is tantamount to being accomplice to the crime. The DFA must investigate this at once!"

Migrante has documented 23 cases of OFW "mysterious deaths" under the Arroyo administration.

Regalado also cited the recent "alleged suicides" of Maria Mitos Vergara and Jefrey Alberto So, in Dubai last June 24 and Gilbert Angeles, who was found dead in his apartment in Singapore on June 30

Regalado said these deaths show the real face of migration contrary to what the government is promoting.

She also said these cases and other issues concerning migrants will be tackled in the International Assembly of Migrants & Refugees, a 3-day gathering whereby genuine migrant groups and organizations together with migrant support organizations and institutions, will gather to discuss their own issues. The IAMR is the migrants' response to the Global Forum on Migration and Development to be hosted by the Philippine government this coming October. #