Sunday, December 28, 2008

Please! Not another exaction scheme.

28 December 2008
News Release

Compulsary welfare insurance plan, another exaction scheme - Migrante KSA

Please! Not another exaction scheme.

Thus appealed Migrante Saudi Arabia Chairperson A.M. Ociones in response to Mindanao Representative Rufus Rodriguez' proposed compulsary welfare insurance plan for overseas Filipinos.

"While we welcome all efforts by our legislators to address the problems of migrants-in-distress, we believe this scheme would only aggravate the collection of all sorts of fees and fund-raising schemes from migrant workers," laments Ociones.

The bill, which promises a well-covered insurance plan also states that the premium would be paid by the recruitment agencies, a fee that Migrante Saudi Arabia expects would only be passed on to the would-be migrant worker.

"Thus we see only as an additional burden the $3 premium on top of the regular and already compulsary $ 25 Overseas Workers Welfare Adinistration (OWWA) fee and PhP 900 PhilHealth fee," Ociones asserted.

"Besides, where have all our OWWA funds gone?" Ociones asked, asserting further that all efforts should be exerted to maintain and protect the OWWA Funds coupled with a program to widen the benefits.

Instead of an independent insurance plan, Ociones proposed the following :

  1. Scrapping the OWWA Omnibus Policy implemented in 2004 which essentially
    cut-off the assistance benefits of OFWs and migrants-in- distress at the same
    time expanding its mandate to include the benefit package proposed under HB

  2. Returning the medical insurance coverage from PhilHealth to

  3. Once returned to OWWA, the medical insurance coverage should
    be expanded by lowering the age of beneficiaries and spreading its scope to
    include other family members (which is especially true to OFWs who are single
    and/or, single parents);

  4. Expanding the existing scholarship, entrepreneurship assistance and livelihood programs of OWWA;

  5. Expanding the mandate of OWWA to function as social security, complete with a retirement plan and wider package of benefits.

"Otherwise, everything would all boil down again to milking the migrants while freeing the government of its responsibility towards migrants-in-distress," the Migrante Saudi Chairperson averred.

Ociones believes "an independent insurance plan to be started from scratch aside from being more costly; would only exacerbate the chronic hands-off policy of the government" towards migrants-in-distress.

The Rodriguez Proposal was announced at the website of the House of Representatives (click here for the announcement) during Christmas. However, a complete copy of the bill is still not available online for a thorough study.

# # #

Reference: A.M. Ociones
Chairperson, Migrante KSA
(Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter)
Tel. No.: +966-56-679-3202

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Letter to Rep. Rodriguez, about HB 5621

To Rep. Rufus Rodriguez
2nd District, Cagayan de Oro

Honorable Sir,

Warmest greetings of peace from the deserts of Saudi Arabia!

We, in Migrante Saudi Arabia would like to express our sentiments concerning House Bill 5621 calling for a compulsory welfare insurance plan for OFWs authored by the good legislator.

While we welcome the good legislator's effort to address the situation of OFWs, we believe that this proposal would only aggravate the collection of all sorts of fees and fund-raising schemes from migrant workers. As with most expenses, the recruitment agency would only pass payment of the premium on to the would-be migrant.

Thus, we see the $3 premium on top of the regular and already compulsary $ 25 OWWA* Fee and PhP 900 PhilHealth** fees only as an additional burden.

We believe further that another scheme independent of OWWA is no longer required. In turn, we urge the good legislator to focus his attention on overhauling the OFW benefits scheme system, by:

(1) Scrapping the OWWA Omnibus Policy implemented in 2004 which essentially cut-off the assistance benefits of OFWs and migrants-in- distress at the same time expanding its mandate to include the benefit package proposed under HB 5621;

(2) Returning the medical insurance coverage from PhilHealth to OWWA;

(3) Once returned to OWWA, the medical insurance coverage should be expanded by lowering the age of beneficiaries and spreading its scope to include other family members (which is especially true to OFWs who are single and/or, single parents);

(4) Expanding the existing scholarship, entrepreneurship assistance and livelihood programs of OWWA;

(5) Expanding the mandate of OWWA to function as social security, complete with a retirement plan and wider package of benefits.

The OWWA Fund has been bleeding OFWs dry but only a few has really benefitted from all that money. But it is not all.

We believe, it is high time we migrants benefit for every dollar that has kept the economy afloat these past few years.

Our sincerest thanks,
A.M. Ociones
Migrante KSA
(Migrante International - Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Chapter)
Tel. No.: +966-56-679- 3202
Email: migrante_ksa@
URL: http://migrante- ksa.blogspot. com

* OWWA is Overseas Workers Welfare Adinistration.
** PhilHealth is Philippine Health Insurance Corporation

Monday, December 22, 2008

Immediate repatriation is the most valuable gift

Press Release
22 December 2008

Immediate repatriation is the most valuable gift the Arroyo govt. could give to distress and stranded OFWs this Christmas

"The most valuable gift the Arroyo administration could give to distress and stranded OFWs in the Middle East is their immediate repatriation so that they could celebrate a Merry Christmas along with their loved ones and start a brand new life back home," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator.

Migrante-ME said OWWA's Christmas treat with matching red carpet pagsalubong to returning OFWs is merely a traditional gimmick to show the public that the Arroyo administration "truly" cares for OFWs and their families, but in fact it is not.

Monterona said hundreds of distress OFWs in the Middle East are hoping that the Arroyo administration through concerned government agencies like DoLE, OWWA, and POLO could give them the most valuable Christmas they would receive – and that is their immediate repatriation.

This is exactly the Christmas wish of the 16 OFWs in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia who have stopped their work in protest of their employer Annasban company who refuses to give them their normal vacation despite that they already have completed their 2-year work contract.

The 16 OFWs are Ruby Bumagat, Monalisa Nartatis, Melody Mercado, Marcela Candaba, Analisa Subagan, Joanne Velasco, Marygrace Fortalesa, Winifreda Santos, Josephine de Torres, Nhoormalah Dimaampo, Lorna Quizon, Ruth Gayadan, Fely Chicay, Jassie Sanson, Jeanette Belino, Claire Veloria.

"Some of them have been working for 3 straight years already without vacation", Monterona added.

Monterona said almost everyday the 16 OFWs are sending short messages to him through OFW Jeanette Belino, leader of the 16 distress OFWs, to re-iterate their plea to be home this Christmas, "Reading their SMS is really disheartening, because I knew that the Philippine Embassy, OWWA-POLO could not get them sent to be home this Christmas," Monterona averred.

Monterona said aside from the 16 distress OFWs, there are still 139 OFWs in different Filipino Resource Centers in the Middle East (see attached document in excel format).

This is an addition to the reported 163 distress OFWs in Kuwait. "If this has not been exposed by Migrante, distress OFWs in Kuwait would not be given due attention by the Arroyo administration," Monterona added.

Migrante-Kuwait will be closely following the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait to ensure that the 163 distress OFWs will be repatriated soon as promised by Vice-President Noli de Castro during interviews last week.

To the Arroyo administration, we echo the same OFWs Christmas wish: "Use the billions of OWWA fund and Assistance to the Nationals (ATN) fund so that the many distress and stranded OFWs in the Middle East will be repatriated without delay. A portion of the funds could be used to bail out those retrenched OFWs" Monterona ended. # # #

For reference:

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East regional coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Modernong Alipin

Artwork by Al Baleda, a Bicolano visual artist based in Al Khobar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Migrant workers shall suffer the brunt of globalization-induced crisis

Statement for the International Migrants Day
18 December 2008

Migrant workers shall suffer the brunt of globalization-induced crisis
Grassroots migrants shall be ready to intensify our struggle for our rights

Neo-liberal globalization has forced us to migrate and become commodities for sale by sending countries and cheap laborers for the receiving ones. Now, as neoliberal policies induced another global recession, we are again made to carry the brunt of the crisis.

Slowly but surely, the crisis that started in the United States is spreading throughout the world. Considering the US' position as the global economic master, it is understandable that many of the countries where migrants are working right now and countries where they come from are starting to feel the impacts of the crisis that are expected to intensify in the coming months.

The current recession is but an explosion of the crisis brewing for years. The crisis of overproduction inherent in the economy of the global centers – US, European Union and Japan – and hastened by neoliberal globalization policies, has become more uncontrollable than before. Concentration of finance capital to a few multinational banks and corporations through massive speculation has become more intense and made the crisis imminent.

Even the wars of aggression and occupation that the US led and joined in by many capitalist countries have failed to salvage the capitalist system from collapsing. In fact, these wars justified in the name of "anti-terror" have further aggravated the condition in the world as profit became more highly-concentrated while more and more people were displaced.

Now, various countries scramble to save their failing economies with whipped up solutions that are evidently targeted to save big businesses at the expense of the people and the workers who have long been victims of the very roots of this crisis.

The oppressed and disadvantaged classes and sectors that include the migrants did not cause the global crunch and yet, will be forced into more hardships. Indeed, what is just and right has no place where imperialists rule.

Global crisis spells crisis for migrants' rights

Job security and wage of migrants are the most immediate casualties of the economic crunch.

The more recent cases of these are as follows:
  • More than 70 workers from Advanced Semi-Conductor Engineering Co. Ltd (ASE) in Taiwan were laid off. Reportedly, about 1,000 more are set to be sent home very soon.
  • In Macau, 400 Filipinos have already been fired from their jobs in the construction industry while about 12,000 migrants working in casinos have been told that their contracts will not be renewed.
  • In the property sector in the United Arab Emirates, about 500 migrants already lost their jobs while thousands more are set to lose theirs in the construction industry in various countries within the Gulf region.
  • Member organizations of the IMA in Australia have reported that many temporary foreign workers are being made redundant.
  • In Canada, 70 Mexican and Jamaican temporary foreign workers were fired by the Rol-Land Farms – a private industrial-agricult ural corporation.
  • In the US, immigrants are losing their jobs and the little properties they own. Who can forget June Reyno, a Filipino immigrant who tied herself to her house after being issued an eviction notice due to the property slump?

In addition to this, the wage of migrants shall surely again be attacked. This was exactly what happened during and after the 1997 Asian Financial crisis. Wage of migrants in Korea, for example, dropped from US$750 to US$300 while foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong suffered two wage cuts – US$25 in 1999 and US$52 in 2003.

Undocumented migrants shall also be gravely impacted by the recession. For the past years, many countries have conducted widespread and violent crackdowns such as in Malaysia and South Korea. The European Union is also poised to implement its return directive policy by next year that is expected to target tens of thousands of undocumented migrants in the region.

But the impacts of the global economic problems are not restricted to the host countries. In fact, it may even be more severe in sending countries like Philippines and Indonesia whose economies are very dependent on the advanced capitalist countries like the US.

For sure, the governments of sending countries shall again turn its eye to the very profitable business of labor export.

This is not surprising considering that labor export brings in billions of US dollars worth of remittance to these countries and billions more profit from government charges on top of curbing unemployment inside the country. Both the Philippine and Indonesian governments have already expressed their intention to double their target deployment of their nationals to other countries.

Just recently, the Philippine government has proposed to implement a mandatory psychiatric test. While hypocritically claiming that it's for protection of Filipino migrants, the truth is that it shall only be an additional financial burden to them and its ultimate goal is to make Filipino migrant workers more attractive to foreign businesses.

Governments of sending countries have tried to placate the restlessness of their people by promising their readiness to face the crisis. This, however, is mere bravado as the economies of these countries are highly-dependent to those of the capitalist centers. Their so-called readiness will soon be revealed as nothing but readiness to impose more severe taxation to the people, drastic cuts in the budget for social services, even more wanton implementation of neo-liberal globalization and more aggressive exportation of labor. In fact, what these countries, like Philippines and Indonesia, are doing now is to forge more bilateral agreements with labor-receiving countries to ensure the continued sale of migrants as cheap labourers.

The way forward for the migrants

These developments and more that will surely come will be faced squarely by the organized grassroots migrants.

The rights of migrants have never been respected. The second Global Forum on Migration and Development held last October in Manila, Philippines showed the hypocrisy of sending and receiving countries as they tackle the so-called rights of migrants but are actually concretizing steps on how more income can be generated from migration and migrant labor.

The International Migrants Day is a most opportune time to expose the condition and concerns of migrant workers. The more than 110 members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) from 25 countries are gearing up for various actions that will highlight issues of migrants of various nationalities as a sector.

In this light, the IMA calls on to its members and supporters to:

  1. Launch actions that will highlight the issues of job security and wage of the migrants. Policies that make these rights vulnerable to attacks must be targeted while remaining vigilant over new ones that governments will cook up. Give particular attention also to the plight of undocumented migrants.
  2. Conduct a massive education campaign among migrants on the roots and causes of the current global recession. Neoliberal globalization must be further exposed and concretized to the migrants to intensify our opposition against them.
  3. Aggressively organize migrants in the grassroots. Only the collective will and actions of the migrants can be our effective weapons against the onslaught of attacks to our rights that are sure to come.
  4. Gather the broadest unity with other migrant organizations and advocates for the campaigns that we shall conduct.
  5. Unite in solidarity with the local workers and other oppressed classes and sectors in host countries by establishing coalitions with their unions and federations that will serve as shields against neoliberal globalization' s attacks to our rights as workers and oppressed peoples in the host country.
  6. Integrate our movement overseas with that in our respective home countries to advance the struggle against imperialism and for genuine democracy, human rights and social justice.

In the coming months, migrants are to face hardships never seen before. It will show how right the people are to oppose neoliberal globalization policies. It will show how imperative it is to do actions for social justice and human rights. It will show how migrants are part of the struggle for change.

Through militant struggles, we can overcome and build a world that we and our people deserve.#

Note: Migrante KSA is among the founding members of the International Migrants Alliance (IMA).

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Arroyo regime's continued neglect reaches new heights

As the world celebrates International Migrants Day,
Arroyo regime's continued neglect to OFWs and their families reaches new heights

Joint Statement of Various Chapters of
Migrante International in the Middle East
(Migrante KSA + Migrante UAE + Migrante Kuwait + Migrante Qatar)

On December 18, the world will celebrate the International Migrants Day.

It was on December 18, 1990 when the United Nations General Assembly represented by participating governments signed and adopted the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families.

The signing of this international instrument providing protection to the rights of migrant workers and member of their families by the United Nations General Assembly paved the way to the adoption and ratification of some UN-member states including the Philippines.

The Philippine government is one of the signatories to this international instrument. Its adoption and ratification of this international instrument manifests its readiness to commit its very institutions to provide protection to the rights of migrant workers as well as members of their families.

The Philippines is one the countries sending huge numbers of migrant workers next only to Mexico and India. At present there are an estimated 10-M overseas Filipinos abroad. It is made possible to the credit of the Arroyo regime who promised to send more than 1 million overseas Filipino workers abroad yearly, wherever and whenever there are job opportunities offered by first world countries.

It was on the early 70's when the Philippine government through the Marcos administration started to sending Filipino workers abroad. Since then, the number of OFWs has increased and that thousands daily are forced to work overseas, it's clear there are more factors at play – apart from poverty or the lure of higher wages that push our people to work abroad.

The Labor Export Policy began in 1974 with the revision of the Labor Code, under then Labor Sec. Blas Ople. The LEP is a component of the structural adjustment program then imposed on the Philippines by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank (IMF-WB).

Its aim is to offset the rising social unrest of the period, due to rising unemployment rates and an economic and political crisis and at the same time, its purpose is to earn dollar remittances badly needed by the Marcos administration to pay off its increasing foreign debts.

Initially, Marcos administration said it was a temporary stop-gap measure; but in reality, it was far from temporary and over the decades, the creation of institutions geared towards the export of labor entrenched the policy further – so that it frames many aspects of our economic, political and social systems – including the public psyche.

When Mrs. Arroyo announces its target of one million overseas workers per year, many could not even blink an eye! Because, it is contrary to her policy statements wherever she spoke during her State of the Nation's Address (SONA) that she is committed to create jobs locally so that no one will be forced to work abroad. But the fact tells us that almost every Filipino family has a member or relatives now working in abroad.

Massive deployments of Filipino workers have been observed under the Arroyo regime following Marcosian policy of labor export to earn billions of dollars remittances at the expense of OFWs rights, welfare, and even at the cost of their lives who are mostly maltreated, abused, harassed and victims of labor malpractice.

Not content with the huge remittances sent by OFWs abroad, the Arroyo regime never stopped to milking OFWs by imposing new and additional fees and charges. The double taxation scheme of documentary stamp tax imposed on every OFW remittance, the Balik Mangagawa program which is nothing but only to ensure OFWs re-payment of OWWA and Philhealth membership, are only the few among the many exorbitant fees and charges imposed by the Arroyo regime to struggling OFWs and their families.

And yet, government concerned agencies under the Arroyo administration have practically stop all benefits – social services and welfare programs for OFWs and their families when then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Thomas illegally implemented, devoid of consultations among OFWs, the codified policies of OWWA called OWWA Omnibus policies. Even the most basic state responsibility of repatriation have been delegated to recruitment agencies which the recruiters passed on at the mercy of foreign employers.

Yearly, we have recorded an ever increasing numbers of OFW victims of their employers' cruelty. Migrante chapters in the Middle East are now receiving right and welfare cases to an average of 5 cases daily. Thousands still remain in the jails who suffer from cases which many of them did not actually committed. The numbers of distress and stranded OFWs in deportation centers and Filipino Resources Centers are growing.

The Arroyo administration failed to develop the local economy that could generate millions of jobs. These jobs are needed to absorb the new batches of graduate which adds up to the growing population of workers. But many of them ended desperately looking for available jobs with decent wages and benefits just enough to survive their families daily subsistence.

The Arroyo regime being a puppet-government is only too good to obey the wishes of its imperialist master's imposition – economic and indirect political and even military intervention.

In line with its imperialist master's neo-globalization policies, the Arroyo regime is press hard to amend the 1987 Philippine Constitution to remove all its protectionist provisions allowing foreign capitalists to own more than the allowed ownership of land and business in the Philippines even if its means wanton disregard and disrespect to our national patrimony and sovereignty. And at the same time, Mrs. Arroyo and political cohorts sees an open opportunity in amending the Constitution to remain in power beyond its term limits.

The Filipino people and their mass organizations including the millions of OFWs and their families could not be mislead by the Arroyo regimes political spin-doctors by employing squid tactics and other forms of machinations to divert the real issue of amending the Constitution that will only serve the interest of the present occupant in Malacanang and its cohorts.

The Arroyo regime is the embodiment of lies, deceit, and machinations that is ready to use the oppressive state apparatus like the military and police ever ready to crash all oppositions even at the expense of our people's lives.

The Arroyo regime with the support of its allies in Congress disrespected the real sentiments of the people. It only showed that Arroyo allies in Congress who are supposed to represent the people that elected them in office are now acting without any accountability at all and just simply advancing their own selfish motives and interests along with Mrs. Arroyo.

Thus, it is only through the collective efforts of the people by launching massive protest actions in the streets that could put a halt to the vicious grand design of amending the Constitution by the Arroyo regime.

December 18 is a new day for the progressive organizations of Filipino migrant workers and their families to leading big waves of protest actions in various forms in different part of the world to put more pressure to the now more isolated Arroyo regime in the international community.

The progressive organizations of OFWs must unite all patriotic overseas Filipinos, reach their organizations, and form broad alliances opposing the Arroyo-engineered Cha-cha, and denounce its continued persecution in filling trump up charges against political activists, political killings, and disappearances.

Through massive people's resistance, Mrs. Arroyo will be forced to resign. Only then, she and her political cohorts will be made accountable to their crimes against the Filipino people. History has proven the people united will never be defeated!

# # #

Sunday, December 7, 2008

7 distress OFWs' wish: to be home this Christmas

Press Release
6 December 2008

7 distress OFWs' wish: to be home this Christmas

For OFWs continuously working straight for 36 months without vacation, though they have already completed 24-months employment contract, there is no other wish they have this Christmas- to be home and re-united again with their loved ones back home.

"To be home this Christmas is the simple wish we have heard from the seven (7) OFWs who have decided to stop their work last November 1," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle east regional coordinator.

Monterona said the seven (7) OFWs working for Annasban, a local out-sourcing company in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, have sought assistance from the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), a member-organization of Migrante based in Riyadh as they have run out of money for their daily subsistence.

On his letter to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh, Mario Ben, KGS-Migrante Chairperson said the seven (7) OFWs have already completed their 24-months employment contract and in fact extended their work for 1 year.

"The seven (7) OFWs were forced to stop their work on November 1, as they've have realized that their company would not give them their vacation despite numerous requests," Mario Ben added.


Jeanette Belino, one of the seven OFWs, said she had already completed her 24-months contract last April 2008. Prior to completion of her contract, she had already informed her company that she will resign from work upon completion of her contract, but was not granted by the company and were forced to work until she had decided to stop working on November 1, 2008.

"I have spoken to OFW Belino over the phone and she confirmed that along with the other 6 distress OFWs, they are asking Migrante's assistance as they have no money at all for their daily subsistence," Monterona said.

Monterona said Migrante chapter in Riyadh could only provide little amount for the 7 distress OFWs' daily subsistence. "Their immediate repatriation would be the ultimate solution to their problem, after all they have already completed their contract," he added.

The OFW leader said entitlements such as the end of service fee or gratuity, free air fare tickets, and payment for their overtime work should be given to them by their employer.

"We don't see any reason at all that their immediate repatriation will be delayed because on the very provision of their contract they are entitled for a vacation upon completion of their contract, and the Saudi Labor law is very clear that entitlement such as end of service fee and free air fare tickets must be at the employer's cost," Monterona averred.

Mario Ben and Monterona are calling the POLO officials in Riyadh to immediately act on the problem of the 7 distress OFWs who are now staying on the company-provided accommodation in Jaradiyah, Riyadh.

Migrante-ME is also calling all the Local government units (LGUs) specifically the City government of Baguio through its Public Employment Services Office (PESO) to be wary of sending would-be OFWs to Annasban company or other company as many of OFWs deployed were having the same labor-related problems with Annasban.

"The Arroyo administration in conduit with the local government units should stop sending OFWs on a large scale without guarantee that OFWs rights and welfare will be protected and safeguarded abroad. Its labor export policy must be stopped and should give emphasis on creating jobs locally." Monterona added.

"Jobs creation locally with decent wages is the best solution to the problem of retrenchment of OFWs working abroad due to global economic recession. But Mrs. Arroyo's economic policies are subservient to imperialist's neo-liberal policies of globalization in which the interests of businesses and profit is given priority over the welfare and rights of the people," Monterona ended.

(Note: OFW Jeanette Belino, one of the 7 distress OFWs, mobile number is 00966 506726489 for interview).

For references:

OFW Jeanette Belino, one of the 7 distressed OFWs,
Mobile No.+966 506726489

Mario Ben
Chairperson, Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS) Migrante chapter, Riyadh
Mobile No. 00966 502980129

John Leonard Monterona
Migrante Middle East Regional Coordinator,
Migrante Sectoral Party Vice-Chairperson
Mobile No.: 00966 564 97 8012