Monday, February 16, 2009

COMELEC exactions on passports Spell Extortion for OFWs

Press Statement
12 February 2009

Migrante : COMELEC exactions on passports Spell Extortion for OFWs

In a time of such a severe crisis, how can the government have the still have the guts to squeeze more funds from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)? This was the question raised by the largest global alliance of migrant Filipino groups, Migrante International.

In a protest in front of the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) building in Pasay City, members of Migrante International denounced the government's continuing implementation of requiring a voter's registration certificate for anyone who wants to get a Philippine passport.

"This is clearly another burden and an additional cost to aspiring OFWs as one has to pay P75 to the Comission on Elections before applying for a passport," Migrante Chairperson Garry Martinez said.

Martinez said they have received numerous complaints from aspiring OFWs regarding the requirement. He stated that this violates the rights to travel and shows the government's dictatorial tendency.

He also scored the P250 overtime fee being charged by the DFA for every passport being processed during Saturdays.

Martinez said this and other exorbitant fees only illustrate the government's shameless act to haul in more funds from Filipino citizens. This will particularly affect OFWs who are already reeling more than P17, 000 state fees they have to pay for required documents.

"P75 multiplied by the number of OFWs who leave daily (4,200) is equal to an additional P315,000 daily income for the government," Martinez said. "This amount will steeply increase when one factors in the other Filipino travelers who use passports."

He mentioned it was just a humble estimate as the DFA's goal is to increase the number from 3,500 to 10,000 passports per day.

Martinez also revealed that the aggressive efforts of the DFA to provide passports is but a part of the government's labor export policy as it particularly targets OFWs. It must be remembered that the Arroyo's government's response to the crisis is to sell more OFWs.

"From January to November, 2008, 236 mobile passport services were established carry out resulting to 87,612 passports within 10 months. Right now, the DFA is planning to establish five more regional consular offices. With the crisis, the only ones interested to travel are the very rich or the OFWs who are desperately ready to gamble on a life working like slaves abroad rather than suffer through the crunching poverty here," he said.

Meanwhile, migrants in Italy have marched in front of the Philippine Embassy to protest the unreasonable increase of consular fees.

In an open letter to President Arroyo, Migrante-Italy expressing their opposition to "the newly implemented increase of fees including the passport because it is arbitrary, anomalous, undemocratic and unjust since we were not informed neither consulted prior to its approval."

Migrante reiterated its message to the Arroyo government: Stop additional and exorbitant state exactions. "Instead of squeezing OFWs dry, Arroyo should focus on creating jobs in the country. Mrs. Arroyo is hell bent in courting rich countries to sell out OFWs just to save her bankrupt economic policies," Martinez ended.


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