Monday, February 23, 2009

Moratorium on Fees, Now!

Press Release
23 February 2009

OFW group joins calls for tuition fee moratorium,
additional fees and charges impose to OFWs must be stop, too

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers' organizations based in the Middle East today said that any impending tuition fee increase up to the opening of classes on June 2009 in the midst of soaring prices of basic commodities and global financial crisis would put OFW families in dire economic situation.

"Tuition fee increases, both in private and public high schools, colleges and universities, in the midst of economic upheaval with soaring prices of food, fuel, water and electricity rates would certainly put OFW parents in dire economic situation and would some how be forced to stop sending their children in schools," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante Middle East regional coordinator.

Monterona said that most of OFW parents who are working as domestic helpers and construction workers are only receiving a monthly salary of US$ 300 to US$ 500 which is barely ranging from Php. 15,000 to Php. 20,000 in the current dollar-peso exchange rate of 1:47

He further said OFW parents' meager income is not even enough to compensate the Php. 780.00 daily cost of living in Metropolitan Manila translated to a Php. 23,400 monthly cost of living, which means ordinary OFW parents if earning US$500/month (Php. 23,000+) is only break even as to daily cost of living alone, not to mention other needs of the family.

"What will happen if schools, colleges and universities will implement a 7% to 15% tuition fee increase at the opening of classes in June?" Monterona queried.

"Thus, both OFW parents (father and mother) are force to decide to work abroad, as the only option left, leaving behind their children under the care of their grandparents or relatives. This is a factor weakening close family ties amongst family members who will be separated for quite some time until their OFW children could finished college and earn a degree only to be working abroad, too," Monterona added.

Monterona thus said no tuition fee increases on the opening of classes of June would be of help to struggling OFW families who he said are already over burdened by the numerous fees and charges imposed by their recruitment agency for their deployment and by government itself.

Monterona said it is prudent for the Arroyo regime to stop at all imposing additional fees and charges to OFWs especially in time of the global economic crisis.

"The 25% increase on passport fee and other consular fees that were imposed last February 16 by RP posts in Europe via the Foreign Affairs department directive, is only an additional burden to struggling OFWs in Europe as we are aware that part of the World is hard hit by the global financial crisis were many workers have been laid off," Monterona averred.

"Imposing the same – 25% increase in passport fee and other consular fees, in the Middle East and Asia Pacific, is a blatant disregard on the deplorable plight of OFWs in the Middle East and Asia Pacific countries who are only earning not even enough for their family's daily subsistence," Monterona added.

He said in Saudi Arabia and Qatar for instance, the Philippine Embassy and the Philippine Consulate office is charging 200 riyals for passport renewal and 100 riyals for certification and authentication per documents.

"200 riyals is equivalent to Php.2,480 based on the current riyal-peso exchange rate which is 1:12.40; whereas passport renewal in the Philippines would amount to Php.750; thus passport fee collected by RP posts is triple higher than the fee in the Philippines," Monterona added.

Monterona said with regards to certification and authentication of documents, Philippine embassies and consular offices in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia are charging OFWs an average fee of 100 riyals per document which is about Php.1,240

"We do understand costs of services offered by RP posts abroad could be higher compared the cost of services in the home land, but fees that are tripled or 300% higher compared to what is being charged in the homeland is not at all fair and just," Monterona added.

Monterona further said in the case of passport renewal, personal appearance is already required because of the changed to machine-readable passport type.

"If for instance, an OFW is too far away from the embassy or consular office let us say coming from the Northern region or Eastern region, an OFW would spend an additional amount of not less than 300 riyals for his or her fare going to the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and Consular office in Jeddah," Monterona said.

With meager income, certainly 200 riyals plus 300 riyals travel expenses is too burdensome for OFWs who need to renew his or her expired passport. "200 riyals could buy 2 sacks of rice," he averred.

Monterona said in some instances, the employer or the company provides transportation for their expatriate workers who will be renewing their passport or need to get a certification and authentication. "There are employers who simply charge and deduct the fare against OFW's salary and mark him absent during that day," Monterona averred.

"Our embassy and consular officials must be made aware of such difficulties; and an increase in passport fee and other consular fees that is reportedly imposed by RP posts in Europe would not do any better, only additional burden, to OFWs here in the Middle East amid impending job losses," Monterona ended.

Migrante-Middle East has already asked its chapters to conduct consultations among OFWs and their organizations to arrive unities and collective actions to protest any move by the Arroyo administration imposing increases in passport fee and other consular fees.

The OFW leader ended saying "Despite great contribution of OFWs in keeping the long-in-crisis economy afloat through billions of OFWs remittances and collections from fees and charges, the Arroyo administration remains negligent to its state responsibility promoting and protecting OFWs rights and welfare as manifested by the increasing numbers of OFW victims, ran away and stranded". # # #

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

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