Monday, September 14, 2009

Amending Migrant Workers Act will intensify labor export

Press Release
09 September 2009

Proposed consolidated bill amending Migrant Workers Act of 1995 will only further intensify labor exportation –Migrante-ME

Migrante-Middle East, the largest alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations in the Middle East, today said the proposed consolidation of bills now in Congress amending Republic Act 8042 otherwise known as The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 will only further intensify cheap labor exportation at the disguise of giving the law strong teeth in providing protection to OFWs abroad.

“Consolidated Senate Bill 3286 and House Bill 5649 is an attempt to accommodate different legislative ideas originated in the Lower with parallel bill in the Senate whose proponents have their own way of intent changing the anti-OFW character of R.A. 8042 but in reality it only promotes exportation of cheap human labor and institutionalizes exactions of government-imposed fees, and charges by recruitment agencies to OFWs and their families,” said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

Monterona said since its passage on June 7, 1995, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 (R.A. 8042) was primarily utilized to intensify the labor export program of the government rather than to “establish a higher standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant workers, their families and overseas Filipinos in distress” as stipulated in the said law.

Monterona added contrary to the obligations and responsibilities of the government set out in R.A. 8042, OFWs are living witness of continuing government neglect and worsening plight of OFWs.

“Six (6) OFWs were already beheaded under the Arroyo administration, 59 more are awaiting their execution. Six to 10 bodies of OFWs are arriving at different Philippine airports daily; while the numbers of sexual and physical abuses, labor malpractices are increasing in an alarming proportion, in the Middle East alone averaging 5-8 cases daily,” Monterona added.

Monterona said that they received information that a bicameral committee meeting is scheduled to tackle SB 3286 and HB 5649 claiming that its amendments to RA 8042 would result to a higher standard of protection and promotion of the welfare of migrant Filipinos.

“We already read the consolidated version of the proposed bills amending R.A. 8042 and find it as merely a vain attempt trying to “harmonize” the intensified exportation of human labor and so called “migration management” on the one hand and the numerous cases of abuses, maltreatment, rampant migrant rights violations, and burdening government fees and exactions and charges by unscrupulous recruitment agencies on the other,” Monterona opined.

Monterona cited Sec.2 (c) of the consolidated bill that affirms “the State shall continue to create local employment opportunity and promote equitable distribution of wealth” but in practice under the Arroyo administration it even issued Administrative Order No. 247 on December 2008 ordering POEA and other government line-agencies to aggressively market OFWs in the absence of clear rights protection mechanism for OFWs abroad.

Monterona further said that the consolidated bill also affirms the State principle that “recognizes and encourage OFWs to participate in the decision-making process & to be represented in institutions”, but appointing authority is still vested to the President; not the OFWs organizations themselves.

“Thus, with regards to the management of OFWs trust fund now amounting to Php.12-B held in trust to the government, OFWs and their organizations have never been consulted and are kept blind to the real status of the OFW trust fund, though there are appointed land-based and sea-based representatives at the OWWA-Board but they are simply working for and at the pleasure and confidence of the President making them weak and helpless against the political interests of the President,” Monterona averred.

Monterona also raises concern on the provision in the proposed consolidated bill, Sec 2 (i) which states that government fees and cost of recruitment is FREE; “This is vague as in Section 34 of the consolidated proposed bill, it states “fees shall remain at their present level”, which we believe the government could increase these fees anytime if they wanted to, and we can’t allow such riding provision that would only squeeze us further dry of our earnings,” the OFW leader added.

Monterona said another disturbing provision of the proposed consolidated bill is Section 15 about the creation of Emergency Repatriation Fund which source is to be collected from placement and recruitment agency contribution ranging from US$50 to US$100.

“Again just like the OWWA membership fee of US$25 supposed to be paid by the employer for the OFW, in reality it is being pass on and shouldered by the OFWs, same worry that the Emergency Repatriation fund will be pass on to OFWs, again burdening them too much,” Monterona continued.

Migrante-ME also express its opposition against the proposed mandatory insurance for OFWs as it is just an additional burden pass on to OFWs shoulder by unscrupulous recruitment agency.

“The above are just few of the many anti-OFW provisions that could be found in the proposed consolidated bill amending R.A. 8042; Migrante International has formally submitted its position paper to the House-Senate Bicameral Committee and we are hoping that they will seriously consider our petition as we are at the forefront protecting OFWs rights and welfare,” Monterona added.

The OFW-leader ended saying “Any amendment to the already anti-OFW Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act or R.A. 8042 should not be made a mockery of government responsibility to protect OFWs abroad, and an excuse to disguise government’s continued neglect to OFWs rights and welfare happening now under the most anti-OFWs administration of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.” –end-

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

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