Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Genuine land reform will reunite us with our families and country
Filipino migrants’ unity statement on the Nationwide Peasant Caravan for Land and Justice

The Filipino migrant community expresses its solidarity with the ongoing 10-day Nationwide Caravan for Land and Justice, wherein thousands of Filipino peasants are traveling from Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao to reach Mendiola Bridge in Manila by January 22, the 23rd anniversary of the Mendiola Massacre. This historic caravan is a collective protest against the worsening landlessness, human rights violations against peasants, and plunder of agricultural funds under the administration of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Majority of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) hail from backward rural communities that offer no decent livelihoods or opportunities for its impoverished people. It is estimated that seven out of 10 peasants do not own the land they till, and give around one half to two-thirds of their harvest to wealthy landowners. Meanwhile, agricultural workers (mostly victims of landgrabbing by corporations, the government, and landowners), receive less than US$1 per day during cropping season, and left to fend for themselves doing odd jobs for the rest of the year.

This situation has forced many of us to seek overseas work, in the hope that we may be able to provide for our families’ basic needs. We incur huge debts in the process of applying for work abroad, the amount needed for which ranges from US$ 2,000 to 4,000, including exorbitant placement fees and state exactions. However, upon reaching foreign shores, many of us realize that we are unable to fulfill our dreams after all. We realize that we have become victims of exploitation and abuse by our recruiters and employers. We realize that the government has sold us out to employers and foreign governments, which it shamelessly woos to open up their labor market even at the expense of our most basic human rights. The number of distressed OFWs increases by the day; so does the number of new deployments. The Arroyo administration has made it a point to break previous records of OFW deployment (currently at 4,500 workers per day) and OFW remittances (at US$1.5 billion in October 2009), clearly using labor export as an artificial means to sustain the perennially bankrupt Philippine economy.

The Filipino migrant community believes that the government’s labor export program is not the solution to the economic crisis, and landlessness experienced by farmers in the communities we came from and in which our families back home are still struggling to survive. Because of our situation abroad, which ranges from being financially tight to downright dehumanizing, most of us have been unable to pay off our debts, much less secure a good future for our families despite years of hard toil. The global financial economic crisis continues to be a threat. It has forced and will continue to force thousands of us back to the countryside, which we believe will continue to be bereft of opportunities.

It will be bereft of opportunities until lands are handed over to farmers instead of agricultural or mining corporations that merely extract natural resources and exploit labor for profit. It will be bereft of opportunities until the Arroyo administration puts an end to militarization, which only serves wealthy landowners and corporations, while terrorizing rural communities. Since 2001, there have been 561 civilian farmers extra-judicially killed, while hundreds more have been abducted and remain missing or illegally arrested and detained. The deaths of our farmers, such as in Hacienda Luisita, grieve us like we grieve the unjust deaths of our fellow OFWs at the hands of employers and foreign governments.

We salute the Filipino peasantry for undertaking this long march for land and justice. We urge the government to heed their calls, as well as ours, that only genuine land reform and national industrial development will uplift the Filipino people from poverty and address the root of forced migration. Indeed, only genuine land reform and national industrial development has the potential to reunite us with our families and enable us to truly offer our lives and labor in service of the country.

Migrante Australia
Migrante Melbourne
Philippine Australia Solidarity Association
Gabriela Australia
Pinoy In Austrian Society For Integrity, Reforms and Social Transformation (PINAS FIRST)
KASAMMAKO-(Katipunan ng mga Samahan ng Migranteng Manggagawa sa Korea)
Umangat Rome
PINAY-The Filipino Women's Organization in Quebec
Migrante Saudi Arabia
Migrante Partylist - KSA Chapter
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan - Riyadh
Migrante Al Khobar
Migrante Jeddah
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan - Dawadmi
Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan - Al Jouf
Samahang Manggagawa sa Saudi Arabia (MASA)
Migrante Eastern Province
Jeddah Filipino Society
Makabayan Saudi Arabia
MIGRANTE-Ras Al Kaimah
United Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-MIGRANTE-HK)
Abra Tinguian Ilocano Society - Hong Kong (ATIS-HK)
Filipino Migrant Workers' Union - Hong Kong (FMWU-HK)
Cordillera Alliance in Hong Kong (CORALL-HK)
Association of Concerned Filipinos in Hong Kong (ACFIL-HK)
Abra Migrant Workers Welfare Association (AMWWA-HK)
Friends of Bethune House in Hong Kong (FBH-HK)
Filipino Migrants' Association - Hong Kong (FMA-HK)
LIKHA Filipino Migrants Cultural Organization (LIKHA)
Mission Volunteers (MOVERS) Hong Kong
MIGRANTE Sectoral Party - Hong Kong
Migrante - Shatin
Migrante - HSBC
Migrante - Chater Rd.
Migrante - Naguilian (Isabela) Hong Kong
Pinatud a Saleng ti Umili (PSU)
Filipino Friends in Hong Kong (FFHK)
Cuyapo Association in Hong Kong
Pangasinan Organization for Welfare, Empowerment and Rights (POWER)
MIGRANTE Netherlands (Amsterdam)
MIGRANTE Netherlands (Den Haag)
Filipina Circle for Advancement and Progress (FICAP)
Filipino Migrant Center (FMC)
Center for Japanese-Filipino Families (CJFF)
KAFIN-Migrante Saitama
Kafin Migrant Center
Philippine Society in Japan (PSJ)
Migrante international-taiwan chapter
Migranteng Ilonggo sa Taiwan
Gabriela womens party_Taiwan chapter
Migrante Aotearoa New Zealand

For Reference:
Garry Martinez
Migrante International Chairperson
Mobile no: 09393914418

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Migrante salutes striking Pinoys in Riyadh

Migrante salutes striking Pinoys in Riyadh
Slams “inutile” RP post

12 January 2010

A militant alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) groups today expressed solidarity with 88 OFWs who staged a hunger strike in Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, after calls for their repatriation were left unheeded by the Philippine post in the Middle Eastern city.

The 88 OFWs were victims of contract substitution and unjust labor practices of construction firm Annasban Group. They stopped working on October 12 last year after they complained of salary reduction, illegal salary deduction and delayed payment of salary.

November 3 last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement that the Philippine Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh have been working for the workers’ repatriation “at the soonest possible time.” The promised repatriation, however, didn’t happen.

“Migrante International salutes the Riyadh 88 for militantly standing up to assert their rights. OFWs the world over join them in their fight for justice,” stated Garry Martinez, Chairperson of Migrante International.

“We vehemently condemn the Philippine government, particularly our post in Riyadh, for their gross neglect and indifference to their plight. We strongly urge them to act with dispatch and work for the immediate repatriation and remuneration of the 88 hunger strikers.” Martinez said.

The Migrante leader likewise called for the investigation and recall of RP officials in Riyadh KSA for their apparent “inutility and incompetence.”

“When OFWs in distress go to the extent of starving themselves just to get the attention of Philippine government officials, there really is something wrong. Such is the case in Riyadh. What we have there are heartless, inutile and incompetent officials who do not deserve their posts,” Martinez stressed.

In December of 2003, Martinez said, 16 stranded OFWs also staged a hunger strike inside the premises of the Philippine embassy in Riyadh. Days after, the striking workers were arrested and detained by the Saudi police upon the orders of Philippine embassy officials led by then Ambassador Bahnarim Guinomla.

To protest the arrest of the striking workers in Riyadh and to renew their call for the OFWs’ repatriation, Migrante organized a camp out of the relatives and family members of the 16 OFWs outside the office of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Pasay City. The peaceful camp out, Martinez said, was brutally dispersed by the Pasay police upon orders of then OWWA Administrator Virgilio Angelo. Four Migrante leaders, including its Secretary General Maita Santiago, were arrested during the dispersal.###

Garry Martinez, Chairperson, 09393914418
Ailyn Abdula, Media Officer, 09212708994


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

OFWs in solidarity

12 January 2010

OFWs in solidarity with farmers in historic nationwide caravan for land and justice

Migrante International, representing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in various countries, today expressed solidarity with the first-ever nationwide farmers caravan for land and justice, which kicked off today in Davao and Cagayan de Oro City, and is expected to culminate with thousands of farmers marching to Mendiola on January 22.

“We hail our farmers for their resolve to travel all the way from remote provinces in order to register their call for genuine land reform, which the Arroyo government has left unheeded. OFWs, majority of whom come from poor agricultural provinces, know what it means to be landless. Landlessness is one of the root causes of migration, and thus Migrante supports this historic protest action,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.

Migrante, currently campaigning for the repatriation of more than 300 stranded OFWs, said that the misery faced by Filipino victims of human rights abuses abroad can be traced to the lack of opportunities in the country brought about by landlessness and lack of national industrial development.

“For instance, some of the 88 OFWs in Riyadh currently on a hunger strike come from poor farmer families. It is most tragic when OFWs escape hunger here in the Philippines, only to be faced with hunger abroad because of government neglect and indifference to their welfare,” said Martinez.

Migrante International will join several groups that will welcome the farmers when they arrive in Metro Manila on January 19. The group will also mobilize for the march to Mendiola on January 22, the 23rd anniversary of the Mendiola massacre.

“Farmers, just like OFWs, are heroes, struggling to survive and fight amidst poverty brought about by the government’s neo-liberal policies that serve to benefit big landlords and employers first. They serve as an inspiration to OFWs all over the world,” Martinez added.###


Reference: Gary Martinez, Chairperson, 09393914418

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Nine Years Under Arroyo

Anti-Migrant Regime:
Nine Years Under Arroyo

By Migrante International

It was 2001 and riding on the crest of People Power II that ousted President Joseph Estrada, then Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo inherited the presidency. Reforms seemed in the offing but nine years later, the Pinoy migrants along with the rest of the country, could not wait for Arroyo whose term ends in 2010 to leave Malacanang.

When Arroyo assumed power, government’s labor export policy was already in place. Which means that labor export was treated no longer as a temporary measure to address unemployment but as a means to keep the sinking economy afloat.

Arroyo cannot be happier. Under her regime, labor export remained the country’s no.1 foreign exchange earner, earning at least $16 billion by end 2008, and projected to reach $17 billion in 2009. According to the Bangko Sentral, for 2008, remittances even surpassed the $1.52 billion foreign direct investment of $1.52 billion, and far outstripped net exports of goods and services which registered a $11.1 billion deficit.

Also, the National Economic and Development Authority confirmed that the remittances were higher than foreign aid disbursed ($1.05 billion) and were way beyond the increase in government foreign debt stock of $1.78 billlion, according to the Bureau of Treasury.

With enough foreign exchange earnings in its hands, the Arroyo regime is able to meet the country’s foreign debt obligations, makes the country a good credit risk, and remains confident even with deficits in the balance of payments.

The increase in remittances mirrored the increase in overseas deployment which under the Arroyo regime breached the million mark (1.24 million) by 2007. This means that 3,700 Filipinos are now leaving for work abroad daily, excluding the undocumented. The years under the Arroyo regime saw the largest number of Filipinos forced to find jobs abroad. The destinations remained the same but with the markets ever expanding and new ones being opened especially with the advent of the global financial crisis.

In 2008, OFW deployments by region were concentrated in the Middle East (51.1% of deployments), Asia (17.8%) and Europe (4.2%). The top ten destinations of OFWs accounting for 82.6% of deployed OFWs were Saudi Arabia, UAE, Qatar, Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuwait, Taiwan, Italy, Canada and Bahrain. Up until 2008, said the NSO, 8 out of 10 OFWs are laborers and unskilled workers.


To date, the Philippines now ranks as the fourth largest remittance-receiving country next to India, China and Mexico, whose economies are much larger than the Philippines. Hence, in terms of the remittances’ significance to the economy, the Arroyo regime has succeeded in making the Philippines the largest and most-remittance dependent country in the world.

True, OFW remittances have added significantly to family or household income, purchasing power and consumption, at least while they are being received. Remittances normally go to food, education, and medical expenses. According to the NSO’s Family Income and Expenditure Survey in 2006, about 4.1 million families receive assistance from abroad, and assuming that the average family size is 5, this could mean 21 million Filipinos are relying on OFW incomes.

However, figures from the NSO reveal that most remittances on a monthly basis sent to the Philippines are either a little less or a little more than the NCR minimum wage of P11,620 (from a daily wage of P360), whether the OFW is working as a laborer or an associate professional. In this case, if jobs were really available and the minimum wage is met, migration may not be an option for the majority of OFWs at all.

Also, whatever benefits are derived by households are offset by the social costs of migration. The long and physical separation of families has wrecked the relationship of spouses and damaged the upbringing of children, causing trauma to family life nearing national proportions. Colonial mentality is reinforced as migration glorifies working and living abroad, hence producing generations of migrants. Dependence on OFW remittances tends to diminsh the value of hard work and the importance of developing local jobs, too.

Worse, for all the increase in remittances and deployment, the country remains poor and economically backward. According to the National Statistic and Coordination Board, three years into the Arroyo regime, poverty incidence in population increased from 30% in 2003 to 32.9% in 2006.

The sadder fact is that even if remittances shoot up as is happening now despite the world economic crisis, poverty is still going to get worse. Whoever thought of migration or remittance as a tool for national development is a charlatan.

For one, there is not much capital left from remittance spending for investments as the remittance goes first to payment of household debts and consumption spending. Whatever investment there is remains small-scale, such as sari-sari stores, tricycles, jeepneys, taxis that generate few jobs and minimal domestic capital formation. For another, much of the consumption goes to imported goods, hence, the multiplier effect of local spending is limited.

Protection, a myth

For all these, and at best, the labor export program has served the Arroyo regime as a counter-insurgency or counter-revoutionary strategy to stop a social volcano from fully erupting. Even as the country does not have much to gain from forced migration, the strategy saves the economy from total collapse, feeding food to millions of families, albeit temporary, to keep these millions away from talks of revolt, revolution, or social change.

Yet, even while serving its purpose and recognizing the role of the bagong bayani, the Arroyo regime is ill-prepared to provide millions of OFWs with protection, from the time they apply for job permits to actually working and living abroad. Compounding this is the fact that government does not spend a single centavo for OFW welfare; this is borne by OFWs themselves through forced contributions.

By 2007, a quarter (8.7 million) of 34 million employed Filipinos are abroad, representing a tenth of the population of 88.7 million then. The figures could go higher with the number of undocumented or irregular workers, said to be almost half of the documented ones. While the majority are still male, the female OFWs have outranked the males in deployment for the last couple of years.

The second Global Forum on Migration and Development held in the Philippines last year had hailed Arroyo’s labor export program as a model for other labor-sending countries to emulate. Apparently so. The impression was that with overbearing institutions such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), the government has created safe migration channels to manage and control OFW deployment at all levels.

Fact is that Arroyo’s labor export program has become so unimaginably huge that it simply has no control over it. Think 197 countries where Pinoys are spread out. Think 8 to 10 million Filipinos. Yet the POEA does not even maintain offices abroad, nor has it supervision over labor attaches that are under the Department of Foreign Affairs called POLOS (Philippine Labor Offices). There are only 34 POLO offices with 230 staff to serve millions of OFWs.

It is small wonder then why thousands of stranded workers are camping in embassy premises or outside of it waiting for assistance and that numerous abuses remain unmonitored or unattended. Or why OFWS continue to fall under the mercy of unscrupulous recruiters, traffickers, sexual abusers, or violators of contracts despite exposes and prosecution.

Even if protection is rendered this is mostly due to pressures from migrant organizations such as Migrante International that of last has organized chapters in 23 countries and has a partylist bearing its name.

The lack of protection is unacceptable; unjust state exactions is even more unforgivable. Migrante International has estimated that a potential migrant will be paying the government some P18,000 just to complete the basic documentary requirements. At 1.24 million OFWs deployed in 2008, the P18,000 per migrant could potentially be equivalent to some P22.3 billion pesos a year collected mostly from migrants who come from poor households and with limited options.

Then there is the trust fund by OFWs run by OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration). that comes from a 25 dollar contribution of migrants with counterpart funds from their employers. Earmarked for repatriation, health and life insurance, legal assistance, scholarships and trainings, and loans for migrant families, the fund had averaged 38 million dollars annually for the last five years.

But more often, the migrants have to plead for the release of their own funds from OWWA. Worse, they had discovered that their funds were being diverted to unnecessary investments and electoral fraud, and with no consultation from members.

Good riddance

As 2010 draws closer and migrants say good riddance to Arroyo, the prospect of another anti-migrant regime emerging after the 2010 elections could still be looming.

Nine years under Arroyo has brought even more harrowing tales of migrant abuse than previous decades. Many more may opt to go underground or undocumented for lack of better prospects in the Philippines or even abroad with the intensifying crisis.

What is clear is that the labor export policy may yet be another safety net for a ruling regime that refuses to confront the economic roots resulting to forced migration.

Be that as it may, Migrante International promises to stay the course as it has been doing since 1994.