NGOs fear forum on migration would end up as ‘jobs fair’

MANILA, Philippines – The upcoming Second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Manila, would do nothing more but sell Filipino workers to the world, the leader of a union-organizing group for migrants in Hong Kong said.

According to Josua Mata, secretary-general of the Alliance for Progressive Labor (APL), the Philippine government would be keen on enticing other countries to employ OFWs.

“It’s a huge jobs fair for our government. I strongly suspect that our government’s interest is basically to try to forge bilateral agreements and find new markets for our primary export – the workers,” Mata told GMANews.TV on Friday.

The APL leader doubted if the results of the two-day forum would truly benefit Filipino workers because the GFMD is a non-binding and non-committal forum.

“It may produce tons of documents and very little else,” he added.

During the GFMD’s launch in March, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr, said that the government would assure that the forum would not be another “talk shop” of foreign leaders.

Conejos, who serves as the forum chairman, said they would take out the ‘politics’ in the meeting and instead invite “high-level policy practitioners” and migration experts in the discussions that would stretch from October 27 to 30.

He noted that the Philippines needs to impress upon other countries that the government is bent on safeguarding the welfare of Filipinos overseas so that their respective governments will also follow suit.

Mata said that the Philippine government had already signed numerous agreements with other countries but very few of them have been implemented.

“In reality, the migrant workers won’t get anything from that forum,” he said.

Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women echoed Mata’s cynicism toward the upcoming GFMD.

“I might be the most cynical among the migrant groups here,” Enriquez said during the launch of the People’s Global Action on Migration, Development and Human Rights in Quezon City.

“The government has its own interest and that is to send more Filipino workers abroad,” she added.

According to Enriquez, the government’s goal of sending out 1 million Filipino workers every year reflects its policy on making overseas migration a permanent solution to the economic development of the country.

Meanwhile, Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, said that they would hold a rally from October 22 to 30 at Rajah Sulayman Park to hold the Peoples’ Global Action on Migration Development and Human Rights.

According to her, they hope to trumpet the cause of Filipino migrant workers who have been treated as “disposable and cheap” foreign workers.

The Philippines was unanimously chosen by participating countries to host the 2nd GFMD from Oct. 27-30 after Brussels hosted the first forum last year.

It is also the first and only Asian country so far invited to host the event, next to Greece, Argentina, and Spain. – MARK JOSEPH UBALDE, GMANews.TV

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