Labor and migrant workers’ group are set to gather this month in Manila to call on the government to once and for all prioritize the overseas Filipinos’ rights while depending on their remittances to save the country’s falling economy.
“The Peoples’ Global Action strongly urge the Philippine government, along with the rest of the government participants in the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), to desist viewing migration principally in economic terms and as national development strategies, while pushing back the protection of migrant workers’ basic human rights and interest in the international migration agenda,” the group said in a statement.
The 2nd GFMD, which was launched by President Arroyo in Malacañang, focused on “human capital development” and labor mobility. The forum is also an opportunity for the Philippine government to negotiate with other member governments for overseas job opportunities.
“Opening salvo ito. Basically to make a public announcement na this month mayroong mga global events that are taking place here and we are also taking part in all of these,” said Ellene Sana of the Center for Migrant Advocacy.
Focus on overseas workers’ rights
The People’s Global Action (PGA), a collaboration of dozens of international and local migrant workers and labor groups, announced in a forum in Quezon City Friday a series of activities, including protests, which will focus on overseas workers’ human rights.
Sana said their group sees a limited space for civil society groups and organizations in the GFMD mainly because the assertion is that the forum is an “intergovernmental process, informal, voluntary and non-binding.”
“Para siyang talking shop and in fact, they said they will be dealing with practical things, doable things. Very limited and direct interaction with GOs [government organizations]. Primarily ‘yon ang sinasagot ng parallel event namin to give a venue for more participation for civil society in taking of the issues of migration. Ang daming issue diyan. It’s not even confined to the three main issues that government identified sa GFMD,” Sana said.
The events will kick off October 22 at the Rajah Sulayman Park in Manila.
The group said the government should make sure that the overseas workers’ human rights are protected before thinking of profits maintaining that “migrant workers are human beings, not commodities.”
Given that migration is a global phenomenon, the government should not only concern itself with maximizing the benefits and minimizing its negative impact.
“Ang contentions namin hindi mo puwedeng hindi ugatin ‘yon kasi hindi mo maso-solve yung paikot-ikot na problema ng migration. Definitely ‘yong mobility we respect that,” she said adding “unfortunately ‘yon ang frame ng discussion ng GFMD. Hindi sila mag-uusap ng mga pag-uugat. Ang pag-uusap nila it can be something na country to another country. Ano bang practical nating mapa-project?” said Sana.
The government must recognize the pressing needs of the 8.7 million overseas Filipinos.
“Kailangan mayroon ka din konkretong gawin para ‘yong kanilang araw-araw na pamumuhay, as well as taking into considerations the families they left behind, hindi magiging ka-unbearable ang situations,” said Sana.
She believes that there should also be an assessment on the progress of talks.
“Are we making progress especially on the protection part? Kailangan ito kasi this is an expensive talking shop,” she said.
Labor export vs local unemployment
The PGA also scored the government’s “labor export policy,” which the group viewed as an unfortunate twist to President Arroyo’s platform propaganda of providing decent jobs to Filipinos.
Jean Enriquez of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP) said the statistics would show that the government is indeed implementing the labor export policy instead of generating local employment.
“Ang taunang target ng pamahalaan ay magkaroon ng 1.5 milyong trabaho. Lumalabas sa labor force survey na nag-ge-generate na trabaho mula noong 2006-2007 ay 200,000 at walang kasiguruhan ng trabaho ditto,” Enriquez said.
“Yung 1M ay trabaho patungo sa labas ng bansa at ito ay taunang target ng POEA [Philippine Overseas Employment Administration]. Kung may ganitong target ang POEA klaro na ito ang kanyang patakaran, ito ang pumapaloob sa mahigit 1M target ng pamahalaan na trabaho para sa ating mga Pilipino,” said Enriquez.
Filipinos who are not able to find jobs in the Philippines are forced to take the risk of working abroad. The group stressed that they are not against migration, but insisted that it should not be a “forced migration.”
“Migrant workers, especially women and the undocumented have been subject to a long history of human rights violations, gender oppression, unjust and even inhumane, labor conditions, and discrimination,” the group said.
Studies have shown that despite earning bigger salaries abroad, an overseas worker usually goes home to a broken family.
“The spouses and children they left behind have borne the brunt of separation, if not the breakdown, of their families, the full effects which we have yet to see and feel generations down the line,” the group said.