Another lawmaker has thought of a brilliant way to make money out of our hardworking and mostly cash-strapped Filipino overseas foreign workers (OFWs). Congresswoman Ma. Theresa Bonoan-David authored a bill that would increase the contribution of every departing OFW to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) from $25.00 to $50.00 (Php2,400).
Unsurprisingly, her bill is being strongly-opposed by the OFWs themselves. According to them, OWWA Resolution No. 038 in 2003 that obligates OFWs to pay $25 per contract for the Emergency Repatriation Fund (ERF) is already enough. However, Bonoan-David wants to amend Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 primarily to increase the fee.
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The reason Bonoan-David gave for her proposed increase in the fee is that it will boost the Philippine governmentâ€™s efforts to help distressed OFWs in strife-torn countries. It sounds good on paper but itâ€™s really not. When Filipino politicians are involved, funds tend to get mismanaged. And why the heck do OFWs need to pay to be able to work abroad? Itâ€™s not like the government helped them find a job in the first place. The government is not even capable of providing jobs for them at home, which is the number one reason why Filipinos are forced to go seek employment overseas. It seems the Philippine government is getting more brazen in its continued violation of the OFWsâ€™ right to travel.
Even some recruitment agents are not happy with the bill. Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani stressed that the congresswoman might be breaking another law in seeking to amend Republic Act 8042. He said, â€œunder Republic Act 10022, no additional fees may be imposed on top of the current fees stated in the law.â€ Furthermore, the OWWA already â€œaccumulates P100 million every year for a total of P13 billion.â€ The consultant is also worried that the bill could turn off potential foreign employers who shoulder the OWWA contribution and could â€œcause the reduction of foreign companies who hire OFWs.â€
The congresswoman has definitely caused uproar among OFWs with her proposal and I can understand why. Her reason is very lame and out of touch with reality. Some OFWs barely scrape enough cash to bring with them. I know of someone who was lucky to get a permit to work in Canada as a hairdresser but she didnâ€™t have enough pocket money to bring with her so she had to ask for donations from family and friends to sustain her stay until she gets her first paycheck. She probably managed to collect less than $500.00 from everyone who could give. The thought that the government has to grab $50.00 dollars from people like her if ever the bill is passed is not just crazy, itâ€™s also stupid considering the millions generated from the $25.00 from every departing OFW is said to be not even accounted for while some still languish in foreign lands unassisted by the Philippine government.
Itâ€™s bad enough that OFWs have to go through an eye-of-the-needle-like procedure at the airport due to the mandatory paperwork they have to show before they can be allowed to board the plane. All that is made even worse now that the fees they may have to pay would leave a big hole in their pockets. The required fee doesnâ€™t stop with the OWWA contribution. They also have to pay the POEA processing fee of PhP100.00; Philhealth contribution of PhP900.00; Pag-Ibig membership of PhP100.00, not to mention the ever-increasing airport tax! All this financial strain just adds to the physical and emotional strain every OFW has to go through every time they leave the country.
OFW group Migrante-Middle East (M-ME) is making a lot of noise and is seeking a dialogue with Congresswoman Bonoan-David. It would be interesting to see if the Congresswoman would even bother to listen to their grievances. Most lawmakers are good at ignoring the people they are supposed to be representing. John Leonard Monterona, M-ME regional coordinator labeled the proposal clearly anti-OFW.
Under former President Gloria Arroyoâ€™s government, OFWs were hailed as a hero and were not required to go through a validation procedure at the airport anymore, giving them hassle-free departures. In contrast, President Noynoy Aquino (PNoy) seems silent on the matter, not even bothering to look into the woes of the OFWs.
It is disappointing that the current government is neglecting its Number One revenue earner. The OFW contribution in terms of remittances is said to have reached $1.7 billion for April alone.
To be honest, Congresswoman Bonoan-Davidâ€™s proposal has laziness written all over it. Instead of a bill that could potentially milk more money out of the OFWs, she should come up with more legislation that contributes towards generating more jobs in the country so Filipinos would not have to go abroad. Lawmakers need to address the countryâ€™s dependence on remittances from overseas foreign workers (OFWs).
Like what I said in my previous article, the Philippine economy will collapse without the OFWs. The economic policy of exporting laborers as a response to our economic woes has to be addressed in the long-term. PNoy is probably thinking that he doesnâ€™t have to work on the economy because he can rely on the remittances anyway, but as a country we cannot be too dependent on OFWs forever. In a study, Canadian professor Prod Laquian concluded that the export of workers has prevented the Philippines from advancing as a self-sustaining nation. He also likens the country to a man who â€œhas become lazy because he receives remittances from a wife working as a domestic worker abroad.â€ Furthermore…
He noted that the Philippine government adopted the labor export program in 1974 as a stop-gap measure to ease unemployment and foreign exchange problems.
However, after 37 years, the Philippine economy has become heavily dependent on remittances, he said.
Almost ten million Filipinos are currently working overseas, mostly in North America, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, and Europe, he noted.
Laquian stated that the most serious negative effect of Philippine labor export policies â€œhas been the neglect of domestic production and poor investments in infrastructure, agriculture, mining, export promotion, and social development because of the easy availability of funds from remittances.â€
â€œThe country may be likened to a man who has become lazy because he receives remittances from a wife working as a domestic worker abroad,â€ Laquian said.
â€œFor the government, the easy money from foreign remittances is a major cause of its inability to pursue sound economic development programs,â€ he added
I am just glad that I am not an OFW. There is no way in hell I would be happy to give this government more money that they canâ€™t even manage well, specially since PNoy is under pressure to show economic growth after a slump last year. Heâ€™s probably happy someone from under his government thought of an easy way to tax the slaves.
In life, things are not always what they seem.