Chiz to gov’t: Do not compromise OFWs’ welfare

August 27, 2009 at 8:36 am Leave a comment

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said government should address reports of distressed or detained OFWs, especially in countries with which it has no bilateral labor agreements (BLAs).

A 2006 study by the Philippine Migration Research Network noted that the Philippines has BLAs with only 13 countries, which was a fraction of the 193 countries where there are OFWs.

Based on a 2004 report by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), more than 4,000 Filipinos were detained in foreign jails, including Denmark, Colombia and Egypt, three countries where the Philippines has no BLA.

In countries where the Philippines has existing BLAs, such as Kuwait, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates, cases of abuse and maltreatment of OFWs have been documented.

“If we can’t protect our OFWs in countries where we have such agreements, what more in countries where we don’t have BLAs? If we consider OFWs as our new heroes, we should be looking after their welfare while they are alive and working, not when they are already gone,” the 39-year-old lawmaker stressed.

A report by Migrante International, an international alliance of Filipino migrant organizations, revealed that as of May this year it has documented 78 cases of distressed OFWs in various countries.

From 2007-2008, the group filed more than 300 cases for distressed OFWs that involved abuse and maltreatment, repatriation, non-payment of wages, lack of legal assistance for OFWs sentenced to death or currently in detention, and missing persons.

Based on Department of Labor figures, the Philippines is the third biggest supplier of foreign workers in the world, with the number estimated at 11 million working in 193 countries.

“We can also help OFWs by lowering remittance fee charges for OFWs and by ensuring that there are help desks open 24/7 in our embassies,” Escudero said. A World Bank study of global money transfer indicated that Filipinos spend an average of $12.79 to send home $500 from the US and $6.93 to send the same amount from Saudi Arabia .

Escudero also said all Philippine embassies and consulates in countries where there are OFWs should have enough staff that are properly trained and always ready to provide assistance to OFWs. “There should be someone who will always answer a special hotline OFWs can call anytime.”

Entry filed under: News.

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