OFWs against the tides

I am trying my best to take the high road and brush-off the criticisms towards us OFWs, as we do not want people to put us down while we undergo hardships and make sacrifices for our loved ones in the Philippines. I however feel that the government biased policies, not-thought-of comments, and below-the-belt remarks have have come to a point of abuse. So I would like to give my personal take on the recent events to shed some light as to why the OFW population should not be looked-down-upon or treated with a grain of salt.

I would like to start with the bigger picture. According to the recent, Last February 2015, a forum on Inclusive Development and Migration was held in Singapore with the purpose of inviting the public and private sectors to explore the potential of migration for inclusive development. In a report by ABS-CBN online, Finance Undersecretary, Gil S. Beltran, cited in his speech the importance of OFW remittances in improving the lives of their families, their communities and the Philippine economy.

Beltran said, “In the Philippines, the steady stream of remittances has played a vital role in the economy – reversing the boom-and-bust cycle of the last decade. It led to the national savings rate rising above domestic investment rate, and the accumulation of foreign reserves. It strengthened balance of payments and bolstered the country’s current account position, enabling to withstand the volatilities of the world economy,” he also added that, “It [remittance] has improved the living standards of the recipient families. It led to an enlarged middle class, creating an expanding market for goods and services. Further, it has spawned an industry that enhances wealth creation – advising/managing funds and real estate properties for this nascent middle class.”

This is further proven by a report released by GMA News Online on the OFW remittances sent to the Philippines in 2014, which has amounted to $26.92B according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas. In 2014, 1.6M Filipinos were deployed abroad to answer the rising job orders in service, production and professional sectors in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Taiwan and Qatar. These remittances contributed to as much as 8.5 percent to the Philippine Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

According to National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) in a report by Rappler, the OFW remittance will remain an important source of investment in the country. The country remains to be dependent on the remittance because of its significance in promoting “inclusive growth.” Since money from our OFWs are sent directly to the households, it is becomes a direct source for human capital development, which is used to address food, shelter, and education, and sometimes as investment to businesses or real estate properties.

These statistics from credible news desks and government agencies and personas can prove by numbers that OFW contributions are instrumental in helping the country’s economy. We were named “new heroes” after all. We appreciate the accolade, but as OFW, I would say these huge numbers and titles do not matter much, for as long as we can help our family and reach our goals for them. Inclusive growth and investing in human capital are but technical terms labeling what we do to support our loved ones. From our point of view, here are the simple reasons why we feel we should be treated with basic respect.

  1. We help put children to school and in turn help in increasing the literacy of our nation. Our priority is to provide our children’s basic needs, with education as priority for their own well-being.
  2. We help create domestic jobs by providing our families with capital to create businesses that will encourage formal or informal employment for our fellow-Filipinos.
  3. We fund livelihood by continuously supporting the need of our family members to self-sustain with the industry they are engaged in.
  4. We help put food to the table by ensuring that we provide for the monthly expenses at home such as groceries, milk for the babies and a little extra for occasions.
  5. We sustain shelter through our regular provision of payment for utilities, mortgage, taxes and rent that can support the operation of the household.

These five examples are victories for us, and for our families. We take great pride with what we do even if it means being away from our families.

If only our policy makers can go down from their ivory towers and look at the effect of their policies on a micro-scale. These events that we consider our hardwork’s victories are being maligned by people who wish to legitimize their corrupt practices and forward their personal interests. We are being marginalized as OFWs, putting us in more difficult position while we help our families and help our economy.

I am revolted by the unfounded and unintelligent comments of some top government officials and people working for the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on our contributions to the country. First, why would this person in office degrade the role of OFW remittances in the country? Does he not realize that any amount coming from other countries to the Philippines has an effect to the economy? Going back to our figures, $26.92B worth of remittance is trillions of pesos coming in the country that help directly support families, or in more technical terms mentioned above, contribute in “human capital development.”

Secondly, saying that OFW are dim-witted and good-for-nothing and so many other demeaning words I cannot imagine saying to people I do not even know, is foul. I hope this person realizes that in the world where the internet does not filter our opinions, these statements can reach all their intended audience like wildfire. And I hope this person also acknowledge that s/he is talking not only to one individual but more than a million Filipinos all over the world who are professionals and who are working hard to earn a living. Let us not pit ourselves against each other, let us just co-exist peacefully, nagtatrabaho lang rin po kami.

Lastly, these anti-OFW or anti-Filipino statements promulgated by these people are the same reasons why anti-OFW policies are pending to be imposed to us. To our fellow-Filipinos and our policy makers, please understand that most OFWs’ hands are tied with working abroad. Not enough jobs are offered in the country, yet you make matters worse by shaking us with pending implementation of unjust policies.

I plead for the Philippine government to get its act together. We need more people-centric and OFW-centric policies that will protect us from further abuse.

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