To the Members of the Philippine Congress
There are an estimated 10 million Filipinos working and living abroad, almost half of them are women. In 2014, they remitted a total amount of US$ 26.3 billion which accounted for approximately 8.5% of GDP in 2014. Remittances are not only lifeline of millions of families left behind but also propel the economy of the country.
In spite of this huge remittance flows, a large number of Filipino migrant workers return to their country without being able to adequately prepare for their reintegration.
Migrant workers particularly women are more prone to various forms of abuses at home and in the host countries. There is dismal government record in protecting and promoting the rights of migrants. Responses from various Philippine agencies engaged in migration remained incoherent and fragmentary because there is no single agency that is coordinating all migration-related issues and takes full responsibility on how to help migrant workers and their families. The social cost of migration is enormous that no amount of remittances can compensate this loss.
We believe that managing migration is not enough and that the development component is crucial to ensuring a sustainable policy; i.e., by harnessing the potential of migration and migrants’ remittances for development, particularly in the countryside.
We recently learned the existence of a house bill that proposes the creation of a “Department for Overseas Workers” to manage the deployment and reintegration of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs): 16th Congress, 1st Regular Session, House Bill No. 191, introduced by Rep. Rosemarie J. Arenas, dated 1 July 2013.
We call for the passage of this HB 191 but to be renamed as the creation of a “Department of Migration and Development.” This department will not only manage Philippine migration but also enhance its potential for sustainable development.
As a cabinet-level department, we envision a Department of Migration and Development that exclusively focuses on the welfare of the OFWs, streamlines all services of sub-agencies serving overseas Filipinos, and institutionalizes the fiscal autonomy of the OFW trust fund (currently under OWWA).
- We call our government, candidates for 2016 election policy makers to heed our call.
- We call for an open and transparent process in the selection of overseas Filipinos who will be consulted in the re-drafting of this House Bill.
- We call on all overseas Filipinos to support this cause to ensure that their interests and of their families and loved ones back home will be duly represented.