Friday, November 20, 2015

Petition: Create a Department of Migration and Development

Please sign our Petition

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.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Response to our Open Letter to President Benigno Aquino


Dear Friends of the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (OFW),

We are happy to report that the Office of the President took time to reply more elaborately to our open letter. Please see below the text version of the said reply.


Office of the President of the Philippines
PMS Building, Arlegui Street, MalacaƱang, Manila, Philippines
Telephone: +632 7343971 to 86• +632 7368791 1093 • +632 7364531 to 34

22 February 2011
To: Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (OFW)
C/o New York, NY
United States of America

Thank you, once again, for your faith and support to the Aquino Administration. Based on our study of the proposal of the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (OFW), the major action points raised by the OFW are already being undertaken by the Philippine Government. The OFWs concerns are also similar to those taken up by participants at the Conference on Migration and Development conducted by the Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) in December 2010.

Attached for your perusal are a summary of comments of concerned government agencies on OFW's proposal and the CFO's 10-Point Goals, which respond to the challenges of migration and development.

Should you wish to coordinate with the government agencies concerned on overseas Filipinos, the following are the contact details:

a. Office of Vice President Jejomar C. Binay - (632) 551-3897, 831-2616 and 831-2618, http://Www.ovp.site50.nef/ovp

b. CFO-(632) 561-8321 local 702,

c. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) - (632) 527-3000,

d. Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) - (632) 834-4000 and 834-3552,

e. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) - (632) 722-1159,
722-1163,724-3665 and 724-3724, http://www.poea.qov.oh

f. Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) - (632) 834-0124, 551-
6641 and 891-7604 local 5401, 5402 & 5403,

Rest assured that this Administration shall continue to uphold the welfare and development of the Filipinos overseas.

Thank you and best regards.


For the Secretary:
Chief of Staff

Attachment 1:


1. The following are the actions points proposed by the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (OFW) towards having a program aimed at translating migration gains for use in human development.

1.1 The government must send clear and strong signals that migration and remittances are only temporary measures to help the government prepare for a 1ong-term goal of self-sufficiency, in which Filipinos no longer look at migration as a forced option. Strategies, policies, and mechanism for the productive use and investments of remittances should also be included in the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP).

1.2 The government must create a position for a Special Presidential Adviser on Migration and Development who will work with a technical working group (TWG) that has expertise in migration and development.

1.3 The said TWG could conduct studies and consultations to come up with updated situationers and appropriate policy recommendations on how to: (i) effectively translate remittances and migrant resources to develop local economies; and, (ii) address social cost, facilitation of return migration and reintegration, among others. She also said that the TWG's work shall be purely consultative and shall not supplant the work of government agencies in charge of migration. The performance of government agencies in charge of migrant workers, such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Commission on Filipino Overseas (CFO) must be reviewed and monitored to strengthen these agencies and reduce ineffective programs or duplication of work.

1.4 OWWA must be reformed by: (i) imposing strict criteria in the selection process of members of the Board of Trustees; (ii) making the OWWA proceedings, such as investment of the trust fund, transparent and open to public scrutiny; and (iii) requiring the OWWA Board to submit an accounting of the OWWA funds and how they were invested.

1.5 The CFO and the National Reintegration Center of OFWs (NCRO) must be strengthened by providing appropriate level of funds, resources and support. The OFW noted that these agencies are essential in mobilizing diaspora contributions for development and assistance to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who are reintegrating with the Philippine communities.

1.6 The provision of financial literacy seminars to OFWs, led by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), could be improved and expanded by including financial literacy as well as migration in the school curriculum, starting from grade school. The LGUs may also include financial literacy and social costs of migration in its Pre-Employment Orientation Seminars (PEOS). The OFW noted that lack of financial literacy or the ability to use resources productively and wisely has been highlighted as a major cultural barrier not only to OFWs but also to most Filipinos. This prevents Filipinos from improving their socio-economic conditions, despite years of employment in the country or abroad.

Attachment 2:

2. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the CFO commented on the proposed action points of OFW.

2.1 On sending clear signals on the temporariness of migration and remittances. The DOLE stated that the government has repeatedly and clearly declared that migration and remittances are measures resorted temporarily but if harnessed effectively could contribute to the national development. The CFO also said that it considers migration as an option and not as an economic policy.

To promote the use of remittances for sustainable development, the proposed MTPDP 2011-2016 directs the intensification of efforts in the following: provision of financial literacy education among OFWs and their families; strengthening of entrepreneurship and investment programs for them; and, improvement of remittance schemes by lowering charges through dialogues with financial remittance institutions.

CFO is currently working with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) in the formulation of policy statements and a separate chapter on migration and development in the MTPDP. In addition, CFO is formulating a Philippine Joint Migration and Development Initiative, which will support overseas hometown organizations, national and local authorities, and civil society groups that link migration and development.

2.2 On the proposed creation of a position for Special Presidential Adviser on Migration and Development CFO said that the appointment of a Presidential Adviser would put migration and development in the national consciousness and among key decision-makers. Incidentally, Vice President (VP) Jejomar Binay has already been appointed by the President as his adviser for OFWs concerns. In performing his functions, VP Binay proposes various efforts for the advancement of the OFWs that include the creation of an OFW Bank. This proposed bank will provide a productive outlet for the savings and a competitive and cheaper remittance rates for OFWs. This proposal was already submitted to the Office of the President and is now being reviewed by the BSP, Department of Finance (DOF), DOLE and OWWA.

DOLE noted that the VP is very keen in attending to the plight of OFWs and other Filipino migrants and more concrete proposals instruments are expected from his Office.

CFO agreed to the proposal to create a TWG on migration and development. In this regard, CFO suggested the establishment of a National Council for Migration and Development. It clarified that this does not translate to the creation of a new administrative agency.

2.3 On the proposed review of the performance of the concerned agencies. DOLE said that the performance of government agencies is subject to review and monitoring as part of their operations. The OWWA, for instance, conducts its own regular and periodic review and monitoring of the performance of its programs and services for OFWs and their families.
CFO agreed that reviewing the programs and activities of government agencies involved in migration and development should be encouraged and its review could be made on a regular basis to address issues of duplication of functions.

2.4 On the proposed reforms In OWWA, particularly the following:

a. Imposition of strict criteria in the selection process of OWW'A Board members. Republic Act (RA) 10022 has set guidelines that govern the selection and nomination of OWWA Board members, which should come from the women, sea-based and land-based sectors. Under RA 10022, the nominee must be at least 25 years of age, able 10 read and write, and a migrant worker at the time of his/her nomination or a migrant worker with at least three (3) years of experience. Only non-government organizations that project and promote the rights and welfare of OFWs, duly registered with appropriate government agencies, and in existence for at least three (3) years prior 10 the nomination, are qualified to nominate a representative for each sector to the Board.

b. Transparency of the OWWA proceedings. OWWA's physical and financial performance is subject to the scrutiny and examination of the Commission on Audit (COA) and is posted at the COA website. These financial statements are also posted at the OWWA website for wider public scrutiny.

c. OWWA Board submission of an accounting of the OWWA funds. OWWA regularly issues press releases to inform and update its OFW members of the status of the OWWA funds, including its investments. OWWA also submits to the Congress, Office of the President and DOLE the reports on OWWA funds. Civil society groups at the grassroots levels are informed of the same through forums and seminars conducted by OWWA offices nationwide and abroad.

2.5 On financial literacy. DOLE reported that seminars on financial literacy and migration are already included in the PEOS for OFWs before their departure to their work stations abroad. The financial literacy seminar covers the importance of financial planning; types of financial instruments; and, sources of financing to business.

Meanwhile, CFO agreed to the proposal of OFW to institutionalize financial literacy programs. CFO also suggested the provision by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) of ad hoc capacity building seminars to overseas Filipinos and their families; introduction of more productive uses of remittances, strategies of savings, and sound possibilities of investments to them; and, extension of government-sponsored incentives to overseas Filipino-initiated enterprises, such as tax breaks for the first few years of operation.

On the proposed inclusion of financial literacy programs in the school curriculum, OWWA said that there is no proposal yet on the matter. However, OWWA stated that the present module for financial literacy already covers basic financial management, which every level of OFWs and their families can understand.

Report submitted by DOLE Usec. Danilo Cruz on 04 January 2011.

Report submitted by CFO Secretary Imelda Nicolas on 12 January 2011.

Report submitted by DOLE Usec. Danilo Cruz on 04 January 2011.



Phone coordination 011 13 January 2011 with Ms. Elmaline Gomez of the OWWA-Fund & Investment Management Office.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

An Open Letter to Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, President-Elect, Republic of the Philippines

Dear Sen. Aquino,
First and foremost, we extend our deepest and sincerest congratulations on your ascendancy to the highest-elected office of our beloved country through a democratic process that every Filipino can take pride in for many generations to come.  The first step inherent in the process of transformation is recognizing the need for change – and our capacity to change for the better!  Thus, from this point onward, we are hopeful that inspired by your convincing victory and leadership, every Filipino will assume his or her role and responsibility to change the status quo by initiating positive changes towards a better and brighter Philippines, no matter where he or she is, and regardless of what citizenship he or she now holds.
We, the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (OFW), are a group of Filipinos based abroad and in the Philippines, representing various organizations implementing projects in the Philippines and in our host countries for many years now that are aimed to strategically harness the Philippines’ migration gains into mechanisms for the development of the motherland and our communities of origin.
Migration gains are mainly remittances by overseas Filipinos to their family members,  which are now in the region of USD17 billion and are the primary source of livelihood for millions of Philippine households.  At 10.8% of the country’s GDP, they are also the third biggest source of the country’s foreign currency reserves and act as primary driver for our economy, shielding us from bankruptcy during the financial crisis in 1997 and the current one.  The Filipino diaspora, estimated now at about 10 million working or residing in 239 countries and territories worldwide, send back donations to various humanitarian causes, such as disaster–relief, medical missions, schoolhouses, and other infrastructure.  These contributions supplement local and national government deficits and, as of 2003, have already amounted to USD218 million, per BSP figures in that year.  We do not count here the investments made by OFWs in real estate and the education and health of their family members, and the money spent on various goods and services, as well as on construction, food, shelter, and other inflows that support sectors like the airlines, shopping centers, and banks.  Yet, after more than three decades of overseas employment, we do not see genuine signs of poverty alleviation, and instead more and more of our countrymen leave for work abroad.

Ironically, the Philippine model of overseas migration has become a model of sorts, for other migrant-origin countries to emulate and even copy.  This however does not tell the whole story or reveal the other face of migration that has escaped the serious attention of past administrations, specifically, the social costs that migration has bred since government-managed deployment started in the early 70s and up to the present, where we now see at least 3,000 of many of the best and brightest Filipinos leaving daily to take up jobs overseas, due to local employment deficits.  Other nations like South Korea, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, and Taiwan, who once were labor exporting countries, have been able to get over their migration hump, as a result of their governments’ consciously harnessing their workers’ remittances and investing them to develop local infrastructure, shipyards, factories, and other industries.  Convinced of the effectiveness of government programs and also trustful of their leaders’ sincerity, these countries’ expatriates and overseas workers, at great sacrifice, left their high-paying jobs overseas and returned to their home countries to lend their talents and acquired expertise in further helping their respective country’s leap towards developed status even working  at low salaries.  India, another migrant-sending country, is also now going in that direction.  These examples serve to illustrate the dictum that migration should be temporary, that it must not be used as a substitute for development.  The desirable goal of countries wishing to be strong and globally competitive must necessarily be self-sufficiency and the ability to provide its people with necessary components needed for their human development.
The advent of a new administration, especially one under your inspired leadership, is a good time to ask where the Philippines is going regarding migration, and to act accordingly.  Shall we continue to send out our people and rely on remittances and without any development objectives in sight?  Conversely, don’t we have the talent to formulate a road map towards self-sufficiency over a period of time, in order that the hemorrhage of talents could be stopped, that a crisis in our dysfunctional families and society at large could be averted, and so that our people do not have to take migration as a forced option?  If long-term migration goals are set now, the government could in the meantime work on some basic but urgent deployment and migration issues in order to clear the way towards having a genuine and serious program on translating migration gains for use in human development.  In view of this, we humbly suggest starting to look at the following:
·    The government must send clear and strong signals that migration and remittances are only temporary measures to help the government prepare for a longer-term goal of self sufficiency, in which Filipinos no longer look at migration as a forced option.  This must be integrated in Medium-Term Development Plans, which is currently being formulated by NEDA, and which should also include how in the meantime strategies, policies, and mechanisms for the productive use and investment of remittances could be harnessed to strengthen the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals.
·    Create a position for a Special Presidential Adviser on Migration and Development, who will work with a technical working group (TWG) composed of qualified individuals who have a background in migration and development, including knowledgeable and committed migrant leaders.  Among others, the TWG could conduct studies, consultations, and discussions, and come up with updated situationers and appropriate policy recommendations on how to effectively translate remittances and migrant resources to develop local economies; and to address social costs, facilitation of return migration, reintegration, mechanisms for the counterparting of funds between Filipino diaspora groups, LGUs, and development agencies for local and countryside development, incentives for OFW investments in agriculture, SME, infrastructure, microfinance, cooperatives, and other sectors that need stronger funding support.  The work could take the form of draft legislation for study by Congress’s standing committee on OFWs or form the basis for an Executive or Administrative Order, whichever is appropriate or workable.  The committee’s work shall be purely consultative and should not supplant the work of government migration agencies.
·    Review and monitor the performance of government agencies in charge of migrant workers, such as the POEA, OWWA, CFO, and the Department of Foreign Affairs, with a view to strengthening these institutions, reducing wasteful and ineffective programs or duplication of work, giving agencies needed resources and funds for effective implementation of programs, and strengthening the capacity of their overseas offices to become centers of service to migrant workers overseas.
·    Departing OFWs contribute USD25 each as a requirement for departure and membership in OWWA and entitlement of welfare benefits.  The total corpus of this trust fund is already at the level of at least PHP10 billion.  The disposition and administration of this fund has been subject of criticisms, as its use has not been transparent and shown susceptibility to mismanagement. Specifically, reforms in OWWA should (1) impose strict criteria in the process of selection of people who will sit in the Board of Trustees, such that only those qualified and are committed to work for their constituents are appointed, e.g., women OFWs, sea-based, land-based, etc. (2) OWWA proceedings should be made transparent and open to public scrutiny, particularly the investment of the trust funds. (3) the incoming administration, for the benefit of OFWs and through the working group, should require from the current  OWWA board an accounting of OWWA funds and how they were invested/used. To this end, the most recent COA audit of migration agencies, like POEA, OWWA, DFA, and POLO offices overseas, must be consulted.
·    The Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) and the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO) are two small agencies that are doing important work on mobilizing diaspora contributions for development and assistance to OFWs who are reintegrating to Philippine society after working abroad. The CFO, for instance, has submitted recommendations on how gaps and barriers to enhanced diaspora contributions could be addressed, but these have never been acted upon. The NRCO, in the three years it has been created, has given assistance and referrals on livelihood and employment to OFW returnees affected by the global crisis.  Their work should be seriously looked into, and whenever necessary, the appropriate level of funds, resources, and support should be given to these agencies.
·    Lack of financial literacy or of the ability to use resources and incomes productively and wisely has been highlighted as a major cultural barrier among not only OFWs but also for most Filipinos.  It prevents our people from improving their socio-economic conditions, despite years of employment in the Philippines or overseas.  This refers to lack of savings or investment mindset and excessive spending on non-essentials. No less than an institutionalized nationwide program on financial literacy will be able to address this and should include not only OFWs but also members of their family.  The BSP has been the lead government agency that has conducted financial literacy seminars for OFWs and families since 2006 in more than 30 Philippine cities and 10 cities overseas.  This program could be improved and expanded through an impact assessment of the campaign and which might include providing resources for enlisting the DECS to include financial literacy and migration as part of school curriculum, starting from grade school, or the LGUs, by including financial literacy and social costs of migration in the Pre-employment Orientation Seminars (PEOS) conducted in their territories for intending migrants.
As a final note, while the recommendations above address specific OFW issues, the programs you had avowed to pursue in your electoral campaign on good governance—better access to health, education, employment and livelihood, and business opportunities for all—are all in the right track, constitute the basic elements for self-sufficiency, and provide viable options to our citizens to remain in the country and to devote their talents and resources to developing the homeland.  On these, please be assured of our continued support.

Doris Alfafara, Habagat Foundation, The Netherlands
Ren Arrieta, USA
Alex Veloso Bello, Saudi Arabia
Marvin Bionat, USA
Ding Bagasao, Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (ERCOF), Philippines
Jack Catarata, Germany
Basco Fernandez, Damayang Pilipino sa Nederland, The Netherlands
Lorna Lardizabal Dietz
Cristina Liamzon, Italy
Judith Puyat-Magnaye, USA
Mariel Vincent Rapisura, SEDPI Philippines
Leila Rispens-Noel, Wimler Partnership for Social Progress, Hongkong/Contact Person
Dennis Yaun, Luxembourg
James Zamora, Philippines

For reaction, please contact:

Sunday, March 11, 2007


Dear Friends,

Kindly take note of our our new e-mail address:

This is our contact address effective immediately. Thank you for your kind attention.


Monday, March 5, 2007


March 5, 2007


Overseas Filipinos' legitimate aspirations glaringly absent in electoral debates

First of all, congratulations! This letter comes with our deepest anticipation for the forthcoming debate billed as "2007 Senatorial Debate — Moving the Economy Forward," in the forum organized by Philippines Inc. together with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, and the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry this coming March 14, 2007.

We are elated at the prospect of our future senators tackling the issues crucial to our survival as a nation and hopefully an opportunity to have a glimpse of their platform in moving our economy forward. We understand that the topics for the debate will include social issues such as management-labor relations, taxes, power and energy, peace and order, small and medium enterprise promotion, and foreign investments.

The topics of the debate are understandably geared towards the interest of the business sector as it undoubtedly affects the whole nation for better or worse. Unfortunately, legitimate aspirations and issues that matter most to Overseas Filipinos are not covered in the coming debate.

TODAY, as in EVERY SINGLE DAY, 3,000 Filipino families will be broken up so that their parents or older siblings can work abroad and bring food to the table. Overseas Filipinos now numbering close to 10 million comprise 10% of the nation’s population, scattered in at least 192 countries toiling under the scorching desert sun or bitterly cold winter. Some of them work in different levels of position and in various sectors: from domestic helpers in Hong Kong to high technology experts in Silicon Valley, California. Overseas Filipinos suffer family separation with dire social consequences, leaving communities that are mired in poverty, continually sliding into the abyss of desperation with no hope in sight. In some countries, they live in constant fear of being kidnapped or hit by bullets like in the case of Nigeria, Iraq, and Lebanon while women are subject of physical and sexual abuse.

In 2006 alone, the Central Bank of the Philippines officially recorded remittances at S$12.8 billion; that is, equivalent to almost 15% of our gross domestic product (GDP). This figure excludes substantive remittances made through informal channels as well as goods and services sent by Overseas Filipinos throughout the year. Assuming an average family size of 4 to 5, and that 4 million of the 7.3 overseas Filipinos are able to remit regularly, it might be said that about 16 to 20 million Filipinos are able to benefit directly from overseas labor migration. In general, remittances are often described as "the new form of development aid" and they are "the biggest source of foreign inflows" surpassing foreign direct investments (US$ 2 billion in 2006) and official development aid.

In addition, there has been a trend towards the repatriation of remittances, resources, as well as skills and technology, beyond what directly benefits Overseas Filipinos and migrant families in the form of diaspora philanthropy. It is an indication of an individual’s or group’s economic achievement or an expression of a sincere desire to contribute to uplift economic conditions of the Philippines to which Overseas Filipinos and migrants may wish to return to and retire in the future. These resources have gone into various community projects of needy and depressed areas in the country.

The Overseas Filipinos’/migrants’ achievements in terms of fueling the Philippine economy in the concrete form of remittances and diaspora philanthropy translate into a substantive political clout as a group or sector. At the same time, this sector represents the big consumers of products – communications, travels, nostalgic products (patronizing Made in the Philippines products), housing, insurance, food, luxury products, etc. - of the various business enterprises which are organizers of this debate. The Overseas Filipinos are de facto the biggest investors in our country and while direct and portfolio investments fell dramatically in time of financial crisis or when conflict arises, remittances generally increase. However, behind these billions of dollars are hard-working men and women who left their homes to earn a living whose regular remittances have become a lifeline for millions of poor people. Perhaps, it is not reasonable to request that our legitimate aspirations and our voices be heard, in the context of advocating for the necessary reforms and influencing public policy that directly affect the lives of millions of Overseas Filipinos, their families, and the country as a whole.

As we specifically challenge the candidates to include and articulate issues directly affecting the migrant sector:

1. We want to hear how our senatorial aspirants will tackle the issue of lost opportunities and wasted resources that could have been channeled towards development measures to spur economic growth with job-generating industries for the blighted communities we left behind.

2. We want to know how our senatorial candidates can help in formulating relevant enabling legislation for transparent and cohesive policies capturing a share of remittances for development in recognition and appreciation of the positive contributions of migrants to the development of our dear Philippines whilst also addressing the rights, interests and welfare of migrants before, during and after migration.

3. We reiterate what is described in the attached Migrants' Manifesto for Issue-based Electoral Contest: “We challenge those who want to become legitimate servants and leaders to articulate a concrete and doable developmental plan aimed at the Filipino migrant workers around the world. We pledge to support legitimate servants of the people running for any public position who aggressively promote the interest of our sector. We pledge to support legitimate servants of the people running for any public position that aggressively promote the interest of our sector on the issues we have previously enumerated in the manifesto.

It is sad to note that our policy makers are more focused on deploying greater number of expatriates to toil in foreign lands while big business conglomerates keep us in awe with bigger malls and extravagant media blitzes that only perpetuate a consumer society but lacking the positive trickle down effects on large scale job generation. Thus, missing out on the opportunities for the Philippines to be propelled out of the bottom ranks of the thriving Asian economy.

Lastly, while we see the issue of the opposition candidates on the need to debate the Garci scandal, vote tampering, impeachment, and other hot issues of the day, we want to hear a cohesive electoral reform on how we can have a clean, honest, and highly transparent electoral contest, and clear workable commitments to which we could hold parties and candidates accountable should they be elected to public office. Scandals used for grandstanding and garnering votes that will only be sidelined only to resurface next time around with different personalities involved is not solving the problem but only exacerbate a flawed electoral system that needs to be revamped in the first place.

We thank you in advance for your consideration on the above points in relation to the format and substance of the forthcoming debate.

Respectfully yours,
Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (OFW)

Contact address: Leila Rispens-Noel
Tel.: +31 (0182 514475
Online Petition:


Friday, February 23, 2007


Please read below the message we received from Mr. Silvestre Berso:

From: silvester berso
To: OFW Manifesto
Sent: Thursday, February 22, 2007 11:46:52 PM
Subject: Re: Thank you

Congratulations! for this timely message. In fact I already send it to all my friend and colleagues from all over the world and I put you in Cc:, however your first email address that I used was wrong, my email bounced back. But this time I got it right.

I have read the Migrants Manifesto on PetionOnLine website. Indeed this would be a good venue to voice out OFWs opinion on the present crisis that our country is undertaking today. I dream that someday all OFWs will form a group in the internet to share their views and solutions to the current problems in our country. I am thinking of organizing a centralized email group among all OFWs. All issues concerning the Philippines will be disseminated to all members of the group and share everybody's opinion.

I am sure we can think of many ways to improve not only the condition of the migrant workers but also the majority of our poor countrymen. As an OFW here in US of A, I have worked in different part of the world and I have seen many good examples of government policy that can easily be implemented in our country.

By the way, which organization do your group belong to?

Best regards and more power to you,

Silvestre Berso

Response from Joy Puyat, OFW Blogspot

Dear Mr. Berso,

Thanks for your email. This is very encouraging! We all share the same dream to make the Philippines a better place and to help every Filipino. I am glad that this address works out in terms of sifting through reactions and suggestions especially for those who have this strong genuine desire to give back to the country. Actually, you are our first respondent! If you don't mind, can we feature your comments to our blogspot at:

It seems that you have extensive networks across the globe. Perhaps you can help us build the email directory/database of OFWs. There are certain technical limitations to the current online petition website that we use. Perhaps later, we can create a more sophisticated OFW website when we have more substantive material. In the meantime, we use the blogspot. We also use this focussed e-group for brainstorming purposes and post the finished products on the blogspot.

I am copying the authors of the manifesto and our initial collaborators. To answer your question, we all belong to different organizations and live in different countries. We all wear different hats but for the OFW purpose, most of us are there on our personal capacity. In my case, I work for an international organization and I am involved in the NY-NJ Filipino orgs/coalitions/communities. Considering that we all carry certain platforms, the entry point is on migrant issues which links back to making a better Philippines. To focus our interventions, we are undertaking a strategic planning activity -- all done online considering our geographic locations. So far, I've only met 3 persons on this list - i.e. Lalay Rispens-Noel, Doris Alfafara and Basco Fernandez of the Netherlands here in New York, on various occasions/circumstances. The amazing part is, the OFW group is still very young -- discussions on the manifesto started only in February and yet I can say that this is one of the most productive groups I've seen so far.

We look forward to your suggestions.

With best wishes,

Joy Puyat

Reaction from JOHNNY PECAYO, Chairman, Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Manila-U.S. Times, Glendale, California

Johnny Pecayo was the first editor who published our Migrants' Manifesto

From: Johnny Pecayo []
Sent: Saturday, February 17, 2007 4:35 AM
To: Nerissa Fernandez; Leila RispensNoel; Fil-Ams Houston; FilAm Forum; Patricia Ann V. Paez
Subject: ABS-CBN; Manifesto on Page 7 of the MANILA-U.S. TIMES

Please enjoy reading.

February 12 - February 18, 2006 Manila - U.S. Times 7

We, the Overseas Filipinos worldwide, urge each and everyone in the coming May electoral contest to implore all political parties, emerging parties and their respective candidates to bring forth a platform-based campaign so that the electorate can choose credible persons who are worthy to lead the nation.

In order to advance democratic governance in the Philippines, there should be a structure or process of reform that promotes increasingly participatory and accountable governance. In this context, the will and voice of the people should
be respected at all times and the sanctity of the ballots must be safeguarded.

The root causes of human insecurity in the Philippines -- and thus, threats to overall peace and development -- include conditions of inequity, with an elite few controlling power and economic resources; abject poverty; poor governance; injustice, abuse of authority and violations of human rights; and marginalization of minority groups.

And yet, squandering of billions of pesos from legitimate and illegitimate sources had been a common scenario in a personality and patronage-based electoral contest.

The proposed platform-based campaign is envisioned to change this bad practice. In order to sustain poverty reduction, there must be equitable growth and the poor people who are in the majority must have political power – i.e., with a real voice and space. The powerful and/or the elites—whether political leaders, corporations or
other influential actors—must be held accountable for their actions; more specifically, they must be held accountable for their success or failure in their individual or party platform of promised good governance.

We are calling for robust, transparent, internally democratic and accountable political parties in order to develop a stronger democratic culture in the Philippines. Otherwise, the right to choose will remain to be pre-empted by the elites that own the political process, including the political organizations.

We challenge those who want to become legitimate servants and leaders to articulate a concrete and doable developmental plan aimed at the Filipino migrant workers around the world.

We pledge to support legitimate servants of the people running for any public position that aggressively promote the interest of our sector on the following issues:

1) Institute meaningful comprehensive electoral reforms starting with the removal of the residency requirement inserted at the last minute by congress in the Absentee Voting Law. Introduce laws that will create a transparent campaign expenditures and verifiable financial source imposing a limit to individual, group, and corporate campaign donations;

2) Creation of an office with a Cabinet status such as the Ministry of Migration and Development that will truly work for the interests of migrant workers. This office must be led by a Minister whose primary task is to manage orderly labor migration, harness the development potentials of migration and development (co-development). Set up an advisory board composed of qualified, dedicated, and credible Overseas Filipinos to advice the Ministry.

In addition, the Ministry must:

- See to it that the rights of migrants are protected;

- Facilitate return migration and in such a way that overseas Filipinos who wish to return voluntarily remain active in the labor force or has the necessary means to secure his or her financial future including their families;

- Monitor the performance of government agencies in charge of migrant workers (OWWA,etc.) and particularly to review structures relating to the migrant workers trust fund to enable migrants to have an effective voice and meaningful representation in policy formation, and to ensure proper administration and management of their fund;

- Explore ways to address present gaps and barriers that hinder the effective mobilization, distribution, monitoring, and accountability procedures, in order to achieve economies of scale in current Filipino diaspora giving;

- Facilitate creation of an enabling environment (investments, provide financial services including housing, insurance, education, savings, etc. for migrants) that fully harness the development potentials of Philippine migration;

- Encourage multi-stakeholder approach to development and promote public-private partnerships; and

- Support and stimulate the transnational role of Overseas Filipinos so that they can contribute to the country’s development; while the government on the other hand, should establish a systematic way of tapping these skills (not only waiting for
their remittances);

3) Strengthen the capacity of Philippine consulates and representative offices worldwide to better serve the needs of migrant Filipino workers

4) Promote good governance, honesty, and accountability of our government servants
from the highest to lowest position. The virtue of servant-leadership must be practised;

5) Promote the welfare of our women, elderly and children; and

6) Access to a better education for all.

We urge government groups, media facilities, civil society, church organizations, and other responsible citizens, to organize and support pre-election public forums and other similar initiatives requiring candidates or party representatives to debate and publicly present their platforms on where they stand regarding these migrant issues.

This will enable the citizenry, including eligible overseas voters and members of their families in the Philippines, in making informed decisions and to help ensure that only those candidates with clear and sincere intentions of promoting the welfare of the migrant sector, their families, and millions of poor people in our country are
elected to public office.

Editor’s note: This move was initiated by Lalay Rispens-Noel of The Netherlands, and the manifesto is gaining support from Filipinos all over.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Only in the Philippines

Here's the most sought after campaign jingle in the May 2007 elections:

Boom tarat tarat, boom tarat tarat

Tararat tararat, boom boom boom

English translation:

Boom tarat tarat, boom tarat tarat

Tararat tararat, boom boom boom

Yep, what you hear is what you get: catchy words but empty in substance!

In an election where bells and whistles dominate the "democratic space," we strongly appeal for an issue-based campaign in the 2007 elections.

Please sign our online petition:

Migrants' Manifesto for Issue-Based Electoral Contest

Please forward to your distribution list. It's the least we can do to save a sinking Philippines.

Please send your comments and/or suggestions to to ensure a continuous enrichment process