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.