Supporting OFWs

Published March 25, 2018, 10:00 PM

by Mario Casayuran and Vanne Elaine Terrazola

Melito Salazar Jr.
Melito Salazar Jr.

By Melito Salazar Jr.


The overseas Filipino workers  (OFWs) have been hailed as “heroes of the Philippines” as they bring in a substantial amount of remittances which has bolstered the dollar reserves of the country. These remittances fuel the education sector as children of OFWs go through nursery, grade school, high school, and college. Savings are invested in modest dwellings, stimulating the housing and construction industries. Money sent home covers expenditures adding to the high levels consumption which invigorates the economy.

These benefits to the country do not come cheap for the OFWs. They suffer the long periods of absence from their families. They undergo the hardships of backbreaking labor for long hours. They experience great difficulty in adjusting to a foreign culture where at times their dignity If not their humanity is trampled upon. The children they leave behind, devoid of parental care, may go astray.

Past administrations have tried to protect the OFWs from unscrupulous recruiters, preying government staff in the airports, and abusive bosses, especially for those working as domestics. We have to admit that it is only in the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte that we see an adminstration willing to go the extra mile for the OFWs. The Duterte adminstration has not hesitated to confront foreign governments and with courage and determination secure formal assurances of protection of the rights of the OFWs. President Duterte was swift in declaring a ban on countries where abuses had led to the deaths of an OFW.

President Duterte’s latest statements that he personally made sure that the OFWs “get seven hours of sleep, be fed nutritiuos meals, not leftovers, and not to have their employers keep their passports” is indicative of his personal concern and attention. Such caring will certainly be imbibed by other government functionaries especially the staff of Philippine embassies.

Yet the actions of the Duterte administration is not enough. A long-term vision and plan is needed based on the goal of stopping the sending of Philippine domestics. Let the pool of such labor come from such countries like Bangladesh and Indonesia. The Philippines should offer to the rest of the global economy highly skilled labor and acknowledged professionals. Even without government protection, their worth and value will elicit respect from their bosses.

Those with only the qualifications for domestic workers should be retrained with funding support from the government not only for their studies but also for the upkeep of their families. I remember when UP introduced the XDS program to give a UP education to the poorest of the poor during the presidency of O.D. Corpuz. He told me that in addition to the free tuition, board and lodging, and allowances given to them, we should give their families an amount equivalent to what the family lost in having a wage earner leave them. The graduates of these government-supported programs will be in a better position to get higher-paying jobs.

Those jobs will come from the creation and expansion of Philippine businesses and enterprises that are globally competitive because of the ease of doing business, state-of-the-art infrastructure and a tax system comparable if not competitive with our Asian neighbors. It will come from government policies, programs, and projects that benefit from the inputs of business and Industry leaders whom the government should honor rather than publicly castigate.

All these initiatives will be funded from savings of a lean government (cut down drastically the budget of the legislature and pay them based on attendance and performance), of fewer government agencies and corporations (abolish the National Food Authority),  and better utilization of IRA by the local governments (no to federalism which will bring the country back to feudalism).

Supporting OFWs is not as easy as the Duterte administration may think. It means changing its way of governing the country. But I am confident President Duterte can make it happen if he wants to.