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TINIG NG MIG RA NTE

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P
resident Benigno Aquino III’s mid-term in office can only be characterized by the further intensification of a
labor export policy that has become more sophisticated, more aggressive and more detrimental to the rights
and welfare of Filipino migrants and their families.
Published by: Migrante International
Summing-Up of the State of Migrants under
Aquino (SUMA): Mid-Term Assessment(2010-2013)
Increased forced migration refutes
“economic growth”
In its three years in office, the
Aquinoadministration has recorded the
biggest number of OFW (overseas Filipino
worker) deployment since the labor export
policy was implemented in the 1970s.
From an additional 1.35 million
OFWs in October 2011, a figure higher by
5.3 percent than the additional 1.281 mil-
lion OFWs from J anuary to October 2010,
a total of 1,850,463 (Source: Philippine
Overseas Employment Administration,
POEA) OFWs have been deployed to work
abroad by the end of 2011. Of this number,
1,384,094 are land-based while 466, 369
are sea-based.
As of J une 2012, 4,884 OFWs
have been leaving the Philippines on a
daily basis (Source: IBON Foundation).
This is a far cry from the 2,500 OFWs per
day record when Aquino assumed office in
2010 (Department of Labor and Employ-
ment, DOLE).
These figures make the Aquino
administration’s claims of a “reverse mi-
gration” phenomenon exceedinglyincom-
prehensible. In May, DOLE Sec. Rosalinda
Baldoz announced that OFWs are opting
to return to the country because “more in-
dustrial sectors are catching up in terms of
labor package and training”. The Aquino
government attributes a “reverse migra-
tion” in the offing to the 7.8 percent GDP
growth in the first quarter of 2013 – the
highest in Aquino’s term. However, inde-
pendent think-tank IBON Foundation as-
cribes the growth to election-spending dur-
ing the first two quarters of 2012, and other
factors that belie any claims of the Aquino
government of sustainable, comprehensive
and inclusive growth.
The Aquino government’s claim
is further discredited by data showing
that the Philippines still has the worst un-
employment rate in East Asia. Latest data
from the National Statistics Office (NSO)
showed the country’s unemployment rate
rose to 7.5% this April, the highest under
Aquino.
According to the latest survey
by the Social Weather Station (SWS), the
Philippines has a 27.2 percent unemploy-
ment rate or more than 11.1 million Filipi-
nos are jobless as of March 2013. This is a
3.7 percent increase from the 23.5 percent
unemployment rate recorded in the last
2001 866,590 661,648 204,951
2002 891,908 682,315 209,593
2003 867,969 651,938 216,031
2004 933,588 740,586 229,002
2005 988,615 740,632 247,983
2006 1,062,567 788,070 274,497
2007 1,077,623 811,070 266,553
2008 1,376,823 974,399 261,614
2009 1,422,586 1,092,162 330,424
2010 1,470826 1,123,676 347,150
2011 1,850,463 1,384,094 466,369
Table. 1 Increasing deployment of OFWs
Land-based Sea-based
Total No. of
OFWs Deployed
Year
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quarter of 2012 and a far cry from the un-
employment figures of its Asian neighbors,
namely, Singapore (1.7%), Malaysia (3%),
Korea (3%), China (4.1%), Taiwan (4.3%),
Vietnam (4.4%) and Indonesia (6.5%).
For 2012, IBON estimated the
number of unemployed Filipinos at 4.4
million (increase of 48,000 from 2011)
while the number of underemployed has
reached 7.5 million (increase of 349,000
from 2011), showing a significant 20 per-
cent increase in underemployment from the
year before.
In his past State of the Nation
Addresses (SONA), Aquino attempted to
downplay the jobs crisis by claiming lower
unemployment rates (1.4 million jobs cre-
ated in 2011 and 3.1 million jobs created
in 2012). However, he failed to mention
that the jobs created were either short-term,
contractual or highly disproportional to the
ever-growing laborforce.
By 2012, the growing number
of job loss in growing sectors belied any
attempts to face-lift the figures. On the
third quarter of 2012, wholesale and retail
recorded 728,000 job losses, real estate
45,000 job losses, financial and insurance
15,000 job losses and agriculture 694,200
job losses (IBON).
To cover-up the record-high jobs
crisis in the first quarter of 2013, Mala-
canang placed a very unbelievable Labor
Force Survey data of a mere 7.2 percent
– a very huge discrepancy from figures
released by the NSO, SWS and other eco-
nomic surveys. Presidential Spokesperson
Edwin Lacierda even cited that the peak in
unemployment in the first quarter of 2013
was a result of an “employment bonanza”
during the Christmas season when “season-
al jobs” were on the rise.
On the other hand, those who do
land domestic jobs still suffer very low
wages. Since 2001, the gap between the
mandated minimum wage and the family
living wage (FLW) in the National Capital
Region (NCR) had considerably widened.
In 2001, the minimum wage was 52 per-
cent of the FLW. By March 2013, the P456
NCR minimum wage is only 44 percent of
the P1,034 FLW. In 2012, Aquino further
widened the gap by implementing a two-
tiered wage scheme that essentially impos-
es a wage cut from a wage freeze policy.
from page 1
Minimum wage
2001 P265
(52% flw) P509 P244
March
2013 P456
(44% flw) P1,034 P578
Table 2.
NCR Mandated Minimum Wage vs. Family Living Wage (FLW)
Family living
wage
Wage gap
Source: IBON Foundation, estimates on data from NWPC
Worsening joblessness feeds on
already chronically low wages, with the
current minimum wage grossly inadequate
to sustain even the most humble of fami-
lies. Family incomes are not keeping up
with the inflation. By the end of 2012, the
average family in NCR lived on P22 to P37
a day (IBON data).
Social service spending, more-
over, has not improved under Aquino. The
government has failed to allot enough re-
sources to address shortages and insuffi-
ciencies in education, health, housing and
welfare services. Social services’ share
in the GDP has continued to drop in light
of annual budget cuts and privatization of
public utilities (IBON).
Aquino also claimed that his ad-
ministration’s Conditional Cash Transfer
(CCT) program reduced poverty, an exag-
gerated and unscientific boast, if anything.
Being a beneficiary of the CCT is not tan-
tamount to a family emerging from below
poverty line. It is not sustaining and offers
merely band-aid solutions to the problems
of joblessness and low wages. Aquino also
failed to mention that the cash dole-out
supposedly for 100,000 families would
only hold for five years, during and after
which no prospective jobs, wages or liveli-
hood are available to beneficiaries.
The present administration is also
second place in terms of poor land distribu-
tion among post-Marcos regimes. Depart-
ment of Agrarian Reform Sec. Gil de los
Reyes already admitted that they would
not be able to finish land distribution in
time for the 25thanniversary of the Com-
prehensive Land Reform Program (CARP)
on J une 10 – leaving some 500,000 hect-
ares or almost half of DAR’s target for land
distribution undistributed by 2014, affect-
ing at least 1.1 million farmers. The most
controversial land up for distribution is the
Aquino-Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Lu-
isita that remains undistributed to this day
despite favourable ruling by the Supreme
Court for farmers and farm workers. This
comes as no surprise from a president who
hails from a landed clam and family of ha-
cienderos.
In truth, the supposed economic
growth is not translating to economic relief
for the people but rather to more wealth for
a privileged few. According to the National
Statistical Coordinating Board (NSCB),
poverty incidence in the country remained
unchanged, recording a 27.9 percent pov-
erty rate in the first semester of 2012. Com-
pared with the 2006 (28.8 percent) and
2009 (28.6 percent) first semester figures,
the poor quality of life that minimum wage
earners can afford has not improved at all
since Aquino took office.
The NSCB reported that 22 out
of 100 families were estimated to be poor
in the first semester of 2012 while 13 out
of 100 Filipinos lived in extreme poverty
during the same period. Based on the lat-
est SWS survey last J anuary, 54 percent of
10.9 million families now consider them-
selves poor, with perception of poverty ris-
ing nationwide.
The gap between the rich and the
poor has also further widened, with the
income of the top one percent of families
equivalent to that of the bottom 30 per-
cent of households (IBON). According to
Forbes, 11 of the richest Filipinos made it
to its top billionaires of the world, enjoy-
ing a net worth of USD$13.2 billion as of
March 2013.
In search of jobs higher wages
and livelihood, the number of OFWshasin-
TINIG NG MIG RA NTE
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creased significantly since Aquino took
office. In fact, the number of jobless Fili-
pinos has risen to unprecedented heights
from 2001 to 2010 and continues to
reach record-high levels under Aquino.
By 2012, at least one-fourth of the coun-
try’s labor force has gone abroad to find
work. According to the J anuary 2012
Labor Force Survey (LFS), 64.3 percent
of Filipinos are unemployed and actively
looking for jobs.
According to DOLE, there are
now 12 million OFWs abroad. Migrante
International pegs the number of over-
seas Filipinos between 12 to 15 million,
to include undocumented OFWs. The
International Organization for Migration
(IOM) still places the Philippines as the
fourth leading migrant-sending country in
the world, next only to China, Mexico and
India. According to data from the POEA,
1.5 million Filipinos were deployed abroad
on the start of Aquino’s term in 2010. This
figure is 50,000 or 3.4 percent higher than
the deployment rate in 2009.
Of present, overseas Filipinos are
scattered in at least 239 countries situated
in at least six continents, namely, Asia,
Australia, North America, South America,
Africa and Europe. The biggest popula-
tion is located in the United States (3.5
million based on the 2010 US Census);
next is Saudi Arabia (1.8 miliion based on
POEA data); and Canada (639,686 based
on Commission on Filipinos Overseas
data). There is also a big concentration
of Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates,
Australia, Qatar, Malaysia, J apan, Unit-
ed Kingdom, Hong Kong and Singapore.
In the Philippines, about 30 to 40 percent
of the total population is remittance-de-
pendent.
Majority of OFWs are still de-
ployed in Saudi Arabia, UAE and Hong
Kong. Most are in the service sector
working as domestic workers, hotel and
restaurant staff and caregivers, in manu-
facturing as factory workers, while a few
tens of thousands are working abroad as
professionals.
Seafarers still constitute
the biggest sub-sector of OFWs.
The Philippines is still one of
the biggest maritime countries,
with Manila still in the list of the
biggest most important ports in
the world. According to the In-
ternational Labor Organization
(ILO), the Philippines is still the
top source of seafarers. An esti-
mated 8,000 to 10,000 seafarers
are added to the total deployment
every year.
Philippines 28.1%
Russia 6.8%
Ukraine 6.3%
China 6.2%
India 5.0%
Indonesia 4.0%
Poland 3.5%
Greece 2.8%
Turkey 2.5%
Myanmar 2.3%
Table 4. Number of
seafarers in the world,
2003 =1,250,000
or 67% of deployment
Source: POEA
A closer look into overseas deployment data would
show that of the total number land-based OFWs deployed in
2010, 781,966 were re-hires while only 341,966 were new
hires. The number of new hires decreased by 2.2 percent com-
pared to 2009 (349,715) and 2008 (376,973) data. In the past
three years, there was a slight decrease in the number of new
hires deployed. In the first quarter of 2011, for instance, ac-
cording to POEA, only 380,188 new hires were deployed or
3.9 percent lower than the 395,189 deployed in 2010.
Table 5. Type of Worker and Hiring (Source: POEA, 2010)
Table 3.Number of Deployed Overseas Filipino Workers by Type of Hiring (2008-2010) Source: POEA (2010)
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The POEA attributed the decrease
in the number of new hires to the global
economic crisis that erupted in 2008. The
downtrend in deployment in the first quar-
ter of 2011, it said, was the result of the
crisis in the Middle East-North Africa re-
gions and the multiple disasters in J apan.
The agency further said that the decrease
in deployment of new hires should not be
interpreted as a drop in demand for OFWs
in the global market. By the end of 2012,
the POEA was confident that it had reached
its target job orders and deployment for the
year. True enough, from J anuary to May
2013 alone, the POEA reported that it had
already processed a total of 367,738 job or-
ders for OFWs.
From the downtrend in 2011,
OFW deployment has picked up consider-
ably despite ongoing crises in host coun-
tries – to date, policies such as the Nitaqat
or Saudization, stricter immigration poli-
cies and criminalization and deportation
of millions of undocumented OFWs. If the
government is attributing a so-called “re-
verse migration” due to these factors, then
it is right on spot. Since 2010, thousands
upon thousands of OFWs in distress have
been deported or forcibly repatriated back
to the country due to civil unrests, calami-
ties, economic instabilities and other simi-
lar factors in migrant-receiving countries.
Atpresent, some 120,000 OFWs
are being affected by the Saudization pol-
icy. Of this number, about 28,000 are di-
rectly affected by the crackdowns being
imposed by the Saudi government on un-
documented migrant workers. The impact
of these policies on the Philippine economy
will be graver than the Aquino administra-
tion lets on as Saudi Arabia remains the top
destination of OFWs.
Meanwhile, similar immigration
and labor policies are already being im-
plemented elsewhere in the Middle East,
particularly Kuwait, Bahrain, J ordan and
Oman. Stricter immigration measures are
also in effect in host countries in Europe,
Canada and America. Combined with the
continuous repatriation of distressed OFWs
in Egypt, Syria and Libya, and the depor-
tation of undocumented OFWs in Europe,
Canada and the United States, then a “re-
verse migration” phenomenon could be ex-
pected in the coming months.
But to attribute a “reverse mi-
gration” due to the recent GDP growth is
outright deceitful and misleading. With the
record-high unemployment rate and the
lack of a comprehensive and sustainable
reintegration program for returning OFWs,
a so-called “reverse migration” will not be
tantamount to the Aquino government’s
claims that OFWs are opting to come home
for good. Filipinos will not be stopped from
being forced to leave the country in search
for “greener pastures” abroad. And so the
cycle continues.
Remittances and intensification of labor export
Remittances from OFWs remain
at record-high from 2001 up to the present
despite the global economic crisis. Statis-
tics from the BangkoSentralngPilipinas
(BSP) show that it had reached a whop-
ping USD$20 billion by end of 2011,
from USD$18.8 billion in 2010. During
the first five months of 2011, an estimated
USD$7.9billions were remitted, 6.18 per-
cent higher than remittances during the
same period in 2010. Remittances reached
another all-time high in the end of 2012 at
USD$23.8 billion.
For 2013, the BSP again recorded
a faster growth rate of remittances in April
after a supposed sluggish growth in March.
Money transfers coursed through formal
banking grew at an annual rate of 6.1 per-
cent to USD$1.8 billion in April, faster than
the three percent growth recorded in March
which was the slowest in three years. In the
first four months of 2013, OFW remittances
reached USD$6.9 billion, or a 5.7 percent
increase. The central bank data also showed
that personal remittances – those coursed
through banks and hand-carry transfers and
in kind – reached a total of USD$2 billion in
April, or an increase of seven percent from a
year, totalling to USD$7.7 billion in the first
four months of 2013.
According to the World Bank, the
Philippines is still the fourth biggest remit-
tance-receiving country next to India, China
and Mexico. It is no secret that the Philip-
pine economy relies mainly on remittances
to keep it afloat. By 2010, despite the global
economic crisis, remittances had already
made up 8.7 percent of the Gross National
Product (GNP), surpassing the share of tra-
ditional exports of agricultural products.
1)United States 7,825,607 7,323,661 7,862,207 3,232,073
2)Canada 1,308, 692 1,900,963 2,022,611 830,863
3)Saudi Arabia 1,387,120 1,470,571 1,544,343 616,193
4)United Kingdom 776,354 859,612 888,959 382,347
5)J apan 575,181 773,561 882,996 381,192
6)U.A.E. 621,232 644,822 775,237 307,964
7)Singapore 523,951 649,943 734,131 317,786
8)Italy 678,539 521,297 550,515 242,411
9)Germany 304,644 433,488 448,204 194,475
10)Hong Kong 406,134 339,552 362,524 148,873
Country 2008 2009 2010 Jan-May 2011
Table 5. Top 10 OFW Remittance-Sending Countries
Source: BSP (2010)
This can be attributed to the fol-
lowing factors: (a) OFWs compensate the
dwindling dollar and peso exchange rates
by sending more amounts to their fami-
lies back home; (b) OFWs get double or
triple jobs to offset effects of the crisis in
both host countries and the Philippines;
(c) OFWs resort to more borrowing/loan-
ing to be able to send money back home,
especially during holiday and enrolment
seasons; (d) OFWs are now sending sav-
ings they had acquired over the years, if
any; and, (e) the number of un-
documented OFWs sending remit-
tances through informal banking
and hand-carry transfers have con-
siderably increased.
In a study made by the ILO,
more and more OFWs have been
looking for additional sources of
income on top of their regular jobs
in order to survive the economic
crisis. No matter, what is obscured
from the figures is the fact that in-
creasing remittances means mil-
lions of Filipinos have to slave it
out even harder in foreign shores
just to continue sending money to
their similarly hard up families in
the Philippines. And the govern-
ment cannot only but rejoice.
However, the continuous in-
crease does not necessarily trans-
late to economic growth, nor does it auto-
matically translate to higher investments
for families of OFWs – factors that are
supposed to have contributed greatly to
the GDP growth.
The latest survey of the BSP’s
Consumer Expectations Survey conduct-
ed on the second quarter of 2013 showed
TINIG NG MIG RA NTE
5 J ULY 2013
that the increase of households in the high-
er-income group with savings was over-
shadowed by the decline in savings among
households in the low- and middle-income
groups. Of the total number of 5,884 num-
ber of households, 525 respondents in the
survey were remittance-dependent fami-
lies. Of this number, 95.4 percent said that
remittances from their relatives abroad
were spent mainly for food, 67% for edu-
cation, 54.9% for medical expenses, and
42.1% for debt payments. The percentage
of remittance-dependent families that used
remittances for savings fell significantly,
from 42.5% to 39.4% during the first quar-
ter of 2013.
The latest BSP report also attested
that OFW households that allotted part of
their remittances for investments such as
the purchase of real estate and other real
properties suffered a steep drop compared
to previous years. Savings, if any, were pri-
oritized for emergency, education and hos-
pitalization.
Table 6. Graph from BSP Consumer Expectations Report, 2013
With the impending price
hikes of basic utilities,
tuition fee increases and
privatization of services
and hospitals, this figure is
expected to further decline
in the coming years.
Further, although annual remittances in-
creased amid the global economic crisis, its
growth rate has been decreasing in recent
years. From a 25 percent record growth in
2005, it dropped to a lowest 5.6 percent
in 2009, a year after the global economic
erupted.
Case study 1 (as of February 2011):
A remittance-dependent family with four (4) family
members based in Cubao, Quezon City spends an aver-
age of P14,500 per month:
Food – P6,000 (P200/day)
Rent – P1,500 (one room)
LPG – P400 (2 “Superkalans”/month)
Electricity – P600
Water – P250
Toiletries (soap, shampoo, etc.) – P900
Transportation costs of children to school – P3,360 – P14 x
2 daily fare of 4 children to and from school
TOTAL: P14,510
Their breadwinner is a domestic work-
er in Saudi Arabia. She sends P21,000
every three (3) months, or P7,000 a
month. Her remittance falls P7,500
short of her family’s monthly expens-
es. With the impending fare hikes and
electricity, water and LPG fee hikes,
her monthly remittance will barely
support her family.
For an OFW who has three (3) chil-
dren attending private school (1 in high
school and 2 in elementary) and their
mother, a P20,000 monthly remittance
is barely enough. With the impending
fee increases (tuition and fare hikes), he
has to maintain two or three jobs to sus-
tain their daily needs and compensate
for the deficit in his monthly remittance:
Water – P1,600 (projected increased rate
by J uly)
Electricity – P3,500 (projected increased
rate)
Internet – P1,000
Case study 2 (as of February 2011):
Tuition fee – P4,500x 3 = P13,500
(monthly deposit, projected increased
rate)
Funds for high school projects – P3,000
Funds for elementary projects – P2,000
Allowance for school children per
week – P5,000 (projected increased
rate)
Groceries – P3,000 (maintained, but
will buy less)
TOTAL: P32,600 (sum does not yet
include expenses for utilities, rental,
food and other basic needs)
Table 7. Trend in Remittance
(Source: POEA, BSP)
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In the US where 50 percent of
remittances originate, the growth rate had
decreased from 7.8 percent in 2008 to 7.3
percent in 2009. It had a slight increase to
7.9 percent in 2010 but has been suffering
a steady decline since the US’ debt crisis
ensued.
The continuing decrease in growth
rate is a constant worry for the Aquino gov-
ernment. If the trend continues, the govern-
ment will be in big trouble because it relies
mainly on remittances for foreign exchange
revenues.
Table 8. Relationship of Remittances to Other Philippine External Income
(Source: BSP, ADB, WORLD BANK, DOT, INQ7)
This explains the Aquino admin-
istration’s desperation to further seek job
markets abroad and intensify its labor ex-
port program. Through remittances, the
government earns exponentially without
having to shell out much capital invest-
ment. Even funds for labor outmigration
management through agencies such as
the POEA and the Overseas Workers Wel-
fare Administration (OWWA) are directly
sourced from OFWs or recruitment agen-
cies and employers through various fees.
(See section on “State exactions”)
The Aquino administration, while
mouthing local job generation as its core
program to eliminate forced migration,
continues to hail the “remittance boom” to
further promote labor export in the attempt
to offset the downtrend in the remittance
growth rate. To do this, it has become more
aggressive in implementing labor export,
hence, the Aquino administration’s active
lobbying for job markets and signing of
bilateral agreements with host countries in
the past three years.
Since 2010, Aquino had em-
barked on 26 state visits to different coun-
tries around the world and each time came
home with promises of foreign investments
and lucrative job markets. At the rate he
is going, he is expected to surpass former
President Gloria Arroyo’s infamous jun-
kets abroad which reached 77 in her nine
years in office. Ironically, most of Aquino’s
trips abroad wherein he met Filipino com-
munities were always sprinkled with trivial
anecdotes about OFWs but he has consis-
tently remained mum on issues that belea-
guered OFWs during his term despite his
promises and posturing.
Further, the Aquino administra-
tion contradicts itself on claims of supposed
improved local job generation resulting in
“reverse migration” when it has further
tailored the public education system for a
more aggressive labor export program.
The K to 12 educational system
would only mean more OFW deployment
abroad and the Aquino administration
is systematically targeting the country’s
young labor force. It is aimed mainly to re-
inforce cheap semi-skilled youth labor for
the global market.
According to the Department of
Education (DepEd), the K to 12 “will im-
prove chances of youth employment” and
that it will ensure that 18-year-old gradu-
ates will be “employable even without
a college degree.” The DepEd plans to
achieve this through a so-called “special-
ized Senior High program” that focuses on
a curriculum that will “enable students to
acquire Certificates of Competency (COCs)
and National Certifications (NCs)…in ac-
cordance with Technical Education and
Skills Development Authority (TESDA)
Training Regulations.”These certificates,
without doubt, will be in compliance with
requirements for overseas deployment, not
much different, for example, with the Ar-
royo administration’s TESDA-accredited
“Supermaids” program.
What the K to 12 system is doing
is boosting cheap semi-skilled youth labor
through a so-called “professionalization”
of the young labor force mainly in labor
markets abroad but unfortunately ignores
the very causes of forced migration, name-
ly, lack of local jobs, low wages, landless-
ness and poor social services. The K to 12
system sadly undermines the youth’s very
significant role in nation-building because
it is geared towards providing cheap semi-
skilled youth labor to the global market in-
stead of for domestic development.
The youth suffer the highest unem-
ployment incidence compared to other age
groups. Almost half of the unemployed are
15 to 24 years old while almost a third are
25 to 34 years old. Young workers, mostly
semi-skilled, make up approximately 10.7
percent of the total Filipino labor migra-
tion program. The K to 12 system would
only mean more OFWs, younger and more
trained to be docile, cheap laborers abroad
in exchange for remittances.
Aside from OFW remittances,
labor export also provides a tempting al-
ternative to the unemployed and underem-
ployed. Because of this, the government is
not obliged to create jobs that offer decent
wages and instead it becomes convenient
to evade responsibility of implementing
policy reforms to turn the economy around.
The country’s economic situation
has not improved under Aquino’s unre-
formed government policies. Development
policies, including Aquino’s Philippine De-
velopment Plan (2011-2016), continue to
rely heavily on foreign investment, export-
import dependence, debt and the so-called
free market – principles from which a more
intensified and aggressive labor export pol-
icy is entrenched.
Aquino’s essential economic
thrust is clear-cut: stick to adherence to
policies of neoliberal globalization, imple-
ment these more thoroughly and system-
atically through his Private-Public Part-
nership (PPP), and selectively implement
social protection programs like the CCT.
For OFWs, Aquino has employed
the same impetus. The situation of OFWs
has gone from worse to worst in Aquino’s
three years. Since Aquino took office, it had
been especially more gruelling for OFWs
and their families. Policy-wise, there are no
indications that Aquino would instil much-
needed reforms to curb forced migration
and deviate from a policy of labor export.
If anything, the Philippine economy’s de-
pendence on labor outmigration and remit-
tances has become unparalleled under the
TINIG NG MIG RA NTE
7 J ULY 2013
Aquino administration.
Government neglect of OFWs in distress

For the first time in history, four
Filipinos were executed abroad under
one presidency. The number of Filipinos
on death row has increased from 108 to
at least 125 (Migrante database). At least
7,000 Filipinos are languishing in jails
abroad without legal assistance and at least
25,000 are stranded and awaiting repatria-
tion in the Middle East alone.
In his three years, Aquino failed
to address the immediate evacuation and
repatriation of OFWs affected by conflicts,
calamities and crackdowns in the MENA
region. The so-called “one-country” team
approach of the DFA, DOLE and OWWA
is non-functional, and is usually charac-
terized by the said agencies blaming each
other for lapses and inaction in the urgent
repatriation of and assistance for OFWs in
distress.
The most recent “sex-for-flight”
exposè, for instance, is an exploitation
borne out of the Aquino government’s fail-
ure to address stranded OFWs’ demands for
“free, urgent and mass repatriation”. Abuse
of OFWs by erring embassy and consulate
officials have long been rampant and usu-
ally intensify during crisis events, such as
crackdowns on undocumented OFWs in
the Middle East.
Abusive embassy and consulate
officials take advantage of the desperation
of OFWs in distress. The “sex-for-flight”
issueis not an isolated matter that has noth-
ing to do with the overall condition of
stranded OFWs seeking immediate repatri-
ation from the Aquino government in light
of the Middle East crackdowns.
Of present, thousands of stranded
OFWs in the Middle East continue to call
for immediate repatriation from the Phil-
ippine government. Efforts, so far, have
been slow and uncertain. Only some 250
stranded OFWs have been repatriated by
the Aquino government since J une. With
only a few days remaining before the re-
sumption of the Saudi crackdowns on J uly
3, the Aquino government might be facing
a tremendous nightmare as at least 4,500
undocumented OFWs are still awaiting re-
patriation in Riyadh and J eddah alone.
Some 12,000 OFWs are undocu-
mented and in danger of arrests in the
whole of Saudi Arabia.Failure to repatriate
the stranded OFWs in time will definitely
result in more and graver human rights
abuses against stranded OFWs.
The Aquino government has also
failed in curbing human and labor traffick-
ing of OFWs.
The Philippines remains as one of
the top source/sending countries for human
trafficking in different parts of the world.
Filipinos, mostly women and children, are
being trafficked for labor and/or sexual
trade to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the UAE,
Qatar, Bahrain, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Sin-
gapore, J apan, South Africa, North Ameri-
ca and Europe.
The Aquino government con-
servatively estimates the number of Fili-
pino victims of trafficking from 300,000
to 400,000, with the number of children
victims ranging from 60,000 to 100,000.
Many of them migrate to work through le-
gal and illegal means but are later coerced
into exploitative conditions, drug trade or
white slavery.
The situation has become so
alarming that the US government, for al-
truistic reasons, had warned the Philippine
government to get its act together lest it re-
mains under Tier 2 of the US Department
of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report.
This year, the Aquino regime pur-
sued cosmetic reforms, among them sign-
ing the Expanded Anti-Trafficking in Per-
sons Act, which upgraded the Philippines
to Tier 1, meaning that the country has
complied with the minimum standards for
the elimination of trafficking.
The 2003 Anti-Trafficking in Per-
sons Act, otherwise known as Republic Act
9208, defines “trafficking of persons” as
the “recruitment, transportation, transfer
or harboring, or receipt of persons with or
without the victim’s consent or knowledge,
within or across national borders by means
of threat or use of force, or other forms
of coercion, abduction, fraud, deception,
abuse of power or of position, taking ad-
vantage of the vulnerability of the person,
or, the giving or receiving of payments or
benefits to achieve the consent of a person
having control over another person for the
purpose of exploitation which includes at a
minimum, the exploitation or the prostitu-
tion of others or other forms of sexual ex-
Worst anti-migrant policies: A look back on how Aquino addressed OFW concerns
TINIG NG MIG RA NTE
8
J ULY 2013
ploitation, forced labor or services, slavery,
servitude or the removal or sale of organs.”
This definition of “trafficking in
persons” sets a very thin line between hu-
man trafficking and illegal recruitment, es-
pecially for our OFWs.
Government efforts have hardly
scratched the surface of the anti-trafficking
campaign, however much it lauds itself in
the media. For one, it only has 17 anti-traf-
ficking prosecutors in the Department of
J ustice and 72 prosecutors in regional DOJ
offices.
And though it has set up the In-
ter-Agency Council against Trafficking in
Persons (IACAT), it has only received a
total of 146 cases of human trafficking for
investigation in 2010. Compare this, for
example, with an average of 1,500 cases
yearly that Migrante International receives,
majority of which are related
to human and sex trafficking,
illegal recruitment and drug-
related cases.
The ratio of resolu-
tion of cases of human traf-
ficking/illegal recruitment in
agencies such as the IACAT
or POEA are close to nil,
with most of perpetrators or
recruitment agencies being
given mere administrative
sanctions only to be able to
operate again.
Also, many victims,
with the help of Migrante
International and other con-
cerned organizations, have filed charges of
violations of RA 9208. Unfortunately, the
government lacks the political will to fully
address the cases. There are also reports of
immigration and police officers who are
coddlers of trafficking syndicates but, so
far, no public or government official atany
levelhas been prosecuted.
Budget cuts
Aquino’s national budget is one
concrete manifestation of the government’s
thrust to further intensify the government’s
labor export policy while prioritizing prof-
its over people.
During Aquino’s term, funds for
direct services for OFWs were slashed in
the National Expenditure Program. For fis-
cal year 2012, budget for OFWs only got a
less than one percent share(0.17 percent) in
the P1.8 trillion national budget.
Direct services for OFWs from
concerned agencies, namely specific items
under the DFA, DOLE, POEA, Department
of J ustice (DOJ ) as lead agency of the IA-
CAT, Commission on Filipinos Overseas
(CFO) and the Office of the President (OP),
were decreased. Budget for OFW welfare
and services in the said agencies suffered
an 18 percent cut (P792 million) from
2011’s sum of P3.8 million. This translated
to a pitiful per capita spending of P261.83
for the 15 million overseas Filipinos.
Moreover, while funds for wel-
fare and services for OFWs decreased,
increases were made on the DOLE and
POEA budgets mainly for their “marketing
and job placement” purposes – despite dec-
larations from Aquino from past SONAs
that these agencies would focus on local
job generation and more incentives for re-
turned OFWs to address forced migration.
One major consequence of budget
cuts on OFWs direct services and welfare
was the closure of ten embassies, consul-
ates and posts in different countries around
the world. As of J uly 31, 2012, embassies
in Caracas in Venezuela; Koror, Palau;
Dublin, Ireland and consulates general
in Barcelona, Spain and Frankfurt, Ger-
many have ceased to operate. Embassies
in Stockholm, Sweden; Bucharest, Roma-
nia; Havana, Cuba; Helsinki, Finland; and
consulate in Saipan in Northern Mariana
Islands closed down on October 31, 2012.
State exactions
Under Aquino’s term, state exac-
tions from OFWs were further institution-
alized and aggravated through the Aquino’s
signing of Administrative Order 31. AO 31
legalizes state exactions and taxation on
OFWs by effectively calling on all govern-
ment heads and agencies to “rationalize
the rates of their fees and charges, increase
their rates and impose new fees and charg-
es.”
Since 2010, the government had
imposed numerous other fees from OFWs
pre- and post-departure – the increase in
e-passport fees, mandatory Pag-Ibig con-
tributions, Philhealth premium cost hike,
mandatory medical insurance, Affidavit of
Support fees, to name a few.

A study by Migrante International
estimates that since 2010 the Aquino gov-
ernment has been collecting an average
of at least P26,267 from every overseas
Filipino worker (OFW) processed by the
POEA. This amount is higher than the av-
erage P18,000 the government collected
before 2010. If 4,500 OFWs leave daily to
work abroad, the government earns an av-
erage P124 million a day, or roughly
P45.26 billion yearly, from processing fees
and other costs shouldered by OFWs.
Dismal rights and welfare program
The Aquino government has high-
ly praised itself for its supposed efforts to
work with labor-receiving governments to
formulate both formal and informal agree-
ments meant to ensure that OFWs’ condi-
tions are within nationally- and internation-
ally-accepted standards. These, however,
are more wishful thinking than reality.
The truth is, OFWs are plagued
with an assortment of issues and problems
throughout the entire migration cycle yet
the Aquino government has barely done
any decisive action to support and pro-
tect OFWs and their families. The Aquino
government’s ability to uphold Filipinos
migrants’ rights and promote their welfare
has lagged behind its apparent success in
Table 9. Fees charged to OFWs (per contract)
76 signatures (for different types of document requirements) P7,600
E-passport fee (minimum) P1,200
POEA fee (for new hires) P7,500
OWWA fee (USD$25) P1,075
Pag-Ibig mandatory contribution P600
Mandatory insurance coverage (minimum premium USD$144) P6,192
Philhealth (minimum) P1,200
TOTAL P25,367
TINIG NG MIG RA NTE
9 J ULY 2013
pursuing its policy of labor export.
The efforts and outcomes are un-
even. On one hand, efforts are systematic,
sustained and deliberate on regulatory mat-
ters facilitating the departure of OFWs and
receipt of remittances. These have resulted
in record numbers of Filipinos overseas.
On the other hand, efforts are spotty, par-
tial and erratic on matters relating to giving
migrants protection and support at home or
abroad.
There is even a lack of accurate,
comprehensive and timely information
about migrant workers themselves. During
the height of repatriation efforts in Syria,
for example, the OWWA and the DFA of-
fered conflicting information on the average
deployment costs needed to negotiate with
Syrian employers for the release of OFWs
from their contracts. The OWWA said that
it had set the average deployment costs
at USD$2,500 per OFW while the DFA
pegged it at USD$3,000 to USD$4,000.
Even the figures for total population of
OFWs in Syria did not match. The same
case can be said in the ongoing repatriation
of stranded OFWs in Saudi. Simply put, ef-
forts will continue to be futile if concerned
agencies cannot even agree on basic facts.
All these highlight the steady rise
of violations of migrants’ rights. Many
OFWs and migrants’ organizations have
gone so far as to characterize the govern-
ment as “criminally negligent” in its re-
peated abdication of taking primary re-
sponsibility for protecting migrants and
their families.
Despite these, the Aquino govern-
ment continues to promote labor export.
While it is true that, compared to other la-
bor-sending countries, the Philippines has a
relatively sophisticated and well-developed
legal framework to protect the rights and
welfare of migrants and their families, this
has largely been pushed by force of circum-
stance of the rapidly increasing numbers of
OFWs that have been victimized by viola-
tions of rights and the resounding clamor of
a growing number of OFWs, their families
and advocates who have managed to orga-
nize among themselves.
Even measures deemed signifi-
cant by government such as the Migrant
Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act (RA
10022, amended RA 8042),Anti-Traf-
ficking in Persons Act (RA 9208) and the
Overseas Absentee Voting Act (RA 9189)
have not been implementedand fulfilled
under the Aquino administration. Cosmetic
reforms are certainly no match to gargan-
tuan problems emanating from the labor
export policy, rendering these laws inutile.
Hence, no amount of legislation can offer
full protection, much less deterrecurring
problems of maltreatment, insufficient so-
cial and welfare services,government fail-
ures and violence against OFWs.
The OWWA Omnibus Policies
(OOP), for instance, which was passed
under the presidency of Gloria Macapagal-
Arroyo in2003, con-
tinues to be in force to
this day. But the OOP
limits the benefits and
welfare services en-
titled to OFWs –among
itsprovisions are the
termination of OWWA
membership upon ex-
piration of employment
contract; restriction of
voluntarymembership
to two years; selective
repatriation of migrant
workers in times of
crises, epidemics and
wars; and thegranting
of the sole deciding au-
thority to the OWWA
Board of Trustees with
regard the management
of OWWA funds.
Also under the
OOP, only active mem-
bers of OWWA could
avail of the services
and benefits consisting of a life insurance-
for natural death, insurance for accidental
death, disability benefits, scholarship pro-
grams, repatriation andreintegration. Oth-
ers, such as medical insurance and health
benefits, have either been privatized or
taxed from OFWsand/or employers.
Under the current OWWA policy,
only active members of OWWA could avail
of the services and benefits that include
aP100,000 life insurance (for natural death),
and P200,000 insurance (for accidental
death), disability benefits,scholarship pro-
grams, repatriation and reintegration pro-
grams.
There is also a lack of comprehen-
sive and sustainable reintegration program
for returned OFWs. What the Aquinogo-
vernment offers are mere dole-outs and
band-aid solutions that are not long-term
solutions to unemployment, lowwages and
lack of social services.
Most of the government’s reinte-
gration programs for returned OFWs are
made up of loans and one-time livelihood
programs. Most recently, returned OFWs
are complaining about the P2 billion OW-
WAreintegration program that Aquino in-
augurated in 2011 because of its stringent
requirements for collateral and onerousin-
terest rates.
Aquino also failed to investigate
allegations of misuse and corruption of
the OWWA funds. The plunder case filed
againstformer president Arroyo for mis-
use and corruption of OWWA funds, for
instance, was initiated by private citizens
andorganizations and not the Aquino ad-
ministration.
“Double standard” foreign policies
Throughout his presidency, Aqui-
no has been criticized for his “double stan-
dard” foreign policies. More often than not,
such policies have had direct effects on the
welfare and well-being of OFWs in their
host countries.
In the case of the Sabah dispute,
the Philippine government’s passivity and
lack of political will to protect national
interest virtually emboldened and gave li-
cense to Malaysian forces to attack our fel-
lowmen.
Sabah is one of the most common
destinations of trafficked Filipinos, mostly
women. It is also one of the most common
“transit points” of trafficked Filipinos on
their way to other parts of Asia. As a re-
TINIG NG MIG RA NTE
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J ULY 2013
sult of the Aquino government’s refusal to
acknowledge the legitimacy of the Sabah
claim, crackdowns conducted by the Ma-
laysian government against Filipinos be-
came more rampant.
In its handling of the Sabah con-
flict, the Aquino government exposed its
double standards and contrasting motiva-
tions and interests vis a vis the Spratlys and
Panatag Shoal issues. It remains aggres-
sive in the Spartlys issue to promote and
justify increased US troops’ presence in the
Asia-Pacific region while it is passive in
the Sabah issue to appease Malaysia which
plays a lead role in the ongoing peace ne-
gotiations between the MILF and the Phil-
ippine government.
The same can be said on how the
Aquino government handled
the conflict with Taiwan with
regard the alleged killing of a
Taiwanese fisherman by the
Philippine Coast Guard. OFWs
in Taiwan suffered the backlash
of the Aquino government’s cal-
lous, incompetent and undiplo-
matic handling of the issue. The
Aquino government attempted
to justify the killing by assert-
ing that the Taiwanese fisher-
man poached on Philippines
seas. Only later did it conduct
an investigation when OFWs in
Taiwan were getting the brunt of
attacks.
On the other hand,
the Aquino administration was
lenient with
the US Navy
for damaging
the Tubbataha
reefs. Aquino
said that the US
Navy showed “sensitiv-
ity” by apologizing. He
also refused to address
questions on the US ships’
presence in Philippine seas
and instead said that he
saw no reason to involve
the contentious Visiting
Forces Agreement (VFA)
in the Tubbataha issue.
While continuously
harping on how the gov-
ernment is ready to “de-
fend sovereignty amid ter-
ritorial disputes,” Aquino
nevertheless shows his
puppetry and subservience
to US’ economic and ter-
ritorial interests.
Conclusion
In the past three years, the
Aquino government had
been aggressive in craft-
ing programs and services
aimed at facilitatingand
encouraging migration.
While acknowledging the
many social costs, these
were effectively down-
played. Rather, it has
resolutely promoted labor
export as unequivocally
beneficial for migrants and
their families. This is par-
ticularly done by overstat-
ing supposed development
benefits for the economy andthe income
benefits for households.
The economic compulsion of
the Aquino government to keep exporting
Filipinos to maintain or, especially, to in-
creaseremittances unfortunately overrides
and precludes undertaking any measures
that, directly or indirectly, constrict theflow
of migration –even if such measures would
immediately and, in the long-run, prevent
the incidence of abuses andmigrant rights
violations.
Filipinos are being forced to mi-
grate because of desperation. The econo-
my’s lack of development resulting in job
loss, low wages and lack of livelihood at
home is the primary push factor. OFWs
have borne witness to how insincere, in-
sensitive and inept the Aquino government
is in upholding and securing the protection
and welfare of OFWs. Instead, it showcas-
es a more blatant and unapologetic labor
export policy that exploits OFWs’ cheap
labor and foreign remittances.
To genuinely address the prob-
lem of forced migration, economic policies
should focus on developing the national
economy by advancing local industries, ag-
riculture and basic services.
Migrante International fully sup-
ports the call and struggle for national in-
dustrialization and genuine land reform
as the ultimate solution to the problem of
forced migration and to end the labor ex-
port program.