Wednesday, September 2, 2015

OFW groups eye face off with BoC chief Lina during Congress probes

The planned dialogue between a coalition of pro-migrant groups and Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina on Monday did not push through, with the coalition opting to just face Lina and other Customs officials in Congress.

"Hindi natuloy kasi nung sini-set na 'yung schedule ng BOC (Bureau of Customs), nag-decide ang coalition na doon na lang pag-usapan sa House [of Representatives] and Senate," Ferdie Maglalang of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a group that assists distressed OFWs, told GMA News Online on Tuesday.

"Kasi naisip na mas transparent sa Kongreso at talagang magkakaroon ng reporma keysa sa dialogue ng BOC," he added.

The dialogue would have centered about the BOC's plan to manually inspect balikbayan boxes and its other reforms that are said to be anti-OFW.

Maglalang said their decision not to push through with the dialogue stemmed from their past experience with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) regarding the P550 terminal fee issue. He said their dialogue with the MIAA went nowhere.

"Napaso na dati 'yung coalition," he said. "[We tried guiding the MIAA], pero wala ring nangyari."

Members of the Coalition include the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute, the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch, the Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards, Inc., Patnubay Group, LBS Recruitment Solutions, Inc., the Global Asia Alliance Consultants Inc., United Filipino Seafarers, Filipino Migrant Workers, OFW Family Partylist, Center for Migrants Advocacy, Kabalikat ng Migranteng Pilipino, Inc., Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc. and Federation of Associations of Manpower Exporters.

The House investigation on balikbayan boxes, which was sought by Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares, will take place on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. On the other hand, the Senate probe will be on Thursday at 10 a.m.

The investigations will push through despite President Benigno Aquino III's order for the BOC to stop its manual inspections of balikbayan boxes after it drew flak from OFWs.

Lina announced last August 28 that new guidelines on balikbayan box inspections will be signed on Wednesday after they finalize its details on Tuesday.

These guidelines will include a multiple-step process using mobile x-ray machines and smaller devices to detect anomalies in boxes without opening the containers.

Meanwhile, another pro-OFW group, Migrante, which spearheaded the "zero-remittance" protest last Friday in reaction to balikbayan box debacle, will push through with its meeting with  Lina.

In a text message to GMA News Online, Migrante chair Connie Bragas-Regalado said the meeting will take place on September 9. —KBK, GMA News 

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