IT’S been more than a year since you received your appointment as
presidential adviser on OFW affairs. We who are active in the sector have yet
to feel your presence. I truly hope that you are in touch with our modern-day
heroes throughout the world via social media. I hope that you have brought to
the national leadership the myriad concerns and challenges that your
“constituents” and their families are up against.
For instance, I hope that you are in direct consultations with our
OFWs regarding specific issues related to their balikbayan boxes.A lot of them
are unaware that the Bureau of Customs intends to impose a flat P250 processing
fee on the sender of a balikbayan box regardless of origin. Were our OFWs
consulted on this? What is that flat fee for? Of course, Customs officials may
belittle this amount and say, what’s $5 to an OFW? Now would be a good time for
our distinguished Presidential Adviser to share your experience about the
plight of our stranded workers and domestic workers in the Middle East.The
point is, such an additional fee to be collected without prior consultations
with the OFW sector, is an unexplained and unjustified burden on them.
Section 5.1.2 (a) and Section 5.1.3 (a) of Customs Administrative
Order (CAO) 05-2016 also requires the submission of a copy of the Philippine
passport and/or the foreign passport and proof of dual citizenship of the
sender as the only acceptable proof of “citizenship” of the sender. I am sure
you are aware, Mr. Presidential Adviser, that some foreign employers hold on to
the passports of their foreign workers though this is against workers’ rights.
Wouldn’t any Philippine government-issued ID suffice? Again, was this policy
shift subjected to public hearings and consultations?
Dear Sir, the imposition of the 12A percent VAT on housing
properties from P3.1-million and below has also become a bit contentious
because this would increase the cost of starter homes for our OFWs. Perhaps,
with your representation, we might be able to strike a compromise with the
Department of Finance and members of Congress, notably the Senate, for our OFWs
to be VAT-exempt when buying their first home. This is really not a good time
for our OFWs. Deployment is down, jobs both here and overseas are scarce, and a
number of destination-countries are in dire economic straits. The only
resilient overseas job market is the neverending demand for Filipino domestic
workers, and we all know how vulnerable they are.
Today, we shall be having a tripartite consultative meeting at the
Department of Labor and Employment regarding the proposed OFW ID card. We would
like to be assured of the security features of this card, its basic functions,
and the actual cost with a corresponding breakdown. We demand full
transparency, because we don’t want the sacrifices of our OFWs to be undermined
by a scheme meant to benefit shadowy characters. It is only by subjecting the
production and processing of these cards to the sunlight of transparency and
accountability can we all rest and sleep soundly at night. Will you be there?
Dear Mr. Presidential Adviser, I know that you are quite close to
President Duterte. He trusts you so much that you have the distinction of
receiving other assignments that are delicate in nature, such as helping bring
peace to Marawi City. You are a valued and distinguished person representing
Mindanao and our OFWs in the highest echelons of power. Please do not see this
article as an affront to your name. See it as a chance to reach out to those of
us who have been in the migration advocacy work for a large part of our lives.
Consider it as a humble invitation from this writer and fellow OFW advocate to
shine and illuminate the public policy horizon with your generosity of ideas,
and passion as well as compassion for migrant workers everywhere.
There is not a single iota of a doubt that President Duterte is
pro-OFW. That he appointed you to become his presidential adviser on OFW
affairs speaks volumes about his trust and confidence in you. Please serve him
well. You see, before the year ends, the different state parties, including the
Philippines, will be meeting to deliberate on the Global Compact on Migration.
Various stakeholders in overseas employment are gearing for nationwide
consultations about this in collaboration with the International Organization
on Migration (IOM). Sir, will you be involved?
The easiest thing would be for someone like me to simply shut up
and try not to point out the obvious. I can’t. From Kabayan Noli de Castro to
former Vice President Jejomar Binay, the position of Presidential Adviser on
OFW Affairs meant we had a place to go to, a person close to the President whom
we could see and vice-versa. I may be wrong, but when OFW Jatakia Pawa was
executed in Kuwait, you never uttered a word. Have you ever met her family
before or after the execution?