The Plight of Overseas Filipino Workers and the Government’s Role as Manager of its Citizens’ Affairs

Aaron Laylo

Estimately 10 percent of the total population of the Philippines works overseas. In almost every corner of the globe, you can find Filipinos working as supervisors but most of them, as support employees, “mere” low-skilled workers, just as how their masters see them. But when asked what compels them to work abroad, most of them would reply with reason: For greener pastures. Indeed, there’s reason on that. Greener pastures may mean bigger salaries to satisfy or to somehow fill in their financial obligations. For most Filipinos, working abroad has always been as simple as that: working in greener pastures. Only a few do recognize that even in green pastures, especially, in an alien land, they are still vulnerable to various sorts of troubles related to their menial jobs. They become subject to abuse and ill-treatment by their employers.

 Thank God, my father who still works in Saudi Arabia has not so far encountered such harsh treatment, maybe because he’s sort of a supervisor there. But how about those Filipinos who work well but still are abused by their employers in various manners?

OFWs

The government, as the manager of its citizens’ affairs, is responsible for the protection and welfare of the Filipinos working overseas and must see to it that they are treated decently despite their low status. The Philippine government should recognize that OFWs are not mere commodities in alien lands; they are human beings who have physical weaknesses too and emotional defenselessness at times, and most importantly, they also deserve respect for man worthy of any person. And that is what the government should take action of. It must ensure that proper treatment is given to Filipinos working abroad.

And since the government has already been seeing overseas migration as a tool for economic stimulation through remittances from OFWs, therefore beneficial to the country’s development, they should also consider actions that may further boost OFWs vital role in nation-building. By formulating laws that would ensure their protection and welfare, the government could suppose that workers sent abroad will be more interested and may therefore become more productive in their line of work. In that manner also, OFWs could improve their skills, because they are motivated. If the government employs an informal policy on labor migration that encourages further export of manpower, it must also add value and reason to such actions: economic growth driven by healthy and motivated overseas workers.

Coordinating with governments of labor-receiving states is perhaps the most appropriate action now. A more concrete step is to review available bilateral labor agreements and forge BLAs with countries with which the Philippines has not yet tapped or being tapped. These BLAs should be responsive to the present challenges that OWFs should courageously face in alien lands.

In fairness to the government, it has been responsive on matters pertaining to the need for creating laws and policies that push for the protection, security, and welfare of OFWs. It has forged BLAs with some countries regarding manpower development. With RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers Law passed in 1995, provisions concerning the recruitment, development, protection, security and welfare of migrant workers have been recognized. But the more important actions expected by the people is the implementation, actually proper implementation of the provisions and other laws done in the past. Through the DFA, DOLE and related agencies though, it has responded to some cases with regard to abuses and maltreatments to OFWs. These key agencies coordinate with and through a network of related offices such as embassies and consulates as well as labor offices. It may also be very helpful if the government would further recognize the important role of the migrant labor sector, such as in a recent global forum on migration held in Manila.

Overseas Filipino Workers are recognized as new heroes because of their personal sacrifice for their families left in the country. They also play a significant role in increasing the countries finances through their remittances. But more than their financial importance, their human value is what matters more. They deserve attention.

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