There are a number of migration issues besetting developing countries at present. As elaborated in the article “International Migration and Human Mobility as Security Issues” two major migration issues are highlighted: the refugee problem and global mobility as a security issue. Authors mentioned that beyond the commonsensical notion that people move from areas of insecurity to areas of security, refugees are attracted to the political stability and the peace of areas one scholar coined “security communities.”[i] International migration is the new security threat but rather global mobility in general. Global mobility refers to all those who have crossed any border for any reason for any length of time.[ii] A particular problem in global mobility is the danger of illegal migrants including unauthorized workers, victims of smuggling operations, illegal recruits, and terrorists who hop from one territory to the other without having inspected by authorities. This is due to porous boundaries in some countries, or loose immigration policies. Other migration issues include discrimination by receiving states, but worse are the maltreatment and work abuses such as holding of salaries and delay of payments to workers. But this leads us to what most overseas Filipino workers experience. This is what makes the Philippine case different from the wide array of migration cases especially in developing countries. While political violence, and ethnic cleansing, or other domestic problem causing the plight of peoples to foreign lands are common in some global south countries, the case of Filipinos migration is more of economic in nature.
Migration is crucial in Philippine development for reasons that may all be encapsulated into one main driving factor: economic upward mobility – socio-economic/ family level and national-international level. Filipino migrants abroad send remittances to their families in their homeland to meet their monetary needs . For some reason, the notion that OFWs who work abroad are the now the noveau riche of the Filipino socio-economic picture is true in the plainest sense. Their dollars sent to the Philippines double or triple in value, hence more purchasing power. On the higher level is the national-international level. As more and more remittances are sent to the Philippines, more foreign reserves may be used by the country to purchase necessary imported commodities.
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 comfort needs at times, and most importantly, they also deserve respect. And that is what the government should look into and reflect on. It must ensure that proper treatment is given to Filipinos working abroad. Migrants are people too. Supporting them equates to developing the nation. These migrants not only remit foreign currencies but are also a source of national honor (because of their skillful performance, work ethics). 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 Philippine 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.
[i] Koslowski, Rey. International Migration and human mobility as security issues. 2009, p. 17
[ii] Ibid, 28.