Unchanged labor export policies force Moros to seek jobs abroad

Aug. 24, 2017

UNIFIED MOVE. Moro delegates from Mindanao join the Lumads and other sectors to this year’s Lakbayan of National Minorities for Self Determination, Justice and Peace to air out major issues that matter to their lives, such as the lifting of martial law and the implementation of socio-economic reforms to end poverty. (Alex D. Lopez/davaotoday.com)

CEBU CITY, Philippines – Difficulties in finding jobs and the tight economic situation in the country force Moro residents in Mindanao to pack up things and set foot abroad to find jobs.

“This is a fact even during the previous administrations,” said Baidido Ontuwa who first left the country in 1987 and landed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia as a domestic helper.

Baidido, 50, from Cotabato City, is among the more than a hundred Moro participants to the Lakbayan for National Minorities who are now in a three-day camp out at the Fuente Osmeña Park here..

She said migration of Filipino workers abroad will not end until changes are realized in the country’s governance, particularly on socioeconomic reforms.

“It is difficult to be a worker abroad. You are in a foreign land and you need to follow every instruction of your employer, otherwise, it would be a problem on your part,” Baidido said.

She was only 14 when she flew to Riyadh and she admitted now that there was some sort of “changing” to her documents to get qualified.

“I need to go out and help my family. Life was so difficult then,’ she said.

Good that she landed in a royal family and she was tasked to be the aid of one of the princesses.

“I hold the princess’ shoulder bag and her personal things in affairs that she attended. She was kind to me and I felt confident of surviving that work,” she said.

She was then earning $200 per month.

“After two years I went home and never came back to Riyadh. I studied Radiology Technology and landed a local job in Cotabato City,” she said.

But survival is still difficult for her and she decided to go back abroad in 1996 where she worked in an Iranian-owned hospital in Dubai until 2004.

“Every year, a lot of Filipinos, including the Moro people are migrating abroad to find jobs in order to survive,” Baidido said.

Such reality is still existent until today, she added.

2.2 million OFWs

In April this year, the Philippine Statistics Authority reported that “the number of Overseas Filipino Workers who worked abroad at any time during the period April to September 2016 was estimated at 2.2 million. Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) or those with existing work contract comprised 97.5 percent of the total OFWs during the period April to September 2016. The rest (2.5 %) worked overseas without contract.”

The PSA also noted that there are more females (53.6 percent) OFWs than the males and that female OFWs are generally younger than male OFWs, with more than two-thirds (67.8 percent) of the female OFWs belonging to the age group 25 to 39 years.

It added that among occupation groups, elementary occupations (34.5 percent) comprised the largest group followed by those who worked as service and sales workers (19 percent), plant and machine operators and assemblers (12.8 percent), and craft and related trades workers (11.6 percent).

Among the regions in the country, most of the OFWs came from CALABARZON area (21 percent), followed by the National Capital Region (12.9 percent) and Central Luzon (12.7 percent).

Mindanao accounted 16.0 percent of the total OFWs working abroad during the period, distributed as follows: Region 9 with 2.3 percent, Region 10 with 2.6 percent, Region 11 with 3.0 percent, Region 12 with 4.3 percent, Region 13 with 1.9 percent, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao with 1.9 percent.

Saudi Arabia was considered the leading destination for OFWs during the period, saying that about one in every four, or 23.8 percent of OFWs worked in the said country from April to September last year.

The United Arab Emirates is also considered next preferred destination by OFWs during the period (15.9 percent), Europe (6.6 percent), Kuwait (6.4 percent) and Qatar (6.2 percent).

Rehash of neoliberal policies

The Migrante International, in its “State of Migrants” released on June 30 this year said the Duterte administration, despite all its posturing and promises, has done nothing substantial to lessen, if not end, the forced migration of Filipino workers abroad.

“Instead, what we have seen thus far is a rehash of the same neoliberal policy of labor export when it comes to peddling Filipinos’ cheap and docile labor to the global market,” the group said.

Weak economic policies, such as the failure to end contractualization are among the factors that migration of workers abroad continues to increase, Migrante International cited.

The group also expressed concern over the crisis in other countries that will compel Overseas Filipino Workers to go home.

“In light of the continuing crisis in the Middle East and looming mass deportations of undocumented migrants in the USA and Europe, OFWs are expected to return to the country only to be forcibly driven away again to seek jobs despite risky conditions abroad,” the group said.

Migrante also quoted a report from the independent think-tank IBON Foundation that said: “there are still 11.5 million Filipinos who are without work or still looking for more work because of the poor quality of jobs.”

The group also assailed Department Order No. 174 that was recently released by the Department of Labor and Employment that they said will further fortify the practice of contractualization in the country.

“With the passage of DO 174-2017, packaged as the government’s solution to workers’ problems, contractualization is legalized, aggravating the already rampant problem of labor flexibilization, depressed wages, and, ultimately, more massive unemployment,” Migrante said.

The group also expressed support to the demand of labor organizations in the country, particularly the Kilusang Mayo Uno for a P750 national minimum wage.

“A P750 national minimum wage can significantly reverse the migration of OFWs. If implemented, for every year, around 200,000 workers can opt to stay and contribute their labor and skills to nation-building while living decently with their families,” it said.

But the current policies of the Duterte administration do not reflect the end of contractualization and the granting of the just minimum wage.

Migrante sees no improvement into the country’s economic situation since Duterte assumed the presidency.

Instead, it added, the administration only rehashed the neoliberal economic policies of the past regimes.

“Duterte’s ‘10-point economic agenda’ still relies heavily on foreign investment, debt and export-dependence, particularly the dependence on the export Filipinos’ cheap labor in exchange for remittances,” the group said.

Migrante also pointed out that remittances from OFWs remain at record-high despite the global economic crisis to USD$26.9 billion in 2016.

The remittances accounted 10 percent of the country’s Domestic Product (GDP) last year, it added.

The group believes that high OFW remittances became the basis for the Duterte administration’s thrust to further to seek job markets abroad and intensify its labor export program.

“Through remittances, the government earns exponentially without having to shell out much capital investment. Even funds for labor export management through agencies such as the POEA or the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are directly sourced from OFWs or recruitment agencies and employers through an assortment of fees,” Migrante said.

No other choice

Davao Today asked Baidido if she plans to go back abroad to work.

“I’m not sure,” she replied, adding that the country’s economic condition is still hard for ordinary workers like her.

Though she was able to invest wisely the earnings she had in her work in Dubai, Baidido still expressed uncertainty if the country’s situation would warrant quality life, especially to his family.

“If I have no other choice, maybe I will be forced to go back abroad and work,” she pointed out. (davaotoday.com)

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