OFW Political Empowerment 2016


OFW representation in Congress

The Philippine Election 2016 is fast approaching. It will be held on May next year and being at home, I can feel and smell the preparation of some politicians in the surrounding community that I belong. Even in TV ads, some Presidentiables are busy making their own “papogi points” to the public. Of course, it’s part of their strategy to win the public sentiment on national issues at hand.

Talking about OFW Political empowerment, the OFWs were able to get a seat in Congress through the OFW Family Party List group who made it in the last 2013 election. Truly, we are proud that OFWs are finally represented in Congress since 14 years when former Congressman Sid Aligada and  Omar Fajardo were appointed by former President Fidel Ramos to represent OFWs in the Philippine lower house of Congress.

But frankly, I can’t feel of any changes being made or introduced on the various issues of government policies that concerns our OFWs. I am not against Congressman Roy Seneres and in fairness, the good Congressman filed several bills in Congress since he assumed office yet none of them made it to the President’s desk. Surprisingly, I read an online article that he is eyeing for 2016 Presidential election. That, I have so much doubt that he can even reach number  10 in the list of the highest votes for the Presidency. Well, for me 750 thousand votes are not enough to change the course of history from Congress to Presidency. My sincere apology to the former Ambassador, that’s only my opinion and I am entitled to it. However, if the good former Ambassador will stick to where he is now and ask his colleagues in Congress to prioritize his bills, then Sir, you have my one vote again.

OFW Political Empowerment in barangay level

Slider1

Photo taken from the website of Barangay Info System-Davao

During the 2013 barangay election there were 53,786,223 registered Filipino voters according to COMELEC website It means out of 101 Million Philippine population (taken from  worldometers) half of our population are registered voters.

How many per cent of OFW family comprised a mere barangay?  According to my neighbour who works at the local office of the Philippine Statistics Authority, in one particular barangay in Cebu, OFWs is comprised of 5% of the barangay population. Each family of that 5% population has 4 to 5 family members who are registered voters. Good enough for an OFW (former OFW or OFW family members or relatives) who wants to run as a barangay councilman with a 2,500 votes for a barangay population that consist of 10,000 registered voters.

Perhaps, the continuing saga in our fight for OFW political empowerment must start in barangay level. So, by representing the concerns of OFWs in a barangay or in many barangays around the Philippine archipelago, then the national scene will follow.

According to the April to September 2014 statistical report by Grace Bersales of Philippine Statistics Authority, there was an estimated 2.3 million Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs/OFWs) or those with existing work contract comprised 96.0 per cent (2.2 million) of the total OFWs.  The rest (4.0% or 92,000) worked overseas without contract.

The total of 2,392,000 OFWs plus  five of their families back home can even move a mountain apart to put a President in Malacanang with a total of 11,960,000 votes; near enough to what President Aquino garnered in 2010 presidential election.

Well that’s only a simple presumption, nonetheless  Benjamin Banneker, an African American scientist once said “presumption should never make us neglect that which appears easy to us, nor despair make us lose courage at the sight of difficulties.”

That’s the reason why I am advocating Overseas Absentee Voting registration and requesting those  975,263 Overseas Absentee Voters worldwide to update your voting status, especially to those 237,504 registered voters who failed to vote in the previous Philippine national election.

To my fellow OFWs, talk to your families back home, ask them to participate in the October 2016 barangay election and through them, we can now empower by representing our OFW sector in the barangay level.BongA    

The Heart of OFW Reintegration Program


The Heart of OFW Reintegration Program 

The comprehensive reintegration program of our government for returning OFWs is there  since in the 90’s.  But up to present many OFW returnees fails to make the program right. Perhaps because the OFW is not yet ready to reintegrate in our country for a very simple reason, we are already a stranger in our homeland after long years working in a foreign land; and or perhaps the business venture we are in is not the one that dictates our heart; and our governments’ way of implementing it through all these years. 

The study of reintegration program was conceived  as early in 1980’s and was first organized in 1988 by Asian Migration Center, a regional NGO based in Hong Kong composed of mostly member ASEAN countries. 

There are two kinds of “OFW returnees”, those OFWs who troops down back home because of  war, natural calamities, as well as economic and political turmoil of the host country they’re in. The other OFW returnees are those who decide to go home for good and stay at home with their families for the rest of their lives. 

logoofw1Last year, the Philippine government through the Department of Labor and Employment created a new reintegration program called Assist WELL Program that will address the Welfare, Employment, Legal, and Livelihood needs of repatriated OFWs. This particular program caters the needs of those OFWs repatriated from war-torn countries. 

National Reintegration Program Fund (NRPF) launched in 2011 are those for returning OFWs who wish to stay at home after a long period of working abroad and or those who finished their contracts and decides not to go back working away from home. This program provides with a livelihood loan of between P300,000 to P2 million to set up their own business with low-interest loans. However, the OWWA and the bank(s) lengthy requirements and the long tedious process makes’ it hard for a returning  OFW to avail the program. 

The Land Bank of the Philippines and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration forged a partnership for the implementation of this high-profile and probably the biggest reintegration program of the government since Kabuhayan-2000 Program for OFWs in 1998. 

Those above mentioned programs achieved a modest outcome for both  two kinds of OFW returnees, it is suggested that changes should be made in all of its guidelines and requirements to avail the lending facility much easier. Perhaps, there is also a need to trim down those government agencies involved that are not anymore necessary in the implementation of the program. In this way, the efforts of the many previous administrations to help OFWs reintegrate in our homeland be fulfilled. 

On the other side of the mirror, the heart of OFW reintegration program of  our government  lies within us,  we need to choose the right business with an  innermost desire of doing it, armed with passion and coming from our heart.   

To my fellow OFW returnees, re-joining our families back home and reintegrating into the mainstream of our Philippine society is a very crucial plan and we, OFWs should have to think twice before disembarking a new era of endeavour back home.  Many OFWs like me are unfamiliar in our country’s business scenes while working away from home. WE should determine the exact and suitable entrepreneurship venture that we love most or experienced in line with our previous or at present employment abroad. Lastly, WE  should be aware of the financial burdens of taxation that awaits us in the future. BongA

FilCom leaders pleased Secretary Baldoz Second visit in Saudi Arabia


***

FilCom leaders pleased Secretary Baldoz Second visit in Saudi Arabia

Philippine Labor Secretary Erlinda Dimapilis-Baldoz

Philippine Labor Secretary Erlinda Dimapilis-Baldoz

30 November, 2014, RIYADH: Filipino Community leaders are really delighted to receive an invitation of Philippine Labor Secretary Erlinda Dimapilis-Baldoz through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office to meet Filcom leader in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. This visit is the second time of Secretary Baldoz since she took office in 2010.

The first visit was in May last year upon the signing of the Labor pact between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia that established the commitment of the two governments to implement a standard employment contract that provide protection for Filipino Household Service Workers. However, most of the Saudis are complaining about the very expensive fees the local Saudi recruitment offices are charging in bringing domestic workers from Philippines.

OFWs in Saudi are also facing forward that this visit of Secretary Baldoz could pave a way to formalize an agreed standard employment contract for skilled and semi-skilled workers in the Kingdom through a bilateral labor agreement similar to that of the standard FHSW contract. This could prevent employers from substituting a contract for their own interest. It can’t be denied that contract substitution still rampant in the Kingdom despite of both countries good labor relation.

The Filipino Community is likewise grateful to the good Secretary Baldoz for inviting them in line with the Philippine Government agenda on reintegration program. The OFW reintegration program should be properly disseminated to the vast population of OFWs as their guide in their eventual return to the homeland.

The top Labor executive’s ardent desire to hold an audience with the Filipino Community in Riyadh tonight, Sunday, at 6 PM is indeed a serious move that the Aquino government is sincere in their reintegration program for OFWs and looking for an alternative source of income for those who decides to be back home for good. – BongA

Remittance Is Not the Enemy, Economic Reintegration of Returning OFWs Is


FEATURED ARTICLE

I’ve been advocating OFW issues and concerns in our blog but one issue that I am very keen of, is the creation of an OFW Bank. There are many organizations that I am affiliated with, like in the past  the Bohol-Leyte OFW Cooperative, OFW Cooperative Council, OFWNet, United OFW, and at present Kalipunang Kaakabay ng Manggagawang PilipinoOFW Congress, and even Partidong Pandaigdigang Pilipino (PPP), the proposed political party of OFWs, all of these groups tackled the possibility of creating an OFW Bank that will cater the real needs of OFWs and their families.  

Also, there have been bills filed in Philippine Congress that seek the creation of a bank for OFWs, the Senate Bill No. 639 by Sen. Manuel B. Villar, Jr.; House Bill No. 723 by Rep. Judy J. Syjuco; and HB No. 1565 by representatives Jaime C. Lopez and Prospero Nograles. Up to this date, the mentioned bills are among those stacked of files found in the dim lit areas of the House of Congress.

There was even a proposal from Vice President Jojo Binay, who is also the Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns submitted to the Office of the President but there  are many sectors of government opposed the plan for the creation of an OFW Bank.   

The featured article below by: Romie Cahucom  will give an update on this issue and perhaps – would be solution to the most awaited OFW Bank.

****

Remittance Is Not the Enemy, Economic Reintegration of Returning OFWs Is

For this post, we get back to the OFW bank issue by offering a sort of brief rebuttal to the first two (2) objections of Bangko Sentral and the Department of Finance on the proposal of Vice-President Jejomar Binay for the formation of an OFW bank way back in 2010.

We recall that Vice-President Binay, way back on November 22, 2010, sent a formal letter to President Benigno Aquino III recommending the establishment of an OFW bank which “will provide an alternative yet viable economic financial and remittance institution for our kababayans at the local and international levels”.

As reports go, the Bangko Sentral and Department of Finance “had advised the Palace against the scheme, citing issues of cost, redundancy, administrative and regulatory unwieldiness, and sending signals that discourage current private-sector competition which, they claimed, already benefits OFWs by way of driving down transaction costs.”

President Aquino then, upholding the position of government regulators, did not approve the OFW bank proposal.

Vice-President Binay, despite the disapproval, vowed to work on with the OFW bank initiative “to encourage savings and investment among OFWs”.

It is presumably in this light that the Vice-President commissioned the Technical Working Group (as I mentioned in previous posts) to prepare a study for the establishment of an OFW Development Bank.

For purposes of this post, I assume that the recommendation of Vice-President Binay is for an OFW bank along the same lines as the following report from dailies:

“The OFW Bank project was first conceptualized in 2006 to consolidate the financial assets and operational capabilities of government financial institutions like the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Philippine Postal Corporation (PPC), together with its subsidiary Philippine Postal Savings Bank (PPSB), as lead entities towards the creation of a financial institution for overseas Filipinos that is less expensive and more focused in its direction and services.”

Now for the brief general rebuttal on the first two (2) points raised by the government regulators (We shall take up the rest of the objections in a future post).

The Issue of Cost 

Forget about the previous (2006) proposal involving Land Bank, DBP, Philippine Postal Corporation and the Philippine Postal Savings Bank. The solution is simply to buy an existing savings or thrift bank to jumpstart and start the OFW bank rolling. This is not a big deal as I am sure it is not difficult to find a small bank up for sale which should be based in Metro Manila or nearby.

Read more >>>>>>

DOLE to hold first congress on OFWs


OWWA/June 3, 2011 – The Dept. of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its attached agencies will be celebrating its 1st NATIONAL CONGRESS OF OFWs AND FAMILIES on June 7, Tuesday at the SMX Convention Center, Mall of Asia, Pasay City. This momentous event falls on Migrant Workers Day, the special day made for the Filipino overseas workers.

Migrant Workers of various nationalities during May 2011 International Workers’ Day march through Hamra and Sanayeh in Beirut, Lebanon. (Click Photo)

The National Congress of OFWs and Families aims to convene OFWs and families, and other stakeholders to draw up recommendations for program development and policy direction in fostering OFW sector development, and to develop a mechanism in the implementation of the billion-peso reintegration program for enterprise development of OFWs.

The event’s highlight will be the launching of the 2 Billion Pesos Reintegration Program. This is a joint venture of the DOLE, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines. The program offers different enterprises, flexible and easy loan term payments for its OFW availees. This is in support of the president’s desire to give sustainable businesses to the OFWs and their families.

The event will also showcase exhibits of products and services of former OFWs and Overseas Filipino Circles (OFCs) who have previously availed of the reintegration programs and financial and technical assistances offered by the OWWA.

The event will also feature the presentation of the OFW Manifesto which underscores the needs and concerns of the OFWs and their families. The Manifesto was drafted from the accumulated reports of the Regional Congress of the OWWA Regional Welfare Offices.

The attendees of the event are the OFWs, their families, the OFCs, the social partners, the media and some distinguished guests.

OWWA organized this event in celebration of the national Migrant Workers Day.

Remittance power of Overseas Filipinos to drive community development


Unlad Kabayan, a migrant worker NGO, is one of the beneficiaries of Remit4Change.

Innovation to Spur Remittance-driven Development thru Corporate Social Responsibility

A new programme, called Remit4changewas launched last week by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) in partnership with the Transnational Institute for Grassroots Research & Action (TIGRA), a California-based non-governmental organization. The program promotes an enabling environment for the collective remittance practices of Filipino overseas to boost local economic development.“With this programme, we aim to develop an innovative grassroots model of migrant-centered and driven development that truly embodies President Aquino’s Public-Private Partnership strategy for national economic development,” commented Sec. Imelda Nicolas of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. “We have partnered with TIGRA to adopt and adapt its Remit4change program which will generate funding for community-based projects through principles and practices of corporate social responsibility in the money transfer industry.”

Francis Calpotura, TIGRA Executive Director said: “Every time our kababayans use a US-based money transfer company accredited by TIGRA, that company will contribute $1 to a community development project of the remitter’s choice. The remitter selects from a list of projects aimed to improve the lives of migrant families.” According to TIGRA’s estimates, in 2010 alone, Filipinos overseas transacted more than 50 million money transfers from more than 120 countries.

“We launched Remit4Change for Latin America last year, and we’re ready to replicate the program in the Philippines this year. Our partnership with CFO is a historic step in making migration an option and not a necessity for economic survival for millions of Filipinos,” added Calpotura.

“We strongly support and campaign for Remit4Change which highlights the vital role of migrants in generating corporate community reinvestments as a viable and practical model that benefits migrant communities,” commented Melanie Valenciano, Program Officer at Unlad Kabayan, a Remit4change beneficiary and the lead Philippine-based, migrant worker NGO that collaborates with TIGRA in implementing the program. “Furthermore, Remit4Change also reinforces the broader need for lower, fairer, and more transparent remittance fee-pricing that will democratize the industry.” read more>>>>

Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation?


Babalik AKO Bayan Ko!

A few months ago, I featured an excerpt of a blog entry from a former OFW who was known in the OFW Community in Riyadh. In fact we met each other in 2003 during the 1st OFW Conference on Reintegration in KSA initiated by then Labor Attaché Jainal Rasul, Jr.  Like me, he was one of the resource speakers in that conference but we haven’t got the chance to be introduced with each other.

That particular blog entry titled “Dream Big Dreams – a Gadfly’s Wish Listcaught to my attention.  It is a dream for a creation of a specific body tasked with OFW economic reintegration.  And this could only be realized through a legislation to be enacted as a law by the Philippine Congress.  

The same blog entry that inspired OFW Congress Executive Council members to pass a resolution addressed to Pnoy and VP Binay, to quote as follows:     

**“WHEREAS, some of our returning OFWs failed in their business endeavors for lack of  entrepreneurial preparation, short of knowledge in savings mobilizations and unguided investment schemes resulting into failures and bankruptcy. In view of this, we strongly believed that a separate agency or institution is necessary to handle the complex issue of OFW Economic Reintegration. In line with the Presidents’ commitment for transformational leadership and the governments’ agenda that working abroad would not be anymore a necessity for Filipinos; WE therefore urge the President to facilitate the creation of a special body whose task is to craft up policies and comprehensive approach as well as concrete mechanisms for OFW Reintegration Program.**

Three days ago Romie Cahucom in his new blog entry “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislationexplains the necessity why our Congress should pass a comprehensive OFW reintegration legislation as early as possible. What was happening in Middle East and the natural calamity that hit Japan means displacement and suffering  for our modern day heroes.  Therefore, the government must be economically prepared for the eventual return of OFWs.

Click here>>> to read more “Why We Need a Comprehensive OFW Economic Reintegration Legislation.

Maximizing the development impact of remittances


SINGLE –YEAR EXPERT MEETING ON

 MAXIMIZING THE DEVELOPMENT IMPACT OF  REMITTANCES

 Geneva, 14‐15 February 2011

 MOBILIZING THE USE OF REMITTANCES TOWARDS POVERTY  REDUCTION AND ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL  DEVELOPMENT

  THROUGH GOVERNMENT INITIATIVES:

  THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE

By

Saul DE VRIES

Deputy Director

National Reintegration Center for Overseas Filipino Workers

Department of Labour and Employment

Introduction

 Compared to its ASEAN neighbors, the Philippines has more extensive experience of sending manpower abroad. Numerous policies and programs, crafted by the government, reflect this reality. Realizing the potentials of migration for work, the Philippine government pursued its overseas employment program with the general objective of achieving economic and social benefits for Filipino migrants, their families, communities and the country as a whole.

Being one of the major labor-sending countries in the world, the Philippines ranks high in the list of top receivers of remittances from overseas. From a macro angle, foreign remittances have significantly contributed in maintaining the country’s foreign exchange reserves afloat and have become a constant source of income, which even supersedes direct foreign investments and overseas development assistance funds received by the Philippines.

Please click the UNCTAD Logo for the full text

Dream Big Dreams – A Gadfly’s Wish List


Dream Big Dreams – A Gadfly’s Wish List
By: Romie Cahucom (former OFW in Riyadh)

Dream big dreams; only big dreams have the power to move men’s souls”, the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius once said. Before the mania of the New Year season finally ends, I will hasten to add a couple of big dreams or wistful thoughts for the OFW sector.

And so, folks, bear with me for a short moment of wistful thinking. Let us dream of bigger things for this year 2011. Maybe some time this year a stroke of luck may bring us closer to the fulfillment of our desires. Or some of those in a position to act will act for us.

I only have two big dreams or wish list for the OFW sector and this concerns the ideas or line that I am most concerned about: investment literacy.

The first of this wish list is related to the last article I posted which is entitled, “A Gadfly’s Proposed OFW Resolution Calling and Urging Congress to Craft Legislation on OFW Economic Reintegration”. The dream is simply that Congress passes a law creating a specific body tasked with OFW economic reintegration. Or at least, a legislation along this line is crafted in either or both houses of Congress.

I have written about this in the last post and will elaborate on the compelling reasons and the possible structure or set up of this body in future posts. Hence, I will not dwell much about this issue in this post.

Just one last note: the body to be created by the law should be something similar to POEA and OWWA but specific to OFW economic reintegration. We leave the other aspects of reintegration (psychological, redeployment, and so forth) to DOLE. That is their line of expertise.

The second item on the wish list concerns the OFW organizations of which a myriad exists practically everywhere there is deployment – a testament to our gregariousness as a people. There are as many types as there as subsectors or interest groups: sports, social-civic, professional, regional-provincial ethnic and so forth. A small number are business and/or investment-oriented.

All these organizations, once registered with the Philippine Embassy, are officially called Accredited Community Partners or ACPs. At least, that’s what I know in the place where I used to work. Maybe other worksites have different names for the same thing.  read more>>>> 

Note: Romie Cahucom was a  former Senior Relationship Manager of a major Saudi bank, a  former long-time financial analyst and one-time Legislative Officer and  Executive Assistant of a  Senator. He finished Business Management from the University of the Philippines. He is at present engaged in financial consulting work.  

Region 8 OFWs formally organize themselves as an association


PIA Press Release
Friday, December 17, 2010

Tacloban City (December 17) — For the first time, the Overseas Filipino Workers in Eastern Visayas have organized themselves into an association, on December 17, 2010 at the OWWA Region 8 Conference Room.

OFW Alex Veloso Bello and Family during MOFYA Awarding Ceremony with H.E. Philippine President Noynoy Aquino and OFW Presidential Adviser on OFW Concerns, Vice President Jojo Binay andOWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon. Also in the photo, Globe Telecom chairman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz

Mr. Alex Bello, this year’s Model OFW Family Awardee for Region 8, land-based category, informed the Philippine Information Agency that during the OFW Family Day, upon the suggestion of Board Member Roque A. Tiu, the group decided  to meet on December 17 to formally organize into an organization.

Mr. Bello said that the OFWs could be a strong force in implementing changes in the Region, in the policies on OFWs and in helping other OFWs who are in  need, even OFWs who are now back from abroad.

With Mr. Bello is the interim President, vice presidents for every province  were also chosen. They are Teresita Contado; Reynaldo Tuazon of Samar, Rogelio  Labarrete for Northern Leyte, Araceli Sevilla for Western Leyte, and Pablito Cuizon for Biliran.

Rosario Macapugas is the Secretary while Delia Reyes isTreasurer. Batasheba Dy was chosen as the auditor and Victor Quimbo and Nida Robin are the Marshalls.

Mr. Bello who is also this year’s National Special Awardee for community  service, said that the association is named as  Pagkakaisa OFWs Families in Region 8.

The name expresses the desire of the OFWs to unite together to help Region 8 and to help other OFW families who are in need.

The little help from each member will have bigger impact when added together,  Mr. Bello said.

With the 26 years of being an OFW leader in Saudi Arabia, here is wishing Mr.  Bello and the other officers good luck in their endeavors. (PIA 8)

Open Reply to Rose


Dear Rose,

Hindi ako taga OWWA, isa rin po akong OFW na katulad ninyo. Nais ko rin pong mag for good pero hindi pa sapat ang naiipon para makapagsimula. Nakapag loan na rin ako sa OWWA pero ito ay sa contruction ng fence sa aking bahay, maliit lamang pero nakatulong na rin sa akin ang OWWA. I’ll share you a little about OWWAs OFW reintegration program.

OWWA has already an existing livelihood program for returning OFWs who don’t want to work abroad again. This program is a joint undertaking of OWWA and National Livelihood Support Fund (NLSF). The program helps OFWs to become an entrepreneur when they decide to return into the mainstream of our society. It is not just only for individuals but also to organizations. Possible business opportunities are 1) general merchandise and buy and sell, groceries etc. 2) repair shops, carenderia, parlors etc., 3) Meat and fruit processing etc 4) agri-business.

All OFWs and their dependents can avail for a loan, all you need to do is to visit OWWA Regional office near in your area. I advice you na sa ngayon palang na andito ka, papuntahin mo na ang member ng iyong pamilya or asawa para magtanong sa mga kailangan kung paano maka avail sa loan para sa pag uwi mo handa ka na sa iyong gagawin.

If ever you’re residing Laguna, instruct your family members to visit ATIKHA in San Pablo, Laguna. This NGO or Non-government organization helps OFW and OFW family members in determining viable business in your area. They will give training and assist you to start the operation. If you have time please visit this site:    http://www.atikha.org/index.php 

Good luck and please share this message to our fellow OFWs.

Salamat sa pagbisita.

Bong

P.S. To my readers and fellow OFW, I just want to share with you a Video taken at ATIKHA web site. The title of this Video  is  “Migrants’ children struggle with absence of loved ones.”

Pinoys abroad tapped to wake up sleepy town of Bohol


MARIBOJOC, Bohol–THE explorer Pigafetta would have chosen this town over Mactan had it already sported a Hollywood-like sign on its mountain ranges.

But had this town did, it may have attracted not only Pigafetta –desperate to escape after his and Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet was pummeled in the Battle of Mactan– but also other explorers who may know only Bohol because of its famed chocolate hills.

That is ultimately what this project hopes to accomplish, according to mayor Leoncio Evasco: to lure back its former residents, or at least their resources, from abroad.

MARIBOJOC’S HIDDEN TREASURE. This Is the Postan Mangrove Forest, located in the heart of the Abatan River (where a tourist can visit via a banca ride). But this forest bares century-old mangrove trees, 18 identified species of forest mangrove trees, and nipa forests. Postan is the cherished treasure of the Bohol town of Maribojoc, whose local officials plan to make this forest an eco-tourism destination for Maribojocanons abroad.OFW Journalism Consortium Photo Service

Evasco said he has secured commitment from the Maribojoc Association USA to construct a Maribojoc billboard —similar to what Hollywood in Los Angeles, USA, has— on the side of the mountain range that faces the Maribojoc Bay.

Evasco is the man behind such project that, he said, aims to raise tourism receipts and attract investors in his town, a five-minute ride northwest of Bohol’s capital city of Tagbilaran.

Evasco said he’s starting with Maribojocanons overseas as a target market.

“We want to raise awareness to the returning Maribojocanons about the town that they left, of what it has become today, and of the values and people that were lost here.”

Evasco spoke to the OFW Journalism Consortium last month to promote the project, which will be announced during the annual town fiesta on May 5.

The fiesta is the highlight of a town-wide reunion from April 10 to July 31 called Balik Maribojoc.

Considered as one major grandiose sight in the barangay of Punta Cruz in the municipality of Maribojoc, this structure with Baroque features once served as a lookout for incoming pirates for the townspeople. This tower is composed of ground and upper floors that offer a breathtaking view of the sea facing the provinces of Cebu, Siquijor and Mindanao.

Aside from announcing the construction of the Hollywood-like sign, the reunion aims to showcase some of Maribojoc’s tourist spots.

One of this is Punta Cruz, Bohol’s remaining watch tower, which deterred Spanish pirates during the 19th century.

Punta Cruz is also symbolic for overseas Filipinos and their families in Maribojoc since it is here where the germ for the town’s version of diaspora philanthropy was seeded.

Crossing

PUNTA Cruz is a historic site for the informal, town-wide group of families of overseas Filipinos who meet in this triangular, sturdy structure almost every month.

The last gathering in October of over-300 families affirmed Evasco’s belief in the possibility of tapping OFWs as source of social investment.

People just kept coming and the seats were not enough. Municipal government employee James Mabilin, then manning the entrance of the watch tower compound, couldn’t stop the influx.

The organizers said they expected representatives of only 200 migrant families.

Seafarers waiting for their next contract bankrolled lechon (roasted pig). College-schooled children of overseas Maribojocanons hosted parlor games around the grassy complex.

Amazed at the turnout, Evasco said he donated P5,000 for additional cash prizes for the parlor games.

“We never had this kind of a crowd, coming from OFWs [and their families] in our town,” Evasco said.

The parish of Maribojoc was founded in 1768, and construction of a church started 1798 and lasted 18 years. The church is located in Maribojoc town, 14 kilometers from the Tagbilaran. The place can be reached by bus of jeepney.

Still, those who joined the gathering represented only half of the total 742 overseas workers and emigrants from this town of 18,133 people.

The figure is based on Mabilin’s census of families with dependents and relatives abroad in Maribojoc’s 22 upland, lowland, and coastal villages.

While only half were represented in that gathering last year, it failed to dampen the spirit of Virginia Alindajao, 48, wife of an electrician in Saudi Arabia since 1993.

“I never realized that we OFWs and OFW families,” she said in Tagalog, “are just around waiting to get ourselves together.”

Alindajao is also one of the organizers of Punta Cruz Environmental Organization.

When the buzzword of forming an OFW group swept Maribojoc, she signed up.

Alindajao’s euphoria was shared by Laura Manuta, mayor Evasco’s sister and a former nurse in Germany and in Saudi Arabia.

Manuta is also a volunteer nurse for the Holy Cross Parish’s medical clinic since retiring in 1997.

She’s also president of the land-based OFW family circle group called the Maribojoc Land-based Migrant Workers and Beneficiaries Association.

On the other hand, the Maribojoc Seafarers and Beneficiaries Association has the town’s agricultural officer, seaman’s wife Eva Bolasco, as its head.

Stronghold

THE stronghold of Maribojoc’s OFW population, Mabilin told the OFW Journalism Consortium, is not the remittances plowing into the town, estimated to be between P52 to 84 million annually.

It is the OFW townmates’ alayon (bayanihan in Tagalog, or community spirit), Mabilin said.

Last December, the groups recommended foregoing a town-wide Christmas party to donate school supplies and slippers to children in the town’s poorest village of Candavid.

Filipino migration-and-development analysts have remarked the potential of luring the resources and bayanihan spirit of overseas Filipinos and their families right in the migrants’ rural hometowns.

Evasco and the OFW family circles that his office, the Municipal Manpower Development and Placement Office, facilitated to organize are seeking to make that spirit transform the town into an economic paradise.

Currently a fourth-class municipality whose income in 2008 was P61.358 million, this sleepy town lacked jobs, forcing some middle-class residents go to the provincial capital of Tagbilaran City, the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Cebu, Davao (like Evasco himself) and Manila, and overseas.

Overseas Maribojocanons’ remittances that pass by the town’s only two pawnshops, as well as banks and money transfer outfits in Tagbilaran City (some 14 kilometers from Maribojoc), are the single biggest economic drivers of Maribojoc, says Evasco.

The lack of vibrant economic activities apart from retail trade, fishing, and farming made Maribojoc a fifth-class municipality previously.

“Nothing wrong if you go elsewhere,” two-year mayor Evasco recalled telling some Maribojocanons during casual conversations, “but come back home and bring with you the ideas and experience you learned elsewhere.”

Maybe after the Hollywood-like sign facing the sea, some would mimic Pigafetta’s journey but not accidentally landing in this town whose name was taken from a pine tree named “Malabojoc”.  

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO ( OFW Journalism Consortium)

Governor Challenges Migrants


Governor Challenges Migrants: “Peso for Peso” to Develop Province

(Press Release) November 12, 2007, Utrecht, The Netherlands – In sharp contrast to the intense politically-charged environment in the Philippines, overseas Filipinos were pleasantly surprised by Governor Oscar Moreno’s dynamic response to a call for action for matching funds in Misamis Oriental’s development projects spearheaded by local and overseas Filipino organizational partners.

Anak Mindanao Party List Representative Cong. Mujib Hataman, Alex Bello & Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno

Anak Mindanao Party List Representative Cong. Mujib Hataman, Alex Bello & Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno

During his keynote speech at the Diaspora Convergence Conference in Amsterdam on November 2, 2007, Governor Moreno emphasized that migrants could do better by pushing the right buttons and partnering with government and local social cause-oriented, volunteer-based organizations (a.k.a. civil society). He also promised to champion development partnerships with overseas Filipino groups among his fellow governors, especially those in Northern Mindanao.

A series of events organized by diverse groups, leading to the Global Forum in Migration and Development in 2008, are expected to revive the activism and engagement that Overseas Filipino organizations displayed during the 2001-2002 campaigns for the OAV (overseas absentee vote) and dual citizenship. The conference also symbolized the coming together of Overseas Filipino leaders from three global regions – Middle East & Asia, Europe, and North America – with an agreement to support each others’ development programs and projects. The conference also recognized the changing cultural landscape in Europe, such as the need to address the second generation’s problems, gender issues, and the development of emerging community leaders. The need to dialogue with faith-based organizations and to engage them in common development efforts was also scheduled on the agenda.

The diaspora convergence conference was immediately followed by Filipinas Magazine-s Lorna Lardizabal Dietz’s book launching of Filomenita “NitNit” Mongaya-Hoegsholm’s anthology entitled “In De Olde Worlde: Views of Filipino Migrants in Europe.” Certificates of Appreciation were also given to outstanding Euro-Filipinos in The Netherlands: three Ph.D. graduates for their ground-breaking research – Dr. Rommel Bacabac, Dr. Jonathan Palero, and Dr. Arni Sicam; Sheryl Lyn Paderes-Baas, Miss Nederland 2006, for her humanitarian projects; Flora Abangan-Schuyt, for engaging in a socially-responsible business; Ricky Tuazon, for promoting Filipino dance and performance arts; Irma Galias, for promoting Filipino music and songs; and Ms. Leila Rispens-Noel, for promoting the role of the diaspora in development work.

POST-CONFERENCE ACTIVITIES

The momentum of the migrant conference, fueled by the participants’ enthusiasm, continued with post-conference activities such as networking and planning sessions. Governor Moreno, who met with Mindanao constituents, was joined by the Caucus to brainstorm on setting up a European-based development fund that could enable small business enterprises to thrive in the rural areas.

Philippine Congressman Mujiv Hataman, of AMIN or Anak Mindanao, joined the discussions and committed to explore the possibilities of mobilizing countryside development funds of his fellow representatives in Congress for the diaspora conference’s initiatives.

Governor Moreno, during a pre-departure conversation at Schiphol Airport, was asked his opinion about his Netherlands visit. He flashed that enigmatic Moreno smile and replied, “Others may have all the publicity and propaganda, but your conference convinced me that there is much that migrants like you could do. I hope other groups could do the same.”

Converging Filipino Diaspora Global Initiatives for Sustainable Development


Converging Filipino Diaspora Global Initiatives for Sustainable Development

A conference of Filipino organizations in the Netherlands entitled “Converging Filipino Diaspora Global Initiatives for Sustainable Development” will be held on November 2, 2007. Prior to the said conference the participants will be having a preliminary conference on October 29 to 30 dubbed as “The Filipino Expert’s Meeting”.

Damayan

Damayan

The general objective of the conference is to develop a common agenda towards harnessing the development potentials of migration and underline the importance of the contribution of the migrant and overseas Filipinos to the development of the Philippines, emphasizing the better use of their remittances, skills and acquired knowledge.

The participants will include Filipino organizations, especially those involved in development projects, other migrants groups based in the Netherlands and Dutch institutions concerned with migration and development. Representatives of Filipino networks from other European countries as well as from North America, Asia, Middle East and from the Philippines is also part of the conference.

Filipino resource persons will shed light on the current situation of the Philippines on a number of relevant themes related to migration and development. A Panel of Reactors composed of migrant and overseas Filipinos will share their specific responses and current initiatives.

Habagat

Habagat

Invited guest include Senator Kiko Pangilinan to speak on the role and impact of the contribution of the Filipino diaspora to the development of the Philippines. Ms. Djahlia Sitti, of the Moro Human Rights Center, a young Moro leader, will focus on the role of women in development within the context of peace-building. Writer, poet and artist Ms Mila D. Aguilar will share her insights on the evolution of Filipino culture, the current challenges in the Philippines and entrepreneurial mass movement as a response. Congressman Mujib Hataman, Anak Mindanao Party list representative will share his view on good governance in the light of the current situation of the Bangsa Moro people.

Oxpam

Oxpam

Other invited speakers are; Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias of Migration Policy Institute, Washington , DC, Leila Rispens-Noel Programme Officer, Popular Campaigning Oxfam Novib, The Netherlands, Mai Anonuevo Atikha, Philippines and Prof. Rolando G. Talampas University of the Philippines.

Guests includes Burgemeester Job Cohen the Mayor of Amsterdam, H.E. Ambassador Romeo A. Arguelles, Philippine Embassy and Minister Bert Koenders of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. Alex Veloso Bello, the President of OFW Congress-Riyadh is representing OFWs from Middle East.

The conference is a project of Habagat Foundation in cooperation with Damayang Pilipino sa Nederland, Bisayang Daku Network and core-OFW.

Habagat is a foundation put up in 1993 by Dutch citizens of Filipino origin, specifically from Mindanao. It believes in the potentials of the migrants as agents of change and development both in their countries of origin as well as in their host countries. This vision has been reflected in its lobby and advocacy efforts in synergy with various migrant and overseas Filipino networks. It has also initiated and supported development projects both in the Philippines and other developing countries, like Nepal. Its partners include migrant organizations and migrant-related institutions both in the Netherlands and elsewhere. On top of this, it has closely monitored the Mindanao situation. Aside from peace-information drives for Mindanao in the past almost 20 years, it has sent a Peace Delegation to the Philippines in December 2006 in partnership with the Multicultural Women Peacemakers Network in the Netherlands.

Damayang Pilipino sa Nederland or Damayan was registered as an organization of Filipino migrants in 1986. It is committed among others, to support initiatives of people’s organizations in the Philippines as well as to facilitate exchanges between Dutch organizations and Philippine-based groups. It has conducted and supported campaigns on migrant rights, social participation and integration as well as rallied against trafficking of women and violence at home. It has participated in various migrant lobby and advocacy work like the Absentee-Voting, Ratification of the UN Convention for the Protection of the Rights of the Migrants and their Families. Currently, in close cooperation with the local government of Magsaysay, Misamis Oriental and in partnership with community-based organizations, it has started the project Maria Goes To Town -this is establishing a market place functional to a number of neighboring villages. At the same time, it has supported a number of children to school, again in cooperation with the local governments, people’s organizations and public school officials in North Cotabato and Davao areas.

The Bisayang Daku Network or BisDak NL was established in early 1990’s among the Visayan-speaking migrant Filipinos in the Netherlands.. It has organized benefit activities to provide an occasion for the Filipino to meet and promote Filipino culture. Through these activities, BisDak raises funds for small-scale community projects in Southern Philippines.

The core-Overseas Filipinos Worldwide (Core-OFW) is a think tank of concerned individuals, migrant organizations, NGOs and other members of civil society based in Philippines, USA and Europe, each with different fields of expertise and affiliations. Its activities are facilitated by those based in the Netherlands where some of its active members come from.

Note:

For this entry and information, my heartfelt thanks to the Conference Secretariat headed by Grace Cabactulan, Habagat Foundation, Chairperson Stichting Habagat and Basco Fernandez of the Damayang Pilipino sa Nederland.

Open Letter of Appeal to Pres. GLoria M. Arroyo


Her Excellency Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Dear Madam President:

We are writing to you today to raise our concern over the continued appreciation of the peso to a level which is now hurting each and every one of us Overseas Filipinos and our families.

The following realities will help you appreciate the predicament we are in:

1) While our salaries during the last few years remained the same, our cost of living here in the Kingdom, like anywhere else, have increased.  This means less income available for remittance to our families back home;

US Dollar

US Dollar

2) The situation became worse when the peso appreciated from 55 to 45 versus US dollar during the last ten months.  The continued peso appreciation effectively reduced the value of our remittances by an average of 18%;

3) On the other hand the rising prices of commodities back home, which ironically should have decreased due to the strengthening of the peso, aggravated further the already worsening situation;

4) We estimate that with the 18% reduction in the value of our remittances plus, say a 10% increase in household expenses of families back home, an OFW who used to remit $300 monthly, will now have to send $405 to maintain his family’s current living standard. To be able to do this, he will have to work longer hours and/or tighten his belt.

5) For those of us who have planned to go back home for good within the next couple of years, will now have to reconsider our plans, and might have to extend our stay here in the Kingdom for a few more years.

Philippine Peso

Philippine Peso

We believe that a strong peso will help improve our country’s balance of payments, and allow the government to service the country’s debts at a lower cost.  However, we also believe that the gains the government will earn from its debt servicing agreements must not be at the expense of those providing those benefits.  It must not be at the expense of us Overseas Filipinos and our families.

We therefore respectfully request your good Office to look into ways and means to mitigate the negative impact of the continuing dollar decline on our remittances. Please ask the appropriate officials in your cabinet to study how the following alternatives may be implemented:

A.    Special exchange rate for OFW remittances:

B.     Peg the Peso – Dollar exchange rate at P50 to $1;

C.    Creation of an OFW Stabilization Fund, like the one proposed for the export sector;

D.    Provision of incentives or rewards based on the amount of OFW remittance, in order to encourage OFWs to continue remitting the same amount to their families.

We believe that with enough political will, your good Offices will be able to find a solution to this problem which is most equitable to all affected parties.

Thank you for your time, and may God bless you and your family.

Respectfully Yours,

 

THE FILIPINO COMMUNITY LEADERS IN RIYADH