Yesterday June 7, 2006, in line with Migrant Workers Day, Center for Migrant Advocacy SOS SMS ADS was launch at Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. (For info about SOS SMS, see related link of the news item dtd. 15/02/06 posted at PCIJ by Alecks Pabico.
Last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported about 22,000 cases of distressed migrants that the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) attended to. The figure may be minuscule, less than one percent of the total number of overseas Filipinos, but the DFA admits that cases of abuse and violations of human and migrant rights are largely underreported, not reported, or documented but not acted upon.
Presently, the task of protecting our migrant workers and other overseas Filipinos is in the hands of 83 embassies and consulates, 33 Philippine overseas labor offices and 32 welfare officers, including Filipino workers resource centers in 17 countries.
With new technologies though, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have developed an ingenious way to address their work-related concerns, especially when their lives, safety or well-being are in danger. Yesterday the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) launched and activated an SOS SMS information system for distressed OFWs – a cheap, 24/7 text-based mechanism capitalizing on the ubiquity of the mobile phone to enable them to relay and report situations that warrant immediate relief, action, or intervention by the Philippine government and NGOs working for migrant workers welfare.
Ellene Sana & CMA Staff
CMAs Ellene Sana says the SOS SMS project, done in coordination with its various NGO partners worldwide, as well as the DFA-OUMWA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), is significant as (it) gives government agencies and NGOs the opportunity to respond and/or intervene in a timely, adequate and efficient manner, particularly where either the OFWs life, safety or well-being is a critical consideration.
OFWs in need of help or assistance can simply send the following message:
SOS <space> message, name of sender
to +63 9209 OFW SOS (+63 9209639 767). The message is received by the SOS SMS system where it is logged and stored in a central database housed in a computer maintained in Quezon City. Once sent, the text message gets auto-forwarded to designated recipient cellphones at the CMA, DFA-OUMWA and OWWA where it is verified and eventually given appropriate action.
The SOS SMS reporting system, says Sana, is also a useful research tool as it logs critical message details to serve as initial case-file documentation that will help in developing research leads, classifying and analyzing OFWs various problems and related concerns.