Friday, February 01, 2008

From Heroes To Milking Cows

After gallivanting and globe-trotting her way around the globe, Gloria happily announced that thousands of jobs await our OFWs abroad. Soon after, POEA announced that direct hiring by several interested countries have started to come in. This was certainly good news for our countrymen who seek economic relief from Gloria's touted economic program.

It's no secret that OFW remittances have been our country's saving grace. And Gloria is not about to let a goldmine slip through her hands. So she embarked on a human trafficking expo to send our workforce abroad. Perhaps she thought that this would mean more dollars to keep her so-called "economic momentum" going. But direct hiring may have stepped on too many influential toes and hurt the recruitment industry.

To assuage her fuming "friends" and to probably strike while the iron is hot, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has devised a unique and covert way of extorting money not only from our OFWs but from their employers as well. In comes POEA's Memorandum Circular No. 4, series of 2007. Not only does this ensure income, but it also frees the POEA of financial responsibilities. While the provisions may look good on paper, the fact remains that no employer in his right mind would just let go of such a huge amount.

Every OFW is charged the following by the POEA:
POEA Processing Fee - $100.00
OWWA Membership Fee - $25.00
OWWA Medicare - P900.00

The Lebanon-Israel conflict showed how unprepared the POEA was and exposed the misuse of the OWWA funds. With the number of OFWs now deployed and those waiting for their deployment, you can just imagine how many billions of pesos the government is making from our gallant OFWs. The new POEA memo would definitely add billions more. Its one thing to ensure that our OFWs are taken cared of by their host countries, but the government has no right make milking cows of our countrymen.

The need to paint a beautiful picture of our country's economy should not come from the blood, sweat and tears of all Filipinos. The government should be sincere, transparent and honest. It should not make us pay because of government corruption. To hell with investment ratings, these are simply tools to allow this government to borrow more which in turn pushes us deeper in the quagmire of debt. OFWs have burdened themselves enough. What more does this government want from them? They are sending their dollars home, they have spurred our consumer-driven economy and have encouraged small business development.

Now the memo instead of safeguarding our OFWs have now placed their jobs in peril. Employers will now look to other countries for their employees. Jester-in-Exile, a fellow idealist has an interesting take on this latest money-making venture by the POEA. I too wonder for whose benefit this memo really is? OFWs in Italy and Hong Kong are up in arms. I couldn't blame them, they would be greatly affected by this circular.

I am all for ensuring our OFWs get a fair treatment and benefits, but the government must not unburden itself of its responsibilities to our OFWs. If the POEA stands fast on this memorandum, I hope the government is prepared to repatriate the affected OFWS and face a huge unemployment and economic crisis.