BINAY: GOV’T SHOULD NOT NEGLECT OFWs

Vice President Jejomar C. Binay said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) should not be neglected by the government.

“Hindi natin maaaring hindi bigyan ng atensyon ang ating OFWs. Dalawa lamang ang naging dahilan kung bakit gumanda ang ating ekonomiya at isa po rito ay ‘yong remittance ng ating mga kababayan. Kaya nga tinatagurian ‘yang bagong bayani,” Binay, the former presidential adviser on OFW concerns, said following a three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

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He stressed that the problem on illegal recruitment and undocumented workers should be given attention and carefully studied by the government.

“Kailangang upuan, pag-aralan. Hindi maaring habam-buhay magiging problema ‘yan. Isang dahilan kung bakit hindi accurate ang figures ng pamahalaan tungkol sa kung gaano karami ba ang OFWs, lalo na ‘pag nagkakaroon ng krisis sa Libya at sa Syria, ay dahil doon sa undocumented [workers],” he said.

“Kailangan upuan siguro talaga iyang pag-alis ng mga undocumented OFWs. Halimbawa, sa aking palagay kaya nangyayari [iyong maltreatment] ay dahil sa alam ng employer na undocumented ito. Kaya ito pwedeng takutin, o kaya [pinagmamalupitan],” he added.

“Palibhasa undocumented nga, iyong mga passport hawak-hawak ng employer, kaya ba kapag naga-abscond, umaalis doon sa tinitirhang bahay, hindi makakaalis iyon (ng bansa),” he further said.

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Binay recalled the pre-departure verification implemented by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) during his term as chairman emeritus and said most undocumented workers leave the country as tourists and get recruited abroad.

“Itong undocumented na ito ay marami, nanggagaling sa Zamboanga, nadadaan sa Malaysia. O kaya naman sa airport natin, magmamang-maangang turista, pupunta kunwari sa Bangkok, pupunta sa Kuala Lumpur. Doon na makikipag-usap sa illegal recruiters,” he said.

“For a time, chairman [emeritus] ako ng IACAT, ang dami namang nape-prevent umalis kasi tinatanong saan pupunta. ‘Turista po.’ ‘Turista ka, ha? Meron ka bang ticket na pabalik?’ ‘Wala.’ So, medyo mahuhuli mo na ‘yon. Naalala ko nga ‘yong pitong madri-madrehan noon. Nakasuot ng [pang-]madre, pero nakasuot ng mamahalin, naka-[nail polish]. Paano ka maniniwala na madre nga ‘yon. On the part ng Pilipinas, malaki na ‘yong nape-prevent natin. Pero, naroon pa rin ang problema dahil sa nakakalabas na turista,” he added.

The Vice President also asked Senator Nancy Binay to look into allocating a budget for undocumented workers.

“Actually ‘yong huling budget, I proposed to increase the legal assistance fund, but unfortunately it was vetoed by the president,” the younger Binay said.

The Vice President said he hopes the UAE will soon implement a unified contract for household service workers (HSWs) similar to help improve the working conditions of OFWs and prevent undocumented workers.

The Philippines and UAE are currently in talks on the Memorandum of Understanding on Labor and on Household Service Workers (HSWs) Unified Contract.

“Ang isa doon ay tungkol sa verification, Naalala ko na ngayon, ‘yong verification ng mga dokumento and in principle, pumapayag na sila,” he said.

Binay said he called up Labor Secretary  Rosalinda Baldoz during his meeting with UAE Labor Minister Shaqr Ghobash so the two could talk directly.

“Noong magpapalitan pa ata ng sagutan, ang ginawa ko dito, nag-usap sila mismo ng Secretary of Labor, si Secretary Baldoz. Oo, pinag-usap ko sila sa telepono,” Binay said.

The Vice President said he hopes the unified contract for HSWs would be similar to what Saudi Arabia is now implementing.

“Ang Saudi Arabia ngayon ang model, sumunod ang Saudi Arabia doon sa resolution yata ng ILO (International Labour Organization). Ang Saudi Arabia pumayag na ang minimum wage is $400,” he said.

Binay said OFWs abscond from their jobs because of the less than desirable working conditions they deal with, adding that OFWs are maltreated because their employers know they are undocumented.

He reminded Filipinos seeking to work abroad to go through the correct and legal process and only deal with agencies and people duly accredited by the government.

“Lagi nating pagdidiinan, mga kababayan, kung kayo po ay nagbabalak na maging OFW, makipag-usap po kayo sa accredited agencies. Mas mabuti siguro na tumawag kayo sa POEA [para malaman] kung accredited po ba ‘yan. Pangatlo, kung ang usapan ay sa abroad mag-uusap, tiyak na lokohan na ‘yon,” he said.

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He said he hopes someday Filipinos would leave the country as a matter of choice and not necessity.

“Sana ang mga kababayan natin ay hindi ba umaalis dahil sa necessity. Kapit lang sa patalim. Sana mangyari na dumami ang matatrabaho sa ating bansa at hindi na makaisip mangibang-bansa,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Vice President said he suggested to UAE officials the possibility of adding a collegiate level to the Philippine Global School in Abu Dhabi.

Naimungkahi namin sa kanila na baka naman pwede na tayong magkaroon ng collegiate level kasi dito sa ngayon, hanggang high school lang tapos umuuwi na sa Maynila. Sabi ng isang minister, magandang pagkakataon ‘yon,” he said.

“Maganda ‘yong sinabi ng isang minister. He finds Filipinos ‘the most wonderful human beings,’” he added.

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