Author: A PINAS FIRST Paper, 6 March 2006

Today, there are 8.1 million Filipinos outside  the country, nearly 10 percent of 85 million people, either working and/or residing in more than 150 countries. Of the 8.1 million, 3.2 million are permanently settlers of the host countries, majority of whom are in the United States, 3.6 million are temporary migrants or overseas contract workers, and 1.3 million are undocumented or in an unauthorized situation.  This figure will more likely to increase because of the government (un)declared labor export policy (LEP) and there is already a culture of migration, " millions of Filipinos are eager to work abroad, despite the risks and vulnerabilities they are likely to face" (Asis 2006),  In 2002, a nationwide survey of 1200 adult respondents found that one in five or 20 percent of Filipinos want to go abroad. In 2005 Pulse Asia surveys found an increasing percentage of adult respondents: 26 percent in July and 33 percent in October, would like to migrate to another country and live there.  Not suprisingly, the younger population expressed the same sentiment. A nationwide survey of children ages 10 to 12 in 2003 reported that 47 percent wanted to work abroad someday and 60 percent of children of migrant workers also expressed similar intention.  On remittances, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that Filipino migrants remitted 7.6 billion US dollar in 2003 and were up  8.5 billion US dollar in 2004, an increase of  12 percent. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas further said it expects remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW's) this year (2006) to hit 13.5 billion US dollar, roughly 10 percent more than the estimated 12.3 billion US  dollar in 2005.  On the other hand, according to the World Bank, the Philippines is the 5th largest recipient of remittances ( 11.6 billion US dollar) in 2004. Other countries reported with much higher remittances were: India with 21.7 billion US dollar, followed by China with 21.3 billion US dollar, Mexico, 18.1 billion US dollar, and  France, 12.7 billion US dollar.  Development of the Labor Export Policy (LEP)  President Marcos started the overseas employment program or the labor export policy (LEP) in 1974 as part of the Martial Law plan of upgrading labor with the passage of the Labor Code of the Philippines. Obviously, it has the following objectives:  -         To lessen the impact of the double digit unemployment level which in effect partly       solved the restiveness of the army of unemployed.  -         To increase foreign exchange earnings and dollar reserve through the remittances of migrant workers.    In 1982, to systematize the export of Filipino labor force, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) was established which is actually a merging of the National Seamen Board (NSB), Bureau of Employment Services (BES) and Overseas Employment Development Board (OEDB). Today, POEA is the government agency responsible for processing overseas contract workers and predeployment checks, as well as licensing, regulating and monitoring private recruitment agencies.  President Marcos implemented Executive Order 857 or notoriously called "force remittance". Migrant Filipinos in Hongkong, Saudi Arabia, Europe as well as institutions in the Philippines welcome this EO by a massive protest action, that pressure the administation to remove punitive provisions.  In 1986, President  Aquino in her 5-year economic recovery program continued the policy of exporting labor, to get the necessary dollar   from the remittances of migrant workers. Under her government Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) was created. Every migrant worker is required to pay 25 US dollar in its assistance program and P 900 for the medicare. Other government fees introduced and implemented by the Aquino administration were: P 1,620 Travel Tax, P 500 (now P 550) Airport Tax and P800 Mandatory Insurance and Repartriation Bond (MIRB) in response to the repartriation of stranded migrants at the Gulf War in 1991.  When President Ramos assumed the Presidency in 1992 he continued the labor export policy through his Medium Term Philippine Development Program (MTPDP) wherein one of the major source of the program is also the remittances of migrant Filipinos. Under MTPDP President Ramos widely opened the Philippine economy to foreign businesses through the Foreign Investment Act. As a result of the this law, foreigners in the country can now own up to 100 percent of the business.  In the APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Conference) Ministerial meeting held in the Philippines in 1993 President Ramos advocated the need to have "Internationally Shared Human Resources". Meaning the Asian countries must have an open immigration policy, that is to have a free flow of migrants, the sources of cheap labor. In other words, commodification of labor force.  In 1995, to cover up the bad image of the Philippine government as a result of the campaign to save the life of Flor Contemplation, the Ramos administration came-out an overnight bill, the Magna Carta of Migrants Workers, latter on called as Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 or RA 8042. Actually, RA 8042 is just a show case of the programs of POEA, OWWA, DFA and DOLE. In effect the export of Filipino labor force is now deregulated, meaning in the hands of private agencies or recruitment agencies and the role of POEA is just a monitoring agency.  The same labor export policy (LEP) was adopted by President Estrada when he assumed the Office of the President of the Phillipines in 1997. He made it look better by promoting an agency specializing training of workers prior to employment either domestic or international, the Technical Education and Skill Development Authority (TESDA). TESDA assured to have   "quality product" according to the Job-Fair Program of DOLE and DTI. To raise more income for the government, President Estrada implemented EO 197, an increased of additional 10 percent in all fees collected by government agencies, inside and outside the country, i.e., Philippine Embassies and its attached agencies. His administration also tried to implement OWWA Resolution 99-016 collecting 25 US dollar membership fee each year from every overseas contract worker. The original OWWA membership fee collect 25 US dollar only once.  Because of the anti-people and anti-migrant policy of President Estrada, the Filipino people started and decided to launch series of protest actions. What made it more revolting   are the issues of unabated corruption, cronyism, jueteng scandal and other anti-social activities of President Estrada, that further resolved firmly the people to march in what we called now as people power EDSA II.  When Glora Macapagal Arroyo became Prseident in 2001, she admitted that the Philippine economy is not yet ready to absorb the million of Filipinos working overseas and that they should continue to work abroad. She even declared migrants as "New Economic Heroes" and further said that for the foreseeable future Philippine economy will still be heavily dependent on overseas workers' remittances.    Summary and Conclusion Philippine government continuously denying their labor export policy. In fact, in the Declaration of Policies of RA 8042, it stated that "the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development." They are also saying that it is the migrant themselves who opted to go abroad for much higher salary and better benefits, to give better life to their family. In this light, the government was able to comouflage the essential roots and their role on the diaspora or massive migration of Filipinos to other countries.  Historically, migration are a common option, that is to look for greener pasture and it is a basic human rights especially when opportunities for all to have a just and decent job is very limited in the country and there is oppression and exploitation.  Filipinos would rather stay in our country had there are available jobs that are just and decent. Migrants will not leave the country just to work and earn a living. They will just stay , work and help develop our country with their loved ones. This is the truth that no one can deny. There is no better place than staying and living in our own Inang Bayan.  Essentially, all past Presidents starting from President Marcos to the present administration of President Arroyo are trying to cover up their policy of exporting labor to other countries. But what actually they are doing is commodification of labor force, meaning selling migrants as commodities to other countries. This is being done through using migrants income as an item of foreign exchange earnings of the government. Migrants are used as an export commodities, like toys, Levis pants or Nike shoes that are being processed in our country and are exported to industrialized countries. This is being done by the government despite their knowledge that migrants are human beings.  Labor export policy (LEP) is a concrete example on how the privileged class maintain their power by exploiting and oppressing Filipino people particularly the migrants.  Accordingly, "the loss of hope and scarcity of opportunity to find stable source of livelihood that is humane and dignified forced million of Filipinos to migrant in other   countries" (PINAS FIRST primer). And clearly, LEP is a government program utilized by the privileged class to serve its own interest to push million of Filipinos to work overseas.  Recommendation The reasons why the Philippine government denies such LEP exist must be probed. Moreover, the obvious objectives must likewise be probed and perused , i.e.,  
  • lessen the impact of double digit inflation vis-a-vis restiveness of the army of unemployed as well as the current survey (IBON Foundation) that says 83.09 percent of Filipinos are dissatisfied with the performance of President Arroyo; and
  • increase foreign exchange & dollar reserve in the light of the recent admission of President Arroyo that the Philippine economy is not yet ready to absorb million of Filipinos working abroad, besides being heavily dependent on overseas workers' remittances,
In this light, what should be the right/correct policy of the Philippine government in regard to migration. Perhaps, it is about time the government direct is focus on developing a truly genuine nationalist industrialization. It will be noted that " Nationalist industrialization played an important role in creating and providing adequate employment and was vital to attain full employment for the last four decades in Austria" (Sarmiento, 2004).  Since only limited number of migrant Filipinos appreciates and give importance on this issue, discussion of this nature is encourage  in every migrant community organization here in   Austria.  References: The Philippines' Culture of Migration by Maruja MA Asis, Scalabrini Migration Center- Philippines, January 2006  Pinoy in Austrian Society For Integrity, Reforms and Social Transformation (PINAS FIRST) Primer  Ang Migrasyong Pilipino (Isinalarawan) Education and Research Program   (ERP), Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos (APMMF) Case Study on the Development of Filipino Migrants Movement in Some Selected Countries in the Asia Pacific & Middle East Regions.  A Comparative Study of the Trade Union Experiences in Austria and in the Philippines by Manuel L. Sarmiento, University of the Philippines School of Labor and Industrial Relations (UP-SOLAIR), Diliman, Quezon City, September, 2004  Manila Standard, 9 January 2006 and 17 November 2005 The Manila Times, 17 April 2005