A Filipino migrant workers group on Wednesday criticized President Benigno Simeon Aquino III for his alleged offensive comment against overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday.
Dolores Balladares, chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, accused Aquino of allegedly showing contempt toward Filipinos who opted to work overseas.
She also said Aquino ignored a personal letter that their group sent him before his SONA where they asked for better protection of OFWs.
“We detest the implication that OFWs chose to serve foreigners instead of their countrymen,” Balladares said.
“We protest the underlying contempt of President Aquino towards migrants who had no choice but to work overseas, separated from our families and communities, because the past and the present administration failed miserably to provide jobs and livelihood and denied basic social services to the Filipino people,” she added.
In his SONA on July 25, Aquino urged Filipinos to express gratitude to nurses who serve in the country when they could work abroad for a higher salary.
The President also said Filipino students must thank their teachers who chose to teach in the country instead of abroad.
Dependent on OFW remittances
Balladares reminded Aquino that the Philippine economy is dependent on overseas Filipino workers’ remittances, which account for a third of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
“It is quite outrageous that he has the guts to deride our contribution to the economy through billions of dollars in remittances and to treat us with disdain despite earning huge profits through the mandatory insurance, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration membership fees, and employment agency fees,” Balladares said.
In his SONA, Aquino said under his leadership, Filipinos now have the option to work in thet Philippines or pursue employment abroad.
Balladares said Aquino “is out of touch from the reality that more than 4,000 Filipinos are leaving the country every day to work abroad.”
“Had he visited the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Ortigas office, he would see a sea of Filipinos enduring bureaucratic processes and mountains of fees just so a livelihood can be had by their families,” Balladares said.
Instead of indulging in rhetorics, Balladares said the Aquino government must act on OFWs’ pressing concerns and define a “matuwid na daan” that provides welfare and rights protection for OFWs. – VVP, GMA News