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PMSC statement on the State-of-the nation under NoyNoy Aquino
July, 2012

Thousands of Filipinos leave the Philippines everyday to work in low-paid, difficult and dangerous jobs in over 200 countries, far away from their families and friends. In 2005, migration hit the 1 million mark and the number of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) continues to rise. They are forced to leave their homeland and seek a future elsewhere because of low wages, a lack of jobs and access to land.

What is NoyNoy Aquino doing about this? Since 2010 when he took power, joblessness has increased. Daily wage rates are still below (43%) what families need to survive. Prices of electricity, water, gas and food are skyrocketing. Poverty is still the reality for 70% of the Filipino population, who subsist on P104 per day or less. Many families cannot afford to send their children to school, and struggle to feed their children to keep them healthy. It is estimated that roughly 30-40 percent of Filipino families are dependent on remittances. They simply cannot survive without remittances from 12 to 15 million migrant Filipinos who are forced to work overseas due to widespread unemployment and poverty back home.

The roots of joblessness and poverty remain intact. NoyNoy’s policy on public-private partnerships (PPPs) only facilitates the entry of foreign-owned companies to build infrastructure and provide services that the government should provide to their citizens – roads, bridges, public utilities, schools and health facilities. Through PPPs, badly needed infrastructure and services will increasingly be under the control of foreign corporations. The door is open to mining companies that poison our land and water, and displace communities, farmers and indigenous peoples. He welcomes business process outsourcing (BPOs) such as call centres and tourism that do not create sustainable jobs. Special economic zones are open to foreign companies so they make huge profits from paying low wages to Filipinos whose labour rights are trampled day after day. None of these policies create sustained job growth or national industries that benefit the majority of Filipinos.

The much-publicized Conditional Cash Transfers (CCTs) that provide US-funded financial assistance to needy families is only a drop in the bucket – 4.6 million families out of 12.9 million very poor families are targeted to receive money for 5 years on the condition that their children receive preventive health care and enrol in school. Without tackling the fundamental problems of the economy, millions who are barely surviving will continue to live in very difficult conditions. In fact, the increase in NoyNoy’s budget for social services is not for schools, hospitals and other needed infrastructure. Nor is it for the salaries of teachers and health workers. It is to implement CCTs to create the illusion that he is addressing poverty.

Landlessness is a continuing reality for the majority of Filipinos, whose lives are tied to the land. Not only is NoyNoy implementing the flawed land reform programs of previous governments, but has done less compared to previous Presidents to re-distribute the land that fall under the very limited scope of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) initiated by Corazon Aquino. His own Hacienda Luisita remains untouched by land re-distribution, despite Supreme Court decisions to the contrary.

Although anti-corruption has been a flagstone of NoyNoy’s regime, not a single case has been filed against his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Meanwhile, he has given concerted effort to silencing the voices of the people by violating their basic human rights. Since he took power, there have been almost a hundred extra-judicial killings, and many cases of enforced disappearances, torture, rape, illegal arrests and detention. Through Oplan Bayanihan, NoyNoy has resorted to brutal repression of people’s resistance, while fooling the masses through socio-economic projects such as CCTs. The situation is getting worse, not better!PMSC STATEMENT ON THE 2011 STATE-OF-THE NATION ADDRESS OF PRESIDENT NOYNOY AQUINO
August 30, 2011

On July 24, 2011 President NoyNoy Aquino proudly spoke about the achievements of his government in the past year.  These so-called achievements, however, are not even close to what needs to be done to solve the fundamental problems that push many Filipinos to find jobs in other countries.

In 2010, over 4,000 Filipinos left the country each day swelling the ranks of overseas Filipinos now estimated at 12 million. By the end of that year, migrant Filipinos have sent home over US$18 billion in remittances. We are indeed the ‘modern heroes’ of our country.  But what do Filipino migrants get in return?  What is being done to change the conditions that push us to leave our families behind?

In this year’s budget, a meagre amount has been allocated to direct services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs): less than 1% of the P1.8 trillion budget is set aside to directly serve the OFWs who now represent over 10% of the country’s population.  No funds are allocated to assist nationals for repatriation and medical care.  There is little money for the Legal Assistance Fund to help OFWs in distress - P30 million falls far short of the P100 million required by law.  Yet we know that OFWs continue to send money to keep their families and the flagging economy afloat, and at the same time provide badly needed foreign exchange to pay the foreign debt. Overseas Filipinos continue to pay to the costs of services they need through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) fund, POEA fees, passport fees and other paper requirements for migration.  But why do we get so little?

For an ailing economy that has been a root cause of Filipino migration, the answer of President Aquino is Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). In reality, what this means is more opportunities for private companies, many of them foreign-owned, and a handful of rich families to reap huge profits from construction, power, energy and transport projects.  The jobs in these sectors disappear once these companies close down their operations, and force even more of us to seek work abroad.  Private control of our water, electricity, transport and energy sectors has meant rising prices that cause more hardship to the majority.  Privatization has gone hand in hand with the designation of special economic zones all over the country that offer a tax-free haven where the rights and profits of foreign investors are guaranteed. Meanwhile, workers get less than the minimum wage, face hazardous working conditions and get fired when they assert their rights.

 

For Aquino’s government, reducing poverty and improving the lives of Filipinos is about giving cash to roughly 2 million families to improve the health and education of their children, or providing housing to soldiers and the police force, while ignoring the rest of the population. It is about changing the poverty cut-off line so less people can be considered poor.  Reducing unemployment is about manipulating the definition of employment so less people can be counted as unemployed.  It is about dealing with corruption and human rights violations of political rivals, but not his own.

 

Is this the solution?  We say NO! We have to stop putting our public services and economy up for sale to foreign and big business at the expense of Filipinos. We have to stop skyrocketing prices in jeepney fares, gasoline, rice, water and electricity that lead to more hardship and poverty.  We say no to low-wage jobs, bad working conditions and insecure employment produced by low-wage electronics, assembly, business outsourcing/call centres and agri-business industries. We say no to opening up our lands to foreign-controlled mining operations that destroy the livelihoods of farmers and the environment.  We say no to the use of our rich agricultural land mainly for export while Filipinos starve.  We say no to imperialist foreign control!

What we need is national industries and public services that create secure jobs with decent wages and benefit our economy!  What we need is genuine land reform so peasants/farmers can own the land they till! What we need is democracy that serves the interests of the majority!    (complete report card in PDF format)

MIGRANTE CANADA
November 22, 2010
MIGRANTE CANADA LAUNCHED!
Calls for genuine change and unity to fight for the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and their families.
Sixteen Filipino migrant organizations from coast to coast gathered in Ottawa, Ontario on November 20 to 21 to be part of the Founding Congress of Migrante Canada.
With the theme "Advance the struggle for genuine change: Fight for the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants and their families," delegates and observers from Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Eastern Ontario, Western Ontario and the Atlantic Region approved and ratified the constitution and by-laws of Migrante Canada, agreed on a two-year General Plan of Action and united on their position, critique and recommendations on Canada's Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Migrante Canada believes that Filipino migrants deserve the greatest promotion and protection of their rights wherever they are. It recognizes that any meaningful work of arousing, organizing and mobilizing must be part and parcel of the Filipino people's struggle for national freedom and democracy.
Foremost among the specific recommendations approved at its founding congress is to advocate for the Canadian government to give temporary foreign workers who are in the current program the option to apply for permanent resident status in Canada. On work permits, delegates called on the Canadian government to make the work permits not employer-specific. Doing so will give the workers relative freedom from abusive and exploitative employers and working conditions. Migrante Canada will also launch a vigorous campaign for the Canadian government to ratify the U.N. Conventional for the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Their Families.

The Congress also passed special resolutions, one of which called on members of the Canadian parliament to reject Bill C-49. There is growing opposition among human rights and migrant advocates and grassroots organizations to the bill that ostensibly aims to address human smuggling but punishes the victims of trafficking instead. The congress also resolved to send a Canadian delegation to the Migrante International Assembly to be held in the Philippines in 2011.

Elected as Migrante Canada Executive Committee officers are Chair Maru Maesa, Vice-Chair Ana Cagas, Secretary General Christopher Sorio, Deputy Secretary General Isidro De Guzman, and Treasurer Joanne Marie Amora-Mercado. The congress also elected regional and provincial representatives to the Country Council.
In her acceptance speech, Maru Maesa asserted, "It is illusory for us to expect that the Philippine or the Canadian government, or any government for that matter, will hand us our rights on a silver platter. To be able to enjoy our rights and ensure our well being, we need to unite and fight for these. And fight we will!

Messages of solidarity and support were received from other Migrante chapters, labour unions, political representatives and Philippine sectoral organizations. The message from Filipino organizations in Southern California accurately described the significance of the Founding Congress: "This historic day signifies a firm resolve towards greater unity for the Filipino community in Canada, a unity that was built over decades of struggle, not just for our rights and welfare, but for what is right in the direction of the overall struggle of the Filipino people."

For further information please contact:
Christopher Sorio, Secretary General Migrante Canada
Tel: 416-828-0441
Email: secgenmigrantecanada@gmail.com
Website: www.migrante.ca
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December 16, 2009

Toronto, Canada

Juana Tejada Law and other changes to LCP: Victory to all caregivers

“Orthodox historians have presented history as a succession of exploits of eminent personalities, leading many of us to regard history as the product of gifted individuals. …. We must discard the belief that we are incapable of producing the heroes of our epoch, that heroes are exceptional beings, accidents of history who stand above the masses and apart from them. The true hero is one with the masses: … does not exist above them. In fact, a whole people can be heroes given the proper motivation and articulation of their dreams.”   (Renato Constantino, Veneration without Understanding)

The people and the people alone make their own history. In the end, it is they who are the real heroes. And so the caregivers with different sectors of the community, through their own campaigns, in different forms and across the country scored victories.

In this context, Migrante-Ontario welcomes the proposed new regulations to the Live-in Caregiver Program announced last Saturday, December 12 by Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenny. 

The proposed changes include the Juana Tejada Law which eliminates the required second medical examination for caregivers when applying to become permanent residents in Canada. 

This is indeed a great honour for the late Juana Tejada who, together with Migrante-Ontario and its allied organizations, and the Independent Workers’ Association, advocated for the elimination of the second medical requirement so that other caregivers would not suffer the same sad experience she had went through.

It was Juana Tejada who exposed this ambiguity in the immigration system.  She risked her status and fought the threat of deportation so that other caregivers like her could have better protection of their rights.  It was she who, with the help of her lawyer Raffy Fabregas and numerous advocates and activists and the community in general, pushed the immigration officials to act in the right direction.  If there is someone to be called “champion and hero” for the gains caregivers just won, it was Juana Tejada.  She is, in this sense, a true “champion and hero” of the Filipino people in Canada.      

Other significant changes include: eligibility of caregivers to apply for residency after completing 3,900 hours of employment done in a minimum of 22 months;   allowing caregivers to use part [10% only] of their overtime work to be counted in the new hours-based calculation; allowing caregivers to complete the work requirement from three to four years; requiring employers to pay for “travel cost for live-in caregivers to come to Canada, medical insurance until live-in caregivers become eligible for provincial health coverage, and workplace safety insurance and any recruiting fees owed to third parties;” setting up of a dedicated telephone hotline for caregivers; emergency processing of work permits; and, blacklisting of erring employers for two years.

Minister Kenney’s announcement came a few days after the Ontario Parliament passed Bill-210 into law. The new Employment Protection for Foreign Nationals Act bans employment agencies or recruiters from charging live-in caregivers placement or recruitment fees.  It also prohibits the practice of taking a caregiver's personal documents such as a passport or work permit.

These initiatives – both federal and provincial - bring significant changes to the LCP.  We say this is a victory for all caregivers and the community. 

Still let us not forget that implementation of these new measures requires our vigilant monitoring.  And while there is reason for us to rejoice, celebrating this as a victory in the right direction, we continue to exert efforts working towards other fundamental changes to the LCP like making the live-in requirement optional, issuing job-specific instead of employer-specific work-permits, looking into acceptable wage rates, ensuring the safety and well-being of caregivers for the duration of their stay in the employers’ home, among other things.  We then reserve our right to comment on the proposed regulations during its 30-day comment period.

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Visit: migrante.ca/on and migrante.ca
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Migrante-Ontario member organizations:
Filipino Migrant Workers' Movement; AWARE; Philippine Advocacy Through Arts and Culture (PATAC); Damayan Migrant Education and Resource Center; Migrante Youth; Migrant Workers and Family Resource Center - Hamilton; Pilipinong Migrante sa Canada (PMSC) - Ottawa; Pilipinong Migrante sa Barrie (PMB) - Barrie