The President’s two disconcerting orders PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 February 2018 13:25

On the surface, many agree with President Duterte’s executive order to totally ban the deployment of OFWs to Kuwait. Such order was implemented due to the many abuses committed by Kuwaiti employers against Filipino OFWs. The straw that broke the camel’s back was when a Filipina domestic helper from Iloilo was murdered and her body concealed inside a freezer which was discovered a year later.

Yes. Enough is enough and these countless abuses must stop.

But digging deeper into the wisdom of this total ban, such move will show that it is counterproductive that would affect our economy and the lives of thousands of unemployed Filipinos who can’t find jobs in this troubled country and destroy their dreams to earn enough to support their family and improve their living conditions which they can’t have here.

The President’s decision is impulsive, hastily implemented without further serious study on the matter. Indubitably, it can’t solve this pesky perennial problem. Foremost, these Filipino “unsung heroes” greatly help and sustain our economy. Their remittances, amounting to billions of US dollars, are bigger than the amount of foreign investments poured into the country. If we dig deeper into this problem, it will show that it is a problem of our own making.

The OFWs recruited by recruitment agencies are told to sign employment contracts that indicate their monthly salaries (usually in US dollars), the benefits they are entitled, and the duration of the contract which is usually 24 months. These contracts are supposed to be approved by the OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration). But after arriving in their assigned country, they are told again to sign new contracts by their foreign employers which are in strange Arabic language that they don’t understand. Nowhere to go and after spending a fortune to land their jobs in a foreign country, they have no recourse but to sign the new contract rather than to be repatriated back to the Philippines. Usually, the contracts will lower the rates of salaries agreed upon by the recruitment agencies in the Philippines and the poor OFWs. Worse, when the foreign principal wanted to exploit the services of the underpaid OFWs, they would extend the agreed period of employment (24 months) without informing and approval of the local recruitment agency. With the expiration of their contracts, the OFWs are no longer protected in their employment. This is the time when most of the abuses are committed by the foreign principals because they are no longer protected by the provisions of an employment contract.

These abuses could have been prevented if our Labor Officers in said countries perform their jobs as mandated. Many OFWs complain that whenever they report abuses and maltreatments committed by the foreign employers, the Labor Officer would side with the latter, leaving the Filipino workers nowhere to seek redress for the acts committed by their foreign employers against them. The recruitment agencies, mainly responsible for the deployment of the Filipino OFWs, would not even inquire, check, and investigate whether the latter have completed their contracted period of employment. Extending such period is illegal without the approval of the OWWA.

Under these foregoing circumstances, the OWWA should be ordered to monitor and strictly implement the employment contracts agreed between them and the OFWs. Once there are violations on the provisions of the contract, to report them to the labor agencies of the countries of deployment relative to such violations. In this manner, double employment contracts which are detrimental and violative of the rights and benefits of the OFWs would be eliminated.

As things stand now, our OWWA Labor Officers are not minding and monitoring the employment of our OFWs. They would even side with the foreign principals allegedly because of monetary considerations.

The local recruitment agencies should likewise be ordered, under pain of revocation of their licenses and heavier penalties, to strictly monitor, through personal visitations, their deployed workers in the work premises of their foreign principal. They should report the termination of the workers’ employment contracts and assist them in their return to the Philippines.

With these, the Labor Officers and the local recruitment agencies will greatly help in preventing the commission of abuses by foreign principals.

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Another disconcerting development is the pronouncement of President Duterte to bomb all foreign fishing vessels intruding into our 200 mile economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

The question is: Are we capable of doing it against Chinese fishing and Coast Guard vessels? Can our “bath tub” navy perform such order or can our Air Force likewise perform the same?

If I may recall, our newest Navy boat, Gregorio del Pilar, handed us by the United States, was silent and did nothing when it was confronted by three Chinese vessels before.

We agree that the 200 nautical miles West Philippine Sea is within our territory and must be protected especially from Chinese fishing vessels that catch and poach fish and sea turtles in the area. But China had already built, in one of the island in the area, their military airfield, ports, and installed missiles and radar systems. We slept on our sovereign rights and didn’t do anything, not even filing a mere protest to these developments. Why is China very interested to own this area?

According to the US Pentagon’s report to the US Congress last year, “the East China Sea (now renamed by us as the West Philippine Sea) contains approximately seven (7) trillion cubic feet of natural gas and up to one billion barrels of oil. Seven trillion cubic feet of natural gas could mean US$33 billions and 100 billion barrels of oil could be worth US$10 trillion.” The total of these amounts is two and a half times bigger than the current foreign reserves of China.

Clearly, this is the very core of the dispute not power projection between the countries China, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Are we capable and ready to go to war against these countries, especially China?

Let President Duterte answer this question.