Toronto—As we celebrate International Migrants Day on Dec 18th 2012, let us pause and reflect on the current state of the Filipino diaspora. Anakbayan Toronto stands firm in our call to abolish the Philippine Labour Export Policy (LEP) used by the government to keep the country’s economy afloat. The LEP was a temporary policy during the 1970s economic crisis but Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) have remained to become the primary source for the country’s economic growth. OFW remittance alone brings in a huge sum of much needed revenue to the country. According to the National Statistics Office (NSO) the first eight months of this year alone already totalled $15.30 billion, 9.5 percent of which originate from Canada, much of it used to alleviate the symptoms of poverty in the Philippines.
But we must never forget the reason why this policy existed in the first place nor undermine the continued repercussions it has on the Philippine nation.
Every day the state-sanctioned migration drives 4,500 Filipinos away from their houses and communities. In 2011 alone, more than 2.2 million Filipinos left the country to work abroad. The majority of these workers are now women. Many are mothers of young children or older siblings responsible for the well being of their whole family. They leave because they are able to earn more than the average $2/day salary if they work overseas.
This is not for the lack of trying to find work, or lack of education—many OFWS are in fact highly educated. Filipinos leave and the reason why OFWs exist is because the Philippines lack the commitment to build a national industrial policy that would provide Filipinos with the suitable economic condition that would encourage them to stay in the country. At the moment Philippines has the highest unemployment rate in Asia. Earlier this year, the NSO put more than 2.8 million Filipinos as unemployed and 51.7% of these are youth between the ages of 15-27.
The country’s current state of economic affairs rests squarely with President Benigno Aquino III and his government who but refuse to implement policies that generate lasting employment and self-sufficient industries in the country. What he is more interested in is the continuing sell off of our national patrimony; extensively liberalizing our industries like mining, lumber, textile and exporting our workers abroad as if they are bodies of produce. This liberalizing attitude just further degrades the economy as well as the living conditions in the Philippines.
For Aquino government the LEP is nothing but a game of economic numbers and Canada is an implicit player. The Philippines is now the number one source of migrant workers serving the Canadian economy. It lures Filipino migrants to work as non-citizens with the prospect of not buying their benefits. While Canada is the second largest receiving country for Filipino migrants, its very exploitative Temporary Workers Program and Live-in Caregivers’ Program openly expose workers to potential employer’s abuse, systemic discrimination, and subjugate them to unhealthy working conditions with the threat of deportation or termination of contract. OFWs are used to fill in necessary but unattractive jobs for the average Canadians. Working in Canada is not cheap so it is not uncommon to hear news of temporary workers who go into thousands of debt just to come and work here.
The recent visit of Prime Minister Harper to the Philippines only exacerbates the economic situation in the country. It is a proof of Canada’s tightening imperialist hold in the country through the“3M”: mining, migration and militarization. The Philippine Mining Act made legal by Aquino to liberalize foreign control of the national’s mining industry which was called by many including the proposed counteracting, People’s Mining Act (which calls to nationalize the industry) to be unconstitutional and harmful to the Filipino state. Canada is the top source of big mining companies. Granting open access through the 3M is a write-off of the betterment of our nation and sanctions the business practices of the elites which purposely undermine the working class.
Globally this means that for every pool of cheap labour accessed causes a one percent rise in unemployment which decreases the combined salary of workers to six to seven percent. But for the Filipino people it means toiling longer under even more precarious conditions.
Until now, despite Aquino’s rhetorics for a “matuwid na daan (righteous path)”, he has refused to implement a significant wage hike, to junk contractualization and uphold workers’ rights. At home, correlation can be drawn between the country’s low standards of living, hunger, crime and poverty to the lack of employment opportunities available to improve the Philippine situation. Peasants, fisherfolks, farmers and the urban poor who make up the majority of our nation continue to be the most vulnerable and bearing the most suffering. Abroad, the OFWs which the government promotes as the “modern heroes” are just as neglected. This year, ten embassies across Europe and the Pacific region closed down leaving many of the OFWs stationed in those regions unprotected and harder to give access to in times of trouble. A slap in the face still is these OFWs continue to contribute to social net (i.e. Philhealth, SSS etc) which are not immediately accessible to them.
The state’s continued sponsorship of the detrimental exportation of labour is not and should never be the answer to eliminating the social ills the people suffer from. As part of the liberalization policy of the government it only makes the Philippines worse. If the regulations stay the same, our people will also remain treated as export products; female workers will be at the forefront of exploitation and abuses; families will continue to be divided, a vicious cycle of poverty will remain and the Philippines will continue to be under control of imperialist and neo-colonial rule.
As part of the Filipino migrant community, we intensify our demands for more sufficient and sustainable jobs in the Philippines. We call the Aquino administration to stop the liberalization of the Philippines to the benefit of foreign capitalists and the Philippine elite. More importantly, we demand and immediate implementation for genuine land reform and national industrialization policies to improve the Philippines as a whole.
Abolish the LEP; Demand immediate implementation of national industrialization
Demand genuine land reform and remove liberalization policies
Protect our people and patrimony; Implement the People’s Mining Act.