“We dream of a society where families will never be torn apart just for the need to survive”— Toronto Filipino Youth on International Migrants Day 2013

Contact: Jesson Reyes,

December 18, 2013Anakbayan-Toronto stands with the millions of migrant workers worldwide who are forced to leave their homes for different reasons: some move away from their families behind in pursuit of a better livelihood, while others flee persecution or seek refuge without having anything left. Is this the kind of society we want?

Over the past few decades, mass migration in the Philippines takes place primarily because of the failure of the government to provide decent jobs, and decent wages to its people. Crippling poverty, persistence of un(der)employment, inequality and the governments inaction are the direct results of neoliberal policies that give priority to the foreign and corporate profits over the welfare of the majority of the people.

The Philippine state continues to be the apparatus to mobilize labor as export to the global enterprise. With almost 5,000 citizens from the country going elsewhere everyday, the Filipin@ workforce has become the most globalized on the planet. How did this start?

From the 1970 onwards, the global crisis is the battering the country’s export-oriented economy, particularly the electronics and garments industries. This means liberalization of trade, services, investment and capital. It also means transnational movements of people in search for better lives. A temporary fix to the country’s balance of payment deficits is the Labourt Export Policy as instituted by the Philippine government by then-president Ferdinand Marcos. It engineered the first outflow of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to the Gulf region. This policy is affirmed not by a single act of deployment of people. But through different program thrusts, the numbers continues to increase by ten folds as we the victories and continued struggles of Migrant workers today.

Filipin@ im/migrants are practically located everywhere. Most number of outward migration are women who are forced to leave in search of work to support their families. To date, no tipping point is forthcoming and this migration model is touted as one of the most sophisticated in “institutionalizing and managing migration”.

However, decades of exporting cheap Filipin@ labour have not led to any genuine development: the Philippines is still an underdeveloped Third World country. OFWs continue to experience physical, sexual, psychological abuse, are exploited, trafficked and discriminated against. Their families at home suffer the social burden while the Philippines experiences an unrelenting brain drain

Since 2011, there is a growing population of Filipin@ migrant workers that are coming to Canada. Under the temporary foreign worker program, the Live in Caregiver program is dominated by women. According to the film “End of Immigration?” by Malcolm Guy and Marie Boti, there has also been a growing number of Filipin@ workers being recruited to work in the fast food and service-oriented sector across Canada.

Many of the migrant workers face precarious working conditions in Canada. This is mainly due to their temporary status. The Temporary Foreign Worker Program is a system that runs a use-and-abuse cycle. Furthermore, it supplies the need of a Canadian capitalist market as it creates a quick to access source of cheap and disposable labour out of Filipin@ migrant workers.

The Philippine government and it’s implementing agencies pay lip service in protecting its migrant workers worldwide. Though not novel, the Benigno Aquino III administration still uses the term “Bagong Bayani” amongst overseas workers. Rightfully so, the country is the fourth biggest remittance receiving country next to India, China and Mexico. Its economy depend on remittances to keep the economy afloat. Remittances make up 12.5% of the GDP in 2012. For years, it’s been the country’s roughshod exercise in managing its economy.

But these numbers have not translated to either genuine development and better protection for migrant workers. In 2012, several embassies and consulates were closed due to lack of funding in various countries. Stranded OFWs in the Middle East were left to fend for themselves and families as the current administration refuses their demands for a swift repatriation.

The paradox of labor migration is that migrant parents saying parting words to their children “We love you so we need to leave you”. These simple words impact the hundreds of live-in caregivers who, while in the host country such as Canada, face various obstacles with legal, health and consular issues. As they seek help from the Philippine consulate office, migrant workers are asked if they are a member of “OWWA” which is an insurance-like protection package that is offered to all OFWs at their departure. Family separation and reunification also have long lasting impact on children and youth.

In Canada, we may be seen as outliers but we are not outsiders. We are not disposable and we cannot easily be dispensed crisis after crises. We hold on to our role in making history as we claim we are the lifeblood of the economy working and paying taxes. We may decide to stay yet continue resisting to be detained, decimated or deported.

As youth and students, along with other progressive organizations, we assert our part in the Filipin@ Diaspora and will continue to speak out that the Philippine state’s brokerage through the Labor Export Policy is unconscionable. We stand firmly that the most efficient way to address the root causes of forced migration is to advance the struggle for a national industrialization in the homefront.

Anakbayan-Toronto will continue to arouse, organize and mobilize with the increasing Filipino migrant community in the region. We will continue to call on the government of BS Aquino through their implementing agencies to ensure the protection and to uphold the rights and welfare of Filipin@ migrant workers in Canada. We will hold the government accountable for all migrant workers whether they have OWWA membership or not as they have the mandate to serve the Filipin@s inside and outside the Philippines.

We will continue to realize our dream of a more just and humane society where the basic needs of the people are fulfilled.

Long live the migrant workers movement!


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