Oration Piece - One Vision, One Goal

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CRITIC ON OFW’s

Pope John Paul II, in his message for the 1992 World Migration Day said, “Migration related to underdevelopment is a challenge, which we must face with courage and determination.” In the Philippines, underdevelopment and poverty are the main causes of migration within and from the country. It was in the early 1900s that the Filipino people started their plight in search for greener pastures in foreign lands.

In 1972, the promising new labor market, prompt the Filipino government to formally adopt the Overseas Employment Program (OEP) as a “temporary measure” to alleviate the unemployment problems in the Philippines. The Philippine Overseas and Employment Administration (POEA), an attached agency of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), was established in 1982 by virtue of Executive Order No. 797. The formulation and implementation of a systematic and progressive overseas employment scheme taking cognizance of local demands for labor, was the main reason for the creation of the POEA. Today, POEA, is tasked with the promotion, supervision, monitoring and managing overseas employment. All cases involving employer-employee relationship (particularly money claims arising from contractual relation entered by Filipino workers), is the original and exclusive jurisdiction of this agency.

The Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) is the government agency also under the Department of Labor and Employment, tasked to protect the interest and promote the well being of Filipino overseas contract workers, including their dependents. It was created as a Welfare Fund on May 1, 1977 administered by a Secretariat by virtue of PD No. 1604 and 1809. The Welfare Fund was renamed OWWA by virtue of Executive Order (EO) No. 126 on January 30, 1987. What started, as a “temporary measure” has, in fact, become a well established part of the economic policy.

The government creates a “damage control measure”, Republic Act No. 8042, better known as Migrant Workers and Filipinos Overseas Act of 1995 and signed by President Fidel V. Ramos on June 7, 1995. Furthermore, on March 29, 1996, the government ratified the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. Both measures intend to protect overseas migrant workers.

The Migrant Workers and Filipinos Overseas Act of 1995, “Declaration of Policies” letter c’ says: “the State does not promote overseas employment as a means to sustain economic growth and achieve national development.” However, at the end of this section we read: “Nonetheless, the deployment of Filipino overseas workers whether land-based or sea-based, by local service contractors and manning agencies employing them shall be encouraged. Appropriate initiatives may be extended to them.” What is he policy: to promote or not to promote overseas employment? Can we stop migration? Yes, if the socio-economic-political situation improves, which is unlikely to happen in the near future? Considering the expected increase of the labor force and aware hat the Filipino labor market can only absorb half of it, we foresee that overseas labor migration will still be part of the Filipino society in the future. Thus Filipinos will not only continue to seek greener pastures abroad, but their number will increase as well.

As quoted by Pope John Paul 11, “The migrants is to be considered not just merely as an instrument of production but as a subject endowed with full human dignity” . The history of the Episcopal Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) may be traced back o the year 1955, when the Episcopal Commission-Committee on Emigration reported to the Catholic Welfare Organization (CWO), THE SITUATION OF THE Filipinos in USA, Hawaii, Guam and the corresponding actions taken by the Church.

In the early 60’s the Body of Bishops established the Apostleship of the Sea to meet the needs...
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