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Aquino gov’t lacks concern for OFWs, says bishop

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There were an estimated 2.3 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) working abroad at anytime during the period of April to September 2014. (Photo: CBCP News)

MANILA, Aug. 25, 2015- The “balikbayan box fiasco” shows the Aquino administration’s lack of concern for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a Catholic bishop said.

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga diocese said the government has failed in responding to problems facing OFWs, and the issue on balikbayan boxes is like adding insult to injury.

“The Aquino government lacks compassion and respect for OFWs,” said Santos, who chairs the CBCP’s Commission for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People.

The Bureau of Customs’ controversial policy on conducting random inspections of balikbayan boxes has earned the ire of OFWs and netizens.

The agency defended the move, saying the measure is necessary in its fight against smuggling and because many OFWs are misdeclaring their packages to avoid taxes.

Public clamor

Amid the furor over the policy, President Benigno Aquino III yesterday stopped the physical inspection of packages from abroad.

The move, however, failed to impress the bishop, saying the government only halted it “because of public clamor.”

“They created their own problem and have shown they do not feel the pulse and heart of OFWs,” Santos said.

“If we did not raise our voice and concerned ditizens did not protest, the government might have pursued it,” he said.

X-ray scanner

The bishop therefore joined calls for an investigation into what has happened to the millions spent on the purchase of X-ray machines.

He said Aquino must account for the machines, bought few years ago, amid the stalled regulation requiring the opening of balikbayan boxes.

“Aquino must investigate the missing Php145 million budget for X-ray machines,” Santos said. (R. Lagarde / CBCPNews)


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