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Duterte urged to beef up protection of OFWs’ rights

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MANILA, June 2, 2016–Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), a sector that helped bring incoming President Rodrigo Duterte to power, demand improved State services and protection of migrants, said advocates.

Portuguese Fr. Paolo Prigol, head of the Missionaries of St. Charles’ Apostleship of the Sea in the Philippines, said Duterte won the mock election conducted in the three dorms they run to cater to land- and sea-based OFWS. He said the OFWs, mostly staying in Metro Manila to process their papers or await deployment, even went home to their respective parishes to vote last month.

The main ministry of the Missionaries of St. Charles, also known as Scalabrinians, is to cater to migrants. In the Philippines, they run a dorm for individuals and families in New Manila, Quezon City. The facility, called Scalabrini Center for People on the Move, can house 145 individuals at any given time while the two Stella Maris dormitories for seafarers located in Ermita, Manila can house 182 people.

“In all three dorms, 99 percent of the people are from Visayas and Mindanao. We conducted a mock poll in the dorms and Duterte won by 70 to 80 percent,” revealed Prigol.

Agenda

While the incoming President cannot stop Filipinos from seeking employment overseas, the priest said the Duterte administration should include in its agenda their protection.

“You are free to find a job here in the Philippines or overseas. The only thing, I guess, he (Duterte) should try to implement is to make sure that the jobs are decent, and that OFWS are well-protected,” he said.

Quoting the Scalabrinians’ founder, Blessed Giovanni Battista Scalabrini, Prigol stressed that “‘Migration is a right, but the duty of the State is protection.’”

“The Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency and other concerned state agencies should protect the Filipino migrants, especially when they are overseas,” he added.

Prigol cited common OFW complaints about abuse overseas, neglect from the deploying agencies, and scant assistance from government agencies during emergencies and repatriation.

Driving the PH economy

OFWs’ monetary remittance has been one of the key contributors to the Philippine economy, driving local consumption. Considering this, Prigol said Duterte should address the plight of OFWs, who are often touted as the country’s new breed of heroes because of their sacrifices.

Out of the numerous proposals for migrants’ affairs, Duterte can adopt the proposals made by the Movement of Maritime Philippines (MMP) into his government’s agenda, Prigol said.

The Philippines is renowned as one of the top suppliers of seafarers around the globe. According to data from the Philippine Maritime Industry, income of Filipino seafarers represent 25 percent of OFW remittances. (Kris Bayos/CBCPNews)


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