Independent group pushes for continuous improvement of OFW policies
IT WAS MID-June of last year when the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) unilaterally banned the deployment of OFWs to Qatar amid the Middle Eastern country’s diplomatic tiff with Saudi Arabia. At that time, Filipinos hoping to work towards a better future at the migrant labor-heavy state were left hanging and disappointed. The fate of over quarter of a million Filipinos that lived in the oil-rich nation became uncertain.
While coming back to the homeland is a dream for many, the lack of employment opportunities in the Philippines have been hindering hundreds of thousands of OFWs from returning has long been a harsh reality.
This and other legitimate concerns that were raised to former DOLE Undersecretary Nicon Fameronag caused him and other OFW advocates to appeal amid the alarm caused by the Qatar ban.
“How many of the dependents of those OFWs would have to stop schooling? How many mothers will postpone a visit to the doctor? How many will have to run arrears in the houses they loaned?” he pointed out in detail.
DOLE eventually lifted the suspension after several groups stepped in. Among those who worked hard to amend the situation was the Lilac Center for Public Interest.
“We undertake communication and advocacy activities on policies, programs, and services related to the Filipino masses,” explained Fameronag, who currently heads the said private stock organization.
Beneficial to both OFWs and employers
The group provides expert research, advice, and consulting services on labor and employment policies and legislation. These are shared through traditional and new media, as well as via forums and conferences.
The Lilac Center’s primary migration policy advocacies all intend to benefit both OFWs and their employers. In the case of the Qatar deployment ban, Fameronag said that the extreme option lacked thorough consultation even though it was exercised rightfully.
“We first need to establish productive jobs and enterprises way before the OFWs return,” he emphasized. “They need a safety net for them to come home to the Philippines.”
With many Filipinos working in crisis-laden countries, the Lilac Center aims to assure that they are not distressed by political or economic upheaval in their work destinations.
“We need to be sure that they are paid right and treated well – not molested by government functionaries every time they visit our embassies and consulates for an official transaction or to request for assistance,” Fameronag frankly expressed.
Improving the plight of OFWs worldwide
While the effect of the Qatar ban has somewhat subsided, Fameronag detailed that much still needs to be done to improve the plight of OFWs around the world. When asked about the biggest problem faced by our migrant countrymen, he said that many regulations under the Philippines’ current migration laws are riddled with loopholes and irrelevant provisions.
“Our group is pushing for these to be amended so that they can keep up with modern-day trends and developments,” he said.
The advocate also admitted that there is a lack of serious understanding, action, and commitment by many front-line authorities. “For example, there is no noticeable move now to pursue bilateral labor agreement with worker-receiving countries,” Fameronag cited. According to the former government employee, many Philippine Overseas Labor Offices also supposedly lack trained personnel and operating budgets.
There is also the uneven enforcement of laws. “Proof of this are the numerous licensed recruitment agencies that certain officials cannot discipline or close,” Fameronag declared. Then, there’s the perpetual issue of graft and corruption – “only whispered about and real, but uninvestigated,” he said.
Making migration a boon
The Lilac Center is relatively new, but Fameronag believes that their first year of existence has contributed much to the national conversation on making migration a boon to the country. Aside from raising public awareness on the Qatar ban implications, the Lilac Center also stepped in before the implementation of the controversial OFW ID.
“The President has already ordered a national ID system, so an additional ID for OFWs is irrelevant,” Fameronag specified.
At the start of the second half of 2017, the Lilac Center set off to expand the scope of its activities, with a step-by-step entry into communities for implementation of corporate social responsibility projects.
“These include initiatives for clean water, anti-human trafficking and child labor, climate change mitigation, and local government empowerment,” he enumerated.
Even though the group is open about how they lack the capacity to directly help financially, they are committed to educating stakeholders instead. “By focusing on this, we are determined to raise awareness on the different needs of our fellow Filipinos.”
For information on The Lilac Center for Public Interest, visit www.facebook.com/lcpi2016 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.