THE Philippine Ambassadors Foundation Inc. (PAFI) received a special award at the last Overseas Filipino Workers Gawad Parangal held last 12 December 2015 at the Pag-ibig Fund, Justine Building, Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City under the auspices of the
Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak at Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino Inc. (KAKAMPI).
It was a well-attended, multi-sectoral affair. There were luminaries from government such as POEA Administrator Hanz Leo J. Cacdac, from civil society such as the Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, former Senator Richard Gordon, from the entertainment industry such as Dingdong Dantes and Maricel Soriano, and from the diplomatic corps such as Ricardo R. Casco of the International Organization of Migration.
I had the honor to represent and receive the award for PAFI as its Vice President and Project Coordinator for the PAFI Symposium on Migration, Peace, and Development and other migration-related activities of the organization.
According to its Constitution and By-Laws, PAFI serves (1) to study, analyze, and discuss international and domestic affairs to contribute to the formulation and adoption of a sound and realistic foreign policy for the Philippines, (2) to promote awareness of issues of foreign policy through conferences, seminars, and other workshops between and among diplomats of the Philippines and those assigned to the Philippines while enhancing international understanding, friendship, and cooperation, and (3) to encourage, solicit, and facilitate the active participation of domestic and foreign organizations in the activities of the organization. In short, the avowed purpose of PAFI is to promote the national interest in the country’s international relations.
Actually, it was the need to protect their nationals abroad that impelled states to establish diplomatic and consular missions abroad. The protection of Filipinos abroad has always been a cardinal function of the Philippine foreign service. But the phenomenal increase of Filipinos working abroad since the 1970s and the immense current and potential benefits they can and do bring to the Philippine economy has led the country to give particular attention to the protection of Philippine migrant workers. It has thus become the third pillar of Philippine foreign relations.
The Philippine has been a leading advocate in the international scene of migrant workers rights and was among the countries that championed the establishment of the UN Convention on the Promotion of the Rights of Migrants, their Families and Dependents.
PAFI, for its part, has made migrant workers issues, especially as they pertain to and affect Philippine foreign policy, a core interest and concern.
In cooperation with the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs and the KAKAMPI, PAFI organized a Symposium on Migration, Peace, and Development in June 2013 to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the Philippine Migrant Workers Act in 1995. The Symposium issued a Declaration and Action Plan for the Further Promotion and Protection and Well-being and Dignity of Overseas Filipino Workers by which the participants resolved among others through wide advocacy of the rights of overseas Filipino workers to build the capacity of the workers to protect themselves in the first instance. This is based on the philosophy that the ultimate protection of all migrant workers is their possession of skills, to call upon relevant agencies and institutions to undertake human resource development programs such as training and skills-upgrading and to promote the social integration of returning overseas workers through social interaction and community networking.
To follow up the progress of the implementation of the Philippine Migrant Workers Act, PAFI held a second Symposium on Migration Peace and Development last 29 November 2015, again in cooperation with the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs and KAKAMPI. A key observation of the 2nd symposium was the need to strengthen efforts to curb human trafficking. The symposium tackled new ground in discussing the cultural integration of migrant workers.
In the context of the close collaboration between PAFI and KAKAMPI, I have suggested an overarching framework of action to sustain and strengthen our efforts to promote the well-being and dignity of OFWs, consisting of the following:
1.Continue the OFW Gawad Parangal award as a source of inspiration and strength in all efforts to support OFWS, their dependents, and families
2.Lobby in the Congress of the Philippines on matters affecting OFWs, their families, and their dependents;
3.Cooperate with like-minded organizations in the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking and irregular migration;
4.Strengthen partnerships between government, the media, academe, business sector, and
5.Assist in making available to government relevant and credible data;
6.Participate in efforts to formulate and adopt a coherent approach to orientation programs such as PDOS, PEOS, and PAOS;
7.Promote honest and effective services to OFWs, their families, and dependents;
8.Encourage the private sector to mobilize their CSR for the benefit of OFWs, their families and their dependents;
9.Retain in respective programs of work a strategic approach to helping OFWs, their families, and dependents;
10. Monitor relevant global and national developments affecting the interests of OFWs, their families, and their dependents and call the attention of authorities concerned to undertake appropriate action as the case may be;
11. Continue massive information campaign and advocacy.
PAFI will continue to work with KAKAMPI in creating and working with KAKAMPI in creating and nurturing a culture of care and concern for Filipino overseas workers whose foreign exchange remittances have helped our economy to stay afloat in times of regional and global financial crises. For the year 2016, these remittances could amount to US Dollars 25 billion or roughly equivalent to 1/3 of the P3 trillion national budget.
Economists have suggested that these remittances instead of remaining in the vaults of the Central Bank to bolster our foreign exchange reserves may be more fruitfully invested in the development infrastructures throughout the country to hasten national economic growth, and reduce unemployment and poverty.
With the wise utilization of OFWs’ remittances for faster and inclusive economic growth, Filipinos may not need to look for jobs abroad for the reason that they could not find any in their own country.
The migration of Filipino workers may continue to be a socio-economic phenomenon in the 21st century but it may instead be hopefully a\ part of increasing regional economic integration and the globalization of the world economy. In any case, PAFI in cooperation with KAKAMPI is committed to keep the protection of migrant workers’ rights in its agenda.