Vice President Jejomar Binay said government should not neglect the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
“We can’t afford to ignore them. There are two reasons why our economy improved and one of these is the remittances of our overseas workers. That is why they were tagged as the new heroes,” Binay, the former presidential adviser on OFW concerns, said following a three-day visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
He stressed that the problem on illegal recruitment and undocumented workers should be given attention and carefully studied by the government.
“This can’t be a problem forever. One reason why the government can’t give accurate figures on the number of OFWs, especially when there is a crisis in Libya and Syria, are these undocumented workers,” he said.
He said some employers maltreat Filipino workers because they are aware that there are many undocumented Filipinos working abroad.
Binay recalled the pre-departure verification implemented by the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) during his term as chairman emeritus and said most undocumented workers leave the country as tourists and get recruited abroad.
“There are a lot of undocumented workers. Some come from Zamboanga, they leave through Malaysia. Some pose as tourists, they pretend to go to Bangkok or Kuala Lumpur. There they will contact illegal recruiters,” he said.
“For a time, I was chairman [emeritus]of IACAT. Ang dami namang nape-prevent umalis kasi tinatanong saan pupunta. ‘Turista po.’ ‘Turista ka, ha? Meron ka bang ticket na pabalik?’ ‘Wala.’ So, medyo mahuhuli mo na ‘yon. Naalala ko nga ‘yong pitong madri-madrehan noon. Nakasuot ng [pang-]madre, pero nakasuot ng mamahalin, naka-[nail polish]. Paano ka maniniwala na madre nga ‘yon. On the part ng Pilipinas, malaki na ‘yong nape-prevent natin. Pero, naroon pa rin ang problema dahil sa nakakalabas na turista,” he added.
The Vice President also asked Senator Nancy Binay to look into the possibility of allocating a budget for undocumented workers.
“Actually ‘yong huling budget, I proposed to increase the legal assistance fund, but unfortunately it was vetoed by the president,” the younger Binay said.
The Vice President said he hopes the UAE will soon implement a unified contract for household service workers (HSWs) to help improve the working conditions of OFWs and prevent undocumented workers.
The Philippines and UAE are currently in talks on the Memorandum of Understanding on Labor and on Household Service Workers (HSWs) Unified Contract.
The Vice President said he hopes the unified contract for HSWs would be similar to what Saudi Arabia is now implementing.
“Ang Saudi Arabia ngayon ang model, sumunod ang Saudi Arabia doon sa resolution yata ng ILO (International Labour Organization). Ang Saudi Arabia pumayag na ang minimum wage is $400,” he said.
Binay said OFWs abscond from their jobs because of poor working conditions or maltreatment.
He reminded Filipinos seeking to work abroad to go through the legal process and only deal with agencies and people duly accredited by the government.
Meanwhile, the Vice President said he suggested to UAE officials the possibility of adding a collegiate level to the Philippine Global School in Abu Dhabi.
“Naimungkahi namin sa kanila na baka naman pwede na tayong magkaroon ng collegiate level kasi dito sa ngayon, hanggang high school lang tapos umuuwi na sa Maynila. Sabi ng isang minister, magandang pagkakataon ‘yon,” he said.
“Maganda ‘yong sinabi ng isang minister. He finds Filipinos ‘the most wonderful human beings,’” Binay added.