• OFWs pay but have no say


    If praises are convertible to cash, Overseas Filipinos would have been millionaires many times over. The way the Philippine government keeps track of them, however, is poor.

    Educated estimates by industry practitioners and official sources put the number of Filipinos leaving daily at 4,500. And these are only those intending to work abroad.

    There is paucity of information as to the total number of Filipinos leaving on tourist, student, work, business or permanent visas since the Bureau of Immigration does not provide official figures.

    How many actually leave through airports and seaports are not known. Add the number of Filipinos who use the Mindanao backdoor as well as those who are escorted for a fee and do not pass the immigration desks and the actual number of Filipinos who leave the Philippines is much more than the estimates.

    The Bureau should be the government agency that can provide actual numbers of comings and goings because a person leaving must present a passport and/or a visa to be allowed to depart. The official website of the BI, however, does not provide statistics on arrivals and departures.

    In a web-centric world, this oversight speaks volumes on the country’s dedication to transparency and access to information.

    The Philippines has been marketing—and deploying —Filipinos overseas, but reconciling the actual total of Filipinos Overseas (permanent, temporary or irregular) is challenging. Even the different government agencies tasked to keep a record of those leaving the country publish numbers that do not add up and there lies the confusion.

    The two agencies that should have reliable numbers are the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO). The POEA monitors contract workers (those leaving on work visas) while the CFO keeps track of Filipinos leaving the country permanently (immigrants)

    The passage of R.A. 10022 “expanded the definition of the term Overseas Filipinos, to include generally all Filipinos residing and living overseas, whether on the long term or short term. This redefinition . . . emphasizes the inter-agency nature of the Commission encompassing other cabinet-level line agencies involved in issues of migration.”

    Hence, based on this “encompassing” role of the CFO in monitoring Overseas Filipinos, the CFO should have the last word on how many Pinoys leave the country on a temporary or permanent basis.

    Philippine government agencies overseas do not have a reliable monitoring system in place to be proactive, especially for those who are abroad. Fees have been collected before Filipinos leave the country. Knowing where they are after deployment or migrating does not generate revenues, therefore a non-priority task.

    Are there 10, 12 or 13 million Filipinos overseas? Do 4,500 or more Filipinos leave daily to seek opportunities abroad? Is the $21-22 billion dollar remittance yearly the total amount of money sent back by Filipinos to their families?

    Your guess is as good as the governments’. Here are the official figures on Overseas Filipinos from the CFO and POEA.

    OFW remittance1It seems that data from the receiving country (country of migration destination) are more reliable. Take the facts from the Yearbook of Immigration Statistics of the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) available on the web.

    Since 2004, the number of permanent residents or immigrants admitted into the United States as reported by the USCIS should have passed through—or been monitored by the CFO—has not gone below the 54,000 mark.

    Philippine Immigrants in US

    In 2012, the CFO official numbers indicate there were only 58,152 Filipinos who left overseas as permanent residents. If we are to use that as gospel truth then the other countries where Filipinos apply for and obtain permanent resident status – Australia, Canada, New Zealand – only got 825.

    Australia’s June 2012 statistics on permanent resident arrivals (only for the skilled workers not including family migration)—available on the web—is 2,351.

    Canada’s published statistics on the web show 32,747 Filipinos admitted as permanent residents in 2012.

    The total number of permanent residents then in just two countries for 2012 was 90,074. Compare this to the number published by CFO—58,152 – and there lies an inconsistency.

    What Philippine government agencies seem to monitor well are remittances. The Central Bank of the Philippines has a monthly running total of remittances of Overseas Filipinos—a total of P21, 391 billion for 2012. Yet even this official figure is not complete. They do not include money sent through non-conventional channels, such as padala.

    Overseas Filipinos have been branded by the Philippine government as “New Heroes.” Yet the people who build monuments for them are real estate developers. The proliferation of malls all over the country is a testament to their purchasing power. OFWs pay fees to the Philippine government before they can leave, pay fees when they remit and pay fees when they return.

    For all the remittances OFWs bring to the country, keeping the peso strong and the Philippine international reserves plenty, they have virtually no say in getting the candidates they want elected. The Overseas Absentee Voting may have been enacted but the difficulty of casting a vote overseas effectively keeps the Overseas Filipinos from having a say.

    How about “No Say, No Pay” policy by OFWs?


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    1. Lagi kung naririnig sa gobyerno,na ang ofw ay modern heroes,pero walang pa akong nabalitaan na namatay na nalibing sa libingan ng bayani!,joke! Kahit sa ordinary na libingan walang gumastos para gawin ito!!poea ay parang bir magaling lang mangulekta!ok lang sana kung alam mo kung sa mabuti na pupunta ang pondo!

    2. I appreciate your commentaries with the end in mind to improve the efficiency of POEA and BI. I am not sure what you meant by “No say, No pay”, policy. What I can say is I have a say when I elect public officials such as president, senators, mayors, etc. I did participate in the last absent voting election. Also, the author made several statements that require clarification. First, he thinks the Bureau of Immigration do not have exact count on number of Filipinos who fly in and out of the country. Did you verify this with BI, POEA, or this is your assumption? I truly believe that it’s not the fault of the government if people were not able to vote. The fact that various means of communication were made to OFWs to participate in the absent voting. Proper communications were provided such as Newspaper, radio, church, etc. I will put the blame squarely on people. Marami sa ating mga kababayan na walang “initiative” , mga pasaway, pasa bukas or last minute atttude.
      There is a famous adage by President Kennedy which is applicable to our people, “Ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Ganito dapat ang attitude ng mga tao. Panahon pa ni kupong kupong na nagsisisihan tayo! Kaya tayo napapagiwanan ng mga ibang lahi at tao. The issues you have raise on proper monitoring can be easily resolved by providing all OFW with electronic ID.