One country’s trash, another nation’s cash

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CANADA’S trash dumping on the Philippines has been an issue since 2013, but came to the fore of the nation’s awareness again when the social media brought Canada’s new prime minister to prominence during last week’s Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Manila, voting him an “APEC hottie” because of his good looks.

The issue of trash, however – the word usually defined as worthless, discarded, or at the minimum ignored and swept under the rug, away from the public eye – brings to mind the shabby way teachers and nurses, or our overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), are treated sometimes.

Then we wonder: who are the treasured, privileged people back home?

For one, officials and employees of at least 28 government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) get better treatment. And while we’re at it, let me bring to your attention the government officials, who not only mimic but expertly play the game of thrones as they rotate the sceptre and crown within the family.


Last year, the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that GOCCs “violated the rules on the allowable salaries, allowances and bonuses for GOCC officials and employees,” ordering the state firms to return the “illegally disbursed amounts to the government.”

How much “unlawful cash releases” are involved?

• P213.84 million for the Philippine Economic Zone Authority

• P154.926 million for Duty Free Philippines

• P108.26 million – Metro Cebu Water District

• P30.644 million – Philippine Postal Corporation

• P30.103 million – Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

• P22.878 million – National Power Corporation

What about the “legal” disbursements, such as the salaries of and benefits for GOCC officials? A GOCC official who is paid P7 million a year would be receiving about P534, 000 a month.

The 2013 COA listing shows the top six principal officers of GOCCs who received between P8 million and P12 million (rounded off):

• Robert Vergara of GSIS: P12.088 million

• Gilda E. Pico of the Land Bank of the Philippines: P10.293 million

• Amando M. Tetangco Jr. of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas: P9.999 million

• Darlene Marie B. Berberabe of the Home Development Mutual Fund:  P9.385 million

• Reynaldo C. Liwanag of the Angeles City Water District: P8.831 million

• Cristino L. Naguiat Jr. of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp.: P8.108 million
Others received between P7 million and P8 million, also in 2013:

• Jorge V. Sarmiento of PAGCOR: P7.887 million

• Diwa C. Guinigundo of BSP: P7.583 million

• Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. of BSP: P7.503 million

• Vicente S. Aquino of BSP: P7.415

• Arnel Paciano D. Casanova of the Bases Conversion Development Authority: P7.135 million

• Teresita J. Herbosa of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC):  P7.135 million

•  Rabboni Francis B. Arjonillo of LBP: P7.132 million

• Emilio S. de Quiros of SSS: P7.080 million

• Luis F. Sison of the Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC):  P7.075 million

And the non-treasure, “trash” occupations?

Teachers , conscripted to duties during elections, are paid P13,135 a month in the private sector.  Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad proudly proclaimed public school teachers in the same category are paid much more – P19,218. A GOCC official gets about P584,000.00 a month.

Nurses, on the other hand, are supposed to be paid a minimum (floor pay) of P22,688 a month.  However, government and private companies continue to ignore – and worse, violate – this law by paying RNs lower than what is required by law. Our late colleague columnist Ernesto Herrera had pointed out that “even the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. is paying their nurses only about P15, 000 monthly.”

From the land where the disputed tons of garbage in the Aquino province ended up, Canada pays registered nurses P6, 976 per hour; P34, 880 a week; P139, 520 a month or P1.6 million a year.

While licensed RNs in the Philippines have to take the NCLEX (the licensure exam for foreign nurses now adopted by Canada) to earn that pay, an RN with or without experience may take up a one-year post-secondary diploma in Canada. Since the academic year for nursing is eight months, the RN student can work full time and earn a minimum of about P634 a day as a health care worker.

Any time this RN student obtain registration and license to work, she or he could immediately apply for permanent residency in Canada with a job offer. Nurses are in demand in Canada – and in most places of the world – but employers are reluctant to recruit from overseas because Canada, for example, has a selection system in place – the Express Entry.  Australia has the SkillSelect and New Zealand has the Expression of Interest scheme.

It is not surprising then that professionals and skilled workers treated like trash go to countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom, as well as in the Middle East Asia, Africa and Europe—where they are treasured.

Despite being discarded by their own government, these OFWs still save the Philippine economy by bringing in cash. That cash comes in the form of remittances that keep the peso and economy strong, strong enough to continue paying the legal (but is it moral?) salaries of government and GOCC officials.

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