BY ANNE QUINTOS
And so the overseas Juan dela Cruz is caught in a tangle once again.
Last week, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued GB Resolution No. 7-2011, which lists the countries that overseas Filipino workers are banned from being deployed to. The government has identified 41 non-compliant countries. This could affect soon-to-be-deployed OFWs and current workers who plan to renew their contracts in the said countries. At the heart of this issue is the financial stability of their respective families.. This is yet another ordeal that migrant workers have to face. For the undocumented ones, it gets more complicated if not desperate.
Eric Bellman of The Wall Street Journal reported that the "Manila ban has no bite", saying that there's comparatively fewer Filipinos working in these countries. Even POEA chief Carlos Cao, Jr. agrees. How might 25,000 overseas jobs hurt the Philippine economy, and the countries that need these workers? Many online pundits have already expressed their disbelief and complaints against POEA's D-list. And these complaints are from PEOPLE (not products that can easily be recalled) worried about not finding work back home and not bringing food to the table.
Most of us do see the value in statistics, don't we? And this may just be about statistics after all. The Philippine government finds itself incapable of closing bilateral agreements with the 41 countries, leading to higher statistics and probability of abuse and casualties. The solution? Label them as "unfriendly" or peg these countries with skull-marked flags on the map so that everybody knows exactly what they're getting into.
But doesn't statistics also show that countries like Saudi Arabia (with close to two million OFWs), United Arab Emirates, and Qatar are also not exactly OFW-friendly? They're not mentioned in the resolution at all - possibly because remittances from these countries count as more valid statistics.
The fact remains that even if you ban countries, people who can't find decent jobs at home will grab every opportunity they can find regardless of consequence (read: war, famine, or even pirate-infested seas). And just because the government has decided to put horse blinders on, it doesn't mean that the multitude of abuse experienced by OFWs will also just cease to exist.
There's got to be a more sustainable plan than just separating the good and the banned. If we really want to stay true to the intent of GB Resolution No. 7-2011 - that is, to ensure that "rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected" - then we recommend to strike out the word "overseas" and make the Philippines as the 42nd item on the list.
*Image from ABS-CBNNews.com