Millions of OFW are stranded abroad
The reactionary state has always treated overseas Filipino workers like garbage. The pandemic only highlighted this fact. Last June 16, 14 Filipinos who wanted to come home were barred by the Duterte regime from leaving Amsterdam, the Netherlands because there were not enough quarantine facilities in the Philippines. They were told that Rodrigo Duterte only allows 1,000 OFWs to come home per day.
The 14 are among the millions of migrant Filipinos in various parts of the world who are now suffering due to the Duterte regime’s neglect. In Asia-Pacific countries, many of them work in the health and service sectors. They face the threat of infection everyday. Domestics in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan and Singapore are not spared from this situation.
The government does not have a plan to give them protection. In Hong Kong, migrants themselves have to buy medical supplies like face masks and alcohol. In South Korea, they had to push Philippine embassy officials to distribute masks. Thousands of Filipinos working in ships are detained in the shores of Australia because they were banned from docking. The regime has no plan to conduct mass testing among them or to pay for their hospitalization in case they are infected.
Because of this neglect, more than 6,000 migrants have been infected with Covid-19 in 51 countries. More than 440 have died. One in every three Filipinos who succumbed to the disease is an OFW. Many of them have resorted to begging the Philippine embassies for food. In other parts of world, three have committed suicide out of depression as they lost their jobs.
The Duterte regime has no plan in place against the mounting unemployment among migrants due to the pandemic. Despite getting billions worth of loans, Duterte only allocated P1.5 billion to those who have lost their jobs. Due to budget constraints, funds to provide P10,000 per worker financial aid have long dried up.
Majority of those who requested for aid were turned down as funds were limited to migrants in 29 countries. Migrants in more than 190 countries and territories were not counted where most are temporary workers, trainees, students, tourists and undocumented workers. Families of OFWs in the Philippines are also excluded.
According to the DOLE’s understated estimates, 700,000 to a million migrant workers will lose their jobs. But according to estimates by the International Labor Organization in April, the figure could go up to 5 million. This is because most Filipino migrant workers (43%) work in food and accommodation, wholesale and retail, manufacturing and trade services and administration— sectors which are most affected by the pandemic. Adding insult to the injury, the regime even plans to increase the migrants’ Philhealth contribution to 3%.