It was during the Marcos regime, in fact, that the POEA was established in 1982 for the “marketing and deployment” of Filipinos abroad. Four years after (1986), the OWWA was created to provide welfare and development assistance to migrants.
The years that followed saw the establishment of migrant-related agencies like the International Labor Assistance Service (ILAS), Consular Assistance Division (CAD) and the Commission on Overseas Filipinos (COF). In 2004, the Office of External Affairs was created to “harness the help of some three million Filipino immigrants and expatriates in the U.S. West Coast.”
Since the past and present administrations created an atmosphere conducive for the export of labor, it is not surprising that the number of deployed OFWs has risen through the years. In 2005, the POEA estimated that there are 981,677 OFWs, with Saudi Arabia (193,991), Hong Kong (94,553), United Arab Emirates (81,707), Taiwan (46,714) and Japan (42,586) as the top five destinations.
The government actually benefits from the deployment of OFWs not only through their remittances that amounted to $10.7 billion as of 2005, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
There are also pre-departure fees that government collects from each OFW, among them the POEA processing fee, OWWA welfare fund contribution, OWWA medicare, POEA Overseas Employment Certificate, Artist Record Book, Seaman’s Book, and passport processing. During employment, the government collects fees for passport renewal and visa per extension, among others.
Not surprisingly, the OWWA is reported to have combined assets as of June 30, 2004 amounting to P8 billion ($155.28 million, based on an exchange rate of P51.52 per US dollar), courtesy of various fees collected from OFWs. The OWWA reportedly collects $25 as membership fee in exchange for its services.
It is in this context that the local unemployment problem works to the advantage of the government, as OFW remittances are used to help fulfill the country’s dollar needs and it earns from various fees prior to and during employment of OFWs.
The deployment of OFWs therefore is expected to be a permanent arrangement for the present and even future administrations that prefer not to strengthen the domestic economy and instead allow the export of labor, notwithstanding the social cost and dangers endemic to this policy.
This now leads one to conclude that while it is dangerous to work in war-torn countries like Lebanon, the government makes it equally dangerous for Filipino workers to continuously market, promote and deploy them abroad. Bulatlat