War-Torn Mindanao Is Country’s Biggest Source of Women OFWs

“Until sufficient jobs can be created, overseas workers will have to continue risking physical and psychological abuse, and even death, in order to feed their families and ensure them a decent life.”

By Aubrey SC Makilan
Bulatlat.com

As the poorest island in the country, Mindanao has topped the Philippines’ deployment of women workers abroad over the last three years, with Region 12 or the Soccsksargen leading over the island’s six regions.

A source, the Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines (CMA-Philippines), recently revealed that four out of 10 OFWs come from Mindanao. CMA also said that out of the 135,000 OFWs from the island, 66.2 percent were women while only 34.8 percent were men. Confirming the report, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said in 2005 that in Region 12 said six out of 10 OFWs coming from Mindanao are women, compared to only four in Luzon and Visayas.

Soccsksargen region covers the provinces of South Cotabato, Sarangani, Sultan Kudarat, (North) Cotabato and the cities of Koronadal, General Santos, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) also reports that the region currently has more than 500,000 OFWs deployed overseas either as skilled or professional workers.

In terms of remittances, the women OFWs from the region reportedly sent home around P443 million or 72.1 percent of the P614 million total remittances in 2002 alone.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in her recent state-of-the-nation address, said she envisions economic development through the country’s four “super regions” — an agricultural belt that will cover northern and central Luzon and northern Mindanao, a tourist area in the Visayas, the industrial heartland stretching from Clark and Subic down to Metro Manila and Batangas, and a “cyber corridor” that would include major cities from Baguio to Davao.

But in reality, IBON Foundation, an independent think tank, said “the fact that many OFWs would prefer to risk their lives in war-torn Lebanon than return home only highlights how the Arroyo administration has failed to create sufficient livelihoods locally to enable them come home permanently and make a decent living.”

IBON added that from April 2001 to April 2006, the government has created an average of only 787,000 jobs annually, “not even enough to absorb just the new average new entrants in the job market of more than 978,000, much less make a dent in the growing number of unemployed Filipinos, currently pegged at over 4.4 million workers.”

Meanwhile, the government has deployed a yearly average of 900,000 OFWs from 2001 to 2005. The share of OFW remittances to the gross national product has grown from nearly 8 percent in 2001 to 10 percent in 2005, said IBON. (Refer to Table 1)

“Until sufficient jobs can be created, overseas workers will have to continue risking physical and psychological abuse, and even death, in order to feed their families and ensure them a decent life,” the think tank said. Bulatlat

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