February 1, 2011
Global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Migrante International today called on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to “employ solid and decisive actions and not just empty promises” in ensuring the safety and welfare of OFWs in Egypt.
“Hindi na sapat na sabihin lang ng DFA na they are on top of the situation o na may pondo nang nakalaan para sa evacuation ng ating mga OFW sa Egypt. Ang kailangan na sa puntong ito ay agarang mga pagpapatupad ng kanilang mga pahayag. Nauna silang magpahayag ng evacuation pero hanggang ngayon ay wala pa ring nae-evacuate,” said Garry Martinez, Migrante International chairperson.
The DFA announced that it had allotted P25 million as emergency funds earmarked for the evacuation of OFWs in Egypt. Until now, however, the Philippines government is yet to act upon calls from OFWs and their families for immediate evacuation.
“What are they waiting for? They even have to gall to state that Pinoys in Egypt are ‘safe’ and in no need for evacuation amid continuous militarist attacks and repressive measures by Mubarak’s military. Napang-iwanan na naman sa pansitan ang ating gobyerno at embahada,” said Martinez.
Migrante International earlier expressed solidarity with the people of Egypt in their fight against the Mubarak dictatorship. The migrant group also called on the Philippine government to facilitate the immediate evacuation of OFWs and Filipino nationals from conflicted areas in Egypt. It had also called on Pres. Benigno Aquino III to add his voice to the international clamor for Mubarak to step down as a resolution to the conflict.
“Monitoring” not enough
Martinez said that it is not enough to simply “monitor” the situation in Egypt. “Laging ganyan na lang ang sinasabi nila, that they are monitoring the situation, but they always fall short on concrete actions,” he said.
Martinez said that the situation in Egypt is just the latest in a series of cases since the start of the year wherein OFWs have demanded immediate attention only to be met with inaction from the Philippine government.
He cited the case of at least 50 Filipino women and children stranded under Khandara Bridge in Jeddah, OFWs in need of relief operations after recent typhoons and floods in the Middle East and Australia, mysterious and violent deaths of Filipino nationals in Saudi Arabia and the continuous deployment and trafficking of OFWs in banned countries Afghanistan, Jordan and Iraq.
Emergency funds vulnerable to corruption
Martinez said that without concrete actions, emergency funds released during crisis situations are vulnerable to corruption.
He expressed particular concern over Special Envoy Roy Cimatu’s having been put in charge to facilitate contingency measures in Egypt. Cimatu has recently been dragged into the controversy of “pabaon” and other gifts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Apart from this, Martinez said that Cimatu has also been involved in unresolved issues of corruption related to the evacuation of OFWs in crisis-ridden areas. Among them, the failure evacuate OFWs during the Iraq war in 2004 despite the allocation of $253,500 repatriation funds; and that he had spent said funds for the procurement of humvees, other military vehicles and food for Philippine troops deployed to Iraq in 2004.
Chairperson, Migrante International