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Global Filipinos

The Arab News, the Middle East’s leading English language daily, reported from Saudi Arabia that two of the wealthiest and most successful Philippine women overseas have now declared that Filipino overseas workers will no longer be called the demeaning “OCWs” (overseas contract workers) or OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) but more respectfully referred to as “Global Filipinos.”

The two New York-based ladies, industry heiress Loida Nicolas Lewis and entrepreneur-fashion designer Josie Natori, thanked former five-time House of Representatives Speaker Jose de Venecia for his official biography “Global Filipino”, written by former Wall Street Journal Editor Brett Decker, published by Regnery Publishing in Washington D.C.

They said Filipinos abroad will now be called “Global Filipinos.”

The occasion was the book launching at the prestigious Heritage Foundation in Washington D.C. followed by another launching at the Natori Fashion House in New York City attended by government officials, business leaders, and friends in the Filipino communities in the US East Coast.

Decker said in his book available at www.amazon.com or Borders.com bookstore, that international entrepreneur de Venecia, who pioneered in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East and North Africa in the 1970s, conceived and implemented the dollar remittance program, which has earned the Philippines more than $200 billion since 1968 and in 2008 alone raised more than $16 billion for the Central Bank, contributed by some nine million Filipinos working overseas.

There are now some 1.2 million Filipinos on the Saudi east and west coasts and in the central region around Riyadh and about 500,000 in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, and Libya.

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The biggest contributor to foreign exchange remittances in the Philippines is still the US with more than 2.5 million Filipinos there, followed by Saudi Arabia’s 1.2 million, countries in the European Union, and neighbor states in Southeast Asia.

This dollar-remittance program has become a model for the Third World countries like Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Egypt, Turkey, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, with large expatriate populations in various parts of the world.

Lewis thanked De Venecia for also conceiving the dual-citizenship law that enables Filipinos who became US or European citizens to retain their Filipino citizenship, income tax-exemption for the nine million overseas Filipinos who need no longer pay taxes to the Philippine government to prevent double taxation, right to vote for overseas Filipinos, and for now promoting the “global image of the global Filipinos.”

Decker said other Global Filipinos are pianist Cecille Licad, singer Lea Salonga, fashion designer Monique Lhuillier, heart surgeon Dr. Julio Garcia, Conrado “Dodo” Banatao of Silicon Valley fame, the architect Daniel Romualdez, journalists Veronica Pedrosa, Gene Marcial, Eddie Lachica, Juan Gatbonton, Leslie Perez Norton, Ricky Hizon, Bert Pelayo, Christine Cunanan Miki, and Roger Lagmay Oriel, the ultimate boxer Manny Pacquiao, bankers and financial and industrial wizards Ramon Ang, Bobby Ongpin, Washington Sycip and Manny Pangilinan, business tycoons Henry Sy, John Gokongwei, Lucio Tan, Manny Villar, Oscar Lopez and Tony Tan Caktiong.

Decker said De Venecia has been for years a trailblazer for the Filipino people, Asia and the world.

In a political arena often plagued by uncertainty, intrigue, corruption, and poverty, he has fought relentlessly to cast off the Philippines’ unflattering moniker as the “sick man of Asia” and has sought to bring political, economic, and cultural influence to the dynamic, hardworking people of his homeland.

A visionary, peace maker, coalition builder and achiever, De Venecia has:

— conceived and implemented the historic dollar-remittance program that keeps the Philippine economy afloat and which has become a model for the Third World;

— provided breakthroughs in the peace accord between Christian and Muslim (MNLF) Filipinos in 1996 and a second pact between government and military rebels;

— pioneered Filipino projects in the Arab world that led to the employment of millions of Filipinos worldwide;

— founded the Asian Parliamentary Assembly and the International Conference of Asian Political Parties (ICAPP) to create the beginnings of an Asian Parliament and help achieve political and economic integration in Asia

— pushed the Christian-Muslim and Interfaith Dialogues approved by the United Nations to reduce politico-religious tensions and conflicts in various parts of the world;

— presented his debt for UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) plan, endorsed by G-77 Plus China countries but pending at the G-7 industrial democracies, to finance the battle against poverty amidst the global financial crisis.

Despite all these advancements, Decker said Jose de Venecia is still not immune to the turbulence of Philippine politics. In February 2008, he was ousted from the Speakership after refusing to ignore his conscience and opposed with his son, Joey III, a scandal-wracked government deal involving some very prominent members of the Philippine government.

Through it all, however, De Venecia has continued to serve the people of his great country. De Venecia continues the fight to improve the lives of his fellow countrymen. No matter the ultimate outcome of the current political tumult, “what will long linger in the nation’s collective consciousness is the recognition that he — more than any one else in his generation — ushered his people into the age of the Global Filipino.”

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