If the OFWs are the new heroes, then treat them ac
A VOICE FROM AMERICA - A VOICE FROM AMERICA By Ernie D. Delfin () - August 26, 2001 - 12:00am
Year 2002 should be declared by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the Year of the OFWs and Filipino expatriates.

The entire Filipino nation, including the President, has acknowledged the great contribution of the OFWs in (forced) foreign remittances to the Philippines. They have been informally honored as the bagong bayani but are they getting the respect from our government with the way they are being treated by many government agencies?

Many would say no. Our "new heroes" are being exploited because they still do not have a united voice to harness their great socio-political power. They deserve much more for their great sacrifices and hard work as engineers, nurses, plumbers, drivers, japayukis and domestic helpers in other lands.

Many sacrifice a great deal. Some are even imprisoned or make the supreme sacrifice and are beheaded in a strange land. It is very difficult to live a normal life with dignity and honor under some reported sub-human conditions of exploitation and abuse in some countries. But for lack of opportunities in our homeland, many Filipinos are compelled to leave their families to find work elsewhere. In Hong Kong, Italy, London, The Netherlands, Taiwan and Singapore, Filipino college graduates are underemployed as domestic helpers (DHs) or restaurant waiters or busboys. Of course, they earn 10 times or more than their fellow college graduates, who were lucky enough to land a job in the Philippines.

Over lunch hosted by STAR publisher Max Soliven for his visiting guests (including this writer) at the Phil-am Tower Metro Manila, Vice President and DFA Secretary Teofisto Guingona said that the OFW population could be as high as eight million! That’s a tremendous source of power – consumer power that can be harnessed into economical, financial and political will if utilized wisely and strategically towards nation building.

The overseas Filipinos workers must also be given an essential role in nation building. For a start, Congress must pass an overdue bill that will allow them to vote. I have talked to many OFWs and sadly, they seem to harbor more complaints than praises about their government. They claim that many government employees who deal with OFWs in conjunction with their paperwork in going abroad act as if they are kings or slave owners. When I was growing up, government employees and politicians were referred to as public servants; somebody told me they are now public tyrants! I also learned that about 80 percent of their salary is automatically remitted to the Philippines, for their families as well as to pay their premium contributions to Social Security System. With the alleged corruption at the SSS, it is probably better for these OFWs to be given their money and let them invest it themselves, save for their house and lot, invest in the equity markets, mutual funds or whatever they want. They know what is important to them and their family. The government should just give them that personal choice and responsibility. It’s their money in the first place!

On the other hand, OFWs must also learn to be more pro-active and assertive to demand what is due them. Ventilate your frustrations but organize formally to have a stronger voice – and demand better treatment and more efficient service from your own government. Internet makes it very feasible to organize, as the IT International Group has done the last couple of years. E-mail me and I will advise you how.
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The overseas Filipinos have tremendous potential power to collectively effect the socio-political landscape of their own hometowns or barangays. Their hard-earned dollars, pounds, or dinars can easily replace the P500 or even P1,000 being invested by corrupt politicians to buy votes. It is still common knowledge in many barangays that a local leader is given X amount of pesos to buy votes for corrupt politicians. As the barangay captain knows all the people in his neighborhood, he can predictably "guarantee" whom he can deliver to the trapo who gave him a bagful of cash.

Furthermore, from the taxes remitted by OFWs, the government should allocate a substantial portion of this government windfall to improve roads especially in many towns and barangays, so that the transport of farm products, meat, poultry or fish to other regions can become faster and more efficient. Good roads as well as ports, harbors and airports are the arteries necessary to sustain a progressive trade and commerce domestically and internationally.

If our OFWs are to be recognized as the new heroes of the country, the government must treat them as such. First when they come home for a visit, they must be treated fairly and with respect. Lagay (grease money) for their paperwork must be stopped. Their agencies must pay them as per contract and on time. The banks that use and float their money must give them the highest interest possible. Banks or financial institutions must compete over remittances business to the Philippines. There should be a government OFW "ombudsman" whose sole responsibility is to oversee the welfare of all OFWs.
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Serving the needs of OFWs in Hong Kong, a visionary Filipino businessman, Ricky Sadiosa, a Hong Kong-based publisher of Global News and owner of a foreign remittance business, has added another business called GlobalPinoyBiz through which OFWs all over the world can order and send appliances or merchandise through its catalogue or from its website with the simple click of the mouse. Once the order is paid via credit card or money order, the merchandise is shipped from its Makati warehouse directly to the OFW family anywhere in the Philippines. It is the most efficient way to send goods and regalos to the OFWs families.

Furthermore, GlobalPinoyBiz, through our California-based PMA (Premier Marketing Alliance), is offering any OFW or their families an opportunity to learn entrepreneurship and marketing first hand by becoming a member so that they can also become a distributor where they can earn a few hundred dollars a month with minimal capital (to purchase a small "inventory" of sample products).

In our executive meeting in Makati last month, Ricky Sadiosa, the chairman of GlobalPinoyBiz and I, as the PMA founder, were quite optimistic that this is one concrete way to help the Philippines. We will teach and empower ambitious Filipinos how to become entrepreneurs, to curb the tide of thousands of college graduates just becoming lowly employees of entrepreneurs or business-owners, who are often not college graduates themselves.

As an entrepreneur-businessowner for over 20 years in California, I challenge college graduates and white-collar employees to also explore the vast opportunities offered in the arena of entrepreneurship where a person is truly paid what he is worth, not what his employer says he is worth. E-mail us at pmafounder@emailko.com and we’ll instruct you how to go about it.
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E-mail this writer also at erdelusa@hotmail.com or visit his website at http://www.katipunan-usa.org.

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