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October 1999, Volume 6, Number 10

Philippines: Celebrate Migrants

The Philippine government estimates that there are 3.5 million Filipinos abroad, living in 120 countries and remitting $7 billion a year. The Philippines has holidays and issues proclamations in support of its foreign workers overseas. For example, Senate President Blas Ople in August 1999 said that Filipino workers had shown local and foreign employers that they were trainable, more skillful and more dependable than other potential migrants. Ople said that Saudi Arabia alone employs nearly a million Filipino workers.

President Joseph Estrada, when seeking foreign investment, frequently says that he wants "to open the gates to foreign [investors] so they can create more jobs so [migrants] don't have to go abroad and instead go home to the Philippines."

Filipino migrants often accuse their government of levying fees on them but not providing effective assistance to them. For example, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 (Republic Act 8042) stationed diplomats in countries with migrants to assist those who got into trouble. Two migrant associations, Kaibigan and DAWN, charged that the act has not been effective in helping migrants—690 Filipino migrants died abroad in 1998 and 1,035 were detained by authorities. The Philippines has bilateral recruitment agreements with 10 countries, but not with the major countries of migrant employment.