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Plan, save, learn skills for reintegration, OFWs told

04 December 2017

Overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong should plan, save and acquire investment and livelihood skills for their eventual return home right on their first year here, according to Deputy Consul General Deric Atienza.

The officer-in-charge of the Consulate gave the advice on Nov 19 as he welcomed resource speakers and guests from Manila and the Filipino community to a day-long seminar, the “International Forum on Migration in Hong Kong,” at the Admiralty Convention Centre.

The forum is an annual activity for the Month of Overseas Filipinos in December, which is being celebrated this year in Hong Kong and Doha, Qatar, with the theme “Enhancing Reintegration, Leaving no Migrants and Their families Behind.”  The event was organized by the Consulate in cooperation with the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch and Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
Participants assemble for a souvenir photo at the end of the forum.

Atienza thanked the Hong Kong-based OFWs for the impact of their monthly cash remittances to their families on the Philippine economy.

He said the Filipino community in Hong Kong is one of the biggest globally and the largest in East Asia at 220,000. It comprises about 200,000 migrant workers, 90% of whom are women domestic helpers.

“Dahil sa padala ninyo sa inyong mga pamilya ay patuloy ang pag-ikot ng ating ekonomiya,” Atienza said. “Hindi maliit ang halaga ng ipinapadala natin sa Pilipinas.”

He said no less than 10% of the country’s population of 110 million is made up of overseas workers, with all 11 million of them deployed across the globe. But he cited a dark side to the labor exportation: the so-called social costs, such as broken homes and wayward children.

“Hindi maganda na natatapos lamang siya sa merely na pagpapadala,” Atienza said, suggesting that workers do so in a smart way, not just to spend on commercial goods but rather to reinvest in their country.

He said government wants to shorten the migration of OFWs. “The government is already exerting efforts in such a way na kapag lumabas kayo ng Pilpinas, maipo-program ninyo mula sa paglabas, unang taon pa lamang matatantiya nyo kung hanggang kailan, at mai-effect yung plans ninyo.”

He said a parent’s absence from her family for 3 years, 10 years and even 20 years has a priceless social cost to her family, even if she can fix the economic cost with remittances.

“Yung absence nyo sa families ninyo affects how your children grow up, your children are not with you, your spouses are not with you, lahat po iyan ay may adverse effect. Because of this, the ideal situation is that we stay at home. And if you can shorten the time that you are overseas, then that’s even better,” Atienza said.

Carmelita Nuqui, president of Philippine Migrants Rights Watch and chair of Interagency Committee on the Month of Overseas Filipinos, said the celebration was institutionalized during the time of President Cory Aquino 10 years ago.

The line-up of activities for November and December leading up to the final celebration on Dec 18 is coordinated with provincial governments and actively involves OFWs.

Nuqui noted the reality that workers had to work abroad because there were not enough opportunities at home. Even in congressional hearings on emergency repatriation, OFWs trapped in war zones refuse to be flown home because of fear their families would starve.

Other speakers were Mark Espina of the National Reintegration Center for OFWs, who discussed the Department of Labor and Employment’s reintegration program for returning migrants; Frencel Tinga of the CFO, who talked about human trafficking and government’s programs and services to combat the menace. 

Leo Selomenio spoke about her dream to be a president seemingly fulfilled by her becoming a community leader and a film star in Hong Kong, thanks to the award-winning movie, “Sunday Beauty Queen”.

Raymond Francis Ramos updated members on the Pag-IBIG Fund’s services for overseas Filipinos, while Lucille Blesilda Simbol discussed the Social Security System’s services for OFWs.
Mid-morning snacks and lunch were provided for participants, who each went home with a certificate of attendance.  – Vir B. Lumicao

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