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Unifil marks 34th year with call on migrants to safeguard rights

22 September 2019


By Vir B. Lumicao

Image may contain: 2 people
A parade kicked off Unifil's 34th year celebration on Chater Road

Thirty-four years since it was founded, United Filipinos in Hong Kong continues to rally migrant workers to remain solid and continue the struggle for their rights and welfare.

Unifil chairperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez, addressing about 300 Filipinos who gathered on Chater Road in Central today, Sept. 22, to celebrate her group’s 34th anniversary, said that despite their victories, many challenges remain.

“Nananatili pa rin ang banta sa atin na tayo ay hindi pa makakauwi sa ating bansang Pilipinas sapagkat nananatili pa rin ang labor export program at pinalalakas pa ito ng kasalukuyang gobyerno sa pamamagitan ng pagtatayo ng Department of OFWs,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

She said the Duterte government continues to be deaf to migrants workers’ gripes.
“Tatlong taon na ang lumipas subalit marami pa sa karaingan nating mga OFW, mga migrante, and hindi pa naibibigay ng gobyernong ito,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

“Kaya tama po, dapat ay hindi tayo tumigil, dapat ay magpatuloy po tayo sa ating pagiging progresibo, dapat ay magpatuloy tayo sa ating pagiging aktibista dahil kapag ipinakita nating ang ating pagsasama-sama sa pagkilos at pagiging organisado natin, nagkakaroon tayo ng mga kongkretong pakinabang dito sa Hong Kong,” she said.

She said the workers should remain united, whether they are campaigning against anti-migrant worker policies of the Hong Kong government or the Philippine government.

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Pelaez said OFWs should relentlessly fight for issues that will eventually lead to their return to their homeland and be reunited with their loved ones.

“Mangyayari lamang po iyan kung ang ating gobyerno ay magsasagawa ng mga trabaho para sa ating mga Pilipino para po tayo ay hindi na mapilitang lumabas ng bansa,” the Unifil leader said.

She said these would be regular jobs with decent salaries for Filipino workers, land for the farmers, and better social services for the Filipino masses.
“Pag iyan po ay maisagawa at maibigay sa mamamayang Pilipino, asahan nating hindi na lalaki ang bilang ng ating mga mamamayan na puwersahang nangingibang-bansa para maghanapbuhay nang mabigyan ng magandang kinabukasan ang pamilya,” she said.

Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, manager of the Mission for Migrant Workers, said her group has witnessed the development, progress, and relentless struggle of Unifil for Filipino migrants’ rights and welfare in Hong Kong.

Tellez said that Unifil would not hesitate to act, especially if the workers are victims of exploitation and whose rights are being violated.

“Hindi ninyo makikita iyan na nakaupo lang, sapagkat iyan ay magpapatuloy sa pagkilos,” Abdon-Tellez said.

She said from its original 10 member groups, Unifil membership has more than doubled.  She said there were times the number fluctuated as member-groups dissolved as leaders went home, but Unifil has remained strong and kept fighting for migrant workers’ rights.
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Parade of flags by Unifil's member-ogranizations
Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, said the activism and solidarity of Unifil and its member groups have paid off because over the past 34 years they have achieved benefits from the Philippine and Hong Kong governments though their mass actions.

“Hindi biro yung dinaanan na mahigit tatlong dekada na patuloy na pakikibaka at, higit sa lahat, patuloy na paglilingkod sa ating mga OFW ditto sa Hong Kong,” Villanueva said as he explained the Unifil slogan “Proud to be progressive.”

He said being progressive means finding ways and solutions to achieve what is best for the workers, especially in the face of adverse policies.

“Kaya kayo ho, kapag napabilang sa isang tinatawag na progresibong organisasyon, dapat  proud tayo…kasi hindi tayo tulad ng sinasabi ng iba na, ‘huwag na kayong magprotesta para sa dagdag-sahod kasi yung sahod, itataas din naman iyan kahit hindi ka magprotesta’,” Villanueva said.

He enumerated the concessions that migrant Filipino workers won through their mass actions, foremost of which was forcing the Consulate to open on Sundays when most domestic workers take their day off.

He also pointed out that the Hong Kong government began legislating annual salary hikes for migrant workers after the Unifil and allied workers groups from other Asian countries fought for them.  

The celebrations started with a mass officiated by Father Dwight dela Torre of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente/Philippine Independent Church at 9 am, and followed by a parade and cultural presentations of various groups under Unifil and other allied organizations.


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