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Unifil-Migrante marks 35th year with hopes for change

18 July 2016

A group from Pangasinan enlivens a wet and bleak day with the "Sayaw sa Bangko".
By Vir B. Lumicao

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante) has urged President Rodrigo Duterte to immediately include issues raised by overseas Filipino workers in his reform program.
The call came during the umbrella group's 35th anniversary celebration on Chater Road on July 3, dubbed "Pagbabago".
Shouting “Sigaw ng OFW, Pagbabago!”, speakers said now is the time for overseas Filipino workers to press the government on their demands.
These include the abolition of the overseas employment certificate, a halt to the “tanim-bala” scam in the Manila airport, and making membership in Pag-IBIG, SSS, and OWWA voluntary.
Unifil-Migrante also demanded a cut in the passport fee, which now costs $480 for a new one and $1,200 for a replacement.
Heavy rain for dampened the celebration. Many of those who had planned to attend sought shelter instead in nearby malls and buildings, while the emcees tried to keep dry A statement from Unfil which was distributed during the gathering said: “Tumatanaw tayo ng panahong ang gobyerno ay makinig at tumugon sa ating hinaing. Ito na ang inaasahan natin sa gobyerno ni Duterte."
The celebrations began with a holy mass officiated by Fr Dwight dela Torre, who in his homily enumerated the accomplishments of Unifil-Migrante in its fight for migrant workers’ rights.
Migrante Partylist HK chairwoman Vicky Casia-Cabantac recalled Unifil's struggle to defend the rights of OFWs in Hong Kong, even under the regime of forced remittance by the Marcos administration.
“Hindi tumigil ang Unifil sa pakikipaglaban para sa mga karapatan ng mga migrante sa Hong Kong, maging ang mga pamilya sa Pilipinas,” Cabantac said.
She  added that the umbrella group has already achieved many victories over the past 35 years. “Ang mahalaga, nandito na ang malaking pagbabago. Magbubunga na ang pakikibaka ng United Filipinos-Migrante Hong Kong,” she said.
In a farewell dig at the previous administration of Benigno S. Aquino III, Cabantac added: "At last may pag-asa na tayo dahil sa nakaraang anim na taon, binale-walaa tayo, anim na taon na walang proteksiyon, puro koleksiyon ang inabot nating mga OFW."
As the rain poured, leaders of the group including chairperson Dolores Balladores huddled with supporters under tarpaulin tents set up to shield the sound system.
When the rain finally stopped at mid-afternoon, the stage came alive with the presentation of native songs and dances from various regions of the country.
Opening the segment was the Methodist international Church Filipino Christian Community group which sang "Dalagang Pilipina" to the accompaniment of the angklo, a set of percussion instruments made of bamboo stems.
Also among the performers was the Panay Overseas Workers Association which danced Dinagyang.

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