With Due Respect – Philippine Daily Inquirer
February 10, 2008
MANILA, Philippines — I was invited, through Foreign Secretary Alberto G. Romulo, to meet President Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacañang last Feb. 6. We discussed many non-partisan concerns of the nation, like the seismic tests for oil and other natural resources in the Spratlys, jointly undertaken by the Philippines, China and Vietnam; the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) that is still awaiting Senate concurrence; and the strengthening of the Commission on Elections, started auspiciously with the appointment of Chair Jose A. R. Melo.
OFW recommendations. I took the occasion to submit to the President a position paper of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) recommending five specific measures to relieve them of their woes:
“1. To revoke immediately POEA Memo Circular No. 4 (series of 2007) in order to avert the loss of existing and potential jobs for OFWs in a shrinking and fiercely competitive global labor market;
“2. To bring about the urgent transformation of all international airports in the Philippines, especially Naia I & II, into customer-friendly, cheerful and hospitable places not only for OFWs but for all passengers;
“3. To direct a total revamp of the POEA, and if necessary, to appoint a new administrator, whose credentials equal those of Quezon City Mayor Sonny Belmonte or Tony Tan Caktiong of Jollibee, in order to reinvent an efficient and effective POEA;
“4. To set in motion the audit of POEA, OWWA, and PhilHealth funds, in order to assure the OFWs that their hard-earned money is in good hands; and
“5. To prompt the Department of Foreign Affairs to raise the bar and to continuously improve its services to prospective OFWs and those who are currently deployed, especially in Nigeria, Middle East and India.”
These proposals were collated and synthesized from hundreds of e-mail by a core group of 20 led by Dr. Carmelita Cochingco-Ballesteros, Ph.D., a professor at the Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. The other OFWs who helped her are Benjamin Baquilod (India), Nardito Sapon (Singapore), Freddie Base (Saudi Arabia), Erickson Alon (United States), Rosa Cagantas (United Kingdom), Ricardo Decena (Nigeria), Jimmy Cabatit (Nigeria), Flori Tuason (Sweden), Juvy Jumalon (Singapore), Manuelito Dagohoy (Saudi Arabia), Maynard Flores (Nigeria), Noslen Sonnel (Singapore), Alexander Moreno (United States), Mark Anthony Serrano (Dubai), Joey Pandy (Middle East), Herbert Sumalinog (Singapore), Jaime Enage Jr. (China), Leo Figaroa (Nigeria) and Eliseo Tenza (Dubai).
These recommendations were triggered by my three successive columns on Jan. 6, 13, and 20, denouncing the shabby treatment of OFWs. These articles can still be accessed at http://www.inquirer.net or my personal website, http://www.cjpanganiban.ph
The President was visibly touched by the OFWs’ stories narrating their airport ordeals, frayed nerves, anxiety, vexatious delays and loss of employment for some. GMA was especially peeved at POEA’s obvious lack of care and efficiency in handling their laments. She asked me to assure the OFWs that she would act expeditiously on their position paper and ease their woes.
NB: taken without permission from the personal website of Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban (ret)