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OFW groups land in middle and lower party-list rankings (Last of two parts)

Platforms

THE nine organizations had been running on various platforms and pushing for diverse programs.

Ahon Pinoy said it encourages OFWs to enter into small business and also plans to “introduce bills that will create jobs and other opportunities here for returning OFWs and for their families and dependents in the Philippines.”

During the campaign period, the Malabon city-based ABROAD organization proposed a “Work Abroad Pay Later” scheme.

The Alyansa ng OFW group primarily planned to “formulate better and more effective plans” in the reintegration of OFW. It also claims to seek strengthening Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 while proposing an OFW Investment Incentives Law. The group also conceptualized a Filipino Community Resource Center.

For its part, APOI primarily aimed to amend several laws, claiming to make them “more responsive to the needs of the current situation. To push this “legislative advocacy” for migrants, APOI wanted to strategically align itself with groups engaged with the Philippine government.

The Pamilyang OFW-SME (OPO) group advocates a thrust on entrepreneurship. It pushed for providing “information, opportunities and benefits” services to OFW and entrepreneur families. The Mandaluyong-City based OPO trains and subsidizes OFWs on home-based, aquaculture and agricultural businesses. This is aside from offering counseling services to OFWs.

AKSI proposed to institute a retirement plan, health care and accident insurance system for seafarers.

In addition, it also planned centralizing the  processing of documents in a one-stop shop center, and encourage seafarer to save part of their earnings by establishing a  “seafarers’ thrift bank and loan center.”

In terms of maritime education, AKSI also pushed the government to provide study grants for maritime instructors, and set up livelihood program. Formed in 1994, the UFS does not explicitly explain its platform for the elections.

Instead, one of its members pointed out in the website the group will monitor maritime issues. One of these is Executive Order 566, regulating review centers and similar institutions including those catering to marine officer candidates, making walk-in exams for cadets more convenient to apply for, streamlining the cadetship system among all vessels registered at POEA, systematizing internal promotion and regulating use of disability benefits.

UFS also pushes for the following: computerization of TESDA’s Assessment and Certification Ratings; the adoption of the International Maritime Organization’s Code of Practice for the Investigation of Maritime Casualties; and, the disclosure of the European Maritime Safety Agency’s report on the state of Philippine maritime education.

As posted in its Facebook account, KALAHI vows to review the RA8042, consolidate all efforts of government in training, certifying, deploying and reintegrating Filipino seafarer, pass laws “mobilizing” OFW remittances for economic use, and “supporting all progressive legislation toward the attainment of a strong republic.”

According to its website, ALON is also pushing for changes in laws governing the country’s maritime sector. It also said it wants young people to appreciate Filipinos’ navigating skills.

Criticism

DESPITE the OFW groups’ claims they will push and fight for OFW welfare, some analysts still think these proposals and plans lack depth given the many issues needing detailed and achievable responses.

Political analyst Ramon Casiple observes that the platforms of the OFW sectoral groups are “motherhood” statements which groups like them normally make during elections. He notes that some of these organizations, such as ABROAD, take on the role of job recruiters and not as legislators.

“The groups should be crafting laws, and not providing jobs to OFWs,” Casiple told the OFW Journalism Consortium in an interview weeks before the elections.

Other critics such as the Kontra Daya consortium had pointed out that three of the groups representing Filipino migrant workers have ties with the Arroyo administration. Ahon Pinoy’s first nominee is Dante Francis Ang II, son of Dante Ang who is chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

Two other nominees of Ahon, Emerito Remulla and Pedro Cuerpo, have links with political clans, the election monitoring group also showed.

The group also claimed the KALAHI party was among those mentioned in a 2006 Malacanang memorandum eliciting support for “pro-government” parties in time for the 2007 party list polls.

In addition, it had two former government officials as nominees: former acting environment secretary Eleazar Quinto and Apostol Poe Gratela, who had served in the POEA governing board.

The election watchdog added APOI’s first nominee for the party-list elections is former Department of Interior and Local Government undersecretary and civil defense administrator Melchor Rosales

Casiple suggests the COMELEC should have taken a hard look at the nominees’ qualifications, since they would be the key to a party’s ability to represent migrant workers in Congress.

“The nominees should be assessed on their track record and if they have connections with the government,” the director of IPER added.#

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