Will Noynoy do a Cory on overseas labor export?

MANILA–IS Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III his mother’s son when it comes to overseas labor export?

Aquino, set to become the 15th Philippine president, may opt to follow-through with his mother’s institutionalization of the economy’s resilient force: overseas Filipino workers.

Under his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino, government hand in the deployment of OFWs was subsumed under one agency, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Overseeing Filipinos’ lot in host countries, on the other hand, was cauterized from the Department of Foreign Affairs and appended to another unit, the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA).

“Noynoy,” like his mother, should have a direct hand in labor migration, said Tomas Achacoso, POEA administrator under Mrs. Aquino.

Achacoso said having a “direct hand” involves not only improving the system of informing prospective overseas Filipinos of migration’s risks but also in shaping policy issues focused on labor migration and national development.

“The success of labor migration (in the Philippines) has distracted policy-makers from the original temporary role of the program,” the former POEA chief told the OFW Journalism Consortium.

The program of sending out Filipinos to work overseas under POEA predecessors Overseas Employment Development Board (OEDB) and National Seamen’s Board (NSB) was used by then-President Ferdinand Marcos to beef up the country’s dollar reserves amid runaway unemployment.

With foreign investors cashing out of the Philippines under Mrs. Aquino’s time and with a foreign debt, money from OFWs propped up a cash-strapped People Power-born government beginning 1986.

Economists also credited money from OFWs, now nearly 10 percent of the country’s population, for having arrested the downward spiral of the economy during the 1997 Asian financial crisis and the collapse of the global financial system a decade later.

“Labor migration as the solution to the Philippines’ economic problem is erroneous, and addresses only one aspect of the [domestic employment] problem,” Achacoso said of government’s overseas employment framework.


ECONOMIST Alvin Ang notes that for a long time, overseas work and remittances mitigated Philippine economic problems such as a feeble fiscal position and lack of jobs.

But since the word mitigation is “fungible,” which in economics means something can be substituted into a resource; remittances from Filipinos abroad “should not just be band aid.”

Ang agrees with Achacoso that the six years under the Aquino administration beginning June is crucial.

Ang echoes his theory of “diasporic dividend” –”net of net” benefit from the country’s migration phenomenon: Now is the time for a Philippine government to explicitly encourage overseas Filipinos to invest in their hometowns.

He says by sending clear signals to local government units, this could happen.

“National government may set the policy environment about luring remittances for development, but many local governments are not minding this potential resource —thus the policy disconnect,” Ang told the OFW Journalism Consortium.

(To be concluded)