Filipinos who are active in various Pinoy organizations in London were glued on television, Monday morning, UK time to watch the 9th and final State of the Nation Address of President Arroyo, which was beamed live in the UK via the ABS-CBN’s The Filipino Channel (TFC).
Ana Maravilla, a member of the PhilJury in UK organized the small get-together for Filipinos at her house. They intended to watch the SONA together and enjoy a sumptuous Pinoy meal after watching.
Some of them had work like Claire Mathews but decided to take time off to listen to the President’s SONA.
For Mathews who has been living in the UK for 22 years now, it was a welcome experience listening to the SONA after so long a time.
“Kasi tayo mahilig sa abbreviation. So sabi ko ano yung SONA? Di ko maitanong. Kasi 22 years na ako dito. Tinanong ko yung asawa ko sabi niya music daw. Kasi British yun so ano ang alam niya. Nung makita ko na sa TV yun, State of the Nation Address lang pala,” Mathews said, laughing at herself.
They also did not pass up the chance to tie yellow ribbons around the house and the backyard to show their love and support for former President Corazon Aquino who is still battling colon cancer.
When the President Arroyo paid tribute to the contributions of migrant workers to Philippine economy, they were all ears.
The President said “our vigorous international engagement has helped bring in foreign investment. Net foreign direct investments multiplied 15 times. Together with our OFWs, they more than doubled our foreign exchange reserves.”
The President justified that her travels abroad and the dollars sent home by OFWs have helped strengthen the peso, increased the Philippine reserves and also saved lives. “Pagpunta ko sa Kuwait, Emir Al-Sabah commuted death sentences. We thank all our leaders, all world leaders who shown compassion with our workers.”
She added “pagpunta ko sa Saudi, pinatawad ni Haring Abdullah ang pitong daang OFW na nasa preso. Pinuno nila ang isang buong eroplano at umuwi kasama ko.”
They praised the President for this achievement but for them it is not enough.
“Kung tutuusin hindi sapat. Mayroon pa sana siyang ginawang ibang paraan para halimbawa sa TNT na nadi-depress dito dahil wala silang trabaho,” said Eva Macandangdang, a community organizer in London.
Maravilla said if there is anything that the Philippine government should do as regards the welfare of migrant workers it should be a tougher measure to curb the proliferation of illegal recruiters:
“Ang dapat pong gawin ni President, request ko lang, yung mga nasa recruitment agencies na yan ang repasuhin number one. Diyan dapat mag-concentrate lalo na ngayon dito sa UK may mga estudyante pa po (na nabiktima). Hindi nila alam ang gagawin nila pero yung mga recruitment agency sa Pilipinas, kumita na sila,” she said.
Recognizing the contribution of migrant workers, the president promised a stronger consumer protection for OFWs investing in property and products back home. She also declared that the government is working on generating work that pays well ‘so that overseas work will just be a career choice, not the only option for a hard-working Filipino’.
Edgar Garen believes it is a good vision but it is impossible to achieve especially in this time of economic difficulties.
“The practical thing to do is to allow other people to move away because there is no improvement in the Philippines which we all know. I don’t think that is factual information of the President,” he said.
Maravillla seconded and said it is just unrealistic: “Kapag ang isang OFW lumabas ng bansa, kalimutan mo ang diploma mo, katulad ko. Kasi even here in London we have been earning pounds pero kung ano ka man sa atin kuskos ka pa rin (dito). Punas ka ng puwet ng may puwet, kuskos ka ng kubeta.”
“Lahat naman ng narasan kong presidente mahilig lang sa pangako pero kulang sa gawa,” said Rustom Aguinaldo, a former military serviceman in the Philippines.
Overall, they gave the president a passing rate. But for clinging to the presidency they all agreed that she deserves a failure mark.