MANILA, Philippines – Migrant groups expressed dismay over the slashed budget of the Department of Foreign Affairs for next year.
Garry Martinez of Migrante International said President Benigno Aquino III’s austerity measures are implemented at the expense of overseas Filipino workers.
“Bakit kami ang titipirin? Bakit ang mga bagong bayani?” said Martinez.
Malacañang cut the DFA’s budget from P12.69 billion this year to P10.98 billion in 2011.
DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo admitted that this would paralyze the operations of Philippine embassies and consulates around the world. It would also mean reduced assistance to Filipinos in distress overseas.
“Malacañang should definitely review its priorities,” Martinez said.
John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East Chapter, said they are now consulting with their members in other parts of the Middle East to discuss what specific actions to take to oppose what they call an “anti-OFW” act by the Aquino administration.
“Other OFWs’ organizations have suggested a 'zero remittance' day if the Aquino administration insists on cutting the legal assistance and assistance to nationals’ funds. We are seriously considering this as an option against an anti-OFW regime,” Monterona said.
For its part, the Filipino Migrant Workers’ Movement (FMWM) said Malacañang’s move sends a wrong signal to OFWs around the world.
“This move of the Aquino government is not only an aberration of the law, but also anti-migrant and gravely unjust to OFWs. President Aquino should reconsider this very unwanted move,” said FMWM chairperson, Jonathan Canchela.
According to Migrante International, there are 108 OFWs on death row; 7,000 Filipino nationals in jails abroad; and at least 10,000 stranded Filipino workers seeking repatriation in the Middle East alone.
“By cutting the budget, the government seems ready to abandon these ‘modern-day heroes’ for the sake of ill-advised austerity measures in government spending. If they really need to practice austerity, why not cut the budgets of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police – slash the funds for waging war on its own people?” Canchela said. -- With ANC