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Filipino-Americans support zero-remittance day

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Contact: Berna Ellorin
Secretary-General, BAYAN USA

The US Chapter of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, or BAYAN USA, an alliance of 12 Filipino organizations across five US cities, has endorsed the international call for “zero-remittance day” for next Wednesday, October 29th. The call was issued primarily from the International Migrants Alliance (IMA), of which BAYAN USA is a founding member of, and Migrante International, the largest alliance of overseas Filipino organizations.

A recent statement from Malacanang indicated the Philippine government’s concern over the call, so much so that a government appeal have been made to have the call  withdrawn and have the concerns of its proponents taken up inside the upcoming Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), a multi-lateral state dialogue scheduled to occur next week in Manila. The key agenda to be taken up at the GFMD will be migration’s correlation to the development of nations by studying the Philippine labor export model.

“We support the call of IMA for a day of no remittance because we believe the Philippine model of outmigration is not an example to be proud of,” states Chito Quijano, chair of BAYAN USA. “Using the Philippines as a case study, massive and aggressive outmigration of over 3,000 Filipinos daily is an indicator of domestic economic failure, not development. The Philippines now has the most remittance-dependent economy in the world, and domestically is in a chronic state of economic crisis and massive poverty that will only get worse with the looming global financial crisis. At the same time overseas Filipinos around the world remain oppressed, exploited, abused in their host countries, and unprotected by the very government that pushed them out. This is anything but ‘development’ the people of the world seek. By not remitting for one day, Filipinos all over the world harness their economic power and take a stand against the sick and violative nature of the Philippine labor export program.”

In 2007, overseas remittances to Philippine banks totaled a record $14.5 billion US dollars. Out of this, 51% came from Filipinos in the United States, making the call from the US even heavier. There are approximately 4 million Filipinos living in the United States today, making it the largest overseas Filipino population in the world. Despite strong outpouring of remittances from the US, Filipinos in the US still face harsh conditions related to immigration, including unjust raids and deportations, massive job lay-offs, curtailment of civil rights, and many other issues that the Philippine government has always ignored.

“We literally save the Philippine economy everyday from sinking by our dollar remittances, and corrupt politicians have been enjoying their pork barrels fueled by our hard-earned dollars, without any action taken when migrants need their advocacy overseas. It’s time to let them know where the real economic power comes from– migrants,” Quijano added.

“But in the end the measure of our economic development should not be how many Filipinos we can export abroad, but how many decent wage jobs we can offer Filipinos in the Philippines, so that they can live, work, and stay with their families in their own country and have a good quality of life,” Quijano concluded.

Quijano further added that job development in the country starts with rejection of neo-liberal trade agreements to build the Philippine’s economic self-sufficiency and the development of national industries to provide jobs for the domestic population.

Filipinos from the US will be attending the upcoming challenge conference to the GFMD, the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) in Manila from October 28-30. Actions in the US will also take place in support of zero-remittance day.