By JORGE OSIT/Manila Bulletin
The Social Weather Station (SWS) exit poll conducted shortly after the last elections showed that more Filipinos are optimistic that their quality of life will improve in the coming 12 months; a sentiment reflective of their collective trust in President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III who ran on a reformist platform of waging war on corruption.
Forty nine percent expressed optimism that economic growth will favorably affect their lives. As for economic outlook covering the remainder of this year, 52 percent are optimistic while two percent are pessimistic.
The aforesaid exit poll went beyond more than cold demographics and statistics, it fleshed out the last presidential elections with a human dimension and, to a great extent, it revealed an electorate buoyed by a renewed sense of optimism for the future.
Aside from being the torch-bearer in his vow to weed out corruption, Aquino also made a promise in his campaign platform that if he got elected, he would “create jobs at home so that working abroad will be out of choice, not necessity.”
We must bear in mind that from the pronouncements made by the May 2010 presidentiables, this was so far the closest we could get to the economic agenda of bringing home our overseas Filipino workers.
Admittedly, the incoming Aquino administration will be facing tough challenges ahead—and as the helmsman of the ship of state, Aquino will need all the wisdom, fortitude and persistence to navigate the perilous shoals in the midst of stormy economic times to bring all of us to a safe haven or desired destination.
Looking ahead, it is hoped that our desired destination will translate to reality once the Aquino presidency comes to a close six years from today. It is my dream that bringing home our OFWs will be one of the Aquino legacies and consistent with this dream, I hope and pray that in the farewell State of the Nation Address (SONA) of the future President Benigno Aquino III, his speech will be highlighted with an epic breakthrough in turning back the tide of OFWs.
I have a soft spot for our OFWs, particularly our women migrant workers deployed overseas as domestic helpers (DHs) or, to put it bluntly, maids who are often abused in so many despicable and inhumane ways.
It is a bitter truth that we have to confront; it is a blot on our conscience that will only deepen as we grow calcified in our shamelessness in offering our women OFWs on the altar of Mammon.
It is a sad commentary that, more often than not, our government turns a blind eye to abuses and discrimination suffered by our OFWs in exchange for a steady stream of the much-needed remittances. Undoubtedly, the Filipino diaspora over the years has given rise to a rich trove of foreign currencies that have kept our national economy afloat through difficult times.
Starting as a stop-gap measure during the early Marcos years, the deployment of Filipino migrant laborers grew exponentially and today, about 10 percent of our total national population are spread out across the globe, braving all odds and hardships just to eke out a living for their loved ones and relatives.
Viewed against this backdrop, it can be said—although our government will never officially acknowledge it—that our overseas Filipino workers constitute our country’s no.1 export.
Consider this: Despite the global recession, last year, our OFWs sent home US$17.3 billion which accounted for 10.8 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). Interestingly, our OFW remittances have managed to keep increasing despite the economic downturn.
Why? The answer lies in the sheer number of our overseas workers. What started as a trickle is now a rampaging tide of warm bodies aspiring to realize a common dream—to work abroad. Ironically, this “aspiration” of our people is an indictment of our national leaders and economic managers.
They have all failed, on a grand scale, to provide employment opportunities for our people right here in our own homeland. This is one challenge where I hope our brand-new President would make a big difference and, for him to succeed, all hands must be on deck as he steers the ship of state to our desired destination.
Media practitioner and book author Jorge B. Osit began Business Agenda Report four years ago. He looks forward to compiling select pieces for a forthcoming book. For feedback, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org