“The growing number of victims of human trafficking and contract substitution throughout the world pose a major challenge to the next administration. Increasing poverty has driven many Filipinos to clutch at empty promises of bogus recruiters and human traffickers,” said Susan Ople, president of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
Ople, who recently received the Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Achievement Award for advocacy, noted that the overwhelming support bestowed by overseas Filipino voters to president-elect Benigno Aquino Jr. comes with high hopes and expectations that the labor sector would receive the priority it deserves.
“The increasing trend towards contractual work has become a major push factor for migration as more Filipinos consider migration as the first option for economic advancement,” Ople said.
According to the Ople Center , the incoming administration should immediate embark on institutional and legislative reforms that would
1. Grant additional seats in the Board of Trustees to strengthen OFW representation in the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration while providing additional benefits to its members;
2. Allocate budgets for the immediate deployment of legal and social welfare attaches particularly to countries with a high incidence of human trafficking and other welfare cases, such as in destination points in the Middle East. Philippine Embassies and Consulates must be prepared to file cases against abusive foreign employers and agents, especially in cases involving contract substitution, rape and maltreatment of workers, rather than just repatriate the workers involved.
3. Establish one-stop inter-agency OFW assistance centers in provincial capitols to cut red tape and facilitate immediate services to OFW families particularly in the areas of repatriation, reintegration and legal assistance.
Ople noted that the early lead bestowed by overseas absentee voters to the soon-to-be-proclaimed president Noynoy Aquino has raised high expectations among leaders of various Filipino communities worldwide.
The youngest daughter of the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople lost her first senatorial bid under the Nacionalista Party but vowed to continue her work as a labor advocate through the Blas F. Ople Policy Center.
“Even as we honor our modern-day heroes today, we all know that as their number rises, the more difficult it is for government to reach them at a time of personal or collective crisis. The solution remains here at home, where job creation is imperative and the quality of jobs must improve,” Ople said.
The OFW advocate also flagged increasing concern over rising tensions in the Korean peninsula where over 80,000 Filipino workers are based. “We need to keep an eye out and be more vocal about the need to defuse this ticking bomb in our backyard,” she stressed.