Friday, November 17, 2006

Into the breach again: US looks to Filipinos

Asia Times Online, 17 Nov 2006

Into the breach again: US looks to Filipinos
By Cher S Jimenez

When the United States moves to downsize its military facilities in Okinawa, Japan, and begin construction on new military bases designed to house 8,000 marines and their families on the Pacific island of Guam, Filipino construction workers will likely do most of the heavy lifting.

In September, Philippine labor officials accepted an invitation from Guam - a US territory - to discuss hiring 15,000 Filipino construction workers to work on the new military facilities, including barracks, administration buildings, schools, training target sites, runways and entertainment establishments. On-land construction activities on Guam are set to begin early next year and the estimated US$10 billion project is scheduled for completion in 2014.

The US Congress' Overseas Basing Commission had earlier estimated that the cost of relocation and building the new base in Guam, including facilities for a new command post and housing for the marines' family members, at about $2.9 billion.

For undisclosed reasons, the US military now says the total cost will be closer to $10 billion, of which Japan has agreed to shoulder 59% of the bill. Cheap Filipino labor, it is believed, will help bring down those spiraling costs. If the deal is done, it will mark the latest big hire of Filipino workers by the US military and its affiliated business interests.

The US has employed more than 7,000 Filipino workers - nearly half of them undocumented - in its four main military camps in Iraq, according to Philippine labor officials. Neither the Philippine nor US governments has publicly owned up to how thousands of Filipino workers have slipped into Iraq and found work on US military facilities. US federal policy prohibits the employment of non-Americans inside US military facilities, but the Bush administration's heavy use of private contractors has blurred the lines between public and private functions.

After a Filipino truck driver killed in Iraq caused a domestic uproar against the Philippines' participation in the United States' war effort, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in July 2004 banned any new deployments of Filipino workers to Iraq. Philippine-based non-governmental organizations tracking Arroyo's support to the United States' global counter-terrorism campaign contend that both Washington and Manila have quietly decided to ignore the official ban to maintain the steady supply of cheap, English-speaking Filipino workers in Iraq. Washington clearly seems to favor Filipinos over other English-speaking nationalities for its most crucial and sensitive military-related construction projects.

In March 2002, Washington and Manila secretly processed the papers of 250 Filipino construction workers to help build new or overhaul old detention facilities now in use at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where the US controversially holds hundreds of suspects as part of its "global war on terror" campaign, according to Philippine officials. For their efforts, Filipino workers received a $1,000 monthly salary - far below what it would have cost the US military to employ US citizens.

Contractual gratitude Local labor recruiters have been told by government officials that the Guam assignment is a US reward for the Arroyo administration's strong support for its "war on terror". There is also an element of trust: US soldiers frequently train with their Philippine counterparts and US advisers are currently training and providing logistical support to Arroyo's campaign against Muslim separatists in the southern Philippines.

Philippine officials estimate that if and when Filipino workers are deployed to work in Guam, they will earn wages similar to those paid for the Guantanamo operation. From the United States' perspective, hiring cheap Filipinos makes good economic sense at a time when the US military budget has spiraled out of control with the mounting expense of operations in Iraq and to a lesser degree Afghanistan. It also appears to be part of a quiet outsourcing process: the US Department of Defense's 2005 base realignment and closures recommendations aimed to pare "unnecessary management personnel" at Guam's existing facilities, including "military, personnel and contractor personnel", to the tune of 174 lost jobs over the period spanning 2006-11. Cheaper Filipinos are expected to fill some of the lost contractor positions, Philippine labor sources say.

And they will be charged with building facilities alongside some of the most advanced and important assets the US military maintains outside the continental US. This includes Andersen Air Force Base, which can handle aircraft ranging from unmanned aerial vehicles to long-range strategic bombers, and Apra Harbor, which services everything from nuclear submarines to aircraft carriers. Andersen's special hangar facilities are designed specifically to protect the special radar-evading skin of B-2 bombers.

Sources from the Philippine recruitment industry say that, apart from their low cost, Filipino construction workers are "highly favored" by the US because of their English-language skills. According to industry sources, Middle Eastern companies that have recently hired large numbers of Filipino construction workers there are often subsidiaries of or somehow affiliated with big US reconstruction firms, including Halliburton, Bechtel and Flour Daniel.

"Americans favor Filipino workers because we can understand them and they speak English," said Loreto Soriano, president and chairman of the board of LBSeBusiness, a Manila-based recruitment firm. "Construction manuals and plans are written in English, so we can follow easily, and that's what they like." Their overall skill sets, including their ability to work with modern construction technology, however, are very much in question. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) recently said that from 2001 to 2005 it was only able to meet 56% of global orders for 103,167 construction workers because of their low skills, including their inability to operate modern construction technology.

Much of that demand has come from the Middle East, where booming oil prices have led to a flurry of new construction and infrastructure projects. Soriano said the Philippines generally could not meet the surging demand for highly qualified construction workers, including welders, flame cutters, plumbers, pipe fitters and carpenters.

For the past few months, job advertisements for construction workers and engineers rose by almost 29%; there were new requests for 4,000 overseas placements in September, according to official statistics. As of 2005, the Professional Regulation Commission registered 312,478 construction-sector professionals, where nearly one-third was listed as qualified civil engineers.

However, the POEA, the government agency that oversees labor deployment abroad, had registered only 737 professionals over the period spanning 2002-04. Now, local employers are complaining about the growing number of construction workers who leave their jobs without notice after they have been placed overseas. Some in Manila fear that if the government paves the way for 15,000 workers to take jobs in Guam, the already labor-strapped local Philippine construction could come to a total grinding halt. However, that could also happen to the planned new military facilities in Guam if Filipino workers lack the skills to implement US building designs effectively and efficiently.

Cher S Jimenez is a Manila-based journalist with the BusinessMirror newspaper.
She recently received a grant from the Ateneo de Manila University to conduct investigative journalism on illegal workers in the United Arab Emirates.

(Copyright 2006 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing .)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

DoLE suspends OFW deployment to Kazakhstan

By Veronica Uy
Last updated 02:42pm (Mla time) 10/25/2006

THE Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Wednesday suspended the processing and deployment of Filipino workers to Kazakhstan five days after clashes broke out between Turkish and Kazakh workers.

Acting Labor Secretary Danilo Cruz told the order is “effective today until further

He issued the order shortly after a multi-department meeting attended by Foreign Affairs undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., acting administrator Viveca Catalig of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, administrator Marianito Roque of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, and a representative of local recruitment agency International Security Development (ISD).

Cruz also said a composite team composed of the Philippine ambassador and consul general to Pakistan, the Philippine labor attaché to Riyadh, and a representative of ISD will be sent to Tengiz, Kazakhstan “to assess the situation and conduct dialogue with the Filipinos there.”
He said they are expected to arrive in Kazakhstan on Friday.

From their meeting, the acting labor chief said it was learned that although there is “continuing provocation from Kazakh workers,” the Filipino workers there are not in so much danger.

"Aside from reinforced security from private security guards and the Kazakhstan government, the Filipinos have been moved to quarters separate from other nationalities,” he said.

However, he said, the Philippine government has asked Bechtel, the Filipinos' employer, to have a separate mess hall for Filipinos as all nationalities eat at the same mess hall.

Asked if the Filipinos have returned to work, Cruz said they have not yet done so.

Earlier, the Department of Foreign Affairs said the Filipino workers will be asked to return to work Wednesday or Thursday.

Cruz belied reports that 40 were killed in the riot last October 20. He said no one was killed, but 300 were injured, two of them seriously.

Monday, October 23, 2006

A U.S. Fortress Rises in Baghdad: Asian Workers Trafficked to Build Worlds Largest Embassy

A U.S. Fortress Rises in Baghdad: Asian Workers Trafficked to Build World's Largest Embassy
by David Phinney, Special to CorpWatch
October 17th, 2006

Things began looking more sketchier than ever to John Owen as he boarded a nondescript white jet on his way back to Iraq in March 2005 following some R&R in Kuwait city. Employed by First Kuwaiti Trading & Contracting, the lead builder for the new $592-million US embassy in Baghdad, Owen remembers being surrounded at the airport by about 50 company laborers freshly hired from the Philippines and India. Everyone was holding boarding passes to Dubai -- not to Baghdad.

"I thought there was some sort of mix up and I was getting on the wrong plane," says the 48-year-old Floridian who was working as a general construction foreman on the embassy project.

He buttonholed a First Kuwaiti manager standing near by and asked what was going on. The manager waved his hand, looked around the terminal and whispered to keep quiet.

"'If anyone hears we are going to Baghdad, they won't let us on the plane,'" Owen recalls the manager saying.

'Not Valid for Iraq'

The secrecy struck Owen as a little odd, but he grabbed his luggage and moved on. Everyone filed out to the private jet and flew directly to Baghdad. "I figured that they had visas for Kuwait and not Iraq," Owen offers.
The deception had all the appearances of smuggling workers into Iraq, but Owen didn't know at the time that the Philippines, India, and other countries had banned or restricted their citizens from working in Iraq because of safety concerns and growing opposition to the war. After 2004, many passports were stamped

"Not valid for Iraq."

Nor did Owen know that both the US State Department and the Pentagon were quietly investigating contractors such as First Kuwaiti for labor trafficking and worker abuse. In fact, the international news media had accused First Kuwaiti repeatedly of coercing workers to take jobs in battle-torn Iraq once they had been lured to Kuwait with safer offers.

The Kuwait-headquartered, Lebanese-run company has billed several billion dollars on US contracts since the war began in March 2003. Much of its work is performed by cheap labor largely hired from South Asia and the company has an estimated 7,500 foreign laborers in the theater of war.

Now, with a highly secretive contract awarded by the US State Department, First Kuwaiti is in the midst of building the most expensive and heavily fortified US embassy in the world. Scheduled to open in 2007, the sprawling complex near the Tigris River will equal Vatican City in size.

But Owen says that working on the project proved to be one of the worst jobs he has ever had in his 27 years of construction work.

Not one of the five different US embassy sites Owen had worked on around the world previously compared to the mess he describes. Armenia, Bulgaria, Angola, Cameroon and Cambodia all had their share of dictators, violence and economic disruption, but the companies building the embassies were always fair and professional, he says. First Kuwaiti is the exception. Brutal and inhumane, he says "I've never seen a project more fucked up. Every US labor law was broken."

Seven months after signing on with First Kuwaiti in November 2005, he quit.
In the resignation letter last June, Owen told First Kuwaiti and US State Department officials that his managers physically assaulted and beat the construction workers, demonstrated little regard for worker safety, and routinely breached security.

And it was all happening smack in the middle of the US-controlled Green Zone -- right under the nose of the State Department that had quietly awarded the controversial embassy contract in July 2005.

He also complained of poor sanitation, squalid living conditions and medical malpractice in the labor camps where several thousand low-paid migrant workers lived. Those workers, recruited on the global labor market from the Philippines, India, Pakistan and other poor south Asian countries, earned as little as $10 to $30 a day. As with many US-funded contractors, First Kuwaiti prefers importing labor because it views Iraqi workers as a security headache not worth the trouble.

Despite numerous emails and phone calls about such allegations, neither First Kuwaiti general manager Wadih Al Absi nor his lawyer Angela Styles, the former top White House contract policy advisor, have responded. After a year of requests, State Department officials involved with the project also have ignored or rejected opportunities for comment.

Your Passports Please

That same March Owen returned to work in Baghdad, Rory Mayberry would witness similar events after he flew to Kuwait from his home in Myrtle Creek, Oregon.

The gravely voiced, easy-going Army veteran had previously worked in Iraq for Halliburton and the private security company, Danubia. Missing the action and the big paychecks US contractors draw Iraq, he snagged a $10,000 a month job with MSDS consulting Company.

MSDS is a two-person minority-owned consulting company that assists US State Department managers in Washington with procurement programming. Never before had the firm offered medical services or worked in Iraq, but First Kuwaiti hired MSDS on the recommendation of Jim Golden, the State Department contract official overseeing the embassy project. Within days, an agreement worth hundreds of thousands of dollars for medical care was signed.

The 45-year-old Mayberry, a former emergency medical technician in the Army who worked as a funeral director in Oregon, responded to a help wanted ad placed by MSDS. The plan was that he would work as a medic attending to the construction crews on the work site in Baghdad.

Mayberry sensed things weren't right when he boarded a First Kuwaiti flight on March 15 to Baghdad -- a different flight from Owen's.

At the airport in Kuwait City, Mayberry said, he saw a person behind a counter hand First Kuwaiti managers a passenger manifest, an envelope of money and a stack of boarding passes to Dubai. The managers then handed out the boarding passes to Mayberry and 50 or so new First Kuwaiti laborers, mostly Filipinos.

"Everyone was told to tell customs and security that they were flying to Dubai," Mayberry explains. Once the group passed the guards, they went upstairs and waited by the McDonald's for First Kuwaiti staff to unlock a door -- Gate 26 -- that led to an unmarked, white 52-seat jet. It was "an antique piece of shit" Mayberry offers in a casual, blunt manner.

"All the workers had their passports taken away by First Kuwaiti," Mayberry claims, and while he knew the plane was bound for Baghdad, he's not so sure the others were aware of their destination. The Asian laborers began asking questions about why they were flying north and the jet wasn't flying east over the ocean, he says. "I think they thought they were going to work in Dubai."

One former First Kuwaiti supervisor acknowledges that the company holds passports of many workers in Iraq -- a violation of US contracting.

"All of the passports are kept in the offices," said one company insider who requested anonymity in fear of financial and personal retribution. As for distributing Dubai boarding passes for Baghdad flights, "It's because of the travel bans," he explained.

Mayberry believes that migrant workers from the Philippines, India and Nepal are especially vulnerable to employers like First Kuwaiti because their countries have little or no diplomatic presence in Iraq.
"If you don't have your passport or an embassy to go to, what you do to get out of a bad situation?" he asks.

"How can they go to the US State Department for help if First Kuwaiti is building their embassy?"

Deadly 'Candy Store' Medicine

Owen had already been working at the embassy site since late November when Mayberry arrived. The two never crossed paths, but both share similar complaints about management of the project and brutal treatment of the laborers that, at times, numbered as many as 2,500. Most are from the Philippines, India, and Pakistan. Others are from Egypt and Turkey.

The number of workers with injuries and ailments stunned Mayberry. He went to work immediately after and stayed busy around the clock for days.

Four days later, First Kuwaiti pulled him off the job after he requested an investigation of two patients who had died before he arrived from what he suspected was medical malpractice. Mayberry also recommended that the health clinics be shut down because of unsanitary conditions and mismanagement.

"There hadn't been any follow up on medical care. People were walking around intoxicated on pain relievers with unwrapped wounds and there were a lot of infections," he recalls. "The idea that there was any hygiene seemed ridiculous. I'm not sure they were even bathing."

In reports made available to the US State Department, the US Army and First Kuwaiti, Mayberry listed dozens of concerns about the clinics, which he found lacking in hot water, disinfectant, hand washing stations, properly supplied ambulances, and communication equipment. Mayberry also complained that workers' medical records were in total disarray or nonexistent, the beds were dirty, and the support staff hired by First Kuwaiti was poorly trained.

The handling of prescription drugs especially bothered him. Many of the drugs that originated from Iraq and Kuwait were unsecured, disorganized and unintelligibly labeled, he said in one memo. He found that the medical staff frequently misdiagnosed patients. Prescription pain killers were being handed out "like a candy store ... and then people were sent back to work."

Mayberry warned that the practice could cause addiction and safety hazards. "Some were on the construction site climbing scaffolding 30 feet off the ground. I told First Kuwaiti that you don't give painkillers to people who are running machinery and working on heavy construction and they said 'that's how we do it.'"

The sloppy handling of drugs may have led to the two deaths, Mayberry speculates. One worker, age 25, died in his room. The second, in his mid-30s, died at the clinic because of heart failure. Both deaths may be "medical homicide," Mayberry says -- because the patients may have been negligently prescribed improper drug treatment.If the State Department investigated, Mayberry knows nothing of the outcome. Two State Department officials with project oversight responsibilities did not return phone calls or emails inquiring about Mayberry's allegations. The reports may have been ignored, not because of his complaints, but because Mayberry is a terrible speller, a problem compounded by an Arabic translation program loaded on his computer, he says.

Accidents Happen

Owen's account of his seven months on the job paints a similar picture to Mayberry's. Health and safety measures were essentially non-existent, he says. Not once did he witness a safety meeting. Once an Egyptian worker fell and broke his back and was sent home. No one ever heard from him again. "The accident might not have happened if there was a safety program and he had known how to use a safety harness."

Owen also says that managers regularly beat workers and that laborers were issued only one work uniform, making it difficult to go to the laundry. "You could never have it washed. Clothing got really bad -- full of sweat and dirt."

And while he often smuggled water to the work crews, medical care was a different issue. When he urged laborers to get medical treatment for rashes and sores, First Kuwaiti managers accused him of spoiling the laborers and allowing them simply to avoid work, he says.

State Department officials supervising the project are aware of many such events, but apparently do nothing, he said. Once when 17 workers climbed the wall of the construction site to escape, a State Department official helped round them up and put them in "virtual lockdown," Owen said.

Just before he resigned, hundreds of Pakistani workers went on strike in June and beat up a Lebanese manager who they accused of harassing them. Owen estimates that 375 laborers were then sent home.

'Treated Like Animals'

Recent First Kuwaiti employees agree that the accounts shared by Owen and Mayberry are accurate. One longtime supervisor claims that 50 to 60 percent of the laborers regularly protest that First Kuwaiti "treats them like animals," and routinely reduces their promised pay with confusing and unexplained deductions.
Another former First Kuwaiti manager, who declines to be named because of possible adverse consequences, says that Owen's and Mayberry's complaints only begin "to scratch the surface."

But scratching the surface is the only view yet available of what may be the most lasting monument to the US liberation and occupation of Iraq. As of now only a handful of authorized State Department managers and contractors, along with First Kuwaiti workers and contractors, are officially allowed inside the project's walls.

No journalist has ever been allowed access to the sprawling 104-acre site with towering construction cranes raising their necks along the skyline.

Even this tight security is a charade, says on former high-level First Kuwaiti manager. First Kuwaiti managers living at the construction site regularly smuggle prostitutes in from the streets of Baghdad outside the Green Zone, he says.

Prostitutes, he explains are viewed as possible spies. "They are a big security risk."
But the exposure that the US occupation forces and First Kuwaiti may fear most could begin with the contractor itself and the conditions workers are forced to endure at this most obvious symbol of the American democracy project in Iraq.

David Phinney is a journalist and broadcaster based in Washington, DC, whose work has appeared in The Los Angeles Times, New York Times and on ABC and PBS. He can be contacted at:

Saturday, September 09, 2006


IBON Foundation
September 9, 2006

The upcoming Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will bring dubious gain to the local economy while severely limiting government’s policy options to develop domestic industries.

The agreement, which is reportedly set to be signed at the Asia-Europe Meeting in Helsinki, Finland on Sep. 10-11, 2006, has been under negotiation away from public scrutiny for the last four years. Officials provide few details but it is reported that the agreement will cut import tariffs on industrial goods by 90% within 10 years and provide concessions for Japanese direct investment in the domestic automobile and electronics industries.

The Philippines will abolish tariffs on at least 60% of its steel imports from Japan. Tariffs on Japan-made cars will also be fully eliminated in 2010. In exchange, Japan will lower tariffs on Philippine bananas and pineapples, while the Philippines removes tariffs on Japanese grapes and pears. Japan will also allow a year-on-year quota of some 200 Filipino nurses and caregivers. It had also been reported that the JPEPA would remove mutual restrictions on Japanese and Philippine investors, as well as prohibit performance requirements.

Both governments have already said that the agreement will be positive for both the Philippines and Japan in terms of trade and investment. However the JPEPA is actually an unequal agreement between unequal parties that, moreover, is biased for the more powerful Japanese economic interests. The biggest gainers are Japanese investors who will keep setting up export enclaves in the Philippines that are unintegrated with the domestic economy. They will continue to import most of their inputs and components, exploit fiscal incentives, stifle workers’ rights to organize, and hire labor as cheap as they can get. The Philippines will also be foregoing millions in dollars in tariff revenues from Japanese imports.

Japan and the Philippines are such grossly unequal economies that nominally equal terms can never mean a “level playing field”. The Japanese economy (US$4.4 trillion GNI in 2004) is 50 times larger than the Philippines’ and its GDP per capita is 35 times larger. Japan accounts for some one-third of foreign investments (with a cumulative US$3.5 billion in Japanese investments 2003) in the Philippines and one-fifth of its external trade (with US$14.2 billion in total Japan-Philippines trade in 2004). And yet, for instance, the country’s domestic industrial base has continued to deteriorate despite the majority of Japanese investments being in the manufacturing sector.

The Philippine government is surrendering policy tools under the JPEPA that, ironically, Japan itself used heavily. The Japanese government greatly protected its domestic industries from the late 19th century until the early 1980s. Japan’s industrial might in cars, trucks, shipbuilding, computers and consumer electronics was built up in through almost a century of sustained intervention and protection, especially in their early stages. Average weighted industrial tariffs reached as high as 30-40 percent. The Japanese government required technology transfers from US, French and UK investors, or brazenly pirated technology through so-called “reverse engineering”. Government agencies were obliged to procure goods and services strictly from Japanese firms. Japanese technological and productive capacity would not have developed if not for these many decades of active state support.

The far-reaching JPEPA is also the dangerous first step towards complete government renunciation of developing the Philippine economy. What little public information there is about JPEPA indicates about a dozen areas for liberalization that collectively go far beyond anything proposed even in the currently dormant World Trade Organization (WTO). These include: the elimination or reduction of tariffs on industrial products and agriculture, forestry and fishery products; liberalization of services sectors such as construction, outsourcing, air transport, health related and social services, tourism and travel-related services, maritime transport services, telecommunications and banking; national treatment, MFN Treatment and performance requirement prohibitions; and supposedly easier entry of qualified Filipino nurses and certified caregivers.

The JPEPA also includes various provisions on: Government Procurement, Competition Policy, Intellectual Property, Dispute Avoidance and Settlement, Improvement of the Business Environment, Mutual Recognition and Bilateral Cooperation.

As the country’s first full-fledged bilateral free trade agreement (FTA), the benchmark it sets for liberalization will determine the shape of all FTAs to come. If the Philippine government sets high trade and investment liberalization standards in JPEPA then it will be obliged to also give these to partners in subsequent FTAs lest it be accused of discrimination. The country’s negotiating position in all subsequent trade and investment agreements will be gravely undermined. The end result of the JPEPA and other such agreements will be to shut the door to real domestic industrial growth and economic progress.

The government is also treating our health professionals and caregivers as mere commodities when it touts the “quotas” supposedly being given by Japan for these jobs as a good thing. The reality is that these mostly women health workers and caregivers will bear the burden of overcoming formidable language, certification and even racist and patriarchal barriers. Because of its desperation for quick sources of foreign exchange, the Philippine government is placing the burden on the cheap export of skilled Filipinos. It should instead focus on creating the strong domestic economy that will create opportunities for Filipinos at home.

The Philippine government affirms its commitment to the destructive policies of neoliberal globalization. Instead of using the collapse of the WTO Doha Round talks as an opportunity to rethink its commitment to neoliberal globalization, it is giving up its sovereignty piecemeal on a country-by-country basis through bilateral and regional economic agreements.

Japan, on the other hand, makes further headway in consolidating Southeast Asia as a source of cheap agricultural, mineral and other raw materials for Japan as well as a captive market for Japanese industrial goods. Aside from the Philippines, Japan has already signed or is negotiating FTAs with Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Vietnam. #

Medical workers may be losers in FTA

Japan Times
Medical workers may be losers in FTA
By Glenn Omanio
9 September 2006

MANILA (Kyodo) Philippine officials may be upbeat about finalizing the bilateral free-trade agreement with Japan this weekend, but there is some concern that the country’s medical workers will be the losers in the deal.

The FTA will mean freer movement of people between the two countries, something the Philippines welcomes. Professionals, including doctors and nurses, are eager to get high-paying jobs in wealthy countries.

Japan is keen to follow other rich countries by having foreign nurses fill the shortage at home and has opened its labor market to Filipino nurses and caregivers.

But Filipinos may be in for a big disappointment as Japan has put in the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement that it will only accept caregivers who are college graduates, and nurses who are fluent in Japanese and can pass its nursing license examination — in Japanese.

Analysts say Japan’s position of only giving visas to health workers who can speak Japanese could backfire as the rising demand for health workers in wealthy nations, also facing rapidly aging populations and falling fertility rates, will mean stiff competition to get workers from poorer countries.

The agreement does not specify the number of nurses Japan will accept, but media reports said that Tokyo will set an initial cap of 500 nurses per year and will increase the number depending on the need.

"Japan seemingly wants to preserve the homogeneity of its people. In a very global world, it is an exception. Japan should learn from other countries on their openness in accepting other people," said Federico Macaranas, head of the Manila-based Asian Institute of Management Policy Center.

Macaranas said that while fluency in the local language is important for nurses to perform their duties, Japan could relax this requirement to allowing non-Japanese speakers to serve English-speaking Japanese people.

He said many English speakers in Japan are wealthy and can afford to hire private nurses and caregivers.
Marilyn Yap, president of the Philippine Nurses Association, said the language requirement is harsh and decreases the chances of Filipino nurses passing the national exam.

"In order for you to take the Japanese board exam, you have to master the language. It takes time. That’s our concern," Yap said.

An indication of just how hard a Japanese exam would be for Filipino nurses is the the pass rate for information technology workers, who also must take a certification exam. A average of 5 percent of Filipino applicants have passed the exam since it was offered in 2002.

In an test program in the mid-1990s, only one of 13 Filipino nurses finished the two-year Japanese language program and passed the national nursing exam.

Yap said Japan will have to compete with other countries in attracting Filipino nurses and caregivers, adding Japan should offer higher salaries and better nonmonetary packages to compensate for the language requirements.

Given the same salary and work benefits, Filipino nurses, most who speak English fluently, would rather choose English-speaking countries such as the United States or Britain over Japan because of the language barrier.

"It remains to be seen if Filipino nurses will be accepting offers to work in Japan. I am reluctant," Yap of the nurses association said. "If there are any other options easier, I’d take that."

Every year, as many as 8,000 Filipino nurses leave for Saudi Arabia, continental Europe and the United States, according to Philippine labor statistics.

The United States remains the favorite destination. Nurses can bring their families and they earn as much as
$4,000 a month compared to the $ 200 they get at home, studies show.

The World Health Organization estimates that by 2008, Britain will need 25,000 doctors and 250,000 nurses while the United States will need around 1 million nurses in the next decade to meet the projected shortfall.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Migrant Women Are Big Money Senders To Home Country : UN

New York (ANTARA News) - Women constitute half of the estimated 190million international migrants worldwide and are responsible for the largest amount of remittances, the UN Population Fund said Wednesday. Women migrants sent home a total of 232 billion dollars in 2005, of which 167 billion dollars went to developing countries.

Remittances and foreign direct investments are the main sources of economic development in many developing countries.

In an annual report, A Passage to Hope: Women and International Migration, the UN population agency said that remittances could be even higher than reported because migrants often use informal channels. The report focused on the roles of migrant women and their economic impacts on their home countries.

It said that the international community only recently has begun to grasp how much migrant women contribute to the world economy and the social well-being of the population in their home countries.

"Women are migrating and will continue to do so," the report said as reported by DPA."Although women and youth have always made up a considerable proportion of international migrants, their contributions have largely gone unnoticed. Their voices must be heard.

"The report noted that migrants' total remittances were larger than the official development assistance provided by governments, which have been urged to set aside 7 per cent of their gross national products (GNPs) to help poor countries. Only the Nordic countries have met that target.

Of the 1 billion dollars Sri Lanka received in remittances in 1999, more than 62 per cent came from women migrants, the report said. The Philippines annually receives 6 billion dollars in remittances, one-third from women migrants.

Bangladeshi women working in Middle Eastern countries sent home 72 per cent of total remittances in their country, of which 52 per cent were earmarked for families' daily needs, health care and education. Brain drain But international migration has resulted in a brain drain for many countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that the migration of women includes many nurses and physicians, depriving home countries of badly needed medical personnel.

Developed countries, where the ageing population requires more medical personnel, benefit from this migration. WHO set a minimum ratio of 100 nurses per 100,000 residents in all countries. Some poor countries have only 10 nurses per 100,000 inhabitants. By contrast, Finland and Norway each have 2,000 nurses per 100,000 inhabitants.

While developing countries have tried to stop the flow of skilled woman migrants, the demands for nurses and doctors has continued to grow in wealthy countries. WHO said that by 2008 Britain would need 25,000 more doctors and 250,000 more nurses than in 1997.

The US has projected the need for an additional 1 million nurses by 2020 because of the ageing population. Canada and Australia projected deficits of 78,000 nurses and 40,000 nurses, respectively, in the next four to five years. "This is partially owing to demographic ageing brought on by lower fertility rates and longer life expectancies in industrialized countries," the report said. (*)

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Immigrants to Britain should meet wage target: think tank

Agence France-Presse
Last updated 09:35am (Mla time) 08/29/2006

LONDON -- Britain should set an income target for immigrants and those who do not meet it should not be allowed to settle in the country, a think tank was set to propose Tuesday.

The Daily Telegraph reported that Migrationwatch would propose that migrants with an income of less than 27,000 pounds (51,200 dollars, 40,000 euros) a year not be allowed to permanently settle in Britain.

That income figure, which only one in five migrants reach, is the level at which a person begins making positive contributions whether measured by taxes paid or by contribution to gross domestic product, the think tank argues. Individuals with lower incomes put pressure on existing infrastructure.

The average wage in Britain last year was 28,210 pounds according to government statistics.

While low-income workers should still be allowed into Britain to work, Migrationwatch says they should not be allowed to settle permanently.

Immigration has returned to the forefront of public debate in Britain in recent weeks after the government released figures showing more than 427,000 people from the eight new eastern European EU member states have come to work in Britain since the bloc's enlargement in May 2004.

Those figures exclude self-employed workers, a category believed to cover many eastern Europeans in the building trade. Once those are also included, the overall number is closer to 600,000 by some accounts.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

OWWA Fund Juggling Confirmed by COA

Funds transferred to Smokey Mountain and PhilHealth, records show
OWWA fund juggling confirmed by CoA
By Angie M. Rosales

Charges of alleged juggling of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) funds held in trust by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) dating back to the Ramos administration, was established yesterday by Senate investigators with two sectors, the Commission on Audit (CoA) and a non-government organization claiming the same findings, based on documents culled by the two agencies.

At least half a billion pesos was shown to have been illegally used when OWWA was made to engage in the Smokey Mountain housing development project while another P500 million or exactly P530 million of its funds was transferred to PhilHealth amid objections by some board members representing land- and sea-based migrant workers.

This piece of information corroborates an earlier expose made by Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago during a privilege speech a few years ago concerning a project undertaken by R-II Builders Inc. of businessman Reghis Romero.

Worth of the said project, to date, has already ballooned to at least P1 billion and the government, “technically” is yet to recoup both investments and interest earnings although the principal amount had been “reimbursed” to OWWA by another government agency, the Home Insurance Guarantee Corp. (HIGC).
The HIGC stood as the “guarantor” to the amount OWWA “loaned” to enable R-2 Builders to undertake the Smokey Mountain Development and Reclamation Project, in joint joint venture with the National Housing Authority as the land owner.

Alongside this development, Senate probers learned there is “available” P7.1 billion OWWA funds currently deposited in Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank), P3.2 billion, in Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) billion and P703 million in various banks.

Senators sitting as members in the panel chaired by Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, upon hearing the testimonies given by Connie Regalado of Migrante International, and attested by OWWA resident auditor Gemiliano Maloles, were at a loss on why there is a squabble over the availability of funds needed for the repatriation of OFWS stranded in Lebanon.

“This investigation occurred because during the height of the Lebanon crisis , the (Philippine) embassy (in Beirut) complained that there are no funds available…the rumors again on this issue that there’s no money came about recently and then here it shows that there is over P7 billion in funds. So OWWA has funds. Then why is it (it is) so parsimonious in giving funds?” asked Sen. Joker Arroyo.

Senators were told by Maloles that government actually can dip its fingers into these funds, if need be, but it would get a lesser amount because the account will be rendered pre-terminated.

“If they have such funds, why is Malacanang asking for a supplementary budget (for workers’ evacuation)?” Estrada commented before reporters during a briefing that proceeded after the hearing.

Senators were also told that the reported P530 million transferred to Philhealth, alleged to have been made without any consultation with migrant workers as provided by OWWA charter and existing laws, are yet to be “replenished” by the government, according to Rosemarie Trajano of Kanlungan Center, an NGO working for OFWs’ welfare.

Based on the presentation by Maloles, OWWA’s annual revenues, the latest of which was for the year 2005, totaled P1.3 billion coming from fees and taxes received from OFWs alone, excluding those from so-called investments and interests income while expenses incurred included benefits paid to migrant workers and overhead operations amounted to P673 million last year.

More or less, OWWA had P650 million net collections based on fees and returned interest income of P462 million last year.

Regalado claimed before senators that based on records they collated, a total of P8 billion to include that with Philhealth and the Smokey Mountain project were poured by the government to other agencies over the years.

It was Regalado who told senators the transfer of funds to Philhealth was not approved by OFWs’ representatives sitting in the OWWA board of trustees.

“In the P530 million OWWA medicare funds transferred to Philhealth, the first move was done in Feb. 2, 2004, OWWA board resolution 005 approving the transfer of said amount and based on the statement of OWWA, the transfer was made in 2005.

She then said that after President Arroyo signed EO 182 for the transfer of the fund, in Feb. 2, 2004, the OWWA board of trustees approved resolution No. 005 for the transfer of the P530 million.

She said after the amendment was sone, stated that the actual transfer wasmade in March 2005….they have the report, the OWWA. It was submitted to the House committee on overseas workers’ affairs during a hearing last March 29.

“It was, the OWWA Medicare funds, collected from each OFW of P900 per year…actually it accumulated up to P4 billion and P530 was transferred to Philhealth..the Medicare program of OFWs is now handled by Philhealth.

She said this was an illegal transfer because the money of OWWA is a trust fund and it is owned by the migrant workers and the transfer was done without proper consultations from the migrant workers themselves.
“We were raising the issue that before any transfer of funds or before the OWWA board of trustees should decide where the money should be spent, especially in matters like the Medicare funds, there should be a consultation with migrant workers but it was not really done.”

She saud she was in HongKong in 2003 when the former president of Philhealth Francisco Duque appeared in an OFWs’ forum in the Philippine consulate. He said it was a consultation but in reality it was not because he was already selling Philhealth (cards) to OFWs and during that time Mrs. Arroyo signed EO 182 on the transfer of funds. She charged rgar Duque was actually marketing it, explaining the benefits from income. It was not a consultation. It was in July 2003. I was still the chairperson of United Filipinos in Hong Kong….

“The proposed transfer of OWWA funds was actually in relation to the plan of President Arroyo to run in 2004 presidential elections,” she said.

As to the Smokey Mountain project, an initial investment was made in Feb. 6, 1995 of P93.1 million with a
face value of P100 million on the same month, she said citing documents from OWWA.

“On Feb. 9, 1995, the OWWA secretariat headed by then OWWA chief, followed by administrator Wilhelm Soriano who assumed office in may 23, 1005, facilitated the investment of P459.4 million worth of Smokey Mountain project participation certificates with a face value of P500 million.

“From October 1996 to the maturity value of the initial investment as of Oct. 2000 was P905.9 million or a 92 percent increase in five years.

“But based on CoA annual audit report on the OWWA for the year ending Dec. 2005, it was found out that the OWWA’s investment in the Smokey Mountain project participation certificate now has a face value of P664 million was made in violation of DoF circular 194-8 are not within the maturity date.

“And I have here a copy of the summary of the investment portfolio, it’s not only P664 million, in 2000 it says that from the OWWA main fund that comes from membership fee collection, there is a total of P664 million investment and from the Medicare fund of P171 million or a total of P835 million,” she said.

Regalado further testified that such undertaking was illegal, “because a private firm cannot own or acquire a land for public domain”, citing the ruling rendered by the CoA.

The matter, when pursued by Sen. Sergio Osmena III, yielded similar claims from Maloles who explained before senators that the P500 million investment or principal amount, technically speaking, has yet to be recovered by the government since another government office, the HGIC “refunded” the amount to OWWA.

The P500 million income from 8.5 percent annual interests has not yet been given, Maloles said.

“That’s another scam because the Filipino people paid who for it. the HIGC is another government corporation…we know they’re the guarantor but obviously there’s a scam there because it’s operating a port and yet they did not pay the interest so they used the money of the workers,” said Osmena.
Not even the principal has been returned, Maloles said.

“So OWWA invested and it’s in the nature of a loan…(with 8.5% interest)…and so R-2 Builders neither paid principal nor interest on that P500M,” Osmena said.

OWWA invested P500 million, of this, it is supposed to have earned another P500 million in interests over the years, roughly about P1 billion. Of the P1 billion, P500 million was paid back to OWWA by HIGC…representing the principal,” said Maloles.

“So R-2 still owes P500 million in accumulated interests,” the senator said.

“Technically sir it is already the HIGC that is assuming…this was paid in tranches, it’s not a one-time payment,” Maloles clarified.

Asked by Osmena to there were any earnings OWWA got from the said project, Soriano who is currently commissioner of the Human Rights Commission (CHR), explained that there was none because they merely assumed the role of being a participant in the project.

OFW remittances crucial, but ‘tend to spoil the government’

2 August 2006

Remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) help strengthen the Philippine economy, but they also have the potential to hurt the country’s poorer families, an economist said.

OFW remittances have made the government lax in working for the improvement of the domestic economy and will eventually make the economy sink with the decline in exports, resulting in loss of jobs, he added.

Dr. Ernesto Pernia of the School of Economics of the University of the Philippines Diliman raised these points in his talk on the “Diaspora, Remittances and Poverty in RP’s Regions.”

The Department of Economics and the Carolinian Economics Society of the University of San Carlos in Cebu City organized the talks last Friday night.

“Remittances tend to spoil the government,” he said, adding that the deployment of OFWs should only be temporary. Economic policies must be formulated to generate more local employment.

“The phenomenon should be transitory to allow the government to do its homework in making the economy stronger,” Pernia said.

The government’s complacency is one of the “moral hazard effects” of the increase in OFWs, aside from raising the number of broken Filipino families.

Although remittances have contributed to the decline in poverty incidence and improved the economy through higher gross domestic product (GDP), consumer spending and employment opportunities, they also have created an imbalance in the regions.

In a study on OFW contributions from 1995 to 2004, Pernia revealed that Southern Tagalog, the National Capital Region and Central Luzon, where about half of OFWs come from, also got 50 percent of the OFW remittances during the period.

Since working abroad and migration require money, poor regions have fewer workers leaving for jobs abroad.
However, the trend is now changing. Pernia noted that in 2004, the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao, one of the poorest in the country, got 1.4 percent more in OFW remittances than the rest of the country.

This may indicate that OFWs from poorer regions had a “higher altruism” toward their more deprived families, Pernia noted. This could also mean they are simply remitting more.

Central Visayas, which ranked first in 1995 with a 1.6 percent higher annual average remittance, is now third.
However, he believes other factors, such as the increase in the deployment of highly skilled workers who earn more, could have contributed to this.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas expects OFW remittances to rise 10 percent this year, from a record $10.7 billion in 2005.

From January to May this year, remittances coursed through banks reached $4.85 billion, up 14.8 percent from the same months last year.

The bulk of remittances continues to come from the US, Saudi Arabia, Italy, United Kingdom, Japan, Hong Kong and United Arab Emirates.

There are over eight million Filipinos working abroad.

In a comparative study on the 15 regions in 1994, 1997, 2000 and 2003, Pernia noted that while the increase in remittances meant higher spending for 20 percent of the country’s poorest families, it also meant a higher purchasing power of the higher income groups.

“The richer households are benefiting more than the poorer households. There is an increasing income inequality. In time, it will worsen,” Pernia said.

However, while the migration of more OFWs is ongoing, Pernia recommended that the government should protect OFWs from unscrupulous recruiters, assist them in signing “fair and decent” employment contracts and lower the cost of remitting their income.

He also urged USC’s faculty to educate good leaders.

“I think what’s going to help us are good leaders,” he told them.

“The Filipinos have been letdown so many times from President Ferdinand Marcos to President Arroyo,” he added. By Charmaine Y. Rodriguez

IOM to evacuate 450 filipinos from Beirut

International Office of Migration (IOM) is to airlift some 450 Filipino workers from war-torn Beirut, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

The Filipinos are to be taken by bus across the Syrian border to Damascus, where they will board an aircraft for Manila, the DFA said.

The Filipinos are expected to arrive in Damascus in two batches on Saturday and Sunday. They will board the chartered flight for their journey back home next Monday.

The 450 Filipinos are currently huddled in a crowded evacuation center run by the Catholic church amid fierce Israeli raids targeting the militant group Hezbollah.

"All associated costs will be covered by the IOM. Individuals will also be provided with temporary accommodation at the IOM shelter in Syria," the DFA quoted Vincent Houver of IOM Beirut as saying.

Contingency plans are also being prepared for Filipinos in northern Israel, parts of which have been targeted by Hezbollah missile fire. Some 30,000 Filipinos work in Lebanon, with roughly the same number working in Israel.

President Arroyo had earlier issued an appeal to the international community for help with the repatriation of Filipinos in the conflict zone.

The IOM, an inter-governmental organization, seeks to provide humanitarian assistance to migrants in need.
Some 37 Filipino evacuees from Beirut arrived in Manila from Damascus Wednesday.

DFA spokesman Gilbert Asuque and Angelo Jimenez, Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration Deputy Administrator, met the evacuees at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 before noon.

Asuque said another batch of 119 evacuees will arrive Wednesday night at NAIA Terminal 2 from Hong Kong.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Gov't urged to allow more foreign workers

2006/7/2The China Post staff

The government should ease restrictions on the import of foreign unskilled laborers and high-level managerial personnel to ease the shortage of both types of labor in Taiwan, a local business leaders urged yesterday.

Gary Wang, chairman of the General Chamber of Commerce of the Republic of China, issued the call during a panel meeting of the national economic conference on sustainable growth held by the Executive Yuan.
Wang suggested that the government amend its policies and regulations to facilitate entry of more unskilled workers and white-collar management professionals from abroad to meet domestic demand.

Wang said that basic monthly wage for foreign unskilled laborers should be de-pegged from those granted to local laborers and that the government should provide more attractive incentives to lure talented foreign students to study and work in Taiwan. In addition, the government should also ease current rules on immigrants with investment projects, he proposed.

According to estimates made by the Cabinet-level Council of Labor Affairs (CLA), Taiwan will need an extra 300,000 blue-collar workers and some 50,000 high-ranking managers by 2015.

CLA officials said that the government would thoroughly review its foreign labor policies, and would adjust its job training directions and offer tax incentives to encourage local enterprises to boost their on-the-job training programs, in addition to introducing suitable foreign labor.

On the same occasion, Education Minister Tu Cheng-sheng also noted that his ministry is gearing up the cooperation between high-level education schools and local industries to cultivate more professional personnel needed by the industries.

At another panel meeting, scholars were divided in their opinions concerning whether the proposed eight naphtha cracking plant and big steel plant should be built or not.

Some said Taiwan is no longer suitable for developing high-energy consumption industries, such as steel refining and petrochemical manufacturing, but some opined that the government should apply high-tech methods to solve the environmental protection issues concerning the two major projects, valued at around NT$538 billion.

In response, Economics Minister Huang Ying-san said that the two projects will be up for further discussion at the national economic conference on sustainable growth.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Pace of worldwide migration slowing -- UN report

First posted 06:45am (Mla time)
April 05, 2006 Agence France-Presse

UNITED NATIONS -- The number of migrants worldwide rose by only 36 million to 191 million during the 1990-2005 period, a much slower pace than in the previous 15 years, according to a UN report released Tuesday.

The increase compares with a rise of 41 million, from a lower population base, to 175 million during the 1975-1990 period, according to the Report on World Population Monitoring, the first comprehensive global count in five years.

But the report said that migration had become increasingly important to population growth in developed countries.

The developed world, led by the United States, still takes in the larger share of the world's migrants, up to 61 percent last year, compared with 53 percent in 1990, the study showed.

The report noted that because of low fertility, net migration today accounted for 75 percent of the population growth in the developed world.

"If current trends continue, between 2010 and 2030 net migration will likely be responsible
for all the population growth in those regions," it said.

Last year 64 million migrants lived in Europe, 44.5 million in North America, 4.7 million in Australia and New Zealand and two million in Japan.

The migrant population of the developing world meanwhile has risen a mere three million since 1990, totaling 75 million last year, including 51 million in Asia, 17 million in Africa and seven million in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The report, discussed here this week at a session of the UN Commission on Population and Development, concluded that family reunification accounted for a major share of the migration flow to North America and Europe, although the share of labor migration and skilled migration also rose.

It described the net economic impact of international migration as generally positive for host countries.
"Although the presence of international migrants may have a small adverse effect on the wages of non-migrants or may raise unemployment when wages are rigid, such effects are small at the national level," it noted.

"Over the medium and long term, migration can generate employment and produce net fiscal gains," it added.
The report said that in 2004, official migrant remittances totaled 226 billion dollars, including 160 billion which went to developing countries.

Such remittances benefited the low- and middle-income families that receive them and enabled migrant households to invest in income-generating activities. They also served to ease foreign exchange constraints and cut the cost of borrowing for countries of origin.

The report warned that while the departure of large numbers of skilled personnel was hurting small developing countries, "skilled migrants who maintain ties with their countries of origin may stimulate the transfer of technology and capital."

"Countries of origin have become more proactive in encouraging the return of citizens living abroad and in maintaining ties with expatriate communities so as to harness the positive effects that migration can have on development," it said.

While the report emphasized the huge role of international migration in a developed country’s population growth, it warned that this cannot reverse general population aging and forestall overall population decline unless its volume rises substantially.

"Net migration to Europe, for instance, would have to increase fourfold to maintain constant the size of the working-age population," it said.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

RP AMONG TOP 5, Migrant workers sent home $167B last year, says UN

First posted 01:09am (Mla time) April 01, 2006
Agence France-Presse
Editor's Note: Published on page A1 of the April 1, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

SINGAPORE—Migrant workers in high-income countries remitted a record of more than $167 billion to their families last year, a UN agency said as it called for measures to ensure the money is used for long-term development.

In countries including Bangladesh and the Philippines, annual remittances exceed official development aid and foreign direct investments, the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Unescap) said in its latest report released here Thursday.

If remittances sent through informal channels are counted, the figures could rise by as much as 50 percent, the UN's economic and social arm said.

As of 2004, three of the top five remittance-receiving countries in the world were located in Asia-India which received $21.3 billion, China with $21.7 billion and the Philippines with $11.6 billion, the report said.
Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are also among the major recipients of remittances, while Cambodia, Laos, Burma, Nepal, Thailand and the Pacific island of Samoa benefit to a lesser extent.

The agency urged governments in recipient countries to cut the costs of sending money home and help the workers' families channel the funds into more productive endeavors.

Countries exporting migrant workers should also take steps to improve their skills and tighten policies to ensure they do not fall prey to unscrupulous recruitment agencies, Unescap said.

"Policy-makers need to recognize that remittances are private flows of money that need to be treated as such. Therefore, these flows should not be taxed," it said.

The money has already been taxed in the country of origin and imposing taxes will discourage workers from sending funds through the banking system, it added.

'Very high' fees

It noted that levies charged by remittance service providers "are very high," with fees for small transfers reaching as high as 10-15 percent.

"There is no doubt that more can be done to increase the volume of home remittances and to enable the recipients to use them more effectively," Unescap said.

"Additional measures should be taken to increase the access of poor migrant workers and their families to formal financial institutions."

Unescap urged banks in the workers' home countries to establish branches in host nations and allow micro-credit institutions and credit unions to transfer funds to rural households.

The agency also said governments should give the right information about job opportunities to prevent situations in which families borrow huge sums to send a worker abroad, only to discover that the earnings are not enough to recover the cost.

Major sources

In the Asia Pacific region, Australia, Hong Kong, China, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore are major sources of remittances for developing countries.

For Laos and Burma, neighboring Thailand is a key sources of workers' remittances, Unescap said.
Outside the region, Canada, the United States, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are the main source of foreign workers' remittances.

An increasing number of remittance-senders are women, it noted. Agence France-Presse

Saturday, March 25, 2006

More than a hundred Filipinos work illegally in South Korea

First posted 07:37pm (Mla time)
Mar 24, 2006 By Veronica Uy

AS MUCH as 70 percent of the 200 or so Filipino overseas performing artists who left for the booming entertainment industry in South Korea are undocumented, a labor official who requested anonymity said Friday.

They flew to Busan and Seoul via the so-called escort service illegally provided by some employees at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in exchange for 300 dollars, the official said.

He said singers, musicians, and dancers who leave the country this way sidestep the Labor Assistance Centers of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration at the Manila airport terminals.

A foreign affairs official confirmed the increase in the incidence of illegal recruitment since the one-year mandate of former police captain Reynaldo Jaylo's task force on illegal recruitment ended in June last year.The labor official warned Filipino workers against going to Korea without proper travel documents. He said they would be vulnerable to abuse by unscrupulous nightclub
operators, citing cases where even the passports of OFWs were confiscated.

For the past three years, OFW deployment to South Korea has been increasing steadily at an average rate of 20 percent: 7,136 in 2003, 8,392 in 2004, and 9,970 in 2005.

There are about 40,000 documented and undocumented Filipinos in South Korea.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Filipinos warned about working in Dubai on ‘visit visas’

First posted 09:45am (Mla time)
Mar 19, 2006
By Jerome AningInquirer

Editor's Note: Published on page A8 of the March 19, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer

DUBAI, the most progressive city in the Middle East, has been hosting an increasing number of Filipino “tourist workers,” many of whom often find themselves without jobs, or working under miserable conditions and reduced to begging, according to a top Filipino job recruiter.

The recruiter, who visited Dubai in the United Arab Emirates last week to check on the workers that his own agency had deployed to the emirate, said Filipinos who entered Dubai using “visit visas” widely advertised by travel agencies in Manila were having a difficult time finding good jobs.

To survive, many accept work for low salaries and under unfair labor conditions, said the recruiter who asked not to be named.

His findings were confirmed by Emmanuel Geslani, a consultant to several Manila-based recruitment agencies.

Geslani said the recruiter had written about the problem months ago to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration but nothing came of it.

Considered undocumented because they did not go through the hiring process of the POEA, these workers-disguised-as-tourists are allowed to stay in Dubai for only 57 days.

Documented workers like secretaries receive 3,000 UAE dirhams (about P42,000) with free accommodations while workers with only “visit visas” are given only about 1,500 dirhams, or P21,000 pesos, without accommodations.

Those unable to find jobs within the 57-day period have to leave Dubai and fly to the tourist island of Kis in Iran to renew their visit visas or wait for a worker visa to be issued by their employer, the recruiter said.
He said many of the OFWs waiting it out in Kis had spent almost all their cash. Some had even resorted to begging from new Filipino arrivals for bed and board.

The plight of stranded OFWs in Kis was investigated by the Department of Foreign Affairs a few years ago. But the DFA has yet to make public the report of the team it sent to Iran and UAE to check on the matter.
Deployment to the UAE has been rising dramatically for the past seven years, from a low of 35,485 in 1998 to 49,164 in 2003, 68,386 in 2004 and 81,707 in 2005, because of a boom in the construction of hotels, office buildings and residences.

About 100 new hotels are expected to be constructed in Dubai by 2010, according to the source. But though this would be a boon to OFW recruitment, he said the POEA should start cracking down on those travel agencies selling “visit visas” at prices ranging from P40,000 to P100,00.

“Thousands of Filipinos have been lured by these travel agencies with their ads and many more are convinced by their friends now working there to fly to Dubai and take their chances in finding jobs,” the recruiter said.
Geslani said there were two to three local travel agencies responsible for sending out these “tourist workers.”

He earlier accused Bureau of Immigration agents based in the country’s airports of colluding with these travel agencies in allowing the tourist workers to leave.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Provision of Antiterror Law Delays Entry of Refugees

Published: March 8, 2006

WASHINGTON, March 7 — About 9,500 Burmese refugees scheduled to be resettled in the United States from
Thailand this year are in limbo because their indirect support for armed rebels opposed to their repressive
government has put them in technical violation of American antiterrorism law, government officials say.

The Burmese are the largest of several groups, including refugees from Cuba, Vietnam, Liberia and
Somalia, whose admission to the United States has been jeopardized by a provision in the USA Patriot Act that denies entry to anyone who has provided material support to a terrorist or armed rebel group.

The provision applies even if that support was coerced or the aims of the group in question match those of
American foreign policy.

The law broadens the definition of terrorist groups to include organizations that do not appear on the State
Department's list of designated terrorist groups, effectively barring refugees loosely linked to armed
groups that have resisted authoritarian governments like those in Cuba and Myanmar, formerly Burma.

Some of the refugees paid taxes to rebel groups that controlled their communities. Others offered food or
small sums to relatives or acquaintances in groups with ties to rebels or were forced to provide such
support, refugee resettlement officials said.

Officials in the Homeland Security and State Departments have been working for several months to
define guidelines for a waiver to the statute that would allow the resettlement of the refugees, who are
fleeing religious, ethnic and political persecution, and refugee officials said they hope for a resolution

But with thousands of families stranded in refugee camps overseas, officials from the United Nations and
Republicans and Democrats in Congress have begun warning in recent weeks that the law is leaving
refugees increasingly at risk.

The law has already delayed the resettlement of 146 Cubans who offered support to armed opponents of Fidel
Castro in the 1960's; 200 Burmese refugees housed in Malaysia; 30 Hmong refugees in Thailand; 11 Vietnamese Montagnard refugees in Cambodia; and a small number of Liberians and Somalis, United Nations statistics show.

The United Nations is still awaiting a formal decision on the 9,500 Burmese refugees in Thailand.
United Nations officials and members of Congress said the refugees posed no known security risks to the
United States. By tagging them as having links to terrorists, the United Nations says, the Bush administration will make it difficult to find other countries willing to accept them.

It may also lead countries providing the refugees with temporary shelter to reconsider their welcome.
The delay in issuing a waiver to the statute has led the United Nations to suspend the American
resettlement of hundreds of Colombian refugees, many of whom were forced to make payments to rebel forces, and of 1,300 Burmese refugees housed in Malaysia, who made donations to ethnic groups linked to armed opponents of the Burmese government.

It has also prevented some 500 asylum seekers in the United States from being granted permanent refuge
here. Many of those cases are being appealed.

"Until this issue is resolved, many deserving refugees and applicants for asylum fleeing religious, ethnic or
other forms of persecution will be unfairly denied or postponed from achieving safe haven," Representatives
Christopher H. Smith, Republican of New Jersey, and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Republican of Florida, said last
week in a letter to the homeland security secretary, Michael Chertoff.

The antiterrorism law, which was passed in 2001 and which Congress reauthorized on Tuesday, has been
increasingly applied to refugees in the past two years. So has the Real ID Act, which further broadened
the definition of terrorist groups when it was enacted last year.

"That procedure should ensure that terrorists do not abuse refugee status or the asylum laws of the United
States," Mr. Smith and Ms. Ros-Lehtinen wrote.

"However, the procedure should also properly weigh situations in which individuals are acting under
duress or are legitimately resisting illegitimate and tyrannical regimes."

Senators Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut and Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both Democrats, wrote a similar letter last week.

Bill Strassberger, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said his agency was working with
the Departments of State and Justice to resolve the problem.

"Part of the consternation over this issue is that this process is taking some time," Mr. Strassberger
said. "The process is made difficult because of the need to balance national security with our deep
commitment to assisting refugees and providing a safe refuge."

Those affected by the law include a Colombian woman forced by rebels to hand over livestock. The rebels
killed her husband and raped her before she escaped the country. Because her forced support for the rebels
would bar her from admission to the United States, the United Nations settled her in another country.
Researchers from the Human Rights Program at Harvard Law School, who traveled to Thailand and Malaysia,
interviewed scores of additional refugees. Two of them — one who gave a hat to a cousin who belonged to an
opposition group and another who was taxed a basket of rice annually by the group — are among the Burmese who still hope to find refuge in the United States.

Lawyers at the Homeland Security Department have also argued that the laws now bar the United States from
admitting Afghan refugees who supported the Northern Alliance in its battle against the Taliban or South
Africans who supported the African National Congress when it was deemed a terrorist group.

The lawyers made that case in January as they tried to persuade a panel of judges to deny asylum to a Burmese woman who had donated money to an opposition group.

The woman, a Christian who has been detained in Texas since she entered this country in 2004, said she had
been persecuted in Myanmar for her religious beliefs and her ethnicity.

The woman, who is being represented by Edward Neufville and who will not allow her name to be used
because her case is pending, remains in detention, awaiting the judges' decision.

"I am still hoping," she said in a telephone interview on Friday.

Singapore rejects calls to grant maids mandatory rest days

First posted 09:24pm (Mla time) Mar 09, 2006
Associated Press, Agence France-Presse

(UPDATE) SINGAPORE -- Singapore's manpower ministry rejected calls to make rest days for maids mandatory, arguing it would inconvenience families with special needs, The Straits Times newspaper reported Thursday.

"Some households have elderly or infirm members with special needs who require constant attention and may find it difficult to release the domestic worker for a prescribed period every week," said Hawazi Daipi, senior parliamentary secretary for manpower, in Parliament on Wednesday.

Instead, Hawazi said, the government wanted consumer watchdog bodies and maid employment agencies to carry out standard employment contracts that stipulate monthly or weekly rest days.

The ministry's refusal to legislate days off for maids came as a disappointment to activists who have been calling for domestic workers to be protected under the city-state's Employment Act, which states how many days rest an employee is entitled to each week, the newspaper said.

US-based Human Rights Watch said in a report in December that many foreign maids in Singapore endure harsh working conditions such as physical and verbal aggression, threats, restrictions on movement, long work-hours and lack of rest days as well as severe abuse such as physical and sexual violence, abuse by agents, exorbitant debt payments, and aren't protected adequately by labor laws.

Singapore said the report was grossly exaggerated. The government said foreign domestic workers receive "full protection" under the law, and employers who abuse or exploit maids can face fines of up to five thousand Singapore dollars (3,066 US dollars) and jail terms of up to six months.

Daipi said the Ministry of Manpower agrees that all workers should receive adequate rest, and employers who do not provide it can be punished.

The Manpower Ministry also said employers are required to provide meals, ensure work safety, proper housing and prompt salary payment. It stressed the government does not tolerate any abuse or exploitation, and said the domestics choose to work in Singapore because conditions are better than in their homelands.
"As part of the work permit conditions, employers are held responsible for the well-being of their foreign domestic workers, including the provision of adequate rest," he said.

One Filipina maid, who asked to be identified only as Chona, told Agence France-Presse earlier this year that the contract she signed with an employment agency in Manila promised a salary of 350 Singapore dollars (215 US dollars) and at least two days off every month.

But on arrival in Singapore, the agency here told her the salary would be 320 dollars with no days off -- for two years.

About 150,000 maids, mostly from Indonesia and the Philippines, are employed in Singapore, a wealthy Southeast Asian city-state.

Their counterparts in Hong Kong, where an even larger number of maids work, are granted one day off every week and a day off on public holidays.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Filipinos in the USA and Around the World: Whence and Whither?

by E. San Juan, Jr. Sunday, Mar. 05, 2006 at 7:46 PM

About ten million Filipinos are now scattered in the U.S. and around the world, chiefly as exploited migrant labor. Meanwhile, 85 million Filipinos--with the exception of a tiny privileged minority--are sufffering and resisting the current repressive regime in a rapidly deteriorating neocolonized social order.

The Philippines has one of the most durable and vibrant revolutionary traditions in the whole world--the first Asian people to revolt against Western colonialism. 4.1 million Filipinos died opposing U.S. domination in the Filipino-American War at the turn of the last century.

Today Filipinos are engaged in a popular democratic revolutionary process against U.S. imperialism and its local agents. Can overseas Filipinos contribute to the radical transformation of a world afflicted by the atrocities and terrors of global capitalism?


…my adored land, region of the sun caressed, Pearl of the Orient Sea, our Eden lost…
--JOSE RIZAL, “Mi Ultimo Adios”

--by E. SAN JUAN, Jr.

I am delighted to join the alumni of the Philippine Studies Program at this time when so many events here and in the Philippines—disasters, crises, emergencies--are forcing us to think what we should do to advance social justice and equality, to make another world possible, a better world if possible. Our diverse responses will decide the direction of our lives and perhaps the future of our community.

It confirms my belief that experience and social practice, not mere ideas, can precipitate change. But of course, without thought and critical reflection, we will surely leave ourselves open to the encroachment of the corporate media—FOX, DisneyWorld, MTV, the infinite glamour of images, shopping malls, commodity fetishism all around—until we have become robotized consumers of the globalized transnational market.

In the spirit of collaborative exchange, I offer the following comments to provoke thought and critical reflection. What’s the end in view? To make a better world if possible.

I. In October 1997, I was invited to speak at the FIND (Filipino InterCollegiate Networking Dialogue) at SUNY Binghamton; the theme of the two-days conference was: “Re-examining the Filipino Diaspora.” Many students I met in passing were seriously disturbed by the image of Filipinos around the world shown as “domestics” and “servants,” if not mail-order brides, prostitutes, etc. But, on the whole, the more than a thousand delegates were more seriously engaged in exploring how to achieve “success,” or “agency” in the trendy postmodernist lexicon. They were saturated with readings about the excess or “spectral presences” of Overseas Filipinos and the “shamelessness” of the balikbayans.

No wonder, the FIND Conference could not “find” a feasible direction for common action, with the Fil-Ams generally conditioned still by the decades-long neoconservative indoctrination of the Reagan and Bush regimes. This generation of Fil-Ams, all born after the end of the Vietnam War, differ from the generation I was acquainted with. They were politicized in the mid-sixties and seventies, learning mass politics in the activities of the anti-martial law organizations, the Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP), and other inter-ethnic coalitions.

They supported the Manongs (such as Philip Vera Cruz) at the forefront of the farm workers’ union struggles in California and the ILWU struggles in Seattle, Hawaii, and elsewhere. While teaching in California and Connecticut, I was politicized by the Civil Rights struggles in the late Sixties and early Seventies, as well as the national-democratic struggle in the Philippines, together with these young Fil-Ams who discovered Bulosan and Bonifacio, who visited the Philippines on their own or in small groups to affiliate with the Kabataang Makabayan and other progressive sectors during the First Quarter Storm, before the declaration of martial law and after.

During the long night of the U.S.-Marcos dictatorship, a generation of Filipino Americans matured, found or lost themselves after the 1986 February Revolution. The resurgence of neoconservatism beginning with the Reagan administration in 1980, the decline of national-liberation struggles in Latin and Central America, up to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1989, however, produced a demoralizing effect which exacerbated the internal divisions in the organizations of Filipino-Americans and resulted in their dismantling. We no longer have the “Manongs” as examples for young Fil-Ams to learn from. In fact, few young Fil-Ams now read Bulosan’s writings, much less the biography of Ka Philip Vera Cruz. We have “model minority” Filipinos like General Taguba, the White House cook, Lea Salonga, celebrities in TV and other media casinos, etc. What else is new? You belong to a new generation in which the ideal of becoming the model “multicultural American,” while a ruse for suppressing critical impulses, seems to have become obligatory. It has effectively sublimated any claim for collective recognition of qualities other than the acquisitive or possessive. “Identity politics” in the sense of ethnic pride, etc. has been easily coopted by Establishment charity. But given the economic difficulties faced by the post-1965 immigrants, and the refurbished ethos of “white supremacy,” Filipinos cannot so easily follow the path of the Japanese, Korean, Indian or Taiwanese technocrats, for one simple reason: the Philippines, our country of origin, remains a subordinated, dependent, neocolonized society, technologically backward (in comparison with Japan, Taiwan, China, Singapore, Malaysia or Thailand), even culturally incoherent and certainly politically disintegrated. It is worse now because the Marcos period severely retarded the country’s development, set us back many decades from the time when we were the leading industrializing country in Asia next to Japan. Today the Philippines has one of the lowest per capita income in the region, over 75% of Filipinos are desperately impoverished. Now the largest Asian exporter of cheap labor, the Philippines relies on the remittance of more than 9 million Overseas Contract Workers, precariously dependent on the international labor market so vulnerable to crises, wars, currency fluctuations, and other unpredictable contingencies. The entire Filipino people and its territorial home have become collectively hostaged to an inherently unstable global capitalist economy driven to profit accumulation, heedless of their dignity, health, or survival. What distinguishes your generation and the one before you is, I think, the fact of the disappearance of a radical socialist alternative now being addressed by the anti-globalization movement. The welfare state is no more. The end-of-the-century milieu was characterized by the reign of cynical neoconservatism (with strong Anglo fundamentalist contempt of other cultures) which has recently been challenged by the anti-globalization movement and jolted by the post-9/11 attack from Islamic fundamentalist extremists. One might ask: How do you situate yourself as young Filipino-Americans (or, if you prefer, Filipinos based in the U.S.) in this current conjuncture? For those fired up by your visit and eager to contribute to transforming the social order in the Philippines by trying to change traditional practices and institutions, the urgent question is: Where are you coming from? What is your competence and capability? Understandably you feel compelled to intervene, tell folks what to do, how to do it, thereby enacting the role of the superior civilized taskmaster, a latter-day “Thomasite,” who once accompanied U.S. troops in the pacification campaigns. But there’s already an entire corps of U.S.-educated cadres of teachers and technocrats already doing that back home, reproducing their ilk everyday. To be sure, the condition of chronic poverty, corruption, daily practices of social injustice and inequality should properly be grasped as systemic effects. They are symptoms of the decay of political and economic structures accumulated in the long history of colonialism and neocolonialism, something that cannot be done away with overnight. And since these are also processes—the process of the comprador elite doing everything to maintain the iniquitous order (with U.S. support), and the masses struggling against everyday situations of exploitation and oppression—groups, not individuals, are the actors and protagonists involved, fighting for what are long-range stakes in the fierce class war. We need to take our bearings by trying to achieve a total, in-depth picture of these complex processes, the contradictions we need to take into account, the realities and possibilities for change, in the light of local and international political alignments. But in this task, we will not find any constructive help from the academic experts. Let me give you an example why. In Prof. Yen Le Espiritu’s recent book, Home Bound, we find this Vietnamese scholar inspired by three Fil-Am women who recently joined the Integrate-Exposure Program of the League of Filipino Students in Los Angeles. Upon their return, one felt “proud to be a Pinay.” They all rediscovered their “motherland” and their ethnic identity. They felt privileged in having participated in transnationalist border-crossing, which Espiritu claims to be “transgressive” in itself. It is as though frequent travels, remittances, and visits to the Philippines, accompanied with conspicuous balikbayan boxes now conceived as “symbolic” capital—the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu is called in to lend theoretical finesse to simple acts of coping and routine survival tactics—already served as “acts of resistance” that successfully trounced he disciplinary normative regime of U.S. capital. In effect, balikbayan packages undermined the localizing regime of the U.S. Homeland Security State. Amazing! Fantastic! Now, please don’t mistake me as indulging in personality bashing. I am interested primarily in ideological mystification and knowledge-production, or error-production. I am not the only one to suspect how this academic metaphysics of imagining resistance to racial and gendered subjugation, influenced by fashionable cult-figures such as Foucault, Derrida, Negri, and a whole slew off scholastic libertarians and anarchists in Europe and North America, has produced all kinds of wrong-headed wish-fulfillment. It has led to the temporary marginalization of the more radical critique provided by historical materialism, by critical Marxism. Lesson One: Study Marxism and apply it to the study of U.S. history, its evolution as a class society, as a political system based on the division of its inhabitants into social classes. Up to now, Cold War propaganda continues to caricature Marxist critical analysis as economic determinist, sexist, Eurocentric, not sensitive to personal needs, etc. Consequently, in the last three decades, the question of identity has been separated from its socio-economic and historical contexts, becoming more a question of individual psychology, sexual- affective relations, a New-Age concern with the body or matter as such. This has led to the point where any account of Philippine-American relations becomes an instance of negotiation, a power-game where colonizer and colonized are positioned on a level playing field, veritably equal combatants. Hence Stanley Karnow (author of the best-selling In Our Image) and other American experts on Filipino tutelage can diagnose Filipino backwardness as caused by the natives’ own folly, recalcitrance, ineptitude, and so on. For her part, Espiritu believes that by postulating an alleged “multiple subject position”of the immigrant, she has thereby disrupted the U.S. state’s strategy of differential inclusion. By presuming that Filipino subjectivity acquires self-making power or agency through travel, border crossing, consumption habits, re-inventing traditional customs, etc., it has already overcome white nativistic racism, class subordination, and homogenizing imperialism. One may ask: Isn’t this belief precisely what the whole system of neoliberal pluralism has programmed everyone into believing—namely, that we are free to do whatever we want so long as it does not subvert consumerist individualism, or white supremacist standards? You cannot talk about agency, or meaningful subjectivity, of a racialized group (such as Filipinos, who—I might emphasize--are not just an ethnic group like Italian Americans, Swedish Americans, etc.) in a system pervaded by class inequality, alienation in workplace and neighborhoods, and historic exclusions. It is silly to denounce white supremacy and at the same time ascribe to Filipinos such wonderful virtues as disruptive border-crossers, especially now when we have witnessed hundreds of Filipinos summarily deported after 9/11 in humiliating conditions. We have seen thousands of Filipino airport workers laid off, Filipino WWII veterans still neglected and Filipinos racially profiled owing to the stigmatization of the Philippines as home to terrorist groups like the Abu Sayyaf, the New People’s Army, and so on. Ironically, this is how Filipinos are “recognized” today, despite the publicity in Filipinas magazine and other self-serving media. “Living their lives across borders”—to quote Espiritu--does not automatically render the Filipino a transgressor, a transnationalist rebel against the white-supremacist order, despite inventing her own ethnic traditions of difference. We will, as usually, only be celebrated as charming icons or spectacles, exotic curiosities for global circulation and consumption. But what’s crucially misguided is a fundamental premise informing Espiritu’s and other studies, and this is what I want to underscore here. They assume that the Filipino nation or nation-state is truly sovereign, that Filipinos have sufficiently acquired a sense of critical wisdom and autonomy enough to understand and outgrow the crippling legacies of colonialism and white supremacy, so that we are fully responsible for our actions. The whole society is still profoundly neocolonized, the large majority still trammeled by subaltern attitudes and dispositions. (Recent opinion polls show that of all nationalities that one can choose from, Filipinos prefer to be American—what else? ) To return to Espiritu’s disabling mistake. The wrong premise of Filipino national sovereignty distorts all talk of a boundary-breaking transnationalism, together with the postmodernist babble that accuses the essentializing nationalism of Rizal, Aguinaldo, and so on, as the force that has repressed the hybrid, fragmented, vernacularizing “Filipino” identity. Wait a moment: was Aguinaldo victorious over the Americans? Did the people enjoy a sovereign truly independent nation-state after the devastation of the Filipino-American War? Who won the war, in the first place? Who indeed can capture the essence of “Filipino-ness,” if there is one? Speaking a native language or vernacular by itself won’t do it; maybe, eating balut, bagoong and other native delicacies might help. Depending on what social class is articulating it, the term “Filipino” can be “the name of a sovereign nation” that is fictitious, or it can designate the group of Overseas Contract Workers with Philippine passports dependent on the employing state. The reason why elite Filipinos feel embarrassed when mistaken for OCWs in Singapore or Italy is the fact that they claim to represent the nation or nation-state, whereas the thousands of Filipina domestics we met in the railroad stations of Rome and Taipeh, who may be modern heroes, do not really represent what is distinctive about the “Filipino,” notwithstanding that stupid remark that we have been blessed by “intelligent design” to be super nannies. Remember those Internet-circulated lists of mannerisms and habits that supposedly identifies the Filipino? Before we can take action, we need to grasp concrete historical reality and its contingencies. And the first thing to comprehend is the profoundly neocolonized situation of Filipino society and polity, the continuing dominance of the neoliberal ideology (with feudal encrustations) over the system, the effective hegemony of U.S. world-outlook over civil society and state. Contrary to Stuart Hall (1997) and others, it is not just culture that constitutes the terrain for producing diasporic, subaltern identity; it is the political and economic order—the class system-- that determines the cultural or ideological domain of representation, subjectivity, values, attitudes, and so on, which in turn reciprocally reinforces the sociopolitical hierarchy and reproduces its mechanisms and actors. Throughout Espiritu’s book, as well as in dozens of recent studies of the “damaged” Filipino society and culture, you will encounter criticisms of racism, gender, intersections of this and that, even the evils of global capitalism. But you will not find a serious critical analysis of social class, the extraction of surplus value from labor-power (I need to stress here that Filipina domestics as “modern slaves” not only sell labor-power but also their personhood), which is the key to grasping the complex phenomena of racial colonial subordination of the Philippines to the United States and the neoliberal global market. Given our neocolonial status, it goes without saying that the subordinate position of the Philippines in the international division of labor, our share in the distribution of accumulated capital (surplus value), determines our image, our identity, and our notion of our future, to a larger degree than any ethnic particularism we can boast of. The lesson here is: We need to undergo real “brainwashing,” that is, getting rid of these poisonous beliefs and assumptions that will make us naïve if well-meaning lackeys of capitalist modernization, equipped with the program of “Benevolent Assimilation” (McKinley) and imperial philanthropic arrogance. We need to acquire a Marxist orientation. This means that if you want to help liberate the Philippines from U.S. neocolonial stranglehold, or express your solidarity with the mass struggles going on, you will want to fight the class enemy right here, in Washington and in the corporate headquarters. You will want to help destroy a parasitic class system that requires for its nourishment militarist imperialist interventions in the Philippines, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, and throughout the world. Our struggle here is neither primary nor secondary to the struggle for national democracy and independence in the Philippines; it is an integral part of the internationalist struggle against global capitalism. But because of our limitations as individual agents, or as members of collectivities, we need to concentrate our energies on what we can do best in our specific time and place. You decide where, which collective project, you think you can contribute your energies and skills to good effect. This resolves those perennial squabbles among Filipino American activists about which task is primary—supporting the struggle back home, or building a revolutionary vanguard party here, debates that drained their energies while their party-building dreams collapsed with that of the Soviet Union and the restoration of bourgeois rule in China. ------------ Lesson Two: Study Philippine history from a progressive point of view, in particular the period of U.S. colonization and neocolonization of the country up to today. The first thing I would emphasize in any historical overview of ourselves is the contemporary political conjuncture: the ascendancy of an extremely militarist and racist ruling section in the U.S. This rightist power-bloc has continued to exploit the 9/11 attack in a global war on terrorism, utilizing all its weapons of violence and coercion to produce “regime change” and impose a retooled hegemony, a “new American Century,” on the backs of millions of people of color in the South, in the underdeveloped societies that were former colonies or dependent formations. This is happening at a time when the “socialist alternative” has disappeared with the collapse of the Soviet Union, even while the growth of anti-imperialist forces in Latin America in general is intensifying. In short, global contradictions are sharpening to the point of regional wars, wholesale extermination of peoples, relentless destruction of the environment, and so on. There is one hopeful sign counterpointing that doomsday scenario: the birth of the anti-globalization movement which is now beginning to mobilize more forces while national liberation movements in Venezuela, Mexico, Nepal, the Philippines and elsewhere continue to gain ground in the face of U.S. state terrorism. We who live in “the belly of the beast” need to take account of the USA Patriot Act and its elaborate regulations, a repressive legal machinery sanctioning surveillance of citizens and extra-judical torture for dissenters judged as “enemy combatants.” We are today living in a regime worse than the Cold War and the McCarthy persecutions of the fifties experienced by Bulosan, Chris Mensalvas and other Filipino union activists. The Abu Ghraibs, Guanatanamos and others are completely new decadent symptoms of the crisis of U.S. global hegemony. We need to use whatever civil liberties still exist to mobilize the broadest united front to defend and advance participatory democracy beyond formal citizenship rights. We need to defeat fundamentalist religious reactionaries fomenting a “clash of civilizations” to entrench the supremacy of global capital. As Filipinos in the Homeland Security State, how do we enact or put into play our solidarity with our compatriots in the Philippines and in the world-wide diaspora? II. Unfailingly, as in the past, the Philippines grabs the headlines when disasters, natural and/or man-made, inflict untold devastation, misery, and death on our brothers, sisters, parents, and friends back home. Just on the tail of the 71 persons killed and 500 injured at the Wowowee ABS-CBN event on Feb. 4, we soon confront the tragedy of 1,800 people killed in Guinsaugon, Leyte, with over 376 homes destroyed by a mud-slide. These repeated flooding incidents may be traced back to decades of wanton deforestation allowed, even abetted, by the local politicians and the central government. Of course, news analysis will never help us understand the historical context, much less the political and social causality, of these catastrophes. The beleaguered president Arroyo appeared in TV mainly to urge everyone to send prayers to the survivors in Leyte, while US warships and thousands of marines converged on the island as though in a repeat of General Douglas MacArthur’s 1944 landing on that island to signal the fulfillment of his vow, “I Shall Return.” Indeed, the return of U.S. troops was marked by the approval of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) during Fidel Ramos’ presidency, after the 1992 scrapping of Clark Field and Subic Naval Bases by a coalition of nationalist-democratic forces. But from Feb. 20 to March 5, the largest gathering of U.S. troops (5,500 soldiers) have landed for the 22nd RP-US Balikatan Exercise, purportedly to train 2,800 Filipino soldiers to hunt “terrorists,” mainly the Abu Sayyaf, but also of course the guerillas of the New People’s Army (which has been classified by the U.S. State Department as a “terrorist” organization). The presence of U.S. troops flagrantly mocks the putative sovereignty of the Philippines—indeed, even after formal independence in 1946, as everyone knows, the Philippines was saddled with so many treaties, obligations, contracts that made it a genuine neocolony up to today. So forget all this pretentious postcolonial babble—the Philippines is still an appendage of Washington, despite all symptoms to the contrary. With Secretary Colin Powell’s decision to stigmatize as “terrorist” the major insurgent groups that have been fighting for forty years for popular democracy and independence—the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, the introduction of thousands of U.S. troops, weapons, logistics, and supporting personnel has become legitimate. More is involved than simply converting the archipelago to instant military bases and facilities for the U.S. military—a bargain exchange for the strategic outposts Clark Air Base and Subic Naval Base that were scrapped by a resurgent Filipino nationalism a decade ago. With the military officials practically managing the executive branch of government, the Philippine nation-state will prove to be more an appendage of the Pentagon than a humdrum neocolony administered by oligarchic compradors, which it has been since nominal independence in 1946. On the whole, Powell’s stigmatizing act is part of the New American Century Project to reaffirm a new pax Americana after the Cold War. The telling evidence surfaced recently when a 22-year old Filipina was gang-raped by six U.S. soldiers on leave from the aircraft carrier USS Essex last November 1, 2005. The U.S. Embassy refused to surrender to the local court four of the accused on the grounds of the VFA Agreement. This would be a national scandal in Korea or Japan; but in the Philippines, it seems routine for the U.S. to lord it over their “subalterns.” After all, this follows the hallowed pattern of Filipinos beaten, raped and killed—some were suspected as “wild boards”—in or around the U.S. military bases. There is, of course, a long history of Filipino victimage, dating back to the “water cure” and other forms of torture during the Filipino-American War of 1899 lasting up to the second decade of the last century. III. Allow me to encapsulate the theme of the struggle for national democracy and independence in the Philippines. When U.S. occupation troops in Iraq continued to suffer casualties every day after the war officially ended, academics and journalists began to supply capsule histories comparing their situation with those of troops in the Philippines during the Filipino-American War (1899-1902). A New York Times essay summed up the lesson in its title, “In 1901 Philippines, Peace Cost More Lives Than Were Lost in War” (2 July 2003, B1)), while an article in the Los Angeles Times contrasted the simplicity of McKinley’s “easy” goal of annexation (though at the cost of 4,234 U.S. soldiers killed and 3,000 wounded) with George W. Bush’s ambition to “create a new working democracy as soon as possible” (20 July 2003, M2). What is the real connection between the Philippines and the current U.S. war against terrorism? What is behind the return of the former colonizer to what was once called its “insular territory” administered then by the Bureau of Indian Affairs? Immediately after the proclaimed defeat of the Taliban and the rout of Osama bin Laden’s forces in Afghanistan, the Philippines became the second front in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. Raymond Bonner, author of Waltzing with Dictators (1987), argues that the reason for this second front is “the desire for a quick victory over terrorism,… the wish to reassert American power in Southeast Asia….” (New York Times, 10 June 2002). As in the past, during the Huk rebellion in the Philippines in the Cold War years, the U.S. acted as “the world’s policemen,” aiding the local military in “civic action” projects to win “hearts and minds,” a rehearsal for Vietnam. Washington is evidently using the Abu Sayyaf as a cover for establishing a “forward logistics and operation base” in Mindanao and Sulu in order to be able to conduct swift pre-emptive strikes against enemies in Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, China, and elsewhere. Overall, however, the intervention of U.S. Special Forces in solving a local problem has inflamed Filipino sensibilities, its collective memory still recovering from the nightmare of the U.S.-supported brutal Marcos dictatorship. (One should note that the Abu Sayyaf phenomenon, a kidnapping-for-ransom band, is a synthetic product of recent developments involving the Philippine military, local politicians, and corrupt businessmen.)What disturbed everyone was the Cold-War practice of “Joint Combined Exchange Training” exercises. In South America and Africa, such U.S. foreign policy initiatives merged with counter-insurgency operations that chanelled military logistics and equipment to favored regimes notorious for flagrant human rights violations. During the Huk uprising in the Philippines, Col. Edward Lansdale, who later masterminded the Phoenix atrocities in Vietnam, rehearsed similar counter-insurgency techniques combined with other anticommunist tricks of the trade. Now U.S. soldiers in active combat side by side with the pupped regime will pursue the Bush-defined “terrorists”—guerillas of the New People’s Army, Moro resistance fighters, and other progressive sectors of Filipino society. Are we seeing American troops in the boondocks (bundok, in the original Tagalog, means “mountain”) again? Are we experiencing a traumatic attack of déjà vu? A moment of reflection returns us to what Bernard Fall called “the first Vietnam.” As everyone now knows, US pacification slaughtered 1.4 million Filipinos, not counting the thousands of Moros who died in the infamous genocidal pacification campaign. The campaign to conquer the Philippines was designed in accordance with President McKinley’s policy of “Benevolent Assimilation” of the uncivilized and unchristian natives, a “civilizing mission” that Mark Twain considered worthy of the Puritan settlers and the pioneers in the proverbial “virgin land.” Pressured by the sugar-beet lobby and persistent rural insurrections, the Philippine Commonwealth of 1935 was established, constituted with a compromise mix of laws and regulations then being tried in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and Hawaii. Eventually the islands became a model of a pacified neocolony complete with brown-skinned legislators, judges, policemen, tax collectors, teachers, and so on. Except for the preliminary studies of Renato Constantino, Virgilio Enriquez and others, nothing much about the revealing effects of that process of subjugation of Filipinos have registered in the Philippine Studies or American Studies archive. This is usually explained by the theory that the U.S. did not follow the old path of European colonialism, and its war against Spain was pursued to liberate the natives from Spanish tyranny. If so, that war now rescued from the dustbin of history signaled the advent of a globalizing U.S. interventionism whose latest manifestation, in a different historical register, is Bush’s “National Security Strategy” of “exercising self-defense [of the Homeland] by acting preemptively,” assuming that might is right when spreading “democracy” by military occupation and bombs. IV. The revolutionary upsurge in the Philippines against the Marcos dictatorship stirred up dogmatic Cold War complacency. In the course of “the culture wars,” the historical reality of U.S. imperialism (the genocide of Native Americans is replayed in the subjugation of the inhabitants of the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Cuba) is finally being excavated and re-appraised. But this is, of course, a phenomenon brought about by a confluence of multifarious events, among them: the demise of the Soviet Union as a challenger to U.S. hegemony; the sublation of the Sixties in both Fukuyama’s “end of history” and Rorty’s neopragmatism; the Palestininan intifadas; the Zapatista revolt against NAFTA; the heralding of current anti-terrorism by the Gulf War and its sequels; and the fabled “clash of civilizations.” Despite these changes, the old frames of intelligibility have not been modified or reconfigured to understand how nationalist revolutions in the colonized territories cannot be confused with the nationalist patriotism of the dominant or hegemonic metropoles, or how the mode of U.S. imperial rule in the twentieth century differs in form and content from those of the British or French in the nineteenth century. The received consensus of a technological modernizing influence from the advanced industrial powers remains deeply entrenched. Consider, for example, the observation by Paul Wong and Tania Azores that one reason why Filipino nurses emigrate to the U.S. is found in “the belief in the right of personal choice that is deeply embedded in the political ideology inherited from the United States” (1994, 174). How does this explain the poor working conditions and the lack of jobs with decent pay for nurses in the Philippines? The demise of the independent nation-state purportedly caused by globalization has caused some demoralization among middle elements. Even postcolonial and postmodernist thinkers commit the mistake of censuring the decolonizing projects of the subjudgated peoples because these projects (in the superior gaze of these thinkers) have been damaged, or are bound to become perverted into despotic postcolonial regimes, like those in Ghana, Algeria, Vietnam, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The only alternative, it seems, is to give assent to the process of globalization under the aegis of the World Bank/IMF/WTO, and hope for a kind of “benevolent assimilation.” Without a truly independent nation-state representing the masses, not an oligarchic elite, what is the defense against predatory transnational corporations? What remains to be carefully considered, above all, is the historical specificity or singularity of each of these projects of national liberation, their class composition, historical roots, programs, ideological tendencies, and political agendas within the context of colonial/imperial domination. It is not possible to pronounce summary judgments on the character and fate of nationalist movements in the peripheral formations without focusing on the complex manifold relations between colonizer and colonized, the dialectical interaction between their forces as well as others caught in the conflict. Otherwise, the result would be a disingenuous ethical utopianism such as that found in U.S. cosmopolitanist and postcolonialist discourse which, in the final analysis, function as an apology for the ascendancy of the corporate powers embedded in the nation-states of the North, and for the hegemonic rule of the only remaining superpower claiming to act in the name of freedom and democracy. The case of the national-democratic struggle in the Philippines may be taken as an example of one historic singularity. Because of the historical specificity of the Philippines’ emergence as a dependent nation-state controlled by the United States in the twentieth century, nationalism as a mass movement has always been defined by events of anti-imperialist rebellion. U.S. conquest entailed long and sustained violent suppression of the Filipino revolutionary forces for decades. The central founding “event” (as the philosopher Alain Badiou would define the term) is the 1896 revolution against Spain and its sequel, the Filipino-American war of 1899-1902, and the Moro resistance (up to 1914) against U.S. colonization. Another political sequence of events is the Sakdal uprising in the thirties during the Commonwealth period followed by the Huk uprising in the forties and fifties—a sequence that is renewed in the First Quarter Storm of 1970 against the neocolonial state. While the feudal oligarchy and the comprador class under U.S. patronage utilized elements of the nationalist tradition formed in 1896-1898 as their ideological weapon for establishing moral-intellectual leadership, their attempts have never been successful. Propped by the Pentagon-supported military, the Arroyo administration today, for example, uses the U.S. slogan of democracy against terrorism and the fantasies of the neoliberal free market to legitimize its continued exploitation of workers, peasants, women and ethnic minorities. Following a long and tested tradition of grassroots mobilization, Filipino nationalism has always remained centered on the peasantry’s demand for land closely tied to the popular-democratic demand for equality and genuine sovereignty. For over a century now, U.S.-backed modernization and neoliberal programs have utterly failed in the Philippines. The resistance against globalized capital and its neoliberal extortions is spearheaded today by a national-democratic mass movement of various ideological persuasions. We have a durable Marxist-led insurgency that seeks to articulate the “unfinished revolution” of 1896 in its demand for national self-determination against U.S. control and social justice for the majority of citizens (86 million) ten percent of whom are now migrant workers abroad. In the wake of past defeats of peasant revolts, the Filipino culture of nationalism constantly renews its anti-imperialist vocation by mobilizing new forces (women and church people in the sixties, and the indigenous communities in the seventies and eighties). It is organically embedded in emancipatory social and political movements whose origin evokes in part the Enlightenment narrative of sovereignty as mediated by third-world nationalist movements, but whose sites of actualization are the local events of mass insurgency against continued U.S. hegemony. The Philippines as an “imagined” and actually experienced ensemble of communities, or multiplicities in motion, remains in the process of being constructed primarily through modes of political and social resistance against corporate globalization and its technologically mediated ideologies, fashioning thereby the appropriate cultural forms of dissent, resistance, and subversion worthy of its people’s history and its collective vision. V. Uneven, unequal development may also illuminate the new reconfiguring of the Philippines as an Asian/Pacific formation occupying the borderline between the Orientalist imaginary and the Western racializing gaze. But its geopolitical inscription in the South makes Filipinos more akin to the inhabitants of the “Fourth World,” the aboriginal and indigenous peoples of the Americas, the Hawaiians, Maoris, and so on. The reconfiguring of the Philippines as a terrain of contestation finds its historic validity in the transitional plight of Filipinos migrating to the United States in the years before the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935: they were neither aliens nor citizens but “nationals,” denizens of the twilight zone, the borderland between the core and the periphery. We live in a racial polity, a political order with a deep and long history of racist practice, of which the “model minority” myth is just one revealing symptom. Whether you were born here or recently arrived, you are perceived by the dominant society as someone “alien,” not quite “American, somehow a strange “other.” This is the inherent racial politics of the territory we happen to inhabit. Contrary to what postmodernists label “transmigrants,” Filipinos in the United States are now beginning to grasp the fact that it is the invasion of the Philippines by the United States in 1898, the destruction of the revolutionary Philippine Republic, the annexation of the islands and the colonial subjugation of its people, that explains why we Filipinos are somehow tangibly present in this continent. Whether we like it or not—and here I address the emergent community of “Filipinos” in the U.S.-- Filipinos surfaced in the American public’s consciousness not as museum curiosities (indeed, the “indigenous types” exhibited at the St. Louis exposition of 1904 contributed to the fixation of a Filipino primitive stereotype, specifically“dogeaters,” in popular lore) but as a nation of resisters to U.S. colonial aggression. We cannot go back without masochistic self-denial to the fugitives of the Spanish galleons who settled in Louisiana to reawaken us from the American dream of success. (Those interested in the antiquarian topics of the Louisiana “Manillamen” or the Indios who supposedly stumbled in California, will surely not belabor the sordid genocide of their countrymen in the Filipino-American War of 1899-1902—a nice escape for these would-be historians.) Surely if our project is the vindication of a people’s dignity and democratic empowerment, not just ethnic competition with Native Americans for precedence, we need to recover the history of resistance, of insurrection, that can resolve the problem of identity—identity is not a matter of antique relics or quaint folkways, it is a matter of the political project you are engaged with, the collective project of community vindication that you have committed to pursue. It goes without saying, though often forgotten, that the chief distinction of Filipinos from other Asians residing in the United States is that their country of origin was the object of violent colonization and unrelenting subjugation by U.S. monopoly capital. It is this foundational process, not the settling of Filipino fugitives in Louisiana or anywhere else, that establishes the limit and potential of the Filipino lifeworld here. Without understanding the complex process of colonial subjugation and the internalization of dependency, Filipinos will not be able to define their own specific historical trajectory here as a dual or bifurcated formation—one based on the continuing struggle of Filipinos for national liberation and popular democracy in the Philippines, and the other based on the exploitation and resistance of immigrants here (from the “Manongs” in Hawaii and the West Coast to the post-1965 “brain drain” and the present diaspora worldwide). These two distinct histories, while geographically separate, flow into each other and converge into a single multilayered and mutually determining narrative that needs to be articulated around the principles of national sovereignty, social justice, and equality. So far this has not been done because, among other reasons, the mainstream textbook approaches distort both histories across the realms of lived experience characterized by class, gender, race, nationality, and so on. In the wake of the poststructuralist trend among intellectuals, a theory of Filipinos as transnational migrants or transmigrants has been introduced to befog the atmosphere already mired by the insistence on contingency, aporia, ambivalence, indeterminacy, disjunction, liminality, and so on. To avoid the “nihilism of despair or Utopia of progress,” we are told to be transnational or transcultural, or else. But the notion of Filipinos as transnational subjects assumes that all nation-states are equal in power, status, and so on. Like assimilationism, this theory of transmigrants and transnationals obfuscates imperial domination and the imperative of rebellion. It reinforces the marginalization and dependency of “Third World” peoples. It erases what David Harvey calls historical “permanences” and aggravates the Othering of people of color into racialized minorities—cheap labor (like OFWs) for global corporations and autocratic households. It rejects their history of resistance and their agency for emancipating themselves from the laws of the market and its operational ideology of white supremacy. Let me conclude by repeating what I submit is the central argument, the controlling vision, of my discourses on Philippines-American relations : Filipinos in the United States possess their own historical trajectory, one with its own singular profile but always linked in a thousand ways to what is going on in the Philippines. To capture the contours of this trajectory, we need to avoid two pitfalls: first, the nostalgic essentializing nativism that surfaces in the fetishism of folk festivals and other commodified cultural products that accompany tourist spectacles, college Filipino Nights, and official rituals. To avoid this error, we need to connect folklore and such cultural practices to the conflicted lives of the Igorots, Moros, and masses of peasants and workers. Second, more dangerous perhaps, we should guard against minstrelsy, self-denial by mimicry, the anxiety of not becoming truly “Americanized,” that is, defined by white-supremacist norms. My view is that we don’t want to be schizoid or ambidextrous performers forever, in the fashion of Bienvenido Santos’ “you lovely people.” This drive to assume a hybrid “postcolonial” identity, with all its self-ingratiating exoticism and aura of originality, only reinforces the pluralist/liberal consensus of “rational choice theory” (the utilitarian model of means and ends that promotes alienation and atomistic individualism) and fosters institutional racism. On the other hand, the submerging of one’s history into a panethnic Asian American movement or any other ethnic absolutism violates the integrity of the Filipino people’s tradition of revolutionary struggle for autonomy, our outstanding contribution to humankind’s narrative of the struggle for freedom from all modes of oppression and exploitation. Becoming Filipino then is a process of dialectical struggle, not a matter of wish-fulfillment or mental conjuring. As I said earlier, it is ultimately a collective political project. For Filipinos to grasp who they are, more importantly what they can become—for humans, as Antonio Gramsci once said, can only be defined in terms of what they can become, in terms of possibilities that can be actualized—we need to examine again the historical circumstances that joined the trajectory of the Philippines and the United States, of Americans and Filipinos, constituting in the process the dialectical configuration we know as Filipino American in its collective or group dimension. The Filipino in the United States is thus a concrete historical phenomenon understandable neither as Filipino alone nor American alone but as an articulation of the political, social, economic and cultural forces of the two societies with their distinct but intersecting histories. We need to grasp the dialectics of imperial conquest and anticolonial revolution, the dynamics and totality of that interaction, as the key to how, and for what ends, the Philippines and its diasporic citizenry—nearly 10 million strong, sending $10.7 billion dollars last year which made Gloria Arroyo ecstatic at the success of her neoliberalizing scheme--is being reconfigured for the next millennium.

__________ REFERENCES Hall, Stuart. 1997. “Making Diasporic Identities.” In The House that Race Built, ed. Wahneema Lubiano. New York: Pantheon. Le Espiritu, Yen. 2003.
Home Bound. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press. San Juan, E. 2004.
Working Through the Contradictions. Lewisburg,PA:Bucknell U. Press. Wong, Paul and Tania Azores. 1994. “The Migration and Incorporation of Filipino Nurses.” In The New Asian Immigratin in Los Angeles and Global Restructuring, ed. Paul Ong, Edna Bonacich, and Lucie Cheng. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

________ *This is the text of the lecture delivered at the Second Annual Conference of Sandiwa on Feb. 25, 2006, at the University of Washington, Seattle, USA.

** Dr. E. San Juan, Jr. was recently Fulbright professor of American Studies at Leuven University, Belgium, and visiting professor of literature at National Tsing Hua University, Taiwan. He directs the Philippine Cultural Studies Center in Connecticut and serves as co-director of the Board of Directors, Philippine Forum, New York. Among his recent books are BEYOND POSTCOLONIAL THEORY (Palgrave), RACISM AND CULTURAL STUDIES (Duke University Press), and WORKING THROUGH THE CONTRADICTIONS (Bucknell U Press).He will be a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Fellow this Fall 2006.