LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By: Jun Ledesma
Columnist, Philippines News Agency
Saving our OFWs
THE diplomatic ties between Kuwait and the Philippines is in a litmus test, so to speak. This, after a helpless and hopeless domestic helper was rescued by elements of the Embassy without coordinating with the local authorities, video recorded the operation and then broadcasted the episode for reasons which can only be descrbed as sublime idiocy.
Since nobody wants to own responsibility, Pres. Rodrigo Duterte took the cudgels but deeply disturbed by yet another OFW’s life was in peril he begged the Overseas Filipino Workers in Kuwait to come home.
The critics of Duterte, long hankering for issues to diminish the trust and popularity of the President, suddenly emerged from the catacombs, feast on the issue like hungry hyenas. That should make them salivate and happy for now.
We knew for a fact that Kuwait employs about 250,000 OFWs. Contrary to general perception that they are mostly domestic helpers, a large number of them are in Iraqi’s vital oil and construction industries, help man health and other technical services. I would like to believe that employing Filipinos is not only on account of the OFWs industry and capability but at one time in the most critical balance in the history of Kuwait, the Philippines sent an armed contingent to help them fight against the invading forces of Iraq and help in the restoration of peace and stability in the Gulf states, Kuwait included.
That, for me, was the tie that binds the two distant countries. There were impulsive acts, knee-jerk reactions but when passions settle down, sober talks and rational decisions have to be made. The reciprocal sacrifices and favors are etched in the history of both countries.
If President Duterte appeals to OFWs to consider coming home, I want to believe that it is on account of an impending shortage of skilled labor and engineers given the mega-infrastructure projects which will be implemented soon under the Build Build Build program of the Duterte administration. The Philippines is in the fulcrum of shifting geo-politics in Asia. It has slowly weaned itself from the umbilical cord of mother America and stands shoulder-to-shoulder with China, Russia, Japan and remains a steadfast member of the ASEAN. The dramatic growth of China and the sustained economy of Japan plus new-found friendly relations with Russia open brighter prospects for OFWs.
There is reason to recall our OFWs. Years back, then Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo wanted to recall domestic helpers so that under TESDA they can be retrained and to upgrade their skills. This, on account of the fact that our DH are English speaking and the children of their employers are taught by them not only English but Arithmetic. The program however was objected to by labor groups and non-government organizations for the flimsy reason that the DH will be displaced. It was grand stupidity.
This time, however, the Duterte government can pursue that program. Rather than exporting domestic helpers, under the tutelage program of TESDA, they can now find placements in countries like China, Singapore, Korea and Japan as Domestic Tutors. This will translate to raising not only their status to a professional level but conversely their take home pay. Given that credentials I am sure they will not be treated like slaves and end up in a freezer.