Leaders of an ecumenical group have criticized the Philippine government for continuing a policy of exporting labor, causing many Filipinos to suffer not only separation from their families, but threats to their lives overseas.
“Despite overseas workers’ contribution to an ailing economy, the cycle of violations for them starts from exorbitant government fees to lack of legal support and protection,” said Bishop Sol Toquero of the United Methodist Church.
President Benigno Aquino’s continuing labor export policy sends 1.4 million Filipino workers overseas each year, according to the country’s labor department.
Toquero laments that under Aquino’s three-year reign, four Filipinos working overseas have been executed, over a hundred languish on various death rows, several thousand more are in prison, tens of thousands work in countries experiencing political and social turmoil, and millions of undocumented Filipinos are vulnerable to exploitation.
Toquero was among leaders of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, an inter-church group, who spoke on July 20 in a public forum in Manila before President Aquino’s July 23 state of the nation address.
On July 19, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines appealed to the government to ensure the safety and return home of Filipino workers caught in the ongoing conflict in Syria.
An estimated 6,000 to 7,000 Filipinos remain trapped in Syria, though the government has repatriated almost 2,000 since March 2011, according to the foreign affairs department.
Some churches and fellowships have been ministering to the families of overseas workers, serving as part of a support system in many situations where either one or both parents leave for overseas work and children are left under the care of relatives.
“We have regular fellowships with the families of overseas workers and have Bible studies with them. So if they become overseas workers themselves, they can become missionaries in their places of work,” Rev. Willy Basilio of the Marikina Christian Fellowship, an independent Christian group, told ENInews.
Basilio said his church designated the whole of July for prayer and fasting “for our members to seriously minister to the families of overseas workers.”