Filipino expatriates slam draft law that links regular remittance to passport renewal

Dubai: Filipino expatriates in the UAE slammed a draft law filed in Manila that would compel them to regularly send money to their family back home or risk not getting their passports renewed.

A draft law filed in the Philippine Congress aims to make remittances mandatory and regular for all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) with legal dependants in the Philippines. Called House Bill 3576, the draft law, if approved, will authorise heads of Philippine missions to not renew passports of “erring OFWs” unless they show proof that they regularly send money home.

Rights group Migrante-UAE called the bill another form of state exaction and harassment.

“This proposed measure is a clear form of harassment to OFWs because they are threatening us to remit money or else face a penalty. It is apparent that the bill only wants to make sure that there is a steady stream of dollar remittances to the Philippines,” Nhel Morona, country representative of Migrante-UAE, told Gulf News.

The Philippines was the world’s third top recipient of officially recorded remittances in 2013, following India and China, according toWorld Bank. Some 11 million OFWs worldwide remitted around $26 billion (Dh95.42 billion) in 2013.

The UAE is among the major sources of dollar remittances to the Philippines. In 2013, remittances by Filipinos in the UAE grew by 31.45 per cent from $960 million in 2012 to $1.26 billion, according to the Central Bank of the Philippines.

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The draft law did not specify the amount an OFW has to regularly send to his legal dependants in the Philippines. It was drafted to “address the unfortunate experiences of families or dependants of OFWs who do not receive financial support that they are entitled to under existing laws”.

Martin Bobis, one of the administrators of the online group Global OFW Voices composed of 25,000 Filipinos world-wide, said the draft law is unfair to OFWs.

“This draft law is unjust and does not have any sense at all. I appeal to the Philippine Congress to junk this bill because Filipinos abroad remit money to their families anyway; there is no need for a law for this,” Bobis said.

Ernesto Refugio, Chairman of Bayanihan Council, an umbrella organisation of Filipino groups in Abu Dhabi, said: “The main reason why Filipinos go abroad is to support their families in the Philippines. It is the individual right of a Filipino to do this, the state does not have to make this mandatory.”

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Grace Princesa said she could not issue a comment as she has yet to study the proposed bill.

The draft law is still pending with the Committee on OFW Affairs for necessary action. The Philippine Congress has yet to vote on the draft law, and it gets approved, will be sent to the Philippine president for his final approval.

Source: Gulf News
By: Janice Ponce de Leon

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