UNKNOWN to most Filipinos, there is an on-going movement to have Year 2000 declared by the Philippine Government as the “Year of Overseas Filipino Workers.” Dubbed as Project OFW 2000, it is spearheaded by the Philippines to the World Entertainment Foundation, Inc. (PWEFI), a non-stock, non-profit organization composed of Saudi-based Filipinos, their families and friends, along with ex-OFWs.
Project OFW 2000, basically, is a signature campaign launched early this year by PWEFI founding members in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. In April, it was made available on the World Wide Web, courtesy of Compass Internet (Project OFW 2000), in order to facilitate wider coverage and faster response. Through the cyber version, Filipinos “signing in” were automatically and officially considered signatories of the campaign.
Sadly, before the project was even made known to majority of Filipino workers scattered all over the world, the signature campaign ended last August 15, 1999. It gathered 2,380 signatures from Australia, Canada, England, France, Hong Kong, Kuwait, Macau, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and the United States of America. Another 2,000 signatures were collected alone by the Filipino community in Qatar.
Organizers of the project, led by PWEFI founder Rhoel Raymundo Mendoza, managed to get the full support of popular figures in the Philippine Senate. Senator Loren Legarda-Leviste has actually filed before the Senate P.S. Resolution No. 508 “Urging President Joseph Ejercito Estrada to declare the year 2000 as the Year of Overseas Filipino Workers,” with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as co-author. A similar resolution has been filed by Senator Rodolfo Biazon.
Letters of support were likewise received by the Foundation from Senators Juan Flavier, Sergio Osmena and Renato Cayetano. And this was after the organizers sent letters to all members of the Philippine Senate asking them to back Senator Legarda’s resolution.
Lately, no less than Senate President Blas Ople, himself, has penned down his signature in support of the drive. In the same manner, Department of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Benjamin Domingo has signified his willingness to rally behind the undertaking.
Senator Legarda-Leviste, in her regular Manila Bulletin column published last September 15, noted the following:
“It is certainly important that our countrymen view our OFWs from a perspective that bestows upon them the respect and admiration that they deserve. Because of their talents and skills, they are lured overseas to perform tasks not normally made available to other nationalities because of the reputation that the Filipino worker has earned in the global market. Generally equipped with college degrees and a working knowledge of English, our OFWs easily blend into the mainstream of the societies that absorb them – be it in Europe, the Middle East or Asia.
While the OFWs value in the past has been based primarily on the revenues that they remit annually to pump up the economy, the attempt to raise them on a higher level of accomplishment is anchored on the initiative of the Philippines to the World Entertainment Foundation, Inc., and supported by legislative action on the part of the Senate. Once this proposal is implemented by the Estrada administration, this will enhance the image of our OFWs and magnify their participation in the over-all scenario of the Philippines for the new millennium.“
There are only three months left before the year 2000 and PWEFI members are now busy campaigning for the realization of their worthy project. As signature campaign has long been concluded, they are now asking the support of OFWs worldwide to help them drumbeat the project by sending letters to the Presidential Palace and the mass media.
While the project is sound and timely called-for, it pains me to think that the initiative has to come from the overseas Filipinos themselves. It is not enough, it seems, that the OFWs have to labor hard in foreign countries – sacrificing their families along the way, they still have to work for their own glorification when in the first place, it should have been the government officials’ task to do so! After all, they were the ones who branded the OFWs as the New Heroes!
As an afterthought, granting that Year 2000 is indeed declared as OFW Year, what good will it do to us overseas Filipino workers? We may hear again from our friends at PWEFI.
Author: Freda Editha O. Contreras
Published on: September 28, 1999