chart1.pngMANILA , 24 October 2007 — Amid a move by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) for a remittance boycott, the Department of Labor and Employment yesterday said it was recommending immediate and long-term remedial measures that would assist overseas workers and their families to cope with the continued strengthening of the peso.

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said the immediate remedial measures involve income augmentation programs for low-salaried semi-skilled OFWs earning less than $400 basic monthly pay.

The measures include the provision of livelihood and skills for employment scholarship programs (SESP) aimed at enabling the overseas workers and their families gain appropriate skills and loan assistance for the setting up of income augmenting business enterprises.

Brion said the DOLE would seek the assistance of government agencies such as the Departments of agriculture (DA), trade and industry (DTI), finance (DOF) and the central bank BSP in implementing the livelihood and SESP programs.

He said the DOLE also recommended a reduction in remittance fees and the setting up of commissaries that would sell food and other basic commodities at discounted prices to OFWs and their families.

For OFWs earning $400 monthly pay and above, Brion said the department recommended the floating of OFW bonds that can pay for house and lot at a discount price and as alternative OFW investment.

Brion said his department came up with the recommendations following initial consultation with other agencies, in preparation for the multi-sectoral consultative conference scheduled for next month to solicit the cooperation of the private sector and other stakeholders in assisting the OFWs cope with the strong peso.

For the long term, the DOLE recommended the provision of a financial literacy program and enterprise development training for overseas workers and their families to sustain the assistance and viability of their economic capability.

Boycott Call

The DOLE’s recommendations comes as the call for a remittance boycott come Nov. 1 and 2 gathered steam among overseas Filipinos, particularly those in the Middle East.

The boycott was meant to protest what the overseas community perceived to be an “artificial surge” of the Philippine currency.

“Just this once, let us unite and be heard as one voice. This suffering must end,” Dubai-based worker Oliver Cristopher Adolfo said in an exchange of e-mails with fellow OFWs.

“If the peso is really growing stronger, why are the prices of goods in the Philippines also increasing?” asked Reg Cucal.

From Riyadh, Ruben Estor Briones wrote: “Let us tighten our belts at least for this Christmas and show those businessmen what OFWs can do to the country’s one-sided economy.”

The threat of a boycott came as the peso came close to 44 to the US dollar yesterday.

The strengthening of the peso also followed a survey result that said families of Filipino workers abroad are squandering the earnings of their loved ones through whimsical purchases, an allegation denied by those who have relatives working in other countries.

In 2006, total remittances from OFWs reached $12.8 billion, according to BSP figures.

For 2007, the government projects OFW remittances to increase by five percent to $14.7 billion,

Filipino workers in the Middle East said a recent study showing that OFW families were fond of luxury and thus unable to save was not true.

On the contrary, they said they are not earning that much and prices in the Philippines continue to rise, rendering them unable to save.

OFWs have also expressed concern that the announcement by oil companies in the Philippines of another round of increases in oil prices could lead to higher prices of basic commodities, even as the cost of their dollar earnings continue to decrease.

Also last week, prices of sugar also rose, triggering increases in bread and other processed food.

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