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OFW 2000:
CAN DO, CAN'T DO, DO BE DO BE DO
(The Fight Is Not Yet Over)

Some Jeddah-based "professionals" opposed to the campaign reportedly said that it may not be proper for OFWs to be demanding for special recognition and treatment from the government (Arab News, Sept. 29, 1999) and even noted that the government had already bent over several times before just to please OFWs. They cited the exemption of OFWs from paying income and travel taxes and the expanded duty free privileges.

Are OFWs worth only that much?

Besides, when did they start exempting us from paying income tax? Only last year, after so many years. And who among us would spend $2,000 for duty free items anyway?

No, we are not exactly demanding for special recognition and treatment per se. What we are asking for is to be treated fairly and to be given what we rightfully deserve. Things won't change for OFWs unless we ourselves do something about it. Why do you suppose, after all these years, POEA had the Balik-Manggagawa area airconditioned only last year? Was it because they suddenly realized that it's been hell (literally and otherwise) for OFWs to process their overseas employment certificates there? No! It's because we made them realize it. (PWEFI organized a signature campaign in 1997 urging them to have the area airconditioned and improved and services enhanced. The signatures were submitted directly to then-POEA Administrator Felicisimo Joson's office. Prior to that, columnists Rina Jimenez-David (PDI) and Art Borjal (Phil. Star) wrote about the campaign in their columns in early 1998. As early as 1995, though, this had already been brought up in a column in the short-lived publication, "The Filipino Overseas Magazine," several copies of which were given out in December 1995 at POEA. A copy was handed personally to Administrator Joson. PWEFI is widely perceived to have been instrumental in bringing about those changes in the Balik-Manggagawa area and the Foundation is understandably proud of it).

Can't we really expect our government to move on its own especially in as far as things that have to do with OFWs are concerned?

They can call us by all the sweetest names imaginable for all we care, but they should attach more substance, more meaning, to those words – if only to prove that they mean what they say. But do they?

Come to think of it, perhaps the reason why the government has not responded promptly and favorably to the call for the declaration was because the whole thing made them look inutile. For why did this have to come from OFWs themselves when it was they who should have initiated it in recognition, at least, of those they have, countless times before, referred to as the modern-day heroes?

We're certain that detractors of the campaign would quote the late President John F. Kennedy who said "ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country." Well, to that we say... OFWs have already done so much for our country. In fact, they have been doing so with sweat and tears... sometimes even with their precious lives.

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