PRESS RELEASES: Filipinos in US Continue to Challenge Philippine Gov’t to Ship Relief Boxes and Let Migrants Voices Be Heard in Philippine Congress

PRESS RELEASE
03 December 2009

Reference: Jonna Baldres, Migrante International Coordinator – US East Coast, jonnabebeh@gmail.com, (718) 5658862

Filipinos in US Continue to Challenge Philippine Gov’t to Ship Relief Boxes and Let Migrants Voices Be Heard in Philippine Congress

NEW YORK – Last Monday, November 23, members and representatives of Filipino organizations and nationwide alliances held a mobilization in front of the Philippine Consulate in New York to express two outstanding calls, “Help Ship Aid Immediately!” and “Let Migrante Run in 2010 Elections!”

Present in the mobilization were representatives from different migrant organizations such as the Philippine Forum New York and New Jersey, Kappa Pi Fraternity, Anakbayan New York/New Jersey, and New York Committee for Human Rights in the Philippines. Representatives from the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), SanDiwa National Alliance of Filipino American Youth, Migrante International and guests from allied organizations BAYAN USA, GABRIELA USA, and straight from the Philippines, the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), also joined the protest action.

“It’s almost Christmas and our 400 boxes here in the East Coast have not yet been sent. The taxes were dropped, but we continue to pressure, challenge and demand that the Philippine government release funds for shipping of the boxes. They said they do not have funds, where then is the people’s money? Who are paying for their expensive dinners and posh apartments here in the US? None other than the hard-working Filipino migrants! They owe it to the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and now they can’t give back and allot even just a small fraction of the Filipino’s hard-earned money to the community to send the relief boxes back home in time for Christmas,” said Kathleen Dy, Secretary General of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey.

Leni Valeriano, Vice President of Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP), who attended a conference of the World Council of Churches in New York at the time, said that before she left the Philippines, there were 8 million people displaced because of the typhoons. And yet, donations from migrants and friends from different parts of the world only get stranded in the warehouses of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), an agency of the Philippine government where donations are being sent. She added that while the Filipino community in the US must demand for the Philippine government to ship the boxes, Filipinos must also hold the Arroyo administration accountable for its negligence of the Filipino people who, until now, still have not recovered and were left homeless after the tragedy.

“The Philippine government relied heavily on private and people’s organizations to gather and distribute donations and funds during this ordeal. What did the Philippine government contribute? Nothing. We are not going to let the boxes die here in the US, unlike how the government let the people die in the Philippines,” said Anne Beryl Corotan, Chairperson of Sandiwa National Alliance of Filipino-American Youth.

These migrant organizations also brought up the case of Migrante Sectoral Partylist being delisted from running for Philippine Congress in 2010 elections. They also cited this as one of the reasons why the Philippine government refuses to ship the boxes and gives the organizers of the Bayanihan for Typhoon Disaster Relief (NAFCON and SanDiwa) a hard time, as Migrante, the recipient of the relief boxes which will then distribute the donations to the communities in the Philippines, is known to be one of the most consistent critiques of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo administration.

“The Philippine government is afraid because the migrants’ voices are now starting to pick up here in the US and that the migrants are now learning to stand up for their rights. With the US having the most number of Overseas Absentee Voters (OAV) registrants for 2010 elections among all global regions — reaching almost 25,000 — the Philippine government is trying all its best to prevent the migrants’ voices from being heard and getting organized. The Arroyo administration probably thinks that it can get away with all the crimes it has done to the Filipino people unaccounted for. The Filipino migrants’ struggle does not just stop with the relief boxes. We will carry it on wherever it may take us, be it in the streets or in the halls of the Congress,” Jonna Baldres, Migrante Coordinator for US East Coast, stated.

The Filipino migrants are a strong force that keeps the economy of the Philippines afloat. In 2008 alone, a high of US$16.43 billion or almost P790 billion of OFW remittances had been recorded. According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), a total of 1,376,823 Filipino workers were deployed last year, which means an average of almost 4,000 Filipinos leave the country everyday. In the US alone, there are about 4 million Filipinos struggling to make a living.

Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) USA, an alliance of 13 nationalist and democratic organizations all over US, also joined the mobilization and conveyed that the Philippine government, in truth, is a capitalist institution — a ‘business’, and not for public service.

“The Philippine government makes money out of the people. The public officials keep denying us of the money that is ours. They will deny the people of their basic needs and rights — education, healthcare, and even disaster relief. And in its want to protect itself in a time of economic crisis, the Philippine government will employ all means to prevent the progressive voices who will thwart its plans of maintaining the Philippine government as a business from entering the Congress, thus, the delisting of Migrante Partylist. Expect that there will be more repression, violence, killings and abductions as the electoral campaigns lead up to May 2010,” Ellorin added, citing the Maguindanao Massacre wherein 50+ people, including journalists, women and lawyers had been killed ruthlessly, as an example.

These migrant organizations vow to continue the fight for the right to relief and representation and have scheduled another wave of activities and protest actions. On December 10, International Human Rights Day, another mobilization is scheduled to happen in front of the consulate. On December 18, International Migrants’ Day, a mass will be sponsored by Philippine Forum at the St. Sebastian Church in Woodside. The relief boxes are expected to be finally sent off on December 19.

“As the Philippine government continues to show its inadequacy in responding to its people’s needs, we continue to ask our kababayans to stay strong, vigilant and mindful of what the government’s responsibilities to its people are. Donations from the community are still accepted and very much appreciated specifically for shipping fees of the relief boxes, but we stay grounded on our demand for the Philippine government to take up its responsibility to address this need of the Filipino people,” Rusty Fabunan ended in behalf of NAFCON. ###

More photos here: http://s382.photobucket.com/albums/oo261/jonnabaldres/Help_Ship_Aid_Let_Mig_Run_23Nov2009/

IMG_1097_02.jpg picture by jonnabaldres

Rusty Fabunan of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON)

IMG_1128_02.jpg picture by jonnabaldres

Bernadette Ellorin of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) USA

IMG_1106.jpg picture by jonnabaldres

Jonna Baldres, Migrante International Coordinator for US East Coast

IMG_1066_02.jpg picture by jonnabaldres
IMG_1070_02.jpg picture by jonnabaldres
IMG_1134_02.jpg picture by jonnabaldres
IMG_1137_02.jpg picture by jonnabaldres
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