A visiting Filipino priest is pressing the Philippine government to immediately act upon migrant worker issues, saying not enough is being done to ensure their safety and welfare.
Rev. Fr. Rex RB Reyes, Jr., general secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said migration is causing irreparable damage to many families back home.
“We’re paying a high price for migration. What we need is a more pro-active Philippine Consulate to address many issues faced by migrants,” he said in an interview with Hong Kong News.
He said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who face problems like inconsiderate employers, for instance, are being told to just go home when seeking help from the Consulate. “Dapat naman ilaban ng Consulate and karapatan ng migrant workers to the very end. Increase negotiations with the Hong Kong government.
Why can’t our government/consulate continue to engage the host government to fight for migrant rights?” Fr. Reyes said.
He said there is a need to continuously educate migrant workers about their rights as more Filipinos opt to work abroad.
Hong Kong is home to 146,365 Filipino domestic workers as of March 2012.
For his part, Consul General Noel Servigon said the Consulate is open to suggestions as to how the Consulate can better serve Filipinos in Hong Kong.
“We have strengthened our ATN (Assistance to Nationals) section… Mayroon silang training; we added personnel, there are now four ATN case officers,” he said in a separate interview.
The Consulate also holds regular meetings with the Immigration and Labor departments and the Hong Kong Police.
“Right now we are studying any new policies of the new administration. We welcome any suggestion; we’re always in contact with different migrant advocacy groups,” Servigon said.
If given a choice, migrants will rather work in the Philippines and stay with their families, Fr. Reyes said. “The Philippines has a serious problem if people are forced to migrate to other countries to work. It’s difficult to understand how our country, which is very rich in resources, is among the most impoverished in Asia. This forces people to migrate,” he said in a forum.
He stressed this is where migrant groups, church organizations, and Consulates play a vital role.