HK OFWs protest extra charges on balikbayan boxes
HONG KONG – Hong Kong-based Filipino workers have accused President Benigno S. Aquino III and his customs chief of imposing stricter regulations on boxes sent home by overseas Filipinos so they could raise more funds for the administration's election campaign.
About 30 protesters from the Migrante Partylist Hong Kong staged a rally at the Consulate on Aug. 26 to denounce what they called as the "shameless greed" of President and Customs Commissioner – Lina and call for their ouster.
"The protests by OFWs from all corners of the world these past few days against the stricter policy on balikbayan boxes have successfully forced Aquino to backtrack on his move to squeeze migrant workers some more," Vicky Casia-Cabantac, chairperson of Migrante Partylist HK, said in a speech.
The protests, which included a "No Remittance" day on August 28, were triggered by Lina's decision in recent days to do random checks on balikbayan boxes, and imposing a higher fee on each container that transports them.
But after several days of widespread protests from migrant workers and their supporters including politicians, President Aquino ordered Lina to stop the new measures.
Cabantac said the move was not enough.
"Aquino's backtracking on random inspection of balikbayan boxes will not soothe the anxiety of Filipino migrants," Cabantac said.
The militant leader said it was in utter disregard of the hardships of what the government calls "new heroes" that Lina began opening balikbayan boxes, accusing the migrant workers as smugglers while letting the big fish go unhampered through Customs.
"Kahiya-hiya ang ginagawang ito ng gobyerno at ng Customs. Talagang hindi na nila tinantanan ang mga OFW, ang mga hindi marunong mandaya, ang mga nagpapakahirap, nagsasa-kripisyo upang mapatikim ng konting ginhawa ang kanilang mga anak, ang kamag-anak at ang kanilang mga pamilya. Shameless government! Shameless Bureau of Customs!" Cabantac said.
(What the government and customs are doing is a shame. They really won't let go of OFWs, the ones who don't know how to cheat, the ones who are working hard, they are sacrificing to improve the lives of their families.)
She cited the collection of the P550 airport terminal fee and the $20 overseas employment certificate as proof that the administration is bent on turning OFWs into milking cows.
She invited everyone to join a bigger rally on Chater Road on Aug 30 to expose the "shameless" treatment of OFWs by the Aquino government.
Migrante spokesman Eman Villanueva opened his speech by declaring that everyone in the Aquino government is greedy, charging the highest cost for passports and imposing all sorts of fees and levies on workers.
"Ang tingin ng gobyernong ito sa manggagawa ay palabigasan at parang mga bakang ginagatasan," he said. (This government considers workers as cash cows)
He urged voters to dump administration candidates in the coming elections, accusing it of having no sympathy for OFWs.
He said "not once did Aquino mention the OFWs in his State of the Nation Addresses, not once did he fulfill his promises to the Filipino people."
Villanueva recalled that when Aquino assumed the presidency five years ago, he told the people, including OFWs, that they were his bosses.
"Five years ago he promised to bring down the number of OFWs. When he assumed the presidency, 2,500 OFWs were leaving the country daily. Today, that number has more than doubled to 6,000," Villanueva said.
He said Lina deserves to be fired because he is a cargo forwarder and a smuggler who provided funds for Aquino and his party during elections. He added that along with Lina, Aquino should be unseated for not doing anything good for the people. – Rappler.com