Pinoy groups engage convo with Toronto Consulate, hope for change
By Artemio Borba
September 18, 2016
A host of people came out together for an open dialogue with the Toronto Philippine Consulate officials Friday September 16.
Several groups and individuals carrying the slogan #Kababayan4Change expressed support for President Rodrigo Duterte's reform efforts while relaying particular issues and demands for change through the government representatives abroad.
“These demands are not new. In the past, the process of dialogue was not productive so today we set up a meeting face to face,” said Kababayan4Change spokeperson Ben Corpuz.
“Maganda po yung naririnig natin ang lahat. If we have feedback then we could improve our services. It’s also in the spirit of transparency, and the spirit of openness,” welcomed Consul General Rosalita Prospero.
Claiming welfare benefits, assistance to nationals and other consular services
“Since Duterte sympathizes with the Overseas Filipino Workers we are here to challenge him if we could have better services, especially in claiming benefits from OWWA (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration),” said Bayani Edades of Migrante-Ontario.
“We recently had an encounter with a caregiver, who’s not an OWWA member. Based on interaction with community members, it’s not very well known na meron palang Assistance to Nationals at yung proseso sa pag-avail sa ganong service,” stressed Mithi Esguerra of women's group Gabriela Ontario.
For her part, Radyo Migrante host Rhea Gamana cited the Republic Act 8042 and how assistance and funds should be made available to Filipino migrant workers even with no status.
“For me, to hear that from our kababayan that trust is not there anymore, parang ang sakit pakinggan,” former caregiver and TV host Vilma Pagaduan expressed. “Dapat kayo ang sinasandalan namin because we are Filipinos. Dito dapat ang takbuhan ng mga manggagawa. Sana mabago natin ang pagtingin ng ating kababayan sa opisinang ito.”
Pagaduan hoped that the Toronto consulate will be opened during the weekends and that information dissemination will be more efficient. Astra Marasigan also mentioned that telephone communications should have more effective services.
“The Philippine government has trade agreements with Canada. And one big aspect of that is receiving immigrants from the country. None in any of those agreements says something about protecting and promoting human rights of these workers,” said Connie Sorio, Migrant Justice and Partnerships Coordinator with KAIROS Canada.
“Canada has not even ratified the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families. So for migrant workers and advocates, we use a two-pronged strategy: lobbying and advocacy,” Sorio added.
However, according to Vice Consul Jesusa Paez it’s quite difficult to alter policies at the federal level so their post is approaching the Canadian government at the provincial level.
To which, Jesson Reyes of Migrante asked if the consulate could lend a hand to grassroots organizations seek entry to the open consultations conducted by the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada in different provinces.
‘Progress is premised on peace’
“We also want to state that Migrante International as a whole, besides improved consular services, supports the ongoing peace talks in the Philippines. Particular the one that is happening on October 8, when social and economic reforms will be discussed,” said Reyes.
“Unfortunately, that is the reality. We agree that the Philippines need to have national industrialization. As young people, if there are jobs in the country we can live with, I don’t think we would be here,” said Sarah Salise of youth group Anakbayan Toronto
Some 6,000 Filipinos leave the Philippines everyday to find employment abroad.
In response, the Consul General said that the Philippine president did mention about his aspirations how Filipino workers going overseas should just be an option.
“Let’s help him (President Duterte) achieve that goal. Insofar as you mentioned about land, I read also in the papers that there’s a review about the land reform program. On the peace talks, we want long and lasting peace because progress is premised on peace so we also support that,” Prospero said.
“We are definitely hoping for resolution on these issues.” said Daniel Bastien, union organizer with Unite Here Local 75, whose single largest membership is the Filipino diaspora.
A growing movement
#Kababayan4Change, which was initiated by Migrante International, was launched in Canada to represent the broadest platform of Filipino migrants coming up with an agenda “to make the thousands of lives of Filipinos better”
Groups who are represented in the dialogue include Migrante Ontario, Caregivers Action Centre, Gabriela Ontario, Pinoys in Canada Patriotic Movement, Unite Here Local 75, Anakbayan Toronto, cultural group Tambuli, Filipino Workers Network, Filipino Youth United for Change, Philippine Independent Church, FilipinoTV, UNTV, The Philippine Reporter, Radyo Migrante, and National Ethnic Press and Media.
The organizers welcome other groups and individuals to join. According to Ben Corpuz, #Kababayan4Change is looking forward the next dialogue with the Toronto Philippine consulate officials sometime in January 2017.
About author Artemio Borba:
Artemio Borba is a Filipino-Canadian freelance journalist. His writing has appeared in various Ontario ethnic press, and contributes to a number of media co-operatives. He is an associate member of CWA | SCA Canada
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