Filipinos in Kuwait unimpressed by Aquino's first state address � Kuwait Times Website

3:04 PM

Filipinos in Kuwait unimpressed by Aquino's first state address � Kuwait Times Website

Published Date: July 27, 2010
By Ben Garcia, Staff Writer

KUWAIT: Filipinos in Kuwait were largely unimpressed by their country's new president's first State of the Nation Address (SONA). Philippines President Benigno Aquino III delivered his first, keenly anticipated address yesterday at the opening of the 15th congress. Since then, several online bloggers have questioned the new administration's failure to include anything in the address about overseas Filipinos in general or the administration's plans to avert the exodus of hundreds of Filipinos who travel abr
oad seeking greener pastures outside the Philippines on a daily basis.

Around 11 percent of the country's total population of 96 million are currently working abroad and are reportedly helping to keep the Philippines' economy afloat during periods of economic trouble such as the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis and the 2008-09 global economic downturn. In 2009, the amount of $17.348 billion was sent to the Philippines by Overseas Filipinos, highest among prior years, or an increase of more than 10 percent on the 2007 figure.

One Filipino community leader in Kuwait, who asked to remain anonymous because in the beginning he was a loyal supporter of its new leader, was disappointed at the president's failure to mention any plans for the Filipino workers abroad. "What I was expecting from his first SONA was his great programs to help OFWs. Why are people like us working abroad? Because we have no job opportunities back home," he said. "We need him to say that his administration is committed to creating new jobs for OFWs, so that w
e can cut, if not stop, the exodus of Filipinos abroad, especially domestic helpers. Unfortunately, he ignored OFW subject and spoke only about his predecessor's mismanagement thing, and other subjects, but not the OFWs. Maybe, just like his predecessor, he wanted Filipinos to go and work abroad; it's not a good start.

There are currently around two million Filipinos working in the Middle East, with more than half this number engaged in menial jobs, many working as domestic helpers. Some of these domestic workers are mistreated and are given refuge by their embassies before being sent back home or re-deployed to similar jobs.

I am a teacher and have been working here because back home, we have low salaries for public school teachers," one male teacher at a local Philippine school told the Kuwait Times. "I want him [President Aquino] to increase teachers' salaries and provide more benefits in order for us to live decently and provide for our families,.

A Filipina housemaid, who also currently calls Kuwait home, said that if she had an opportunity to earn decent money back home, she wouldn't have come to work in the Middle East. "I would love to stay with my family, of course," she said. " The way I look at the new administration, I think, it's the same as his predecessor, no good plans for us.

While there are many Filipinos in Kuwait who still hold out hope for the new leader's potential, they want action rather than just words: "For me as his supporter, either we [the OFWs] were mentioned [in the SONA] or not," said another Filipino citizen currently working in Kuwait. "I would love to give him a chance to prove himself to the Filipinos. I will hold him accountable for all the promises thrown around during his campaign. He is a man and so I know he can prove himself to 96 million Filipinos.

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