OUR Modern Day Heroes, the overseas Filipino workers (OFW), have continued to make our economy move for the better. Latest figures issued by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show OFW remittances coursed through banks grew by 11.3 percent in November last year, to $1.5 billion, the fastest expansion since September 2008's 16.9 percent.
The rise is attributed to the continued deployment of skilled workers and efforts by migrants to help relatives affected by series of typhoons that struck the country in September and October, last year.
Remittance inflows from January to November, according to BSP, reached $15.8 billion, up by 5.1 percent from the $15.02 billion recorded in the same period in 2008.
The central bank has projected remittances to grow by four percent to a record $17.1 billion in 2009, and climb by six percent this year.
For the 11-month period, the major remittance sources were the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, the United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Italy and Germany. These are some of the world' big economies hit by economic crisis last year.
Although some of our OFWs' income in these countries could have been affected by the economic slowdown, they still continue to send money home for their families they have left behind to seek for better jobs abroad. And their billions in dollars of remittances keep the Philippine economy growing.
But it's not all good stories from our new heroes. Stories of abused or maltreated OFWs have continued with the government doing not much to address them. The number of distressed OFWs, in fact, has continued to rise.
For instance, Migrante-Middle East chapter reported they received an average of between three and five cases of abuse against OFWs daily from countries in the region.
Migrante also cited the case of 30-year-old Ryan Castillo, an OFW who reportedly died in a deportation cell in Saudi last April 6. Castillo was already sick when he was detained and according to the migrant group, had they not informed the media about the case, it would go unnoticed.
Our modern heroes being abused or maltreated in foreign land is something the government, or concerned government agencies, should seriously look into.
The need to deploy more labor and welfare staff in areas, where abused and maltreatment of OFWs are rampant, is an urgent task.
But Senator Manny Villar, who is seeking the presidency, said claims of migrant workers that labor and welfare offices seem to be "sleeping on" cases of distressed OFWs should also be seriously looked into by the authorities.
"As it is, being away from loved ones is stressful enough for OFWs. Thus, when they become involved in other distressing situations in foreign countries, the difficulty is multiplied many times over. Thus, it is imperative for our labor and welfare officers to prioritize extending help to distressed OFWs," he said, urging existing labor and welfare staff in various countries worldwide to speed up acting on cases of distressed OFWs.
Among presidentiables, it's only Senator Villar who is actively involved in programs, aiming for the welfare and protection of OFWs.
His Sagip-OFW campaign has helped at least 1,200 OFWs to date, many of whom, Villar has rescued from abusive employers or provided other forms of assistance such as airfare, medical, counseling, legal, and livelihood assistance. (For comments, e-mail this writer at firstname.lastname@example.org)