RATHER than focusing on remittances, a research group is calling on the government to widen the scope of the country’s migration policy beyond labor concerns.

The Migrants’ Associations and Philippine Institutions for Development (Mapid) Project hopes to stress that remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) should not be the only way towards development.

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Mapid project director Dr. Fabio Baggio of the Scalabrini Migration Center said that beyond the OFW remittances, the country should also consider migrant donations, investments and knowledge exchange.

He said the necessary government agencies should also look into the development that migrant workers are giving to the countries they are in.

Philippines coordinator Dr. Maruja Asis of the Scalabrini Migration Center noted that keeping a migration policy based only on labor will not lead to sustainable development.

She said that based on their research, which looked into the welfare of migrants in Italy and Spain, they needed to also look into the social impact of migration such as the family members left behind and the cultural effect on the country.

Asis said local government units need to be aware of migration development.

She said that “brain gain” still hasn’t happened in the country because there are no programs here that allow OFWs who have acquired skills from abroad to use them.

However, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) 7 Director Marlene Rodriguez took exception to these findings, saying the regional development agenda aims to address the brain drain by pushing Central Visayas as a “service economy.”

She said this was one way they can address the exodus of skilled professionals by giving them “opportunities comparable to or better than those abroad.”

Asis also cited the need for more data.

While they could secure figures on those leaving the country, they could not determine how many of them are returning.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration listed 19,814 OFWs who left Cebu for work abroad for January to June this year. This is more than the 17,407 deployed workers for the same period in 2009.

However, POEA 7 acting director Evelia Durato explained that the figures are of the workers who left via the Mactan Cebu-International Airport.

She said this means the figure also includes workers from Luzon and Mindanao who flew from Cebu to their destinations.

In July alone, the POEA 7 listed 2,877 workers who left the MCIA, 2706 of whom were rehired while 105 of them were newly hired.

Of the 2,877 workers, 785 were bound for the United Arab Emirates for various positions.

Aside from the UAE, most of the workers left for Singapore (386), Saudi Arabia (372), Qatar (324), Hong Kong (280), South Korea (122) and Kuwait (70). Sixty-six workers left for sea-based jobs.