IN just over a week, the whole Christendom will once again rejoice for the coming of our Savior. But while Christmas is supposed to be a season of hope and joy, there is always that pain in my heart every time I think of the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who would once again celebrate Christmas thousands of miles away from their loved ones, all because their only hope for a better life for their families is to work abroad.
I remember the words of Dalai Lama when he said, “I find hope in the darkest of days, and focus in the brightest. I do not judge the universe.”
Indeed, with the limited job opportunities, if not bad
working conditions in the country, millions of OFWs saw the opportunity to work
abroad as their only hope during their darkest of days in the Philippines.
How many Filipino mothers are now taking care of the
children of their employers abroad, while their very own children in the
Philippines are being bottle fed by their father, grandparents or relatives.
I can feel the pain of these Filipino mothers as they put
the baby of their employers abroad to
sleep, while thinking about the care and attention their very own children in
the Philippines are getting. And even if after two years, they could be back
home with their families in the Philippines, they will never be able to bring
back the two growing up years of their children while working abroad. After all, according to Brazilian lyricist
and novelist Paulo Coelho, “We can sell our time, but we can’t buy it back.”
I cannot blame the millions of OFWs for the choice they
made, even if for the nth time, they will once again celebrate Christmas away
from home. But I think and believe that our government could do something to
encourage Filipinos to work and stay in the country, instead of working abroad.
We in the industry sector believe that if only the
country’s local industry would be
protected from the ill effects posed by the unfair competition of lower
quality, but cheaper, smuggled goods in the local market by strictly enforcing
the government’s regulatory rules on standards among others, we could provide
better paying jobs and improve working conditions in the industry sector.
How can local manufacturers compete with the cheaper, but lower quality, imported goods when importers are given the discretion to submit their imported goods to mandatory testing for compliance to product standards? On the other hand, local manufacturers have to follow strictly defined production standard rules.
How much government revenues could have been lost because
of smuggling of cheaper, but lower quality, imported goods? This means
short-changing consumers, who were given less than the real value of the money
they pay for the imported goods.
Unfortunately, the Philippines is a price-driven market.
Many Filipino consumers still base their buying options on price, rather than
quality. It should, therefore, be the primary responsibility of the government
to ensure that the country’s product standard laws and rules are fully
implemented, no ifs and buts.
Unless some government policy regulations on standards
that favor imported goods are amended, if not rescinded, millions of Filipino
mothers and fathers would still prefer to spend Christmas away from home, all
because of their quest for a better life for their families.
So, as we partake of thenoche buenawith our loved
ones in the Philippines this Christmas, think of the millions of OFWs who would
be celebrating the season of hope and joy thousands of miles away from their
loved ones. But thanks to the Internet, they can, at least, throw a flying kiss
to their loved ones. However, behind that faint smile of joy seen on the
computer monitor or cell phone is a bleeding heart of an OFW who can only hope
for the best Christmas for his/her family back home.
No less than President Duterte is concerned about the ill
effects of migration on Filipino families, as this creates dysfunctional
people, all because of their desire to grab better paying jobs abroad.
The Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), which I
chair, shares the President’s concern for the OFWs and their families, which
will enhance our resolve to strengthen the local industry’s foothold in the
local market. We do not only welcome, but are even ready to help, the Duterte
administration’s thrust to eliminate trade and import rules that are bias to
importers and a deterrent to local industry growth.
Merry Christmas to one and all!
Dr. Jesus Lim Arranza is the chairman of
the Federation of Philippine Industries and Fight Illicit Trade; a broad-based,
multisectoral movement intended to protect consumers, safeguard government
revenues and shield legitimate industries from the ill effects of smuggling.