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Keynote Address to the 4th Congress of Migrante International
By Jose Maria Sison
Chairperson, International Coordinating Committee
International League of People's Struggle
December 27, 2005

I am deeply pleased and highly honored by your invitation for me to keynote the Fourth Congress of Migrante International. This is an occasion for me to express my solidarity to the leaders and members of Migrante International and to congratulate you for your achievements since the previous congress.

I also take this opportunity to thank you for helping the International League of Peoples' Struggle acquire reality in various countries and for undertaking actions and issuing statements in my defense against the false accusations of the Arroyo regime and against the unjust "terrorist" blacklist of the US, Dutch, European Union and other governments.

Filipino Migrants and Migrante International

You are playing a crucial role in seeking to arouse, organize and mobilize an important section of the Filipino nation, the more than 8 million Filipinos who have gone abroad to 182 countries to earn a living for their families in the absence of employment for them in the Philippines. The Filipino migrants may be categorized as contract workers (3.05 M), immigrants/residents (2.74 M), undocumented workers (1.62 M) and refugees (500 T, mostly Moro in Kalimantan). They are concentrated in North America (2.5 M), Middle East (1.3 M), Asia-Pacific (1.1 M) and Europe (425 T).

The foreign exchange remittances of the Filipino migrants have gained tremendous importance for the Philippine economy since the beginning of the labor export policy of the reactionary government in 1974. As of 2004, Filipino migrants remitted USD 8.5 B. They are expected to remit this year USD 10.3 B. The 2004 remittances exceed the export value of the top five merchandise exports or by 100 times the flow of all foreign direct investments. The amount is more than half of the government budget or is 25 per cent of the 2004 GNP.

By your efforts, you have maintained and further strengthened Migrante International as the most outstanding rallying point for the Filipino migrants. You have led them to fight for their jobs, fair wages, rights and welfare. And you continue to rouse and mobilize them with the general call to fight for these.

You are faced with tremendous odds posed by the US imperialist policy of suppressing workers' rights and pushing down wages and the Philippine puppet government policy of keeping down the wages of its labor export in expectation supposedly of attracting more foreign employers. Amid the ever worsening crisis in the world, the need is ever more urgent to reinvigorate and further advance the struggle for the rights and welfare of our Filipino compatriots. Migrante International and the Filipino migrants have to take care of themselves and take initiative in their own struggle before others can help them.

I am glad to know that you have made breakthroughs in recruiting Filipino migrants and that you are expanding and consolidating membership of the overseas Filipinos and their families in Migrante International. You also help to strengthen the anti-imperialist movement of migrants from various nationalities and races.

I am aware that all your efforts to arouse, organize and mobilize the Filipino migrants run along the general line of the Filipino people's struggle for genuine national independence and democracy. In this regard, all of us find revolting the Arroyo regime's puppetry to US imperialism and its policy of fleecing the migrants but failing and even refusing to serve their interest and contributing to the transgression of their rights.

Without the foreign exchange remittances of the Filipino migrants, the reactionary government would have nothing with which to guarantee additional foreign loans, to pay for consumer imports and dissemble the bankrupt condition of the Philippine economy. The reactionary government also obtains more than PhP 13 billion from the migrants through various fees, including birth certificate, NBI clearance, OWWA membership, Medicare, Overseas Employment Certificate, Artist Accreditation, passport and renewals.

The reactionary government has been quite efficient in exacting and raising fees. It has also maintained several bureaucratic agencies under the department of labor and employment (DOLE) and the department of foreign affairs (DFA) that pretend to serve the migrants. The fact is that OWWA funds are squandred in maintaining the bureaucracy and other forms of misappropriation. On top of everything, these agencies deliberately refuse to stand up for the rights and interests of the migrants.

The reactionary government condones and encourages the most exploitative terms of employment . It allows the most humiliating and even deadly abuses practiced by foreign governments and employers against migrant workers. It is obsessed with the objective keeping down the wages of Filipino migrants, attracting foreign employers, exacting fees and grabbing the foreign exchange remittances.

The Global and Domestic Crisis

The crisis of the world capitalist system is ever worsening. It has aggravated and deepened at an accelerated rate since the adoption of the so-called free market globalization. This has further devastated the economies of the overwhelming majority of countries that are underdeveloped, dependent on raw material exports, deficit-ridden and overburdened with foreign debt. Since the 1997 Southeast Asian financial crisis, the economies reexporting semi-manufactures and other so-called emergent markets have also been ruined.

Further on, the US "high tech bubble" burst and the so-called US "new economy" of the late 1990s went into decline and followed since 2000 the path of stagnation earlier trodden by Japan, Germany and other industrial capitalist countries. The monopoly capitalists from the imperialist countries extract superprofits from the underdeveloped countries through some direct investments, trade of surplus goods, foreign loans, debt service, licensing fees and other financial transactions. They have thus undermined their own home and overseas markets. By squeezing the income of the working people the world over, they shrink the global market.

The US imperialists are desperately trying to stimulate the US economy by stepping up military spending and war production. They have taken advantage of the 9/11 attacks in order to generate the hysteria for unleashing wars of aggression and promoting state terrorism all over the world. The Bush regime has been using US high-tech military power, to take preemptive action against rivals and potential rivals, take over vital resources, open markets and impose democracy on other countries.

Under the present conditions in the world capitalist system, the crisis of the semicolonial and semifeudal system is worsening faster than ever before. The traditional raw-material exports have long been squeezed due to global overproduction and the unequal exchange of raw-material exports and manufactured imports. The low value-added semimanufactures for reexports (like semiconductors, garments, etc) have high import content and yield little net export income. They are now adversely affected by global oversupply. Even food production for domestic consumption is already undermined by the dumping of subsidized agricultural surpluses from the imperialist countries under the auspices of "free market" globalization.

The Philippines is sinking further in the swamp of underdevelopment. The Arroyo regime is so subservient to the dictates of the US and the IMF, World and WTO, under the policy of "neoliberal" globalization, that it cannot even dare pretend that it is for national industrial development and land reform. Aside from depending on the foreign exchange remittances of Filipino migrants, the regime has to continue begging for foreign loans at ever more onerous terms just to be able to service the old debts and has to increase the tax burden on the people despite their depressed incomes due to the severe economic crisis.

The toiling masses of workers and peasants and the urban petty bourgeois (more than 90 of the population altogether) are victimized by the rising level of unemployment, the erosion of real incomes, the soaring prices of basic goods and services and the deterioration of social services. Eighty-eight per cent of the people live below the poverty line. Fifty-five per cent of the people live on less than USD 2. Under the current circumstances, an increasing number of workers, peasants and petty bourgeois are driven to go abroad and find work for the survival of their families.

The ruling system is in a state of severe crisis and rapid decomposition. The ruling classes of big compradors and landlords are more than ever incapable of ruling in the old way. The business magnates, political bosses, military and police officers are bitterly divided among themselves. The ruling Aquino clique is using armed force to harm and intimidate the opposition parties which in turn find it necessary to have allies within the armed forces and the police. At the same time, the legal democratic mass movement and the revolutionary armed movement are growing in strength and clamoring for revolutionary change.

Trends in Overseas Employment

While an increasing number of people are driven by the worsening economic and social conditions in the country to seek employment abroad, we should consider that the crisis of the world capitalism and the crisis in the heartlands of imperialism will limit the types and number of Filipino migrants that can find employment abroad.

At the moment, we notice that an increasing number of migrant workers from other countries in Southeast Asia and South Asia are competing for the bottom jobs in Asia and other regions. We also observe an aggravation of the phenomenon of degrading and deskilling of Filipino professionals. Not only are teachers being reduced to menial servants abroad, but so are doctors of medicine to being nurses; nurses to being "care givers" and young engineers and highly skilled workers to being "apprentices".

About 70 per cent of workers exported are women. They are preferred as domestic servants, entertainers, nurses, care givers, workers in electronic sweatshops, seamstresses, hotel workers, shop attendants. The large numbers of women, working as domestic servants and entertainers, are the most vulnerable to abuses and human rights violations, including mental and physical maltreatment, rape and murder.

In connection with the US invasion and occupation of Iraq, Filipinos have been recruited as drivers, security guards, construction workers and the like in order to reduce the number of US casualties as well as the costs for wages, death and injury. Recruiting agencies deliberately recruit far more than enough Filipinos for available civilian jobs in Saudi Arabia and the emirates and then the excess recruits are redirected to war-related jobs in Iraq under pain of losing what they paid to be able to get the previous job prospect. The issue of war-related jobs has been brought about by the global capitalist crisis that has given rise to imperialist aggression and war.

The crisis of the world capitalist system can take such a turn that the room for employment can become smaller even for cheap Filipino labor in factories and public works jobs, contrary to the wish of the Arroyo regime to export one million Filipino workers a year. Filipino migrants may be willing to take the 3-D jobs (dirty, difficult and dangerous jobs) but cannot be accommodated when the particular economies abroad or the entire world capitalist system contracts further. Political factors, such as the "anti-terror" hysteria, racism and all sorts of discrimination can further work against Filipino migrants.

The imperialists are pushing Mode 4 of GATS under the WTO to further deprive migrants of rights and make them vulnerable to worse conditions under the notion of labor flexibility. They are bent on suppressing trade union rights, shortening contracts, lowering wages, preventing immigration and permanent residence and rotating the migrant workers all for the one-sided benefit of the multinational firms.

What Is To Be Done

It is absolutely necessary for Migrante International to propagate the general line of Filipino people's struggle for national independence and democracy. Only by pursuing this line can national industrial development and land reform be carried out. If there were development and jobs in the country, Filipinos would certainly choose to work here and be with their immediate families and friends. They would rather be here to further develop their own country and avoid the grave risks and complications in going abroad and in leaving their families behind.

There is no lasting solution to the problem of large scale exodus of Filipinos but the attainment of national independence and economic development of the Philippines. However, in the meantime, Migrante International must lead the Filipino migrants to fight for their rights and welfare. It must demand better working and living conditions for the migrant workers. It must require foreign employers to comply with their obligations. It must prevent the abuses inflicted on the migrants. It must help the migrants and their families to solve their problems.

Migrante International must engage in chapter building wherever Filipino migrants are. Priority may be given to the twenty countries with the most Filipino migrants so that they can serve as the resource base for organizing those in other countries. In building chapters abroad, Migrante International has gained rich experience, learned the relevant national statutes and international law regarding migrants and developed relations with local trade unions and other organizations of the host people and international organizations and institutions that are helpful to migrants.

Your chapters abroad would grow stronger if in the motherland the family members of Filipino migrants are also organized into chapters. Your chapters in the Philippines can become effective in developing the mass base and influence for defending the rights and interests of the Filipino migrants. They must press the reactionary government to cease and desist from serving the interests of foreign governments and employers against the rights and interests of Filipino migrants. Migrante International must have its own base in the Philippines for undertaking campaigns against the wrong policies and practices of the reactionary government. It must also prepare for the 2007 elections.

As chairperson of the International Coordinating Committee of the International League of Peoples' Struggle, I call on Migrante International to play a key role in the ILPS Study Commission that deals with migrant workers and to avail of the founding assembly of the International Migrant Alliance in October 2006 to engage the most significant and largest organizations of migrant workers from various countries. I hope that Migrante International on its own account and in cooperation with other organizations tackle the GATS/Mode 4 problem posed by the WTO.

Migrante International must conduct mass campaigns in the Philippines and abroad on all issues affecting the Filipino migrants and the Filipino people. You must persevere in the campaign to oust the puppet, corrupt, brutal and mendacious Arroyo regime. You must condemn and repudiate all the plunderous imposition of the US and IMF, World and WTO on the Philippines. You must expose and oppose the human rights violations becoming committed by the regime in collaboration with the US under the slogan of "war on terror". You must strengthen your relations of solidarity and cooperation with the host peoples and their organizations so that both can be mutually effective.

Mabuhay ang Migrante International!
Mabuhay ang lahat ng migrante at mga pamilya nila!
Mabuhay ang sambayanang Pilipino!

Maraming salamat.###

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