A TENTH of the Philippine population is currently overseas, working in more than 192 countries around the world. With the government pursuing an aggressive labor export policy, some 2,600 Filipinos leave the country daily for various jobs and destinations abroad. Last year, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) deployed 981,667 migrant workers, an increase of 5.15 percent from 2004.

Estimated at more than 1.3 million of them, however, are undocumented — illegal migrants who face the risk of abuse and various forms of discrimination in their host countries. Add to this the fact that more than 70 percent of annual overseas deployment now comprise women, particularly those working in the global services industry, who are increasingly becoming vulnerable to employment often referred to as "dirty, dangerous, demeaning and unregulated."

Last year, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) reported about 22,000 cases of distressed migrants that the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) attended to. The figure may be minuscule — less than one percent of the total number of overseas Filipinos — but the DFA admits that cases of abuse and violations of human and migrant rights are largely underreported, not reported, or documented but not acted upon.

Presently, the task of protecting our migrant workers and other overseas Filipinos is in the hands of 83 embassies and consulates, 33 Philippine overseas labor offices and 32 welfare officers, including Filipino workers resource centers in 17 countries.

With new technologies though, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have developed an ingenious way to address their work-related concerns, especially when their lives, safety or well-being are in danger. Yesterday the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) launched and activated an SOS SMS information system for distressed OFWs, a cheap, 24/7 text-based mechanism capitalizing on the ubiquity of the mobile phone to enable them to relay and report situations that warrant immediate relief, action, or intervention by the Philippine government and NGOs working for migrant workers’ welfare.

CMA’s Ellene Sana says the SOS SMS project, done in coordination with its various NGO partners worldwide, as well as the DFA-OUMWA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), is significant as "(it) gives government agencies and NGOs the opportunity to respond and/or intervene in a timely, adequate and efficient manner, particularly where either the OFW’s life, safety or well-being is a critical consideration."

OFWs in need of help or assistance can simply send the following message: 

SOS <space> message, name of sender

to +63 9209 OFW SOS (+63 9209639 767). The message is received by the SOS SMS system where it is logged and stored in a central database housed in a computer maintained in Quezon City. Once sent, the text message gets auto-forwarded to designated recipient cellphones at the CMA, DFA-OUMWA and OWWA where it is verified and eventually given appropriate action.

The SOS SMS reporting system, says Sana, is also a useful research tool as it logs critical message details to serve as initial case-file documentation that will help in developing research leads, classifying and analyzing  OFWs’ various problems and related concerns.

Sana also expects the SMS-based system to aid CMA and its partners in formulating recommended remedies — in the form of executive, administrative or legislative action — and focusing its advocacy work aimed at identifying gaps with respect to migration attitudes, policies and practices.

2 Responses to SMS-based alert system for OFWs in distress



February 16th, 2006 at 4:31 am

Hoy Arroyo, our local economy is not providing jobs to Filipinos. Use your economic common sense and invite foreign companies to set up businesses in each and every province in the Philippines. I would rather work in the Philippines than be maltreated abroad.





February 16th, 2006 at 10:23 am

DFA, mahiya naman kayo. Kung ano-anong pinag-aaralan niyo sa Foreign Service Exam, ang pinaka-importante lang naman talaga ay kung paano mabibigyang proteksyon ang mga OFW. Nag-uunahan kayo sa mga foreign postings pero pag kailangan kayo ng kababayan niyo, ang karaniwang nagagawa niyo lang ay ang mabilis na pagbalik sa Pilipinas ng bangkay.
SA US$10B na OFW remittances, ano ba naman yung buwan-buwan bistihan niyo sila o tawagan man lang at tiyakin yung kalagayan nila?
Pag kinailangan ng hustisya, ipaglaban niyo naman. Kaya tayo lalong naaapi dahil alam ng mga iyan na halos wala tayong ginagawa kapag sinaktan o pinatay ang ating mga kababayan. Alam nila na ipapatuloy pa rin ng pamahalaan ang pag-bugaw sa kanyang mga mamamayan para makamit ang pinakaaasam na OFW remittances (na kung wala ay mas bagsak pa tayo kaysa sa Bangladesh dahil sa dami ng pagnanakaw ng mga pinuno ng bayan).

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