MIGRANTE Ontario Youth

Advancing the rights and welfare of Filipino youth

ePassport and Consular Services Campaign

Posted by anakbayantoronto on October 14, 2010

Migrante Ontario Youth is participating in the ePassport and Consular Services Campaign of Migrante International. 

The ePassport is another service for overseas Filipinos which is becoming more and more difficult to access because of increasing fees imposed by the Philippine government.  Many Filipino migrant workers in Canada have families back home whom they are sending money to or are waiting to sponsor.  The increased ePassport fee adds to the financial burden which makes it difficult for migrant workers and their children to be reunited.  Even when migrants are already able to bring their families here, many of them remain financially burdened because of all the fees they’ve had to pay, making the settlement process of their families even more challenging.  In the meantime, the Philippine government is reaping huge profits from the dollar remittances of migrant workers while failing to protect their rights overseas.

Migrante Ontario Youth encourages all Filipino youth to participate in this campaign.  Download the petition below and gather signatures from family members, friends, co-workers, etc.

Please submit the signed petitions to Migrante Ontario Youth BEFORE NOVEMBER 15, 2010.

DOWNLOAD:  ePassport-petition-english


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MIGRANTE CANADA
ePassport and Consular Service campaign

CONTEXT

The current increase in ePassport fees is a very hot issue among the Filipino migrant community. Since the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) launched the new ePassport program in 2009, the fees rose from P550-P750 to P950-P1,200. The reason given by the DFA for the increase in fees is that the new security features of the ePassport have driven up the costs of making it.

In Canada, Philippine passport holders, including migrant workers, caregivers and permanent residents, pay much higher than P1,200 (approx. $22 Cdn.) for the ePassport. The renewal cost is $69.00 Cdn. (aprox P2,760) while replacing a lost ePassport costs $172.00 Cdn (aprox. P6,880). 

Embassies and consulates have also made significant increases in ePassport fees in other countries. These do not include the $28 Cdn in legal fees in countries with high concentration of Filipino migrants, like Hong Kong, Japan and the Middle East.  These fee increases are yet another form of government exaction that migrant Filipinos have to bear on top of the thousands of pesos they already have to pay before they can leave the Philippines (e.g. OWWA, POEA fees, etc.).

Meanwhile, Malacanang has proposed to cut the budget for legal services for migrants. Aquino’s austerity measures includes slashing the budget for legal assistance for OFWs in distress, from P50 million this year to P27 million for 2011. This is a clear violation of the March 2010 amendments to the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, which stipulates that P100 million must reserved to finance the Legal Assistance Fund.   This cutback will mean that 108 OFWs facing death row, 7,000 OFWs languishing in jails abroad and at least 10,000 OFWs stranded and seeking repatriation in the Middle East will not get justice and restitution. 

The proposed cutback will also be another reason for consulates and embassies to reduce their already inadequate services.  Already Philippine consular services in Canada do not cater to migrants and Filipinos working and living here.  Currently, Filipino migrants in Canada can only avail of consular services on weekdays, forcing them to take time off work and lose a day’s income.  Catering to the needs and interests of migrant Filipinos not only means lowering the ePassport fees but also providing services on weekends. 

Also, some Canadian cities with high concentration of Filipinos do not have regular consular services.  Cities such as Montreal, Winnipeg and Edmonton can only avail of infrequent consular services through honorary consuls.  For example, Winnipeg’s honorary consul office is only available every other Saturday and only for a few hours.  Furthermore, these honorary consuls cannot issue ePassports.  Filipinos in Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and other cities must travel to Toronto, Vancouver or the embassy in Ottawa to apply for an ePassport.  The DFA must correct these inadequacies by establishing regular consular services, including the issuance of ePassports, to these cities.

The increase in ePassport fees is another scheme to squeeze more money out of Filipino migrants. Filipino migrants are already paying at least P20,000 each for mandatory POEA fees. For every 1.6 million OFWs that leave the country yearly, the government collects about P32.8 billion. This is on top of the billions of dollars that migrants remit every year.

The ePassport campaign includes a call to investigate the allegations of corruption against DFA Sec. Alberto Romulo.  There were anomalies and legal violations in Romulo’s cancellation of the original contract with BCA International Corporation for the procurement of machine readable passports and the subsequent contracting out of the ePassport to a French company. Corruption complaints have been filed against Romulo and other DFA officials before the Ombudsman, the Supreme Court and the 14th Congress.

GENERAL SLOGANS / CALLS

1.    Rollback the increase in ePassport fees.
2.    Provide consular services on weekends.
3.    Stop exorbitant state exactions on migrant Filipinos.
4.    Stop the commodification of Filipino migrants.
5.    No to the Philippine Labour Export Policy.
6.    Investigate Romulo and former president Arroyo for corruption.

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