Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK)
During the dictatorial regime of Marcos,
the Philippine economy was in state of "financial hemorrhage".
Foreign and domestic debts soared high from a mere US$599 to a
staggering US$28 billion.
Paying back these loans would mean that the
country would have to generate as much needed foreign exchange as it
can from its exports. However, with the continuing drop in the
prices of exportable raw material, the Philippine government has
marketed other exportable products, of which the most recent but
very lucrative business is exporting "cheap labor". In
exchange for dollars, the government is now aggressively peddling
this "commodity" in the international market.
In the face of alarming Balance of Payments
(BOP) deficits and huge external debt obligations, alongside the
government's incapacity to generate much-needed foreign exchange, in
1982, the then Pres. Ferdinand Marcos issued Executive Order No. 857
(EO-857) or popularly known as the Forced Remittance. In this
decree, all overseas contract workers (OCW) were compelled to remit
50% to 70% (depending on which category the workers belong to -
whether seafarers, professionals, construction workers or domestic
helpers) of their total earnings. The bill also prohibits the use of
non-banking channels such as "pakidala" system and
restricts OCW to remit "only through government-authorized
channels". Those OCWs who can not produce proof of remittance
amounting to 50% to 70% of their monthly earnings will face punitive
acts such as losing their rights to renew their contracts, renew
their passports, cancellation of working contracts and banning
workers from the list of eligible workers for overseas employment.
Since migrant workers are also spending part of their salary in the
host country, remitting 70% of their salary is not as easy as it
seems. Such punitive provisions forced Filipino migrant workers to
borrow money from financing agencies and remit the money through
banks for them to have remittance receipts as proof. The executive
order makes remitting money a burden to OCWs.
While some Filipino migrants do not know
how to oppose this decree, several Filipino migrant organizations
were campaigning against EO-857. Picket-rallies were held outside
the Philippine Consulate and in some parts of Central where there
were big concentrations of Filipinos during Sundays, to propagate
the anti-Forced Remittance sentiments among the migrant Filipinos in
Hong Kong. These activities laid the grounds for a more effective
action among the anti-EO-857 activists.
In 1984, eleven (11) Filipino migrant
groups and organizations in Hong Kong formed themselves into a
tactical alliance known as the United Filipinos Against Forced
Remittance (UNFARE) to spearhead the campaign against EO-857. More
picket-rallies were conducted with bigger mobilizations than before.
Other forms of campaigning such as signature gathering, education
and information drive and cultural presentations were launched to
reach the widest number of Filipino migrants in Hong Kong.
Internationally coordinated mass-actions were held through the
network of Asia Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos (APMMF)
combined with lobbying work made by women's organizations, groups of
lawyers, trade unions and other cause-oriented groups and
institutions in the Philippines.
In May 1st of 1985, due to continuing
pressure from home and abroad, Pres. Marcos issued Executive Order
No. 1021, abolishing the punitive provisions of EO-857 and declaring
the "pakidala system" legal. The united efforts of the
Filipinos in Hong Kong bore fruits. This victory over anti-Forced
Remittance campaign is a concrete, glaring example that if we are
united, we could make history.
Inspired by the gains in the campaign, the
groups decided to formally form themselves into an alliance. In May
12th of 1985, under a new name, the United Filipinos in Hong Kong
(UNIFIL-HK) was established with a broader perspective.
What is United
Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK)?
The United Filipinos in Hong Kong
(UNIFIL-HK) is an alliance of Filipino migrant organizations in Hong
Kong. Founded in May 12, 1985, it aims to consolidate Filipino
migrant organizations into an alliance, raise consciousness of
migrants on problems, issues and root causes of migration in the
Philippines, and mobilize them to address the issues towards a
resolute action. The member organizations are united in the struggle
to defend the rights and welfare not only by migrant workers but
also their families by upholding the struggle of the Filipino people
for a society based on justice, lasting peace, social progress,
independence and free from incursions of foreign elements.
Why is it
necessary to form an alliance?
The experience of migrant organizations in
Hong Kong in the campaign against EO-857 taught us the lesson of
unity. Were it only a handful of organizations that stood up against
the bill, we would not have been able to defeat this anti-migrant
Like-minded organizations look for common
purpose. Fostering cooperation and collective work among migrants is
crucial in defending our common interest.
There is a certain sense of urgency for the
different migrant organizations to bind themselves under the banner
of the alliance. With the intensifying attack on our rights and
welfare principally by our own government through its Labor Export
Program (LEP) that makes us comparable to commodities for sale, the
need to be united is for the best interest of each one of us. Only
in our united strength can we defend ourselves.
What is expected
from the members of the alliance?
Members are expected to attend the
activities, join mass actions, participate on ongoing campaigns of
the alliance and launch activities of their own in response to the
general call of the alliance. It is also their duty to recruit new
member organizations for the alliance.
Member organizations of UNIFIL-HK need to
have representation in the Council of Representatives, the highest
decision making body of the alliance between Congresses.
Moreover, as part of organizational
responsibilities, members have to pay their monthly dues and their
annual membership fee. The alliance also welcomes financial and
material contributions from members.
What can member
organizations get from joining the alliance?
As Filipino workers in a foreign land, our
sense of patriotism drives us to join hands with our "kababayan".
By joining the UNIFIL, we foster the sense of cooperation and
solidarity among Filipino migrant workers.
The alliance's experience in leading
campaigns against policies and regulations of the Philippine and
Hong Kong governments victimizing migrant workers has proven that
only in our united actions can we achieve our objectives. From the
victorious struggle against the EO-857 up to the recent lowering of
the authentication fees are concrete examples of our gains
beneficial not only to members of the alliance but for the migrant
Filipinos in general.
What are the
activities of the alliance?
The activities of the alliance are
determined by its member organizations through Congresses and
Council of Representatives' meetings. Activities range from social
encounters, welfare projects, education and training and campaigns
for rights and welfare.
The alliance has its yearly activities such
as (01) International Labor Day - May 1st, (02) International
Women's Day - 9th of March, (03) Migrant's Day - November 4th, and
(04) International Declaration of Human Rights - December 10th.
Since majority of the Filipinos have Sundays as their rest days, the
alliance usually hold its activities on the nearest Sundays of each
of the mentioned commemorative days.
Aside from the regular yearly activities,
the alliance also conducts from time to time picket-rallies, public
forums, protest march and other forms of mass actions when actual
Does UNIFIL work
with migrant organizations of other nationalities?
Yes. The UNIFIL believes in the spirit of
international solidarity. We share the same struggles with them
against commodification of peoples and labor around the world by
imperialism. It is important to coordinate and cooperate with
migrant organizations of other nationalities to achieve this end.
In 1996, the UNIFIL, together with other
organizations like the Far East Overseas Nepalese Association
(FEONA), Association of Sri Lankans in Hongkong (ASL-HK), Friends of
Thai (FOT) and Indonesian Group formed the Asian Migrant
Coordinating Body (AMCB).
Through the AMCB, the UNIFIL works in
solidarity with other migrants in defending and asserting our rights
and welfare in the host countries. Just recently, the AMCB has been
spearheading a campaign against the unjust proposal to cut wages of
foreign domestic helpers in Hongkong.
What is the
relation between the alliance and other institutions?
There are migrant serving institutions in
Hong Kong that work closely with UNIFIL-HK. They are (01) The
Mission for Filipino Migrant Workers (HK) Society (MFMW), (02)
the Bethune House Migrant Women's
Refuge (BH) and (03) the Asia
Pacific Mission for Migrant Filipinos (APMMF).
The MFMW is a non-profit, non-stock
institution that serves migrant workers in Hong Kong in their
psychological, physical and employment related problems. They
provide services such as counseling, para-legal training and in
giving migrant orientation. Assistance to distressed migrant workers
on their ongoing labor disputes with their employers such as
preparing statements; legwork and referral to lawyers are also
provided by the Mission.
The BH is women's refuge house put up by
the MFMW to provide shelter to distressed Asian migrants. In this
shelter, staffs and volunteers provide different type of skills
training like handicrafts making, dress making, cultural arts and
para-legal to the residents while they are waiting for the
processing of their cases. Education on different migrant and
national issues are also provided to residents of Bethune House. The
residents of BH were organized as Friends of Bethune House (FBH),
one of the member organizations of UNIFIL-HK.
The APMMF is a regional non-government
institution who helps migrant Filipinos in Asia, Pacific and Middle
East to get organize. They provide seminars and workshops, publish
guidelines and brochures about organizing Filipinos abroad. They are
also actively involved in campaigns against anti-migrant policies.
Through their international network, campaigns against policies and
regulations of the Philippine government or of the host countries
victimizing migrant Filipinos, they are able to service migrant
Filipinos in the region.
Though the UNIFIL is independent from these
institutions, it is working closely with them. The MFMW, BH and
APMMF are institutions who have long history of supporting UNIFIL-HK
in its programs and activities. In fact, MFMW and APMMF helped in
organizing the alliance way back in 1985.
What is the
relation between UNIFIL-HK and MIGRANTE International?
MIGRANTE International is the global
alliance of Filipino migrant organizations. With its Executive
Committee based in Manila, MIGRANTE is in the forefront of Filipino
migrant's struggle, spearheading campaigns against policies and
regulations of the Philippine government victimizing migrant
UNIFIL-HK and MIGRANTE have been long
partners in launching campaigns, programs and activities. In fact,
UNIFIL-HK was a member of the ad-hoc committee that started the
process of the creation of MIGRANTE.
UNIFIL-HK is the principal partner of
MIGRANTE in implementing its programs here in Hong Kong. They
conduct consultations in issues affecting migrant Filipinos on a
regular basis. Some members of UNIFIL-HK are also members of
MIGRANTE. UNIFIL-HK encourages its members to also register as
members of MIGRANTE International.
can an organization be a member of UNIFIL-HK?
Any Filipino migrant organization in Hong
Kong with no less than 20 registered members, will uphold the basis
of unity and the constitution and by-laws of the alliance can apply
to be a member of UNIFIL-HK.
You can reach
Filipinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL-HK)
New Hall, St. John's Cathedral,
4-8 Garden Road, Central, Hong
Tel nos.: 2810-4379, 2522-8264
Fax no.: 2526-2894