By Fazeena Saleem
DOHA: Filipinos in Qatar will join millions of their countrymen overseas on September 19 in a global campaign against alleged corruption in the Philippines and will not remit money home on that day as a mark of protest.
The unique protest is against alleged misuse of funds that Congressmen are supposed to spend in their constituencies on development work.
Remittances by overseas Filipinos is a major source of foreign exchange for the Philippines, and figures suggest an estimated 10 million overseas Filipinos remitted $20.11bn in 2011.
The symbolic protest on September 19, termed a Zero-Remittance Day, is to press Manila to abolish the system of allocating development funds to Congressmen (members of the country’s parliament).
This is already a big scandal in the Philippines and has drawn widespread protests. “We overseas Filipinos are joining our brethren at home and expressing solidarity with them by marking this token no-remittance day on September 19,” a community member said.
Migrante International (MI), an organisation of overseas Filipinos, has laucnhed the ‘Zero-Remittance Day campaign. MI is an umbrella body of 145 organisations of overseas Filipinos in 23 countries. Also, the OFW on its Facebook page has requested compatriots based abroad to join the campaign.
However, several Filipinos here told this newspaper they wouldn’t send money home on September 19 as it is the middle of the month.
“It’s true the impact would have been more if it was in the beginning of the month, yet ‘Zero- Remittance Day’ would show the economic power of the Filipinos working overseas,” said Marisol Amihan, organising committee chairman of Overseas Filipino Investors and Entrepreneurs Movement.
“This is a very big scam in our country, it has hit hard. I saw the campaign on Facebook and appreciate the move, yet I’m not sure how many people would actually need to send money home as it is in the middle of the month,” said a Filipino, who gave his name as Alihthar. He suggested the campaign should have been waged in the first week of the month.
“There are so many protests in the country and now the time has come for Filipinos working overseas to show their resentment. We usually send money in the first week of the month. Even if any emergency arises, I wouldn’t remit money on September 19 in support of the protest, said Josline, who had come to an exchange to remit money yesterday.
However, community organisations see the campaign as a way to send a message to their country.
The Philippines embassy was not available for comment and efforts to contact the labour office failed. But figures given by the embassy earlier suggest there were an estimated 175,000 Filipinos in Qatar in 2012.
Exact estimates of how much money Filipinos send home every year from Qatar are not available but Qatar Central Bank statistics for 2011 reflect they were the second largest remitters after Indians.
An exchange house active on the Doha-Manila sector said approximately 11,000 Filipinos transfer money to the Philippines per month, and their average remittance is around QR1,500 ($412).
About 20 Filipinos come to the exchange house even in the third week of a month, an official of the firm said.
“It would affect our daily turnover, but it would be made up on the following day or as soon as people send money,” the money exchange representative said.
“But impact will be definitely felt by the families in the Philippines as everything will be delayed by one day,” he added.
There are around 10 million OFWs around the world, or roughly 10 percent of the country’s population.