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Arroyo vows to protect overseas workers' rights

posted on 29/01/2008: 717 views

Hope and scepticism met the Philippine president's address to her people in the UAE, in which she promised better protection for overseas workers and a way to address the dirham to peso currency exchange rate.

President Gloria Arroyo, on a two-day visit to Dubai from Davos, met with selected members of the Filipino community and some businesspeople on Sunday night.

In her speech, delivered in a mix of Tagalog and English, she reiterated her government's commitment to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), whose remittance has helped fund the national economy. UAE OFWs sent home half a billion dollars in 2007. "Our OFWs: that is part of our foreign policy - to make sure you get what you need from our government. Nothing is more important than to protect the rights of our overseas workers," she said. She acknowledged the problems OFWs have experienced from the eroding value of the dirham versus the peso. "A strong peso has reduced the national debt and the interest - making it easier for people to get access to loans and housing," she said. "But having said that, we realise how the weak dollar is putting pressure on the OFWs [so] we are setting a pre-agreed exchange rate if the peso strengthens but not if it weakens," she added. However, she did not say what the rate would be. She also introduced her idea of hedge funds for OFWs, in which Filipinos could submit a minimum of US$400 to the fund in order to earn more interest compared to conventional banks.

Filipino opposition groups have accused Philippine President Gloria Arroyo and her representatives of snubbing them during her official visit, saying she was looking to relax and have a good time instead of work. Two Filipino labour groups, Migrante and Bangsa Moro Labour Organisation, told Gulf News they were not invited to attend a meeting between the president and the Filipino community. The two groups have been vocal critics of Arroyo's administration and policies. – Gulf News


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