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OFWs ask for more seats on Overseas Filipino Bank's board

MANILA, Philippines – Disappointed that the much-ballyhooed Overseas Filipino Bank (OFB) only has one seat for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on its board of directors, a group of OFWs are urging President Rodrigo Duterte for action.

Representing 65 organizations from various countries, the 1st OFW Global Summit is spearheading efforts to urge the president to add more seats for OFWs on the bank’s 9-member board to ensure that the labor sector’s rights and welfare are upheld and protected.

The group said that allowing only one seat for OFWs on the board is disturbing considering that the bank was formed for them.

“Ang banko na iyan ay ipinatayo para sa mga OFWs,” Yusoph Admain, chairman of the group told The Filipino Times in an interview from Manila.“Nararapat lamang na ang magkokontrol nyan at magpapalakad ay mga OFWs!” (That bank was created for OFWs. So it is only appropriate that OFWs control and operate it.)

“Tayo pa rin ay nagpapasalamat sa mahal na pangulo na minadali na ipatayo ‘yan although hindi tayo 100% satisfied dahil may kulang pa. Isang seat lang sa board is unfair. Hihimay-himayin natin para mapasa-atin yang OFW bank,” Admain added. (We are still thankful to our beloved president who expedited the creation of the bank, but we are not 100% satisfied as it’s still lacking. Only one seat for OFWs on the board is unfair. We will look into this and see how this bank can be ours.)

Admain said they have started their advocacy campaign regarding the issue, having held meetings with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief, Hans Leo Cacdac to explore solutions.

Admain, who also chairs the non-governmental organization, OFW Migrant Policy Institute for Development, said they will also lobby in the House of Representatives and Philippine Senate their call for additional OFW seats on the board.

According to Admain, 250 leaders of 65 OFWs organizations and Filipino community leaders from the UAE, Oman, Bahrain, and other countries attended  the 1st OFW Global Summit convened in Taguig, Metro Manila on January 7 to iron out a plan of action.

No consultation done

Agnes Tibor, an OFW from Dubai working as an assistant manager for logistics and banking at a trading company, told The Filipino Times that a petition-signing is under consideration.

Tibor, who represented The Filipino Patriotikos Dubai at the summit, said that what was actually created was a bank that caters to all migrant Filipinos, not just OFWs, contrary to the president's promise in the campaign.

She said the OFB will function as a lending company with other services that regular banks offer, not as a workers’ cooperative as was envisioned by President Duterte.

“What is the essence really of putting up an OF bank if OFWs could not be partakers?” Tibor said, stressing that having OFWs as shareholders was lost in the process of opening the bank.

“Yun ang nawawala sa creation nung banko,” she said. (That’s what was missing in the creation of the bank.)

She said with about 2.5 million OFWs around the world putting in a minimum of $25, the OFW bank could easily have at least $6.2 billion in seed money to run an OFW cooperative.

“Kinonbert lang ang Postal Bank into an OF bank and subsidized by the Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP),” Tibor said. (What government merely did was convert Postal Bank into an OF bank subsidized by Land Bank.)

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III first announced the OFB in December 2016, and said that it would be partly owned by OFWs

Petition

This is why, Tibor said, a move is being considered by the group to petition the government to appoint OFWs or former OFWs to the board so they could share their experience and wisdom in shaping the bank.

Tibor said plans are afoot for The Filipinos Patriotikos Dubai to meet with Consul General Paul Raymund Cortes and Labor Attaché Felicidad Bay in the coming days to explore ways on how disseminate the ongoing discussions about having more OFW seats on the bank’s board ahead of a scheduled visit by Land Bank representatives in April.

Composition

Executive Order 44, signed by President Duterte last September 28 to create the OFB, requires a 9-member board of directors with the following composition: 

Bello said he directed Cacdac to be OWWA’s representative to the board. – Rappler.com

This story was republished with permission from The Filipino Times of the United Arab Emirates.