Escudero: Gov’t to lose P3.1 billion if ‘Zero Remittance Day’ pushes through
The government stands to lose some P3.1 billion in one day if the campaign for “Zero Remittance Day” by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) pushes through this weekend to protest the opening of balikbayan boxes entering the country, Senator Francis Escudero warned on Wednesday.
Escudero was reacting to migrant group Migrante Partylist’s earlier statement that it would to hold a “Zero Remittance Day” on Friday, August 28, even after President Benigno Aquino III already directed the Bureau of Customs (BoC) to stop the opening of balikbayan boxes.
But the senator said a one-day remittance boycott could translate to losses of over $67 million, or some P3.1 billion (at P46.61 exchange rate), for the Philippine economy—money which could have been spent for the basic necessities of relatives of OFWs here such as food, clothing, shelter, and utilities.
“The OFWs play a major part of the Philippine economy and its sustainability, so I don’t understand why the Bureau of Customs targets the OFWs in its anti-smuggling campaign,” said Escudero, who used to head the Senate committee on finance.
“This is not the way to treat our modern-day heroes. I say no to physical inspection of balikbayan boxes. The BoC should run after big-time smugglers,” he added.
Escudero said the proposed policy was “anti-migrant” and would only fuel serious backlash like a boycott on the remittances sent by OFWs.
The senator instead urged the BoC to put to good use its budget for surveillance and prevention of smuggling, which amount to P540 million, under the 2015 General Appropriations Act in order to enhance the agency’s intelligence-gathering capabilities.
“Nakakahiya naman sa mga OFW na nagpapadala ng bilyun-bilyong piso para sa ating ekonomiya kung hindi natin magagamit ang pondo na dapat sana ay pinambibili ng mga digital X-ray scanners, K-9 dogs, CCTV cameras. Isama na rin yung wastong training ng mga customs personnel para lumakas ang kanilang kakayahan,” he said.
(The OFWs are the ones who send billions of pesos for our economy, and it would be a shame if we don’t use those funds to buy digital X-ray scanners, K-9 dogs, CCTV cameras. Let’s include the proper training for the customs personnel so that their abilities are strengthened)
He said President Aquino did the right thing when he stopped the BOC from implementing the regulation following complaints from netizens, OFWs, and their families here and abroad.
“Sa tingin ko, ginawa ng Pangulo kung ano ang nararapat at natutuwa naman po tayo at pinakinggan niya ang boses ng mga OFW at taumbayan (I think President Aquino did what was right and we are happy that he listened to the voices of the OFWs and our countrymen),” Escudero said. Maila Ager/JE
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