On March 11, 2011, 3 hours before the will-never-to-be-forgotten catastrophe in the history of Japan and the world, I was on the national radio talking with former Usec Susan Ople, and Ms. Leo Navarro in the RMN News Bantay OFW. I was talking/ranting for nearly 30 minutes about the situation, the lack of system in our embassies and in our government especially with regards to the plights of OFWs, and suggesting about a few things to somehow make things right. I will mention a few here, in a hope that somehow those directly involved in OFW matters will have the chance to read this one. (Asa pa ako)
The topic of the day was about the Saudi 'Day of Rage' and we're grateful that nothing happened that day in our side of the world. The rally was peaceful, perhaps because of the overwhelming presence of police and armies, as well as the lack of support from the local people, and the determination of the Saudi government to quell any protest that they declared illegal. It was a smooth and quiet day. At least that was before I was interviewed. Before the intensity 9 earthquake hit Japan and the gigantic tsunami waves that flatten towns and damaged the nuclear power plant that they are desperately trying to contain now.
Anyway here are some of my suggestions, a few of it I mentioned on air, some I mentioned in my Twitter and Facebook post.
1. Kung gaano po kahigpit ang gobyerno natin sa pagsisingil ng bayad sa OWWA at POEA, and paghahanap ng receipt nito sa immigration, ganun din sana kahigpit ang pagkuha or pagrequire ng mga email address or mobile roaming number ng bawat Pinoy na lumalabas ng bansa.
Through this way I see the opportunity to communicate with the OFWs, informed them about emergencies and other info's that will make things easier. It is envious that foreigners are receiving updates through SMS from their embassies.
2. I hope this will be a feasible suggestion if we can communicate with Smart or Globe and other telecommunication companies if we can setup an international hotline number where we can text or call in any situation if an OFW is in need of help. In this age of technology and information, all this will be visible to take care of our people. Every OFW leave he country with a SIMcard, a roaming SIMCARD where they can receive messages as well as send messages. Some country telco's allows to use this sim to call, other only allows SMS messages. This is a very good opportunity to inform OFWs about news and information. If we can do this, we are showing that we are taking care our people.
3. Lower internet rate especially OFW families. The family, especially the OFW families is disintegrating. It is the terrible price of going abroad. The only thing that connects between them for a year or two or even beyond are the mobile phones, or laptops and computers through the internet. Let us make this a national crusade. I hope our politician will pick up this blog entry and passed a measure given the OFW family, one family per OFW a special discount in internet rate. As we make the internet affordable to OFW's we are connecting families, re-establishing connections between fathers and mothers to sons and daughters, and brothers and sisters.
4. The 72-hour kit, or emergency bag where you have everything ready for grab. Water, cookies, foods, medicine and first aid kit, passports, important documents, money, and few clothes. Since we were young we were taught to have this 3 days emergency kit enough for us to survive for 3 days. I hope OFW’s around the world will follow this simple and yet important counsel especially those of us here in the Middle East where situation is currently volatile.
Talking about 72 hour kit. We know what's going on in Japan. It's better to be ready. Anyway, the least we can do is pray for Japan and its people. They've been so good to the Philippines in humanitarian and development aid. It is such a beautiful country to be devastated by this series of tragedies too. I learn today and hope to reminded always, that no matter how strong and powerful a country is, like US and Japan, God has His way of reminding us that He is the Master of all.