Archive for the ‘Essays on Migration and Consular Diplomacy’ Category

Why Consular Service Matters? An Australian Perspective

by Juan Enriquez Dayang, Jr.

The Australian National University



When Australia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Kevin Rudd appears on You Tube to advise Australians who are planning on attending the Rugby World Cup 2011 in New Zealand to visit the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s (DFAT) website for travel tips, travel bulletin and register their travel for any emergency, Rudd is primarily giving top priority to the safety and well-being of Australians as part of DFAT’s consular function.

Why does consular service matters to governments and citizens?

The primary function of consuls is to promote state interest, in particular trade and commercial interest and protect and assist nationals apart from issuing travel documents such as passports and visas and legalization of papers. Consular representation predates the modern state system and certainly the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations of 1963 which codifies the role and functions of consulates and its representatives.

Consular assistance is a significant undertaking of foreign ministries. As people continue to move outside of their countries of origin in a more globalized world, public demand for consular service grows. As more complex issues arise due to travel and migration, the more complex and responsive consular services are required.

Many are familiar with high-profile cases concerning citizens in trouble overseas such as the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center bombings in New York City and the Bali bombings in the tourist district of Kuta that killed 202 people including 88 Australians and 38 Indonesians. In 2011, we have seen governments providing assistance to their citizens who are caught in harm’s way either in natural calamities such as the tsunami in Japan or in conflict zones during the “Arab Spring.” For example, Australia, Canada, Greece, the Philippines, Turkey and the U.S., were some of the countries who evacuated their citizens who were trapped in strife-torn Egypt during the mass protest that toppled the Mubarak regime. It followed large scale repatriations conducted by nations such as Australia and the Philippines when thousands of Lebanese-Australians and Filipino migrant workers fled Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in 2006. These are often very severe cases and highly charged. Yet, the immensity of consular work is rarely recognized widely and few people know how broad and complex consular activities are. For emigrant countries like India, Mexico and the Philippines, consular protection of migrants and engagement with diaspora communities through consular networks matter a lot. But even for immigrant countries like Australia, consular service is a core task of DFAT.

How have countries as exemplified by the Australian experience, a nation of travelers, made consular affairs a core task of the foreign ministry?

As a nation of travelers, current statistics estimate that more than 3.5 million Australians – which account for almost 20 per cent of the population – travel abroad each year. Although Australians who travel, work, and study abroad generally do not need consular assistance from the Embassies and consulates, they still face risks and occasional difficulties when traveling overseas. In these situations, Australia’s DFAT attends to its citizens in trouble to assuage the public pressure for government’s quick response and immediate assistance to citizens in distress.

Consular officers of Australia perform many of the same functions as other diplomatic personnel such as issuance of passports, legalization or notarization of documents, etc. However, an important role of consular affairs is to assist Australian in emergency situations and provide critical legal assistance and jail visitation for those charged with criminal offense. For example, the case of the 14-year old boy, the youngest Australian to be arrested in Indonesia, for drug possession in Bali in October 2011 prompted Foreign Affairs Minister Kevin Rudd to declare that negotiating the release of the Australian schoolboy on possible charges is a ‘number one’ priority. Rudd said that:

“I have just spoken with our ambassador in Jakarta [Greg Moriarty] and I have indicated to him that his number one priority in the immediate period ahead is how we support this young boy and his family and do everything we can to obtain his early return to Australia.”

Consular service is for everyone. Even arrested Wiki leaks founder Julian Assange was promised consular assistance in 2010 including consular visits and any other types of consular help concerning his well being and legal rights by Foreign Minister Rudd who said that:

“What we do with Australians in strife anywhere in the world is that we take the view that our responsibility is to ensure the consular rights and legal rights of all Australians abroad are protected. And that includes Mr. Assange.”

As a matter of prevention, DFAT issues travel advisories to Australians similar to advisories issued by US State Department. According to William Maley of the Asia-Pacific College of Diplomacy of the Australian National University, travel advisory “points to a new form of consular activity that was not specifically contemplated by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963″.

Some of the programs of DFAT include the ‘Smart Traveller’, the 24-hour consular hotline, and the crisis response team. With ‘Smart Traveller’ Australians could register their details online for easy tracking in case of a crisis situation and be updated through Facebook and Twitter. The ‘Smart Traveller’ has helped in “chasing” or locating Australians abroad, especially those who are caught in natural disasters such as the tsunamis in Thailand, earthquake in New Zealand and Japan as well as in areas of conflict and attacks such as the Bali Bombing in Indonesia, and in the recent political crisis in Egypt.


Australia’s DFAT takes the lead role in crisis situations overseas. It has a well-organized and well-funded corps of able DFAT personnel, formed in cadres of about 10 officers and staff. These e lite cadres are prepared to operate at a moment’s notice. It shows the high priority given by the DFAT in emergency assistance to its citizens in distress. The policy is backed up by financial resources worth US$12M over a ten-year period which is used for technology, staffing requirements, and ways to improve the system.

The consular emergency unit of Australia’s foreign affairs ministry is equipped with a conference room with multiple video screens and computers hooked to the internet and cable TV to monitor a particular crisis situation. The unit holds inter-agency meetings at DFAT and tele-conferences with Ambassadors stationed in crisis zones for updates and instructions. Even without a crisis, two people monitor emergency cases. For example, if they are alerted of a plane crash overseas, they immediately inform the relevant Embassy or Consulate for verification of any Australian casualty and briefs the press office with prepared talking points.



There is a positive correlation between travel and migration and consular service. The increase of people moving from one country to another facilitates the interconnectedness of the world economy. This translates to higher demand for consular service. As there are people who may be in vulnerable situations overseas either due to man-made or natural disasters, citizens require consular protection to defend their lives from harm or their rights from abuse.

The Australian case provides an example of how consular affairs matters to foreign ministries and citizens. The readiness of DFAT to act and manage crisis through consular assistance run a gamut of intervention from “chasing” Australian tourists missing in a beach resort in Southeast Asia or providing legal advice to citizens who have encounters with the law.

Governments are giving more priority to consular services as public demand increases for consular assistance. The reports of media on citizens’ facing troubles overseas fan increase demand for government response and responsibility to assist nationals overseas. As such, Embassy and consular networks are the primary interlocutors of the state with its citizen’s overseas. As there will be more people who will be working overseas or decide to permanently migrate, engagement with their communities to link them with their hometowns will be another feature of consular work. Governments will also grapple with the problem of irregular migration and consular networks provide the necessary assistance in protecting the rights of vulnerable migrants and either by facilitating their legalization process, rescuing them from harm, or assist them in their smooth repatriation in partnership among countries of origin, transit, and destination.

Consular affairs as a dimension of diplomacy has become a core task of foreign ministries. Saving peoples lives and defending the rights of citizens are high in the agenda of governments. There are plenty of opportunities for scholarship in the field of consular diplomacy and a rewarding career awaits Foreign Service officers who desire to serve their country and people. Indeed, consular service matters not only to governments but to citizens. This is the human dimension of diplomacy.


Australia, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of. “Smartraveller: The Australian Government’s Travel Ad-visory and Consular Information Service.”

Dayang, Juan E. “Consular Assistance Goes Cyber.” Reflective Diplomat,

———. “Why Consular Service Matters for Citizens.”

Hamilton, Donna. “Transformation of Consular Affairs : The United States Experience.” Paper presented at the Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, 2009.

Kelly, Joe. “Kevin Rudd Pledges Assange to Get ‘Proper’ Consular Help from Australia

” The Australian, December 8 2010.

Kleiner, Juergen. Diplomatic Practice – between Tradition and Innovation. Singapore: World Scientific Publishing Co. Pte. Ltd., 2009.

Leira, Halvard, and Iver B. Neumann. “Consular Representation in an Emerging State: The Case of Norway.” The Hague Journal of Diplomacy 3 (2008): 1-19.

Levy, Megan, Tom Allard and Amilia Rosa. “Rudd in Bid to Free Boy, 14, after Bali Drugs Arrest.” The Sydney Morning Herald, October 7 2011.

Maley, William. “Risk, Populism, and the Evolution of Consular Responsibilities.” In Consular Affairs and Diplomacy edited by Jan Melissen, and Ana Mar Ferna ndez 43-62. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff, 2011.

Melissen, Jan, and Maaike Heijmans “Foreign Ministries and the Rising Challenge of Consular Affairs: Cinderella in the Limelight.” In Challenge for Foreign Ministries: Managing Diplomatic Networks and Optimizing Values Geneva, 2006.

Okano-Heijmans, Maiike. “Change in Consular Assistance and the Emergence of Consular Diplomacy.” In Consular Affairs and Diplomacy, edited by Jan Melissen, and Ana Mar Ferna ndez, 19-42. Leiden: Martinus Nijhof, 2010.

Stringer, David D. “Think Global, Act Local: Honorary Consuls in a Transforming Diplomatic World

” Paper presented at the In Discussion Papers in Diplomacy, 2007.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “Smartraveller: The Australian Government’s Travel Advisory and Consular Infomation Service.”


This article was published by the Australian Catholic Migrant and Refugee Office Newsletter in October 2011. See:


Philippines and Mexico’s emigrants and their destinations

by Juan “Jed”  E. Dayang, Jr.

The Australia National University

The Philippines and Mexico are two of the largest labour migrant sending countries in the world with 1/1oth  of their populations living abroad.

With almost four decades of managed labour migration, the Philippines has emerged as a leading labour sending country in East Asia. The Philippines is also the principal source of seafarers at more than 330,000 mariners. Mexico, on the other hand, has a longer history of emigration to the United States (U.S.), starting from the early 20th century.  Mexicans have become the largest ethnic group in the U. S.   Filipino and Mexican migrants are largely concentrated in low-skilled and low-paying jobs. For the Philippines, this trend slightly changed in the 1990s with more migrants leaving the country for higher paying work.

In 2010,  there  was an estimated 8.5 million overseas Filipinos while Mexico has more than 11 million Mexican-born migrants out of the 30 million Mexican immigrants in the U.S. In terms of migration types,  Filipino permanent migrants represent 47% or 3.8 million while temporary migrants represent 45%  or  4.06 million Overseas Filipino Workers. For Mexico,  there are more than 30 million Mexican immigrants in the United States alone, where around 11 million are  temporary migrants.

Mexico has a significantly larger unauthorized migrants than the Philippines. Irregular Filipino  migrants are estimated at 660,000  persons or 8% of the total Filipino migrants while more than half of the 11 million temporary migrants from Mexico in the U.S. are unauthorised. Thus,  Mexico has about 3 times more irregular migrants that the Philippines which are vulnerable to abuses. Irregular workers present challenges for sending states. These sectors are mostly marginalised, prone to abuse and  are socially excluded.

In terms of destination countries, the difference between the Philippines and Mexico is that Filipino emigrants are scattered in 214 countries (including non-UN members)  in the world while Mexican emigrants are concentrated in North America, particularly in the United States.  For permanent emigrants, the highest concentration of immigration for Filipinos is also in the United States owing to its colonial links with the U.S. and later through family sponsored migration.

The Philippine top five destination countries of total emigrants include the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, and Australia. The top five destination countries for permanent Filipino migrants are the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and the United Kingdom. Except for Japan, all the other countries uses English as official language. The top five destination countries for temporary workers from the Philippines include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman— all of them are in the Middle East.  This was a result of the Philippine government’s decision to send migrant workers in the Middle East in the 1970s. For Mexico, the top five destination of migrants in US States are California, Texas, Illinois, Arizona, and Georgia. In terms of Mexican-born immigrants, the top five destinations are New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Arkansas, and Idaho.

The Philippines and Mexico as two of the largest labour sending countries in the world, also have among the best practices in migration management and migrant workers’ protection.  One of the key determinants in establishing diplomatic and consular missions for both the Philippines and Mexico is to serve their emigrant populations overseas. The two countries share commonalities in promoting migrant workers’ rights and a staunch advocate of the United Nations 1990 Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families.

Migrant Workers Profit from Financial Literacy, Research Shows

September 7, 2011 6 comments

Click for Pdf copy: Effects of Financial Literacy Among OFWs in Seoul

Effects of Financial Education among Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Seoul, Korea:

Evidence from a Survey 

Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

(Supervised by the University of Oklahoma)

A survey conducted by the Philippine Embassy in South Korea in 2008 showed that financial education plays a very important role in increasing the financial literacy of overseas Filipino migrant workers and encouraging specific behaviours among them.

The study aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the Embassy’s Financial Literacy Program (FLP) demonstrated that the scores of participants improved by 47% after attending a two-hour seminar, from an average score of 3.06 to 4.5 out of a possible perfect score of 7.  See Figure 1.  At the same time, most of the participants expressed interest in initiating some form of personal financial planning and persuading their families back in the Philippines to adopt the same method.

The Financial Literacy Program (FLP) was specially designed to address the unique circumstances of Filipino migrant workers in Korea and the savings culture among Filipinos. (Please see related blog articles .)  

The Survey

The Embassy administered a survey composed of standard open and close-ended questions  to participants before and after the seminar. The pretest survey was divided into three main sections: the first part examined the participant’s general behaviour or attitude regarding financial planning; the second part tested the participant’s knowledge about financial concepts, while the last one focused on demographic information.

Behaviours promoted in the campaign were: setting short and long-term financial goals; saving money regularly; making a written budget for expenses; comparing actual expenses to the budget; paying bills on time; reviewing bills for accuracy; and comparison-shopping before making purchases. The seven questions in the second part highlighted key concepts in financial planning, namely budgets, savings, compound interest, inflation rate, risk, liquidity and insurance. The post-test, meanwhile, explored changes in the participants’ behaviour and knowledge using the same indicators.

The Respondents

More than 200 participants volunteered to take part in the survey. Forty-eight respondents successfully completed the forms, which the researcher used as the sample size of the population.    Majority of the respondents were between 26 to 35 years old, are married with children, have a college degree, earn between US$1,000 and US$1,500 per month, and have been in Korea for less than three years. Of the total respondents, 27 were men and 21 were women.

The Results

Figure 2 shows that, as a result of the seminar, respondents agreed on the need to adopt the program’s intended behaviours. The program appeared to be most effective in promoting the importance of budgets and of regularly saving. (Respondents who were undecided or who have already been practicing the intended behaviours get a score of “0”). Respondents were also asked when they intend to practice what they learned the seminar.

Figure 2.
As a result of the program, participants
believe that they should:
Average Score
Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
Save Money Regularly
Make a Written Budget for My Expenses
Compare My Actual Expenses to My Budget
Pay My Bills on Time
Review My Bills For Accuracy
Comparison-shop Before Making Purchases       

(2)  Strongly Agree
(1)  Agree
(0)  Undecided /Already Doing This
(-1)  Disagree
(-2)  Strongly Disagree

Figure 3 shows the urgency with which the respondents regard the changes. Respondents stated that they will begin using budgets within the following month. Comparing actual expenses to the budget, among the top attitudes which respondents also agreed was necessary, also scored high.

Figure 3.
As a result of the program, the participants will implement their learning:
Average Score
Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
Save Money Regularly
Make a Written Budget for My Expenses
Compare My Actual Expenses to My Budget
Pay My Bills on Time
Review My Bills For Accuracy
Comparison-shop Before Making Purchases       
(4)     This Month
(3)     Next Month
(2)     In 2 to 3 Months
(1)     In 6 months
(0)     Will not Do/Already doing this

The Embassy considered the willingness of the participants to share their learning with their family as an important indicator of the success of the program, since migrant workers tend to send all remittances to their families back home. The families, therefore, have direct control over the finances.  See Figure 4.

Figure 4.
As a result of the program, participants believe that they should share and encourage their families to adopt the following behaviours:
Average Score
Short- and Long-Term Financial Goals
Save Money Regularly
Make a Written Budget for My Expenses
Compare My Actual Expenses to My Budget
Pay My Bills on Time
Review My Bills For Accuracy
Comparison-shop Before Making Purchases       

(2)  Strongly Agree
(1)  Agree
(0)  Undecided /Already Doing This
(-1)  Disagree
(-2)  Strongly Disagree

In this regard, the seminar convinced the respondents to encourage their families to adopt the intended behaviours, particularly in saving, setting short- and long-term financial goals, and comparing actual expenses to the budget.

Based on the results of the basic financial literacy test, respondents became more knowledgeable about basic financial management concepts. Figure 1 shows that the modal score increased from 3 to 6 out of a possible perfect score of 7. From an average of 43.75%, performance increased to 64.29%. See Figure 5.

This is clearly evident in Figure 6, which shows that the bulk of respondents scored low before the seminar but reversed the trend after. Most respondents have a college degree; the seminar therefore helped in at least reminding the respondents of concepts they learned in high school and college.

Figure 7 looks at the scores in detail. Prior to the seminar, the weakest area was in liquidity test and only 18.75% of the respondents got the correct answer. Insurance, the weakest area after the seminar, was at 45.83%. Respondents displayed consistent strength in the areas of compound interest, saving and budgeting. The greatest improvement was in liquidity score, which doubled from 18.75% to 50%.

Respondents rated the overall program between “helpful” and “very helpful.”  The instructor received the top score with 1.70, followed by content at 1.67 out of the maximum score of 2.


The survey showed that financial education is effective in increasing the knowledge base of migrant workers and encouraging specific behaviours. It may be noted that although certain scores or behaviours rank lower than others, the overall impact was positive. The next research stage is to follow-up from the same respondents whether they actually changed their behaviours and what actions they did to improve their financial status. The longitudinal study can be done by getting the same respondents around six months or beyond from the program and monitoring their progress. Currently, the Philippine Embassy which started the program in 2008 have monitored the progress of the respondents through personal interviews recorded on video. The seminars laid the foundation; future programs will build on the consciousness raised by the financial literacy campaign. The survey also provided invaluable feedback which gave the Embassy an idea which concepts or behaviors needed more focus—for instance, respondents do not seem to be persuaded of the need to convince their families to pay bills on time—and, through the written assessments of the respondents, revealed the inclination of participants in terms of current difficulties and future projects.

Note:  Prof. Aimee Franklin, Director of the Public Administration Program, Department of Political Science of the University of Oklahoma supervised the study as part of the author’s Masters of Public Administration (MPA) degree research paper in 2009. Initial results of the survey were published by the Embassy News (2008).  He acknowledges the assistance of  Consul Arnel Talisayon and the support of the Philippine Ambassador Luis Cruz in conducting the survey.  He also thanks  Labor Attaché Delmer Cruz , Welfare Officer Esperanza Cobarrubias and Commercial Counselor Edgardo Garcia for their support of the FLP. The study may be reproduced and circulated with citations. A copy of the MPA paper may viewed upon request.

Financial Literacy Campaign and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs)

August 17, 2011 1 comment

by Arnel G. Talisayon*

Human Dimensions of Financial Education[1]

A Filipino who desires to work abroad typically gives only one answer when asked why he or she is willing to leave the family for a potentially difficult and lonely job outside the country: “Paramaka-ipon.” (“To save.”)

Abroad, five years later, with a take-home  pay amounting to more than the equivalent  salary of a highly skilled professional working  in Manila, the response to the same question is ominous. Still bereft of savings, and without a fallback career in the Philippines, the worker is forced to remain abroad while waiting for an apparently elusive financial stability.

The social cost of migration is hard to ascertain, especially when migration is seen  as an economic need, not a career option. Migration has been around for as long as humanity existed; in modern times, and in the context of the Philippines, migration generally assumes the form of at least one member of the family working abroad to provide financial support to those back home. Sadly, the breaking up of families becomes an inevitable consequence of migration as any of the father, mother, son or daughter becomes part of a foreign nation’s workforce for an indefinite period of time, or until the worker has “saved enough.”

The implications of this setup are manifold. Therefore, for any Financial Literacy Campaign to be effective in the Philippines,  it must take into account the real social impacts of migration and the cultural defaults of Filipino families as at least one of their members depart for work abroad. For instance:

•  Because of unsound financial management, many Filipinos have no savings even after their contracts abroad have expired. Many decide to stay in the foreign country illegally and work odd jobs. Since they do not have the legal protection guaranteed by proper visas, they are prone to abuse, their welfare is often compromised for a lower-than average pay, and they live in constant uncertainty for fear of being rounded up by immigration authorities. Some undocumented workers enter the foreign country as tourists.

•  Underemployment among Filipino workers is prevalent.  Majority of Filipino factory workers in South Korea, for instance, are college degree holders. Some are professionals—engineers, teachers, writers—who decide to engage in blue collar jobs because of the lure of a higher salary. Brain drain in the Philippines is a recurring issue.

•  Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) often complain that, in the end, it is the bond of the family that suffers. Stories about children growing up with an absentee father or mother abound. Because children grow up materially satisfied and accustomed to the idea of migrant jobs, they form a new generation of individuals whose end goal is to leave the country for greener pasture abroad, hence creating a cycle and mindset of foreign-work dependency.

•  Studies by the International Monetary Fund reveal that many of the families left behind in the Philippines refuse to find work of their own and rely merely on remittances. Perhaps because of guilt for being away from their families, workers also tend to acquiesce to the material requests of their relatives, from top-of-the-line mobile phones to entertainment systems. A so-called temporary middle class is thereby created. Once the migrant worker returns home, the main source of income vanishes, and the material acquisitions are sold below cost. The family languishes in uncertainty, until the same, or another, family member goes abroad again.

•  There is a tendency for migrant workers to support not only their respective families, but their extended families as well. A tightly knit clan—an indispensable feature of Filipino culture—becomes a breeding ground for dependency as several families rely on one or two main breadwinners to support their utility bills, schooling, house construction, hobbies, and other expenses.

•  Somehow, remittances, no matter how big, are never enough. Domestic spats can revolve around one sentence: “Where did the money go?”

A successful Financial Literacy Campaign, therefore, needs to address not only literacy levels but, more importantly, the mindsets of the workers and their families. This is easier said than done and will require constant coordination with the workers and their families. Mindsets are deeply ingrained and paradigm shifts challenging to come by. Yet the seeds of changing behaviors are already planted in the minds of foreign workers—they themselves know, every time they work long hours and miss their families, that change is necessary. They simply need guidance in enabling change.

Of course, no financial literacy campaign will succeed without national financial infrastructures and support mechanisms in place. The Philippine Government, through agencies such as the Central Bank of the Philippines, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Department of Foreign Affairs, has come up with programs specifically catered to OFWs. These include hedging facilities to help protect against the fluctuations of the exchange rate, attractive insurance packages, support systems for start-up SMEs, entrepreneurship courses, a greater selection of remittance options, unit investment trust funds and other investment schemes.

Ultimately, the Financial Literacy Campaign must be aware of the very human dimension of financial issues. It must understand the cultural defaults of the nation, and work through these parameters to effect change. The Financial Literacy Campaign is not so much about the money, as it is about the integrity and pursuit of a better life of the individual and his or her family.

Note: Arnel is a Foreign Service Officers II, assigned as Consul and Second Secretary at the Philippine Embassy in Seoul and coordinates the Financial Literacy Campaign (FLC)  to OFWs in South Korea. The FLC was initiated in 2008 by then Consul and Second Secretary Juan “Jed” Dayang, Jr. with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-OWWA’s then Welfare Officer Esperanza Cobarrubias and  retired Commercial Counsellor Edgardo Garcia.  The FLC continues to be the flagship project of the Embassy under leadership of Ambassador Luis Cruz. 

[1]  See original publication at:   Arnel G. Talisayon, “Financial Literacy Campaign and the Filipino People,” Embassy News(2008),

Photo Credit:

Philippine Pull-out in the Coalition Forces in Iraq to Save Angelo de la Cruz

by Juan “Jed” E. Dayang, Jr.

The Australian National University


The last of the Australian contingent to the war effort ended when seventeen soldiers returned home from Iraq on August 6, 2011. It was a year after President Barack Obama withdrew  U.S.combat troops from Iraq that ended the 7 ½ year war which President George W. Bush started on March 20, 2003 through the  U.S.-led multinational coalition. The casus belli was the belief that Saddam Hussein had a stockpile of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) that threatened the West.  Based on evidence, the world knows  that Iraq did not have an arsenal of WMD and that the war, which left 4,415 American soldiers and more than a hundred thousand Iraqis dead, was aimed at regime change in Iraq.

The  Philippines was also part of the U.S. led “coalition of the willing.” However, compared with other coalition members, the Philippines  pulled-out its 51- man  humanitarian contingent in Iraq in July 2004,  days ahead of schedule  in a last-ditch effort to save the life of Filipino truck driver Angelo dela Cruz who was threatened with beheading by the so-called Iraqi Islamic Army-Khaled bin Al-Weleed Corps if the government did pay ransom and did not pull-out its troops from Iraq.

Foreign Secretary Delia Albert announced the early pull-out of the Filipino troops from Iraq.  Undersecretary Rafael Seguis, a veteran career diplomat, who also negotiated the release of another OFW Robert Tarongoy from his Iraqi kidnappers in 2005, led the Iraq Crisis Team. The government decision angered the U.S. and its allies. Australian Prime Minister John Howard said  that  “I don’t want to be harsh on a friend, but it is a mistake and it won’t buy them immunity”.

Pulling out from the US-led “Coalition of the willing[1]

In the Philippines, foreign policy emanates from the President. The case of Dela Cruz is noteworthy because of the decision of President Gloria M. Arroyo to withdraw from the coalition was seen as the Philippine abnegation of its commitment with a long-time ally, the United States which it shares a common history being a former colonial master. The Philippine relations with the U.S. was at its peak because it was one the first countries who supported the U.S. in its decision to go to war in Iraq. It warmed the relations of the nations whose relationship cooled after the Philippine Senate decided not to renew the Philippine-U.S. Bases Agreement in 1991.

The Philippine government was torn between saving Dela Cruz or keeping with its commitments with the coalition. The hostage taking of Dela Cruz gripped the nation with distress by the impending beheading of Dela Cruz by his captors. The government was reminded of the public furor  when a Filipina maid, Flor Contemplacion, was hanged in 1995 raising the people’s awareness of the sufferings of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) without government’s full  support. Again, as in the case of previous people power revolts in the Philippines that toppled the dictatorial rule of Ferdinand Marcos in 1996 and the presidency of Joseph Estrada in 2001, the government  was again brought down to its knees by a potential people power demonstrations.

President  Arroyo defended her position from criticisms from coalition forces Iraq by affirming that saving lives of OFWs was more important to her than international acclaim and affirmed that the country’s “foreign policy is to defend national interests, including the safety of OFWs.”[2]  She said that she made the force to agree with the kidnappers to prevent Filipinos abroad, particularly the large numbers of OFWs in the Middle East, from being the targets of terrorism or held hostage by insurgents. Arroyo’s first State of the Nation Address (SONA)  in July 2004 came on the heels Dela Cruz’s release and return to the Philippines. She used the SONA as an opportunity to announce a new policy direction she called“mamamayan muna” or “people first”.

The President’s decision calmed down the Filipino public. There were sectors, particularly members of the coalition, who were angered by her decision. In the Philippines, many welcomed it. For example, in a forum organised by the University of the Philippines on 12 August 2004 titled “Hostaged? Philippine Foreign Policy after Angelo de la Cruz”, retired Ambassador Nelson Lavina who wrote a paper entitled “Angelo and Philippine Foreign Policy–A Post-Mortem”, said:

  “the recent announcement by the Department of Foreign Affairs that protection of contract workers is now the third pillar of Philippine foreign policy is very much welcome. It is only now, during the term of Foreign Affairs Secretary Delia Albert that the foreign policy postulating protection of Filipino contract workers is in effect.”[3]

In the same forum, Foreign Affairs Spokesperson Gilbert Asuque defended the President’s decision saying that:

“The President was guided on deciding this issue by existing policies of the Philippine government, which is the Constitution. The Constitution says that the president, the government, is bound to protect the Filipino people. The Department of Foreign Affairs and, of course, the government will have to assist Filipinos in distress. So, the President of the Philippines was in fact implementing such policy.”[4]

Travel Ban and OFWs in Iraq

As a result of the kidnapping of OFW Angelo dela Cruz, the Philippine travel and deployment ban to Iraq became compulsory in July 2004.  Owing to the long-term unstable security in Iraq, the Philippine government has maintained the deployment ban in Iraq.[5]   Until 2010, there were still about 6,000 OFWs working for US Contractors despite the ongoing ban.[6]   Today, there are calls from OFWs, including Dela Cruz, who have returned to his native province Pampanga, for the government to lift the ban after President Obama’s promise of U.S. pull-out after the March presidential election and infrastructure development taking place in Iraq that would open up jobs for OFWs.[7]


The Philippine decision to pull-out its troops  to save a Filipino life is highly contentious and does not lend itself to easy answers. Many of what critics have said are also worthy of examination. What was clear in the Dela Cruz hostage case was that   Presidential decisions in the Philippines were constrained by the high political demands of the Filipino public to protect OFWs, which number to more than 5 million all over the world.  The choice between pulling-out its troops from the U.S. coalition and saving a human life was a turning point in the Philippine government’s direction to enforce its mandate to protect OFWs.

[1] For a discussion on  Philippine foreign policy after the release of Angelo dela Cruz and the  withdrawal of the Philippines from its membership in the “coalition of the willing” read “Proceedings”, (paper presented at the A Public Forum: Hostaged? Philippine Foreign Policy After Angelo dela Cruz

University of the Philippines, 2004 ).

[2] “Summary: President Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address from 2001-2008,” GMA News,

[3] “Proceedings.” p.136.

[4] Ibid. p.138.

[5] The Migrant Workers Act (R.A. 8042 of 1995 as amended by R.A. 10022 of 2010) mandates that the government hold fast to stringent guidelines in allowing the employment of OFWs to other countries, and impose heavy penalties on government officials who agree to deploy migrant workers without guarantees required by law.[5]

[6] The travel ban imposed by the Philippine government was supported by the US when US Air Force Colonel Richard Nolan of Central Command’s Contracting Command stated in a memorandum dated July 20, 2010 that contractors who employed people from countries which prohibits work and travel to Iraq, including about 6,000 from the Philippines, must return them home. See  Veronica Uy, “US orders pullout of OFWs in Iraq by August 9,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, July 27,2010 2010.

[7] Roli Talampas, “Angelo dela Cruz: ‘It’s time to lift the Iraq ban’,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, June 7, 2011.

Proposed Single-Destination Passport in Indonesia: A Misguided Protection Policy?

by Firtriana Nur*

Despite its good intentions, the government may be considering a misguided policy after Jumhur Hidayat, head of the National Board for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Overseas Workers, recently announced a proposal to issue single-destination passports to migrant workers, restricting them from traveling anywhere except their intended destination.
The board, also known as the BNP2TKI, says this will be an effective way to prevent trafficking in persons. It says trafficking syndicates and rogue placement agencies move victims — using official channels — from one country to another and, once there, they are trafficked. The single-destination passport is supposed to prevent migrant workers being “sold” to other countries.

In trying to get a grip on the logic here, let us first look at the United Nations’ definition of human trafficking. A trafficking case should have three elements: The movement (recruitment, transportation, harboring and reception of a person); the means (deception, fraud, coercion, abduction, abuse of power or abuse of vulnerability); and the purpose (labor exploitation, sex exploitation, forced labor, removal of organs, etc.).

It is important to understand the purpose of trafficking: The exploitation of human beings. The movement of victims only serves as a means. Thus, a single-destination passport does not guarantee any real prevention.

When I was in Jordan in February, I visited the Indonesian Embassy in Amman. I met about 200 Indonesian women, mostly domestic workers, who were housed inside the compound for protection. Most of them did not have passports with them because they were either taken away by recruitment agents or employers. A few that I spoke with said they had gone to Jordan for work but ended up being trafficked. According to the embassy, about five domestic workers a day show up seeking protection from abusive employers or agents. Imagine if there was no embassy nearby and the only way of seeking protection would be to flee to a neighboring country. What protection would the single-destination passport provide in that case?

While the goal of protecting migrant workers is laudable, and creating a unique migrant worker passport similar to what was once used for the hajj may offer benefits, this current quick-fix proposal reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about trafficking and the realities facing migrant workers abroad.

The policy would criminalize the movement side of trafficking, but fail to address the main problem. The real peril facing migrant workers is exploitation. Even if the government decides that migrant workers can only work, say, in Malaysia, they can still be exploited there. Fundamentally, the exploitation occurs because migrant workers are treated as a commodity by recruitment agencies, they are not well prepared before departure, employers feel they can abuse them and the government rarely punishes recruitment agencies who commit trafficking offenses.

The worry is that while limiting the movement of workers with a single-destination passport may prevent some trafficking, it may also limit legitimate travel — what if employers need to take their domestic workers overseas, which is common practice?

Combating trafficking in persons is not easy, especially when trafficking crosses borders. Policies to address these problems require comprehensive action to combat the push and pull factors behind exploitation. Policies also require sincere cooperation with destination countries, since trafficking cannot be addressed by one country alone.

Measures to combat labor exploitation should explore prevention of trafficking, protection of victims and prosecution of traffickers. We need policies that ensure only truly qualified and well trained migrant workers are recruited, workers who are empowered and educated about safe migration and what to expect from destination countries. In addition, we should work only with countries that have protection mechanisms in place for migrants and should increase our consular presence to handle trafficking cases. Finally, only countries that consider human trafficking a crime should be allowed to employ our workers.

The single-destination passport runs the risk of appearing to offer protection but falling short. It is not unlike the memorandum of understanding signed between Indonesia and Malaysia in May 2006 that authorized employers to keep the passports of migrant domestic workers. That policy failed to protect migrant workers from abuse because it actually increased their vulnerability.

Government should take a holistic approach to protecting migrant workers. A passport’s function is for identification while abroad. It is not a suit of armor.

Fitriana Nur is a recipient of the 2010 Australian Leadership Award from Indonesia. Ana is currently completing  a Master of Public Policy and Management at the University of Melbourne in December 2011.  Previously, she worked for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Indonesia. This op-ed piece was originally published in Jakarta Globe and has Ana’s permission to be re-posted on Reflective Diplomat. See: (

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs): New Heroes

OFW: New Heroes

by Juan “Jed” E.  Dayang, Jr.

The Australian National University



As of 2010, there is an estimated 8,579,378 Filipinos overseas.[1]   The number of temporary migrant workers or Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) is estimated at 4,522,438.[2]  With its decades long of experience in labour migration, the Philippines has become the leading labor sending country in East Asia.  The country has also become the principal source of seafarers in the international maritime business.

The economic contribution of overseas Filipinos is substantial. Their remittances sustain their families and contribute to poverty reduction. Although, the remittances may not have a wider contribution to national economic growth, it has definitely improved the lives of many families who benefit from the money flows from their family members who are working overseas. In 2010 their remittance flow was US$18.8M which grew by 8% compared to the previous year. It represented close to 10% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.[3] For their contribution to the economy, they have been lauded as “modern-day heroes” by the government and by the Philippine media.

Waves of Migration

Migration of Filipino workers has been recorded as early as the Spanish colonization.[4] Early accounts of emigration from the Philippines points to a native who worked in the ship of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan when he first circumnavigated the world and discovered the Philippines for Spain in the 16th century.  However, the first group of Filipino workers who were recorded to work overseas were those who were forced by Spanish colonizers to man ships during the Manila-Acapulco galleon trade between 1565 to 1815 that brought goods from the Orient to the “new world” and vice versa.[5]  During the Spanish colonial period that ended in 1898, there were Filipinos who went to Spain as students, including national hero Jose Rizal.

First Wave

The 20th century saw more Filipinos leaving for the US as a result of the colonial linkage between the Philippines and the United States which started in after the Philippine-American war (1899-1902) until the Philippine declaration of independence in 1946.   The first wave[6] of emigration of Filipinos was between 1900 to early 1940s to the United States. The first two decades after the US annexation of the Philippines in 1898, many of the Filipinos who went to the US were college and university students who were trained in US universities to spread democracy and take leadership roles in the Philippines.[7]

Second Wave

The second wave to the US began after World War II till the end of the war in Vietnam. It was also during the same period when   the Philippines gained its independence from the US on July 4, 1946.  The number of Filipinos in the US grew because of the naturalization quota of 100 per year which was approved by the US Congress and announced by President Harry Truman on July 4. The quota, which lasted for two decades was not based on ethnic considerations but based on the occupational needs of the US and if the Filipino had relatives in the United States.[8]  At that time, there were many Filipino WWII veterans who were given special US citizenship privileges. The US also accepted skilled workers– doctors, nurses, accountants, engineers and other professions. When the US Congress passed the new Immigration Reform Act in 1965, it allowed family members to reunite with their American based relatives. This again led to the surge of American immigration of Filipinos.

In the 1950s and the 1960s, there were Filipinos in non-professional labour contracts that went to East Asia as barbers, artists, and musicians. There were also Filipinos who went as loggers to Indochina. The Korean and Vietnam War also created overseas jobs for Filipinos particularly in civilian and military operations in Japan, Guam, Thailand, Wake Island and Vietnam. There were also nurses who went to Canada and Australia. The third wave, which is more widely known and most persistent, was during the mid-1970s to 1990s.

Third Wave

It was in the 1970s when the government started sending migrant workers to curb unemployment and to shore up the country’s foreign currency reserves of the government. It was during this period that the labour migration program by the Philippine government was institutionalized.[9] The economic decline due to the higher world prices of crude oil created massive unemployment in the country. In the Middle East, however, the members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were making so much profit. As a result of the oil-export boom, there was a  high demand for labour to support its fresh enterprise.  Former President Ferdinand Marcos  was quick to tap this opportunity to  promote Filipino contract workers to alleviate unemployment that created a huge labour surplus.   The foreign policy that Marcos adopted was called  “Development Diplomacy,” which  was aimed at exporting excess labour supply. By 1980, the Department of Labor and Employment’s (DOLE) deployment of overseas contract workers has jumped by 75% compared to previous year.[10] This time, the Department of Foreign Affairs has made protection of migrant workers as a third pillar of the country’s foreign policy which is of equal significance to the promotion of the political and economic interests of the Philippines overseas.


The Philippines has become the leading labor sending country in East Asia with 10% of its population living and working  in more than 190 countries overseas.  The emigration flows can be summed up in three waves of migration: the first wave from 1900s-1940,  the second from 1940s-1960s  and the most pervasive was during the third wave from 1970s to 1990s. The economic contribution of Overseas Filipino Workers or OFWs have reduced poverty incidence and increased the welfare of their families in the Philippines. The remittance flow also shore up the foreign currency reserves of the country. For the country and their family members, OFWs are real-life heroes.  The Philippine government has made protection of OFWs as a key pillar of its foreign policy agenda.

[1] “Stock Estimate of Overseas Filipinos,” ed. Commission on Filipinos Overseas (Manila: Office of the President, 2010).

[2] Ibid.

[3] “2010 OF Remittances Surpass 8% Growth Projection; Full-Year Level Reaches US$18.8 Billion,”

[4] read Filomeno V. Aguilar Jr., ed. At Home in the World: Filipinos in Global Migrations (Quezon City: Philippine Migration Research Network and Philippine Social Science Council, 2002).and Joaquin L. Gonzales, Philippine Labour Migration  (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (ISEAS), 1998).

[5] ———, Philippine Labour Migration.


[7] For an earlier work on Filipino migrants to the Unites States see H. Brett Melendy, “Filipinos in the United States,” Pacific Historical Review University of California Press 43, no. 4 (1974).

[8] Ibid.

[9] Gonzales, Philippine Labour Migration.

[10] Graziano Battistella, Philippine labor migration : impact and policy (Quezon City Scalabrini Migration Center, 1992).

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