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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 April 2019

In midterms, Filipino voices matter, at home and abroad

Elections will give the diaspora a chance to have their say on chief concerns

The National met Filipino voters in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National
The National met Filipino voters in Dubai. Chris Whiteoak / The National

From Saturday, more than 300,000 Filipinos in the UAE will go to the polls in their nation’s midterm elections. Collectively, they have a powerful voice, with much sway beyond the borders of their homeland. Many are the sole breadwinners of their extended families in the Philippines and their concerns matter – both within the 700,000-strong Filipino community in the UAE and at home. Whether they are healthcare professionals, service employees or labourers, overseas workers have helped build the UAE as we know it today. Not only is their contribution to this nation invaluable, their persistent efforts have also boosted their native country’s economy.

According to a recent World Bank report, the nation has one of the highest remittance rates globally, alongside India and China. In 2018, Filipinos worldwide dispatched more than Dh139 billion home. In the UAE alone, their remittances accounted for a total of Dh2.9 billion last year, despite many earning a minimal salary. Such a huge sum would have been impossible to secure, had it not been for their diligent efforts overseas.

It is significant that their voices will be heard, thousands of miles from home. The Philippines’ absentee voting system will enable registered citizens to vote at mobile polling stations and exercise their democratic rights abroad. Voters will have their say in 12 out of 24 seats in the country’s upper house of Congress and all seats in the lower House of Representatives, in an election that has been described as a referendum on president Rodrigo Duterte. This week, they told The National their chief concerns: better protection of their rights when working abroad, an end to “dirty politics” and the regulation of unscrupulous banks, which are often too willing to give outsised loans, and recruitment agents who promise jobs and salaries that fail to materialise. As Josie Conlu Romulo, a Dubai resident for the past decade, says: “The candidates in this election need to be able to serve our community here in the UAE.” Voting will run for a month until May 13 and will offer the UAE’s considerable Filipino population, whose efforts to help their fellow citizens might not always be visible, a chance to have their say in their future, at home and abroad.

Updated: April 11, 2019 06:12 PM

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