x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Call to stop remittances to the Philippines for a day goes unheeded in UAE

The plea not to send money home on Thursday was part of a protest against corruption.

ABU DHABI // A call to stop remittances to the Philippines for the day went unheeded.

The plea not to send money home on Thursday was part of protest against corruption.

R J, 24, a hotel waiter in Abu Dhabi, sent Dh1,700 from a remittance centre in Al Wahda Mall to his hometown in Nueva Ecija, about 155 kilometres north of Manila.

“I learnt about the protest from the Filipino Channel,” he said. “I would really like to support it but my aunt needs the money badly. She will have a Caesarean section today.”

The “Zero Remittance Day” was arranged by Migrante International, a migrant-rights group, to protest against the misuse of government funds by Filipino senators and congressmen.

Most Filipinos in the UAE send money home at the end of a month or during the first week of a month, after they have been paid. Others send extra during the middle of the month to cover unexpected expenses and emergencies.

A worker at a foreign-exchange and remittance centre said more than 20 Filipinos had sent between 1,000 pesos (Dh84) and 20,000 pesos within an hour after they opened at 9am.

“I support their call but I can’t tell our customers not to send money,” he said.

At another centre, Jojit Lagman, 37, a technician in Abu Dhabi, was not aware of the protest but said he would still send money.

“We need to support our families with our remittances,” said Mr Lagman, a father of three. “My daughter has been sick for three days now.”

Nhel Morona, the UAE country coordinator for Migrante Middle East, said he was not disappointed by the lack of support for the event.

“It’s not all about numbers,” he said. “This is a symbolic protest and some community groups, including a religious group, in Dubai have voiced their support.”

Last week, the group kicked off the campaign at Zabeel Park in Dubai. They held a discussion on the scam involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund and asked Filipinos to join the protest.

The aim of the initiative was to pressure the government to abolish the fund, which is one of the major symptoms of corruption.

But Caloy Serrano, head of Philippine remittances at Al Rostamani International Exchange, viewed the protest as “a destabilising factor in our government and society”.

“Although I’m sympathetic to their cause, I‘m totally against the Zero Remittance Day,” he said. “It will be detrimental to my business and will also have a negative impact on our robust economy.”

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante’s coordinator in the Middle East and North Africa, said there were plans for his group, along with other community groups in the region, to hold a monthly protest.

“This is our contribution to our fight against corruption in the government,” he said.

rruiz@thenational.ae