April 25, 2013
The president of Overseas Filipino Workers International Bahamas (OFWIB) Dr. Leo Ignacio said yesterday his members are "alarmed" over the government's new work permit policy and want a clear cut guideline on how the new rules will be implemented. Ignacio, who represents more than 200 active members, made an impassioned plea on behalf of the more than 1,000 Filipinos who live and work in The Bahamas. "Of course, this is their livelihood we're talking about," he told The Nassau Guardian.
"A lot of Filipinos whose family is depending on them back in the Philippines, they do consider this as very serious but of course respect whatever decision the government [makes] to protect of course the interest of our people here. "But what we do want is maybe a clear policy, a guideline on how this new work permit policy is going to be implemented so that in the event that this goes on full force we will be able to prepare ahead of time; we will be able to prepare for any eventuality." Ignacio, who has worked in Princess Margaret Hospital's (PMH) Accident and Emergency section for the past 18 years, said the Filipino community has made significant contributions to The Bahamas' society and economy.
"We are hoping that they will consider this when they do implement this policy," he said. "The Filipino workers are really here not to take jobs from the Bahamians but to supplement and maybe augment the workforce that we lack in The Bahamas." Ignacio said the Filipino community in The Bahamas is made up of medical professionals, housekeepers, nannies and elderly care givers. He stressed that Filipino workers have a strong work ethic, often working six days a week and on days off. Ignacio added that his group has no reports of Filipinos being involved in criminal activity or trouble- making and for the most part have assimilated peacefully into Bahamian life.
In March, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Fred Mitchell told the House of Assembly that the government plans to cease issuing work permits for maids, housekeepers and laborers within a year. Last year, he told reporters that he was concerned about the emergence of Filipino workers who are reportedly threatening Bahamian jobs as domestic workers. He said conventional wisdom is that Bahamians do not want to do these kinds of jobs. The Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. has expressed concern over the decision of the government to tighten its work permit policy.
In a press statement released on Monday, the embassy asked authorities in The Bahamas to let Filipinos who work here keep their jobs for the time being. On Tuesday, Mitchell said the Christie administration will make no apologies over its position. "This is a rational policy by a rational government, which is acting reasonably in the defense of its own people," Mitchell said. "This is the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, and there is no apology that has to be made for a policy of Bahamians first."
Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian