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Every OFW is Philippine envoy to UAE: Arroyo

Jose Franco (Staff Reporter) / 28 January 2008

DUBAI - Government officials and employers in Dubai have praised UAE-based Filipinos as hardworking, efficient and full of life - qualities worthy of becoming great goodwill ambassadors of their country, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has said.

She stated this at a select gathering of more than 2,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on Sunday night following a meeting with Dubai officials led by His highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and a number of employers.

“They like you so much because you are hardworking, neat and enjoy life,” she said, speaking intermittently in English and mostly in Tagalog (one of the major languages spoken in the Philippines). “Everyone of you is a Philippine ambassador to the UAE.”

Retailers in the UAE value the Filipinos’ fondness for grooming, spending a fraction of their salary on shopping, the Philippine President said.

She said she had thanked Shaikh Mohammed and the UAE for being one of the better hosts of OFWs, who have contributed so much for the robustness of the Philippine economy. The latest figure, she said, is that there are at least 450,000 OFWs in the UAE, with Dubai hosting a majority of these migrant workers.

Arroyo thanked the OFWs for their remittances, which reached Dh102.3 million ($27.85 million) in November 2007, or a total of Dh1.84 billion ($502.1 million) for the 11-month period starting January 2007.

“We honour and value the contribution of Filipino workers to our economy,” she said to a thundering applause. She stressed that OFW remittances had helped pay the country’s foreign debt, offset the impact of high oil prices in the global market, and bring down inflation to 2.8 per cent. The Philippine economy has grown by seven per cent.

Meanwhile, Arroyo launched the hedging facility here that will help OFWs cope with the strong peso, which erodes the exchange rate of most currencies in the labour-receiving countries against the weak US dollar, and other investment tools tailored for Filipino migrant workers.

Press secretary and presidential spokesman Ignacio Bunye said the hedging facility, to be done through the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines, and two investment instruments, would be replicated in other host-countries “as soon as possible”.

Finance secretary Margarito Teves, who is also chairman of the Land Bank of the Philippines, another government-controlled corporation, said the facility ensures an OFW depositor of a fixed exchange rate at a future date of remittance regardless of the peso appreciating against the dollar.

The two other investment instruments are the long-term denominated certificates, which oblige the issuer to repay the holder the principal and interest at a later date, and the OFW cash cards issued by Land Bank, which allow a holder to send remittances via a cell phone text message through the Smart telecoms operator.
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