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Helpline for Migrant Filipinos Worldwide Launched
Bien Custodio, Arab News

RIYADH, 19 February 2006 — If you are a domestic helper being harassed by your employer, a site engineer who cannot find the way out of the Empty Quarter or a crew in a sinking cruise ship or an oil tanker, you must be in real danger. The good news, if you have your mobile phone with you, is that help can be a text away.

Here how it works, simply type SOS, put a space, type your message plus your name, and send to +63 9209 639 767 or (+63 9209 OFW SOS), and once sent, your messages are logged and saved in a computer and are automatically forwarded to Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) and concerned agencies of government for prompt and appropriate action.

Example: SOS si Juana dela Cruz po i2sa hk. Nag-run-away po ako.gus2 ko na umuwi sa pinas.pls help.

The sending of text message uses ordinary SIM with regular charge per message.

CMA has launched SOS SMS-Based Information System yesterday.

“By launch, we mean activation of the SOS SMS number to receive text from distressed OFWs in need of assistance from government and non-government organizations (NGOs),” said Ellen Sana, executive director of CMA Philippines.

The system was conceptualized by Vic Barrazona of Riyadh, and developed by colleague Joseph Henry B. Espiritu (CEO S4E-Inc), in coordination with Bobby Soriano in Manila and Bong Ramilo in Australia.

The team said that it offers a handy, inexpensive, easy to use, accessible, 24-hour, seven-day mechanism “that may be availed by overseas Filipino workers, anytime, anywhere around the world.”

CMA said that system delivers not only immediate relief to OFWs in distress but also advocates effective policies and practices to promote the rights and welfare of Filipino migrants.

Aside from providing immediate and necessary assistance to the distressed, the SMS Hotline project aims to provide an on-line connection for OFWs and overseas Filipinos to pre-designated Philippine mobile numbers for any or all of the following purposes, such as voluntary registration of OFW and SMS polls and surveys.

The SOS SMS information system will also open a window for analysis of the common problems of OFWs as well as the ability, efficiency and adequacy of assistance and intervention by government and NGOs, the CMA advisory said.

“This is all for the purpose of identifying the gaps and recommendations thereto vis-a-vis policies, practices and attitudes on migration issues and concerns,” it added.

CMA, likewise, requests everyone to post and promote the SOS SMS number on websites.

“Please help us spread the word,” Sana appealed.

Barrazona added that SOS SMS project is CMA’s way of building a bridge for Filipino migrants wherever they may be.

“Together, we can tackle issues affecting Filipino migrants and reach consensus through the use of SMS technology via this project which has been conceptualized, developed by OFWs for OFWs around the globe,” Barrazona said.

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