Happy 7th Anniversary CMA OFW SOS

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PRESS STATEMENT 14 February 2006
Center for Migrant Advocacy – Manila

Text sos <space> <sender’s name & message> and send to +63 9209 O.F.W. SOS (+63 9209 639 767)

[Pls do not forget the letters SOS at the beginning of the text message.]

The SOS Short Messaging System for OFWs in Distress (SOS SMS) is a 24/7 text-based ICT mechanism conceptualized and developed by OFWs and implemented in cooperation with the various CMA partner NGOs worldwide, as well as with the DFA-OUMWA and the OWWA.

As a text-based mechanism, SOS SMS rides on the backbone of the cell phone technology, capitalizing on the OFWs’ familiarity with the SMS utility, and is dependent solely on the O.F.W.’s access to any SMS-enabled landline or cell phone unit.

As such, SOS SMS enables the near-instantaneous, inexpensive, 24/7 reporting of O.F.W. cases from practically anywhere.

More significantly, SOS SMS gives government agencies and NGOs the opportunity to respond and/or intervene, in a timely, adequate and efficient manner, particularly where either the O.F.W.’s life, safety or well being is a critical consideration.

As a research tool, SOS SMS establishes a database that permits case documentation, indexation, classification and analysis of various O.F.W. problems and related issues.

Being a software-based information and reporting system where messages are sent to and received by a central computer and auto-forwarded to both the CMA and the appropriate government agency, the SOS SMS system establishes an electronic trail by logging and storing automatically all critical message details that will be useful in developing research leads, remedial recommendations and advocacy thrusts.

SOS SMS would thus enable CMA to document, index, classify and analyze reported cases of distressed OFWs in terms of work categories and geographical location, gender, types/forms of abuses, destination/work place, type/form of intervention extended, case response and resolution times, groups (GOs, NGOs and individuals, here and abroad) involved or mobilized for the case resolution.

As an advocacy tool, SOS SMS would allow CMA and its partners to develop advocacy thrusts aimed at identifying loopholes in respect of migration attitudes, policies and practices, as well as make recommendations to address them, either through executive, administrative or legislative action.


Step 1. Call for help – For immediate relief/ action on request for assistance:

Text sos <space> <sender’s name & message> and send to +63 9209 O.F.W. SOS (+63 9209 639 767)

[Pls do not forget the letters SOS at the beginning of the text message.]

Step 2. Receipt and Recording – Text Message is received by the SOS SMS System where it is logged and stored in the database (Sender’s mobile number used; date and time received; Message; Sender’s name and/or address)

Step 3. Forwarding / Referral – Text Message is auto-forwarded by the computer to the designated recipient cell phones of the CMA, OWWA and OUMWA-DFA. SOS SMS System logs recipient’s number, forwarding date, whether it was acknowledged or replied to, when and from what number.

Step 4. Verification and Action – OWWA and OUMWA verify the SOS SMS receipt of and transmission of the message and determine the appropriate action. CMA does the same and follows up to verify timely receipt by the OWWA and OUMWA. This step also ensures that both CMA and OWWA / OUMWA can immediately cross-check message details and request additional information, if necessary.

Step 5. Case-file development, follow-up and resolution- CMA periodically prints out the master computer log and initiates a case file with a written report on each individual case received by the SOS SMS system and forwarded to the DFA OUMWA and OWWA. These constitute the initial case-file document, the hard-copy basis for periodic follow-up until the reported cases are resolved.

The follow-through defined in Steps 4 and 5 ensure that CMA is continuously in the loop, armed with enough case-status information from DFA OUMWA and OWWA responsive to the sender follow-up queries.

Step 6. Data mining and research – CMA documents, indexes, classifies and analyzes all reported cases of distressed OFWs according to work category and geographical location, gender, type/form of abuse, destination/work place, type/form of intervention extended, case response and resolution times, groups (GOs, NGOs and individuals, here and abroad) involved or mobilized.

Step 7. Advocacy – CMA and its partners develop advocacy thrusts aimed at identifying loopholes in respect of migration attitudes, policies and practices, as well as make recommendations to address them, either through executive, administrative or legislative action.


The SOS SMS Project is a work in progress. Additional system features and refinements to make it more secure, efficient, responsive and effective are being worked out primarily by the SOS SMS Project team.

However, the SOS SMS project will be effective and serve its intended purpose only if the OFWs, who are the primary stakeholders, are sufficiently informed about it.

Consequently, they must be made aware that this easy-to-use, relatively inexpensive 24/7 mechanism is:

  • meant to address their most pressing work-related concerns, especially when their lives, safety or well being are in jeopardy;
  • designed to be readily available to them wherever they are, at anytime they choose to use it;
  • designed for their concerns to reach the appropriate government agencies as instantaneously as possible, and;
  • backed by CMA, a solid, ground-based NGO ready to conduct regular follow-throughs until such time that their concerns are sufficiently addressed and appropriately resolved in a timely manner.

It is for this purpose that CMA and its project partners request the much-needed assistance both of the media and of the various overseas O.F.W. communities.

The SOS SMS Project Team

The SOS SMS Project team who volunteered their time, expertise and resources to conceptualize, develop and maintain this SOS SMS project is composed of Victor Barrazona (Saudi Arabia),Joseph Henry Espiritu (Saudi Arabia), Roberto Soriano (IPD, Philippines) and Christian Bong Ramilo (Australia).

The portal and central database is housed in a computer maintained in Quezon City, Philippines.

Other Partners and supporters of the SOS SMS Project:

Institute for Popular Democracy (IPD) for the technical support Cheekay Cinco of Womens Hub Other CMA Partner OFWs in Saudi Arabia and United Kingdom CMA Board and Associates in Hongkong, US and the Philippines

GO agencies mobilized for the project: DFA OUMWA OWWA Delivery of Immediate Relief to OFWs in Distress and

Advocacy for Effective Policies and Practices to Promote the Rights and Welfare of Filipino Migrants

Philippine Labor Export Policy

Overseas Filipinos comprise almost a 10th of the total population of the country. They are found in more than 192 countries and destinations worldwide . Daily, some 2,600 Filipinos leave the country for various jobs and destinations abroad. Last year, POEA deployed 981,667 (5.15%i up from 2004 figure) .

Initially intended to be a temporary solution to the countrys unemployment problems and shortage of dollar reserves during the 1970s, labor migration has now become a permanent solution to the countrys unemployment and underdevelopment problems. POEAs thrusts for 2006 onwards is the continued deployment of 1 million OFWs, with emphasis on deployment of skilled and professional OFWs. The Philippine Government now aggressively promotes labor migration.

Currently, Philippine labor migration has a womans face with more than 70% of annual deployment comprising women migrants . They are concentrated in stereotypical womens jobs abroad that are often classified as dirty, dangerous, demeaning and unregulated even as they are also increasingly in demand as services workers and nurses in a service-dominated global economy.

Undocumented Filipinos overseas, estimated at more than 1.3M are people at risk. They are vulnerable to abuses and various forms of discrimination in many host countries especially in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the US and the subsequent actions led by the US, purportedly to combat world terrorism.

Cases of Abuses

In terms of rights violations reported by OFWs, former Undersecretary Jose Brillantes said in 2004 that the DFA OUMWA office attends to some 22,000 cases of distressed migrants. This figure, he added, is not even 1% of the total number of Filipinos overseas.

But the department also admitted that the cases are very much under-reported. For various reasons, a much higher percentage of the abuses and violation of the human and migrants rights of OFWs are neither reported, documented nor acted upon.

Protection Mechanism

On-site protection of OFWs and other Filipinos overseas, scattered in more than 192 countries and destinations around the world, are done primarily by our representative offices abroad.

• 83 embassies and consulates • 33 POLOs (Philippine Overseas Labor Offices) in 25 posts • 32 welfare officers in 26 posts (usually where POLOs are); Filipino Workers Resource Centers (FWRCs) in 17 countries.

The Arithmetic of Migration Protection

Destination Estimate of Overseas Filipinos PE/PCG Number of Labor Attaches Filipino Workers Resource Center
Saudi Arabia 994377 Riyadh (covers Yemen too) /Jeddah 3 in Riyadh 2 in Jeddah yes in Riyadh and Jeddah
UAE 205964 Abu Dhabi/Dubai 1 in AD 2 in Dubai
Hongkong SAR 197345 PCG 2 Yes
Japan 353252 Tokyo/Osaka 1 Yes
Malaysia 352650 Kuala Lumpur 1 Yes
Singapore 136489 Singapore 1 Yes
Taiwan 160672 MECO in Taipei 1in Taipei 1 in Kaohsiung 1 in Taichung
United Kingdom 116322 London (also covers Iceland, Ireland, Greenland) 1 Yes
Italy 138461 Rome (covers also Albania and San Marino)/Milan 1 in Rome 1 in Milan Yes
United States 2.7M Washington DC/ PCG: San Francisco; New York, Los Angeles, Chicago 1 in Washington Yes
Greece 25146 Athens (also covers Macedonia & Cyprus) 1 Yes
Contact Person: Ellene Sana
Center for Migrant Advocacy
72-C Matahimik Street, Teachers Village
Quezon City, Philippines
‘Telephone: +6329205003 Tel/Fax: +632433
email: cma@tri-isys.com url: pinoy-abroad.net

14 February 2006

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