Friday, August 05, 2005

EDITORIAL - A national tragedy

The Philippine Star

Economic managers are predicting a record high of $12 billion this year in the annual remittances of Filipinos working overseas. That’s good news for a government that is trying to avert a fiscal crisis, and for the families left behind in the Philippines by the overseas workers. The massive remittances have helped keep the economy afloat and the peso stable despite chronic political instability.

The other side of the coin, however, is that families are being torn apart by the Philippine diaspora. Children are growing up without a father or mother; the more luckless lose both parents. And seeing the economic success of relatives and neighbors abroad has further fueled the Filipino’s yearning to leave his own country to work overseas. This should be good news for those counting the annual OFW remittances. But it has adverse consequences not only on family ties but also on the long-term survival of the country.

Organizations of health workers have already warned that a brain drain is threatening to plunge the public health care system into a crisis in the near future. Yesterday health officials reported that about 6,000 doctors are currently studying to become nurses so they can work overseas. The nation is losing not just doctors, nurses and other medical workers, but also teachers, engineers and other professionals that are badly needed in a developing country.

Approximately eight million Filipinos – about a tenth of the entire population — are overseas. Some intend to return home once they have saved enough for their children’s education and to buy their dream house or start a business. Many others, however, do not intend to return, and are preparing to have their loved ones join them so they can stay permanently abroad.

The loss of its greatest resource – its people – can only diminish a country. It is a national tragedy that is unlikely to be reversed any time soon.

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