Saturday, 22 August 2009

TBTK Ok?


The recently concluded Tigum Bol-anon sa Tibuok Kalibutan (TBTK) is not just a plain social affair, as the aftermath of the festivities showed. A week after the final activities of the TBTK gathering, Vice Governor Julius Herrera questioned the manner by which the event was organized by the TBTK group Chair Betty Veloso-Garcia, who incidentally is related by affinity of political rival Congressman Edgar Chatto. A beauty titlist in the 2006 Miss Bohol International also accused contest organizers of not being true to their promise regarding a travel award that she should have received. TBTK organizers retorted back, highlighting not only the success of the affair but also the purity of their intentions.

Indeed, TBTK is one unique organization. It “works as a steering committee that would handle activities related to the international homecoming and reunion of Boholanos.”. It is claimed by organizers as a means of “retracing the roots of Boholanos who have long left the land and are now bound on that long journey towards home”. In the past few years, TBTK has been lauded as a one of a kind phenomenon in the country, worthy of replication. It was seen not only as a “reunion” but also as a means of promoting the province, of increasing domestic consumption during reunions, and of encouraging overseas Boholano workers to invest their earnings in Bohol. The “balikbayans” are considered instrumental in increasing domestic consumption in the province through their remittances to their families.
The effect of remittances - income transfers of migrant workers to their families – to improvements in living condition can not be ignored in the Philippines (Rodriguez 1998). A recent empirical study (Yang and Martinez 2005) shows that increases in household remittance receipts resulted to “reduction in poverty migrant’s origin households”. Moreover, transfer incomes from abroad are not only found to have decreased poverty but also encouraged greater investments in education of recipient households, “the so-called ex-ante brain effect” (Sawada and Estudillo 2006).

Quantitative evidence in Bohol exists to support the claim that remittances from OFWs have positive impact on poverty reduction. The Peace Equity Access for Community Empowerment Foundation study on levels of deprivation in the province (2004) showed that 75% of the poorest municipalities have very low percentages of migrant workers, between 2.9% to 6% of the total municipal population. Likewise, 60% of the better-off municipalities have high OFW-to-population ratio ranging from 9% to 22%.

In another study (HNUCRLG 2004), the presence of migrant workers in the family was one of the indicators used to compare development performance in the years 2001 and 2003. The study revealed that in 2003, the number of migrant workers in District 1 and 2 increased by 67% and 173% respectively as compared to 2001. However, the number of migrant workers in District 2 decreased by 67% in the same period. It is to be remembered that among the three districts, poverty incidence is at its highest in District 2 and poverty reduction in this District between 2003 and 2001 did not significantly improve.

However, it is admitted that these figures and statistics are insufficient to explain the effect of remittance to improvements in living condition because they only present number of workers and not actual remittance value. Moreover, even when remittance volume may be obtained, it may not also imply utilization that would positively effect poverty reduction. Again, in this respect, further research is desired.

For all intents and purposes, the TBTK is one great way to celebrate Boholano culture by those who may have long forgotten them. It encouraged Boholanos from all over to come back and appreciate Bohol once again. But there seems to be a problem with the term. It is not a gathering of Boholanos from Around the World (Tibuok Kalibutan). It is a gathering of Boholanos who have the resources to go home to Bohol, who are relatively well-off. It does not include those underpaid domestic workers in Hongkong or those who are still looking for jobs in the Middle East. It does not even include the organic farmer from Sierra Bullones.

The world, for TBTK, is indeed an exclusive, and a very small one.