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Dutch migrant group leaders and heads of Filipino NGO, government and private sector share insight
Tagaytay, Laguna, Philippines — June 5-13

Representatives of Dutch migrant groups and Filipino NGOs, government, and private sector gathered in Tagaytay, Laguna last June 5-13 to participate in TRANSCODE, a conference on MIGRATION AND DEVELOPMENT. Organisateurs Scalabrini Migration Center in partnership with Radboud University Nijmegen and Stichting Mondiale Samenleving, brought with TRANSCODE – short for Transnational Cooperation for Development – stakeholders from Netherlands and Philippines to exchange knowledge and practices within development and migration work. Dutch ambassador Robert Gerald Brinks heralded the participants at the start of the event.

Dutch and Filipino participants presented their projects and visited several NGO projects in Laguna. Filipino representatives discussed primarily the effects of the mass Filipino migration – the Overseas Filipino Workers. OFWs account for a high percentage of the country’s income through the remittances they send home. Simultaneously, migration leaves the country grappling with social issues and brain drain when primarily the 20- and 30-somethings leave the country. Participants reacted strongly towards the government who readily allows the national and local economy to depend on the remittances and shows no or slow attempt to restructure.

Several potential transnational cooperations emerged that hopefully will be strengthened in part II of TRANSCODE in the Netherlands in October 2010.

TRANSNATIONAL COOPERATION STARTS WITH MISUNDERSTANDINGS

Differences in thinking between Dutch and Filipino parties surfaced during the talks. Firstly, the Dutch who were all about economic and social sustainability, were surprised at the donor dependent attitude they found with the Filipino group. The Dutch are fueled by the debate raging at home concerning long-term effects of development efforts. As a result, a shift in thinking is happening now: from donors as only source of income, to generation of own income and donors as investors. Most of the delegates themselves are entrepreneurs and have projects with a strong profit drive: projects must become start-ups that stand financially independent. While a few Filipinos grappled with what they called the lacking ‘social’ focus of the Dutch projects, the Dutch scratched their heads: if Filipino projects are making good profit, why not switch entirely from non-profit to business and generate more jobs with industry?

Another difference in value is the concept of landownership. A Filipino NGO builds houses for people who are made homeless by the lagune’s floods. The Dutch had a hard time understanding why so many stakeholders had to be involved, making the project in essence semi-government and the NGO a landowner. They debated about the principle of ownership: live for free but house and lot is never yours with the possibility of being sent away. “Who decides when someone is sent away?” asks a former senator among the Dutch delegates. “What happens if the NGO changes,” says an entrepreneur among them, “where will you live then if that house isn’t yours?”

These considerations stood in contrast to Filipino reality: why own a house when the first priority is your daily meal? And for the NGO: if we make people owners, what will stop them from selling the ground and returning to a poorer state of living? Either way, its questionable whether the current situation and the option (merely giving it) encourages independency and ownership. But the fact remains that for the moment, a few households have a good roof over their heads.

Finally, cautious Filipino politeness stood opposite of Dutch straightforwardness. Dutch delegates debated with passion and unabashed frankness. While Filipinos had to get used to this style, some of them recognized its benefits. “I have been to many conferences and I can definately say this one of those in which we really got to the point,” says one Filipino. It is with this that they hope to continue in October. “We need to be more straightforward sometimes,” said another Filipino delegate, “while we’re beating around the bush, our country men are suffering. At least this way, there’s an honest exchange where hopefully we can learn and move forward.”

TRANSCODE Part I – The Philippines Experience – June 5 – 13 2010
TRANSCODE Part II – The Dutch Experience – October 2010

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