By Raffy B. Osumo, Special to the Arab News
Publication Date: 
Tue, 2002-07-02 03:00

JEDDAH, 2 July — To Filipino groups in Jeddah, there’s no question about the need for a united front to push for their concerns at home.

How to go about it is a tough question that they hope to answer probably through a vote on July 28.

After four hours of a heated debate during an exploratory meeting last Friday at the Tropicana Restaurant, more than 40 community leaders came out with a 5-point primer for presentation to their respective organizations.

The points raised are:

1. Establish Kasapi as the umbrella for all organizations in Jeddah.

2. Form an alliance of all organizations including Kasapi, with each group having an independent set-up and structure.

3. Cooperation between Kasapi and OFWCC with definite roles for each.

4. Draft a memorandum of understanding on certain purposes only.

5. Organize an OFW Congress in Jeddah, similar to what they have in Riyadh and the Eastern Province.

Kasapi and the OFWCC, the two umbrella groups in this part of the Kingdom, have been battling for supremacy over the past years even though there’s big room for cooperation between them.

Kasapi, which stands for Kapulungan ng mga Samahang Pilipino (Forum of Filipino Associations), became known for its welfare and relief activities for stranded OFWs and advocacy that helped officials and lawmakers in Manila coming up with laws or regulations affecting expatriate Filipinos.

OFWCC, which was organized in the late 90s, took off from where Kasapi stopped: organizing livelihood and entrepreneurship seminars or trainings to help OFWs prepare for their eventual return home.

Observers noted, however, that Kasapi in later years abandoned its role as a policy-making advocacy group and started getting involved more on sports and other purely social activities.

As Kasapi gasped in the throes of death amid lack of support by dismayed member organizations, the OFWCC tried to assume the role of an overall umbrella group. But it also fell short by refusing to take positions on key issues, including policies being drawn up in Manila that could affect investments by expatriates.

Weeks ago, the disagreement between Kasapi and OFWCC leaders was coming out of control that one Kasapi founding officer now based in Riyadh had to call for a moratorium on their issuance of inflammatory statements in the Internet.

Last Friday’s exploratory meeting, however, is seen as a positive step in the quest for a united front among Jeddah groups, at least on matters that concerns the interest of OFWs.

“At least we have agreed on something,” said community leader, referring to the five-point primer up for discussion.

Fred Castolome of OFWCC convened the meeting and Idriss Tamano of Kasapi acted as moderator.

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