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Ageing in the time of repatriation

January 10, 2020 - Friday 4:01 AM by Eva Aranas Angel

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I was in Grade 6 when news of the ‘arms scandal’ between the US and Iran unfolded. The key issue had to do with the sale of hardware and war materiel by the US to Iran. The arms deal included heavy war machinery, ammunition, and spare parts to stack its cache and arsenal and ensure their steady supply. 

I remember this was the time of single term US President Jimmy Carter under whose term militant Iranian students seized 52 US diplomats and workers of the US embassy in Tehran, the Iranian capital. (For ‘curious’ reference, watch the movie Argo starring Ben Affleck) 

At the time, Iran was led by the Shah, Reza Pahlavi who faced widespread resistance and criticism for its alleged massive industrialization and Westernization in the midst of conservatives, mostly students, many of whom were anti-American and religious extremists who believed that the skewed and rapid economic development that led to unequal distribution of resources were the antitheses to Islamic beliefs. 

The Shah of Iran was ‘overthrown’ after having lost traction of his nation now enamored with the return of Ayatollah Khomeini from exile in Paris.

When Reagan assumed office, he continued the arms embargo, although his administration was alleged to have continued what has now been known as Iran-Contra deal. I was at the time in high school and one character figured prominently, Oliver North, allegedly one of the architects of the Iran-Contra deal. Long story short, the US continued its sale of arms to Iran despite the embargo to earn revenues for its war and support for the Contras, The Contras, in return ‘were the various U.S.-backed and funded right-wing rebel groups that were active from 1979 to the early 1990s in opposition to the socialist Sandinistas in Nicaragua.’

There have been a lot of historical events in the interim and now – the Iran versus Iraq war, the Gulf War, Kuwait War, US invasion of Iraq and the death of Saddam Hussein, the US backed war in Libya that led to the death of Muammar Qadafi, and the continued, escalating hostility between the US and Iran, despite the parade of various presidents in the White House.

Last week the world saw the drone attack by the US against Iran which killed one of Iran’s generals. As of this writing, Iran had launched missile strikes against two Iraqi military bases housing U.S. forces in retaliation for the airstrike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani last week. It is said that more than a dozen ballistic missiles targeted the Al Asad and Erbil military bases.

The Philippines, in response to the looming war in the Middle East, was quick to work on the repatriation of OFWs in the Middle East, especially those working in Iran and neighboring countries. The first call for repatriation yielded 37,000 OFW’s who wanted to go back to the Philippines.

The diaspora of Filipinos to work overseas was a double edged sword for Filipino older persons who, late in their years, have become dependent on their children for the traditional nurturing and family caregiving role of women to their parents. Most of the time, this comes with a price – the grandparents often receive monthly support for their wherewithal in exchange for looking after their grandchildren.

At the other end of the spectrum, remittances also help older persons sustain their medical needs because pensions couldn’t cover their maintenance medications and that the remittances defray the their cost of daily living, medical care, and some allowances for recreation.

Now that many OFWs have their lives, limbs, and livelihood endangered and jeopardized because of the imminent war in the Middle East and the rapid repatriation of Filipino workers by DOLE, DFA, and OWWA, what happens to the older persons dependent on petrodollars for their sustenance?

With nil to almost limited resources when the OFW comes home, rationing of resources is likely to happen. And when rationing does take effect, older persons are likely to be relegated to the margins.

Please, despite all, let’s aim for a society for all ages.