A document on the promotion of the protection and rights of migrant workers in Southeast Asia would complement pending bills to improve the benefits of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Sen. Joel Villanueva said on Wednesday.
He cited the creation of a separate department for migrant workers that will cater to all concerns of the OFWs, reducing or eliminating bureaucratic red tape in OFW assistance.
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said the adoption of the document during the country’s 2017 chairmanship of the Asean was significant because of the “economic and social importance” of the OFWs in Philippine society.
“I am proud that the Philippines was able to steer Asean toward an agreement, which will further promote and defend the rights of our OFW heroes, no matter where they are stationed within the region,” he added.
Led by President Rodrigo Duterte, the region’s leaders on Tuesday signed the Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Manila.
The document strengthens social protection, ensures humane and fair treatment and provides access to legal and health services to the region’s migrant workers, 212,435 of whom are Filipinos.
The Department of Foreign Affairs said over 180,000 Filipinos work in Singapore as household helpers, nurses and caregivers.
The Filipinos in Malaysia work as engineers, cashiers, hotel and restaurant crew, factory workers and household service workers.
Data from the Commission on Filipino Overseas show the number of OFWs in the region: Brunei Darussalam (19,000); Cambodia (9,000); Laos (1,200); Myanmar (2,000); Thailand (15,000); and Vietnam (5,000).
“This agreement will definitely benefit our OFWs. Truly, there is a need to do so especially since we are in an era where our countrymen have increasingly chosen to work abroad,” Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, said.
He added that the agreement is a “testament” to the commitment of the region to improve the labor standards and protect the rights of workers in the region in line with Asean integration.