The more I travel, the more I appreciate the Philippines.
I just came home from Myanmar for an Asean Conference on Decent Work for Women. It was held at Nay Pyi Taw, the seat of most government offices of Myanmar. It is also a ghost city. We were there for two nights and two days, we only saw the very efficient and friendly staff at Horizon Lakeview Resort.
On our way between the airport and the hotel and vice versa we barely saw a person and maybe one or two other vehicles on a wide, beautifully paved road. It was refreshing not to experience any traffic at all; it was both a leisurely, albeit boring, drive. There was nothing to see along the road. There were a few buildings—housing, hotel and a small shopping mall (reminiscent of C.O.D. Department Store of decades ago). And nothing more. There were a number of big hotel buildings, but there seem to be no life there.
Nay pyi Taw is a fantastic conference venue since participants will have nowhere to escape to and so we were cocooned in the hotel. They served very good native food and the place is neat and spotless. I was given a one-bedroom suite and I slept like a queen for two nights in a king-size bed with huge everything.
The delegations from Cambodia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and others rushed through dinner tendered by the Minister of Labor to go to two mini malls with 30 minutes before closing time. But the money exchange outlets were already closed. So we just went around oogling the beautiful textile, crafts and semi-precious stones, mostly jade, of Myanmar. Fortunately, the supermarket accepted our US dollars and even gave us change.
Lo and behold! Most of their products were imported from nearby countries, except a few “Pride of Myanmar” products such as candied tamarind, sunflower seeds, tea, coffee and wine. I should have bought wine, but the supermarket was already closed and just waiting for us. I was told by an Indonesian delegate and friend, Lily Purba, that Myanmar wines are one of the best in the world. Sayang!
Nways, it was a very productive tripartite conference among Asean representatives from government, labor and employers. Our Asean neighbors always look up to the Philippines for the many big strides we have undertaken to protect the rights and safety of our women workers. Presentors and reactors often mentioned some of pro-women laws we have which many of them do not have yet and are even having a hard time getting their government officials to legislate them.
Some of the ways we protect and take care of our women workers are laws on violence against women and children (VAWC), exclusive breastfeeding, kasambahay, solo parents (also for men), sexual harassment (also for men, responsible parenthood and reproductive health and others. In this regard, our government leaders did us good.
The key to the success of these laws are held by employers though. Our laws might be great and helpful, but if they are not implemented well by employers, these laws are nothing. Two years ago, through a grant from the International Labor Organization, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines conducted workshops and meetings with HR practitioners and senior executives of companies in Mindanao (Zamboanga City), Visayas (Iloilo City) and Bicol Region (Naga City) to preach the benefits of the exclusive breastfeeding law to both workers (men and women) and employers. The penalty for non-compliance is the revocation of business permit. Some cities like Zamboanga and Iloilo even passed city ordinance supporting the national law.
As I was telling our envious co-participants, it is more fun being a woman, working or not, in the Philippines.
BTW, my Baranggay 596 chairman has two, not just one, but two new motorcycles with a monthly salary of Php7,000 and a wife who does not work and four children. Who will investigate this?
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