TO celebrate the 117th Independence Day of the Philippines and the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Philippine Migrants’ Act, the Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak at Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino Inc. (KAKAMMPI) held a stakeholders dialogue on June 12 at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Office Center in Manila. I was privileged to have been invited as a resource person on international issues affecting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).
The Global Commission on Migration was set up in realization of the need for governing migration as a transnational social phenomenon. The Philippines has been actively involved in the pursuit of more effective international migration policies.
Bilateral cooperation is carried out through bilateral agreements. In all these agreements, the Philippines has consistently maintained the position of equity of responsibility between governments in the organized recruitment, provision for fair working condition and protective programs (underscoring supplied). Most of these agreements are in the form of MOA (memorandum of agreement) or MOU (memorandum of understanding), which are comprehensive and generally non- binding unlike bilateral agreements that are general in scope and with certain provisions on welfare protection and recruitments.
Many overseas workers do not enjoy social security benefits in countries of destination and therefore face a bleak retirement. Social security membership to date is voluntary. In addition, the Philippines has entered into social security agreements, which provide for the same entitlements under the same conditions as nationals, the payment of benefits in the workers’ country of residence and pro-rate sharing, inter-alia.
The regional approach is essentially through Asean as embodied in the 2007 Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of migrant workers. This is a regional version of a UN Convention but which includes migrants’ families and dependents. It is noteworthy that there is the 2004 Joint Declaration Against Trafficking in Persons particularly Women and Children. The root of this declaration is the so-called Manila Process of 1996, one of my initiatives.
The International Labor Organization is the UN principal organ responsible for the protection of workers since 1919. Special consideration must be given to the UN Maritime Labor Convention (MLC) adopted in 2006 and ratified by the Philippines in 2012. The Philippines supplies 20-25 percent of seafarers of the world. What should now be done is to pass a national legislation that will apply the international standards to the domestic labor market.
The health of migrant workers and professionals recruited to work in foreign countries is a global concern. Recruiters and employers should be aware that health personnel have responsibilities toward the country of origin; health personnel should receive the same treatment as nationals, and nurses in particular fall under this category.
Is the Philippine migration governance effective? Our country is the third-largest migrant country in the world. The protection of the well-being and dignity of OFWs is the third pillar of our foreign policy.
I believe that our migration governance being comprehensive is effective. But there are gaps that must be addressed such as:
Procedures for responding to crisis must be well-coordinated, well-organized and strengthened.
Local governments need to be more sensitized and enabled to play their role. The convergence approach being promoted by the Aquino administration is useful.
Better cooperation among countries of origin and destination especially with the Gulf countries where there is a preponderance of OFWs.
Education skill training and orientation of migrants, their families and dependents. The curricula of the Pre-employment Orientation Seminar, Pre-employment Deployment Seminar and reintegration should be revisited to respond to the real situation on the ground.
Streamlining the bureaucracy and training public servants. The bureaucracy must be supported with current technology and strengthened human resources development programs.
Integrating migration in the country is development agenda through capacity-building in accessibility to resources.
Mobilization of comparable data that is timely, relevant and accurate.
Mainstreaming awareness of the MLC and International Humanitarian Law in the PEOS and PDOS syllabus.
The enjoyment of basic fundamental human rights for all deserves to be protected. Migrants are considered a vulnerable group and they deserve special protection.