THE Philippines is eyeing Russia as a new destination for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as bilateral relations between the two countries continue to get stronger since Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Rodrigo Duterte’s meeting at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Lima, Peru last year.
Labor and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello 3rd on Friday disclosed that he and Russian Ambassador to Manila Igor Anatolyyevich Khovaev have agreed to establish “a solid legal basis for cooperation” for the benefit of Filipino migrant workers.
“We are glad we had preliminary discussion on various labor issues and concerns of mutual interest to both countries,” Bello said.
According to him, the Russian ambassador gave his assurance to give ample protection to the rights and legitimate interest of overseas Filipino workers in Russia.
In response, Bello said he suggested forming a bilateral working group to craft the partnership where the rights and protection of both Filipino workers and Russian employers will be guaranteed.
“We hope to meet with our counterparts in Russia for us to discuss the specifics of this agreement. A working group should define the terms and guidelines for this,” he added.
According to Bello, opening of labor relations between Manila and Moscow will also be discussed by Duterte with Putin in his planned visit to Russia this year.
“I already sent a memo to the President requesting him to include the possible deployment of skilled and professional workers to Russia,” he said.
Bello added that there is a demand for construction and household service workers in Russia.
In 2014, there were about 4,000 OFWs in Russia who were working in construction, hotels and households.
According to a recent study, Middle East countries are still the top destinations for OFWs.
The 2016 Overseas Land-Based Jobs and Salary Report showed that Saudi Arabia remains to be the top OFW destination for the past two years, with 39 percent contribution to the total OFW jobs.
Other Middle East countries that dominated the list are Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman followed by the United States, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam and Australia.
The study is based on overseas jobs posted by agencies licensed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration at WorkAbroad.ph from January to September 2016.
Engineering is still the top specialization with most jobs for professional workers contributing 26 percent to the total OFW jobs.
WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL