NEXT week I shall represent the Employers Confederation of the Philippines at the 9th Session of the Sub-Regional Advisory Committee (SURAC) in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The main topic is migration.
Recently, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz led the Philippine delegation consisting of representatives from the Department of Labor and Employment, the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, The Philippine Association of Local Service Contractors, the Philippine Government Employees’ Association, Federation of Free Workers, Alliance of Progressive Labor and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, to the 103rd International Labor Conference on Migration at the Palais des Nations of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland.
The well-received message of Secretary Baldoz detailed our country’s achievements and advances in securing the welfare and enhancing the protection of our migrant workers abroad.
According to The Philippine Labor, the official newsmagazine of DOLE, Secretary Baldoz emphasized that: “The Philippines remains fully committed to safe, ethical, and secure migration and decent work for all. Our goal of sustainable inclusive growth aims to create decent jobs, thus rendering migration as a genuine and long-term option rather than a necessity for some. But once our workers do decide to work overseas, our duty to protect them establishes our policy on fair migration governance.
“Migration is rights-based and ensures that migrants are safe and protected against illegal recruiters, traffickers, smugglers, and drug syndicates. Safe migration also requires preventive and remedial health programs prior, during, and after employment, in view of the rise of pandemic diseases and occurrence of industrial accidents affecting the health and safety of migrant workers.
“We support ILO’s initiative to develop database on recruitment costs in low-skilled occupations in major migration countries. With support of the Global Knowledge Partnership on Migration and Development, IOM’s effort to develop a voluntary accreditation and monitoring process is hence most commendable,” Baldoz said, adding that both complement the Philippines’ online systems to strengthen labor market information and promote transparency and accountability in migration governance.
Baldoz closed her speech by urging the ILO to mount a vigorous campaign to promote the ratification of core labor standards and migration-related conventions. “Following the adoption of the historic 2013 UN Declaration of the High Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development on International Migration, the International Labor Organization (ILO), as head of the 2014 Global Migration Group, is at the most strategic position to lead in pushing the post 2015-UN agenda,” she said.
Indeed, our overseas migrant workers are our number one dollar earners and, thus, the pillars upon which our burgeoning economy stands on. Together, they remit more than $18 billion a year and the amount is increasing every year.
We have a couple of our own among the millions of Filipinos working overseas. My son, Engineer Ron Aquino, Ph.D., is one of them. He and his family are now in Canada. I can’t dismiss the nationalism of my son. If he has a choice, I am sure he would stay here since, presently, he is the only wind engineer in our country. But he said, “Filipinos do not have respect for technical expertise. The salary offers I get are just above that of a technician.”
Upon graduation from the Tokyo Polytechnic University on a scholarship, he received several job offers from different global and local engineering firms. But, he said he can’t support his growing family with the salary offers of local companies. Most importantly, foreign companies offer opportunities for personal, technical and managerial development. So off to Ontario he went. I know my son will make good on his promise to come back when he has saved enough to put up his own engineering company here. Meantime, I miss Ron, Mara and my grandson Alfonso.
Such is the story of many migrant workers. It is not that there are no jobs here in the Philippines but that salary-wise, they could earn more when they work in other countries and learn more modern processes, systems and tools related to their field. Our country is still very much Third World when it comes to technology and there is not much learning and development going on in the technical field.
There are many ongoing dialogues, conferences and consultations on migration. I have attended two previously, here in Manila and Myanmar. ILO and Asean promote healthy discussions between sending and receiving countries and are working for decent work for migrant workers all the time. It is still the call of the receiving or destination countries.
Secretary Baldoz is batting for a system that would cut down recruitment costs in destination countries, emphasizing that ethical migration should remove every financial burden on migrants from the exaction of exorbitant fees.
As a sending country, together with Indonesia, Vietnam, Bangladesh and other Asean countries, our migrant workers are not getting much help from our local recruiters and are at the mercy of foreign recruiters and employers.
I still strongly advocate that no Filipina, single or with young children, should be allowed to work abroad for their own safety and protection and to reduce the social costs of migration.
Has any of our government institutions calculated the social costs of migration? How could we quantify the absence of maternal love and care for an infant or a teenager? Or the degradation of family values and relationships? Or the cost of rehabilitation of a domestic helper raped and/or physically abused by her employer? There are many horror stories about this.
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