Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo lauded the signing of a document that protects migrant workers by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), saying it is a fruition of the work started by her administration.
Speaking during the Asean Business and Investment Summit, Arroyo said 10 years after efforts to have the agreement signed, she is delighted that Asean signed the Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers spearheaded by President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I am gratified that at (the) summit opening, President Duterte heralded the landmark signing of the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers. It is the fruition of what we started in 2007,” Arroyo said.
She noted that in 2007, she pushed for the declaration to protect migrant workers within the Asean.
“Let me refer to a major bottleneck on a human capital issue that I addressed during my time as President of the Philippines and during my chairmanship of Asean 10 years ago. That year 2007, I used my general prerogative to push for the declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers,” she said.
“It was our most contentious chairman’s initiative in the 2007 summit because in Asean, we have members who send workers and we have workers who receive workers, and of course they had deep differences of opinion. But we invoked our chairmanship to push that initiative, on account of so many Filipino workers overseas,” she stressed.
At the signing ceremony on Tuesday, Duterte presented to Asean Secretary General Le Luong Minh the document that would strengthen social protection and provide access to justice, humane and fair treatment and health services.
The consensus is considered a centerpiece of the Philippines’ chairmanship of Asean and is expected to benefit some 200,000 OFWs working mostly in Singapore and Malaysia.
“In good times and bad, overseas Filipinos in Southeast Asia and elsewhere keep our nation resilient. I know that that is not a sacrifice joyfully borne. That is work where it can be found—among strangers with different cultures. It is lonely work, it is hard work. That is why we worked doubly hard to create good paying jobs at home, so that overseas work will just be a career choice, not the only option for a hard-working Filipino,” Arroyo said.
“For the foreseeable future, we will continue to be heavily dependent on overseas worker remittances. On that basis that we are duty-bound to protect our citizens wherever they are,” she added.