Philippines spotlights welfare of overseas Filipino workers

With economies either slowly or quickly picking up and the jobs landscape changing in connection with the Novel Coronavirus (COVID19) pandemic, Philippine government officials led by Labour and Employment Secretary Silvestre Bello III shall push for much better protection and welfare conditions of overseas Filipinos (OFs).

Bello, alongside Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Bernard Olalia and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Hans Cacdac shall do the consultations, discussions and negotiations at the “Sixth Ministerial Level Abu Dhabi Dialogue” scheduled until Oct. 29 (Friday).

The ADD was organised in 2008 after member-states of the Colombo Process regional consultative process for the protection of Asian migrant workers and two labour-receiving/destination nations, Singapore and Malaysia, met the Gulf states and Yemen to discuss practices and policies about temporary contractual labour. Its formation was for dynamic inter-government consultations that aim to do away with biases against both the employers and employees, and towards more humane, fair, just and internationally-accepted policies surrounding overseas contractual labour. It consists of 11 countries of foreign labour origin – Afghanistan, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam. The seven labour-destination member-nations are Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The entities recognised as ADD permanent observers are Switzerland, the United Nations-affiliated International Organisation for Migrants concerned with providing “services and advice to governments and migrants including displaced persons, refugees, and migrant workers,” and the Philippine-headquartered Migrant Forum of Asia, a “regional network of non-government organisations, associations and trade unions of migrant workers and individual advocates who believe that migrants’ rights are human rights and therefore they are committed to promote the rights and welfare of all migrant workers.” The UAE serves as the ADD Permanent Secretariat. Chairmanships rotate every two years. The current chair-in-office is Sri Lanka which shall turn over to Pakistan the responsibility on Oct. 27 (Wednesday). In the UAE for the turnover is Pakistan’s Federal Minister for Industries and Production Makhdum Khusro Bakhtyar, who also leads the Pakistani delegation.

Philippine Labour and Employment Secretary Bello, at the Monday evening press conference at the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai said: “We are here for the (ADD), the meeting of all labour ministers from Asian and Middle East countries. We are going to meet with them on how to address the concerns of migration, the protection, welfare and safety of our migrant workers. (The summit) is timely as there have been changing conditions in the overseas migration landscape. I will be meeting (on the sidelines) the labour minister of Saudi Arabia. There are some (labour-receiving) countries not accepting (the Chinese vaccine) Sinovac. There are issues about quarantines relative to the COVID19).”

“POEA Administrator Olalia, OWWA Administrator Cacdac and I are here so we can make migration much safer for our migrants,” he added.

Cacdac said OWWA has so far recorded 750,000 repatriated Filipino workers worldwide, in joint efforts with the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Health among other agencies. Bello said there are approximately four million Filipino contractual workers in the Gulf.

Despite the grim virus scenario, the future of overseas employment brightens, based on the testimonies of nine Philippine labour attaches, also in the UAE for the regional meeting with Bello, Olalia and Cacdac. The nine labour attaches were present at the press conference, also attended by Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn M. Quintana.

The nine are Labour Attache Fidel Macauyag (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia), Labour Attache Hector Cruz (Eastern Region Office, Saudi Arabia), Labour Attache Roel Martin (Jeddah, Saudi Arabia), Labour Attache Nasser Mustafa (Kuwait), Labour Attache Vicente Cabe (Bahrain), Labour Attache Adam Musa (Qatar), Labour Attache Gregorio Abalos Jr. (Oman), Labour Attache Manuel Dimaano (Abu Dhabi, UAE), and Labour Attache John Rio Bautista (Dubai, UAE). – Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

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