VICE President Jejomar Binay said Wednesday that the Philippines has both the ability and duty to help Asean and other Asian states in crafting bilateral and multilateral agreements to protect migrant workers.
Binay, who is also the Presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Worker concerns, said that within the Asean region, many of our Asean and Asian friends also have overseas workers or hire migrant labor from neighboring states.
"We have not only the ability but the duty to use our experience to help our Asian brothers and together craft suitable bilateral and multi-lateral instruments for the benefit of the entire region," the Vice President said.
Binay cited the agreement in 2012 between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia to implement a standard employment contract that provides for higher compensation and better working conditions and benefits for newly hired Filipino household workers, which he said provides a solution from a government dimension.
"This has been one of our greatest leaps forward in assuring the protection that our countrymen need and deserve in the kingdom. And as we work to obtain similar breakthrough in other countries and industries that employ Filipinos, other countries can pursue similar agreements for the benefit of their own overseas citizens," he added.
The Vice President also emphasized that while governments can work together to create policies and mechanisms to protect overseas workers, the help of non-government organizations should also be sought.
"As the Philippine experience has revealed, strong partnerships with NGOs have allowed us a deeper and wider reach. Our joint responses have gained more refinement and fluidity, and hundreds of thousands of people, and their families, have been spared from some of the risks that accompany migration."
"I believe more of these partnerships can only hasten the achievement of our goals," said Binay.
He added that NGOs have been instrumental in minimizing the social costs of migration.
He also said that the counseling and support that NGOs provide has "become one of the pillars that have propped up the families of overseas Filipino workers."
Binay stressed, however, that real protection of migrant worker families comes from the proper use of their remittances. Instead of being used to build shopping malls and import more luxury consumer goods, OFW remittances should be invested in upgrading the quality of education, health care, and technology.
"And the OFW families must be guided in this direction so that the next generation, will be housed in roofs of their own, be healthier, better schooled and even more competent than the generation that preceded it."
"So that even if they have to go overseas to work, it is because they want to and not because they have to," added Binay.
He then lauded the efforts of NGOs to provide financial literacy for migrant workers' families.
Binay also said that the objective of protecting migrant workers is complex because they are vulnerable across the whole migrant labor supply chain.
"At the inception of the chain, the migrant worker leaves home because he has run out of choices, because he has to, because home no longer offers opportunities for him to adequately provide for his family. Thus, early threats come in the form of unscrupulous recruiters and placement companies."
"Upon arrival at the host country, the migrant worker is like a fish out of water: culture, language, norms of behavior, even laws, totally alien to him- making him even more vulnerable," the Vice President said.
According to Binay, this "portrait of the travails of the migrant worker painfully describes that the problem is multi-dimensional, that it spans countries, and within the countries, involves diverse stakeholders, each with its own interests and issues."
As such, the solution must also be multi-dimensional, multi-lateral, and multi-sectoral, he said. (Jun Sarmiento)