THE Philippines made history in Europe recently when it became the first observer-nation to be elected as vice chair of a powerful group in the International Labor Organization (ILO).
The feat came 45 years after the late journalist and politician Blas F. Ople, “Father of the Labor Code of the Philippines,” was elected president of the 60th International Labor Conference (ILC) in 1975.
In 1983, ILO awarded a “Gold Medal of Appreciation” to the “Poor Boy” from Hagonoy, Bulacan, who was respected and idolized by government, labor and youth leaders across the globe during his time.
The powerful and influential ILC is the highest governing body of the Geneva, Switzerland-based ILO, the United Nations’ oldest specialized agency that aims to promote decent work throughout the world.
ILC is composed of titular, deputy and observer member-states. Titular and deputy member-states have speaking rights, with only the titular member-states bestowed with the right to vote.
But observer-countries, like impoverished but natural resources-rich Philippines,have neither the speaking nor voting rights.
To mark the UN’s oldest specialized agency centenary last year, its highest governing body – the International Labor Conference (ILC) – adopted the landmark 2019 Centenary Declaration.
The 2019 Centenary Declaration called for “full, equal and more democratic participation of all its constituents in the crafting of global labor standards, policies and programs.”
The Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Geneva played a crucial role in pursuing the country’s long quest for a “substantial” seat in the ILO.
As vice chair of ILO’s powerful government body, the Philippines is seen to play a leadership role in helping achieve the agency’s long dream of institutionalizing democratization in its affairs.
Labor Attache Cheryl Daytec said the Philippines will automatically take the chairmanship of the powerful government group in 2021 when its term as vice chairman expires.
As secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment, Bello, who described the feat as “the dawning of a new hope for the voiceless in the ILO,” will sit as chair of the group in time for the 2022 ILC.