TAGUIG CITY-PATEROS Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano and Taguig City Rep. Maria Laarni Cayetano have led the House of Representatives in expressing full support for Filipino migrants all over the world and commending the efforts of the government to promote and protect their rights and welfare.
In a resolution filed on December 17 by the Cayetanos in time for International Migrants Day on Friday, December 18, the House said the day is “an occasion to celebrate the triumphs and raise awareness about the challenges that 272 million migrants all over the world are experiencing.”
Aside from the Cayetanos, the resolution was signed by nine other House members namely Camarines Sur 2nd District Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte Jr., Batangas 2nd District Rep. Raneo Abu, Laguna 1st District Rep. Dan Fernandez, Cavite 8th District Rep. Abraham Tolentino, ANAKALUSUGAN Party-list Rep. Michael Defensor, Bulacan 1st District Rep. Jose Antonio Sy-Alvarado, Cavite 1st District Rep. Francis Gerald Abaya, Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice, and Manila 5th District Rep. Cristal Bagatsing.
The House noted that there are currently around 10.5 million Filipinos living in over 150 countries and territories in six continents.
“The Philippines stands by its conviction to support, protect, and uphold the dignity of every Filipino worker abroad, and as President Duterte stated, ‘never to be slaves” but rather be respected and even recognized for their contribution to their host nations,” the resolution said.
The House said the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte has changed the attitude of the government in dealing with overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as it had been able to “better articulate” the independent foreign policy contained in the Philippine Constitution.
It said the country has shown its firm commitment to the protection of its migrants by being one of the 152 countries that adopted the United Nations Global Compact for Migration (GCM), an international framework that will manage migration and provide decent treatment for millions of migrants worldwide.
“The GCM is anchored on a comprehensive and holistic approach to all dimensions of international migration, and more importantly grounded on the values of state sovereignty, human rights, responsibility sharing and non-discrimination,” the resolution said.
The House resolution also said through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Philippines further pursued its advocacy of protecting the rights and conditions of all Filipinos abroad through bilateral agreements with countries employing many Filipinos.
These efforts resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on September 12, 2017 between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to combat human trafficking and regulate recruitment agencies to ensure fair recruitment practices, benefitting around 700,000 workers in the area.
The efforts of the DFA and DOLE also resulted in the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on May 11, 2018 between the Philippines and Kuwait on the employment of Household Service Workers, which ensured prompt and effective assistance to 250,000 Filipinos in Kuwait.
Dismantling the kafala system
The House said the Philippines has also “undoubtedly become braver and more assertive in dealing with countries hosting OFWs regarding the welfare and dignity of Filipino migrant workers.”
“The DFA has led the charge in dismantling the kafala system, which is a slavery system involving migrant workers in the Middle East and has affected many Filipinos, especially household workers,” the resolution said.
Strongly pushed by President Duterte, the anti-kafala campaign was first implemented by Cayetano who served as Foreign Affairs secretary from 2017 to 2018. Current Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has since been continuing the fight.
The campaign resulted in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) launching a Labor Reform Initiative (LRI) under the National Transformation Program (NTP) on November 4, 2020 to ease foreign workers’ contractual restrictions, including the freedom to change jobs.
The House resolution said this developed even as the DFA issued new guidelines on Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Fund and Legal Assistance Fund (LAF) for a quicker and more effective response and improved services to the growing number of distressed Filipinos abroad who require government assistance, which includes legal assistance, welfare assistance, and repatriation for the distressed.
The House enumerated other actions it had taken to benefit migrant workers, including the passage on Third and Final Reading of House Bill No. 5832 on March 11, 2020 creating the Department of Filipinos Overseas which will be mandated to focus exclusively on the protection and promotion of the welfare and interest of every Filipino overseas.
Deliberation on the Senate counterpart bill had been deferred to next year but the President certified it as urgent on December 15, 2020, affirming the importance of creating a department for Filipino migrants.
And as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect millions of Filipinos abroad, the House said the government has been providing assistance and support particularly with the passage of the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act (Republic Act No. 11469) on March 24, 2020 and the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Republic Act No. 11494) on September 11, 2020.
The two laws provide for COVID-19 Response and Recovery Interventions and Mechanisms to accelerate the recovery and bolster the resiliency of the Philippine Economy during the pandemic.
The two Bayanihan laws also helped fund programs in various government agencies for OFWs and advocated for a “whole of government approach” to ensure that OFWs affected by the COVID-19 pandemic are given “all the help they need such as repatriation, testing, accommodation, access to livelihood assistance, skills and training programs, loan assistance, and employment opportunities.”
“It (International Migrants Day) is an opportune time to pay homage to our modern day heroes who are making ends meet for the betterment of their families and loved ones outside the Philippine soil,” the resolution concluded.Publication Source : People's Journal