By Genalyn Kabiling
BANGKOK – Strengthening the protection of the rights and dignity of migrant workers will be among the priority interests that will be pushed by President Duterte during the regional summit in Thailand this weekend.
President Rodrigo Duterte (KARL NORMAN ALONZO / PRESIDENTIAL PHOTO / MANILA BULLETIN)
According to Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Mary Jo Bernardo-Aragon, the President has strongly advocated protecting the welfare of migrant workers, including Filipino overseas workers, and will “follow through” this advocacy during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit.
The President is expected to arrive in Bangkok on Friday night to participate in the 34th ASEAN summit with the theme, "Advancing Partnership Toward Sustainability," on June 22 and 23. Duterte, accompanied by several Cabinet members, will stay in Bangkok until June 24. In
"The President is very strong in protecting the welfare and interest of our Filipino migrant workers not only here in the ASEAN region, but in wherever the Filipinos – wherever we can find Filipinos employed in different countries," the ambassador said in a media interview here.
"This is a key element and a key pillar, as a matter of fact, of our Philippine foreign policy," she added.
Bernardo-Aragon said the Philippines has vigorously pushed for the protection of rights and dignity of migrant workers during its ASEAN partnership in 2017. Millions of Filipinos are working in many countries with Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Hong Kong and Kuwait as top destinations based on government records.
In protecting workers' rights and dignity, the 10-member regional bloc earlier committed to promote decent, humane, productive, dignified and remunerative employment for migrant workers. It also previously vowed to take steps to prevent the smuggling and trafficking of persons.
"One of those priorities in 2017 was our advocacy in protecting the welfare and interest of migrant workers in the ASEAN community so of course this will be to our interest that we follow through with that and fully implemented within the ASEAN region," the ambassador said.
On Saturday, the 10 Southeast Asian leaders, including the Philippine President, are expected to gather in Bangkok initially to hold meetings with the regional parliamentarians, business groups, and youth sector.
The ASEAN leaders' summit will formally open on Sunday with leaders tackling visions for sustainability, enhanced disaster prevention and mitigation efforts, trade and economic issues, and other regional concerns.
The leaders are expected to discuss measures to address maritime pollution, and proposed framework of ideas regarding the Indo-Pacific affairs.
As the regional leaders tackle promoting sustainable development, Bernardo-Aragon said the Philippines would also continue its participation in building a people-centered ASEAN community.
The regional group envisions an ASEAN community that is at peace with other nations and prosperity for the people through improving their lives.
"The leaders’ summit is an extremely important opportunity for us to be part of developing an ASEAN community that is people-oriented, people-centered, that will uplift the lives, the livelihood of all the people in the region and wherein no one is left behind," she said.
"And of course, what is important here is to be able to sustain the economic and social development of our people," she added.
She said the Filipinos are expected to benefit from an ASEAN community because "we do have our interest in ensuring that the interest of our people are also taken into account as we progress with the development of an ASEAN community."
"Because in an ASEAN community, we envision that there will be movement of people, people will work in different ASEAN countries," she added.
The regional bloc includes the Philippines, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Guevarra named OIC
While in Thailand, President Duterte designated Justice Secretary MenardoGuevarraofficer-in-charge to oversee the daily operations of the Executive Department.
“To ensure continuity of government service, it is necessary to designate an Officer-in-Charge to take care of the day-to-day operations and oversee the general administration of the Executive Department,” the official document read.
Based on the Special Order, Guevarra is tasked to act as OIC to take care of the daily operations of the Executive Department.
“He shall, if necessary, act for an on behalf of the President, except on matters that the President is required by the Constitution to act in person, during the time that the President is outside the Republic of the Philippines from 21 to 23 June 2019,” it stated.
“All acts of DOJ Secretary Guevarra for and on behalf of the president pursuant to this Order shall be deemed acts of the President unless disapproved or reprobated by the President,” it furthered. (With a report from Argyll B. Geducos)