PH hosts top-level int'l dialogue on migrant workers' safety, protection

The Philippine government is hosting a two-day meeting of local and international labor and migration experts which is aimed at exploring ways to ensure the protection especially of migrant workers in Asia and the Pacific region.

The meeting involves top officials of the Asia-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and will run from May 30- 31 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig.

Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) Secretary Susan “Toots” Ople said the Senior Officials’ Dialogue will explore issues and concerns on the implementation of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration.

She said this includes issues of high recruitment fees and related costs and its effect on the labor mobility of migrant workers, and the connection between climate change and labor mobility.

In her speech, Ople emphasized the need for the labor and migration policy-makers to ensure that the spirit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a global framework and a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure peace and prosperity by 2030.

“The documents that laid down these lofty and highly important objectives are the work of many minds, hearts and hands. These are frameworks and guideposts that reflect the social conscience of our world, and of our times,” said OPle in her speech.

“Today, the Philippines is proud to be the host of the discussions that would help illuminate these words through the prism of actual experiences, as shared by senior labor migration officials and resource persons from countries of origin in Asia and countries of destination in the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” she added.

Points of Discussion

In the two-day meeting, top labor and migration officials are expected to discuss labor and migration-related goals which are stipulated in the UN’s SDGs 8.8, 10.7 and 17.

SDG Target 8.8 refers to protection of labor rights and promote safe and secure working environments for all workers, including migrant workers, in particular women migrants, and those in precarious employment while SDG Target 10.7 refers to facilitation of orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies.

SDG Goal 17, on the other hand, seeks to strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development.

Such issues are also contained in Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) Objectives 8 that pushes for facilitation of fair and ethical recruitment and safeguard conditions that ensure decent work and Objective 23 which seeks to strengthen international cooperation and global partnerships for safe, orderly and regular migration.

“From these discussions, we hope to find each other – not that we are lost, but precisely because we move in the same circles – influencing policy and directions in labor mobility, migrants’ rights, and gender equality,” said Ople.

“We meet amid so many challenges – a fast-changing world of work, acute labor shortages, low wages, climate change, greed in relation to recruitment, the trafficking of women and children and even male migrant workers, the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) on traditional work, and so on,” she added.

Dedication, hard work matter

In her speech, Ople emphasized that the goals under the SDG and GCM are all achievable if everybody would work together—from the points of origins of the migrants to their points of destinations.

What is needed, according to Ople, is aggressive push by policy-makers and those who were entrusted with the protection and safety of the migrants.

She then cited her own hardworks that include various meetings in the Middle East—the usual points of destination of Filipino migrant workers—to the United States for the top-level discussion of world leaders on the matter.

In Egypt for instance, Ople said she went there to oversee together with the Department of Foreign Affairs and our Philippine Embassy, the safe return of our migrants crossing the border from Sudan to Egypt so they could board the plane for home.

Her presence in  Saudi Arabia in the past, according to Ople, was to discuss ease of doing business through technology, reduction in recruitment costs, higher wages, as well as possible amendments to our existing bilateral labor agreement.

And in the  US, she said she went to Washington DC  as part of the presidential delegation, to arrange a meeting between President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. and top US employers as well as to represent the DMW in the President’s meeting with the Filipino community.

“If that was my schedule and a short list of current concerns, I do wonder what your schedule would be like and what would be in your own list of urgent matters. It would also be fascinating to know more about how each one of you, as migration governance experts, now see the world, in terms of employment hazards and possibilities,” said Ople.

“For this dialogue, let us celebrate and recognize the significant labor reforms in your countries, and across our respective regions, that bring us closer to achieving the SDG targets and GCM objectives that are most relevant to our people’s lives,” she added.