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Pact on migrant workers signed at Asean summit

20 November 2017

One of the agreements signed at the 31st Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit would benefit roughly 10 million migrant workers in the region, including about two million Filipinos.

President Rodrigo Duterte said the “Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers “would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services for our people.”

Labor groups quickly welcomed the development. Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of Alliance of Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, said the consensus agreement will promote best practices for migrant workers among the 10 Asean countries. “This is a positive step towards improving core labor and occupational safety and health standards on decent and humane treatment of Asean migrant workers and their families,” Tanjusay said.

He said the lack of a uniform core labor standards and occupational safety and health standards prevents Asean from having a “genuine and functional shared prosperity” and will lead to more abuses to the most vulnerable sectors of the countries.

OFWs in Central.

“Without a uniform, binding labor standards in Asean, we would see rampant practice of child labor, more abuses on women workers, prevalent sweatshops, poor wages, temporary and short-term jobs, and bare social protection in Asean as governments and businesses prod workers to produce goods and services,” Tanjusay explained.

The consensus is a continuation of the Asean Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers that the Philippines introduced when it last hosted the Asean Summit in January 2007.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said the signing of the consensus “is a centerpiece” of the Philippine chairmanship of Asean.

From forming the declaration in 2007 to achieving a consensus in 2017, the Philippine chairmanship of Asean has “come full circle,” he said.

“One of the key features of this Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers is for all countries in Southeast Asia to afford the same level of protection to migrant workers as they do to their own citizens in terms of labor contracts, labor standards, and all of that, access to say legal representation, especially access to consular representation,” Bolivar said.

“All of these things come into play knowing that the Philippines, probably Indonesia and some other countries, are some of the biggest migrant sending countries,” he added.

The action plan will be crafted in the 2018 meetings under the Asean chairmanship of Singapore.

Apart from the labor consensus, the Philippines and other Asean nations jointly declared the official start of negotiations on the code of conduct in disputed waters including the West Philippine Sea.

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