Labor groups cheer as Du30 confirms ‘landmark’ ASEAN document on migrant workers to be signed

November 13, 2017 - 4:27 PM
President Rodrigo Duterte walks past ASEAN flags to join other ASEAN leaders during a photo call with the ASEAN-Business Advisory Council (ABAC) members, as part of the 31st ASEAN summit and related meetings on Monday, Nov. 13, 2017. BERNARD TESTA/POOL

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte announced Monday that Southeast Asian nations have agreed to sign a consensus that would protect and promote the right of migrant workers, drawing praise from labor groups.

“I am pleased to announce that ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) member states have come to an agreement or an ASEAN consensus on the protection and promotion of rights of rights of migrant workers,” Duterte said in his speech during the opening of the 31st ASEAN Summit.

Duterte said the “landmark document” would strengthen the social protection, access to justice, humane treatment, and access to health services of migrant workers in the regional bloc.

ASEAN leaders are expected to sign the document on Tuesday, November 14.

Nearly seven million migrant workers are employed within ASEAN member states.

Over the years, migrant workers have faced various barriers as they search for economic opportunities outside their country of origin. They have had to endure lengthy recruitment processes, undocumented status, and struggles with legal problems.

ASEAN authorities have also noted cases of abuse against women workers, dire conditions in sweatshops, poor wages, and scanty social protection, if at all.

Department of Foreign Affairs acting spokesperson Robespierre Bolivar has described the signing of the consensus for migrant workers’ rights as the “centerpiece” of the Philippine chairmanship.

He said the signing of the consensus this year would implement the commitments mentioned in the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers, which the regional bloc adopted in 2007.

Meanwhile, workers’ groups welcomed Duterte’s announcement, calling it “a positive step towards an improved labor and occupational safety standards among ASEAN ten member states.”

“We commend President Rodrigo Duterte for putting in the forefront of the Summit the welfare of 10 million migrant workers in ASEAN by ensuring that the consensus is signed among the first in the order of business,” Alan Tanjusay, spokesperson of the Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (ALU-TUCP), said in a statement.

The group said it was about time ASEAN member states worked on having “common, uniform labor and working conditions,” which had been lacking for a long time.

“To ensure a genuine and functional shared prosperity, certain labor, safety, and health standards must be observed,” Tanjusay said.