MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is seeking bilateral agreements with countries employing migrant workers not only to secure more jobs for Filipinos but also to ensure their protection and welfare.
Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Carmelita Dimzon said the agreements would be patterned after those being negotiated with France and Italy.
"The draft (for France) is almost finished while Italy (has only) groundwork pa lang," she said in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) at the Philippine International Cultural Center in Manila on Wednesday.
Templates for other European and Middle East countries are also in the works, she said.
"’Pag nag-start sunud-sunod na ‘yan, like with Canada (Once its starts, everyone will follow, just like with Canada)," said Dimzon, a long-time deputy administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) prior to her appointment as OWWA chief in September.
The POEA is tasked to locate labor markets worldwide and regulate the country’s labor export industry, which is one of the biggest in the world with 8.7 million Filipino migrant workers.
The OWWA is responsible for providing welfare and protection for OFWs, hundreds of whom are under detention in foreign jails for various offenses. Thousands of OFWs, particularly the Filipino domestic workers abroad are also in the “distressed" category and are supposed to be assisted by the agency.
Dimzon assured OFWs that these agreements or memorandum of understandings contain provisions meant to protect workers’ rights.
She said the provisions would also require host governments to give funds for the training and education of the people they are going to hire.
Four regions in Canada have already entered into MOUs with the Philippines, while the renewal of the 2006 memorandum with Spain has been postponed indefinitely.
Dimzon said she was pleased with the many countries who expressed interest in the Philippines and its people.
"Nakakatuwa, ang daming interesado (I'm happy to see that so many are interested)," she said.
Dimzon said that an Israeli organization recently approached her and said that it wanted to help Filipino workers in its country gain skills and training.
Dimzon said that the current financial crisis doesn't feel like it is affecting non-Western countries at all.
"Sa (In the) Department of Labor and Employment, we're not pessimistic about this, we don't want it to be called a global financial crisis" she said.
She cited the health care industry to be one sector that is most likely to be unaffected by the financial crunch.
"Despite the financial crisis, you can't keep people from getting old or getting sick," she said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that countries like Hong Kong are thinking of either freezing the current minimum wage of foreign workers or decreasing it to cushion the effect of the crisis on its citizens. - GMANews.TV