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ASEAN leaders sign document on migrant workers’ protection

MANILA, Philippines — Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) signed yesterday the Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers that will give the same level of protection to migrant workers as member-states give to their own citizens.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the landmark document protects migrant workers in terms of labor contracts, labor standards, access to legal representation, especially to access to consular representation, something similar to what is enjoyed by citizens of the host countries.

It establishes a framework for cooperation in safeguarding the interests and welfare of the thousands of migrant workers in the region and strengthens social protection as well as access to justice and health services of the region’s migrant workers, ensuring a humane and fair treatment.

The Consensus also upholds fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, provides for visitation rights by family members, prohibits confiscation of passports and overcharging of placement or recruitment fees, protects against violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, regulates recruiters for better protection of workers and respects their right to fair and appropriate remuneration and benefits and their right to join trade unions and associations. 

“This is the centerpiece of our chairmanship. And we are actually quite pleased that we have come full circle. We had a Declaration in 2007, the first time it came about during the Philippine chairmanship, in fact,” Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said on the signing of the document during the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Manila.

The Consensus came a decade after the signing of the Cebu Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

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Like all ASEAN agreements, its implementation will be subject to the respective laws of the organization’s member-countries.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said this agreement will benefit the region’s migrant workers, including the 212,435 Filipino migrant workers in Southeast Asia.

According to 2016 statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, a majority of them are employed in Singapore and Malaysia.

He added that the ASEAN Consensus strengthens regional cooperation in preventing abuses, exploitation and violence towards migrant workers.

“In cases where Filipino migrant workers are imprisoned, they will have rights no less favorable than those applied to the local workers. They also have the right to file grievances with the relevant authorities in the countries they are working in,” Bello added.

ASEAN also signed and adopted the following documents as the outcomes of the Summit: Declaration to Prevent and Combat Cybercrime; Declaration on Innovation; Action Agenda on Mainstreaming Women’s Economic Empowerment in ASEAN; Declaration on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR): Combating AMR through One Health Approach; Declaration on Disaster Health Management; Declaration on Ending All Forms of Malnutrition; Declaration on the Adoption of the ASEAN Youth Development Index; Declaration on “Culture of Prevention for a Peaceful, Inclusive, Resilient, Healthy and Harmonious Society;” Declaration on the Gender-Responsive Implementation of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025 and Sustainable Development Goals; Joint Statement on Climate Change to the 23rd Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC COP-23); and the Joint Statement on Promoting Women, Peace and Security in ASEAN.            

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