Asean leaders forge accord to protect region’s migrant workers
Leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) signed on Tuesday evening the agreement on the protection of migrant workers’ rights in the region.
The signing ceremony for the Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers was held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) in Pasay City.
The 10 Asean member-states that signed the document are the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos, and Brunei.
The Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers has been dubbed as a “landmark” document and a “centerpiece” of President Rodrigo Duterte’s chairmanship of the Asean.
“(This) would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services for our people,” Mr. Duterte earlier said.
The Asean Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers came seven years after the regional bloc adopted the Asean Declaration of the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
But a global alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) said that while Duterte hails the agreement, migrant workers from the Philippines and the regional bloc are “yet to assess if the final document adequately protects migrant workers’ rights or provides redress mechanisms, especially for those in distress.”
According to Migrante International, the drafting of the instrument had come to an impasse since 2009 after members of the committee, specifically migrant-sending countries, failed to agree with provisions proposed by committee members and migrant-sending countries like the Philippines and Indonesia.
The group said that among the disputed issues were: whether the instrument will be legally-binding, will protect undocumented or irregular migrant workers, will cover migrants’ family members, and will cover migrant workers, who are not from Asean member states.
Migrante warned that if the recently-signed agreement still does not address the enumerated core issues, Duterte “just signed a landmark spoiler for migrants rights that, ironically, the Philippines has been contesting for 10 years now.”
The Philippines is one of the leading labor exporters in the world, with around 10 million Filipinos working in various countries. OFWs contribute as much as 10 percent to the country’s gross domestic product yearly. /kga
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