Aquino to tackle plight of migrant workers at 9th ASEM Summit
VIENTIANE, Lao People’s Democratic Republic–As the Philippines continues to send its citizens for jobs abroad, the plight and protection of migrant workers will figure prominently in President Benigno Aquino’s talks with European leaders during the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit here, according to Ambassador Lumen Isleta.
Isleta said that among the many topics to be taken up in the biennial gathering of Asian and European leaders, Aquino, who will be arriving here Sunday, will give priority to issues related to migration.
She noted that Europe is host to many Filipino workers. For instance, majority of merchant marine in Norway is manned by Filipino seafarers.
“In the talks of the President with Europe as a whole, migration will figure quite prominently in the topics he will raise,” Isleta said.
Energy security is another matter that the President intends to highlight, she further said. The ASEM Summit is expected to tackle myriad issues, including the eurozone crisis, climate change, sustainable development, and economic and financial setbacks.
It is not yet certain if the simmering regional tension over territorial disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) would be on the agenda, Foreign Affairs officials said earlier.
The President’s focus on migration comes on the heels of a recent analysis of the International Labour Organization showing that domestic workers in Europe, including Filipinos, continued to be prone to abuse, especially compared to other workers.
According to the ILO analysis, the existence of laws for domestic workers has not been enough to protect them, with weak compliance and gaps in legislation.
Though there are labor inspectors, few domestic workers are eager to report or denounce their employers, it said.
It further said the failure to follow the laws is related to the perception of some people hold that domestic work is not a real form of employment. Many of the domestic workers in Europe are in the informal economy, and are illegal migrants or working in the hidden economy.
In Vientiane, Aquino will meet with members of the Filipino community a day before the start of his talks with European leaders.
Filipinos in Lao PDR are in professional, skilled, or office jobs rather than domestic work, and are valued in the community, according to Isleta.
Majority of the 556-member Filipino community work as hotel staff, English teachers, consultants in United Nations agencies and international NGOs, engineers in mining and hydropower projects, accountants, and office and garments factory employees.
“The common (sentiment) among these employers of Filipino workers is that they are hardworking, honest, and friendly, and easy to work with,” Isleta said.
The President is attending the ASEM Summit for the first time on Nov. 5 to 6. He will arrive Sunday afternoon in Lao PDR’s capital, Vientiane.
In attending the 9th ASEM Summit, Aquino is expected to strengthen economic and political ties with the European region, and to seek more support for the Bangsamoro, the region to be formed following the signing of the government’s peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The President will also hold bilateral talks with six European leaders to several issues, including human rights, disaster risk reduction, and labor and economic concerns.
The Philippines is a founding member of the ASEM.
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