- Director Avila and officials from DOLE,
- Government, workers and employers representatives from the fisheries sector,
- My colleagues – Brandt Wagner, ILO Geneva and Jajoon Coue, ILO Bangkok
- Ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat!
Let me also thank and congratulate DOLE, under the leadership of Secretary Baldoz, for spearheading and organizing these consultations.
In the 21st century, with all the advancement in technology and communication; the fishing industry is as vital today as it was to our forefathers.
In many countries like the Philippines, the fishing industry is not only a source of employment and household income. It also contributes to food production and drives export growth.
More than 8 out of 10 fishers around the world are in Asia.
Here in the Philippines, over one million workers depend on fishing to earn an income and to support their loved-ones.
But challenges remain, including unpaid wages of some fishers; unsafe working conditions, most are unregulated and in vulnerable forms of employment; and we are aware of, incidents of abuse in fisheries and fishing vessels in Asia.
Turning to the ILO’s standards on the Work in Fishing Convention, 2007 (No. 188) and Work in Fishing Recommendation, 2007 (No. 199) were adopted in 2007 to address challenges in the fishing industry.
ILO Convention 188 ensures decent living and working conditions of fishers with regard to minimum requirements for work on board; conditions of service; food and accommodation; occupational safety and health; medical care; and social security.
The Convention considers various conditions and contexts of fishers. It’s an instrument firm on rights and principles but flexible on implementation.
The Convention provides guidance on curbing unacceptable forms of work such as forced labour and child labour in fishing, including inequality due to poverty.
It’s also a reference for crafting laws and policies to protect fishers and to promote increased productivity.
ILO Convention 188 further supports the Philippines’ goal of inclusive growth, regardless of sector and industry.
Fisheries often drive rural employment and inclusive growth cannot be achieved if we leave behind fishers and their loved-ones.
Another important factor is how the Convention complements the Maritime Labour Convention ratified by the Philippines.
Discussions on the MLC regarding labour standards for seafarers often raised the issue of working conditions of fishers.
The MLC covers vessels engaged in processing and transporting, but not catching fish. Convention 188, on the other hand, reflects the unique nature of the fishing industry. It promotes decent and production work for fishers on board fishing vessels.
Another area we need to consider is the EU’s Generalized Scheme of Preference (GSP), which allows developing country exporters to pay less or zero tariffs.
Full removal on tariffs is granted to countries, which ratify and implement international conventions relating to human and labour rights, environment and good governance.
It is our hope that the possible ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 188 will open more opportunities for the fishing industry in the Philippines.
As initial steps, the ILO has supported a gap analysis of Philippine laws, regulations and other measures, including requirements of Convention 188.
The gap analysis aims to assist stakeholders identify challenges and propose actions through a road map.
We hope the consultations in Mindanao, Visayas and today in Luzon will support efforts to introduce national policy and legal reforms to protect fishers; and help develop and grow the industry.
As representatives of the fishing industry, you are aware of the various issues and concerns. You have a good perspective of barriers and challenges as well as possible solutions.
I encourage you to be part of the dialogue on the situation of both fishers working in Philippines and foreign flagged fishing vessels.
We’ve taken the first step but results are not achieved overnight. Your active participation is vital.
I also look forward to seeing how the ILO can support you to ratify Convention 188.
The ILO stands ready to provide technical assistance toward progressive compliance.
Together, we can help ensure decent and productive work for our Filipino fishers!