Opening address at the ILO thematic year-end reception, media recognition and UN photo exhibition on initiatives and partnerships with indigenous peoples

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the ILO thematic year-end reception, media recognition and UN photo exhibition on initiatives and partnerships with indigenous peoples, Rockwell Tent, Makati City, Philippines, 12 December 2011

Statement | Rockwell Tent, Makati City, Philippines | 12 December 2011

Let me express on behalf of the ILO Country Team our gratitude and deep appreciation for your attendance this evening.

The ILO seeks, together with its partners, to achieve sustainable, inclusive and greener growth through decent and productive work mechanisms.

As such, the ILO supports initiatives under the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan and the Philippine Development Plan launched earlier this year.

The Aquino administration through DOLE alongside employers’ and workers’ organization has identified priorities which are consistent with the ILO Global Jobs Pact.

The Philippine Labor and Employment Plan and the Global Jobs Pact highlight the fact the historical approach of focusing on economic growth alone is simply not enough nor is it sustainable.

We need to collectively place decent and productive work at the centre of economic growth strategies - a mechanism that promotes employment while mitigating vulnerability for people and communities.

I am sure you are aware, given your presence here tonight; indigenous peoples are often among those placed in positions of vulnerability when it comes to economic inclusions.

Inclusion would ensure that indigenous peoples are part of a people and job-centred growth strategy.

It may be surprising to some that the ILO has been involved in protecting and promoting the rights of indigenous peoples since 1920.

Tonight, the ILO hopes to raise awareness on the issue of inclusive growth but also raise awareness of indigenous peoples’ contribution by recognizing efforts of journalists.

Part of this evening event is the Media Recognition of Outstanding Stories on Indigenous Peoples which features efforts of journalists who are providing a voice to indigenous peoples while highlighting their contributions to their community and the nation.

Some of these contributions are featured in the on-going photo exhibit which the UN Country Team has put together.

Members of the UN Country Team place significant importance on indigenous communities. An example of a new project launched today is the UNFPA-EU joint programme on maternal and child health care in Mindanao.

As for the ILO, we have a long history of working with our partners in the Philippines to support indigenous communities.

During the last few years the ILO Country Team, in partnership with the Government of the Philippines and with the support of the Governments of Spain and Finland have worked towards the protection of rights of indigenous peoples, and the promotion of sustainable enterprise development and income opportunities for the communities, while empowering indigenous peoples to take the lead in their own development.

Results of this work include the establishment of successful enterprises run by indigenous communities: first, the women cooperation in Lake Sebu making and selling T’nalak products as shown at the exhibit and second is the sago palm flour mill in Veruela, which targets 10 tons of flour a month. The sago palm flour which is then blended with wheat flour to bake the cookies and breads on your table tonight.

The flour mill alone generates at least 50 decent and productive jobs for community members. Increased incomes and new products made of sago palm flour contribute to multiplier effect within the community, reduce the reliance on import of wheat flour and improve food security within the region.

In 2012, we will see similar community-based enterprises in the Bondoc Peninsula. Through public-private partnerships, 125 jobs are targeted for creation in coconut sugar manufacturing facility and 100 jobs in an organic fertilizer establishment. These facilities are vital in the promotion of sustainable inclusive greener jobs which in turn contribute toward peace, security and sustainable economic development.

It is useful for us now and then to remember it is not all about surviving but thriving. I have seen the impact of such investment and also the lack of investments in decent work throughout my career in such places as Banda Aceh in Indonesia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Liberia, and Ghana. Investing in decent and productive employment can place people, communities and nations on the right path.

As for our work with the indigenous communities, I would like to thank the NCIP, under the leadership of Chairperson Pawid. Let me also recognize the Cultural Communities Committee of the Senate and of the House of Representatives for their support to policy development - specifically, the campaign to ratify ILO’s Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention169 in the Philippines.

I would also like to thank Oscar and Connie Lopez and the Lopez Group for graciously offering the Rockwell Tent as the venue for this evening’s event.

I would also like to take this opportunity to personally thank Secretary Baldoz for her leadership, commitment and support to mainstream decent work in the Philippines.

Without Secretary Baldoz’s efforts in this area our ability to support economic growth and livelihood creation with our indigenous partners would simply not have been possible.

The ILO team together with the DOLE and employers and workers organizations have worked alongside the international partners here this evening – Australia, EU, Finland, Japan, Spain and US, toward addressing challenges in a number of areas including child labour, Overview of ILO Assistance to Promote Freedom of Association and Right to Collective Bargaining in the Philippines, youth employment and vulnerability, local economic development and crisis response, migration and human trafficking, occupational safety and health, green jobs and climate change adaptation, along with our work with the UN Country Team on the Millennium Development Goals.

These efforts would not have been possible without our partnerships at the local and national levels and our strong links with the international community.

Moving forward in 2012, we will be building on our experiences and bring together our respective global expertise and partnerships towards achieving sustainable inclusive growth.

We will continue to work with our long-term partners and friends while we seek to cultivate new partnership.

Together we can sustain and scale- up on-going initiatives, and address new challenges to build a better and more productive future for Filipinos at home and abroad.

Again, let me thank each of you for joining us here this evening.

Likewise, I would be remising if I did not take this final opportunity to wish you happy holiday and a decent and productive new year.

Thank you and Mabuhay!