Opening address at the round table discussion on sharing of good practices on local-/community-level mechanisms to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers in Thailand and the Philippines

By Mr Lawrence Jeff Johnson, Director, ILO Country Office for the Philippines at the round table discussion on sharing of good practices on local-/ community-level mechanisms to protect and promote the rights of migrant workers in Thailand and the Philippines, Makati City, Philippines, 11 January 2012

Statement | Makati City, Philippines | 11 January 2012
  • Ms Hagström of the European Union Delegation to the Philippines,
  • Administrator Cacdac of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, who is also the Chairperson of this Meeting,
  • Our resource speakers from Thailand and the Philippines,
  • Project implementing partners,
  • Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, magandang umaga sa inyong lahat (good morning to all of you)!

Let me first wish each of you a happy new year and welcome you to the ILO Country Office for the Philippines!

The ILO, with the support of the European Union, is implementing a Project on migration in Thailand and the Philippines.

The Project aims to support the economic and social reintegration of exploited and trafficked migrants returning from the EU and neighbouring countries.

The ILO has partnered with key government labour institutions and non-government organizations to deliver direct services to return migrants.

The Project has, likewise, been working at the community level with local governments and migrant communities.

In directly dealing with return migrants, we have seen that many have been victims of deceptive recruitment. Migrants not moving out of choice but out of necessity, often find themselves in abusive and exploitative workplaces. They are caught in leveraged debt, and/or in employment different from what they had been contracted.

In the Philippines, as well as in Thailand, national laws have been enacted to protect migrant workers. This includes requiring local governments to provide information including risks involved with labour migration. As for the Philippines, migration and development provisions were included in the Philippine Development Plan which is centred on inclusive and sustained growth.

The ILO supports this goal of achieving sustainable, inclusive and greener growth through decent and productive work mechanisms. In addition, the PDP recognizes the contribution of migrant workers to the economy through remittances but acknowledges their contribution and need to create and expand local employment opportunities.

Thus, it strongly confirms that the welfare and protection of millions of Filipinos working overseas is paramount.

Overseas Filipino workers should have access to and be covered by social security schemes. Laws protecting migrants from illegal recruitment and trafficking should be fully implemented while vulnerability of workers, specifically women migrant workers should be addressed.

Further, the PDP seeks to reduce poverty by focusing on economic opportunities, such as promotion of entrepreneurship among overseas Filipinos that can draw individuals and families into the economic and social mainstream.

These elements are also highlighted in the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan which was crafted by the Department of Labor and Employment.

The Philippine Labor and Employment Plan is the first sectoral plan under the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016 which drew elements from the Global Jobs Pact.

Unanimously adopted worldwide by governments, employers’ and workers’ organizations, the Global Jobs Pact proposes a portfolio of policies aimed at generating employment, extending social protection, respecting labour standards, and promoting social dialogue, while shaping a fair globalization

The Pact protects workers and their families affected by the crisis, in particular the most vulnerable, which include migrant workers.

While there have been significant initiatives in this regard, it is worth revisiting the progress and challenges in implementation to ensure improved and sustained local-level interventions.

We have witnessed the impact of the crisis on communities, individuals and their loved-ones and more recently, disasters from Typhoon Washi to the landslide in Mindanao.

I personally went to Cagayan de Oro and learned that there were migrant workers who invested their hard-earned money to start their own business, but was eventually destroyed while houses were washed out by Typhoon Washi.

Through the livelihood cluster, we will assist typhoon-affected families and vulnerable groups. The livelihood cluster will facilitate provision of cash for work and emergency employment, but within a longer-term ensure access to sustainable livelihoods at the local or community-level.

Without doubt, the current ILO-EU migration project proved that community-level reintegration programmes for returning migrant workers are crucial to prevent recruitment malpractices, which include the risk of human trafficking.

While the project focused on reintegration, we intend to reach out to more people. We want to help communities plan and work together to prevent human trafficking. As we all know, more needs to be done in terms of informing and educating local communities to protect and assist migrant workers and their families.

We want to bring our experiences and lessons learned through the project.This Meeting and Round Table Discussion will, therefore, take stock of existing local- and community-level mechanisms and practices to protect and assist migrant workers in Thailand and the Philippines.

During the plenary discussions, we hope to generate policy recommendations and other practical measures to enhance local-level mechanisms and responses to migration issues.

It would be helpful to identify challenges in local-level implementation and draw out concrete recommendations.

It is also crucial to enhance coordination between national and local authorities, policy development and reform as well as systems for delivering services to migrants, including reintegration assistance. We stand ready to partner with you in meeting these objectives.

Again, let me thank and welcome each of you for joining us today. I wish you all a successful and productive discussion.

Thank you and Mabuhay!