If the new Migrant workers law is strictly adhered and implemented there would be no single OFW-receiving country in the Middle East to be issued the required certification so that deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) would still continue, thus said today by an alliance of Filipino migrants in the Middle East.
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona is referring to Republic Act No. 10022 that amended R.A. No. 8042 known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
R.A. No. 10022, legislated by the Fourteenth Congress during its Third regular Session though then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did not act on it, but lapsed into a law on March 8, 2010.
“The numerous cases of OFWs abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices abroad prompted various OFWs groups and migrant advocates to pushed and lobbied for the amendment of the old Migrant workers law (R.A. 8042) with an aim of improving the standards of protection and promote the welfare of OFWs especially those in distress,” Monterona added.
R.A. 10022 will be in full effect on November 1.
The new Migrant Workers law (R.A. 10022) requires the Philippine government to certify that OFWs-host & receiving countries comply with the requirements of the law before the actual deployment of OFWs. These are the same certification requirements imposed by RA 8042, the old Migrant workers law, but were previously ignored.
Either of the 3 criteria should be met for the issuance of the required certification: 1) the receiving country has existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of workers, including migrant workers; 2) the country is a signatory to and has ratified multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions related to the protection of workers, including migrant workers; 3) the receiving country has concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement with the Philippine government on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers.
“The criteria are actually pre-conditions setforth by the law to ensure that OFWs well-being, rights and welfare are protected, respected and even promoted while working overseas amid the numerous OFWs cases of abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices reported abroad especially in the Middle East,” Monterona added.
However, Monterona said upon its initial research it found out that most, if not all, of the Mid-east host and OFWs-receiving countries including Saudi Arabia, which is hosting about 1.2-M OFWs, does not meet the new Migrant workers law criteria for certification as stated above.
“Each mid-east country has their own respective labor law, but notably it neither guarantee nor allowed unionism; even labor movements including migrant workers movement are prohibited and not recognized, thus mid-east governments are accused of being anti-labor,” Monterona added.
On the second criteria (the host & receiving country is a signatory to multilateral and international conventions, declarations of resolutions on the protection of migrant workers), Monterona have noted that most Arab states (with the exception of Syria) in the Mid-East have not ratified the United Nations Conventions on the Protection of Migrant workers and members of their Families which has been ratified by 20 states that took effect on 14 March 2003.
The countries that have ratified, as of March 2007, the UN Convention on the Protection of Migrant workers are Argentina, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, East Timor, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Peru, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uganda and Uruguay.
Notably, states that have ratified the Convention are primarily migrants-sending countries like Mexico and the Philippines.
Failure to get certification, does it mean that the Philippine govt. would stop sending OFWs in Saudi Arabia and other mid-east countries in accordance to the new Migrant workers law? “I don't think so,” Monterona replied.
“Though at present the Philippine government has not yet concluded a bilateral agreement or any arrangement with any OFWs' host & receiving Mid-east governments on the protection of the rights and well-being of OFWs, the Aquino administration could still work for such agreement if it has the political will to do so,” Monterona added.
“If the Aquino administration would be 'lazy' forging a bilateral agreement protecting OFWs, for instance with Saudi government, then it would be facing a dilemma -between continued deployment of OFWs (in countries without the required certification) and its constitutional duty to implement the law,” Monterona added.
Saudi Arabia is No.1 on Top 10 countries of destinations by the numbers of deployed land-basedd for new hires and re-hires with almost 300,000 OFWs deployed last year, citing the 2009 Overseas EmploymentStatisticss by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).
There are about 1.2-M OFWs now working in Saudi Arabia, mostly domestic helpers and construction workers.
In 2009, OFWs from Saudi Arabia have sent a remittance totaling to almost $1.5-M, next to US and Canada. With an increase of OFW deployment, it is expected to reach $2-M remittance by the end of this year.
Other mid-east countries on the Top 10 OFWs destinations are UAE (rank #2), Qatar (rank #4), Kuwait (rank #6) and Bahrain (rank #10).
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator
Email: [email protected]