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Labor rights issues top DOLE agenda for bilateral talks with Indonesia, Japan

Improving international labor rights and employment opportunities are on top of the agenda of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) during its bilateral talks with Indonesia and Japan at the 108th Session of the International Labor Conference (ILC) in Geneva, Switzerland.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said his scheduled dialogue with Indonesian officials aims to renew their call to other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to make its instrument for the protection of migrant workers in the region legally binding.

Asean members signed in 2017 a Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Migrant Workers (ACMW).

Among its salient features include the setting of minimum labor standards for migrant workers, regional cooperation against overcharging of recruitment fees and human trafficking, as well as database sharing.

The instrument, however, drew criticism from some migrant advocates since Asean states are not mandated to comply with its provisions.

“What we [Philippine and Indonesia] want is for it to be legally binding and not just a consensus, as there are no legal implications if you will violate [its provisions],” Bello added.

Both the Philippines and Indonesia are among the top-labor sending countries in the Asean region.

Pending memo

During his trip to Geneva, Bello said he will also meet with Japanese officials to expound on the provisions on their new Memorandum of Cooperation (MOC).

Under the MOC, Filipinos belonging in 14 skill categories will qualify to apply for a special visa after they pass the necessary Japanese language proficiency exam and skill test.

“We want to know what they mean with skills upgrading and up to what extent will it be,” Bello said.

Bello said they hope to iron out all the details of the MOC so it could be implemented within the next two months.

The DOLE earlier said over 300,000 jobs will be made available to Filipinos and foreigners under the new visa policy.

International probe

Bello also said that the DOLE is ready to face possible inquiries again from the International Labor Organization (ILO) over the alleged increase in the incidents of labor- rights violations in the Philippines.

He made the statement after local labor groups and even the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) expressed concern over the deaths of labor leaders under the current administration.

The latest of the said incidents was that of Leonides “Dennis” Sequeña in Cavite, who was shot dead earlier this month while attending a workers’ meeting.

According to labor coalition Nagkaisa, Sequeña is the 43rd labor leader to have died during the term of President Duterte.

Local leaders said they may raise the issue during the ongoing ILC. The ILC started on June 10 and will end on June 21.

“We understand their move since it is part of their advocacy,” Bello said.

He said the DOLE is prepared to coordinate with the ILO if it would launch another inquiry.

The last High-Level Mission conducted by ILO in the Philippines was in 2009 when it also looked into reports of labor-rights violations in the country.

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