MANILA: The Philippine government is going to pursue the welfare of migrant workers at the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Gulf Cooperation Council Summit, the Department of Foreign Affairs has said, as preparations are underway for the inaugural meeting in Riyadh.
Around half of some 1.8 million overseas Filipinos live and work in Gulf countries, according to the latest survey by the Philippine Statistics Authority.
Manila wants their welfare and protection to be discussed when leaders of the ASEAN — of which the Philippines is a founding member — convene with the GCC in the Saudi capital in October.
Daniel Espiritu, assistant secretary for ASEAN affairs at the Department of Foreign Affairs, told Arab News this week that while the summit’s agenda is expected to be finalized next month, the Philippines “will push” for the issue of migrant workers’ welfare to be included.
“The president will bring up the issue of migrant workers’ protection. That will be on top,” he said. The protection of migrant workers has long been a priority in ASEAN, as each year the region sends millions of them abroad. A declaration on their protection, especially in emergency situations like conflict, was adopted by ASEAN members during the ASEAN Summit in Indonesia in May.
For Southeast Asian countries like the Philippines, migrant workers are key drivers of the local economy. Remittances from overseas Filipino workers have in the past decade contributed an average of nearly 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.
“Migrant workers’ protection is a priority program of our government,” Arnold Mamaclay, president of the Philippine Employment Agencies and Associates for Corporate Employers in the Middle East, told Arab News.
“Pushing this in the summit will acknowledge their rights, ensure fair treatment, and foster cooperation between countries.”
According to Lito Soriano, former head of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, discussing labor migration at the summit would help align Philippine policies with those of the receiving countries and make them mutually beneficial.
“This meeting of minds between ASEAN and GCC is a much-needed activity,” he said. “It helps the social and economic improvement of both the sending and receiving countries.”