Some ASEAN countries not ready for “legally binding” document on protection of migrants’ rights

Feb. 20, 2017

ASEAN Labor Ministers joining hands: DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III (5th from left) with top Labor Officials in the region poses for a souvenir photo of the two-day meeting at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City. From left: Abdul Matulib Yusof, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Brunei Darussalam; H.E. Mam Vannak, Secretary of State, Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, Cambodia; H.E. Muhammad Hanif Dhakiri, Minister, Ministry of Manpower, Indonesia; H.E. Khampheng Saysompheng, Minister, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Lao PDR; H.E. Sam Tan, Minister of State (Manpower), Singapore; YBHG. Dato’ Sri Adenan Bin AB. Rahman, Secretary General, Ministry of Human Resources, Malaysia; H.E. Thein Swe, Union Minister, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, Myanmar; Singhadet Chu-umnart, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Labour, Thailand; Ta Thi Thanh Thuy, Head of Legislation Division, Department of Overseas Labor Administration, Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs, Vietnam. (Photo by ASEAN Secretariat)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said some countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations are not yet ready to commit to a legally binding document that will include the protection and promotion of the rights of the migrant workers in the ASEAN region.
In an interview Bello told DavaoToday they are still hoping the leaders would come up with an agreement and resolve the issue of the nature of the “instrument” which they seek to achieve.
Bello said the Indonesia proposed that the agreement should be legally binding.
“Hopefully magkaka-agree sila. Yung mga ibang ministers of labor hindi pa sila ready to accept (Hopefully they can reach an agreement. Some ministers of labor are not yet ready to accept),” Bello said.
Bello did not specifically mention which among the 10-member  countries did not favor the move to make it legally binding.
But Bello said he proposed to use the term “morally binding” instead.
He said the document seeks to protect migrant workers’ rights and will include among other, working hours and exemption of payment of terminal fees and recruitment fees.
“Baka pwede nang i-waive (Maybe those payments can be waived),” he said.
Bello admitted that a “morally binding” document will not be able to run after those who would violate the agreement legally.
“Pero morally, ibig sabihin, leaving it to the conscience of other countries to provide protection and promotion of the rights of our migrant workers,” he said.
Bello said he already talked to the labor official of Indonesia whom he described to be open to the idea.
The labor officials will continue discussing the agreement today including the review of the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers signed in Cebu City in January 2007.
Bello said they hope an agreement will be achieved today but he said some of the officials are suggesting to have it by March during their next meeting.
In his opening remarks on Monday morning, Bello urged the labor ministers to complete the task for the implementation of the Declaration.
“I have received word that yesterday, through a show of goodwill and a very open yet frank discussion, we have achieved a breakthrough on the principal issues of the instrument,” he said.
“We must now be of a mindset to complete our task to implement the Declaration,” Bello added.(
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