Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Senior Labor Officials join hands at the start of the two-day ASEAN Labor Ministers’ Retreat at Marco Polo Hotel in Davao City on Sunday. From left: Abdul Mutalib POKSSDP Haji Mohd Yusof, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, Brunei Darussalam; CHUOP Narath, Deputy Director General of Labour, Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training, Cambodia; Maruli Apul Hasoloan, Director General, Manpower Placement Development and Job Opportunity Expansion, Ministry of Manpower, Indonesia; Phongsaysack INTHALATH, Director General of Labour Management Department, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Lao PDR; Hans Leo Cacdac, Administrator, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration-Department of Labor and Employment, Philippines; Aubeck Kam, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of State (Manpower), Singapore; Dato’ Mohd Jeffrey Bin Joakim, Director General of Labour, Department of Labour Peninsular Malaysia, Malaysia; Khin Nway Oo, Deputy Director General ASEAN Unit, International Division, Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population, Myanmar; Chaiyot Yousub, Director, International Cooperation Bureau, 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 and H.E. Vongthep Arthakaivalvatee and Deputy Secretary General, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community. (Photo by ASEAN Secretariat)

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Labor Ministers’ Retreat and the 10th Meeting of the ASEAN Committee on Migrant Workers will review a Declaration signed ten years ago which provided for the rights of migrant workers.

The meetings will be hosted by the Department of Labor and Employment from February 19 to 22 in Davao City.

“We are honored to host the ministerial retreat and the ACMW meeting this year. The Philippines as the chairman of ASEAN 2017 looks forward to the finalization of the instrument on the protection and promotion of the rights of migrant workers,” Bello said.

The ASEAN, 10 years ago, signed the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers during the 12th ASEAN Summit held in Cebu City on January 13, 2007.

The Declaration, signed by the heads of state and government of the member countries of the ASEAN, aimed to “intensify efforts to protect the fundamental rights, promote the welfare, and uphold human dignity of migrant workers.”

This year, the meeting of the labor ministers will revisit the provisions in the Declaration, particularly the issues affecting the rights of migrant workers, undocumented workers and the rights of their families.

However, migrant workers group’s Migrante Chairperson Connie Regalado said the rights of migrant workers continue to be violated even with the signing of the Declaration. She said the member countries failed in respecting the signed Declaration.

Regalado said the ASEAN meeting will only advance the “myth” that migration will bring development to poor countries in the ASEAN.

Based on the data of the Philippine Statistics Authority there are 2.4 million OFWs during the period of April to September 2015.

It said Overseas Contract Workers (OCWs) or those with existing work contract comprised 97.1 percent of the total OFWs during the period April to September 2015. The rest (2.9 %) worked overseas without contract.

“For the longest time that we have been sending out our workers abroad, our country did not develop,” she said.

She said it would be best if the ASEAN countries will tackle the issue of the ongoing crackdown against OFWs in ASEAN countries and hold the country accountable for the violation of the migrants’ workers’ rights.

Regalado said the government should also address the needs of the Filipino workers by providing employment with decent wage in the country.

“Sana wakasan na itong contractualization para itong mga paroo’t parito na lang sa mga bansa ng Asia, dahil walang trabaho dito sa atin, meron silang alternative to stay in the Philippines. Dapat ito yung pagtuunan nila ng pansin hindi yung kung paano sila kumita sa migration,” she said.

(We call for the end of contractualization in the country so that Filipinos who are working in other Asian countries will have an alternative in staying in the Philippines. The government should prioritize this and not how to profit from migration.)

She also brought up the armed conflict particularly in Mindanao that is affecting the livelihood of those in the communities.

She said because of war the people are losing their livelihoods and opt to work to neighboring countries using “backdoor” channels in Mindanao.

“Sana i-address din yung gyera diyan para hindi madisplace yung marami nating kababayan diyan at tumawid sa Sabah na pagdating doon ay ma-violate din yung karapatan nila (We hope the government will also address the war in Mindanao so that our fellowmen will not be displaced and will not cross Sabah where their rights will be violated),” she said.(

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