The Philippines over the weekend exhorted the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ senior labor officials to work for the protection of migrant workers, especially the undocumented ones who are prone to abuse and exploitation.

Philippine labor secretary Rosalinda Baldoz issued the call to the ASEAN’s 11th Senior Labor Officials Meeting, citing the ASEAN Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

“As stipulated in the ASEAN Declaration, receiving states and the sending states shall, for humanitarian reasons, closely cooperate to resolve the cases of migrant workers who, through no fault of their own, have subsequently become undocumented,” she said in her statement read by Undersecretary Reydeluz Conferido.

She also emphasized the obligation of receiving states to “provide migrant workers, who may be victims of discrimination, abuse, exploitation, or violence, with adequate access to the legal and judicial systems of the receiving states.”

Baldoz also called on the ministers to uphold the rights and dignity of migrant workers and family members already residing with them.

Also, she pointed out mobility will be inevitable in the ASEAN members’ shared borders, which may involve a 14-day visa-free entry privilege among ASEAN citizens.

She said ASEAN authorities need to have “practical procedures and protocols for dealing with the reality of migrants who have become undocumented through no fault of their own.”

“There may be an inescapable reality expected in the integrated economic community, and this is an increase in intra-ASEAN migration—both through documented, partly documented, and undocumented channels,” she said.

The Philippines hosts this year’s biennial SLOM. Senior labor officials from ASEAN member states, Japan, Korea, and China are in Manila for the event.

“We look forward to a more strengthened ASEAN inter-governmental cooperation as China, Korea, and Japan, join the SLOM, thus, the SLOM + 3 takes place on the third day of the meeting,” Conferido said.

Build on past accomplishments

Baldoz also urged the ASEAN SLOM to “build on past accomplishments,” citing the groundwork established during the 26th ASEAN Summit last April in Kuala Lumpur.

She also asked the ASEAN labor ministers to continue working on the finalization of an ASEAN Instrument in the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.

Baldoz said a purely legalistic response may not be fully effective, and pushed for a coordinating mechanism to let government agencies work for justice. —Joel Locsin/KG, GMA News

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