ASEAN urged: Make 'token' migrant pact legally binding

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 15 2017 10:13 AM

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MANILA - An agreement among ASEAN nations to protect migrant workers will amount to a "token" document, unless it becomes legally binding, a labor group said Wednesday. 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations on Tuesday signed a treaty that ensures the visitation rights of workers' family, prohibits the confiscation of passports and cracks down on illegal recruiters, among others. 

These benefits under the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers can't be maximized if implementation is only optional, said Migrante spokesperson Arman Hernando. 

"Mahalagang tingnan paano po magpoprotekta ang isang ASEAN consensus kung hindi ito binding sa mga bansa na pumirma dito. Parang magiging token po iyan sa mga migrante kung mayroong isang instrumento na hindi naman ipatutupad," Hernando told DZMM. 

(It is important to examine how the ASEAN consensus could protect workers if it is not legally binding to the countries that signed it. It would be a token for migrants if its instruments are not implemented.)

The landmark agreement took 10 years to make. It was stalled after ASEAN leaders failed to agree on a proposal by labor-exporting countries like the Philippines and Indonesia to make the treaty legally binding. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said Tuesday he convinced Indonesia earlier this year to sign the treaty without the proposed provision. 

"Pumayag sila na wala nang statement on whether it is legally or morally binding. Siguro naman, sabi nila kapag pumirma ka sa isang kasunduan, you know your obligation," Bello said in a DZMM interview. 

(They agreed that there would no longer be a statement on whether it is legally or morally binding. They said, if you sign the pact, you probably know your obligation.)

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Philippine government data show that a total of 212,435 Filipinos are employed in different countries across Southeast Asia, majority of whom are in Singapore and Malaysia.

DZMM, 15 November 2017