PH eyes labor deal with Singapore during Duterte visit

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 14 2016 01:31 PM

The Philippine government is hoping to open talks about a possible labor deal with Singapore when President Rodrigo Duterte visits the Southeast Asian nation on Thursday.

Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Antonio Morales said there is no existing bilateral labor agreement between the two countries despite 180,000 Filipinos working and living in the island nation.

"Perhaps a possibility of this thing will be explored and by and large I think it will be a general discussion of the situation of workers," the official said at a press briefing Wednesday.

Duterte is expected to arrive in Singapore for a state visit on Thursday, where he will discuss the welfare of Filipinos with Singaporean leaders, among other things.

Although there are "no pressing labor and immigration issues" concerning Filipino workers in Singapore, Morales said there are still cases of abuse among household service workers.

He said there are more than 70,000 household workers in the Southeast Asian country but that the reported abuses are "very minimal" and won't even reach 1 percent.

The envoy said another concern Filipinos have is the slowdown in the world economy, which may result in the cutting down of manpower.

"This is a concern of countrymen especially those working in the oil and gas industry but fortunately with upswing of oil prices this will be minimized," he said.

Given these concerns, Morales said a bilateral labor agreement can only be good for Filipino workers in the city state.

“We believe that a bilateral labor agreement will institutionalize our cooperation in promoting the welfare of our countrymen," he said.

Singapore is one of the top OFW destinations around the world, making it a major source of remittances. In fact, Morales said it probably ranks second in Asia after Hong Kong and within the top eight worldwide.

Of the 180,000 Filipinos in Singapore, around 60 percent are executives and skilled workers while 40 percent are household service workers, he said.

Morales said interest from the Filipino community in Singapore is high, especially since Duterte won heavily there in the last elections. He said the President garnered 80 percent of total votes cast in Singapore.

"He’s really very popular and our countrymen in Singapore really supported him during the elections and continue to support his leadership and vision for the country," he said.

The ambassador said they expect around 7,000 Filipinos to attend the meeting with Duterte on Friday.

Aside from labor concerns, Morales said illegal drugs may also be covered during Duterte's talks with the Singapore government.

"I think that could be covered because Singapore has a strict policy against illegal drugs and has a good record in prosecuting drug traffickers and drug users and as a hub. It has also experience in controlling the flow of illegal drugs but of course the circumstances of our two countries differ," he said.

The ambassador said there are a few Filipinos in jail in Singapore for drug offenses but that none of them are facing the death penalty.