POEA blacklist a good thing
THE Labor departments blacklisting, through its Philippine Overseas Employment Administration POEA bureau, of 41 countries is good, albeit overdue. With the blacklist these countries will be deprived of the services of overseas Filipino workers OFWs . Filipinos who want to work in the blacklisted countries will not be given the usual permit by the POEA.
The reason for blacklisting these countries is simple and straightforward. They do not comply with guarantees for the OFWs’ protection, safety, well being and dignity required by a Philippine law, the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 or RA 10022.
That law says the Philippine state shall allow the deployment of overseas workers only in countries where the rights of Filipino migrant workers are protected.
The law specifies that the host country should have its own labor and other social legislation protecting the rights of workers, including migrants. The host country should also have signed and ratified international and multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of workers, including migrant workers. It must also have concluded a bilateral agreement or an instrument with the Philippine government on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers.
The countries blacklisted are Afghanistan, Libya, Iraq, Sudan, Chad. Pakistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Cambodia, Cayman Islands, Croatia, Cuba, Dominica, Eritrea, Haiti, India, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Lesotho, Mali, Mauritania, Montenegro, Mozambique, Nauru, Nepal, Niger, North Korea, Palestine, Serbia, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Swaziland, Tajikistan, Timor Leste, Tonga, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, US Virgin Islands, Vanuatu, and Zimbabwe.
The POEA governing board of directors based their determination that the 41 countries were non-compliant on certifications to that effect issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs. But it is not as if the DOLE and POEA themselves did not know first-hand of the unprotected situation of our OFWs in those states. DOLE and POEA have attaches assigned to look into and after OFW affairs in those countries.
Some of the countries on the list are already subject to a prior Philippine deployment ban owing to the hazardous or life threatening conflict or war situations there.
The ban on the 41 countries will apparently not have a large impact on the role that OFW remittances play in sustaining the Philippine economy. The chief of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Carlos Cao, said not too many Filipinos” were working in these 41 workers. “These are the smaller countries with small markets. The negative impact is not going to be very big,” he is quoted as saying by an Agence France-Presse report. OFWs already working in those countries will not be required to come home at once. They may continue serving out their employment contracts but must return to the Philippines immediately after.
What does a country on that list do if it wishes to help its citizens and businesses benefit from the services of Filipino workers? The Labor secretary, who is also the POEA chief, said a country declared non-compliant state could negotiate with the Philippine government to conclude a bilateral agreement in which non-compliance issues are properly addressed. In effect the bilateral agreement would contain a vow from the government of that country undertaking to protect Filipino OFWs, guarantee their human rights and fulfill other specific terms required by the Philippines.
One problem we foresee is that some Filipinos will ignore the ban and put themselves at risk. Most of those who would do this are driven by the need to have an income abroad and the fear that they would not find employment in another foreign country.
This sad prospect should remind our leaders in government, business and industry — that they have a duty to plan to rearrange Philippine development so that the desperate need of Filipinos to work abroad will disappear.