by Philippine Migrants Rights Group
May 7, 2009
UN Calls on RP Government to Review Labor Migration Policy and To Give Priority to Human Rights
The United Nations Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families (“UN MWC”) said it will hold the Philippine government to a higher standard of protecting the human righs of migrant workers after the government projected itself as the “global model” for migration.
The UN MWC urged the Philippine government to review its labor migration policy and to give priority to human rights protection of migrant workers.
This was the central theme of the Concluding Observations of the UN MWC on the report of the Philippines on the implementation of the Migrant Worker Convention submitted to, and considered by the UN MWC on 23-24 April 2009 in Geneva, Switzerland.
The UN MWC, while regretting the substantial delay in the submission of the initial report of the Philippines which was originally due in 2004, nonetheless welcomed the submission of the initial report.
In its concluding observations, the UN MWC recognized the fact that the Philippines is mainly a sending country and that most country destinations of Filipino migrant workers are not yet signatories to the MWC. The Committee also noted that the archipelagic geography of the Philippines poses as a limiting condition in combatting trafficking and protecting the human rights of migrant workers.
The UN MWC initially noted with appreciation the Philippine government's commitment to protect migrant workers' rights as illustrated by its constitutional, legislative and judicial frameworks as well as the various institutional mechanisms in place for the protection of migrant workers' rights The UN MWC also noted that the Philippine government has recently ratified several important international instruments such as the Protocol to Prevent, Supress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children and Protocol Against the Smuggling of Migrants by Land, Air and Sea and ILO Convention Nos. 97 and 143, among others.
Commenting on the Philippine report, the UN MWC expressed its concern on the insufficiency of the Philippine government's report on the implementation, follow-up and evaluation of the government programs mentioned in the report. The UN MWC also expressed its concern on the implementation of the Philippine government's Administrative Order Nos. 247 and 248 that put premium on the promotion of foreign employment of migrant workers over the protection of their human rights. In this context, the UN MWC strongly urged the Philippine government to review its labor migration policy in order to give primary importance to the protection of human rights.
The UN MWC also noted that the Philippine government has not yet made the necessary declarations as provided in Articles 76 and 77 of the Migrant Workers Convention recognizing the competence of the UN MWC to receive communications from State parties and individuals.The absence of the formal declaration from the Philippine government prevents the UN MWC from accepting formal communications from individual complaints from Filipino migrant workers.
The UN MWC also expressed with concern the following observations: (a) failure of the Philippine government to set up a reliable and quality statistical database on migrant workers; (b) insufficient information on the content, conduct and assessment of the pre-departure orientation seminars; (c) the limited and conditional trade union rights granted to migrant workers in the Philippines, which is a violation of the MWC; (d) the absence of information on the use and operation of the Legal Assistance Fund for migrant workers; (e) the weak campaign against illegal recruitment; and (f) the restrictions on voting rights of Filipino immigrants and permanent residents abroad.
Point 31 of the Concluding Observation of the UN MWC also noted that abuse and exploitation of Filipino migrant workers continue despite the Philippine government’s efforts to protect the rights of Filipino migrant workers abroad. Many cases are underreported, and that most vulnerable are the women migrants. The Committee recommended to the Philippine government to exert more effort in the protection of women's rights and in the enhancement of women empowerment;
Ellene Sana, Executive Director for Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines (CMA) said that another important point in the Report was the inclusion of the phrase: “the Committee recommends that the State party guarantee broader participation of civil society NGOs”. The CMA led the Philippine Migrant Rights Groups in crafting their own report.
“We welcome the Concluding Observations of the UN MWC because it is a recognition of the important role of the non-government organizations not only during the regular session and report preparation but also of our actual work with Filipino migrants”, added Sana.
The Philippine Migrant Rights Group is composed of some 49 Philippine-based church, migrant rights NGOs, trade unions, OFWs and OFW associations in the Philippines and overseas came together specifically to prepare an alternative report and directly participate in the 10th Session of the UN Committee on Migrant Workers.
For the next periodic report of the Philippines in May 2011, the Committee hopes to hear more of the implementation of the various laws and policies on migrant workers.
Contacts: (members of NGO delegation to the UN MWC)
Ellene Sana, CMA, 9205003; 0917 4481464
Atty. Henry Rojas, CMA, 09178224710
Ediza Pumarada, CBCP-ECMI/ Scalabrini Lay Association, 09177891248
Mel Nuqui, Development Action for Women Network, 5269098
Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines*
72-C Matahimik Street, Teachers’ Village
Quezon City, Philippines
Telefax: +632 4330684
Telephone: +632 920 5003
*CMA is a member of the Migrant Forum in Asia (www.mfasia.org);
the Philippine Migrants Rights Watch (www.pmrw.org); and,
Network Opposed to Violence Against Women Migrants (NOVA)