Legarda: Welfare of OFWs a Top Priority

April 9, 2013

Promoting the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and seafarers will continue to top Sen. Loren Legarda’s Senate legislative agenda even as the Senator reminded them that they are adequately protected under various laws and treaties passed by Congress.

“Patuloy kong ipaglalaban ang karapatan ng ating mga OFWs sa loob at labas ng Senado. Sa katunayan may mga batas at international treaty na akong itinulak para sa kapakanan nilang naghahanapbunay sa ibang bansa,” Legarda said.

She said the Senate has concurred in the ratification of at least 19 treaties protecting overseas Filipinos, including the ILO Convention 189 on Decent Work for Domestic Workers, the Maritime Labour Convention (MLC) for the protection of the rights of seafarers; and the Convention on Social Security between the Philippines and Spain. As chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee, Legarda had defended the various treaties on the Senate floor.

Legarda added that she will immediately refile her bill institutionalizing welfare programs for OFWs and their families through a new charter for the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

According to Legarda, the ILO Convention 189, which came into force this year, dramatically improves the employment conditions of domestic workers in the Philippines and worldwide.The Philippine ratification of the ILO Convention 189 was formally registered last September 5, with the Philippines as the second country to ratify the Convention.

The treaty will benefit the 3.4 million Filipino domestic workers in the Philippines and abroad by ensuring that, first and foremost, domestic workers, like other workers, enjoy the same mantle of basic rights, such as reasonable hours of work, weekly rest, clear information on terms and conditions of employment, and freedom of association.

The treaty was fleshed out with the recent signing into law of the Kasambahay Act — with Legarda as among the authors — which mandates employers to provide benefits to domestic workers, including Social Security, Philhealth and a minimum wage.

Legarda, who sponsored the Senate’s concurrence in the ratification of the Maritime Labour Convention, said that the MLC, which also takes effect this year, is the seafarers’ bill of rights. It covers such basic rights as freedom of association and the effective recognition of the right to collective bargaining; elimination of all forms of forced or compulsory labor; effective abolition of child labor; and elimination of discrimination with respect to employment and occupation.

Legarda said, “Sea-worthy, safe, efficient, and hopefully, environment-friendly ships will become the norm more than the exception. Governments are called upon by the Convention to effectively enforce its regulatory role in ensuring safer and secure shipping, in preventing marine pollution, and in ensuring decent work for seafarers.”

The Senator added that the MLC erases ambiguity on the definition of seafarer as the Convention covers not just the crew involved in navigating or operating the ship but also other workers, including cleaning personnel, bar staff, waiters, entertainers, singers, kitchen staff, and casino personnel — positions occupied by thousands of Filipinos in foreign vessels.