Press Release
February 6, 2008

Jinggoy wants RP to seal labor pacts with Saudi,
other OFW host-countries

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada today urged the government to negotiate for bilateral labor agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and other countries hosting overseas Filipino workers to ensure their welfare and protection, adding that "the miserable fate of the 111 Filipinos stranded since last year under a bridge at the Kandara District in Jeddah, KSA, could have been prevented by such a labor pact."

"Having bilateral labor agreements is the best way to keep our OFWs from abuses and ill-fate. We have to aggressively negotiate for these agreements now not only with the KSA, but with all other OFW destination-countries as well," said Estrada, concurrent chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development and of the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment.

The senator noted the labor pact of the Philippines with Qatar signed in 1997, as a result of negotiations by the then RP Labor Attache Rustico dela Fuente and Labor Secretary Leonardo Quisumbing.

Qatar is the first in only 13 from out of the 197 countries hosting Filipino workers that the Philippines has successfully negotiated for labor agreements with, as the OFW support group Kanlungan Center reported. The 12 other countries are Norway, United Kingdom, Papua New Guinea, South Korea, Taiwan, Switzerland, Libya, Jordan, Kuwait, Iraq, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Indonesia.

Estrada said a meeting between him and KSA Ambassador to the Philippines Mohammed Ameen Wali could pave the way for discussions on the proposed labor pact between the Saudi Ministry of Labor and dela Fuente, who is now the labor attaché in Riyadh, together with Philippine Ambassador to KSA Tony Villamor.

"I am optimistic that KSA's King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud would be receptive to our proposed bilateral labor pact, especially since the KSA is now a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In September last year, Estrada conducted initial discussions with Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Tony Hely for a similar labor pact between the two countries.

"Practically everyday, we hear of Filipino workers being abused and maltreated by their employers abroad, especially in countries that our government does not have bilateral labor agreements with. Such agreements could prevent these misfortunes by laying down the necessary guidelines and provisions for the protection of our workers," Estrada said.

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