Leaders of the 10-nation ASEAN today signed a landmark agreement that will guarantee the protection of migrant workers, including the thousands of overseas Filipino workers, the Department of Labor and Employment said.

The signing of the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers was among the highlights of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Manila.

The agreement spells the fulfillment of ASEAN's goal to develop an instrument that establishes a framework for cooperation in safeguarding the interests and welfare of the thousands of migrant workers in the region. It strengthens the social protection and access to justice and health services of the region's migrant workers, and ensures their humane and fair treatment.

Among its many important provisions, the document upholds fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, provides for visitation rights by family members, prohibits confiscation of passports and overcharging of placement or recruitment fees, protects against violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, regulates recruiters for better protection of workers, and respects their right to fair and appropriate remuneration and benefits and their right to join trade unions and association. Like all ASEAN agreements, the implementation of the ASEAN Consensus will be subject to the respective laws of the organizations member-countries.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the agreement will benefit the region's migrant workers, including 212,435 Filipino migrant workers in Southeast Asia, majority of whom are employed in Singapore and Malaysia, based on 2016 statistics from the POEA.

The ASEAN Consensus strengthens regional cooperation in preventing abuses, exploitation and violence towards migrant workers. In cases where Filipino migrant workers are imprisoned, they will have rights no less favorable than those applied to the local workers. They also have the right to file grievances with the relevant authorities in the countries they are working in, Bello said.

The ASEAN Consensus, which evolved from the Cebu Declaration on the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers of 2007, is a living document that calls for the development of an action plan to concretize its implementation.

The document was finalized by the Senior Labor Officials during their retreat which was hosted by the Philippines in Manila on 25 August 2017, preceded by a Labor Ministers Retreat in February and another Senior Officials Retreat in March.

Source: Department Of Labor and Employment Republic of Philippines