Leaders of Southeast Asian nations, led by President Rodrigo Duterte, on Tuesday night signed a landmark agreement on the protection of migrant workers.
The signing took place at the tail-end of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit being held in the Philippines.
The agreement, called the ASEAN Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of Rights of Migrant Workers, has provisions that include allowing laborers to join unions and prohibiting employers from confiscating their workers' passports.
Other provisions include upholding fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, providing for visitation rights by family members, ensuring the protection of their right to access information pertaining to their employment and employment-related conditions, and respecting their right to fair and appropriate remuneration and benefits.
"The implementation of the ASEAN Consensus will be subject to the respective laws of the ASEAN Member States," the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
At the opening of the summit on Monday, Duterte said the document "would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, and access to health services" of migrant workers.
The signing of the pact was hailed by the DFA as the "centerpiece" of the Philippine’s ASEAN chairmanship, which last happened in 2007 and will only happen again 10 years from now.
Thousands of Filipinos each year leave from their families to work abroad, and reports of physical, sexual and emotional abuse by foreign employers may have become a cautionary tale for aspiring migrant workers. The number of Overseas Filipino Workers has not dipped below two million between 2010 and 2016.
The signing of the agreement came a decade after the ASEAN adopted the Declaration on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers.
About 212,435 Filipino migrant workers in the ASEAN region, majority of whom were employed in Singapore and Malaysia, stand to benefit from this agreement. —KBK, GMA News