Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Monday urged the government to enter into bilateral agreements with other countries frequented by OFWs and use the memorandum of understanding (MOU) negotiated with Kuwait as a blueprint.
"The government should use this MOU as a blueprint for proactively negotiating similar agreements with other countries that attract high numbers of OFWs," Gatchalian said in a press statement.
He said this is to protect the welfare of OFWs in countries where they are deployed.
Based on the details initially reported by Labor Secretary Bello III, the Philippines-Kuwait soon-to-be-signed MOU "provides concrete safeguards to stop longstanding anti-labor practices that degrade the rights of OFWs."
A preliminary agreement was signed by Filipino and Kuwait officials last March 16 following a series of meeting in Manila.
Gatchalian said under the agreement, Kuwaiti employers are prohibited from withholding the passports of OFWs. It also ensures that employment contracts would be based on Philippine labor laws and require written consent of an OFW before being transferred to a new employer.
He said the government should be particularly assertive in inking similar agreements with OFW receiver countries, particularly in the Middle East, whose national laws do not provide adequate protection to migrant workers,.
Gatchalian said this is to satisfy the express mandate found in Section 4 of the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 (Republic Act No. 8042, as amended) that OFWs shall only be deployed to countries where their rights are expressly protected by law or treaty.
"The signing of a bilateral agreement with the Philippines to protect and uphold the most basic fundamental rights of OFWs should be a sine qua non condition for their deployment to a certain country,” he said.
He said any country that would refuse to enter into such an agreement does not deserve to benefit from the skills and talents of the OFWs.
The Senate approved last week a resolution calling for a total deployment ban of Filipino household workers to countries that do not respect the rights of migrant workers and allow employers to withhold their passports.
Senate Resolution 676 expresses the sense of the chamber that the deployment of Filipino household workers to countries that do not afford migrants the same rights and work conditions as their nationals and allow the withholding of Philippine passports be totally banned.
In his sponsorship speech, Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III said the resolution applies only to OFWs who work as domestic helpers because they "are more vulnerable to abuse, as their place of work is shielded from public view." —KBK, GMA News