Senator Win Gatchalian is urging the Duterte administration to use the memorandum of understanding (MOU) negotiated between the Philippines and Kuwait as a blueprint for future bilateral agreements to protect the welfare of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in countries where they are frequently deployed.
Gatchalian explained that based on the details initially reported by Labor Secretary Bebot Bello, the PH-Kuwait MOU “provides concrete safeguards to stop longstanding anti-labor practices that degrade the rights of OFWs.”
For example, the MOU would prohibit Kuwaiti employers from withholding the passports of OFWs, ensure that employment contracts would be based on Philippine labor laws, and require written consent of an OFW before being transferred to a new employer.
“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.
The legislator stressed that the government should be particularly assertive in inking similar agreements with OFW receiver countries whose national laws do not provide adequate protection to labor and migrant workers, especially in the Middle East, 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. Any country that would refuse to enter into such an agreement does not deserve to benefit from the skills and talents of our distinguished OFWs,” the lawmaker added.