Bello hints PH-China labor pact

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Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III

CHINA and the Philippines are expected to conclude a labor agreement that will expand the market and ensure ample protection for overseas Filipino workers.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the agreement may be firmed up during the visit of President Rodrigo Duterte to Beijing on May 13.

“We are still working out the details, but there may be a labor agreement that will benefit our OFWs,” Bello said.

Duterte will be in Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum, his last leg in a two-country swing that will begin in Cambodia for the World Economic Forum on Asean and in Hong Kong for a meeting with the OFW community.

When the President first visited China last year, one of the issues raised was the need to assist some 200,000 undocumented OFWs in the mainland.

ACTS-OFW partylist Rep. John Bertiz earlier said the undocumented workers are mostly employed as household helpers and private tutors.

“There’s no formal agreement yet between the Philippines and China to give work visas for these categories,” Bertiz said.

Data from Commission on Filipino Overseas only put the number of Filipinos in China at 29,691.

Eman Villanueva, secretary-general of United Filipinos-Migrante-Hong Kong, said that instead of pursuing new overseas labor markets for Filipinos, the Duterte administration should fulfill its promise of national industrialization and genuine land reform to encourage Filipinos to stay in the Philippines.

As for the bid to allow Filipinos to work in China, Villanueva said this contradicts Duterte’s promise to create more economic opportunities in the Philippines for Filipinos.

“Ang tingin namin palayo iyan ng palayo sa aming hangand na sana pokusan ng gobyerno ang pag-develop ng maraming trabaho sa Pilipinas.

“At hindi lang basta trabaho, kundi stable jobs, well-paying jobs, nakakabuhay at disente para hindi magkawatak-watak ang mga pamilya,” Villanueva said in an interview with Hong Kong News.

In a previous interview, Dela Torre confirmed said he submitted recommendations to Bello about the possibility of allowing Filipinos to seek employment in China.

Should there be an agreement, Dela Torre said this would mean high-skilled and low-skilled Filipino workers could soon go to China and be employed there.

Those who may find work are engineers, tutors, nurses, and household service workers. Presently, there are Filipino engineers in China.

Duterte to Cambodia, HK SAR

Before his trip to the mainland, Duterte will also be in Cambodia and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region from May 10-13.

Foreign Affairs spokesman Robespierre Bolivar said Duterte will attend a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Cambodia, address the Filipino community in Hong Kong, and participate in the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation in China.

“As chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the President is expected to share his views on the region’s achievements and challenges, and to deliver a message to the youth of Asean,” he said.

“The organizers designated the President as an honored guest of the WEF alongside the Prime Minister of Vietnam who is currently the chair of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation,” he added.

The WEF on Asean, which Cambodia is hosting for the first time with the theme

“Youth, Technology, and Growth: Securing ASEAN’s Digital and Demographic Dividends,” is expected to draw “more than 700 leaders from business, government, civil society, and the media,” Bolivar said.

From Cambodia, Duterte will fly to Hong Kong, where he will meet with members of the Filipino community during his stay from May 11-13.

“As of March 2017, there were around 210,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong. Many of whom work in the hotel and restaurant industry or in the households of Hong Kong residents,” Bolivar said.

“The Filipino community in Hong Kong has been actively partnering with our Consulate General in ensuring the rights and welfare of our kababayans in Hong Kong are protected and promoted and the community has also been instrumental in promoting enhanced trade relations between the Philippines and Hong Kong and in promoting our country’s investment opportunities and tourist destinations,” he added.

On May 13, the President will head to Beijing to attend the Belt and Road Forum where he will “join 27 other heads of state and government, as well as heads of three international organizations.”

“The topics they are expected to discuss include: infrastructure connectivity; economic and trade cooperation; industrial investment; energy and resources; financial support; people-to-people exchanges; ecological and environmental protection; and marine cooperation,” Bolivar said.

Duterte last made a state visit to China in October which was bannered as a sign of the “full recovery” of ties between Manila and Beijing.

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