(L-R): Rex Varona, National Project Coordinator of Safe and Fair Programme, ILO; Asec. Jerome Alcantara, Assistant Secretary for Land-based Services of Department of Migrant Workers; Sally Barrios, President of OFW Negros Occidental Federation; Ellene Sana, Executive Director of Centre for Migrant Advocacy; and Claire Ruzzel Esturas, Senior Gender and Development Specialist of Philippine Commission on Women. – Photo by Perfecto T. Raymundo

By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

QUEZON CITY – The International Labor Organization on Tuesday (Dec. 12) disclosed the results of the five-year (2018-2023) Safe and Fair (SAF) Program that promotes the Filipino women migrant workers’ rights, welfare, dignity and opportunities in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region.

The SAF is a joint program of the ILO, United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), and in collaboration with United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), led by the ILO regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

The five-year SAF program is geared towards creating gender-responsive migration policies, governance and safer labor migration conditions from recruitment, to working abroad and until return and reintegration.

The program is a regional initiative under the multi-year European Union-United Nations Spotlight Initiative which has invested EUR 500 million in projects throughout the world to eliminate violence against women and girls.

It is implemented through the joint efforts of the ILO, UN Women, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNDOC) – dedicated to enhancing the labor migration experience for Filipino women.

The Safe and Fair Philippines Key Results: 2018 to 2023 were presented at the Safe and Fair Culminating Activity with the goal of Labor migration is safe and fair in the ASEAN region.

OFW Reintegration Advisor and Referral Pathways Common operational framework and tool; help OFWs/families systematically access reintegration services; Endorsed, supported by the DMW, Local Government Units Knowledge products for release by SAF such as Multi-lane rapid analysis of Philippine Health Laws and Policies relevant to Overseas Filipinos and their families, Training Toolbox on Safe, fair and gender-, Code of Conduct for Land-based private recruitment agencies and BARMM Code of Conduct, ASEAN version with Filipino translation.

The OFW/family organizations in Quezon City where the 1st Assembly of leaders and representatives of more than 50 OFW/family organizations all over Quezon City in 2022 was mentioned.

In close cooperation with governments and civil society partners to achieve three inter-linking specific objectives:

Women migrant workers are better protected by gender-sensitive labor migration governance frameworks

Women migrant workers are less vulnerable to violence and trafficking and benefit from coordinated responsive quality services Data, knowledge, and attitudes on the rights and contributions of women migrant workers are improved.

During the event, key insights, findings, and the impact of the program to Filipino women migrant workers were presented.

Participating in the International Labor Organization’s SAFE and FAIR Program Philippines culminating event were representatives from International Organization for Migration (IOM), International Labor Organization (ILO), Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), and Filipino migrant workers who are beneficiaries of the program.

In a press conference, Rex Varona, national project coordinator of the SAF program of the ILO said that in the overall results from August 2018 to April 2023, they intervened in the law and policy reform such as in Republic Act 11641 creating the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) which was enacted in 2021, House Bill 6779 (Mandatory Immunization of OFWs), and the Ratification of ILO C190 on violence and harassment – ratification endorsements, instrument by the Philippines.

Varona added that the Philippine Senate unanimously voted on Dec. 11, 2023 to concur with the ratification of C190, making the Philippines the first to ratify in Asia.

The ILO executive cited the local ordinances and issuances on migration wherein Quezon City draft implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) for Ordinance No. SP 2500, S-2016.

Varona cited that the Quezon City Migrant Resource Center (MRC) has assisted more than 1,043 cases as of November 2023.

He also said that 4,330 duty bearers and stakeholders (2,790 women) have improved capacity on women migrant workers’ rights, skills, and coordinated service provision to address violence against women migrant workers.

Varona noted that the overall results from August 2018 to 2023: there were 4,877,211 members of the public reached through public campaigns to change attitudes and behaviors towards women migrant workers, violence against women and their contributions in society.

He stressed that with the Senate ratification of C190, the Philippines can now work with the first international treaty to recognize the right of everyone to a world of work free from violence and harassment.

Sally Barrios, president of OFW Negros Occidental Federation, said that the migrant resource centers (MRCs) in Negros Occidental and Tabaco City are also provided with safe migration services to 1,443 Filipino women migrant workers.

Barrios added that out of 31 municipalities and cities in the province of Negros Occidental, 22 have their own respective MRCs.