Manila Declaration to protect OFWs in Middle East—DOLE

By Dateline Philippines

Foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo said the adoption of the “Manila Declaration” by the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) provides the government with a platform to pursue the rights and welfare of Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) in host countries.

The Manila Declaration was adopted by some 118 members of the Non Aligned Movement (NAM) at the conclusion Thursday of the Special NAM Ministerial Meeting held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

The nine-page declaration emphasized the importance of “dialogue among cultures, civilizations and religions” as a durable process to attaining global peace and security.

“In the current international environment, it (dialogue) is not an option but an imperative, sound and productive tool to promote economic and social development, peace and security and human rights and the rule of law in guaranteeing a better life for all,” the declaration stated in part.

The Manila Declaration also reiterated the “responsibility of (NAM) governments to safeguard and protect the rights of all migrants against illegal acts, in particular, acts of incitement to ethnic, racial and religious discrimination, hostility or violence and crimes perpetrated with racist or xenophobic motivation by individuals or groups.”

Foreign affairs department officials said the Manila Declaration, signed by Arab nations like Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, and the United Arab Emirates, augured well for Filipinos working in these countries.

The Philippines, with its eight million migrant workers, is the world’s third largest source of migrant workers, next to China and India. More than two million OFWs are in Middle East, half of them in Saudi Arabia.

Their remittances now reaching US$18 billion this year also continue to buoy the ailing local economy that has been marred by continuing reports of rampant corruption and lack of effective governance.

Foreign affairs undersecretary for special concern Rafael Seguis said the government integrated in the Manila Declaration the importance of the peace process and the role to spiritual leaders in achieving global peace and security.

Seguis, the government’s chief peace negotiator with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), said the input of Philippine officials to the final NAM document is part of the government’s comprehensive policy to intensify ‘soft approaches to peace.’

He said the government informed NAM members, which also belong to the influential Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), on Manila’s actions to push for peace agreement with the MILF.

“We have submitted the draft proposal of the peace agreement to the MILF and to the Malaysian government hosting the peace negotiations,” said Seguis at a press briefing at the conclusion of SNAMMM late Thursday.

Seguis announced there will “be more back channeling activities at the end of March where we hope to meet again to consider the two draft proposals (of the government and the MILF).”

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