November 24, 2017, 5:15 pm
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Asean 50 ends on high note

LEADERS of the 10-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nation (Asean) signed the “Consensus on the Protection and Promotion of the Rights of Migrant Workers” last night at the conclusion of the 31st Asean Summit and Related Summits in Manila.

The landmark document, initiated by the Philippines during its hosting of the Asean in Cebu in 2007, seeks to strengthen the rights of migrant workers in Southeast Asia.

President Duterte, at the closing ceremony of the 31st Asean Summit and Related Meetings, said the adoption of the Consensus is a fitting conclusion to the series of meetings, dialogues, and activities in the past days.

“This historic governmental document is our promise to our people… that would strengthen social protection, access to justice, humane and fair treatment, access to health services, among others,” the President said.

Among others, the Consensus calls for the fair treatment of migrant workers with respect to gender and nationality, provision of visitation rights to family members, prohibition of confiscation of passports, and overcharging of placement or recruitment fees.

The Consensus also calls for the protection of migrant workers against violence and sexual harassment in the workplace, regulation of recruiters for better protection of workers, and ensuring the right of the worker to fair and appropriate remuneration and to join trade unions and association.

Around seven million migrant workers employed in the Asean member states will be covered by the document. From the Philippines, there are about 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers based on the 2016 survey of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

The Asean member states are Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Duterte also led the turnover of the Asean to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who said he would work on the good work of the other chairmen before him.

He said Singapore, as Asean chairman, would focus on the resilience and innovation of the region.

Duterte, marking the end of the Philippines’ chairmanship of Asean, vowed that the Philippines would remain steadfast and committed to the ideals and values of the bloc and work for the realization of the shared aspirations of the Asean nations.

“We remain committed to building a strong and resilient Asean community. Our next 50 years will require deeper efforts on the next 3Cs: Community, Centrality, and Connectivity if we are to realize our Asean vision by year 2025. Our chairmanship was an auspicious one for Asean, as we also marked the 50th anniversary of its founding… It has been an utmost pleasure and honor for the Philippines to have hosted you and your delegations throughout the year in various meetings, activities, and events. We hope that you have taken with you the warmth of Filipino hospitality and the genuine care and affection that we give to our guests,” he said.

Earlier yesterday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres raised the alarm on the plight of thousands of Rohingya Muslims as he called on Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi to allow their return to Myanmar from Bangladesh where they sought refuge following a military crackdown in northern Rakhine state.

The Myanmar government regards the Rohingya as illegal migrants from Bangladesh and does not recognize the term. At least 600,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh to find shelter in refugee camps after military clearance operations were launched in response to attacks by Rohingya militants on security posts on August 25.

Guterres, saying the situation is potentially destabilizing to the region and could even breed radicalization, urged Suu Kyi during their meeting to come up with measures to address the crisis.

Guterres said he is “deeply concerned” with the movement of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees. He also said the UN welcomes any constructive approaches to the problem, including the provision of humanitarian aid to the refugees.

Last September, Guterres said what is happening in the area can best be described as ethnic cleansing although Myanmar’s authorities denied this.

Suu Kyi has been silent on the issue for many months, earning her criticism from supporters and human rights group who said she failed to live up to the ideals of being a Nobel Prize laureate. – With Ashzel Hachero
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