Lao trip is for protection of rights, welfare of OFWS — Aquino

November 7, 2012 12:00 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Nov. 7 — President Benigno Aquino III arrived late Tuesday evening from Lao People's Democratic Republic (PDR) where he attended the 9th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 9).

The President arrived at 10 p.m. at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 (NAIA 2).

In his arrival speech, President Aquino said his three-day trip to Lao PDR was to ensure that the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are protected.

"Sa biyaheng ito, may isang paksang nangibabaw po sa atin — ito ay ang pangangalaga sa kapakanan at karapatang pantao ng ating mga OFWs," he said.

Due to the economic and political problems being experienced by other countries, there are chances that the OFWs experience discrimination and abuse.

"Dahil sa mga problemang pang-ekonomiya’t politikal ng ibang bansa, may mga pagkakataong maaaring makaranas ng diskriminasyon at pang-aabuso ang ating mga kababayan," he said.

"Isa ito sa pinakamalaking dahilan kung bakit bumiyahe tayo at lumahok sa ASEM. Hindi ako makapapayag na mailagay sa alanganin ang kaligtasan ng ating mga OFW. Hindi ko hahayaang mapunta sa wala ang mga sakripisyo’t pagtitiis ni Juan dela Cruz. Ang biyaheng ito ay para sa manggagawang Pilipino, at hindi tayo nabigo sa misyon nating ito," he stressed.

President Aquino detailed the various achievements achieved in his three-day trip to Vientiane, Lao PDR such as his meeting with European Council President Herman van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso in a historic trilateral meeting at the sidelines of the ASEM 9.

He said he informed the EU leaders of the government's efforts to address concerns regarding Philippine compliance with the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) Convention and air safety standards.

The President said that should the EU withdraws its recognition of Filipino seafarers’ certificates, tens of thousands of Filipinos and their families would be affected and that European and global shipping would likewise be imperiled.

"Sa trilateral meeting kasama ang Pangulo ng European Council na si Kagalang-galang Herman Van Rompuy, at ang Pangulo ng European Commission na si Jose Manuel Barroso, tinalakay natin ang kalagayan ng mahigit 91,000 Filipino seafarers na nagtatrabaho sa mga European-flagged vessels. HIndi po biro ang epekto sa atin sakaling i-blacklist tayo ng European Union: bukod sa mahigit 91,000 Pilipinong mawawalan ng trabaho, kasama ring lulubog sa kawalang-pag-asa ang kanilang mga mahal sa buhay," he said.

President Aquino said he assured the two leaders that the Philippine government is seriously implementing necessary measures and reforms to resolve outstanding issues in these areas.

"Ipinaalam natin sa mga pinuno ng EU na doble-kayod tayo para makamit ang mga pamantayan ng European Commission at ng European Maritime Safety Agency (EMSA)," he said.

The President said this is the reason why he issued Executive Order no. 75, which directed the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) to ensure the STCW standards are being implemented by concerned government institutions.

"Dahil sa ating mga positibong hakbang, kasalukuyang nasa whitelist pa ho tayo, at nais nating masiguro na hindi tayo mabura sa whitelist sa mga darating na audit ng EMSA," he said.

Filipino seafarers account for 25.32 percent or 347,150 of the estimated 1,371,000 seafarers worldwide. In 2011, 91,714 of them were employed by European flagged vessels.

The total remittances of Filipino seafarers for the same period amounted to US$ 4.34 billion, of which some US$ 1.2 billion came from seafarers employed by European flagged vessels.

On the other hand, President Aquino said Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway lauded the Philippines for its achievement in various sector.

"Pinuri ni Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg ng Norway ang mga tagumpay na nakakamit ng Pilipinas sa iba’t ibang sektor. May tinatayang 17,500 na Pilipino ang nagtatrabaho sa mga Norwegian-owned, -managed, or -operated ships, kaya naman maliban sa pagpupundar sa mga training centers upang higit pang itaas ang antas ng kasanayan ng ating mga seaman, nangako ang Norway na ipagpapatuloy nila ang pagtutulong sa atin upang malampasan ang audit para sa STCW ng European Union," he said.

The maritime sector is one of the important aspects of Philippine-Norwegian bilateral relations. There are currently around 17,500 Filipino seafarers who are employed in various Norwegian-owned and operated vessels.

The President said that Prime Minister Stoltenberg also committed to exploring possibilities of facilitating the entry of Filipino medical workers.

"Napag-alaman din nating salat daw sa mga manggagawa sa Norway, tulad ng mga medical professionals. Isa itong oportunidad upang kapwa makinabang ang Norway at Pilipinas sa libu-libo nating mga nurse, midwife, at doktor," he noted.

The Philippines and Norway established formal diplomatic relations on March 4, 1948. In 2011, total trade between the Philippines and Norway amounted to about US$ 73 million.

Meanwhile, President Aquino said Switzerland President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf expressed support to the Philippines' stand for a peaceful solution to the West Philippine Sea issue.

"Nagpaabot naman ng mainit na suporta ang Pangulo ng Switzerland na si Gng. Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf sa mapayapang posisyon natin ukol sa West Philippine Sea," he said.

"Naging kapansin-pansin din ang interes nilang maging bahagi sa pag-angat ng ating ekonomiya, kaya naman kitang-kita ang pananabik nilang bumuo ng mga pormal na kasunduang pangkalakalan sa atin pong bansa," he added.

President Aquino said his meeting with Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda of Japan also centered on resolving issues involving the West Philippine Sea.

He said he also thanked the Japanese government for its support in his meeting with the leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in August 2011.

"Nang pinahintulutan nila tayong makipagkita sa mga pinuno ng MILF noong Agosto 2011 sa Narita, Japan, pinatunayan nilang katuwang natin sila sa pagpapalaganap ng kapayapaan. Bukod dito, patuloy pa rin ang pagbuhos ng kanilang tulong, hindi lamang sa pagpapalakas ng ating tanggulan, kundi maging sa pagsugpo ng kahirapan sa bansa," he noted.

President Aquino said the the Philippines has started reaping the fruits of the reforms that his administration has implemented.

"Unti-unti na nating napipitas ang mga ipinunla nating reporma, subalit marami pa tayong kailangang gawin. Ang hiling ko lang po sa ating lahat — magkusa tayong sumagwan at makiambag. Ikaw man ay nurse sa isang baryo, isang seaman sa Italya; ikaw man ay guro sa liblib na sitio, o inhinyero ng pinakamatayog na gusali sa Espanya; may maitutulong ka para sa pag-angat ng iyong kapwa; may maibabahagi ka sa tagumpay ng iyong bansa. Nasaan man tayo sa mundo, taas-noo nating ibandila ang ating pagka-Pilipino, sa isip, sa salita, at sa gawa," he said. (PNA)

FPV/LGI

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