Tweaks to labor laws eyed ahead of ASEAN integration

Published by rudy Date posted on August 28, 2014

THE GOVERNMENT and a representative from a professional group have appealed to Congress to amend labor laws in order to better equip Filipino workers for the upcoming Southeast Asian regional integration.

Speaking in a briefing at the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Labor Undersecretary Reydeluz D. Conferido asked lawmakers to enact amendments to the Labor Code and other pertinent laws to accommodate the expected movement of skilled workers across ASEAN member states come 2015.

“We present the adjustment measures committed by the government to address the risks and challenges presented by the [economic] integration,” Mr. Conferido said in Filipino.

The Department of Labor and Employment is also keen on pushing amendments to professional regulatory laws to include provisions on reciprocity and the granting of temporary permits for foreigners to practice their craft in the Philippines, subject to local standards.

Mr. Conferido said the labor sector has to brace itself for the movement of professionals across the region, with the upcoming ASEAN economic integration.

Tarlac Rep. Enrique M. Cojuangco (1st district), chairman of the House committee on economic affairs, said legislators would have to point the proposals to the proper committees for the amendments to gain momentum.

Mr. Conferido said that while ASEAN agreements would allow local professionals to be recognized across member states, the country has to do its part to open its labor market and relax provisions on foreign employment.

So far, workers from the following professions are covered by mutual recognition agreements among 10 ASEAN countries: engineering, architecture, nursing, medicine, dentistry, accountancy, surveying qualifications, and tourism.

Under the agreements, member nations have set common competency standards to acknowledge certified professionals across countries.

DOCTORS, TOO

Maria Minerva P. Calimag, president of the Philippine Medical Association, said the region’s integration could result to a “work force crisis” in the country, given that local doctors can now migrate to neighboring countries with greater ease.

Ms. Calimag likewise called on Congress to amend the Philippine Medical Act of 1959, and for the Professional Regulatory Commission to assess local board exams to see if these are at par with regional standards.

An official of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), meanwhile, said laws are also needed to protect “vulnerable” sectors — among them, domestic workers and entertainers abroad.

“We need to step up in terms of providing protection for vulnerable occupations. We are banking on strengthened and enhanced activities that promote ethical recruitment practices,” POEA Director Levinson C. Alcantara said.

The official said that as of last year’s end, there are some 1.8 million Filipinos are working overseas.

The country is looking at entering into bilateral agreements with other ASEAN countries against human trafficking and illegal recruitment of workers, said Mr. Alcantara.

The officials, however, stood firm that the country’s human resource is at par — if not beyond — that of regional counterparts. –Melissa Luz T. Lopez, Businessworld

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