Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday signed on behalf of the Philippines a memorandum of agreement on labor cooperation with the Independent State of Papua New Guinea (PNG), culminating a series of bilateral negotiations between the two parties that started early this year.
Baldoz signed the agreement in a simple ceremony at the DOLE in Intramuros. H.E. Christian Anthony Vihruri, PNG Ambassador to the Philippines, signed on behalf of the Papua New Guinea government.
The agreement, which will be in effect for five years, spells out the framework for areas of cooperation between the two governments on matters relating to labor–how to facilitate labor market access and accord labor mobility in accordance with existing rules and regulations in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea.
In her remarks during the ceremony, Baldoz said the signing of the agreement manifests the Philippines’s and Papua New Guinea’s common commitment to further develop existing bilateral relations, particularly in the area of labor and employment.
“It is a new page in the history of cordial relations between our countries,” she said.
Baldoz said the agreement reflects the Philippines’ and PNG’s continuing resolve to manage the mobility of workers in a legal, efficient, transparent, and orderly manner.
“Since the beginning, we have had no case of illegal recruitment or human trafficking of nationals between our two countries. The challenge is for us to keep that record clean and pure,” she said.
The Philippines started to deploy Filipino workers to PNG in the 70s and PNG is one of the pioneer labor markets for OFWs.
This is not the first time that the Philippines and PNG signed an agreement on labor cooperation. On 14 March 1979, the country, through the then Overseas Employment Development Board signed a memorandum of understanding with PNG providing for the framework for the preservation and protection of the rights and welfare of OFWs in PNG.
Based on POEA records, OFW deployment to PNG has been on an increasing trend during the last four years: 3,296 deployed in 2009; 4,134 in 2010; 9,084 in 2011; and 15,520 in 2012.
“There are about 23,230 OFWs in PNG, majority, or 92.5 percent, of whom are migrant workers in production and manufacturing, professional services, administrative and managerial workers, clerical workers, sales workers, and service workers. These figures indicate that PNG remains a significant labor market for Filipino professionals and skilled workers,” said Baldoz.
On his part, Ambassador Vihruri described the signing of the agreement as “historic”, symbolizing the collaborative commitment of cooperation to develop, strengthen, and promote employment, skills, and labor mobility programs between the Philippines and his country.
“Papua New Guinea, as a nation, is more challenged than ever as our institutional capacities are unable to narrow the skills gap that exists owing to the “mismatch phenomena. Even our current training institutions cannot readily cater to support our job demands,” Ambassador Bihruri admitted.
He said that the agreement adds to the number of bilateral arrangements between the Philippines and PNG in the field of cooperation, such as in fishery; air services; technical cooperation; and double taxation.
He mentioned three significant components of the agreement , namely, establishment of PNG’s national skills development and training authority similar to TESDA, but suitable to the context of the PNG; establishment of a labor market information system and a dependable data system for PNG’s human resource; and strengthening and advancing PNG’s labor mobility program to meet global and domestic labor market demands.
The signing ceremony was attended by the PNG delegation composed of, aside from Vihruri, Frank Mizigi, Director of Foreign Affairs; Monica Maluan, Assistant Secretary, TVET Wing, Department of Foreign Affairs; Kennewton Kennedy, Manager, National Employment Division, Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; Michael Masama Gene and George Arua, Consultants to the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations; and Aro Davis, First Secretary of the PNG Embassy in Manila.
On the Philippine side, in attendance were, aside from Secretary Baldoz, Rebecca Calzado, officer-in-charge Undersecreary; Carmelita Dimzon, Administrator, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration; Hans Leo J. Cacdac, Administrator, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration; Irene Isaac, Deputy Director General, TESDA; Josefino Torres, Deputy Administrator, OWWA; Liberty Casco, Deputy Administrator, POEA; Atty. Rodolfo Sabulao, officer-in-charge Director, International Labor Affairs Bureau; Ambassador Secretary Ma. Theresa Lazaro, Assistant Secretary, Department of Foreign Affairs; and Maria Anna Lilia de Vera, Director, Office of Asian and Pacific Affairs, Department of Foreign Affairs.