Mang Pido has been a tuna fisherman in General Santos City, the Tuna Capital of the Philippines and the world’s leading source of “sashimi.” In February of this year, Mang Pido along with 500 tuna fishermen and their families thought they had to look elsewhere for jobs and livelihood opportunities, because of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) banning tuna fishing.
Mang Pido, is only one of the millions of Filipinos whose jobs and livelihoods are affected by occurrences in international trade agreements and conventions. These days one need not migrate to another country in order to be affected in the intricacies or changes in international trade.
As globalization pushes people and trade closer to each other, international and local markets have become more and more interlinked, prompting the need for stronger and deeper diplomatic ties that go beyond the rules of protocol. Diplomatic ties, that nonetheless responds to the needs of migration but are likewise concerned and in the loop of inter-linking interests of trade that have heavy implications to labor and employment.
“We envision a labor diplomacy program that is focused on advancing the labor and employment interests of the Philippines in its international affairs and would serve as an overarching framework for a people-centered management of Philippine international affairs,” said Cynthia R. Cruz, Executive Director of the Institute for Labor Studies (ILS), research arm and think tank of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Speaking at the Working World Trialogues (WWT) on Labor Diplomacy held at the Microsoft Headquarters in Makati from May 13-14,2010 Director Cruz presented her paper on a RP Labor Diplomacy Program.
During the WWT the Institute generated ideas and insights from concerned stakeholders on the development and crafting of a labor diplomacy agenda of the Philippines towards protecting millions of OFWs around the globe. The two-day public forum, was also the first online gathering of government, civil society leaders and Filipino labor attaches, welfare officers and diplomatic representatives around the world.
“Labor diplomacy largely means international affairs or foreign policy that promotes the labor and employment goals of the country,” Cruz stressed. “With the constant increase in the number of Filipino migrant workers each year we need to pay closer attention on the Philippines’ migrant worker issues in its bilateral, regional and multilateral relations throughout the world. Protection of their rights and welfare has become an explicit state policy,” stressed Cruz.
Labor attaches participated in the discussions of the Trialogues through video conferencing facilities of Microsoft Philippines. The first day featured presentations on general diplomacy concerns and migration issues by experts from the diplomatic corps.  The second day highlighted diverse experiences and cases of officials from various government agencies on their diplomatic engagements and undertakings.
“Through labor diplomacy, we can advocate for support to the country’s labor and employment-related goals in international forums. Likewise, we can provide information on economic, social and political issues in the host countries, as well as labor market information, from which basis for policy-making and program development can be drawn,” said Cruz.
Beyond Migration Borders
 
Labor diplomacy plays an important role both in the protection of Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) but also in providing information on global markets that have a ripple effect on the local economy. Insights and analyses on the economic impacts of cooperation agreements and other international trade treaties are crucial in addressing concerns in the global community that have serious effects in business and employment.
The Institute for Labor Studies is the Department’s forerunner in pushing for a RP Labor Diplomacy agenda. In addition to its research mandate, the Institute for Labor Studies is actively involved in secretariat work on negotiations for international agreements, specifically Mode 4, on the movement of natural persons. It was out of this work, that the concept of a labor diplomacy agenda was born.
The WWT is a public forum organized by the ILS. A Trialogue is designed especially for issues on labor and employment that involve multiple stakeholders that need fast-tracked solutions. It is where emerging and urgent labor and employment issues and solutions are discussed among stakeholders and experts.
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