Guidelines for Sending Seasonal Workers Abroad Under Sisterhood Agreements

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Local government units (LGUs) have the opportunity to send seasonal workers to other countries through sisterhood agreements. However, it is important to note that the deployment of these workers is still subject to the regulations set by the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), as highlighted in a legal opinion issued by the Department of Justice (DoJ).

The DoJ acknowledges that while LGUs may take the lead in establishing sisterhood agreements, national government agencies also play a significant role in protecting and promoting the welfare of the workers involved in these programs. Although there is no explicit provision in the Constitution or any law granting local governments the authority to enter into such agreements, there is also no legal prohibition against it, according to the DoJ’s legal opinion signed by Undersecretary Raul Vasquez.

Under Section 35 of Republic Act (RA) 7160, also known as the “Local Government Code of 1991,” LGUs are granted the authority to engage in joint ventures with people’s and non-governmental organizations to deliver certain basic services, including livelihood projects. However, it is important to note that RA 8042 or the “Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act” of 1995, as amended by RA 10022, designates the DMW as having jurisdiction over the deployment of Filipino workers for employment abroad.

The issuance of this legal opinion by the DoJ was prompted by concerns raised by the Presidential Management Staff regarding sisterhood agreements with South Korean cities, specifically involving the deployment of seasonal workers in agriculture and fisheries. The DoJ recognizes that problems have arisen for deployed Filipino workers in such programs, including non-payment or reduction of wages, poor working conditions, maltreatment, and even cases of physical and verbal abuse that have resulted in fatalities.

To address these issues, the DMW has proposed the establishment of a joint circular in collaboration with the DoJ, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Agriculture, and Bureau of Immigration. This joint circular aims to provide guidelines on the policies and commitments of each department in relation to the seasonal workers program of South Korea.

In summary, the legal opinion issued by the DoJ clarifies the roles and responsibilities of LGUs and national government agencies in the deployment of seasonal workers under sisterhood agreements. While LGUs may initiate these agreements, they must adhere to the regulations set by the DMW to ensure the protection and welfare of the workers involved. The proposed joint circular aims to address the challenges faced by deployed Filipino workers and establish guidelines for the participating departments in the seasonal workers program with South Korea.

It is crucial for both LGUs and national government agencies to work together to create a safe and fair environment for seasonal workers. By establishing clear guidelines and commitments, the interests and well-being of the workers can be safeguarded, contributing to a successful and mutually beneficial partnership between countries under sisterhood agreements.

Source: The Manila Times

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