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Labor groups want fair treatment of POGO workers

September 22, 2022 - Thursday 4:09 PM by GDM

Article Banner Image Photo from Sonny Matula/FB

Labor groups said the country should also treat foreigners working in the country just like our nation asked host countries to treat overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

According to Nagkaisa Chairman Sonny Matula, as a sending country of migrant workers that demands fair and equal treatment of our OFWs from their host states, the Philippines is required to apply the same principle for the rights of migrant workers of other nationals received into the country by legal means or otherwise.

He is reacting to reports that a 'humanitarian crisis looms as the government considers executing summary deportations against thousands of POGO workers, mostly Chinese, for violating immigration and other national laws. 

"For decades we continue to confront this same humanitarian crisis, in fact of bigger magnitude than this one, as we handle complex crises involving our distressed OFWs who were denied equal protection by their host countries. We therefore cannot deny other nationals of the same principles that we ourselves demand from other States," he said in a statement.

The labor group official added that as a signatory to UN conventions, the Philippine State is obligated to extend non-discriminatory policies and, most importantly, immediate protection and support for workers of other nationalities.  

At the same time, Matula noted that the Department of Labor and Employers (DOLE) needs to share responsibility as it is in charge of the registration and issuance of work permits to regulate the employment of foreigners (section 15(a)(4) of the Labor Code).

"To us in the labor movement, the most important aspect of that protection aside from due process is by not criminalizing the victims for in many cases, migrant workers end up victims to onerous labor contracts if not outright trafficking by criminal organizations," said Matula. 

The Nagkaisa urged DOLE, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW) to formulate a coherent policy on this issue and to involve labor organizations and migrant groups in that policymaking process.

Meanwhile, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) has appealed to the government to ensure the observance and protection of workers' fundamental human rights and labor rights in Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations (POGO) firms. 

"TUCP urges our government to give utmost importance to the welfare of POGO workers in its development of a policy response to the issue of POGO operations in the Philippines," said Deputy Speaker Raymond Democrito Mendoza in a separate statement.

"We have seen the horrific treatment of illegal and undocumented OFWs, and how extremely vulnerable our Filipino workers were, and are, in distant countries to abuse and draconian treatment from governments that regarded our OFWs as mere commodities," he added.

According to the 2020 data of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), there are 120,976 POGO workers in the country.

Of the number, 69,613 are Chinese, 3,000 are Vietnamese, 2,400 are Indonesians, 1,700 are Taiwanese, 1,200 are Malaysians, and the rest hail from 44 other countries. 

"TUCP calls on the government to pay equal attention to the plight of these foreign workers because we ourselves have also deployed millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and seafarers abroad. Government must ensure the proper treatment of these foreign POGO workers in the same manner that we demand the proper treatment of our OFWs abroad," he said.

Mendoza pointed out that there are 30,521 Filipino employees in POGO firms, and the more the government should ensure that the human rights and labor rights of all those legally working in the Philippines are safeguarded.

"Let Filipinos now show the way on how foreign workers who may have themselves been victimized, or misled, and perhaps exploited, should be treated here: with respect for their human and labor rights," he said.

At the same time, the TUCP vice president Luis Corral pushed for a review of the policy allowing POGOs into the country and for the DOLE to subject all POGO firms to labor inspection in compliance with Philippine labor laws, particularly on their rights and occupational health and safety.

"We should make POGO operations "visible," and the key to that is pro-active labor inspection by the 700 Department of Labor and Employment Inspectors of all POGO worksites. By not subjecting POGOs to labor inspection, we render POGOs "invisible," he said.

"Labor inspection should be present constantly to protect both foreign and Filipino workers of POGOs from abuses, exploitation, and criminality from the hands of unscrupulous operators and their protectors who flaunt our laws and regulations," the TUCP official added.

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