MALACANANG,  July 14, 2004
Reception Hall, PICC, CCP Complex, Pasay City, July 09, 2004  -  Maraming salamat.

Maraming salamat, Secretary Romulo.

Secretary Pat Sto. Tomas; Undersecretary Ople; Labor Undersecretary Danny Cruz; ang katulong ni Pat sa pag-aalaga ng ating overseas workers, si Administrator -Undersecretary Baldoz, POEA; Undersecretary Brillantes -- nandito ba si Ver Angelo? Okay -- Administrator Angelo ng OWWA; Mrs. Hizon, maraming salamat at ikaw ang nagbigay sa akin ng panukala na magkaroon tayo ng Overseas Employment Summit; Ginoong Josue; mga namumuno, kinatawan ng iba't-ibang mga ahensiya; mga opisina, industriya ng overseas recruitment; mga NGOs; mga piling panauhin, mga minamahal kong kababayan.

Salamat at nagsama-sama tayo itong araw na ito dito sa napaka-importanteng Overseas Employment Summit.

This overseas employment summit is a fitting tribute to our overseas Filipino workers who are truly our contemporary heroes.

I thank them, too. Pwede bang gamitin ko itong pagkakataaon sa kauna-unang panahon makipag-usap sa kanila sa pamamagitan ninyo na magpasalamat sa kanila for the overwhelming mandate they gave me in the last elections. This historic mandate from our OFWs for me shall not be treated lightly.

Like all Filipinos, my heart grieves for our countrymen whose lives are at risk in foreign lands. Let's pray for the safe and immediate release of one of our workers who has been abducted in Iraq. Ambassador Roy Cimatu is in Baghdad to do what is humanly possible to secure the release of our kababayan. In the meantime, I have ordered the suspension in the deployment of Filipino workers to that country.

I shall not comment about the situation at this most crucial and sensitive point in time when we have to withhold information on our moves to ensure the safety of the hostage. I ask the media not to fan speculation or hysteria. A higher interest is involved in this matter. I leave it to our Iraq team to do what has to be done in coordination with the transition government of Iraq and our allies to get the hostage home safely.

We have to pursue a worldwide doctrine of security for Filipinos. The government itself must immerse in the task of keeping Filipinos safe from terror in their places of stay and work. I am directing the DFA -- Chito is here -- and the dole to train and deploy more experts in collective security planning for worker communities, and security coordination with foreign governments and transnational firms employing large numbers of Filipinos.

We have to keep ahead of threats to Filipino lives and families everywhere, just as we must create more jobs at home, 10 million jobs in the next 6 years so that they will have reason to stay in the Philippines.

Yet, as we strive to create these jobs, many will still be drawn to greener pastures in other lands. And that is the important work of our recruitment industry. This is an inevitable result of the globalized regime where labor, capital, many resources and many goods move from one frontier to another. This is not necessarily bad, as long as we adhere to common standards of treatment and compensation, and as long as desperation is not exploited for nefarious ends. And that is part of what this summit is all about -- how to stop and prevent exploitation of desperation for nefarious needs.

We know the enemy well. You identified them in your declaration -- the illegal recruiters.

Duped by sweet talk about dollars to be earned, many innocent Filipinos because of these illegal recruiters ended up in jail or suffered abuse in the hands of unfit employers.

The meeting that I had with Mrs. Hizon and many of you or several of you in the industry and the NGOs occurred soon after three Filipino domestic workers in Lebanon fell to their death while trying to escape from their employers' apartments. And while we're talking here about the industry as a whole, I would like to give the order that their recruiters must not remain scot-free.

How to execute that order? In your declaration you proposed an executive order creating the Presidential Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment. I signed this Executive Order last night. And I asked to be invited to this meeting, the fearless former police captain Reynaldo Jaylo whom I am appointing to lead this Task Force. Jaylo shall hunt down these illegal recruiters and make them pay for their crimes. I am giving you an initial budget of 10 million to do your job.

Well, the law is clear -- although I don't know if that's part of what you want to amend because you want to amend the law -- but the law says that those who have illegally recruited three or more persons are engaged in economic sabotage, a non-bailable offense that carries with it a life sentence.

Jaylo's Task Force shall also take down the syndicates that issue fake passports, secure fake visas and shepherd our women like cattle to nightclubs.

In your declaration, you identified the last line of defense for the victims of illegal recruitment. As per your declaration, they can be found in major exit points. They can be found in your declaration identified illegal recruiters relying on corrupt officials, immigration or airport personnel, to bend the rules so that undocumented workers could leave.

So I instruct, again, Jaylo -- para isa na lang ang kausap ninyo -- I instruct, again the Task Force and the pertinent agencies that he will work with to unmask these corrupt airport and immigration personnel. Relieve them and prosecute them.

To strengthen our welfare mechanisms for OFWs -- again, part of your recommendations -- I am asking the DFA to aggressively pursue negotiations for new bilateral agreements in cooperation with dole and the private sector. Hindi ko na babanggitin kung aling mga bansa ang ipapa-prioritize kasi binanggit na ninyo. So, susunod na lang tayo sa inyong panukala sa inyong declaration. We must encourage more diplomatic missions to stamp work visas here in manila as a preventive measure against human trafficking.

Sinu-sino 'yung mga foreign countries na 'yon? -- ay! Nandiyan pala ang mister ni Lita, si Congressman Joey Hizon. Good morning. Hindi ko nakita -- sinu-sino 'yung mga foreign missions na gusto natin dito na sila maggawa ng visa. Hindi ko na rin babanggitin ngayon dahil sinabi na rin sa akin ng industry leaders. So, alam na ng DFA kung sino 'yon.

Now, as far as the foreign service office is concern, meron din kayong mga panukala diyaan. So, I again instruct the DFA, represented here by Undersecretary Chito Brillantes, our diplomats' manner of serving the Filipino migrant worker when abroad must be a major consideration in the DFA's promotion system. Our friends in the NGOs and the private sector should be a part of the monitoring system to ensure that our foreign service corps is service-oriented.

May mga bansa ang importante intellectual -- negotiations. May mga bansa naman lalo na 'yung napakaraming pilipino, mas importante 'yung marunong makiramay -- 'yung may emphaty. So, iba't-ibang bahagi ng talento ang kailangan sa iba't-ibang bahagi ng mga assignment. And for those where there are very big ofw populations, I invite your industry to help monitor the performance of the foreign service corps.

Papano n'yo gagawin ito? Pinanukala n'yo na rin 'yung paraan. I welcome the idea to set up the tripartite consultative council under the DOLE-POEA to institutionalize the OFW and private sector participation in overseas employment. And habang ito ay DOLE, I would like DFA to link up with it because that will be the avenue for officially giving the evaluation on the empathy skills of our foreign service officers who work in areas where there are many Filipinos.

Kasi ayaw ko 'yung mga bulong-bulong. Pupunta sa akin dito, "ay si ambassador walang kwenta 'yan." hindi. Pag-usapan ng industriya para hindi na 'yung isang tao ang nagsasabi sa akin, 'yon pala meron lang s'yang personal na galit, hindi ba? Dapat nandoon sa tripartite council.

Ngayon -- again, based on some of your initial feedback to me -- hindi lang 'yung dole, hindi lang 'yung DFA ang importante, 'yung DOJ, well, lalo na 'yung Bureau of Immigration. And -- wala dito si Al Fernandez, 'no? -- pero I will just ask Pat Sto. Tomas to convey to him my instruction to exempt POEA-accredited foreign principals who visit manila for job interviews from securing a special work permit.

Kanina meron kayong objection sa decking system. Ewan ko kung ito na rin 'yon pero nung pinag-aaralan ko 'yung mga hiling n'yo ang nakita ko ay nagdadaing kayo tungkol doon sa rebates, the industry practice of getting rebates. Hindi ba yon? From accredited OFW medical clinics. Okay 'yon sa inyo? But this one you're also objecting but more the decking system. Okay. So, I thought it was because these rebates were adding to the cost of getting a medical certificate. Okay. So ang sasabihin natin doon sa DOH hindi 'yung rebate kung hindi 'yung decking system.

So, Pat ikaw na magpapaliwanag sa DOH dahil -- ay! Eto nandito ang ating DOH, president ng Philhealth -- dahil naiintindihan mo kung ano ibig sabihin nung decking system which pat explained to me just now.

And I would like the dole also to come up -- eto naman, it takes two to tango, 'di ba? -- I would like the dole to come up with a performance appraisal of all licensed agencies. And those who deployed a high number of persons who became runaways afterwards must be closely monitored if not suspended.

The POEA and OWWA should also intensify country-specific orientation seminars for OFWs. Siyempre mga lugar kagaya ng Hongkong, kagaya ng Italy siguro hindi masyadong kailangang matindi 'yung seminar dahil maganda 'yung mga batas nila. Pero may mga lugar diyan na talagang kailangan paghahandaan. And that's why it has to be country-specific, hindi pareho-pareho ang mga batas, hindi pare-pareho ang proteksiyon sa mga manggagawa. Before they depart and until they return, our OFWs must be able to consistently feel government's presence in their lives. Until they return including the re-integration program.

Kayo, mga industry representatives, you know the ins and outs of overseas employment. And I am glad that we are here today upon your recommendation. I hope this summit gives you and all stakeholders in overseas employment, as mentioned earlier in the speech, a fresh start in building strong partnerships. Pero hindi lang kayo, hindi lang 'yung gobyerno, hindi lang 'yung ofws mismo, hindi lang 'yung NG0s, dapat kasama rin 'yung mga anak ng mga OFW. Because the children of ofws have emotional trauma that should be of great concern to all sectors. Ito rin ang hinihingi ko sa inyo.

Nung aking first term si Pat nag-organize ng mga pamilya ng OFW. Sana sa inyong tripartite council makakagawa din kayo ng mga paraan to be able to reach out to the children of these OFWs.

This fresh start is appropriate and ominous, tough times are ahead at home and abroad. So, let's take this opportunity to close ranks to build a brighter future for our people.

Maraming salamat. Thank you.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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