Labor pact to protect OFW in Russia

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (left) speaks at the SPIEF in St. Petersburg, Russia. (GMA)

Former President and Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo highlighted the need for a labor agreement between the Philippine and Russian governments for the protection of Filipino workers in Russia.

Arroyo made the call in her speech during the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum (SPIEF) held from Thursday to Saturday in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation.

In her speech, Arroyo said around 10,000 undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are working in Russia and most of them are prone to arrest and detention by Russian authorities.

“The vast majority of Filipino workers in Russia are household workers and nannies but except for around 200, all of them – from 5,000 to 10,000 – are undocumented. They pay as much as US$3,800 for improper or manufactured visas,” Arroyo said.

“They are always on the radar of the police, under constant threat of arrest and deportation. Crimes against them go unreported for fear of deportation. They fall victim to illegal recruiters and human traffickers,” she added.

To solve the problem, Arroyo suggested that the presence of labor agreement between Russia and Philippines will be mutually beneficial for both states.

“I understand we have vast experience in this area and have found that the interests of both sending and receiving states are served by the agreement. I understand we have had several discussions on this, and that in May last year the Philippines formally submitted a draft labor agreement to Russia,” Arroyo explained.

She said the labor agreement will include allowing Filipinos to stay and work in Russia to make “meaningful contributions” to the families in the country, bring people closer, and foster greater understanding between the two countries.

It “will greatly benefit both countries and reinforce the historic step our leaders have taken,” she said.

SPIEF was one of the global platforms for members of the business community to meet and discuss the key economic issues facing Russia, emerging markets, and the world as a whole. Chinese President Xi Jinping also attended the meeting.

Meanwhile, Philippine Ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta said in a Facebook post that the Russian government is recognizing the problem faced by Filipino workers in Russia but the labor agreement should be “negotiated carefully.”

“The Russian Government recognizes the problem faced by Filipino workers in Russia and believe a labor agreement, of which Russia has several, is a solution but this should be negotiated carefully,” Kirill Adzinov, head of Visa Department, Main Directorate for Migration, Ministry of the Interior.

On the other hand, Dmitry Yalov, deputy chairman of the Leningrad Region Government, chairman of the Committee on Economic and Investment Activity said that Russia needs migrants including Filipino household workers adding that “without them Russian economy could suffer.”