OPENING STATEMENT Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on Various Treaties and Agreement

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OPENING STATEMENT

Committee on Foreign Relations Hearing on Various Treaties and Agreements Tuesday, 16 April 2024

Chairperson Marcos, my esteemed colleagues, our resource persons: Good afternoon.

We thank Chairperson Marcos for leading the Senate in ensuring that we perform our Constitutional mandate in the concurrence to the ratification of treaties and international agreements.

We acknowledge the importance of the following treaties and agreements that we are about to tackle and we give our full support for the concurrence to their ratification:

  1. 1)  The Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters, which will expand our exchange-of-information network, serve as a valuable tool for fighting tax evasion, and improve international tax compliance thereby increasing government revenues;
  2. 2)  The Host Country Agreement between our government and the International Fund for Agricultural Development, which shall allow the latter to establish an office in Manila, thereby improving the delivery and effectiveness of their services to Filipino farmers and paving the way for more opportunities through their various projects; and
  3. 3)  The Treaty between the Philippine and Canada on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons and on Cooperation in the Enforcement of Penal Sentences, which shall return a foreign prisoner to his or her home country where he or she may serve the remainder of the sentence.

But this afternoon, of particular interest to this representation is the International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention No. 81 on Labor Inspection in Industry and Commerce. As the Principal Author and Sponsor of Republic Act No. 11058 or An Act Strengthening Compliance with Occupational Safety and Health Standards, we could not be more happy that, finally, the Philippines is about to ratify ILO Convention No. 81 – the international standard for labor inspection in industrial and commercial establishments.

As I have mentioned during my sponsorship speech on the OSH Standards Act in 2017, much of my career has been devoted to our fight for humane conditions of work for all Filipinos. When we started the deliberations on the OSH bill, there were only 574 labor inspectors. Now, this figure has increased two-fold with 1,210 labor inspectors.1

From January to December 2023, our labor inspectors were able to cover 29,221 establishments with a total of 2.83 million workers. They observed that

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1 DOLE. Submitted Inputs to OS Villanueva. 15 April 2024.

the top General Labor Standards violation was the non-maintenance of employment records, while the top Occupational Safety and Health Standard violation was the non-provision of occupational health personnel.

The current landscape of labor inspection in the country is governed by the Labor Code. Article 128 underscores the visitorial and enforcement power of the Secretary of Labor and Employment and his/her duly authorized representative to access the premises and records and establishments to ensure compliance with labor laws. Labor inspection, as emphasized by the ILO, is the primary mechanism to carry out the fundamental function of labor law enforcement and effective compliance. The Institute of Labor Studies says that since labor inspection is either enforcing or developing in nature, it is “the best tool for monitoring the realization of basic principles of decent work for all while also educating workers and employers on their duties towards sustainable compliance and maintaining harmonious employee-employer relations.”2

Madam Chairperson, it is this representation’s hope that the ratification of ILO C81 will resolve the existing gaps in our current policies, to ensure that we are compliant with international labor standards. The provisions of ILO C81 require member states to organize labor inspection as a system; provide strict qualifications of labor inspectors; ensure that the number of inspectors is sufficient to secure the effective discharge of their duties; and require specific set of actions and remedies in the conduct of inspections, among others. The stringent requirements of the Convention that we will adhere to will deepen and expand our efforts.

Once ratified, there may be a need to evaluate our existing laws and policies. When this happens, our office will be open to discuss how we can recalibrate our policies, harmonize it with ILO C81, and align it with the government’s obligation to providing just and human working conditions. Until then, we commit to support the Chairperson once the measure is discussed in plenary and until the Senate give its concurrence.

Thank you, Chairperson Marcos, and may God bless us all.

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