Apr 102013

Phl asked to provide plans for labor legislation

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR) is asking the Philippine government to provide plans regarding passage of legislation concerning union registration as well as cases when the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP) were involved in labor disputes as part of its review on whether the country should continue to enjoy trade benefits under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) program.

A copy of post-hearing questions of the USTR following a hearing held on March 28, showed that it wants the Aquino administration to describe plans for seeking passage of remaining labor legislation involving assumption of jurisdiction and union registration.

The USTR also said it wants to know whether there have been cases in which the AFP or PNP were involved in labor disputes as well as whether guidelines have been followed.

“The government of the Philippines is receiving support from the International Labor Organization (ILO) through December 2013, funded by the US Department of State, to train personnel on the PNP and AFP guidelines,” it noted.

The USTR likewise wants to know what work the Department of Labor and Employment is undertaking in conjunction with the ILO or otherwise, to enable inspectors to identify potential issues with compliance, including anti-union discrimination and intimidation or harassment.

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The government, it said, must also respond to a concern raised by the International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF) that witness protection programs in the country are not effective and so witnesses are not willing to come forward.

The Philippines’ practice on workers’ rights is being reviewed following a case filed by the ILRF in 2007.

The ILRF is a non-profit advocacy organization dedicated to achieving just and humane treatment for workers worldwide.

In its petition, the ILRF asked the USTR to look into the country’s labor rights abuses citing unionist killings between 2001 and 2007.

The group uses labor protections in the GSP to uphold labor rights, noting that trade benefits under the program should only be given to countries which afford “internationally recognized worker rights.”

The GSP program provides preferential duty-free entry for up to 5,000 products when imported from one of the 127 designated beneficiarycountries and territories.

Products that are eligible for duty-free treatment under the GSP include most manufactured items;  chemicals; minerals and building stone; jewelry; many types of carpets; and certain agricultural and fishery products.

The Philippines has been part of the GSP program since 1989.

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