NLDFI held 1st Mindanao-wide UN BHR Seminar through WW, aims to mainstream UN BHR in businesses

Workers’ Watch staff during the 1st Mindanao-wide UN BHR Seminar.

The Nonoy Librado Development Foundation, Inc. (NLDFI), through its Workers’ Watch Project in partnership with the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research (EILER), Center for Trade Union and Human Rights (CTUHR), and Women Studies and Resource Center (WSRC), held its 1st Mindanao-wide United Nations’ Business and Human Rights (UN BHR) Seminar last October 20 – 21, 2021 at Rol-Ann Transient House-3, Phase 2, Countryside Village, Bangkal, Davao City.

The seminar discussed the history and structural principles of UN BHR, especially the set of guidelines that will prevent, address, and remedy human rights abuses in business operations. 

Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad, Labor Attaché of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office – Washington D.C., discussed the current situation of migrants and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), introducing possible remedies for retrenched OFWs, among others. 

“Filipino migrants and OFWs have become vulnerable amidst the CoViD-19 pandemic. However, there were several cases of repatriation and an overall decrease in the annual overseas deployment. With these said, they could visit their respective POLO offices for assistance and other concerns,” said Atty. Librado-Trinidad. 

POLO-Washington, D.C. Labor Attaché Atty. Angela Librado-Trinidad discussed the current situation of migrants and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Based on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) data, the total of displaced OFWs already exceeded half a million as of December 2020 due to the pandemic combined with the 75% decrease in annual overseas deployment.  

While, POLO – Geneva Labor Attaché Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yañgot talked about the history and structural principles of UN BHR as she emphasized the necessity of protecting and promoting workers’ rights amidst the pandemic. She also provided legal advice to the participants’ queries about job status, reduction, and filed cases. 

Workers’ Watch Project Manager Jeo Olar focused on the main components of UN BHR, marrying these with the current situation of the Filipino workers in connection to the importance of mainstreaming the UN BHR in the country. 

“We must adopt the principles of UN BHR by crafting laws that would address the genuine interest of the labor sector. Amend existing laws that justify contractualization and other unjust labor practices,” Olar emphasized. 

Workers’ Watch Project Manager Jeo Olar talked about the principles of UN BHR including the current workers’ situation in the country.

EILER reported that 4.14 million workers lost their jobs as of April 2021, while 7.45 million workers are underemployed. 

In Mindanao, cases of illegal retrenchment and other unfair labor practices were rampant, especially in high-value industries such as agro-industrial plantations and mining. One of the highlighted cases happened last year when Dole Philippines Inc. (Dolefil) terminated around 200 workers. 

Another case happened recently wherein the Taganito High-Pressure Acid Leaching in Claver, Surigao del Norte, implemented their protocols concerning “isolation facilities” where they made the workers stay while working, preventing them from visiting their families. As a result, the workers were forced to leave the said “isolation facilities” without notice to see their families leading to their illegal dismissal last May 16, 2021. 

Mainstreaming UN BHR

The participants shared their insights about the UN BHR. Some expressed their concerns stating that only a few workers are aware of it and companies do not abide by the provisions stipulated in the UN BHR. However, others encouraged their fellow workers to push for it. 

“The UN BHR is a foreign topic to common workers. We are not yet familiar with its structural principles and core components. Worst, companies and corporations do not abide by the UN BHR, which is why they could easily impose unjust labor practices. These have become more evident during the pandemic. As such, it is of utmost importance to discuss it with other workers and lobby for it,” one of the participants manifested.

A discussion on Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (HIV-AIDS) and Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) was also given by Alliance Against AIDS in Mindanao, Inc. (ALAGAD) Advocacy Officer Concepcion Actub. 

The five centers of the Workers’ Watch Project are set to conduct their own UN BHR seminars this coming November.