Last April 11, the Workers Watch- Northern Mindanao has established its second Workers’ Watch Formation in Aposkahoy, Claveria, Misamis Oriental.
The formation consists of 25 members, including four elected officers of the Workers’ Watch, the chairperson, the vice-chairperson, the secretary, and the treasurer. First, Ms. Geneza V. Cuevas, a purok leader, is elected as the chairperson of the formation. Followed by, Mr. Abellion H. Sagabal, a Higaonon leader, is selected as vice-chairperson. Finally, the elected secretary and treasurer are Ms. ReyMabel Banda and Ms. Violeta Silawan, both women leaders. Thus, most of the attendees and members of the formation are women who are members of the Higaonon tribe.
Barangay Aposkahoy is one of the remote areas of Claveria, the locations of the Del Monte pineapple and DOLE banana plantations. Workers of these plantations are mostly community members of Aposkahoy.
The formation has tied with their Constitution and By-Laws which the general mandate is to protect and serve the interest of their community, especially when labor-related violations and abuses happen in their jurisdictions.
According to Ms. Tita Hadman, the area coordinator of the WWP-NMR, medical missions and labor clinics will be conducted in the area soon as the community restriction eases. The labor clinic is a free-legal consultation on labor-related matters provided by the Workers’ Watch Project.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Region 13 favor the establishment of workers’ watch formations in the region.
Last March 23, the Workers’ Watch Project (WWP) Team had paid a courtesy meeting with the regional offices of CHR 13 and DOLE 13. During dialogues, both offices had shared their constructive intentions in supporting the project. According to the CHR 13, this project would help them mainstream the importance of respecting and valuing human rights at the enterprise level, wherein mostly workers’ rights violations happen. Atty. Ralphmar Oñez, the lawyer of CHR 13, utters that they have difficulties with information dissemination especially in far-flung areas. Collaborating with the Workers’ Watch, they could build an alliance that would help them publicize the essence of human rights, especially in mining communities. With the help of the formation, the CHR could now easily collate data of human rights violations and immediately respond to all the alleged reports of human rights abuses in the region. The agency offers its services to the project to serve its mandate as a protector and advocate of human rights. The CHR 13 also expressed their gratitude towards the WWP for having them as a partner agency.
The DOLE 13 expresses their positive opinions on the project; however, they could not immediately call for a meeting to the business industry in the region. Primarily, the business sector barely responds to the call, especially when labour rights issues are on the topic. According to Ma’am Chona Mantilla, the regional director of DOLE 13, they are the mediator of the workers and the employers. They provide avenues for the complaints of both sectors that no side is compromised. For DOLE 13, the project would help them serve their principle and mandate as the principal agency dealing with labour rights. The director also provided list of areas in the region that they could hardly reach for services. These areas are also mostly mining communities. With the help of the formation, they could also gather data and reports on labour issues and complaints within these communities.
The Workers’ Watch Region 13 targeted workers’ communities in mining and palm oil plants areas wherein records of labour rights violations are high. The CARAGA (13) region is the mining and palm oil capital of Mindanao. It is a fact that the region has been facing environmental dilemmas due to excessive and unsustainable mining and palm oil productions. Also, numerous labour rights violations are drastically increasing based on the collected data of the WWP 13.
On the following day, March 24, the WWP team visited the targeted barangays for the project implementation- barangays of Taganito and Urbiztondo, Claver, Surigao del Norte. Officials of these barangays were welcoming on the said project. However, they were seeking the official memorandum from the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) endorsing the project to their community. As for them, they are still under the DILG. However, the WWP team had explained that the primary partner agencies of this project are the DOLE and CHR as this project aims to mainstream human rights in the business industry.
Today, the WWP 13 is still working and coordinating with its partner government agencies and workers’ communities to establish workers’ watch formations in the region.
Last 21st February 2021, the Northern Mindanao Centre of the Workers’ Watch Project has established its first Workers’ Watch Formation at San Nicolas, Don Carlos, Bukidnon.
28 individuals, including workers of Davao Agriventures Corporation (DAVCO), community leaders of San Nicolas, youth leaders, and barangay health workers, instituted their first Workers’ Watch Formation. Women in the community and their children were also present during the establishment following the necessary health protocols in conducting meetings. The Formation will be the forefront in defending their rights as labourers when, for an instance, labour violations within their community persist.
Prior to the launch of the formation, several meetings and discussions about the project were held in the community. Kolokabildos or social dialogues with the workers and community leaders of Don Carlos, as part of the activities of the project, made the importance of the formation of the Workers’ Watch to be realized by the community. Hence, the formation was finally established.
The San Nicolas’ Workers’ Watch Formation was legalized and banded with Constitution and By-Laws as their fundamental principles. As stated to their constitution Article 1 (Name and Purpose), the formation shall be named as Workers’ Watch Don Carlos Chapter with a purpose of helping workers’ communities respond effectively and sustainably to human rights and labor rights situation in the area. It aims to capacitate its members in extending legal, psychosocial, and health services to its beneficiaries.
The formation has also elected their first set of officers which Mr. Vladimier Gulmatico was elected as the Chairman, Mr. Romeo Galera as Vice-Chairman, Ms. Aida Destacamento as Secretary General, and Ms. Lorena Aboy as their Finance Officer.
“With this formation, it is only now that we encounter such project that extends such assistance and services to our community” Mr. Vladimier Gulmatico, the chairman of the newly established workers’ watch formation, said.
In the past weeks, the Workers’ Watch Project executives had visited its different centers in Mindanao to consolidate its area coordinators regarding the progress of their regional actions for the implementation of the program. As local community quarantine has been eased, they have also had courtesy meetings with the Regional and Provincial Directors of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Last September 1, the Project Manager of WWP- Ms. May Ann Artil, the executive Director of the Nonoy Librado Development Foundation- Ms. Emma Ricaforte, and with the Area Coordinator of Northern Mindanao Center had a chance to talk with Region 10 DOLE Director Atty. Joffrey Suyao on the possible coordination of the said project. Director Suyao had a positive response to the project. He also gave suggestions on how the project will be implemented in the said region.
Also last September 18 and 22, the WWP executives paid a visit to its centers in SOCCKSARGEN and Davao de Oro. They also met the Provincial Director of DOLE Davo de Oro Neil Allan Baban and Region 12 DOLE Director Raymundo Agravante. The meeting with the DOLE directors ended with positive coordination on the implementation of the project. The launching of all planned activities in the different area centers was postponed due to the COVID19 pandemic scare. It is expected that the full launch of the program will be conducted in 2021.