Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr vows to address illegal recruitment, human trafficking

2023 June 29

LABOR ISSUES. President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. meets with the officials of the International Labour Organization (ILO) led by Director General Gilbert Houngbo at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday (June 27, 2023). During the meeting, Marcos and the ILO executives discussed several issues plaguing the labor sector. 


MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has vowed to address the perennial problems of illegal recruitment and human trafficking that plague the Filipino workforce, Malacañang said Thursday.

Marcos made the commitment when the International Labor Organization (ILO) officials led by Director General Gilbert Houngbo paid him a courtesy visit at Malacañan Palace in Manila on Tuesday, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said in a news release on Thursday.

“That’s a big problem for us here in the Philippines. Illegal recruitment and really, you take it a little further, it becomes human trafficking. And we seem to have become a target for many of these unscrupulous activities,” Marcos, as quoted by the PCO, told the ILO executives.

Marcos lamented that human trafficking is plaguing Southeast Asian countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam.

He said he is working with Department of Migrant Workers Secretary Susan Ople to maintain the Philippines’ “Tier 1” status against human trafficking.

The Philippines has maintained its “Tier 1” ranking for the eighth straight year, according to the 2023 Trafficking in Persons Report released by the United States State Department earlier this month.

Tier 1 means a country is fully compliant with the minimum standards for the elimination of severe forms of trafficking in persons, while Tier 2 classifies a country that is not fully compliant but making “significant efforts” to adhere to the minimum standards.

Tier 3 means a country fails to comply and to make “significant efforts” to meet the minimum standards.

Houngbo said the Philippines could serve as a “model” as it has taken steps to address several issues hounding the labor sector, including human trafficking.

‘Good compromise’ for minimum wage earners

Marcos also briefed the ILO officials about his administration’s consultations with labor stakeholders to “strike a balance and alleviate the ‘inflationary pressures’ on workers.”

He noted that minimum wage earners may enjoy an increase in their salaries to protect them from rapid industrialization and expansion of the economy.

“When there is rapid industrialization and rapid expansion of the economy, there is a tendency to leave the labor sector behind and just exploit the labor sector,” Marcos said. “But I think our negotiations with workers, with the unions, with the different negotiations, we will be able to come to a good working number, a good compromise.”

The current minimum wage in the Philippines ranges between PHP372 and PHP470, depending on the region where the business is located.

Marcos said a “good compromise” is necessary, as he acknowledged that “nano-enterprises”, which represent about 96 percent of the businesses in the Philippines, might be forced to halt their operations amid the planned wage hike “because they are too small.”

Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, who was also present during the meeting with the ILO executives, said the issue might be resolved within the week, noting that micro businesses employ just one to nine workers, while small enterprises have around 10 to 99 workers.

Marcos also assured Filipinos who lost their jobs at the height of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic of government assistance.

This, as Marcos cited that the government repatriated almost 800,000 overseas Filipino workers from the Middle East and Europe where businesses had shut down during the pandemic.

“I think the important part of this whole discussion is that we continue to make sure that we are protecting our workers and their families, especially after the pandemic…There has already been a social program in place for the lowest income stratum of our economy. But now, there is a special program under the Department of Labor and Employment,” he said, adding that the number of unemployed has lessened because of employment locally and overseas.

Workers’ protection

Meantime, Laguesma said he would hold a meeting with workers and employers in July to discuss Executive Order 23 which mandates the creation of an inter-agency committee to strengthen the coordination and expedite the investigation, prosecution and resolution of cases of extrajudicial killings and harassment of workers and union leaders and members.

“We are doing this, mindful of what you also stated and recognize that within a particular country, there are certain domestic laws that have to be in sync with our efforts to embrace and respect bipartisanship,” he said.

Among those who attended the meeting at Malacañan were ILO Senior Adviser for Asia Hitome Nakagome, ILO Country Director for the Philippines Khalid Hassan and UN Resident Coordinator in the Philippines Gustavo Gonzalez.

The meeting coincided with the 75th anniversary of the Philippines’ membership to ILO.

This also marked Huangbo’s first official visit to the Philippines to discuss several issues besetting the labor sector.

Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos (PNA)