ABU DHABI // All GCC countries are now officially on the Philippine government's list of "safe" destinations for Filipino workers.
The UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia are included in a new list of 32 compliant countries released by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on Thursday.
This is in addition to 155 countries, including Oman, that have already been approved in three previous lists.
"The POEA Governing Board resolves to include in the list of compliant countries, including partially-compliant, without prejudice to negotiations for the protection of the rights of household service workers and/or other categories of workers," the POEA board said yesterday.
Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, said she was still awaiting official word from Manila officials. She looked forward to further discussions on the issue, she said.
"The Philippines' relations with these Gulf countries goes beyond labour," said Lito Soriano, head of LBS Recruitment Solutions in Manila, who said last month that he was sure the UAE would be certified as fully compliant.
"We also have strong trade and diplomatic ties with them so we welcome this development."
The country's Migrant and Overseas Filipino Workers Act was amended in 2010 to allow Filipinos to work in a country only if it has social and labour laws that protect their rights, has ratified declarations on the protection of migrant workers, and has bilateral agreements with the Philippines on the protection of workers' rights.
The Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila must certify which countries have enough protection for overseas workers. This must be approved by the POEA.
The Philippines, Mr Soriano said, should now focus on implementing the US$400 minimum wage for Filipino household workers worldwide.
Nhel Morona, spokesman for the UAE branch of Migrante, the organisation for Filipino workers overseas, agreed.
Since December 2006, the Philippine government has required its citizens to be paid at least US$400 (Dh1,470) a month for domestic work. But that is often flouted.
"The Philippines does not have the political will to implement it," he said. "Domestic workers continue to receive less than US$400."
A domestic worker in Ajman told Mr Morona yesterday that she and several other Filipinas were being paid Dh750 for domestic work.
Migrante-UAE is investigating further allegations, including various forms of mistreatment.