Mga minamahal kong kababayang manggagawa sa bansang ito, isang mainit na pagbati sa inyong lahat sa pagdiriwang ng Philippine Migrant Workers’ Day.

It was on this exact date 25 years ago when the President of the Philippines signed into law Republic Act No. 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. At the time of its enactment, this law was quite revolutionary because, for the first time after decades of encouraging foreign deployment of Filipino workers, the Philippine Government made an important policy declaration: The protection of the Filipino migrant workers and the promotion of their welfare shall be the highest priority concerns of the Government and its embassies and consulates abroad.

It was also under this law that ground-breaking Philippine strategies and best practices were encoded in a comprehensive legal framework. These include anti-illegal recruitment, reintegration, education and skills training, repatriation, and information sharing policies which embassies and consulates were mandated to adopt under the one-country-team approach.

You may not be familiar with the letter of this law, but many of our kababayans in the UK and Ireland have experienced its application. When a household service worker escapes from an abusive employer and is given food, shelter and legal representation by the Embassy, it is because of this law. When a seafarer loses life or limb while on a fishing boat somewhere off the coast of Scotland, it is this law that required adequate insurance cover for that seafarer. And, more pleasantly this time, when your family and friends enjoy your tasty cakes and coffee cocktails, wear your sparkling accessories, admire your photographic or soap-carving prowess, or don the dresses that you designed and made, it is this law that mandated free skills training for overseas Filipinos as part of their empowerment.

RA 8042 was amended ten years ago with the passage of Republic Act No, 10022, which further strengthened the country’s management of migration and migration-related issues. Because of our long experience in managing labor migration, the Philippines has become a powerful voice in the international community as the champion of a rights-based approach to overseas employment and labor migration.

Today, on the Silver Anniversary of the enactment of RA 8042, and as we celebrate Migrant Workers’ Day, we at the Embassy, of which POLO-London is an integral part, renew our pledge as officials of the Government to abide by and fully enforce all Philippine laws and regulations that protect overseas Filipinos and promote their welfare. We re-dedicate ourselves to our mandate to be the staunch ally and reliable partner of overseas Filipinos as they work for a better life and a more prosperous future for their loved ones, both here and those left behind in the Philippines. We recall with gratitude the massive contribution of overseas Filipinos to our country’s development and economic stability. And we proclaim with pride that Filipino workers in the United Kingdom and Ireland are a positive contribution to the social fabric and economy of these two countries.

In these difficult times we find ourselves in, as the UK, Ireland and the rest of the world face the huge challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Filipino worker shines — be it in the COVID wards and ICUs of hospitals, in various care homes, or aboard the fishing boats and oil rigs at sea, or at the farms, supermarkets, and distribution centers that kept these two countries fed and stocked during the lockdown, or in the transportation, sanitation and other social services of various local councils all over the UK and Ireland. Your contribution to your local communities and to these two countries in general remains a source of pride for us at the Embassy.

May I take this opportunity to pay my deepest respects to Filipino workers in the UK and Ireland who have passed on due to COVID-19, especially those who were infected while they were doing their jobs. They are heroes in the true sense of the word. Our thoughts are with their families and loved ones and we pray that they are now at peace.

I hope that our commemoration today would encourage all of you who are participating in this virtual gathering to take pride in what you do, to celebrate your important role in the life of these countries and of our beloved Philippines, and to seize every opportunity to become better, more skilled, and more valuable contributors to your local communities.

In a few days, we will celebrate  the 122nd anniversary of the declaration of Philippine Independence. Our theme this year is “Kalayaan 2020: Tungo sa Bansang Malaya, Nagbabayanihan, at Ligtas”. Ngayon pa lang ay sasabihin ko na sa inyo na para sa amin, kayo ay mga bayani, at sa inyo nakasalalay ang matagumpay na bayanihan na magpapatatag at magpapalakas sa ating Inang Bayan.

Mabuhay kayo at ang lahat ng manggagawang Pilipino saan mang panig ng mundo!

Thank you.