MANILA, PHILIPPINES –Journalists from community newspapers of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI) gathered online recently to discuss issues on international migration and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

The International Labor Organization (ILO), Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC), and PPI organized the Webinar on Labor Migration for PPI Member-Publications on September 23, 2022.

Hussein Macarambon, National Project Coordinator of the Ship to Shore Rights Southeast Asia, ILO Country Office for the Philippines, discussed international labor migration and forced labor, emphasizing that forced labor affects everyone, including businesses and the government.

He explained the various United Nations and ILO conventions and treaties on labor and migration and their link to national labor standards. He pointed out that even if there are certain conventions on forced labor, new forms have emerged. Thus, governments must take new measures to tackle forced labor in all its forms by following the protocol on the three-tiered mechanism of protection, prevention, and compensation.

“If we want to make a significant change in the lives of the 25 million men, women, and children in forced labor, we need to take concrete and immediate action. Let’s not just be angry at slavery, let’s make change happen.”

Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization (as quoted by Hussein Macarambon)

Discussing the Philippine labor migration management system, Toby Nebrida, Spokesperson and Head of the Strategic Communications Office of the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW), explained the department’s way forward to fulfill its mandate to protect the interest and welfare of OFWs.

He pointed out that at least 12 countries having an interest in Filipino migrant workers reached out to the department. However, problems of abuse, exploitation, inhumane treatment, and unfair work conditions remain. Over 1,000 OFWs were recently repatriated because of these problems.

According to Nebrida, the implementation of a fully automated recruitment of the deployment process, with a verification/ accreditation online platform, and better cultural awareness orientation and training for OFWs and employers are two of the deployment strategies of the department.

He explained that bilateral arrangements of DMW with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia act as a blueprint for future agreements with other countries and aim to focus on migration governance, rules and rights-based, fair and ethical recruitment, shared responsibility, and respect for the dignity of labor.

“Whenever we write about an OFW’s journey, it is always a sad story. Hopefully, with the new directions that we are making at the DMW, we will be able to transform the stories that you write as well into stories of inspiration, hope, and success.”

Toby Nebrida, Spokesperson and Head, Strategic Communications Office, Department of Migrant Workers

Dr. Jeremaiah Opiniano, President of the OFW Journalism Consortium and Journalism professor at the University of Santo Tomas, explained why journalists should look at international migration. With the increase in scale and diversity of international migrants, at least 281 million people live and 100 million or more work outside their country of birth. He underlined that remittances from migrants are the largest international flow of money into developing countries.

Dr. Opiniano stressed the importance of capturing the human dramas and reporting the two sides of the story, both from the country of origin and the country of destination.

He cited the following sources of stories: neighbors and relatives, regional and provincial government offices dealing with migration and labor, OFW family networks, local OFW desks of the Social Welfare and Development Office or the Public Employment Service Office, local chief executives and legislative councils, and hometown associations abroad.

He also suggested mentoring between editors and reporters on migration-aligned beats and a more active community press for their migrant “townmates.”

Ann Lourdes Lopez, AIJC Senior Director, discussed the criteria for the selection of two local newspapers for the “Best in Reporting on Migration Issues” category in the PPI Civic Journalism Community Press Awards. She explained that the winners, one from the dailies and another from the weeklies, should exhibit excellence in coverage and reporting of local migration issues and of migrants and their families from the community and should demonstrate regularity, frequency, and variety in local migration coverage and reporting.

Regarding the migration awards category, PPI Executive Director Ariel Sebellino said, “Newspaper stories (on labor migration issues) from outside the capital should be improved…by putting human faces into the narratives, because that’s what civic journalism is all about. This is the framework of the awards program that PPI has had over the years, which makes it different from other media organizations. Precisely why we are putting a premium on this additional category amongst other categories.”

This is the second year that ILO is supporting PPI in awarding winners for “Best in Reporting on Migration Issues.”


Kristian Pura, AIJC Managing Director, said that he hoped that these awards would increase the coverage by community newspapers of the stories and voices of Filipino migrant workers, who would be empowered to be active participants in the life of their communities and the life of the nation.

“More of this kind” and “make it longer” were among the comments of the participants. One journalist said, “We need the information for better understanding for our stories and reporting.” The webinar on labor migration is the second activity ILO has supported for PPI member-publications.

Tags: migrant workers, community press, labor migration, governance, modern slavery

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