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25/06/2012: Secretary Baldoz Pushes for Retention GSP Status for PHL

25 June 2012, Washington DC. Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz pushed for the retention of the country’s status as a beneficiary of the United States Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) during her recent meetings with officials of the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR). Baldoz, who was on official visit in the U.S. last week, reported the progress made by the Philippine government in upholding labor rights and pursuing legislative reforms in labor administration. The GSP aims to promote economic growth in beneficiary countries by providing duty-free entry for their products.

The Philippines was the subject of an earlier petition by the International Labor Rights Forum for suspension of GSP status due to the government’s alleged failure to uphold internationally recognized workers’ rights.  Baldoz assured Deputy United States Trade Representative Ambassador Demetrios Marantis that the Philippines is stepping up its efforts in promoting human and labor rights. She noted that the country is actively prosecuting those responsible for acts of violence against labor union activists, leaders and members. “Our court has recently convicted four (4) accused of killing and we are closely monitoring the other cases pending in various courts and agencies to see to it that they lead to their rightful conclusion”, she added.

Baldoz likewise cited the government’s efforts to pursue changes in labor administration through legislative reform measures. Labor bills strengthening the rights to self-organization and collective bargaining and establishing the requirements for the exercise by the Secretary of Labor of the authority to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes have been filed with the Philippine Congress and are in various stages of the legislative process.  The heads of labor committees in both houses of Philippine Congress have expressed support for the passage of the bills. One of the bills seeks to allow the Secretary of Labor to assume jurisdiction over labor disputes in industries providing essential services as determined after tripartite consultation.

“Various law enforcement agencies including the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have also recently signed the guidelines on the proper conduct in dealing with strikes and picket lines. This is another strong indication that we are serious about instituting positive changes in the way we uphold workers’ rights”, Baldoz said. She expressed optimism that the Philippines will retain its GSP status given the substantial progress that the Philippine government is making in addressing labor issues.

Baldoz together with Ambassador Jose Cuisia Jr. also met with US Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis to discuss USDOL-supported projects that benefit Filipino workers such as for the elimination of the worst forms of child labor and for raising awareness of the rights of workers including compliance of fair labor standards, safety and health in the workplace. Ambassador Cuisia also raised concerns over the issue of employment termination of the Filipino teachers in Maryland.  (END)

Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz (leftmost) is joined by her counterpart, US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (center) and Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose Cuisia (rightmost) for a photo opportunity during her visit to the US Department of Labor (USDOL). Photo courtesy of USDOL.

Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz (left) is joined by US Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (right) during her visit to the US Department of Labor (USDOL). Photo courtesy of USDOL.