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04/09/2012: Philippine Heads of Posts in the U.S. Attend Briefing on Labor and Related Matters in Washington, D.C.

04 September 2012, Washington, D.C. The heads of Philippine posts in the U.S. were recently in Washington, D.C. to attend a Training/Briefing for Consuls General and Honorary Consuls General on Labor and Related Matters.  Held at the Philippine Embassy on 17 August 2012, the training was intended for the participants to closely engage the U.S. Department of Labor and the Polaris Project, an NGO dealing in human trafficking in the U.S., in discussions on how to better achieve the mandate of protecting Filipino migrant workers in the U.S., following the Embassy’s recent signing of collaborative agreements with these two institutions.

Philippine Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. remarked, before the start of the training program, that the signing of the historic agreements have elevated the Embassy’s relationships with the U.S. Department of Labor and the Polaris Project to new heights and that much remained to be done, thereby setting the tone for the day’s briefing, as well as his expectations of the Philippine posts’ work in the coming months.  “The initial efforts we will be exerting are investments that will pay off later on as we anticipate a gradual but significant decline in problems encountered by our migrant workers in the U.S.”, Ambassador Cuisia said.

Ambassador Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. delivers his opening remarks at the start of the one-day Training/Briefing for Consuls General and Honorary Consuls General on Labor and Related Matters at the Romulo Hall of the Embassy.  Beside him, Ms. Rebecca Rowles of the U.S. Department of Labor takes notes.

Ms. Rebecca Rowles of the Bureau of International Labor Affairs, Ms. Jacquelyn DeMesme –Gray of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Mr. Lemiel Pierre of the Wage and Hour Division represented the U.S. Department of Labor and spoke of the establishment of local alliances between their various district/area offices and the Consulates General as the way to move the existing collaboration forward.  For the Polaris Project, Ms. Victoria Hougham, Clinical Social Worker, and Ms. Vanessa Chauhan, Program Specialist and Shift Supervisor, highlighted the National Human Trafficking Resource Center as a major program through which the NGO is able to reach out to victims and provide training and information on human trafficking.

Ms. Rowles opens the discussions for the U.S Department of Labor before turning over the microphone to Ms. Jackie DeMesme-Gray (seated at the Ambassador’s right) and then to Mr. Lemiel Pierre (seated at Ms. Rowles’ left).  Also seated L-R are Congen Mario de Leon of NYPCG, Congen Mary Jo Aragon of LAPCG, Congen Bayani Mangibin of Agana PCG, Congen Julius Torres of Honolulu PCG, Congen Leo Herrera-Lim of Chicago PCG, and Consul Jaime Ramon Ascalon  of SanFo PCG.  Hidden from view is PHCG Raoul Donato of Atlanta, Georgia.

Ms. Vanessa Chauhan briefs the participants while Ms. Victoria Hougham operates the powerpoint presentation for the Polaris Project.

Aside from also explaining the salient provisions of the agreements signed, the resource persons discussed their offices’ respective work and missions.  The day ended with briefings from the Embassy’s Labor Attache Luzviminda Padilla and Welfare Officer Saul de Vries, who respectively enlisted the support of the participants in advocating more alliances with relevant government agencies and other institutions for the further protection of the rights of workers and increasing their awareness on the programs and services available to members of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration.  The participants were also briefed on the latest developments on the SAVE Act campaign.

Except for the Philippine Consulate General in Saipan, jurisdiction over which will be transferred to the Philippine Consulate General in Agana, Guam, effective November, all Philippine career consular posts in the U.S. were represented, with the Consuls General and one officer per post in attendance.  Consul General, a.h. Raoul Donato of Atlanta, Georgia was the only Philippine Honorary Consul General present at the training.

The training at the Romulo Hall of the Embassy was followed by a light dinner reception hosted by Ambassador Cuisia for the participants.