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Friday, March 13, 2009

Chiz bats for entry of more Filipino health professionals, non-skilled workers in Australia

Sen. Chiz Escudero has asked Australian government officials to allow the entry of more Filipino health professionals as well as non-skilled workers who may have been displaced in other countries.

“We talked about the possibility of a government-to-government arrangement on labor migration at various levels,” he said in a statement before returning to Manila on Wednesday. The senator was in Australia from March 8 to 11 on the invitation of the Australian government.

Escudero’s visit was highlighted by his first meeting with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd whom he said agreed that Australia and the Philippines should play “more active roles in the region.

During their meeting, the senator said he discussed labor, trade and migration issues with Rudd as well as the current state of relations between Australia and the Philippines.

The senator said during his meeting with Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, Education and Workplace Julia Gillard MP and Minister of Immigration and Sen. Chris Evans, he also discussed the current laws which protect migrants from discriminatory practices.

The Australian embassy in Manila revealed that in the last two years there has been a substantial increase in the number of skilled Filipino workers migrating to Australia, and that in 2008 the increase was estimated to be 136% higher than the previous year, outpacing family migration to Australia for the first time.

“There is a strong demand for doctors, nurses, midwives and pharmacists in Australia. It could very well take the slack in other countries,” Escudero said.

During his four-day stay, the senator also took up trade issues with Australian Minister of Trade MP Simon Crean.
Two-way trade between both countries from 2007-08 reached $2 billion, with the Philippines exporting electrical machinery, telecoms equipment and fruits and importing dairy products and minerals. Only last week, the Australian government allowed the entry of Philippine bananas subject to certain conditions.
At present, there are about 130,000 Filipinos living and/or working in Australia, and based on the latest figures the Philippines is the fifth biggest source of migrants.
In another meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith, the two exchanged views on how Australia can further improve relations with the Philippines and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

“We have agreed that there is a lot of room for heightening and increasing the levels of cooperation in pursuit of our common and shared interests,” Escudero added. #

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