Sen. Chiz Escudero met Tuesday with Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and discussed labor, trade and migration issues as well as the current state of relations between Manila and Canberra.
“We have agreed that the Philippines and Australia could and should play more active roles in the region,” Escudero said.
Diplomatic relations between the two nations started in 1948 with the establishment of a Philippine Legation in Sydney, and there are currently 120 agreements aimed at promoting security, economic and socio-cultural linkages and cooperation.
Escudero is now in Australia on a special visit upon the invitation of the Australian government.
He also spoke with Australian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Employment, Education and Workplace Julia Gillard MP and Minister of Immigration and Sen. Chris Evans and tackled the possibility of allowing the entry of Filipino workers, specifically in the medical and non-skilled sectors as well as non-discriminatory statutes currently in place that are designed to protect migrant workers.
Based on Department of Labor and Employment figures, skills in demand in Australia include medical practitioners and nurses, midwives and pharmacists.
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.
“We talked about the possibility of a government-to-government arrangement on labor migration at various levels. I believe it’s time the Philippine government acknowledged that we have a labor export policy to weed out unscrupulous labor recruiters and to protect our workers,” Escudero said.
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.
Meanwhile, he said organizations like the Philippine Community Council of New South Wales (PCC-NSW) will play a key role in strengthening trade relations between the Philippines and Australia.
Speaking during the induction of its new officers he stressed that PCC-NSW can also help recommend jobs to Filipinos seeking to work abroad.
“In light of the global financial crisis that has resulted in many OFWs being laid off, I call on our countrymen, especially those who have established roots outside the Philippines, not to forget that there are those who have decided to follow their footsteps. All of you here were also jobseekers once,” he said.
Philippines-born migrants now comprise at least 1% of Australia’s total population.
The PCC-NSW is the main organization of the Filipino-Australian community in New South Wales and is affiliated with the Filipino Communities Council of Australia.
It was one of the 31 awardees of the 2008 Presidential Awards for Filipino individuals and organizations overseas in the Banaag Award Category.