Philippine President Benigno Aquino III sought assurances from European leaders for the protection of overseas Filipino workers as he hobnobbed with his counterparts at the 9th Asia Europe Meeting here.
During the President’s meeting with European Union officials on Monday, there was a “general acknowledgement” of Filipinos’ high value contribution to the European economy, according to Secretary Herminio Coloma of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.
Aquino said he asked the European officials for assistance in protecting the 91,000 Filipino seafarers serving on European vessels. Filipino seafarers make up about a third of the manpower on these vessels.
Coloma said that in Europe, there was a higher degree of interest in the quality of Filipino seafaring, and the Philippines has committed to raise the standards of maritime security.
The EU and Norway have assured the Philippines of support in its bid to keep its good standing in the International Maritime Organisation’s “white list,” he added. Norway has a training center in the Philippines for mariners.
He said the country intended to comply with all of the requirements of the Standards for Training and Certification of Watchkeeping for Seafarers.
“We are on the white list, which means we are compliant. But it was pointed out to us what we need to di to increase the standards of our maritime safety,” he said.
Aquino also secured an assurance from Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg that he would support the Philippines’ efforts to land better jobs for Filipino migrant workers. This was during his bilateral meeting with the Norwegian leader on Monday.
Coloma said highly skilled workers were needed in Norway’s health care industry.
“Some procedural improvements can be made in order to create better opportunities for the highly qualified Filipino workers, particularly in the healthcare industry in Norway,” Coloma told reporters.
Meanwhile, Aquino also thanked Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti for his country’s hospitality to Filipino migrant workers there.
He also expressed his gratitude for Italy’s hospitality toward more than 7,000 Filipinos who flew there for the canonisation of St. Pedro Calungsod.
Aquino held a series of bilateral meetings with European and Asian leaders on the sidelines of the ASEM summit.
He had meetings with Herman Van Rompuy, the President of the European Council, and Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission, on Monday. On the same day, he also held bilateral talks with Norway’s Stoltenberg and Swiss Confederation President Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf.
On Tuesday, he had bilateral meetings with Italy’s Monti and Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Leila B. Salaverria
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