The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) demonstrated its unwavering dedication to promoting decent work and sustainable economic growth at the ASEAN Senior Labor Officials Meeting (SLOM) and International Labor Organization (ILO) Session during the ASEAN Labor Ministers Meeting (ALMM) Mid-Term Review Workshops held on 06 July 2023 in Boracay Island, Aklan. Said event brought together representatives from the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and various AMS to foster dialogue and collaboration on labor-related issues in Southeast Asia.

Officer-in-Charge Undersecretary Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio, Jr., representing DOLE Secretary Laguesma as the ALMM Chair and in his capacity as SLOM Chair, delivered the opening remarks. He emphasized the significance of the SLOM-ILO Session in advancing the welfare and rights of workers in the ASEAN community. Undersecretary Bitonio, Jr. expressed his gratitude to all participating bodies and highlighted the efforts of member countries, particularly during the challenging times posed by the pandemic.

Ms. Panudda Boonpala, Deputy Regional Director of the ILO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (ROAP), also delivered her opening remarks on behalf of the ILO. She commended DOLE for its role as SLOM Chair and expressed appreciation for the collective endeavors of all stakeholders in pursuit of decent work, especially amid the pandemic. Ms. Boonpala acknowledged the progress made by the ILO ASEAN Work Programme, particularly in areas such as skills development, labor migration governance, child labor, and youth employment. She also highlighted the ILO’s initiative towards advocating the Global Coalition for Social Justice in response to the challenges faced by the ASEAN region.

During the session, Mr. Christian Vielegahn, ILO Employment Specialist, presented the ASEAN Labor Market Update and the Global Coalition on Social Justice. Key takeaways from the presentation included the gradual recovery of job growth in ASEAN, the higher rate of employment growth compared to other regions, the impact of job losses on youth workers, the prevalence of informal employment, and the aim of the Global Coalition for Social Justice to catalyze action.

Ms. Mega Irena provided an overview of the ILO-ASEAN Work Programme 2022-2025, focusing on specific projects aimed at enhancing the protection and welfare of migrant workers and improving the quality of competency certification systems within ASEAN economies. The projects highlighted included capacity building for labor attaches, employers’ education on recruitment of migrant workers, and initiatives to raise public awareness about the positive contributions of migrant workers. During the discussions, Undersecretary Carmela I. Torres from DOLE expressed her appreciation for the ILO’s support in formulating the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (PLEP) for 2023-2028. She also highlighted key areas of collaboration between the ILO and the Philippines such as skills development, youth employment, and inclusive employment among other priority areas.

The DOLE’s active participation in the SLOM-ILO Session signifies its commitment to promoting decent work and labor market excellence within the ASEAN community. Through fruitful discussions, sharing of best practices, and collaborative efforts, DOLE remains steadfast in its pursuit of inclusive and sustainable economic growth while ensuring the protection and rights of workers.