ABU DHABI // Jejomar Binay, the vice president of the Philippines, is hopeful that his talks with Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, will boost UAE investment in his country.
The bilateral talks will focus on labour, agriculture, investments, trade and other issues of mutual interest, he said at a briefing last night. "I look forward to meeting him tomorrow [Friday]," he said. "We hope that the UAE will invest in health and education in Mindanao [southern Philippines]."
The talks may include a bilateral agreement between the UAE and the Philippines to implement new rules and regulations for the protection of the expatriate workers, he said. "We really hope to get support from the UAE," he added.
The vice president is expecting to meet Sheikh Mohammed today. This is Mr Binay's first official visit to the UAE after assuming the vice presidency last year.
He last visited Dubai "five to six years ago" when he was still the mayor of Makati City. In 2003, Dubai became a sister city of Makati City.
In his capacity as the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers (OFW) concerns, Mr Binay said he was facilitating the repatriation of 36 undocumented Filipina household workers in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Twenty-eight are from Dubai. The women, who are staying at the labour-office shelters in both emirates, will be provided free air tickets by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration in Manila. They fled their employers' homes after complaining of various forms of mistreatment and do not have pending cases in the Emirates.
The UAE is the second most popular destination - after Saudi Arabia - for Filipinos, and with nearly 610,000 living in the Emirates, was among the principal sources of the US$18.76 billion (Dh68.5bn) remitted to the Philippines by overseas Filipino workers last year.
Nasser Munder, the labour attache in Abu Dhabi, said the UAE had existing labour laws to protect Filipino migrant workers. Sixty per cent of them are skilled or professional workers, 25 per cent are in the service sector and 15 per cent are household workers.
"For housemaids who are not covered by the UAE labour law, there is a dispute section at the immigration where complaints against employers, such as unpaid salaries are heard," he said. "But when both parties fail to settle, they are referred by the section to the Shariah court which will then decide on the merits of the case."
When the UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed visited Manila last October, he expressed a willingness to help the Philippines combat human trafficking, Mr Binay said. "Sheikh Abdullah said that he wants the UAE to be a model country in hosting overseas Filipino workers."
Adelio Cruz, the consul general at the Philippine Embassy, said co-operation between the UAE authorities and the embassy resulted in the conviction of three Filipinos who were involved in human trafficking in the UAE last year.
Mr Binay visited two Filipino schools, the Philippine National School and the Pisco Private School in Abu Dhabi, yesterday. Tonight he will meet with leaders of 50 Filipino community groups in Dubai and the northern emirates at the Philippine overseas labour office in Deira and leave for Manila tomorrow morning.