Bishop welcomes migrant deal between Philippines, Russia

Head of Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People says deal will create opportunities for Filipinos
Bishop welcomes migrant deal between Philippines, Russia

Filipino migrant workers in Moscow welcome President Rodrigo Duterte during his visit to the country on Oct. 5. (Photo courtesy of the Presidential Communications Office)

The head of the migrant ministry of the Philippines' Catholic bishops has welcomed a proposed bilateral labor agreement between Manila and Moscow.

The Philippines and Russia agreed to craft a deal during a five-day official visit by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to Russia last week.

"President Duterte was very passionate and very committed when he raised the issue with President [Vladimir] Putin," said the Philippine ambassador to Russia Carlos Sorreta.

He said Putin agreed on the need for a bilateral labor agreement.

Bishop Ruperto Santos, head of the Philippines' Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People, expressed optimism that the deal will provide more opportunities for Filipinos.

He described the deal as "a welcome relief and assurance that our migrant workers in Russia will be protected and their stay will be legalized."

"This might be the solution needed to address the problem of obtaining visas for foreign workers in Russia," said the prelate, noting that only 100 work visas are granted to Filipinos.

Bishop Santos expressed hope that the agreement will benefit the estimated 10,000 "undocumented" Filipino workers in Russia. "Surely this bilateral agreement will promote the well-being of our [Filipino workers] and can address their needs and concerns," he said.

Ambassador Sorreta said most of the undocumented Filipinos in Russia work as nannies or domestic help. He noted that there has been a wave of Filipinos going to work in Russia but they are having trouble securing work visas.

Duterte, meanwhile, called on Filipinos in Russia to abide by local laws even as he assured overstaying Filipinos in the country that his administration is working on legitimizing their stay.

"Russia knows about those who overstay and hide from authorities ... But they said 'We won’t catch them. We know the problem, your plight; we know how hard it is in the Philippines,'" said Duterte.

"Just follow the law and we won’t have any problem," the president told a gathering of workers during his five-day official visit to Russia last week.

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