Philippine Embassy's continuing active engagement with authorities and Filipino workers in ChristChurch
With the increasing influx of Filipino workers involved in the Christchurch rebuild and reconstruction, the Philippine Embassy continues to engage and collaborate closely with the relevant authorities in New Zealand, as well as with the Filipino workers currently staying and working in Christchurch and other support groups and stakeholders in promoting their interests, resolving their concerns, issues and problems and working for their welfare and well-being. On 22 July 2014, Ambassador Virginia H. Benavidez accompanied by Third Secretary and Vice Consul Glenn Joseph Obach, went to Christchurch following several previous visits there to look into and act on reports, information and updates gathered by the Embassy on the situation and status of Filipino workers specifically those employed in the rebuild and reconstruction of Christchurch.
Following the meetings earlier this year and last year, Ambassador Benavidez, together with Philippine Honorary Consul to Christchurch Peter Wait and Vice Consul Obach, met with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) and Labour Inspectorate officials in Christchurch again. INZ officials present at this meeting were Ms. Janine Parsons, INZ Area Manager, Ms. Sue Jackson, INZ Immigration Manager, and Mr. Dave Campbell, INZ Immigration Area Manager (Central and Southern). Labour Inspectorate officials Ms. Kim Baldwin, Mr. John Taylor, and Ms. Haley O’Donnell were also present. Discussions focused on the continuing action and possible steps that can be undertaken by relevant authorities both in New Zealand and the Philippines to address concerns and resolve problems related to employment, visa status, workers’ rights, pressures and threats, payment of wages, compliance with provisions of employment contracts, pastoral, health and safety, housing and other needs of migrant workers as well as those involving employers and their treatment of workers and recruitment and related issues. INZ and Labour Inspectorate officials stressed the crucial importance of immediate and close coordination, contact and meeting with them to discuss and resolve problems and concerns of the Filipino workers. The Philippine Embassy reiterated its deep appreciation for the New Zealand authorities’ continuing action, assistance, understanding and cooperation.
A day prior to the meeting, Ambassador Benavidez had talks with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to stress the urgency and importance of cooperative arrangements and possible government-to-government agreement on the recruitment and deployment of Filipino workers to New Zealand.
While in Christchurch, Ambassador Benavidez was also able to meet Mr. Paul Brown, Principal at Lexington Legal, who is an employment lawyer. Mr. Brown has now been drawn into immigration and recruitment laws as well, because of his recent involvement in uplifting the conditions of Filipino workers in Christchurch.
Ambassador Benavidez also had a meeting with Ms. Lana Hart, Skilled Migrant Business Services Adviser at the Canterbury Employers’ Chamber of Commerce (CECC). While talking about the current plight of the Filipino workers, Ambassador Benavidez and Ms. Hart also discussed ethical pathways and business models that will address the concerns of the migrant workers in general and be in line with New Zealand and Philippines laws, rules and regulations.
In the evening, Ambassador Benavidez also had the opportunity to interact with two Filipino workers, Mr. Dennis Melchor and Mr. Ramil Austria, and Mr. Robert Prima, Human Resources Manager at Lexington Legal. The following day in Auckland, another Filipino worker from Christchurch, Mr. Reynaldo Lugtu, also met with Ambassador Benavidez and Philippine Honorary Consul General to Auckland Atty. Paulo Garcia. Ambassador Benavidez reiterated and assured them of the utmost concern, continuing support and immediate action of the Philippine Embassy as it continually opens the doors for Filipino workers to have access to valuable information and assistance from the appropriate local authorities and the Philippine Embassy and relevant agencies such as the POEA, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and others. An advisory from the Philippine Embassy will be issued soon to provide all Filipino workers in New Zealand the necessary information, contact persons and contact details that will help them to make sure their rights and well-being are safeguarded while here in New Zealand.
The Philippine Embassy has always shared with the Filipino community the Philippine Government’s priority and concern for their welfare and well-being as the third major pillar of Philippine foreign policy. “In recognition of the vital roles and crucial contributions of the global Filipinos to nation-building in the Philippines and New Zealand, the Philippine Embassy will continue to reach out to them through our mobile consular services and dialogue, representations with appropriate officials and authorities in New Zealand and the Philippines, demonstrate its caring and sharing spirit and bring the Embassy’s services closer to more than 40,350 Filipinos here,” Ambassador Benavidez stated.
As the Philippine Embassy continues its mobile consular services for the third year for Filipinos in New Zealand, Ambassador Benavidez will lead another mobile consular services for the benefit of Filipinos in Christchurch and the surrounding areas of the South Island in mid-September this year. Called “The Philippine Embassy in New Zealand: Serving with a Smile, Going the Extra Mile and Reaching Beyond Our Grasp,” the mobile consular services will include e-passports processing, notarial documentation, reports of birth and marriage, and overseas voting registration. Final details of this fourth consular mission to Christchurch since 2012 will be uploaded shortly at the Philippine Embassy website www.philembassy.org.nz and Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/PhilippineEmbassyWellingtonNewZealand