By Joyce Ann L. Rocamora

Philippine Ambassador to Morocco Leslie Baja (Photo courtesy of the Philippine Embassy in Morocco) 

MANILA – The Philippine and Moroccan governments are looking to forge a labor cooperation deal that would further protect the rights of more than 4,600 Filipino workers in the North African state.

“This will be a win-win solution. The agreement could help in the protection of our workers here and open the market also for professionals to work in Morocco,” Philippine Ambassador to Morocco Leslie Baja told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview on Tuesday.

Baja said the deal, which would be in the form of a memorandum of understanding (MOU), was proposed by the Moroccan side and takes into consideration “some of the basic aspects of our concerns on migration and labor.”

“Even as it is just an MOU, it is a good first step so we can take it to another level afterwards. Morocco is very keen to start somewhere so they’re starting on the MOU level instead of a full-blast deal,” he said.

Formal talks have yet to start but the embassy is in close coordination with the Department of Migrant Workers to initiate it as soon as possible, hopefully within the year, the envoy said.

The MOU is expected to further increase engagements between the two nations’ relevant labor agencies, which Baja posited could also pave the way for potential agreements, such as a labor agreement on the hiring of Filipino workers.

More than 4,600 Filipinos are working in households, beauty salons, construction projects, and restaurants in Morocco.

On top of these, Baja said, there is a growing interest in Morocco to hire Filipino nurses.

“I was surprised with one of my meetings just last week. They said that they are looking into our nurses. It seems that there is an interest and we conveyed this among our authorities in the Philippines,” he said.

Citing Morocco’s current laws, Baja said the hiring of foreign workers in the health sector only covers physicians or doctors.

“There has to be a mechanism in place because right now, current regulations do not allow, if I’m not mistaken, foreign nurses to work here but if they open the market that would be good,” he said.

The bilateral cooperation between Manila and Rabat has dramatically improved since the Philippine Embassy reopened in 2020.

Last year, no less than former foreign affairs secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. led a Philippine delegation to Morocco and witnessed the signing of various agreements, including an air services deal, the MOU on political consultations, and another MOU between the Foreign Service Institute and the Moroccan Academy for Diplomatic Studies.

The two countries are set to celebrate 48 years of diplomatic relations next week since its establishment on April 10, 1975. (PNA)