Bello set to take on ILO challenge

News Release
Department of Labor and Employment
July 18, 2021

Bello set to take on ILO challenge

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Sunday said he is set to take on the challenge of heading a group representing both the powerful and the small governments of the world in the International Labor Organization.

“I think all previous labor secretaries had wished of getting elected chairman of the ILO group. Our chairmanship this year is unprecedented, the first in the history of the century-old ILO,” Bello said.

“This is why I am inclined to actively assume the role and take on the challenge of leading the ILO body,” Bello added.

The Philippines has just recently assumed the chairmanship of the powerful Government Group of the global labor standards-setting ILO headquartered in Geneva. This position has put the country as “first among unequals,” according to Labor Attaché Cheryl Daytec, who heads the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Switzerland.

“Our new leadership role as Chair of the Government Group of the ILO’s Government Body gives us a ‘primus’ position among ILO Member States. For the record, in the 102 years of the ILO existence, this is the first time that an observer country is the Government Group Chair,” Daytec said in a statement.

She added, “Not all ILO member States are equal. Presently, the ILO has 187 Member States. In the Governing Body, these states are categorized into non-elective titular/regular members, elected titular or regular members, elected deputy members, and observers. The twenty-eight (28) titular/regular Member States have voting and speaking rights. The 28 deputy member States have speaking rights but are devoid of voting rights. The rest, including the Philippines, are observers shrived of voting and speaking rights in the ILO Governing Body.”

“The chairing role will benefit from the rich experience of Secretary Bello’s as a peace negotiator for three decades,” she said.

Daytec said international labor standards and policies are the product of social dialogues between and among the three parties in the ILO tripartite system: the Workers’ Group, the Employers’ Group, and the Government Group.

“The Government Group acts as the mediator or conciliator of conflicts between the two groups on issues affecting labor standard setting, good governance, and other issues requiring the decisions of the Governing Body and the International Labour Conference. A skilled arbiter of competing interests, like Secretary Bello, can steer the three groups towards achieving consensus on international labor standards and other matters,” she said.

Specifically, the Philippines will perform the following functions:

  1. Chairing of meetings

As Chair of the Government Group, the Philippines shall convene and chair meetings of the Government Group during the International Labour Conference and the Governing Body Sessions, and other meetings outside of these official meetings. Secretary Silvestre H. Bello, as the principal representing the Philippine government, may preside over the meetings of the Government Group during the International Labour Conference and the Governing Body Sessions. However, he may designate his representative. In practice, the representative may be an Undersecretary, or the Philippine Permanent Representative (PR) to the UN and Other International Organizations. Other meetings may be chaired by the PR or the Philippine labour expert (Labour Attache) in the ILO.

  1. Acting as communication and coordination channel

As Chair of the Government Group in the International Labour Organization’s Governing Body, the Philippines shall serve as the linking pin between the International Labour Office and the Government Group, and shall also serve as the communication channel for the Government Group to reach the groups of the social partners – the Employers’ Group and the Workers’ Group.

  1. Speaking for the Government Group

As a rule, the Chairperson of the Government Group is the voice of the Group in the International Labour Conference, regional meetings, technical or sectoral meetings, and the Governing Body Sessions.

  1. Building Consensus

In its vital leadership position, the Philippines shall facilitate negotiation within the Government Group for the Group to adopt a common position on issues including international labour standards. This common position will be negotiated with the social partners in formal and informal settings. Using its leadership position, the Philippines, through Sec. Bello, may influence international labor standard setting and policy-making. As a skilled negotiator, Sec. Bello can facilitate the adoption by the Government Group of a position which may be “sold” to the social partners.

  1. Setting the Governing Body agenda

The Chairperson of the Government Group is a member of the powerful Screening Group entrusted with establishing the agenda of the Governing Body. This meets after the March and November Sessions of the Governing Body to set the agenda for the following session. This gives the Philippines an influential role in agenda setting.

  1. Nominating various offices or membership in meetings and committees

The Philippines shall be responsible for coordinating, through the Regional Coordinators, nominations of members of the Group to various offices, and for communicating them to the relevant authority (Government Group, Governing Body, Conference, etc.). ###