Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III. (Screengrab from Laging Handa briefing)

MANILA – Russia has expressed interest to enter into a bilateral agreement with the Philippines on the deployment of migrant workers, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said on Saturday.

“We received a communication from the Russian government that they are willing to enter into a bilateral agreement with the government of the Republic of the Philippines,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a Laging Handa briefing.

Bello said this is a welcome development for Filipinos, particularly those who are illegally staying in the European nation.

“With this development, we can now legitimize the stay of our overseas workers in Russia,” he said.

Bello added that under the plan, Filipinos who go to Russia as tourists can have their tourist visa converted into working visas.

“It’s under the same mechanics, (as to those who go to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They went there as tourists and then they convert their tourist visa into a working visa,” he said.

On Monday, the Philippine government and the UAE signed an agreement creating a unified employment contract that provides stringent measures to protect Filipino household service workers (HSWs) pursuant to the directives of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.

During the joint committee meeting from March 1 to 2, Manila has reiterated its position to deploy the workers through the legal channel, and the conversion of tourist visa to working visa is therefore not recommended since this may lead to illegal recruitment and trafficking in persons.

Bello said under the new contract, the conversion of a Filipino worker's tourist visa to a working visa would have to be approved by Philippine Overseas Labor Office in the host country.

“The UAE will no longer allow the conversion of a tourist visa into a working visa without the approval of Labor Attaché in the place of deployment. It’s a protection for our OFWs,” he said. (PNA)