While calling for greater protection of Philippine migrant workers around the globe, Pope Benedict XVI also encouraged the Philippine government to do more to create jobs at home and to strengthen the country's agrarian-reform program.
"Conditions that foster increased work opportunities in peoples' places of origin are to be promoted as far as possible," the pope said in an Oct. 27 speech to the Philippines' new ambassador to the Vatican.
Welcoming Cristina Castaner-Ponce Enrile to her new post, the pope encouraged her country's government to continue and to strengthen its agricultural land-reform program.
The right of farmworkers to own the land they work was recognized in the country's 1987 constitution, but the implementation of ownership transfers has been slow. The Philippine Congress is set to vote in early November on extending the program.
Pope Benedict told the new ambassador: "Carefully planned agrarian reforms can benefit a society by instilling a sense of common responsibility and stimulating individual initiative, making it possible for a nation both to feed its own and expand its participation in international markets so as to enhance opportunities for growth in the process of globalization.
"I pray that by implementing measures that foster the just distribution of wealth and the sustainable development of natural resources, Filipino farmers will be granted greater opportunities for increasing production and earning what they need to support themselves and their families," the pope said.
With about 8 million Filipinos working outside the country and sending money home to support their families, the government rightly is concerned about protecting the dignity and rights of its citizens abroad and helping the host countries "recognize immigration as a resource for development rather than as an obstacle to it," the pope said.
"Domestic and international policies aimed at regulating immigration must be based on criteria of equity and balance, and particular care is needed to facilitate the reunification of families," he said.
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