Thursday, September 18, 2014

New pact promotes fair wages for Pinoys in US

Filipino officials in the United States have signed a cooperative agreement with the US Labor's Wage and Hour Division (WHD) promoting fair wages for Filipinos working there.

According to a news release from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the agreement commits both parties in making sure that Filipinos in the US, regardless of immigration status, are paid properly.

Through the agreement, Filipinos working in Southern California, Southern Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas can expect support to help them understand their rights as employees under the US Fair Labor Standards Act.

The agreement also aims to reduce violations of minimum wage, overtime, recordkeeping, child labor, safehousing and transportation provisions as enforced by the WHD.

The signing ceremony was held on the sidelines of the Consulate on Wheels outreach mission at the Crosswinds Church in Aurora, Colorado, last September 5.

In their key message, Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon and WHD Denver Director Charles Frasier said they look forward to helping educate Filipinos in Colorado of their labor rights.

“We can also assist them in investigating possible violations by their employers, while protecting their identity,” Frasier said.

National Federation of Filipino American Associations Executive Director Giselle Rushford also attended the signing ceremony along with various members of the Filipino community.

Rushford said they would support the agreement by organizing internal training and information sessions about fair wages for Filipinos. Andrei Medina/KBK, GMA News

Pinoy students urged to consider Canada as alternative study destination

Canada’s top envoy to the Philippines on Wednesday encouraged Filipino students aspiring to study abroad to consider Canada as an alternative study destination.

Ambassador Neil Reeder said Filipino students can enjoy the “strongest and highest quality education system” at a relatively modest cost compared to other study destinations since Canadian schools are government-subsidized.

Moreover, Canadian academic institutions, at par with leading institutions in the world, provide globally-recognized academic credentials to international students, said Reeder.

“For Filipinos, some would choose to study in the Philippines. Some would choose to study abroad. This is really focused on choice. If a student would choose to study abroad, Canada is an excellent option,” Reeder said at the launch of the 2014 Canadian school fair in Makati City.

“We want you to be part of the Canadian studying experience,” he said.

Canada, Reeder said, is seventh in the world as an international study destination, with over 293,000 foreign students enrolled in its schools.

Alumni

University of British Columbia alumnus Glenn Yu, president and CEO of SEAOIL Philippines, Inc., said Canada provides easy access to learning resources.

“In my particular field which is highly technical and technology- specific, you have the advantage of the resources there, not just to explore the material from a textbook level, but from a practical level where you will be able to see the resources made available to you,” said Yu, who graduated cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering.

Beauty queen Bea Rose Santiago, a native of Masbate who moved to Canada as a child, said studying in Canada exposed her to many opportunities and cultures.

“I loved how Canada is open to any kind of culture and tradition,” said Santiago, who studied Communications major in Public Relations at York University.

University of Toronto alumna Daphne Oseña-Paez, a TV host and entrepreneur, said the cost of going to a university in Canada is a fraction of what one would pay compared to other top universities, like Stanford or Harvard, while getting the same quality of education.

Likewise, Oseña-Paez, who earned a degree in Urban Studies specializing in Fine Arts History, said student loans are readily available and can be paid after graduation.

For those interested

Reeder said those interested in studying in Canada will get the chance to meet with representatives of 13 Canadian institutions during an education fair to be held on Oct. 4 at the Fairmont Hotel in Makati to discuss study opportunities at the K-12, college and university levels.  

Participating schools are Algonquin College, Centennial College, Fairleigh Dickinson University, Fulford Academy, Humber College, Langara College, Mount Saint Vincent University, Niagara College, Royal Roads University, SAIT Polytechnic, Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, Seneca College, abd TAIE International Institute.

“I’m confident that this event will open new doors to those who will choose Canada as a study destination and help them make an informed decision about the future,” Reeder said.

Another Canadian alumnus Chris Tan, founder of Ideal Minds Corporation, an award-winning production company, believes Filipino students can easily blend into Canadian society without losing their identity.

“Canada is a mosaic not a melting pot,” he said. “It is where each culture is celebrated on its uniqueness and blends everyone.”

Help in nation-building

For celebrity chef Sharwin Tee, who studied and trained at Pacific Institute of Culinary Arts in Vancouver, getting an education abroad can aid in nation-building.

“You can go to Canada to study and come back because you can help your country a lot. You gain a different perspective of what you do and come back,” Tee said.

Education advocate, musician and multi-lingual specialist Nicole Severino said among the many benefits from studying in a foreign institution is the advantage of having multiple points of view.

“There’s nothing stopping us from evolving and moving forward and learning from what other people can share. That’s the global community,” Severino said.

The one-day Canadian education fair is open to the public for free from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.  —KBK, GMA News

Meeting with Pinoy community, scholars part of PNoy’s itinerary during US visit

A reception with members of the Filipino-American community and a meeting with Filipino scholars of the foundation named after his parents will be part of the itinerary when President Benigno Aquino III visits the United States later this week.

According to a statement from the Philippine Consulate General in New York, Aquino, who will be in the US from Sept. 20 to 24, will meet with members of the Filipino-American community in New York and Boston, with the latter hosting a meeting between him and scholars of the Benigno and Corazon Aquino Scholarship Foundation.

Aquino will also visit "old friends" in Boston, according to Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary Maria Andrelita Austria, in the statement. The President is expected to arrive in Boston, Massachusetts, on the evening of September 20 from Berlin, Germany.

Aquino is currently on a four-nation tour of Europe, visiting Spain and Belgium. He will then proceed to France and Germany, his last stop in European trip.

On September 22, Aquino will meet with Representative Joseph Kennedy III (4th District, Massachusetts), who recently visited the Philippines and invited the President for a meeting when he visits Boston.

Later in the afternoon, Aquino will receive three big American companies. Austria said this will be followed by an interview with the National Public Radio station.

He will then deliver a policy speech at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and then proceed to New York.

While in New York, Aquino will have a series of media interviews with major print and television companies, Austria said.

After that, he will join other world leaders for the UN Climate Change Summit at the UN Headquarters.

After this, he will have a business roundtable with the US Chamber of Commerce, the US-ASEAN Business Council, and the US-Philippines Society.

Later in the afternoon, Aquino will speak at the World Leaders Forum of Columbia University, and have a coffee meeting with the media.

On September 24, the President will depart New York for San Francisco.

“This was supposedly only a technical stop but we have had requests from big business companies to meet with the President. So we have arranged for at least two business meetings in San Francisco,” Austria said.

He then leaves for Manila and arrive on the evening of Thursday, September 25. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

6 ambassadors, 42 others get CA nod

The Commission on Appointments on Wednesday confirmed the appointments of six ambassadors, and several other career diplomats.

The powerful bicameral body confirmed the appointments of the following:

-- Melita Sta Maria Thomeczek, Chief of Mission, Class I, as ambassador to the Federal Republic of Germany
-- Maria Lumen Isleta, Chief of Mission, Class I, as ambassador to the Republic of Indonesia
-- Domingo Nolasco, Chief of Mission, Class II, as ambassador to the Republic of Italy with concurrent jurisdiction over the Republic of San Marino, the Republic of Albania, and the Republic of Malta
-- Wilfredo Santos, Chief of Mission, Class II, as ambassador to the State of Qatar
-- Nathaniel Imperial, Chief of Mission, Class II, as ambassador  to the State of Israel
-- Belinda Ante, Chief of Mission, Class II, as ambassador to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Appointed as Chiefs of Mission, Class I were:

-- Charles Jose
-- Noel Eugene Eusebio Servigon
-- Cresente Relacion
-- Leah Basinang Ruiz
-- Constancio Vingno, Jr.

Appointed as Chiefs of Mission, Class II

-- Imelda Panolong
-- Christopher Montero
-- Renato Pedro Villa
-- Maria Andrelita Austria
-- Lilybeth Deapera
-- Kira Christiane Danganan-Azucena
-- Sulpicio Confiado

Appointed as Career Ministers

-- Emilio Fernandez
-- Elizabeth Te
-- Flerida Ann Camille Mayo
-- Leila Lora-Santos
-- Pablito Mendoza
-- Elmer Cato
-- Marie Charlotte Tang
-- Jerome John Castro
-- Maria Louella Duarte
-- Jesusa Susana Paez
-- Robert Ferrer Jr
-- Myla Grace Ragenia Macabilig
-- Lolita Capco

Appointed as Foreign Service Officers, Class I

-- Gonaranao Musot
-- Gerardo Abiog
-- Leilani Feliciano
-- Maria Elena Cristina Maningat
-- Arnel Talisayon
-- Jabbar Adiong
 
Appointed as Foreign Service Officers, Class II

-- Judy Barbara Robianes
-- Jed Martin Llona
-- Paulo Saret
-- Princess Tomas-Tayao
-- Querobine Laccay
-- Ma. Corina Reyes
-- Winston Dean Almeda
-- Anna Marie Balle
-- Dennis John Briones
-- Cassandra Karemaeh Sawadjaan
-- Ryan Francis Gener

Flowers for Miriam

The confirmation ran smoothly, with Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas even offering flowers to Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago.

Last week, during a hearing of the CA foreign relations committee, Santiago, who heads the panel, walked out following a verbal exchange with Fariñas. Her outburst resulted from Fariñas questioning her on why she opted to proceed with the hearing when it lacked quorum.

Insubordination

Meanwhile, during the day's hearing, retired Ambassador Virgilio Reyes voiced opposition to the nomination of Leila Lora-Santos, saying Santos should not be confirmed conduct unbecoming of a career officer.

Reyes accused Santos of insubordination while she was a deputy under him as the Philippine Ambassador to Rome.

Santos denied the allegation, explaning that when she was assigned to the Rapid Response Team that helped repatriate Filipino workers in Libya to Malta, she was assigned to report in the Manila office and not to the embassy in Rome, which has jurisdiction over Malta.

Santos offered a public apology to Reyes, who accepted it. —KBK, GMA News

Congress pressed for law on online voting for overseas Pinoys

The Commission of Elections (Comelec) on Wednesday urged lawmakers to pass a law allowing Filipino voters abroad to cast their ballots online in order to encourage them to participate in the 2016 local and national elections.

Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the poll body will need Congress’ approval to implement an online voting system since Republic Act No. 10590 or the Overseas Absentee Voting Act of 2013 only allows Filipino voters abroad to cast their votes either through mail or at the Philippine embassy or consulate.

“We’re proposing [voting through] e-mail or the Internet… but this will require the approval of Congress. The system now is you have to go to the consulate or the embassy kaya kakakunti ang bumoboto,” he said.

Comelec is also studying the possibility of coming up with a resolution allowing online voting for overseas Filipino workers but Brillantes said he is worried this might be questioned.

OFWs may be able to vote online or via e-mail in the May 2016 polls if Congress passes a law allowing voting via the Internet by the middle of 2015, Brillantes said.

In particular, Comelec is eyeing the implementation of online voting in key areas abroad with a large Filipino population such as Saudi Arabia and other countries in the Middle East.

“Our information campaign is not the problem. Our problem is not increasing the number of registered voters but increasing [the number] of those who will vote, kasi kung umabot sa 2 million [ang nag-register] tapos 200,000 lang ang boboto, bababa na naman ang percentage,” he said.

Based on government records, there are 737,759 registered overseas voters worldwide, excluding the 238,557 voters who were supposed to be delisted for failing to vote during the 2007 and 2010 elections. They were eventually reinstated by the poll body.

Latest data from the Department of Foreign Affairs show there are 102,817 new overseas Filipino workers who have registered for the 2016 polls. Of these, 43 percent or 44,693 are from the Middle East and Africa.

The DFA and the Comelec earlier said they want to double the number of overseas voters for the 2016 polls. —KBK, GMA News

Young Pinay crooner wins Ottawa Idol 2014

For her flawless rendition of Whitney Houston's “I Will Always Love You,” a Filipina teenager who has been in Canada for only two years has been chosen winner of the 2014 Ottawa Idol.

Bernice Reyes, 15, won by unanimous selection during the contest's finals night held at the Algonquin Commons Theatre in Ottawa last Saturday, September 6, according to the Ottawa Idol website.

Reyes, who is from Orleans, said winning the contest made her “excited and so happy.”

“Watch out, here I come,” the self-described music-lover said.

The Ottawa Idol website said Reyes has only been in Canada for two years — her family immigrated to Canada from the Philippines in 2012.


Eldon Fox, founder and director of Ottawa Idol, described Reyes as “fantastic.”

“She doesn’t miss a note,” he said.

One of the judges, radio announcer Dylan Black, said Reyes' talent was “exceptional.”

Reyes, together with her brother, has performed several times at Tinig Pinoy Radio, a radio show that promotes Filipino culture in Canada.

According to Tinig Pinoy's website, Reyes has performed in a benefit concert for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), which devastated central Philippines in November 2013.

“Many Tinig Pinoy Radio members, known as katinig, are fans of the young lady and of her brother, Marc,” Tinig Pinoy said.  —KBK, GMA News

UAE cop faces court for accepting runaway Pinay’s ‘sex bribe’

A policeman in the United Arab Emirates faced a court this week on charges he did not arrest a runaway Filipina maid in exchange for sexual favors, a UAE news site reported Wednesday.

The policeman, 38, did not enter a plea before the Dubai Court of First Instance, while the Filipina was not brought from her detention center, Gulf News reported.

The maid was charged for offering a bribe to the policeman.

separate report on Khaleej Times said the policeman had the rank of sergeant.

It added the case has been adjourned to October 14.

Prosecutors said the incident started when the policeman saw the maid, 33, waiting at a bus stop with two fellow Filipinos at Dubai Academic City last May.

When the policeman found the three Filipinas were found to have run away from their employers, the Filipina offered to have sex with the policeman just so he would not arrest her.

"We were informed a number of times that the suspect had been requesting sexual bribes from women staying or working illegally in Dubai. The information that we received mentioned that the suspect used to ask illegal residents [women] for their identification cards and contact numbers," said a lieutenant from Dubai Police’s anti-corruption department.

The lieutenant said the accused policeman "would (later) attempt to befriend those illegal residents and request to have sex with them or any form of sexual service against not turning them in."

According to the lieutenant, their surveillance teams noticed the accused policeman picked up a woman and drove into the parking lot of a college at Academic City.

While the policeman claimed he was alone in the car, he "quivered" when police asked him if he had company with him.

"He denied this several times until he finally admitted that he had a woman with him… the two suspects confessed that they had consensual sex in the parking,” the lieutenant said.

According to the accused, he asked the three Filipinas for identification cards, and discovered their employers had reported them as absconders.

“She offered to give me money and to have sex with me in return for not detaining her. I took her to the college’s parking and had sex with her,” the suspect said.

For her part, the maid confessed to the prosecutor that she had consensual sex with the policeman to avoid arrest.

The suspected couple is also standing trial before the Dubai Misdemeanors Court for having consensual sex.  Joel Locsin /LBG, GMA News

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