Monday, April 21, 2014


Philippines: SC: RH law constitutional

The Supreme Court upheld on April 9 the constitutionality of the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 but nullified some of its provisions. “The Court, after scrutiny of the various arguments and contentions of the parties…unanimously held that Republic Act No. 10354 is not unconstitutional,” high court’s Information Chief Theodore Te said, announcing a ruling that struck down more than a dozen petitions against Republic Act No. 10354 by church groups.

PHL Embassy in Saudi Arabia has new online home

The Philippine Embassy in Saudi Arabia now has a new online home. Starting Wednesday, visitors to the embassy website ( were redirected to the new site at (

However, the new site contains basically the same content as the old one, including news releases, advisories, and photos.

It also had sections facilitating the online registrations of overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

PHL readies for Independence Day with outreach in Singapore

The Philippines has started preparations for Independence Day abroad by conducting an outreach program for the aged in Singapore.

Last April 12, the Philippine embassy in Singapore led the outreach that involved the Philippine Independence Day Committee 2014 and Filipino community volunteers.

Benefiting from the activity were senior citizens at the Jamiyah Home for the Aged in Tampines, Singapore.

"The outreach activity is one of pre-events organized by PIDC 2014 in the run-up to the main event to celebrate Philippine Independence Day in the city-state to be held on 8 June 2014 at the Civic Plaza, Ngee Ann City in the commercial heart of Singapore in Orchard Road," the embassy said in a statement.

"With the local theme, 'Our Independence, Our Interdependence,' PIDC 2014 adopted a concept of the celebration where the Philippine Embassy and volunteer Filipino community organizations will alternate in organizing activities aimed at reaching out to beneficiary groups in Singapore to showcase the mutually-beneficial relations between the two countries and express the gratitude of Filipinos for the opportunity to work and stay in Singapore," it added.

During the activity, the volunteers led some 130 residents in light physical conditioning exercises and serenaded them with an instrumental presentation featuring “Besame Mucho” and the tinikling.

They also distributed Halal cheeseburgers from the Jollibee outlet in Lucky Plaza and fruit drinks to the residents, before engaging them in a karaoke session.

It was the third pre-event following the blood donation drive by the Batangas Varsitarians and the Philippine Embassy with the Singapore Health and Sciences Authority-Blood Bank and the Singapore Red Cross Society on March 16; and the Tinikling Marathon spearheaded by Kultura Performance Arts Group last April 4 at Henry Park Primary School.

Singapore PM calls harassment of PHL Independence Day organizers a disgrace

Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong over the weekend voiced dismay over the reported harassment of Filipinos organizing a Philippine Independence Day event there.

Lee, in a post on his Facebook page dated Saturday morning, branded as "a disgrace to Singapore" those who harassed the organizers by spamming their Facebook page.

"I was appalled to read about those who harassed the organizers of the Philippine Independence Day celebrations, and spammed their Facebook page. They are a disgrace to Singapore ... Fortunately this appears to be the work of few trolls. (I am heartened) that many sensible Singaporeans condemn this thuggish behavior, and support (acting manpower minister and Member of Parliament) Tan Chuan-Jin’s stand on this issue," he said.

The prime minister maintained Singaporeans must treat people in Singapore "the way we ourselves expect to be treated overseas."

He added many Singaporeans live overseas, and are warmly welcomed in their adopted homes.

"I just attended our Singapore Day in London. How would we have felt if British netizens had spammed our website, and abused Singaporeans living in Britain?" he said.

"We must show that we are generous of spirit and welcome visitors into our midst, even as we manage the foreign population here. Otherwise we will lower our standing in the eyes of the world, and have every reason to be ashamed of ourselves," he added.

Tan, meanwhile, said he was startled by the April 17 article on the Straits Times regarding the online harassment of Filipino organizers.

He said his brows were raised over the reported 26,000 "likes" for the page that "is against the celebration of the Philippine Independence Day here" that raised my brows.

But as it turned out, he said the reporting was inaccurate as it was actually the post against the activity itself that garnered several hundred "likes."

"Encouragingly, there have been many decent Singaporeans who have come forward to condemn the actions of these netizens... Many of us have celebrated Singapore's national day in other countries and cannot imagine what it would be like if attacked in this way," he said.

Earlier, Tan said he met with Philippine Ambassador Minda Cruz during her farewell call, and discussed the experiences of Filipinos who live and work in Singapore.

"Notwithstanding the occasional negative issues, she was thankful for the kindness and hospitality that Singaporeans extended to her compatriots. Singapore was a safe place because of how Singaporeans treated others," he said.

"These actions by those who peddle hate are not acceptable, repulsive even. We should make a stand to say no to such bigotry. They do not reflect who we are as a people and as a nation," he added.  Joel Locsin/JDS, GMA News

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Pinay ‘peace warrior’ honored in Qatar

A Maranao Muslim princess became the first Filipino to receive an award from a Qatar-based group that seeks to improve interfaith understanding and religious tolerance.

Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, founder of the Teach Peace Build Peace Movement (TPBPM), received the Doha International Center for Interfaith Dialogue's Best Individual Award in its 11th incarnation last March.

Joined by Dr Mihai Valentin Vladimirescu, a professor of Biblical Studies at the University of Craiova, Usman was picked out of 130 individuals shortlisted by DICID's committee, according to a report on Qatar Tribune.

“This recognition is not for what I did but for the reasons behind it,” said Usman. “I want to teach peace to build a culture of peace so that our children and youth will be able to live in a just and peaceful society.”

She added: “I strongly believe that peace-building does not end in peace process, it is not just about the absence of war, but peace is a way of life with a whole dimension on developing education, giving importance to values formation, interfaith and intercultural dialogues and immersions, health access and socio-  economic development.”

Usman, who refers to herself as a “Warrior Princess for Peace,” grew up in Saudi Arabia, where she experienced the Gulf War at the age of seven. The Playa Wire reported that her experience in the conflict influenced her to become a peace advocate and a pro-youth campaigner.

As part of the Young Moro Professionals, Usman advocates the involvement of youth in the Bangsamoro peace process in the Philippines.

In an article on Manila Speak, she said younger generations of all backgrounds need to participate in the process, as their actions would ensure the institutions enforcing the law will work for the progress and peace of the new Bangsamoro. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Filipino MERS victim to be cremated in UAE

Relatives of the health worker who died of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus are now in the United Arab Emirates to retrieve the body.

In an interview on GMA News' “Balitanghali” on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said the relatives are now coordinating with the Philippine Embassy for the body's cremation.

While details were still uncertain, Jose said the worker may have been exposed to the virus while attending to his rounds.

In light of the incident, all Filipino workers in the Middle East have been warned to take necessary precautions to avoid contracting the virus.

“Pinapayuhan din namin sila na (sumunod) sa pag-uutos ng kanilang local health authorities. At kung maka-experience sila ng anumang sintomas ay agad pumunta sa pinaka-malapit na hospital,” said Jose.

Five other medical personnel who served with the deceased health worker are now recovering from MERS. They were paramedics at the Al Ain Rescue and Ambulance Section.

Meanwhile, the family of the deceased will receive death benefits from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

This the second reported MERS-related fatality involving a Filipino in the Middle East. A 41-year-old Filipina nurse died from the infection in August 2013.

MERS is a novel virus often referred to as the Middle East’s own version of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Symptoms of MERS include fever, cough, shortness of breath, and even diarrhea.

Human cases of MERS have also been reported in other Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan and Oman. — Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Oman extends curbs on foreign workers in construction, housekeeping

MUSCAT - Oman said it would extend curbs on the hiring of foreign workers in construction and housekeeping as part of efforts to save more jobs for local citizens and limit outflows of money from the economy.

Hiring of expatriates by private companies in those two sectors will be banned for six months from May 4, the official Oman News Agency (ONA) quoted Minister of Manpower Sheikh Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Bakri as saying on Monday.

The ban was originally introduced for a six-month period last November. Similar restrictions exist for several other industries such as carpentry and aluminum product making.

It is not clear how much of an impact the ban will have; exceptions to the policy will be made for companies working on government projects, smaller enterprises and firms managed full-time by their owners, ONA reported.

Oman is spending billions of dollars on infrastructure projects to diversify its economy beyond oil, and it seems unlikely to starve these projects of labor. Many Omani families employ domestic workers from abroad.

But Sheikh Abdullah's order suggests growing concern in the government about the economy's dependence on foreign workers - a concern shared by some other Gulf states such as Saudi Arabia, which is deporting tens of thousands of illegal workers.

Expatriate workers in Oman rose to 1.53 million in February from 1.47 million registered a year earlier, government data shows. By contrast there were just 184,485 Omani citizens working in the private sector in February; the country's total population, including foreign residents, is officially estimated at 4 million.

The government does not release regular, timely data on unemployment among its citizens, but discontent with limited job opportunities and corruption triggered sporadic street protests in 2011.

In February last year, the Council of Ministers said the government would aim to limit foreign workers to 33 percent of Oman's population, but it did not give a time frame and the rise in employment of expatriates since then suggests officials have found it hard to curb numbers in a growing economy.

Most foreign workers in the construction and oil industries come from India, Bangladesh and Pakistan, while many domestic workers are from Indonesia and the Philippines.

Salim Al Sheedi, head of the Oman Society of Contractors, a construction industry association, said the ban would benefit well-established companies in the sector by preventing other firms from bringing in workers without properly supervising them.

By excluding smaller companies from the ban, the policy will also benefit Omani entrepreneurs and managers, he added.  Reuters


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