Thursday, September 21, 2017

DFA: Online appointments for passport application now easier

Posted at Sep 14 2017 08:48 PM
MANILA- Applying for a passport may now be easier with the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) redesigned online appointment system.
Passport applicants can now see, at first glance, available dates for an appointment, which are marked green on the website. Dates that are fully booked meanwhile are marked red. 
A feedback mechanism was also incorporated in the appointment system so that applicants are informed whether there is a problem with their application.Guidance on how to fix problems they encounter are also provided.
"Before, when you applied for a passport, you were told to pick it up on a scheduled date. If for some reason there was a problem with your application, like discrepancies in the information or documents that you submitted, you wouldn't know until that day when you are supposed to pick up the passport. There's no feedback mechanism," Office of Consular Affairs Executive Director Angelica Escalona said.
Under the feedback mechanism, a passport applicant is sent an e-mail providing relevant feedback. The e-mail is sent within 2 days of an application's evaluation.
The online system also reminds users that senior citizens, persons with disability, pregnant women, solo parents, children aged 7 and below, and overseas Filipino workers no longer need to secure an appointment and may use the courtesy lane as long as they present an identification card.
Earlier this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said it removed 1,200 passport appointment slots that used to be reserved daily for travel agencies. The slots will instead be given to regular applicants.

DFA checking on Filipinos in Mexico after major quake

Posted at Sep 20 2017 08:55 AM
Ambassador Eduardo Jose de Vega surveys damage sustained by the Philippine Embassy in Mexico. Photo by the Department of Foreign Affairs
MANILA - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is still checking on the condition of Filipinos in Mexico following a magnitude 7.1 earthquake that killed at least 119 people on Wednesday.
In a statement, the DFA said authorities have been deployed to make sure the 60-member Filipino community in Mexico City are all safe and accounted for. 
Ambassador Eduardo Jose de Vega said staff members at the embassy were all safe but "a bit shaken" as they had to rush out of the eight-storey building as debris began to fall during the tremor. 
Ambassador Eduardo Jose de Vega surveys damage sustained by the Philippine Embassy in Mexico. Photo by the Department of Foreign Affairs
It was the second temblor Ambassador De Vega experienced within a two-week period as a magnitude 8.1 quake also struck the region and killed at least 54 people. 
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano, meanwhile, said the Philippines is offering sympathies and prayers to the people of Mexico, especially those who lost loved ones to the disaster. 
"The people of Mexico are again in our thoughts and prayers today," said Cayetano who is in New York to attend the 72nd Session of the United Nations General Assembly. 
"We offer our sympathies to the Mexican Government and to those who lost their loved ones in this tragedy," Cayetano added in his statement. 
The second powerful earthquake to hit Mexico this month has also toppled buildings in the heavily populated capital where rescuers searched frantically for survivors under the rubble.
Thousands of people ran out into the streets in panic, and millions lost electricity when the quake struck around lunchtime. Authorities are still expecting the number of casualties to rise. 
The quake hit 32 years to the day since a devastating earthquake killed thousands in Mexico City in 1985. Many Mexicans had participated in earthquake drills around the nation on Tuesday as is customary every Sept. 19.

Japan's Abe says time for talk is over on North Korea

Posted at Sep 21 2017 08:48 AM
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe addresses the 72nd United Nations General Assembly at UN headquarters in New York, US Wednesday. Eduardo Munoz, Reuters
NEW YORK- Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said on Wednesday that countries need to unite to enforce sanctions and apply pressure on North Korea to abandon its nuclear and missile programs.
"Now is not the time for dialogue. Now is the time to apply pressure," Abe told a gathering of investors at the New York Stock Exchange, remarks he later reiterated in an address to the annual United Nations General Assembly.
On Tuesday, US President Donald Trump warned North Korea in his speech to the UN that the United States would "totally destroy" the country if threatened.
In contrast, Japan's Asian rival China, and Russia, have called repeatedly for a return to international diplomacy and talks with North Korea to resolve the crisis over Pyongyang's weapons programs.
"We can't be satisfied that the UN has approved new sanctions against North Korea," Abe said. "What's crucial now is to put sanctions into effect without lapses and that requires close cooperation with China and Russia."
In his UN speech, Abe said North Korean nuclear weapons either already were, or were on the verge of becoming, hydrogen bombs, presenting an unprecedented threat.
"It is indisputably a matter of urgency," Abe said.
"We must prevent the goods, funds, people, and technology necessary for nuclear and missile development from heading to North Korea," he said.
"Whether or not we can put an end to the provocations by North Korea is dependent upon the solidarity of the international community. There is not much time left."
Abe said Japan, a treaty ally of the United States, consistently supported the US stance that "all options are on the table" in dealing with North Korea.
On Sept. 11, the UN Security Council unanimously stepped up sanctions against North Korea over its sixth and most powerful nuclear test, imposing a ban on the isolated nation’s textile exports and capping imports of crude oil.
North Korea fired a missile on Friday that flew over Hokkaido in northern Japan and landed far out into the Pacific Ocean, according to Japanese and South Korean officials, further ratcheting up tensions in the region.
Abe said diplomatic attempts to get North Korea to abandon its nuclear aspirations have failed over two decades.
"Dialogue for the purpose of having dialogue is meaningless," Abe said at the New York Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Nathan Layne and Kevin Krolicki in New York; additional reporting by David Brunnstrom at the United Nations; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Grant McCool)

Saudi Arabia set to lift ban on internet calls

Posted at Sep 20 2017 07:04 PM
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia will remove its ban on internet phone calls on Thursday, a government spokesman said, in a bid to stimulate online business as the kingdom looks to boost non-oil revenue.
All online voice and video call services such as Microsoft's Skype and Facebook's WhatsApp that satisfy regulatory requirements will become accessible at midnight (2100 GMT), Adel Abu Hameed, spokesman for the telecoms regulator CITC said on Twitter on Wednesday.
The lifting of the ban could pinch Saudi Arabia's three main telecoms operators - Saudi Telecom Co (STC), Etihad Etisalat (Mobily) and Zain Saudi - which earn substantial revenue from international phone and text calls made by the millions of expatriates living in the kingdom.
The policy reversal comes as part of the government's broad reform program to diversify revenue sources as oil prices have hit the finances of the world's top exporter.
"Digital transformation is one of the key kick-starters for the Saudi economy, as it will incentivize the growth of internet-based businesses, especially in the media and entertainment industries," a separate statement from the information ministry said.
"Access to VoIP (voice over internet protocol) will reduce operational costs and spur digital entrepreneurship – that's why it is such an important step in the Kingdom's internet regulation," it said.
The kingdom and its Gulf Arab neighbours have been concerned by the use of secure internet communication - which experts say is harder to monitor - especially by activists and militants.
Gulf Arab states, except the island kingdom of Bahrain, were mostly spared the "Arab Spring" mass protests often organised over the Internet which roiled much of the region in 2011.
They avoided the civil wars which largely followed but face deadly bombing attacks by Islamic State and militancy by fringes of their Shi'ite Muslim populations they say is fuelled by Iran.
The authorities will continue to regulate the Internet in order to restrict content that violates the kingdom's laws such as extremist material, pornography and gambling sites, the information ministry added.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

PHL envoy says no Pinoy casualties from 7.1-magnitude Mexico quake

There were no reports of Filipino casualties from the 7.1-magnitude earthquake that struck central Mexico early Wednesday morning (PHL Time), Philippine Ambassador to Mexico Eduardo Jose de Vega told Super Radyo dzBB.
However, de Vega added that the information the embassy had received had been limited. "Hindi pa kami makakuha ng updates kasi walang kuryente," the ambassador explained.
He said that there were less than a hundred Filipinos in the areas affected by the quake.
Some 119 people were killed in the earthquake, the epicenter of which the US Geological Survey reported was 120 kilometers south of the capital Mexico City, in Puebla state.
Sirens blared as first responders rushed through the streets of Mexico City. President Enrique Pena Nieto said 27 buildings had collapsed or partially collapsed there.
Initial reports showed the worst-hit area was the state of Morelos, just south of Mexico City.
Power had also been cut to 3.8 million customers, the national electricity company CFE said.

Pinoy, other foreign fishermen ‘kept like slaves’ in Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A group of foreign fishermen, including several Filipinos, were locked around the clock in tiny windowless rooms in Taiwan to stop them escaping while not at sea, prosecutors said in the island's latest abuse case involving migrant workers.
Fishing and boat company owners were among 19 people charged Monday in the southern city of Kaohsiung for illegally holding 81 foreign fishermen in buildings after they had berthed their boats.
When they were at sea, the fishermen were sometimes made to work for 48 consecutive hours without rest for a monthly wage of US$300-$500, the prosecutors said -- despite Taiwan's labor laws which stipulate a maximum working day of eight hours and minimum wage of around $930.
"The accused exploited the fishermen with illegal methods for their own profit," prosecutors said in a statement, describing the fishermen as "slave labor in the sea".
The 19 face charges of human trafficking and offenses against personal liberty and could face a maximum seven-year jail term if convicted.
Prosecutors also confiscated nearly Tw$3.69 million ($123,000) from the companies in back pay for the workers.
The case came to light last year after a fisherman tipped off prosecutors with the help of a social worker, the statement said.
Authorities later raided two places where fishermen from countries including Indonesia, the Philippines, Tanzania and Vietnam were held and rescued them.
Environmentalist group Greenpeace has said previously that foreign crew on Taiwanese vessels endure "horrendous" working conditions and physical abuse, as well as withheld payments and exploitation by recruitment agents.
The case comes after an outcry over a police shooting of an unarmed Vietnamese migrant worker last month.
According to rights groups, exploitation of migrant workers is frequently reported in Taiwan, where around 600,000 foreigners work as caregivers, fishermen, construction and factory workers.
Chuang Shu-ching, a spokeswoman for Taiwan International Workers' Association, said the government leaves the matter in the hands of for-profit private recruitment agencies, who mostly serve the interests of employers.
Southeast Asians who make up the bulk of Taiwan's migrant workers also face racial discrimination, she said.
"Labor conditions for migrant workers haven't improved in more than a decade and the same problems will continue if the system remains the same," Chuang said, recommending the establishment of state recruitment agencies.
In the shooting case, police have come under criticism for firing nine shots at the unarmed Vietnamese migrant worker.
A security guard slightly wounded when he was attacked by the worker was sent to hospital in the first ambulance to arrive on the scene.
The second ambulance came half an hour later for the worker, with rights groups saying his treatment was deliberately delayed.
The migrant worker's family and campaigners are calling for Taiwan's top government watchdog, the Control Yuan, to investigate his case. — Agence France-Presse

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

30 OFW, 'stranded' sa Saudi Arabia matapos malugi ang isang kompanya

Posted at Sep 17 2017 06:55 PM
Watch also in iWantv or
Halos 30 pang manggagawang Pinoy ang stranded sa Al-Khobar, Saudi Arabia matapos mawalan ng trabaho dahil sa pagkalugi ng kompanyang kanilang pinapasukan. 
Tapos na rin ang amnesty program ng Saudi government kaya hindi na sila nakasama sa listahan ng mga pinauwi sa Pilipinas.
Isa sa mga apektadong OFW si Albert Catalino, na nag-expire na ang Iqama o residence permit, at ngayo'y tuluyan nang stranded sa Saudi Arabia dahil hindi mabigyan ng exit visa.
Limang taon dapat ang kontrata ni Albert, pero naging dalawang taon na lang ito nang malugi ang kompanya
Ang masaklap pa, wala na siyang sinahod nitong huli.
Ayon sa Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), nakikipag-usap na sa mga apektadong kompanya ang ating embahada sa Saudi Arabia para mapabilis ang pagpapauwi ng mga OFW at pagproseso ng kanilang mga Iqama.
Nangako rin si OWWA Deputy Administrator Josefino Torres na tutulungan ang mga OFW na makuha ang naiwang sahod at benepisyo.
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