Friday, December 19, 2008

Immigration eases rules on returning OFWs to Nigeria

MANILA, Philippines- Janette Alican risked a good job in Nigeria to be with her family this Christmas.

The total deployment ban imposed by the Philippine government bars Filipinos from going to the oil-rich African nation due to the spate of kidnappings – both in Nigeria’s soil and seas – in 2006.

Earlier this month, Alican, who holds a resident visa in Nigeria, flew from the capital city of Abuja to Manila. Now, she fears she can’t go back to the German company in Abuja that employed her.

“I feel like I’m being imprisoned in my own country," she tearfully said during a forum Thursday on the UN Migrant Workers’ Convention, a joint undertaking of the state Commission on Human Rights (CHR) and the civil society group Center for Migration Advocacy (CMA).

“The President left for Qatar to get jobs there. I have a job in Nigeria, why can’t I get back there?" she said.

Lawyer Edgardo Mendoza, chief Immigration Regulation Commission, assured returning migrant workers like Alican that they could re-enter Nigeria as long as they present the necessary documents.

In an interview with GMANews.TV on Thursday, Mendoza said migrants who have secured a Balik-Manggagawa (Return to Work) permit from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) and a resident visa could return to the African country.

Mendoza added that the POEA would issue a guideline soon on the issuance of special permits to returning workers in Nigeria.

Mendoza refused to comment whether the special permit would extend to three other countries with existing total deployment bans, namely: Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

There is also no word on the state of the workers who want to return to Jordan where a temporary suspension of deployment on domestic workers is implemented.

Karen Gomez-Dumpit, director of the CHR's Government Linkages Office promised to personally assist Janette by finding out if the rule is subjective or not.

“What if you encounter an Immigration officer who is ignorant of the rule, how can you explain to him that you can leave?" Dumpit said during the forum.

If successful, Alican would leave for Nigeria on the 27th.

Recruiters have sought the lifting of deployment bans to Lebanon, Nigeria, Afghanistan and Iraq, saying the Philippines is losing out on job opportunities for Filipino workers.

Jackson Gan, vice president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters, said that there are less demand for Filipinos in countries where workers are freely deployed.

The Philippine government imposed a deployment ban on Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan due to security threats to Filipino workers.

The deployment of domestic workers to Jordan was suspended due to the upsurge of abuses against Filipino household service workers in the Middle Eastern country. - GMANews.TV

160 Pinoys in Kuwait want to go home for Christmas

MANILA, Philippines - As the world marked International Migrants Day on Thursday, some 160 Filipino workers stranded at a Philippine government facility in Kuwait said they are longing to go home.

A report posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website (www.cbcpnews.com) said the Filipinos include 21 male and 139 female workers.

"It is not a joke to keep all of them under one roof," the report quoted Labor Attache Josephus Jimenez, head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait, as saying.

Jimenez said the Filipinos staying at POLO include 19 security guards who claimed they were illegally dismissed.

He said three conciliation conferences have been conducted among the security guards, the recruitment agency and the principal employers but they failed to arrive at any settlement.

While there, the security guards provide "security services" to the POLO office but have meager meal allowance of one dinar (P176).

On the other hand, the female workers said they left their jobs due to abusive employers and lack of appropriate communication skills and ignorance of high-tech household gadgets.

Jimenez said Church-based Filipino groups help him feed the stranded workers, while embassy personnel provided them winter clothes and toiletries. – GMANews.TV

Arroyo tells RP mission in UAE to resolve problems of stranded OFWs expeditiously

MANILA, Philippines - After bringing up the matter with United Arab Emirates officials, President Arroyo has instructed Philippine officials there to resolve "expeditiously" the mass termination of nurses at Al Mafraq Hospital in Abu Dhabi and stranded Filipinos on visa runs.

Online news site Khaleej Times (www.khaleejtimes.com) reported that Arroyo, who made a brief stopover from Qatar, issued the order to Philippine ambassador Libran Cabactulan before she returned to the Philippines.

"The president conveyed the problems and complicated issues faced by the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in UAE. She instructed us to resolve these issues expeditiously," Cabactulan said.

The Khaleej Times report said Arroyo brought up the problems with UAE officials during her stopover in Abu Dhabi Monday.

Cabactulan confirmed the discussions at a Christmas party for distressed workers Tuesday night at the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Dubai.

Cabactulan disclosed that before the presidential plane took off from the Abu Dhabi International Airport, Arroyo instructed him to follow up these matters as these were already discussed during her official courtesy call on UAE officials and over the royal wedding banquet.

Arroyo had also urged UAE businessmen to increase their investment in the Philippines, and expressed gratitude for the growing relationships between the two countries and the efforts made by the UAE government to assist the Filipinos.

Cabactulan said Arroyo also met the Filipino community in Abu Dhabi and expressed regrets for the short visit. – GMANews.TV

Thursday, December 18, 2008

CBCP: 160 OFWs in Kuwait longing to go home for Christmas

MANILA, Philippines - As the world marked International Migrants Day on Thursday, some 160 Filipino workers stranded at a Philippine government facility in Kuwait said they are longing to go home.

A report posted on the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website (www.cbcpnews.com) said the Filipinos include 21 male and 139 female workers.

"It is not a joke to keep all of them under one roof," the report quoted Labor Attache Josephus Jimenez, head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait, as saying.

Jimenez said the Filipinos staying at POLO include 19 security guards who claimed they were illegally dismissed.

He said three conciliation conferences have been conducted among the security guards, the recruitment agency and the principal employers but they failed to arrive at any settlement.

While there, the security guards provide "security services" to the POLO office but have meager meal allowance of one dinar (P176).

On the other hand, the female workers said they left their jobs due to abusive employers and lack of appropriate communication skills and ignorance of high-tech household gadgets.

Jimenez said Church-based Filipino groups help him feed the stranded workers, while embassy personnel provided them winter clothes and toiletries. – GMANews.TV

Qatar provides hope to 3,000 jobless Pinoys in UAE

MANILA, Philippines - Nearly 3,000 Filipino workers retrenched in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) due to the global financial meltdown may find some employment in Qatar.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported Thursday that Qatar, visited by President Arroyo recently, has approved the allocation of 120,124 visas for Filipinos for 2009.

"We are prepared to put you in UAE companies that have placed new job orders for 6,656 Filipino workers, which is higher than the number of retrenched workers. Those who qualify for positions offered in Qatar will be given priority to apply," Labor secretary Marianito Roque said.

The report said the retrenched Filipinos are still in the UAE during a one-month grace period to leave the country after their visas were canceled.

Roque said these Filipinos would get preference in selection of recruits for jobs in Qatar.

Roque headed a fact-finding mission to the UAE and other Middle East countries to verify reports that thousands of Filipinos working in the region lost their jobs due to the global crisis.

He said he received the visa allocation document for placement in 22 major companies from his counterpart in Qatar before leaving for the UAE on Monday.

Also, he said that except for the 3,000 Filipinos, the jobs of all overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the UAE are safe.

Roque appeared positive after meeting with the Filipino Business Council in Dubai Tuesday night to get first-hand information on the exact number of Filipino workers retrenched by UAE companies due to the global economic crunch.

He also cautioned Filipino workers against indulging in unsubstantiated talks about layoffs that would dent the spirit of other members of the community.

The best thing they could do is to inform the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in Dubai and Abu Dhabi about the exact details of the people who have lost their jobs, he said.

"Then, we can contact them to submit to us their curriculum vitae and if more training is needed, the Department of Labor and Employment is ready to do it so that we can transfer them to other countries. If they want to work back home, we can refer them to the Bureau of Employment, and if they want to start business in the Philippines, we can provide them with the capital," he said.

On the other hand, Roque said the livelihood projects for returning OFWs started with only P250 million (Dh250,000).

"But President Arroyo has increased the fund to P1 billion now to accommodate more workers who want to return from abroad and start their own businesses," he said. - GMANews.TV

Philippine govt may appeal OFWs’ plight

MANILA, Philippines - The government may heed an International Labor Organization (ILO) recommendation to ask countries hosting overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to first assess market needs before laying off migrant employees.

"At their end, we can’t stop employers from retrenching but we can appeal to the countries to help our workers," said Stella Z. Banawis, director of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration’s pre-employment service.

In an interview, Ms. Banawis said the Department of Labor and Employment has created a global financial crisis committee that will look into the impact of the economic meltdown on Filipino workers.

Around 1,000 documented Filipino workers from Taiwan have returned after being laid off. Many of the returning workers came from export-oriented countries like South Korea and Taiwan.

Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque has said many retrenched Filipino workers chose to stay in their host country to look for other jobs rather than return to the Philippines.

The Labor department has crafted programs to help returning workers find jobs either in the country or abroad.

It also has retraining programs for those who want to expand their skills.

ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in a statement, "While the full impact of the crisis on migrant workers is yet to unfold, there are reports of direct layoffs, worsening working conditions including wage cuts, increasing returns, and reductions in immigrant intakes.

"Yet all sectors may not be equally affected, and destination countries should assess their [labor] market needs before resorting to general layoffs of migrant workers."

ILO said migrant workers should not become scapegoats for the economic crisis.

The statement was issued for today’s celebration of International Migrant’s Day. — BusinessWorld

Bulk of Taiwan OFWs in manufacturing sector to remain despite crisis

MANILA, Philippines - The Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) on Wednesday said that the majority of some 60,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) now working in the manufacturing sector of Taiwan will likely be unaffected by the global financial crisis that has caused a slowdown in the Taiwanese exports sector.

In a statement, MECO Resident Representative Antonio I. Basilio said another 30,000 of some 90,000 Filipinos working in Taiwan are seen to be insulated from the crisis due to their work in largely-unaffected sectors like construction, household services, and fishing, while more available jobs are expected for Filipinos from a $NT 6.8 billion-per-year economic stimulus package that the Taiwanese government is set to implement starting next year.

Basilio categorically took exception to a news report published in a local newspaper that quoted him as saying that 60,000 OFWs in the Taiwanese manufacturing sector are in danger of losing their jobs because of the crisis.

“I never said that 60,000 Filipino workers are in danger of losing their jobs. That would be inconceivable since this constitutes the entire complement of Filipinos presently working in the manufacturing sector in Taiwan," he said.

“In fact, new OFW deployment to firms in the manufacturing sector continues, meaning that the impact of the crisis is not sector-wide," he added.

Basilio said other Taiwanese manufacturing firms are still hiring new workers. Companies that have retrenched workers or temporarily closed down operations are mainly in the textiles and electronics sub-sectors, whose exports to the US and other countries have been hammered by the crisis.

Basilio cited a report dated Dec. 12 prepared by Labor Attaché Rodolfo M. Sabulao, on the 85,465 OFWs listed under his care as of last Oct. 31. Of these, 61,660 were in the manufacturing sector; 22,693 in social services; 339 in the building industry; and 773 were fishermen.

Sabulao said that around 3,000 OFWs mainly from the manufacturing sector may be adversely affected by the crisis by the end of the year and perhaps another 3,000 by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

Sabulao said the government is closely coordinating with the CLA and the labor bureaus of local government units so the MECO labor office can immediately intervene during negotiations on separation entitlements and benefits between the company and workers prior to their repatriation.

Workers departing from Taiwan are also given assistance at the airport. Displaced workers are also profiled for their receipt of assistance services upon their arrival in Manila, with the OWWA providing temporary shelter to workers residing outside Manila. MECO is also furnishing Taiwan industry and trade associations with a database of returning OFWs for possible hiring in Taiwanese firms operating in the Philippines.

But Sabulao stressed that jobs even in the manufacturing sector remain open to Filipinos.

“Since not all companies in the manufacturing sector are affected, we expect deployment to Taiwan to continue despite the adverse effect of the current global financial crisis," said Sabulao.

On the other hand, Sabulao noted that there has been a 46% increase in job orders for domestic and health care workers, which will carry over to new OFW deployments in the first semester next year.

Basilio said the Taiwan Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) announced no changes in Taiwan’s foreign labor policies despite the economic slowdown, since foreign workers are needed to address specific requirements of the economy. The Taiwanese government is also planning to spend $NT 6.8 billion a year starting next year for job creation, which is also seen to benefit OFWs.

In a briefing last Tuesday by York Liao, secretary general of the CLA Council for Economic Planning and Development said Taiwan may hire more foreign workers beyond the current 300,000 now in Taiwan. These will be employed in new ventures and projects under Taiwan’s planned $NT 500-billion expenditure for 12 infrastructure projects from next year until 2010. - GMANews.TV/ MECO press release

Malaysia's 'freeze hiring' policy no cause for worry – recruitment expert

MANILA, Philippines - Would Malaysians take the place of Filipinos and other migrant workers who are working as domestic helpers and janitors in Malaysia?

“Not likely," said recruitment consultant Manny Geslani in an interview with GMANews.TV.

According to Geslani, while the proposed freeze-hiring of migrant workers in Malaysia is meant to protect locals who might be retrenched in Singapore and other neighboring Asian countries, Malaysians themselves might not take jobs considered dirty, demeaning and dangerous.

"Malaysians lack the skills in low-end jobs such as hotel workers, cleaning jobs and domestic work," Geslani added.

Geslani also said that the ‘Malaylization’ of workers in the Southeast Asian country is fair but Filipino migrant workers have still very little to worry.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano Lecaros told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Tuesday that there is "nothing new" about the news on freeze-hiring.

Lecaros said the global economic crisis may have caused retrenchments among Malaysians but Filipinos have yet to feel the brunt of this.

Between 27, 000 to 30,000 Filipinos are in Malaysia, said Lecaros. Out of this number, half are household service workers, while the rest are professionals, musicians and married to locals.

“And even if they did get laid off we won’t be severely affected because Malaysia isn’t even a top destination country," he added.

Online news site Bernama.com quoted Malaysia’s Director-General of Labor Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim on Monday saying that the proposed freeze hiring would be an option to assist thousands of jobless Malaysians.

According to the report, 2.1-million migrants are working in Malaysia while 2,000 to 3,000 Malaysians are being laid off every month.

The Bernama report said that of the 28,000 Malaysians registered as jobless last month; only 6,000 had been able to find jobs through the Labor Department’s assistance. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Horror of '97 Asian crisis in HK may be felt by domestic helpers in '09

MANILA, Philippines - The horrors of the 1997 Asian economic crisis might make a devastating comeback in the next few months for thousands of migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong who face immediate layoffs amid the US-led global meltdown, a migrant leader said.

Sumiyati, chairperson of the Coalition for Migrant Rights, said in a statement sent to GMANews.TV that domestic workers in Hong Kong are traditionally the first casualties of an economic crisis since they have less job security and bargaining power.

The Indonesian migrant leader, who had been working as a domestic helper for 27 years, said that thousands of household service workers today might suffer the same fate as they had 11 years ago.

“In the 1997-1998 crisis, more than 27,000 migrant domestic workers were terminated in HK. In times of crises, migrants, who have less job security and bargaining power, have traditionally been the first to be terminated, deported, and subjected to cuts in wages and benefits," Sumiyati said.

About 22,127 Filipino domestic workers were hired in Hong Kong last year, statistics from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) revealed.

Despite fears surrounding the employment status of thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong several manpower agencies maintained that the household service sector is recession-proof for now.

Loreto Soriano, executive director of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc. (Fame), told GMANews.TV that the economic crisis has magnified the importance of migrant domestic workers particularly in hard-hit Asian countries like Hong Kong and Singapore.

As people brace themselves for the worst amid the crisis, Soriano foresees that both employers (husband and wife) would be prodded to look for jobs, leaving the household under the care of the domestic worker.

So far Filipino factory workers in export-driven economies like Taiwan have been the hardest hit of the global economic crunch. According to data gathered by GMA Research from the Labor Department and Manila’s de facto embassy in Taiwan, a total of 2,087 Filipino factory workers had been laid off due to the crisis.

In view of the perceived vulnerability of domestic workers, the Asian Domestic Workers Alliance, a group of Filipino, Thai, Indonesian and Nepalese household workers, trumpeted calls for Hong Kong’s adoption of the International Labor Organization convention which recognizes domestic work and safeguards their rights to social security, proper working hours and overtime pay among others.

The group is calling for the vigilant implementation of the labor laws on domestic helpers; a government stimulus package that would urge companies to retain its workers; restoration of the HK$3,860 minimum wage for migrant domestic workers that was amended after the ’97 crisis; and severe punishment for recruitment agencies who charge beyond the 10 percent recruitment fee. - GMANews.TV

Arroyo orders POEA to identify countries needing more OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - With the increasing threat of massive retrenchments in some countries, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday ordered the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to scout for more job openings for overseas Filipino workers in other countries.

In Administrative Order 247, the President ordered the POEA to identify “Code Green" countries that are aggressively recruiting foreign workers and which are natural deployment sites for OFWs.

President Arroyo also signed AO 248 which directs the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to make available P250 million for the Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund to cushion the impact of the global crisis on OFWs who may be affected by retrenchments.

Under AO 248, the DOLE and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) were directed to set up help desks in every province to match the skills of retrenched or aspiring expatriate worker with available jobs in the country and abroad.

These twin moves came after the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei confirmed warnings by migrant groups that some 60,000 OFWs in Taiwan could lose their jobs starting next month.

More than 2,000 have already been retrenched since last month by several Taiwanese companies whose exports have been affected with the recession affecting the United States, Britain and some European countries.

President Arroyo said the proper response to these threats is to look for more job opportunioties lsewhere and at the same time give livelihood support for those affected.

"In these trying times for the Filipino expatriate worker, the government should not sit idly and do nothing. It is now payback time for the government and the heroic efforts of the expatriate Filipino workers should not go unappreciated," she said.

Massive layoffs affecting OFWs would impact heavily on the Philippine economy, which is highly dependent on the remittance of overseas Filipinos.

Remittances this year has reached $14 billion as of October, up by 15.5 percent from last year's figure.

President Arroyo said an examination of the global employment map indicates that the sheer volume of new job markets, if properly exploited by the POEA, is adequate to fill up the possible slack that may be caused by the constricting market in traditional host countries such as the US.

She said the POEA has to update its list of country-contacts, global companies recruiting expatriate workers, international headhunters, and manpower placement agencies with a global reach.

She ordered the POEA to focus on countries such as Guam which will hire 20,000 Filipinos starting next month for the construction of a US military base, the United Arab Emirates which has a demand for 90,000 OFWs, and Canada.

Qatar has also expressed its intention to hire thousands of OFWs, which Saudi Arabia continues to accept Filipino workers with its expansion projects. – GMANews.TV

Countries urged not to shut doors to migrants who might solve global crunch

MANILA, Philippines - By recognizing the positive contribution that migrants give to economic growth and recovery, an international organization on Wednesday said that countries must resist the urge to close doors to them in times of economic slowdown.

“Let’s not make a migrant crisis out of an economic crisis. Keeping sight of the fact that migrants are part of the solution for both countries of origin and destination can help in coming out of this crisis sooner rather than later," said International Organization for Migrants (IOM) Director General William Lacy Swing in a statement on Wednesday.

He said that although the economic crisis is still unfolding and its full impact remains unclear, it would be counter-productive for governments in developed countries to close their doors to migrants.

“Many of them are still needed in jobs that citizens in industrialized countries are unable or unwilling to take," he said.

The group said that this “structural need for migrants" stems from the even greater labor shortages that countries will experience in the future due to falling birth rates and aging working populations, leaving twice as many people over 60 years of age than children.

In addition, he said that the continued ability of migrant workers to send money back home is crucial in fighting poverty in migrant origin countries, like the Philippines.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque has said that the deployment of Filipino workers for jobs in various destinations overseas remains robust despite the global economic crisis.

He said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) continues to process the departure of close to 3,000 overseas Filipino workers daily.

Remittances
Latest data from the central bank showed that total inflows from overseas Filipinos from January to October has hit $13.708 billion, 15.5 percent higher than the amount sent in the same period last year.

However, Swing warned that closing the door to migrants would negatively affect the influx of remittances to developing countries.

With such a trend, the World Bank estimated that remittances to developing countries in 2009 will be less than the estimated total of US$ 283 billion for 2008.

It added that prohibiting the entry or deployment of migrants to receiving countries is not enough to stop job seekers.

“Closing doors will undoubtedly encourage migrants to use the exploitative, abusive and often life-threatening back entrance into destination countries offered by human smugglers and traffickers," said Swing.

IOM also said in the statement that the economic crisis should not be used to exploit migrants through the lowering or non-payment of wages and different kinds of abuses to which undocumented migrants are “especially and routinely vulnerable."

Meanwhile, Swing said that the influx of foreign workers should be facilitated in a way that would not threaten local workers.

“Just as importantly, such a reaction risks contributing to greater social division and xenophobia towards migrants already in these countries by perpetuating the myth that migrants are job-takers," he said.

At the same time, the group said that migrant-sending countries have a greater responsibility of fully informing their citizens of the realities of both regular and irregular migration, effectively ensuring that migration becomes a “win-win" situation for all the people involved. - GMANews.TV

Kuwait OFWs get taste of Pinoy life in Simbang Gabi

MANILA, Philippines - Some 800 Filipinos based in Kuwait had a brief taste of home life Monday when they braved cold winds to attend the first Simbang Gabi (dawn mass).

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines website (www.cbcpnews.com) said Wednesday the Filipinos attended mass at the Holy Family Cathedral at 5:30 a.m.

It said the crowd, composed of professionals – engineers, architects, nurses, and dentists – high-skilled workers, drivers, and domestic helpers, filled the church, considered as the city's landmark of Roman Catholic faith.

Fr. Ruben Barrameda said the Simbang Gabi highlights the age-old tradition of preparing one's self for the coming Messiah.

In his homily, he said the Catholic faithful should heed the call of John the Baptist and "mend your ways for the coming of the Lord."

"Everyone is called for conversion, to take the chance and reciprocate God's love by going to confession in preparation for Christmas," he said.

He added the Filipino community should avail themselves of the Kumpisalang Bayan held since Tuesday till Wednesday.

Barrameda underscored the need for every devout Catholic to acknowledge one's sinfulness and be reconciled with God and the Church through the sacraments.

"If we truly love God, we will surely love our fellowmen," he said.

He said the occasion is also an appropriate manner of thanking the Blessed Virgin Mary for her dedication to serve as God's first tabernacle.

"We believe in the Mother of God who bore the Son of God, to make us feel loved," Fr. Barrameda said.

He added it is also an opportune time to remember there are at least 120,000 Filipino Catholics in Kuwait but few remained faithful churchgoers who adhere to the sacraments.

Ed Gonzales, a marine engineering graduate from Philippine Maritime Institute, said the number of Simbang Gabi attendees grew over the past five years.

"We had our first Simbang Gabi about five years ago and we realized it was too early to have it at 5:10 a.m. because Filipino nurses employed with the Ministry of Health were barred from leaving the premises earlier than 5 a.m.," Gonzales said.

He remains optimistic the churchgoers will increase over the next years as most Filipinos "feel closer to home when they attend the traditional Simbang Gabi."

Filipino pastor Fr. Wendell Pastoriza, who left the country in 1984, was the first to celebrate the Simbang Gabi in Kuwait. – GMANews.TV

SEARCH FOR WORK AND WORKERS AT HEART OF MIGRATION IN THIS CENTURY, SAYS IOM’S WORLD MIGRATION

SEARCH FOR WORK AND WORKERS AT HEART OF MIGRATION IN THIS CENTURY, SAYS IOM’S WORLD MIGRATION

EMBARGOED UNTIL 0001 GMT 2ND December 2008



Geneva, 2 December – People are becoming increasingly mobile within and across borders to meet the social and economic challenges of globalization with the search for employment at the heart of most movement in the 21st century, says the World Migration Report (WMR) 2008 launch today (December 18, 2008) by the International Organization for Migration(IOM).

The report, focusing on the theme of Managing Labour Mobility in the Evolving Global Economy, argues that demands for increased efficiency in production as a response to fierce global competition has meant that workers, independently of their geographical location, are increasingly living in an inter-connected world of work , resulting in grater labour mobility.

With more than 200 million international migrants in the world today, two and half times the number in 1965, and most state simultaneously being countries of migrant origin , transit and destination, WMR 2008 states that human mobility has become a life choice driven by disparities in demography, income and employment opportunities across and within regions.

“ the international community made some very important choices in the last century to facilitate the development of the global economy by allowing the free movement of capital, goods and services. The inevitable consequence of that choice is human mobikyt on unprecedented global scale. But for all countries, matching the subsequent supply and demand in an international labour market remains a critical challenge,” says Gervais Appave, Co-Editor of the WMR 2008.

These pressures for labour mobility , the report predicts, are set to increase in a world where industrialized countries , already competing for highly skilled migrants, are also in short supply of much needed, though often less accepted, low and semi-skilled workers. This has been largely due to an increasing scarcity of local workers available or willing to engage in low or semi-skilled years, employment such as in agriculture, construction , hospitality or domestic care . Within the next 50 years, These countries will experience even grater shortages as birth rates fall and working population age, leaving twice as many people over 60 of age than children.

The current supply imbalance in the global labour force is also expected to worsen, according to the report. Demographic trends show that immigration, the working age population in developed countries is expected to decline by 23% by 2050. During this time, the working age population fro Africa alone is expected to triple from 408million in 2005 to 1.12 billion (UN DESA, 2006) while another workforce by 2030.

Mindful of the adverse effect of too much out-migration on their economies and societies, the report says job creation at home remains the priority of most migrant origin and developing countries, Nevertheless, an increasing number on the international labour market to help develop their economies.

“What we are witnessing in countries of varying levels of development is a re-emergence of low and semi-skilled temporary labour migration programmes in a bid to square the needs of an economy and a labour market while minimizing any political backlashes to increases in migration,” says Ryszard Cholewinski , Co –Editor of the WMR 2008. “However, this strategy can work only if there is a complementary vision to develop the human resources of any labour force and to adequately protect the rights of migrant workers participating in such programmes.”

The priority for any country and for the global economy as a whole is to planned and predictable ways of matching labour demand with supply in safe, legal and human ways WMR 2008 finds.

Crucially, such an approach would ensure the fundamental human security of migrants through their better economic and social protection in work and in life and lessen illegal migration flows. This protection would only encompass migrant but automatically their families, whether they have migrated too or remained behind.

For developed countries, clearly aware that labour market dynamics are increasingly operating across international borders, the challenge will bi in adopting planned, flexible, “front-door” labour migration policies that meet their own individual labour skills needs.

“These types of policies are especially important during downturns in the global economy such as the one we are witnessing today. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990’s showed that even in times of economic hardship, there is still a structural need for migrants,” Appave argues. “ the world is on the move, there is no turning away from that. If we harness that mobility through policies addressing both human and economic needs, many of the migration anomalies of the past can be overcome and we would see real progress when we talk about global development,” he conclude

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Taiwan firms fire more than 2,000 OFWs as recession hits

MANILA, Philippines — More than 2,000 Filipino workers have lost their jobs in Taiwan due to the global financial crisis and the number could triple by the end of the first quarter next year. That's according to Philippine diplomats.

Antonio Basilio acts as Manila's envoy in Taipei since the two countries have no official diplomatic ties. He said 2,073 workers were dismissed from 49 factories that had retrenched workers or closed shop since October.

Basilio told The Associated Press by phone from Taipei on Tuesday that the layoffs are part of the global recession, because Taiwan's economy "is export-dependent."

Labor attache Rodolfo Sabulao said officials project between up to 3,000 Filipinos in Taiwan could be displaced by year's end and another 3,000 could be dismissed by the end of the first quarter of 2009.

More jobless OFWs seen

Layoffs are affecting not just Filipino workers but also other foreign nationals, including Vietnamese, Indonesians, Thais and Indian nationals, Basilio has told visiting Filipino workers.

The layoffs are expected to peak by next quarter of 2009 as big companies whose export markets are the United States and Europe begin to feel the actual impact of the crisis.

He said the number of affected OFWs seeking assistance and processing their documents at the MECO has reached 400 workers a day.

Basilio's admission effectively negated claims by other MECO officials that the picture was rosier contrary to what the migrant groups Migrante International and Asia Pacific Migrants Mission (APPM) had been saying.

Not all is bad, however, said Basilio. He said job openings in the construction and services sectors would still serve as fallback to Filipinos who may desire to continue working in Taiwan. The demand is not as big, though, compared to the manufacturing industry, he added.

Basilio assured that MECO, the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan, will continue to do intervention work to make sure those who lose their jobs get the benefits due them, and if possible including all the expenses paid to brokers.

Under the present situation, he said, the most that the government could do is to provide assistance and wait for the economic crisis to settle down, which hopefully would happen after the 1st quarter of next year.

Basilio said the most unfortunate are newly arrived OFWs who have yet to pay their debts back home.

Earlier, Basilio disclosed efforts for more Filipinos to be employed in Taiwan in line with its planned $15-billion economic stimulation program.

He said that even before this, new job openings for Filipinos still remain in sectors that are not as affected by the crisis, while deployment of new workers has outstripped the number of workers retrenched in November and this month. GMANews.TV with a report from AP

Bring distressed OFWs home before Christmas – Arroyo told

MANILA, Philippines - A migrant workers group urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to bring home distressed OFWs in the Middle East when she returns to the Philippines.

“We don’t want empty promises or self-serving praises on the achievement of her state visit in Qatar. The most concrete thing this administration can do is to bring distressed OFWs back to the Philippines to reunite them with their families before Christmas; especially the 70 Filipino workers who are languishing in Doha deportation cells," Migrante International said in a press ststament.

Migrante chairman Garry Martinez also cited the case of 25 distressed Filipino workers languishing at Salmiya jail in Kuwait. The inmate are all women and mostly work as domestic helpers. They allegedly ran away from their abusive employers but were later arrested by police for absconding.

The statement identified the jailed OFWs as Eva Ilagan, Jonalyn Hechanova, Josie Calicdan, Elena Tamparia, Florifel Francisco, Rosalinda Hasim, Rahima Castillo, Evelyn Sale, Annie Rose Guzman, Elizabeth Guinto, Leonora Quintero, Noriam Abdulmama, Erlinda Pena, Janet Yago, Janet Cabatu, Arolin Calma, Vivian Velziz, Roselyn Balanion, Ma. Elena Ancillas, Dely Talandang, Sorayna Timpoluc, Analeah Amil, Wilijada Damasina, and Canora Paloma.

“The only crime these Filipinas have committed was to save themselves from further abuse by their employers, yet they are now being incarcerated as criminals. Worse, Philippine Embassy officials failed to support them in defending their cases and have not even visited them at all," Martinez said.

Migrante also urged President Arroyo to take with her the stranded OFWs in Kish Island in Iran. The OFWs are about 3,000 most of whom were denied entry to UAE since they came as tourists.

21 cheated Pinoy guards quit Kuwaiti employer

MANILA, Philippines - Exactly after two months of working for their “abusive" employer, 21 Filipino security guards now just want to go home to their families in the Philippines just in time for Christmas, an online report said on Tuesday.

According to the Arab Times, the security guards have finally decided to leave for home after negotiations between their company and Philippine Labor Attaché Josephus Jimenez failed.

The company allegedly failed to comply with the work contract it signed in the Philippines, placing the Filipino guards in “inhumane housing conditions" and making them work excessive hours without any rest day.

The workers told Arab Times that it was stated in their contract that they should only work for eight hours a day with one day off each week. However, they were made to work for 12 hours a day with no day off and overtime pay ever since they arrived in Kuwait on October 15.

After experiencing such an ordeal, they lodged a complaint against their employer with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Kuwait City..

“We’re just asking what’s due us. They should give us our overtime pay plus at least one day off every week," said one of the security guards in the report.


Uncompromisingly 'inhumane'

Jimenez was quoted by Arab Times as saying the company refused to budge during the negotiations.

“We were hoping that this problem could be resolved amicably. In fact, I have already spoken with the representatives of the Philippine agency here. We even did the computation of the dues and they have agreed to talk to the company to solve the issue, but unfortunately, the company was not willing to compromise," he said.

The security guards told Arab Times that they had no choice but leave the place they were staying in after their operations manager and his staff allegedly threw all their clothes and belongings out of their accommodation last weekend.

“I tried to stop them to no avail. I could have fought back but I just kept my cool 'coz I don’t want to worsen the situation. He screamed at us and asked us to leave the accommodation and go back to the Philippines," said one of the workers.

The workers are temporarily staying at the Filipino Workers Resource Center, the shelter being maintained by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), pending trepatriation to the Philippines.

“We just want to go home as soon as possible after being treated inhumanely by this company. We will also ask the agency in the Philippines to give back our placement fee so we can start looking for a better job abroad but not in Kuwait anymore," said one of the distressed workers in the report.


Blacklisted

Jimenez said that having witnessed how unprofessional the company’s operations manager behaved, he will not let that company off the hook that easily.

“We will blacklist this company in Kuwait so it can’t victimize Filipinos anymore. We will also investigate the agency in the Philippines. We want to create decent jobs for Filipinos but treating Filipino workers unjustly is totally unacceptable," he said.

The labor attaché also said that he has informed the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) in Manila about the incident, while the agency Philippines agency that recruited the workers promised to shoulder the airfare of the unfortunate workers. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Retrenched OFWs in Taiwan urged to seek re-employment

MANILA, Philippines - A local manpower industry leader on Tuesday urged Filipino workers in Taiwan who get retrenched to try to seek re-employment instead of returning home right away.

“It is better for OFWs who (were) retrenched to stay … and seek redeployment in Taiwan with other companies under the system where brokers mediate between the workers and the employers," said Jackson Gan, president of the Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan (Pilmat).

Gan explained that there is a redeployment mechanism in Taiwan for OFWs who have been laid off through the on-site offices maintained by recruitment agencies through their Taiwan brokers.

He faulted the group Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) for allegedly “agitating" displaced workers to return to the Philippines

“If the worker returns to the country, what can he expect here?" Gan argued.

He also scored the APPM for prompting the laid-off OFWs to file legal actions against local recruitment agencies for ticket refunds and the remaining portion of their unexpired contract.

According to Gan, there is already a mechanism approved by Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs, and the agencies regarding returning the money of workers who claim to have paid huge placement fees.

In addition, he denied that the new contract to be implemented in January by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) would be detrimental to Filipino contract workers.

“The prevailing global crisis is not the fault of the companies in Taiwan and this is covered under the contract duly approved by the POEA," he said.

According the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Manila Economic Cooperation Office (MECO), the number of affected Pinoys seeking assistance and processing their documents has reached 400 workers a day.

From an earlier report of more than 1,200 workers retrenched from 18 companies, MECO chief Antonio Basilio confirmed that the number of workers who have been relieved from 49 companies as of Dec. 12. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan GMANews.TV

Taiwan OFWs facing massive layoffs - MECO

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A Filipino official here has confirmed warnings by migrant groups that the raging global economic crisis could displace a huge number of Filipino workers in Taiwan.

Antonio I. Basilio, the resident representative of the Manila and Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, said the crisis is expected to render tens of thousands of expatriate workers jobless, including two-thirds or 60,000 out of some 98,000 Filipinos.

Layoffs are affecting not just Filipino workers but also other foreign nationals, including Vietnamese, Indonesians, Thais and Indian nationals, Basilio told visiting Filipino workers on Monday.

The layoffs are expected to peak by next quarter of 2009 as big companies whose export markets are the United States and Europe begin to feel the actual impact of the crisis.

Most of these Pinoy workers were those employed in factories, which main businesses are into exporting, and with the US and Europe as their major buyers. These companies are now starting to lay off workers, he said.

He said the number of affected Pinoys seeking assistance and processing their documents at the MECO has reached 400 workers a day.

From an earlier report of more than 1,200 workers retrenched from 18 companies, Basilio confirmed that there were nearly 3,000 workers who were relieved from 49 companies as of Dec. 12.

Basilio's admission effectively negated claims by other MECO officials that the picture was rosier contrary to what the migrant groups Migrante International and Asia Pacific Migrants Mission (APPM) had been saying.

Not all is bad, however, said Basilio. He said job openings in the construction and services sectors would still serve as fallback to Filipinos who may desire to continue working in Taiwan. The demand is not as big, though, compared to the manufacturing industry, he added.

Basilio assured that MECO, the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan, will continue to do intervention work to make sure those who lose their jobs get the benefits due them, and if possible including all the expenses paid to brokers.

Under the present situation, he said, the most that the government could do is to provide assistance and wait for the economic crisis to settle down, which hopefully would happen after the 1st quarter of next year.

Basilio said the most unfortunate are newly arrived OFWs who have yet to pay their debts back home.

At present, MECO has to assist and process the documents of affected Pinoys, which has reached at a peak of 400 workers a day.

From an earlier report of over 1,200 workers retrenched from 18 companies, Basilio confirmed that there were nearly 3,000 workers who were relieved from 49 companies.

Earlier, Basilio disclosed efforts for more Filipinos to be employed in Taiwan in line with its planned $15-billion economic stimulation program.

He said that even before this, new job openings for Filipinos still remain in sectors that are not as affected by the crisis, while deployment of new workers has outstripped the number of workers retrenched in November and this month. GMANews.TV

Malaysia rethinks hiring Pinoys, other migrants as crisis worsens – report

MANILA, Philippines - Malaysia is considering a temporary freeze on recruiting foreign workers, including Filipinos, to make room for retrenched Malaysians affected by the global economic crisis.

Online news site Bernama.com quoted Malaysia’s Director-General of Labor Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim on Monday saying that the proposed freeze hiring would be an option to assist thousands of jobless Malaysians.

According to the report, 2.1-million migrants are working in Malaysia while 2,000 to 3,000 Malaysians are being laid off every month.

News that Malaysia may halt foreign labor hiring is not new, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano Lecaros told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Lecaros said the global economic crisis may have caused retrenchments among Malaysians but Filipinos have yet to feel the brunt of this.

Between 27, 000 to 30,000 Filipinos are in Malaysia, said Lecaros. Out of this number, half are household service workers, while the rest are professionals, musicians and married to locals.

The Philippine official said they have yet to receive reports of factories closing down or massive retrenching of migrant workers, similar to Taiwan where 1, 263 Filipinos were laid off according to data from Manila’s de facto embassy there.

“And even if they did get laid off we won’t be severely affected because Malaysia isn’t even a top destination country," he added.

The Bernama report said that of the 28,000 Malaysians registered as jobless last month; only 6,000 had been able to find jobs through the Labor Department’s assistance.

The global economic crisis, which began with the loss of confidence in US stocks, has affected several European countries as well as Asian economies.

Heavily affected by the meltdown are export industries including factories that cater to the US market. Taiwan and South Korea employs thousands of migrant workers who work in various factories. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

'Graduates of vocational courses earn more overseas'

MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos should stop looking down on vocational courses as they are most sought after abroad.

Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani told GMANews.TV on Monday that Filipino carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and Auto-CAD workers are in very high demand in the Middle East as well as in Australia and Canada.

Geslani said Filipinos aspiring for overseas employment should re-assess their priorities and be encouraged to enroll in vocational courses, which would qualify them for skilled work in other countries.

“White collar jobs are no longer 'in','" Geslani said in a phone interview. “ We should re-asses their thinking. ‘Di na kailangan yung anak nila mag-enter ng college. Pwede na ang vocational school (Their kids can opt not to continue with college. Vocational school is acceptable)."

According to Geslani, most parents often discourage their kids to enroll in vocational courses thinking that they would end up in low-paying jobs. But such is not the case overseas where skilled workers receive double their Philippine salaries.

The Philippine government had earlier reported that health care and skilled workers are more in demand overseas. Due to the change in labor demand, more male OFWs are also deployed this year.

From January to August 2008, a total of 884,907 Filipinos went overseas for employment, which is a 26.4 percent increase from 699,937 in the same period last year. About 60 percent of the deployed OFWs this year were males.- GMANews.TV

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Seek reemployment in Korea, recruiter tells OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - A local manpower industry leader on Tuesday urged Filipino workers in Taiwan who get retrenched to try to seek re-employment instead of returning home right away.

“It is better for OFWs who (were) retrenched to stay … and seek redeployment in Taiwan with other companies under the system where brokers mediate between the workers and the employers," said Jackson Gan, president of the Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan (Pilmat).

Gan explained that there is a redeployment mechanism in Taiwan for OFWs who have been laid off through the on-site offices maintained by recruitment agencies through their Taiwan brokers.

He faulted the group Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) for allegedly “agitating" displaced workers to return to the Philippines

“If the worker returns to the country, what can he expect here?" Gan argued.

He also scored the APPM for prompting the laid-off OFWs to file legal actions against local recruitment agencies for ticket refunds and the remaining portion of their unexpired contract.

According to Gan, there is already a mechanism approved by Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs, and the agencies regarding returning the money of workers who claim to have paid huge placement fees.

In addition, he denied that the new contract to be implemented in January by the Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) would be detrimental to Filipino contract workers.

“The prevailing global crisis is not the fault of the companies in Taiwan and this is covered under the contract duly approved by the POEA," he said.

According the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan, the Manila Economic Cooperation Office (MECO), the number of affected Pinoys seeking assistance and processing their documents has reached 400 workers a day.

From an earlier report of more than 1,200 workers retrenched from 18 companies, MECO chief Antonio Basilio confirmed that the number of workers who have been relieved from 49 companies as of Dec. 12. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan GMANews.TV

Taiwan OFWs face massive layoffs - MECO

TAIPEI, Taiwan - A Filipino official here has confirmed warnings by migrant groups that the raging global economic crisis could displace a huge number of Filipino workers in Taiwan.

Antonio I. Basilio, the resident representative of the Manila and Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) in Taipei, said the crisis is expected to render tens of thousands of expatriate workers jobless, including two-thirds or 60,000 out of some 98,000 Filipinos.

Layoffs are affecting not just Filipino workers but also other foreign nationals, including Vietnamese, Indonesians, Thais and Indian nationals, Basilio told visiting Filipino workers on Monday.

The layoffs are expected to peak by next quarter of 2009 as big companies whose export markets are the United States and Europe begin to feel the actual impact of the crisis.

Most of these Pinoy workers were those employed in factories, which main businesses are into exporting, and with the US and Europe as their major buyers. These companies are now starting to lay off workers, he said.

He said the number of affected Pinoys seeking assistance and processing their documents at the MECO has reached 400 workers a day.

From an earlier report of more than 1,200 workers retrenched from 18 companies, Basilio confirmed that there were nearly 3,000 workers who were relieved from 49 companies as of Dec. 12.

Basilio's admission effectively negated claims by other MECO officials that the picture was rosier contrary to what the migrant groups Migrante International and Asia Pacific Migrants Mission (APPM) had been saying.

Not all is bad, however, said Basilio. He said job openings in the construction and services sectors would still serve as fallback to Filipinos who may desire to continue working in Taiwan. The demand is not as big, though, compared to the manufacturing industry, he added.

Basilio assured that MECO, the Philippines' de facto embassy in Taiwan, will continue to do intervention work to make sure those who lose their jobs get the benefits due them, and if possible including all the expenses paid to brokers.

Under the present situation, he said, the most that the government could do is to provide assistance and wait for the economic crisis to settle down, which hopefully would happen after the 1st quarter of next year.

Basilio said the most unfortunate are newly arrived OFWs who have yet to pay their debts back home.

At present, MECO has to assist and process the documents of affected Pinoys, which has reached at a peak of 400 workers a day.

From an earlier report of over 1,200 workers retrenched from 18 companies, Basilio confirmed that there were nearly 3,000 workers who were relieved from 49 companies.

Earlier, Basilio disclosed efforts for more Filipinos to be employed in Taiwan in line with its planned $15-billion economic stimulation program.

He said that even before this, new job openings for Filipinos still remain in sectors that are not as affected by the crisis, while deployment of new workers has outstripped the number of workers retrenched in November and this month. GMANews.TV

Malaysia rethinks hiring Pinoys, other migrants as crisis worsens – report

MANILA, Philippines - Malaysia is considering a temporary freeze on recruiting foreign workers, including Filipinos, to make room for retrenched Malaysians affected by the global economic crisis.

Online news site Bernama.com quoted Malaysia’s Director-General of Labor Datuk Ismail Abdul Rahim on Monday saying that the proposed freeze hiring would be an option to assist thousands of jobless Malaysians.

According to the report, 2.1-million migrants are working in Malaysia while 2,000 to 3,000 Malaysians are being laid off every month.

News that Malaysia may halt foreign labor hiring is not new, Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano Lecaros told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Tuesday.

Lecaros said the global economic crisis may have caused retrenchments among Malaysians but Filipinos have yet to feel the brunt of this.

Between 27, 000 to 30,000 Filipinos are in Malaysia, said Lecaros. Out of this number, half are household service workers, while the rest are professionals, musicians and married to locals.

The Philippine official said they have yet to receive reports of factories closing down or massive retrenching of migrant workers, similar to Taiwan where 1, 263 Filipinos were laid off according to data from Manila’s de facto embassy there.

“And even if they did get laid off we won’t be severely affected because Malaysia isn’t even a top destination country," he added.

The Bernama report said that of the 28,000 Malaysians registered as jobless last month; only 6,000 had been able to find jobs through the Labor Department’s assistance.

The global economic crisis, which began with the loss of confidence in US stocks, has affected several European countries as well as Asian economies.

Heavily affected by the meltdown are export industries including factories that cater to the US market. Taiwan and South Korea employs thousands of migrant workers who work in various factories. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

'Graduates of vocational courses earn more overseas'

MANILA, Philippines - Filipinos should stop looking down on vocational courses as they are most sought after abroad.

Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani told GMANews.TV on Monday that Filipino carpenters, electricians, plumbers, and Auto-CAD workers are in very high demand in the Middle East as well as in Australia and Canada.

Geslani said Filipinos aspiring for overseas employment should re-assess their priorities and be encouraged to enroll in vocational courses, which would qualify them for skilled work in other countries.

“White collar jobs are no longer 'in','" Geslani said in a phone interview. “ We should re-asses their thinking. ‘Di na kailangan yung anak nila mag-enter ng college. Pwede na ang vocational school (Their kids can opt not to continue with college. Vocational school is acceptable)."

According to Geslani, most parents often discourage their kids to enroll in vocational courses thinking that they would end up in low-paying jobs. But such is not the case overseas where skilled workers receive double their Philippine salaries.

The Philippine government had earlier reported that health care and skilled workers are more in demand overseas. Due to the change in labor demand, more male OFWs are also deployed this year.

From January to August 2008, a total of 884,907 Filipinos went overseas for employment, which is a 26.4 percent increase from 699,937 in the same period last year. About 60 percent of the deployed OFWs this year were males.- GMANews.TV

'Ukay' is okay business for OFWs amid economic crisis

MANILA, Philippines - In these dire times, it’s okay for overseas Filipinos to invest in ‘ukay-ukay’ (rummage / surplus stores).

This was the advice of economist Federico Macaranas for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who want to go into business despite a gloomy economic climate.

“It is a nice opportunity for you in this recessionary time it would be in food, ukay-ukay, and all cheaper goods that poorer people would buy," Macaranas told GMANews.TV in an interview.

Macaranas, who is also executive director of the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center, explained that the ukay-ukay will be a hit among frugal Filipinos, especially as Christmas day draws near.

OFWs are told to expand their horizons amid the global economic crisis that have seen the massive lay off of workers in several countries. Some economists are encouraging returning Filipino workers to try entrepreneurship while various economies are recovering from the meltdown.

Last October, the Department of Labor and Employment created a contingency plan for laid off OFWs that includes financial assistance for small businesses.

Ukay-ukay stores have mushroomed throughout Metro Manila in the past few years owing to the low investment capital needed to set up such enterprise. An ukay-ukay owner told GMANews.TV that it cost him just 50,000 pesos to open three stores.

Products like surplus, often oversized clothes; semi-used shoes, children’s toys, and kitchen wares are often being sold at low prices in ukay-ukay stores.

The ukay-ukay got its name from ‘hukay-hukay’ which literally means “digging" or “sifting through" clothes that are often piled up in bins or cardboard boxes.

Before being known as ukay, these surplus shops were popularly known as ‘wagwagan’ (to shake off) stores in Baguio City, the Philippines’ summer capital. - GMANews.TV

Monday, December 15, 2008

(UPDATE) 91 Pinoy seafarers still held by pirates--DFA

abs-cbnNEWS.com | 12/10/2008 2:46 PM

Less than a hundred Filipino seafarers remain in the hands of Somali pirates, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced Wednesday.

According to DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr., there are 91 Filipino seafarers on board six ships still with Somali pirates.

The number decreased following the release of a Greek-owned, Bahamas-flagged bulker last December 8, 2008.

Shipping principals of MC Captain Stefanos confirmed the release of the bulker with its 19-man crew, including 17 Filipino seafarers.

“All crewmembers are reported to be in good health,” Conejos said in a text message to abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Conejos said the vessel was hijacked by Somali pirates last September 21 in the Gulf of Aden.

He said the vessel is now on its way to Italy and will sail from there to Greece.

“DFA is coordinating with shipowners on the repatriation of Filipino seamen,” he added.

DFA spokesperson Claro Cristobal identified the released Filipino seafarers as Master Rodel Arbis of Cavite, C/O Audy Oarrilla of Davao City, 2/O Miguel Sanchez of Manila, 2/O Reynaldo dela Cruz of Quezon City, C/E Leonardo Berjame of Mandaue City, 2/E Faustino Adalia of San Pablo City, 3/E Jeffrey Bolodo of Bohol, BSN Cesar Dela Cuadra of Iloilo, AB Ronnie Cabanting of Abra, AB Geovanne Sipalay of Bulacan, AB Emmanuel Torres of San Pablo City, OS James Bryan Fabie of Koronadal City, OS Nicolas Bation of Zambo Sur, OLR Rodrigo Parac of Leyte, E/CDT Prudencio Asuncion Jr, CK Alfredo Paculdar Jr. and MSM Richard Garcia of Cavite.

as of 12/11/2008 7:40 PM

OFWs 'at risk' due to financial crisis cited

by MARIA ALETA O. NIEVA, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Filipinos temporarily working in the US, domestic workers, and seafearers on cruise ships are among the overseas workers "at risk" due to the global financial crisis, a senior labor department official said Tuesday.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa Soriano said the economic crisis could threaten the employment of thousands of Filipino migrant workers in recession-hit territories such as the US, South Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, Macau, Hong Kong.

Soriano said Filipino seafarers on cruise ships are also vulnerable since travelers are shying away from luxury travels.

“Not necessarily actual na madi-displace sila. We have no way of knowing whether matatanggal sila o mare-retain. ‘Yon lang ang na-identify natin…at risk lang,” Soriano said.

So far, Soriano said officers of Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in about 33 countries reported that no notice for displacement of workers has been submitted to their office.

Although around two million OFWs in the Middle East and about 500,000 in Europe remain secure, POLO officers have said that there may be OFWs in these territories who are vulnerable to the crisis.

Soriano said Filipinos in the US with temporary working visas, for example, OFWs in hotels and casinos, and those in agriculture, are particularly at risk.

Likewise, OFWs employed in factories in South Korea and Taiwan, whose production caters to the US market, are also at risk.

She also identified household service workers in Singapore, Macau and Hong Kong whose employers are active financial players, and seafarers on cruise ships as particularly vulnerable.

Safety nets needed

Soriano was invited to deliver her keynote address during the Handog ng Overseas Filipino Forum 2008: “Reintegrating Globally Displaced Workers into the Local Economies” hosted by the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in Makati City.

Based on her analysis, the OFW and the export sectors are adversely affected by the crisis and “needs safety nets for possible displacement (of workers)”.

In a phone interview Tuesday, DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque belied Soriano's statement during the forum that around 575,000 Filipino overseas workers may be at risk due to the economic crisis.

“That is not correct,” he said.

The DOLE chief had earlier projected that the global crisis could affect at least 50,000 Filipino migrant workers.

“We have been saying in the past that there is an estimated 50,000 to 70,000 OFWs who may be affected by the crisis,” he said.

Soriano also said during the forum that OFWs provide essential services to employers and are active in searching for alternative jobs. These factors help mitigate the impact of the crisis. Also, she noted that the previous financial crisis in 1997 did not dampen the demand for OFWs.

Soriano assured that the government is doing everything it can to cushion the impact of the crisis. The government has put in place contingency plans to serve as interventions.

Among the interventions put in place by the government are the 24/7 monitoring of labor market displacement and redeployment to emerging foreign labor markets such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Guam to name a few, as well as strengthening the repatriation procedure for possible affected workers.

Earlier this month, President Arroyo allocated P250 million in livelihood fund for OFWs laid off in Taiwan. The President also gave the OFWs P590,000 worth of livelihood funding checks—P150,000 for laid off OFWs from Cavite; P110,000 for OFWs from the Visayas and Mindanao; P70,000 for OFWs from Laguna; and P160,000 for OFWs from Pampanga.

In demand OFWs lauded by employers in Qatar

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino workers in Qatar are getting excellent grades for reliability, skill, industry and professionalism, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was told Saturday (Doha time).

A Malacañang statement Sunday said the "rave reviews" came from chief executive officers (CEOs) and other top officials of 27 Qatar-based companies during an "appreciation lunch" with Arroyo.

The lunch was held at the Sheraton Doha Hotel and Resort on Saturday shortly upon Arroyo's arrival.

Meanwhile, Arroyo said the Philippine government is projecting only a minimal displacement of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) despite the financial crisis sweeping across the globe.

She told Filipinos at the Sheraton Doha Hotel and Resort that instead of retrenching its expatriate workforce, Qatar needs 37,000 more workers.

This more than offsets the displacement of Filipino workers in other countries, she said.

With Arroyo in the trip to Qatar were secretaries Peter Favila (trade), Margarito Teves (finance), Angelo Reyes (energy), Nasser Pangandaman (agrarian reform) and presidential peace adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Companies represented in the luncheon meeting included US-based engineering giant Bechtel Corporation, Al Ahli Hospital, Sterling Group of Companies, Midmac Contracting, and Doha Resort and Convention Center.

Bechtel Doha Chief Executive Officer (CEO)/Project Manager Laremy Estrada cited Filipino workers for their reliability, industry and overall skill.

He said Filipinos were highly trainable, efficient and trustworthy. He added that 65 percent of Bechtel's workers in the construction of the new Doha International Airport are Filipinos.

Bechtel, a towering presence in the Middle East construction sector, won the contract for engineering, project and construction management of the US$2.5-billion new Doha International Airport.

When completed, the new air terminal can accommodate 24 million passengers and 750,000 metric tons of cargo annually.

Another CEO said his company would be at a loss looking for workers as reliable, hardworking and skilled as his Filipino employees.

Labor secretary Marianito Roque estimated there are 190,000 overseas Filipino workers now in Qatar.

Arroyo thanked the company officials for hiring Filipino workers and protecting their rights and privileges under the International Labor Organization (ILO) mandate.

She said the Philippine government would act immediately on problems cited by the CEOs, including delays in the registration of labor recruitment permits and the need for stepped-up training for Filipinos seeking employment abroad.

She said her administration has launched a P3-billion scholarship program to equip Filipinos with the needed expertise for frontline services not only abroad but also in the Philippines.
- GMANews.TV

PSG detains OFW for flashing placard

MANILA, Philippines – A Migrante spokesman was briefly detained on Saturday by Presidential Security Group (PSG) members traveling with the President in Qatar because he flashed a placard with the message "No to Cha-cha."

The Kapatiran ng Gitnang Silangan (KGS), an affiliate of Migrante International based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, condemned the detention as harrasment and a violation of freedom of speech.

In a statement issued on Sunday, KGS said PSG members detained Ricardo de Jesus, the Migrante spokesman in Qatar, during the meeting of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with the Filipino community there.

The condemnation was issued on Sunday by the Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan (KGS), an affiliate of Migrante International based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

De Jesus, who also heads the Crisis Committee of the Filipino Community Alliance in Qatar, was only released when other Filipino community leaders intervened.

The KGS blames Arroyo, the PSG, and Philippine Embassy officials, led by Ambassador Isaias Bigornia for the harassment and violation of the right of De Jesus to free expression on a current Philippine political situation.

De Jesus has been urging the Philippine government to protect the welfare of Filipino migrant workers, particularly those recently retrenched brought about by the effects of the global economic meltdown.

"Apparently, the Arroyo administration is more keen on extending its presidential term by changing the Constitution than extending assistance to distressed Filipino workers abroad by silencing those that oppose moves to amend the Philippine Constitution," KGS said in a statement.

KGS also stressed that there are some 70 Filipino workers languishing in Doha deportation cells that Arroy is keeping quiet.

The OFW alliance belies the Philippine Embassy's labor officials' claims that Filipino workers that ran away from their problems with Qatari employers and sought embassy assistance are immediately repatriated and given government livelihood programs.

"The distressed workers are only brought to rot inside Doha deportation jails but not immediately sent home," De Jesus said following his release, which greeted with applause by the Filipino community. - D'Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV

Bill seeks to stem exodus of gov’t medical workers

MANILA, Philippines — Government doctors, nurses and medical workers would be entitled to better pay and benefits if a bill pending in the House of Representatives is passed into law.

House Bill 5571 seeks to entice such medical workers to stay in the government service and stay their exodus to greener pastures abroad.

"Our country has been experiencing a brain drain of physicians, nurses and other medical workers who are leaving to work abroad primarily because of higher pay being offered there," author Rep. Rufus Rodriguez (Cagayan de Oro) said in an article on the House of Representatives website (www.congress.gov.ph).

Rodriguez said such exodus has already diminished the quality of hospital care and has even forced the closure of a number of hospitals.

He added that the migration of doctors and nurses have a vast impact on the country's health care system since those who go abroad are usually those with more experience, training and skill.

"A higher incidence of cross-infections, adverse events after surgery, accidents, injuries and even increased violence against the staff could happen due to the brain drain of physicians, nurses and other medical workers," Rodriguez said.

"This is an alarming phenomenon because it augments the already existing shortage of health care workers who are crucial to the adequate delivery of basic health services," he added.

Compounding the impact of the nursing drain is that even doctors are also taking nursing courses now in the hope of going abroad, he said.

This is worsening the shortage of healthcare workers in many parts of the country, he lamented. - GMANews.TV

OFW deployment ban stays in High cost of living shrinks Filipino population in UAE

MANILA, Philippines - High costs of living, coupled with the global financial crisis, shrunk the Filipino population in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), an online report said on Saturday.

Gulf News reported on Saturday that the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi said that there were about 279,602 Filipinos in the UAE in 2007, a drop from the previous number pegged to be at 350,000.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Libran Cabactulan told Gulf News that the decrease in the number of Filipinos residing in the receiving country was due to a lot of factors, one of the major reasons of which was the high costs of living.

"The UAE cost of living is…very high and the rent here is prohibitive. I've had comments from people who say, 'I am just working so I can pay for my apartment' (with no chance to save)," he said.

In addition, he said that there has been an increasing demand for Filipino workers in other countries.

"There are other areas that are pulling for more Filipinos, like Qatar. The (Filipino) population is rising there. There is also increasing demand for health workers in countries like Canada," he said.

Moreover, Cabactulan said he predicts that the global crunch might cause the Filipino population in UAE to decline further once companies decide to downsize and freeze their hiring.

"(However) I hope it will increase in the future," he said.

Meanwhile, as the economic crisis stemmed from the real estate sector, it also gravely affects the same sector in most countries.

Virgie Calvez, labor attaché with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Dubai, told Gulf News that a few Filipinos have been laid off in the real estate industry, although she did assure Filipino workers that other nationalities were also affected.

"(The companies) are just shedding unnecessary staff in sales and marketing," she said.

Moreover, she said that some companies are still hiring despite hard times.

"There are still employers looking for people, which is evident from a recent jobs fair we held. Our workers are (also) not giving up," she said. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV Nigeria, 4 Middle East countries

OFW deployment ban stays in Nigeria, 4 Middle East countries

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government will keep in force the ban on deploying workers to Nigeria and four Middle East countries, a decision made after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo met with her ambassadors to those countries.

Besides Nigeria, the deployment ban is in effect in Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon, according to a Malacañang statement issued on Sunday by Assistant Press Secretary Romeo Montenegro.

Earlier, Arroyo met with her ambassadors to assess the situation in the five countries as to the safety of the Filipino workers.

Those countries may need thousands of foreign workers, but Arroyo stressed that the government would not compromise the security of Filipino workers.

Arroyo directed Ambassador Roy Cimatu, special Philippine envoy to the Middle East, to come up with an assessment of the situation in the five countries.

Cimatu's report will be discussed in March 2009 during a review of the situation in those five countries.

Meanwhile, the Philippines will open an embassy in Damascus,
Syria, in February 2009 under Ambassador Wilfredo Cuyugan to better serve the needs of the 15,000 Filipinos working there.

The Palace statement said 80 percent of Filipinos in Syria are undocumented. - GMANews.TV

De Castro warns aspiring OFWs of recruiters offering direct hiring

MANILA, Philippines - Aspiring overseas Filipino worker (OFW) Rodel thought that paying P120,000 to a recruiter offering direct hiring is a surefire way to be deployed abroad. He couldn't have been more wrong.

Rodel was one of the three Filipinos recently rescued from illegal recruiters by the Task Force against Illegal Recruiters headed by Vice President Noli de Castro.

As such, De Castro on Saturday warned aspiring OFWs through his radio program not to believe in recruiters offering direct hiring.

"’Wag kayo maniniwala sa direct hiring, kailangan dumaan pa rin sa Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) para ma-check ninyo. Walang mag direct-direct hiring, kalokohan ‘yun (Don't believe in direct hiring, you still need to pass through the POEA so that you can check. There's no direct hiring, that's not true)," he said.

The task force reportedly conducted an entrapment operation on Friday at the Diosdado Macapagal Airport in Clark, Pampanga to catch the illegal recruiters known as Cristina Delos Santos and Flor Corpuz Jinez, both residents of Pangasinan.

"Ang sabi nila direct hiring sila at may contact sila sa Dubai and then marami na rin daw silang napaalis (They said they hire directly and that they have a contact in Dubai and they have already deployed many workers abroad)," a task force personnel reported in De Castro’s program.

Based on the statements of the victims, the unscrupulous recruiters asked different amounts from the OFW hopefuls, ranging from P10,000 to P120,000, depending on the job applied for.

Rodel said that he got that money from his sister who is currently residing in the United States, with the hope that he would be able to work in a hotel overseas with a promised pay of P25,000 a month.

"Sabi daw niya aalis ako. "Di (ko) naman (naisip na niloloko na ako) (The recruiter said that I would be able to go abroad. I didn't think he was fooling me)," he told De Castro during the radio show.

He said it only dawned on him that the recruiter was not telling them the truth when he found out that he was given a fake visa.

A companion of Rodel said he refused to pay the P50,000 that was being asked from him until Rodel got to leave the country.

"Ang hinihingi niya po sa akin P50,000 kasama na ho lahat-lahat yun. Ang sabi ko sa kanya, kailangan muna mauna siya umalis (ung isa) (They were asking P50,000 for everything. I told them that Rodel should be able to leave first)," he said during the radio program.

After that, he questioned why the recruiters had them go back and forth from the airport, knowing that Rodel was given just a photocopied visa.

"(Pero) pinagbigyan pa namin siya ng isang pagkakataon, sabi niya bukas darating yung original, alam ninyo naman palang hindi pwede xerox copy, bakit pa kami pinapunta dito? (But we gave them another chance, they said that the original document will be given the day after but even though they knew that the photocopied copy won't work, they still sent us to the airport)," he said.

He said that he was actually hoping that the photocopied document would do, something that De Castro said would be worse.

"Mabuti na yung ganyan, napigil kayo nung task force na makalabas. Eh pano kung nakalabas ang mga ito, nakalusot ang peke mong passport, visa, eh patay ka na (It's good that the task force was able to stop you from leaving the country. What would happen if you left with a fake passport or visa, you're dead)," said the vice president.

Fortunately for Rhodelyn, the third of the OFW hopefuls, she was also not able pay the P10,000 that was being asked from her. She, on the other hand, was reportedly promised a pay of $200 or about P10,000 a month in the Middle East.

"Pero kahit wala kang trabaho kung P10,000 ang pinangako sayo sa Dubai, at domestic helper, hindi ganun kadali ang trabaho ng domestic helper at sa P10,000 delikado ka pa, baka umabot pa ng P5,000 lang yan, eh kung P5,000 ‘yan dito ka na lang, maghanap ka na lang ng trabaho," De Castro told her.

Moreover, he said that he doesn't know whether to pity or be irritated at them for not confirming with the POEA first.

"Next time alam na ninyo sino ang nanloloko. Matuto kayo ha (Next time you'll know if you're being fooled. Learn from this)," he said.

Meanwhile, the task force reported that they also recently caught a Singaporean national named Patricia Ling-Ling Khor who attempted to bring three Filipinas into her country through the use of tourist visas to allegedly work in her boutique, even though she actually worked in a club.

"Ang daming biktima ng ganyan sa Sinagpore, buti sana kung sa club ka lang talaga dalin, pano kung dalin sila sa prostitution den? (So many become victims of that in Singapore, at least they would be brought to a club, but what would happen if they were brought to a prostitution den?" said De Castro.

As such, he reminded all those victims of illegal recruitment to ask the concerned government agencies for help. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Recruiters group chides Migrante for ‘misleading’ report on Taiwan OFWs

MANILA, Philippines — A group of local recruiters on Saturday accused Migrante International of misleading Filipino workers laid off in Taiwan and making “false statements" that are causing tensions between the Philippines and Taiwan.

The Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan (Pilmat) also scored Migrante of inflating the number of OFWs who had been laid off in Taiwan.

Migrante should have first verified and validated all reports coming from laid-off workers instead of immediately raising the red flag that OFWs in Taiwan are losing jobs, said Pilmat President Jackson Gan

He accused Migrante-Taiwan and Hope Workers Center of prodding laid-off OFWS to return to the Philippines instead of going through redeployment process of the Council of Labor Affairs that is part of protection benefits for OFWs in the wealthy state.

"There is a process whereby the laid-off worker can be absorbed in other factories and this is the job of on-site offices of Philippine agencies sending workers to Taiwan," Gan said.

Earlier, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO), the Philippines de facto embassy in Taiwan, chided Migrante for making "false and irresponsible" claims that laid-off OFWs in Taiwan were not being compensated.

Raul C. Rabe, MECO corporate secretary was reported saying such "misleading" report on the situation of OFWs in Taiwan was grossly irresponsible and harmful to some 90,000 Filipino nationals under MECO's care.

"The claim of Migrante International that MECO had failed to adequately represent the interest of 1,263 OFWs working in Taiwan is totally false," Rabe said in the statement.

Rabe was referring to OFWs who used to work for 18 Taiwanese firms but had been retrenched from their company as a result of the global financial crisis.

Last week, MECO said Filipino workers were still being deployed to Taiwan as the island nation sets up a $15-billion package to perk up the economy. - GMANews.TV

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tunay na bilang ng OFWs na mawawalan ng trabaho dapat alamin

MANILA – Nais ni Speaker Prospero Nograles Jr. na magpulong ang economic team ng Malacanang at Kongreso upang makabuo ng programa kung papaano matutulungan ang mga overseas Filipino worker (OFW) na mawawalan ng trabaho bunga ng krisis sa ekonomya na nararanasan sa buong mundo.

Sa isang pahayag nitong Huwebes, sinabi ni Nograles na kailangan magkaroon ng malinaw na datos kung ilan ang bilang ng mga OFW na mapipilitang umuwi ng Pilipinas dahil sa pagkawala ng trabaho sa ibang bansa.

Sinabi niya na mahalaga na magkaroon ng kongkretong programa ang pamahalaan para sa OFWs na “anchored on real facts and figures."

“Reports on OFWs losing their jobs because of the creeping global recession is a serious concern," ayon kay Nograles. “We have to face this problem now and provide every available assistance, including job placements, for Filipinos who have lost their jobs due to the global economic crunch. Our unemployment problem might grow into crisis proportion if we do not act the soonest possible time."

Una rito, inihayag ng Department of Labor na posibleng umabot sa 500,000 ang OFWs na maapektuhan o mawalan ng trabaho dahil sa krisis sa pananalapi na nararanasan sa buong mundo.

Nais naman ni Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara na bumuo rin ng programa ang pamahalaan kung papaano matutulungan ang mga OFW na nabaon sa utang sa pagnanais na makapagtrabaho sa ibang bansa.

Sinabi ni Angara na dapat suportahan ng gobyerno ang mga uuwing OFWs na nahaharap sa malaking utang at pagkakasangla ng kanilang mga lupa.

“Sana may formula na mabuo ang gobyerno na saluhin ang muna ang mga utang ng OFWs lalo na yung mga ari-arian gaya ng lupa na naisangla nila para may panggastos sa pag-abroad nila, and then later on kung may trabaho na uli sila saka nila bayaran sa gobyerno," mungkahi ng kongresista.

Nangangamba naman si Nograles na maharap sa malaking krisis ang pamahalaan sa mga walang trabaho sa Pilipinas kung hindi tama ang bilang ng mga OFW na mapipilitang umuwi ng bansa.

"We have to face this problem now and provide every available assistance, including job placements, for Filipinos who have lost their jobs due to the global economic crunch. Our unemployment problem might grow into crisis proportion if we do not act the soonest possible time," pahayag niya. - GMANews.TV

RP needs to step up protection for OFWs, says UN report

Philippines - Although the United Nations (UN) was generally satisfied with the Philippine government’s human rights report, the international organization raised concern over the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

A report by the UN Economic and Social Council (Ecosoc) released on Wednesday on the occasion of Human Rights Day said in its concluding observation that OFWs remain vulnerable to various abuses in their destination countries.

“Despite efforts undertaken by the State party (Philippine government), OFWs continue to face discriminatory treatment and abuses," the committee wrote in its advance and unedited report.

The report noted that women migrant workers, especially in the household service industry, often fall prey to employers who abuse them physically, psychologically and sexually.

In its recommendation, the report said the Philippine government should improve existing services given to OFWs, strike more bilateral agreements with destination countries with high incidences of migrant worker abuse and provide legal assistance to OFWs and ensure that their rights are observed.

The Ecosoc was also concerned that while the Philippines had plenty of laws, the number of prosecutions and convictions of traffickers was very low.

In its report submitted to the Ecosoc last month in Geneva, Switzerland, the Philippine government claimed it has been able to ease the unemployment problem in the country by generating more jobs.

Ellen Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), welcomed the UN report and echoed concerns about the plight of more than eight million Filipinos overseas.

Sana said that in April 2009, they would make another parallel report before the UN Migrant Workers' Committee when the Philippines will again present a report on their compliance with migrant workers rights.

"This is not to embarrass the government but to make them more responsive," Sana said.

Last November, CMA along with other human rights, labor workers, and education groups submitted a shadow report to the UN to counter the government report on the current situation in the country.

The UN heard the Philippines’ report last November 11 and 12.

“The government failed to account that they considered overseas employment as a solution to the unemployment problem in the country," Sana asserted in an earlier interview.

A total of 121 Filipinos leave the country every hour to look for greener pastures abroad, the CMA said.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) has said OFWs deployment reached 1.116 million from January to October 2008, up by a robust 25.5% (+227,780) compared to the 888,339 OFWs deployed worldwide in the same period in 2007.

GMANews.TV tried calling officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs for comment but was unable to get a reply as of posting time. - GMANews.TV

Crisis may drag till 2010; Mideast will save OFWs

Philippines - Bad news: The economic crisis could drag on for two more years, putting more overseas jobs for Filipinos at risk.

Good news: Jobs for Filipinos abound in the Middle East, with or without the crisis.

Filipino economist and former budget secretary Ben Diokno told GMANews.TV on Thursday that the world economies would be fully resuscitated only by 2010.

“And that’s the most optimistic scenario," he said.

Diokno also said the Philippines would not register a growth rate higher than 3.5 percent in 2009, the years some analysts say the crisis would peak.

The US-led economic meltdown has threatened the jobs of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in countries like the US, Taiwan, South Korea, Australia and the UK, data collected by GMA News Research from the Labor department revealed.

Loreto Soriano, executive director of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc. (Fame), said the economic crisis has not threatened the jobs of Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates.

More than 1.7 million Filipino workers are based in the five destination countries, according to the 2007 statistics of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.

“The Middle East is still the best destination for OFWs since the Gulf countries can withstand the economic crisis," Soriano said in a press conference in Manila on Thursday.

Soriano explained that the Midle East could withstand the current economic crisis because it continues to export petroleum products, which is still in very high demand. Aside from this, most of the investments in Saudi Arabia are sovereign funds which are less coupled in the global financial system.

He said highly skilled and semi-skilled Filipino workers are in demand in the oil-rich region.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque told reporters on Wednesday that the government’s labor offices in the Middle East stressed that the employment of Filipinos there remain secure as the financial institutions in countries in the region are "liquid."

Roque had earlier downplayed the effects of the economic crisis saying that since a slowdown has yet to be felt in the Middle East—the top destination for Filipino contract workers — Filipino workers have very little to fear.

To show proof that Filipino workers’ deployment remains unaffected, Roque said in October that a Saudi Arabian company has expressed its eagerness to hire some 20,000 foreign workers.

Guillermo Luz, executive vice president of the Ayala Foundation, said that while the Middle East has yet to feel the global crisis’ effects, there is no assurance that it will survive the crisis unharmed.

“They might not be affected to the same extent but they will not be immune also," Luz told GMANews.TV in an interview last October.

Massive layoffs from affected countries could hinder OFWs from sending home bigger remittances, which has been the lifeblood of Philippine economy, said Luz, who is also a member of the influential Makati Business Club.

Emmanuel Leyco, who had worked in a credit rating agency, belied the government’s perception that unless the economic crunch reaches the Middle East, Filipino workers won’t feel the brunt of the financial meltdown.

He said some Middle East countries had invested in stocks and bonds in the US that were hit by the economic crisis, thus making them vulnerable to the crunch.

“In a recession there is no such thing as a recession-proof sector," said Leyco.

He also said that newly-deployed OFWs would be the hardest-hit by an economic meltdown because most businesses implement a “last in, first out" policy in their human resources management. He said foreign workers are also often seen as low-priority in employment retention. - GMANews.TV

21 OFWs na nanunuluyan sa OWWA nakauwi na sa kanilang lalawigan

MANILA – Nakauwi na sa kani-kanilang lalawigan upang makapiling ang kanilang pamilya ang 21 overseas Filipino workers na nanunuluyan sa dormitoryo ng Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) sa Pasay City

Ito ay matapos sagutin ni dating Senate President Manny Villar ang pamasahe nila sa eroplano at barko pabalik sa kanilang mga lalawigan.

Sa pahayag na ipinalabas ng tanggapan ni Villar, ipinaabot umano ng mga OFW ang labis na pasasalamat sa senador na matupad ang kanilang pangarap na makauwi sa kanilang pamilya ngayong Pasko.

Personal na nagtungo si Villar sa tanggapan ng OWWA nitong Huwebes upang ipagkaloob ang mga tiket ng lahat ng OFWs na nanunuluyan sa dormitoryo.

Kasama si OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon at mga kawani ng ahensya at mga OFW, inawitan at binati nila ang senador para sa nalalapit nitong kaarawan sa Disyembre 13.

Niregaluhan din si Villar ng birthday cake na may disenyong eroplano.

Sinabi ni Villar na matagal na naipit sa ibang bansa ang mga OFW kaya hindi nararapat na maipit pa sila sa sariling bansa at hindi makapiling ang mga pamilya.

Nitong nakaraang buwan ay sinalubong ni Villar ang 30 minaltratong OFWs mula sa Abu Dhabi na tinulungan din niyang makauwi sa pamamagitan ng pagsagot sa kanilang mga pamasahe sa eroplano. - GMANews.TV

OFWs investing less, saving more, says BSP

Filipinos working abroad are saving more, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said, prompting BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo to say that this could indicate success of the BSP’s financial literacy campaign for OFWs. Zacky AbayonMANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipinos workers are saving more and investing less in the last quarter of the year, a survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed.

Data from the central bank showed that 35.8 percent of households which received remittances opt to save money from 30.4 percent in the third quarter.

On the other hand, remittances allotted for investments declined to 4.7 percent in the last quarter from 7.4 percent in July to September.

“The savings culture among the overseas Filipino community is being ingrained," said BSP managing director for monetary policy Cyd T. Amador in a briefing on Thursday.

The survey's findings comes as a surprise considering the reputation of Filipinos abroad as extravagant or poor savers.

However, BSP deputy governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said that this could indicate fear among overseas Filipino households over the economy next year.

“Many want to hold on to their cash so that for any contingency, they have something to draw from," Guinigundo said.

He also said the higher savings could be an indication of success of the BSP's financial education campaign.

Guinigundo also said people have less confidence in financial investment instruments after the depletion of wealth in the equities and bonds markets. - GMANews.TV
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