Monday, January 28, 2008

Home > Pinoy Abroad > Top Stories Landbank offers high-yield deposit account for OFWs

Land Bank of the Philippines announced on Monday a deposit instrument designed for overseas Filipinos and their relatives to ease the impact of the shrinking peso equivalent of their offshore earnings.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, also Landbank chairman; Landbank president and chief executive officer Gilda Pico; and, administrator Marianito Roque of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration introduced the new deposit product, known as the long-term negotiable certificates of deposit or LTNCD, to more than 150 Filipino business leaders in Dubai.

“This deposit product is designed to help overseas Filipinos and their families participate in the government’s savings mobilization program, as well as to help soften the adverse impact of the sharp peso appreciation on our OFWs as the LTNCD carries a higher yield compared to existing peso savings and time deposits," Teves said in a statement.

The peso-denominated LTNCD will be issued in P20,000-denomination in five- and-½ and 10-year tenors. It is covered by PDIC insurance up to P250,000 per depositor, and is withholding tax-exempt if held up to maturity.

The instrument carries an indicative yield of 6.25 percent for a five-and-½-year term, and 6.88 percent if held for 10 years. The final interest rates, however, will depend on the prevailing market rates at the time of issuance.

“Simply put, if an OFW invests P20,000 and holds it until the end of the five-and ½-year term, his investment will earn an interest of P8,056 if the market rate at the time of issuance is 6.25 percent.

If he holds it until 10 years, the interest can reach as much as P12,760," said Pico.

The target launching of the LTNCD will be in March 2008 through a public offering to be advertised in major dailies. This will be available in all branches of Landbank and Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corp. (HSBC) and designated selling agents.

Investors will be required to present proof of overseas employment such as OWWA Card, employment contract, pre-departure orientation seminar (PDOS) certificates, among others, to avail themselves of the LTNCD.

For OFW relatives who intend to invest, they should present proof of relationship with the OFW such as marriage contract and birth certificate. - Cheryl Arcibal, GMANews.TV

Suspect charged in killing of Pinoy mom in Calgary

A suspect in the killing of Filipino worker Arcelie Solbrito de Laoagan in Calgary, Canada had been charged with first-degree murder.

The Calgary Herald reported on Saturday (Sunday in Manila) that 21-year-old Christopher James Watcheston, a steelworker from Ontario, has been put behind bars and charged for Laoagan’s death on Jan. 19.

Laoagan, 41 years old, immigrated to Canada in 2004 after working as a nanny in Hong Kong for two years. She was returning home late Thursday night from her second job as a scanner operator at Western Canadian printing company when she was attacked near a train station.

Her roommate reported her missing Thursday night after she made a frantic call to a friend that she was being attacked, then the phone went dead.

Her blood-soaked body was found behind the Grace Baptist church Friday morning. The Calgary Police took time identifying the body as Laoagan’s because her face was mutilated beyond recognition, but her two sisters and a brother who had flown from Toronto on Jan. 21 were certain it was their sister.

Reports said Laoagan was taking two jobs because she wanted to save money and take her five children aged eight to 19 and husband to live with her in Calgary, a city in Alberta.

According to a report on Calgary Herald, Watcheston, who went to Calgary last year after losing a job in Fort McMurray, boarded the same east-bound commuter train that Laoagan took from work.

He reportedly visited his brother who was renting a basement suite in a Raddison Heights on the night Laoagan was killed. The house is a few minutes away from the Franklin station where Laoagan’s body was found the next morning.

Police searched Watcheston brother’s apartment for steel-toed boots, work coveralls and other evidence.

A neighbor said Watcheston frequently visited his brother and live-in girlfriend, but wasn't living with them. A few days ago, he was fired from his job as a steelworker working near Beddington Trail last week, the Herald reported.

Watcheston is on trial for assault stemming from a Banff brawl last year. He had been arrested breaking into a North Hill Mall shop.

He was arrested on Thursday inside a friend's home.

Laoagan’s remains are being prepared for repatriation to the Philippines.

According to kaigorotan blogsite, Laoagan was born in Naguilian, Isabela and lived in Santa Cruz, Ilocos Sur with her husband and children.

She had a degree in commerce but entered Canada as a nanny. - GMANews.TV

POEA triples budget for '08 mktg missions to P1.5M

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA] confirmed that it has increased its budget this year for its marketing mission activities.

POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz said from P500,000 allocation last year, they have set aside about P1.5 million this year.

"We allocated P1.5 million this year for the marketing mission," Baldoz said.

But she stressed that while they raised the budget for the marketing mission this year it does not mean that the government will embark totally on this marketing mission venture that would led to the displacement of the private recruitment companies.

Baldoz also added that the P1.5 million budget for marketing mission is not enough to cover the cost of the mission which averages from P100,000 to P300,000 per country.

"We have no desire to engage in recruitment. In fact, the marketing mission is not really to open new markets," he said.

Moreover, Baldoz said it was the host countries that sent invitations to the Philippines and asking for possible bilateral agreements for the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

For this year, POEA has scheduled marketing mission that includes New Zealand and Australia.

While five countries have expressed interest to the Philippine labor market namely France, Bharain, Qatar, Prince Edward Island in Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.

"We are looking at signing bilateral cooperation with these countries," Baldoz said.

Earlier, recruitment companies questioned the marketing mission being conducted by the POEA and the government-to-government hiring agreements they entered with countries like South Korea, Spain and Libya. - Sun-Star

5 Pinoys detained in Malaysia over 'love triangle'

Five Filipino technicians were detained for two days in Malaysia over an alleged “love triangle" spat with a Malaysian.

In an interview with GMANews.TV on Monday, Penang Support Group (PSG) president Veronica Estores said the Filipinos were brought to a police station for questioning after “sharp weapons" were found in their hostel.

According to the information relayed to Estores by Labor Attache Josephus Jimenez, the incident happened early morning of January 21 when a scuffle ensued between the Filipinos and two Malaysians who confronted them in the hostel in Sungai Ara.

GMANews.TV tried calling Jimenez but was unavailable as of posting time.

Estores said the Malaysian wanted to retrieve the laptop he gave to his Indonesian girlfriend who also had a romantic relationship with one of the Filipinos.

The laptop was apparently given by the Indonesian to her Filipino ‘boyfriend.’

Estores mentioned that three of the Filipinos who were detained in Balik Pulau police station served as witnesses while one helped the Filipino who was confronted by the Malaysians.

She also said that the Malaysians were also hurt in the incident, one of them even sustaining wounds in the head.

PSG Hospitalization, Mortuary and Prison Coordinator Roliza Lanuarias said that the Filipinos were only supposed to be detained for one day but their release date fell on the celebration of Hindu festival, Thaipusam, a non-working holiday.

According to Lanuarias, the Filipinos were released on January 23.

Estores also said that Jimenez personally visited the Filipinos and were scheduled to proceed to the Philippine embassy Monday to seek assistance but the five declined, saying they had to report back to work in Motorola Malaysia, a manufacturer of high technology wireless communications, where they are employed as technicians.

Foreign Affairs Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Officer Marlene Ramos said they have not received any formal report about the incident involving the Filipino technicians in Malaysia.

“As of now, we have yet to receive a report," said Ramos. - Mark J. Ubalde, GMANews.TV

RP fails to inform Jordan of deployment ban

Jordanian labor ministry officials said Wednesday that the Philippine government did not inform them of the decision to ban the deployment of Filipino domestic workers to Jordan.

The Philippine government imposed the ban on Monday after receiving reports of rising cases of mistreatment and abuse of domestic helpers by Jordanian employers.

A report by the Jordan Times said that Labor ministry secretary general Majed Habashneh met with Philippine ambassador to Jordan on Wednesday to discuss the issue on abuse that resulted in dozens of Filipino workers seeking refuge at the embassy.

In that meeting, ministry officials reminded the Philippine ambassador of the importance of coordination in addressing the workers’ complaints in a way that is beneficial to all parties involved, the report said.

The report quoted Habashneh as saying, "We also briefed the ambassador on the Jordanian domestic helper recruitment agency and the Jordanian employers."

The Philippine ambassador expressed his understanding and willingness to work for a compromise in the interest of all parties, the report added.

According to Habashneh, a Philippine embassy official approached the labor ministry on December 9, 2007 to seek help on the request to waive fines for around 100 Filipino domestic helpers who violated residency regulations.

Erring Pinoy workers were to be sent home at the expense of the embassy.

The ministry turned down the embassy’s request because it could harm the interests of local recruitment agencies with which the workers were bound by a two-year contract, Habashneh said.

A panel composed of representatives from all parties had been formed to sort out and examine the workers’ complaints, the labor official said.

The panel was able to wrap up 70 cases with 30 cases still under review.

After reviewing some of the cases, the labor ministry suggested that Filipino domestic helpers be given orientation and awareness seminars on Jordanian culture before they are brought into the Kingdom.

An official of the Domestic Helpers Agencies Association (DHAA) said that most common complaints of the workers were ill-treatment and work overload.

But the DHAA believed that the real reason why the helpers wanted to leave their employers were homesickness and cultural differences between Jordan and the Philippines.

The group said that since early 2007, a total of 200 Filipino domestic helpers, on several occasions, sought refuge at their embassy, and that majority them had been working in Jordan for less than a year.

Meanwhile, GMANews.TV reported Wednesday that Philippine Labor Secretary Arturo Brion ordered temporary suspension of the deployment of domestic helpers after noting that about 120 to 150 Filipino workers have sought refuge at the workers resource center in Amman, Jordan, due to labor problems.

Cases of abuse range from non-payment of wages, maltreatment to rape, the resource center in Amman noted.

The deployment ban only covers the new hires and not returning workers who don’t have problems with their employers.

In 1990, the Philippines also imposed a deployment ban to Jordan due to high cases of maltreatment and exploitation committed by Jordanian employers.

However, in 2005, the labor department ordered the lifting of the ban with the opening of a Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Amman and the implementation of a “special work contract" which provides liberal welfare provisions to foreign household service workers.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration are preparing for the possible repatriation of the 120 to 150 distressed OFWs in Jordan. - GMANews.TV

Villar urges gov’t to act fast to help distressed OFWs in Jordan

Senate President Manny Villar Jr on Thursday urged the government to act immediately on the plight of about 150 distressed overseas Filipino workers in Jordan who are awaiting repatriation.

"We should avoid resorting to last-ditch efforts which compromise the safety and security of our OFWs," Villar said in a statement.

The Philippine government on Monday imposed an indefinite ban on the deployment of new workers to Jordan after 120 to 150 OFWs, mostly household helpers, fled from their employers because of abuses, including rape and non-payment of wages.

The workers sought refuge at a Philippine-run social welfare center in Amman.

"The repatriation of OFWs who long to return to the comfort of their families in the Philippines after suffering in the hands of their foreign employers should be a priority of the government," the Senate President said.

Villar recently helped in the repatriation of eight minors at the Filipino Workers Resource Center in Amman, Jordan. One of them is Nisan Labay who arrived on Nov. 23.

Villar has filed several bills in the Senate; among these is the measure seeking to strengthen counseling services to OFWs in distress by qualified social workers.

"Our embassies carry the tremendous responsibility of looking after our distressed OFWs, which necessitates hard work at the earliest time of turmoil faced by our countrymen abroad," he said.

The new ban on the deployment only applies to new hires. OFWs returning to "good-standing" employers in Jordan are exempt form the restriction, said Rosalinda Baldoz, head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Aside from distressed OFWs in Jordan, at least 60 runaway Filipino workers have been staying under a bridge in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, also asking for help from the government.

“Mahirap po dito, pag umuulan wala kaming masilungan kundi sa puno o flyover sa Al-Khandara," said Bonifacio Franco Jr, one of the OFWs in Jeddah.

“Nagbayad po kami ng 800 Saudi riyals (P8, 847) sa tinatawag na Myra, isang Filipino rin po, kapalit ang pag-uwi namin sa Pilipinas" (We were made to pay SR 800 (P8,847) to a person named Myra, also a Filipino, in exchange for our repatriation), Franco said. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

Brion misinformed on plight of OFWs - group

Labor Secretary Arturo Brion is “misinformed" about the plight of overseas Filipino workers in the Middle East, a migrants group said Thursday.

Migrante-Middle East said that Brion’s claim that the Philippine government was successful in stopping exploitation and in promoting the welfare of OFWs in the ME was untrue.

Brion made the statement in his report at the 4th Ministerial Consultations on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labor for Countries of Origin and Destination in Asia held in Abu Dhabi from January 21 to 22.

“The truth is, the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration is deploying skilled workers abroad to become victims of abuses, maltreatment and neglect in an effort to intensify a labor export program that squeezes OFWs of their hard-earned dollar remittances," said John Monterona, Migrante-ME regional coordinator.

“Secretary Brion should look into the logbooks of cases of abuse against OFWs filed in various Philippine embassies and labor and welfare offices before concluding that the Arroyo administration is successful in stopping cruelty and in promoting overseas workers’ welfare," he added.

According to Monterona, Migrante chapters around the ME had received over 15 cases of abuse against OFWs.

The most common types of abuses are contract substitution; overcharging; maltreatment; sexual assault and unfair labor practices such as no overtime work fees and no day off for domestic helpers.

Droidz Ociones, Migrante-Jeddah chairperson, also berated Brion’s statement that host countries should assist Philippine government in the education and training of OFWs to make them fully productive assets.

“Brion must be dreaming when he urged governments and employers from countries hosting migrant workers to share with the Philippines the burden in the training and education of OFWs," Ociones said.

“Host governments and employers in the Middle East would rather invest in training and educating their own labor force, especially Saudi Arabia where the so-called “Saudization" Program is being implemented," he added.

Middle Eastern countries, especially the members of the Gulf Coordination Council such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain, are implementing a policy of hiring their own citizens to strengthen local employment.

“The Arroyo administration should instead urge host governments in the ME to ratify the United Nations Convention for the Protection of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, and that it must willingly spend money for education and training host states and employers on respect for migrants rights and welfare," Ociones, added.

Brion joined other ministers from Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Yemen at the ministerial consultation dubbed as "Abu Dhabi Dialogue."

The ministerial meeting was held to identify collaborative undertakings in promoting the welfare of migrants and sustaining the benefits of contractual labor between countries of origin and destination. - Mark Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Arroyo extends mandate of ME presidential committee

Amid the political tension in Lebanon, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo extended the mandate of the Presidential Middle East Preparedness Committee (PMEPC) by another three months.

In issuing Executive Order 692, President Arroyo said the PMEPC, headed by special envoy Roy Cimatu, would continue its administrative and operational functions until March 31.

An additional P3 million will be allocated to the committee, the funds of which would be sourced from the Office of the President.

"Additional financial requirements that may be needed by the committee shall be sourced out by the Department of Budget and Management from available funds of the concerned PMEPC member0agecnies, subject to the usual government accounting and auditing rule sand regulations," the EO read.

The PMEPC was created in 2002 following the Iraq crisis which later led to the deployment ban of Filipino workers in the troubled Middle East country. In 2004, the situation was compounded by the abduction of Filipino driver Angelo dela Cruz in 2004.

The mandate of the PMEPC first expired on June 30, 2007 but was extended in August 2007 through Executive Order 640 which gave them a mandate until Dec. 31, 2007 following continued tensions in Iraq and Lebanon. - GMANews.TV

BusinessWorld: Hedge options for OFWs readied

THE BANGKO Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) will hold forums to educate exporters and families of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on how to ease the effects of the peso’s rapid appreciation on their finances.

Monetary authorities will hold one session each in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao within the first quarter, with presentations from banks offering hedging facilities and testimonies exporters who have benefited from such programs.

Exporters and OFWs have been complaining of the rapid rise of the peso — which appreciated by about 18% last year — and are demanding special treatment such as subsidized currency exchange rates.

Exporters are instead being encouraged to hedge but banks are still encountering some resistance as the practice of hedging is still unfamiliar.

Hedging is a financial tool designed to minimize one’s exposure to unwanted business risks while still allowing profit from an investment activity. Some of the most common currency hedging tools offered by banks are forward contracts, options, and swaps.

State-run Development Bank of the Philippines’ hedging program for exporters, for instance, allows for the settlement of the difference between the agreed dollar or peso forward rate and the market rate at maturity.

"We will do [the presentations] in a simple way so the [small- and medium-sized businesses] and exporters in the provinces will be able to understand the message of the opportunity to hedge their export receipts," BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said last week.

The central bank will also present other options for dollar-earners to shield themselves from foreign exchange fluctuations, Mr. Guinigundo said.

"Aside from going into derivatives or hedging facilities, what other countries [have done] was find new markets, cut costs, and offer new products," he said.

Most banks have licenses for derivatives transactions, allowing them to offer hedging tools. Banks are given licenses based on their capacity to offer such products, he added. — G.S. de la Peña/BusinessWorld

Pinoy teenager stabbed to death in Vancouver

A Filipino teenager was stabbed to death in a fight at a park in Vancouver last Sunday.

Fifteen- year-old Deward Ponte, son of Filipino immigrant Daisy Ponte, didn’t return home Saturday night after a basketball game with friends, Vancouver’s The Province reported on Monday, quoting his stepfather Keith Blais.

British Columbia’s Globe and Mail said Ponte came home early Sunday morning after working overnight at a care home to find out that her son is dead.

Ponte left the Philippines seven years ago and worked almost five years before she could sponsor her son and her 13-year-old daughter to join her in Canada.

Deward, who went to Canada two years ago, is a student at Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School who loved to play basketball.

Ponte described her son as quiet and friendly. “That's why I don't [understand] what happened to him. He was a very good kid," she said.

The incident began with a commotion in Gray's Park, a neighborhood patch of green space, in Metro Vancouver.

Police are still finding out what triggered the fight that resulted in the death of Deward and serious injury on another teenager.

Reports said the police came to know of the fight early Sunday morning when it received several calls just before 2 a.m. about noisy teenagers at the park.

Police found a 15-year-old and a 19-year-old who had been stabbed. They also discovered several teens in the park.

The injured teens were taken to a hospital, but the 15-year-old died as a result of his injuries. The 19-year-old was in stable condition Sunday afternoon.

"It's tragic. It happens so fast. This was another great kid, healthy and a sports player," Ponte’s stepfather was quoted as saying. "A tragic statistic. It's unbelievable. They are here one day and gone the next."

Blais said the boy's mother is heartbroken. "She's in shock, crying. She's had a hard life," he said.

Deward wrote in his online social network site, Facebook: "We're unique people, you can't just find. So step aside and let me through, cause it's all about the Filipino crew. Life sucks and then you die, but if you're Filipino, you die with some damn pride." - GMANews.TV

Migrante wants OFW hosts to ink rights pact

To make the second Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in October meaningful, a group of overseas Filipino workers has asked President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to convince participating countries to sign and ratify the United Nations Conventions on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Their Families.

In a statement sent to GMANews.TV via e-mail, the Saudi Arabia-based Migrante International said the GFMD hosting of the Philippines will be useless if most of the host countries of OFWs will not adopt or honor the UN resolution.

“We challenge the government to push countries especially those that host large concentrations of OFWs and have numerous cases lodged at different Philippines Embassies for violating OFWs rights and welfare to attend the forum," said John Leonard Monterona, Migrante ME Regional Coordinator in Riyadh.

“We also want them to sign and ratify the UN resolution for the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families," said Monterona.

According to him, Middle East countries like Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain should be represented in the October forum.

The UN resolution was set into force on March 14, 2003 and 20 countries have ratified it.

The Philippines is one of the 20-country signatories of the document.

“The ratification of UN resolution is necessary so that host countries of OFWs would comply to obey and implement the provisions of the UN resolution," Monterona said.

For his part, Andrew Ociones, Migrante-Jeddah chairman, said that the migrant group is looking for a substantial accomplishment of the government and not just mere publicity stunts in GFMD.

“Or otherwise, we will conclude to believe that the Arroyo [administration] is merely proposing a marketing scheme to participating countries with the objective of intensifying its labor export program, selling our professionals and skilled workers like cheap commodities for export without protections for their rights and welfare," he said.

Last week, the Philippine government imposed an indefinite ban on the deployment of new workers to Jordan after 120 to 150 OFWs, mostly household helpers, fled from their employers because of abuses, including rape and non-payment of wages. - GMANews.TV

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

President to promote RP's energy independence program in Davos meetings

ZURICH, Switzerland (via PLDT)—In a move to advance the country's energy independence program, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will meet with the officials of the Aragon Financial Group (AFG) Wednesday afternoon in Davos, her first activity in the ski resort city after arriving Tuesday night at the Zurich International Airport from Manila.

The President is scheduled to meet with the Aragon Group executives at 5:15 p.m. Wednesday (Swiss time, 12:15 a.m. Thursday in Manila) at the Casa Bracke in Klosters, Davos.

The financial group is assisting oil and natural gas companies that need funding from financial partners such as private investors, venture capital, equity and institutional and banking sources.

The AFG has available funding for natural gas projects in the United States and is currently looking for clients with existing operations that require funding through build-operate-transfer (BOT) scheme, debt finance, equity refinance and even merger.

The financial group could help the government in its policy to ensure continuous and adequate supply of energy through integrated and intensive exploration, production, management and development of the country's indigenous energy resources such as oil and natural gas.

The natural gas industry in the Philippines began with the operation of the Malampaya gas-to-power project in offshore Palawan that now has three gas-fired power plants with a capacity of some 2,760 megawatts.

However, this output is insufficient to advance the government's program to utilize natural gas for cheaper public transport operation costs.

Also, the country still needs to explore and develop more energy sources to lessen its dependence on imported and expensive fossil fuel.

Under Executive Order No. 473 that was signed by the President in November 2005, the Department of Energy (DOE) has been tasked to pursue the immediate exploration, development and production of crude oil from the Camago-Malampaya reservoir.

Under E.O. 473, the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) that manages the Malampaya operations, or its designated subsidiary, was likewise directed to engage the participation of third parties, if necessary, in the exploration, development and production of crude oil in the country.

After her meeting with the Aragon Group officials, the President will also entertain a courtesy call of the executives of the Dredging International NV, a Dutch-based company that has more than 100 years of experience in river dredging, building ports and reclamation projects in Europe, South America, Australia, Singapore and Africa.

Under Executive Order No. 380 signed by the President in October 2004, reclamation has been identified as one of the primary sources of government revenue generation under the Medium Term Philippine Development Program (MTPDP) from 2004 to 2010. -DOLE News

PGMA arrives in Switzerland for WEF

ZURICH, Switzerland (via PLDT)--The temperature was a chilly four degrees Centigrade when Philippine Airlines (PAL) Flight PR 001 bearing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her official delegation touched down at the Zurich International Airport at 11:15 p.m. Tuesday (6:15 a.m. Wednesday, Manila time).

Wearing a dark gray trench coat, the President and First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo alighted at the airport tarmac and were welcomed by Philippine Ambassador to Switzerland Minerva Falcon, Philippine Mission to Geneva Ambassador Erlinda Basilio, and Philippine Ambassador to the World Trade Organization (WTO) Manuel Teehankee.

After the brief welcome ceremony, the President and her party immediately proceeded to the Baur Au Lac Hotel located in the City Center of Zurich.

The President's brief stay in Zurich will be highlighted by her keynote address during the meeting of the Swiss Chamber of Commerce at 10:00 a.m. Wednesday (Swiss time, 5:00 p.m. in Manila) at the Savoy Hotel here.

This would be followed by the call of Philippine-born Zuellig Pharmaceuticals owner Dr. Stephen Zuellig, also at the Savoy Hotel.

The President will have lunch with the International Board of Advisors in nearby Bocken, Landhaus before departing at 1:45 p.m (8:45 p.m. in Manila) for Casa Bracke, Davos, where she will attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The President’s first day in Davos will be highlighted by courtesy calls on her by the officials of the Aragon Financial Group (AFG) and Dredging International NV. DOLE News

Prospects for Filipinos seeking employment abroad remain rosy, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said today, as he pointed out that job opportunities still

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo flew to Switzerland to attend the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos where the Chief Executive will “meet with a number of the world leaders who are partners with the Philippines in bringing peace to Mindanao, aid and assistance to our poor, and greater security in the fight against terrorism.”

After her Switzerland events, the President will proceed to the Emirate of Dubai in the Middle East on the way back to Manila to meet top businessmen from the Gulf and overseas Filipino workers in the region.

President Arroyo was accompanied by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo who skirted the Philippine Air Force (PAF) honor guards that gave foyer honors for the departing President, passing at the back of the said guards as President Arroyo was escorted by Armed Forces chief Hermogenes Esperon Jr., through the line.

With the PAF band playing in the background, the President bid farewell to the military, police and government officials who saw her off, including Vice President Noli de Castro.

Also on hand to bid the President farewell were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro, and Environment Secretary Jose Atienza, among others.

Among the President’s delegation to Europe is Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio R. Bunye who earlier stressed that “at a time when we must all collaborate more closely, any time that she (President Arroyo) has to meet new leaders and thinkers is time well spent for her and for the nation.”

The Presidential spokesman had also pointed out that the Davos forum is an “excellent opportunity for the President to discuss with world leaders the Philippines’ point of view and approach in addressing issues…”

Indeed, President Arroyo – who presided over the regular Tuesday Cabinet meeting at Malacanang before leaving for Europe – stated, thus:

“…We depart today for Europe and the Middle East to continue to advance the strategic interests of the Philippines, and press the need for close economic, political, and social relations between the Philippines and the world.”

In her statement at the start of the joint National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Cabinet cluster and the National Anti-Poverty Commission-Cabinet cluster meeting, the President added that “another central goal of our trip is to continue the relentless promotion of the Philippines as a great place to invest and do business.”

“For the first time in a generation, the Philippine economy is on a path to sustained economic growth, creating millions of new jobs and billions of new pesos in revenue to invest in our people and our infrastructure to build up our nation. Foreign investment is central to that progress,” the President stressed.

“We are proud of the results of our ability to attract more and more business to the Philippines the last seven years,” she added.

Before Davos, the President will touch down in Zurich where her first order of business is her keynote speech before the Swiss Chamber of Commerce. While there, President Arroyo will also be “meeting with our International Board of Advisors which is comprised of some of the world’s top business leaders who are helping communicate the dynamism and the very positive new environment for business that is being created in our nation.”

After her Switzerland events, the President will proceed to the Middle East on the way back to Manila: “Our journey will also take us to the Arabian Gulf and the Emirate of Dubai where we will meet with top businessmen from the Gulf and the leaders of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a government that is playing an important role in global flows of investment capital and energy resources.”

The President added about the UAE: “This is also a country that employs hundreds of thousands of our countrymen and women. We will work to ensure that they continue to enjoy the positive working conditions that they deserve.”

“In our meetings with these fellow Filipinos, we will assure them that their contributions to their families and their country are recognized and appreciated.”

President Arroyo -- who embarked on her first foreign trip this year – explained that “these visits are part of the commitment of our Administration to global engagement that broadens and deepens our ties, strengthens our security alliances, encourages trade and investment agreements, and protects our overseas Filipino workers.”

“We will continue this engagement in 2008 as we have done throughout my presidency. We need the world and we like to think the world needs us – our hardworking people, our ideal geographic location, and our reliability as a friend and ally.”

DOLE: Prospects for Filipinos seeking employment abroad remain bright

Prospects for Filipinos seeking employment abroad remain rosy, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said today, as he pointed out that job opportunities still abound for Filipinos in many foreign countries.

Brion made the statement during the taping this afternoon in Malacanang of “The Cabinet Speaks” hosted by Undersecretary Martin Crisostomo, with co-host Palo Romero of the Philippine Star.

“For example in the past two years, we have always topped the one million level of overseas Filipino workers. And I would say that for 2008, we will easily top the one million level,” Brion said.

Although it is not a policy of the government to send workers abroad, Brion said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) continue to help the country’s economic growth through their remittances, especially the OFWs belonging to the higher pay levels.

“One reason why we have steep remittances now is, in 2007, we had more professional and skilled workers going overseas rather than non-skilled workers,” Brion said.

In 2006, he said that 60 percent of the more than one million Filipinos who worked abroad were professionals, while 40 percent were non-skilled workers.

In 2007, Brion said the deployment of skilled overseas workers increased to 73 percent compared to 27 percent for non-skilled workers, including domestic workers.

Brion attributed the shift in the employment pattern of OFWs to the household service worker reform package established last March wherein the Philippines set a minimum $400 salary for Filipino household workers deployed abroad.

He said Filipinos with higher opportunities for deployment abroad are topped by those coming from the medical and health, information and technology, and services sectors.

Brion said nurses were not affected by the nursing examination scandal last year, citing the big employment opportunities in Europe, Canada and even Saudi Arabia.

He said that last year alone, the Philippines could only send about 3,000 of the 5,000 needed by Saudi Arabia.

However, Brion said the DOLE and Department of Health (DOH) would also adopt a new policy in the deployment of nurses so as not to affect the operation of local hospitals and clinics.

PGMA: Latest SWS survey solid proof anti-hunger program on right track

President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo cited today the latest SWS survey showing that self-rated poverty incidence in December went down to 46 percent from 52 percent of three months ago as solid proof that the administration’s anti-poverty and anti-hunger programs are on the right track.

The December decline in the poverty incidence was the lowest in 20 years.

The President expressed her elation that fewer Filipinos now perceive themselves as poor in her opening statement at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)- National Anti-Poverty Commission-Cabinet Group (NEDA-NAPC-Cabinet) meeting in Malacanang this morning shortly before she left for a seven-day visit to Switzerland and the Middle East.

“I am glad that the self-rated poverty incidence has gone down again, the lowest in 20 years. This is the result of the tough economic reforms we implemented, stability, and increased confidence of the international financial community on the country,” the President said in Filipino.

The December survey result was a significant improvement over the June 2004 survey results, then one of the lowest declines in self-rated poverty incidence since 1987.

SWS data showed that the last time self-rated poverty went below 50 percent under the Arroyo administration was in June last year at 47 percent, down from 49 percent in August 2005.

The SWS also noted that self-rated poverty has been on a generally downward trend since mid-2006.

The President admitted, however, that many Filipinos do not yet feel the benefits of the growing economy. Her administration, she added, is now focusing its efforts on ways and means to spread the payback of the economic turnaround among the people, especially the poorest of the poor.

She said she convened the Cabinet today precisely to consult various sectors, including religious groups and other stakeholders, to map out plans to further strengthen the government’s anti-poverty programs.

“We assure you, we will listen and act on your concerns,” the President said.

The President pointed out that the increased revenue collections would be mobilized to fund livelihood, health, education and housing programs and other government projects for the farming and fisheries sectors.

She also underscored the urgency of national unity and cooperation among the people to sustain the economic growth and ensure the continuous delivery of enhanced socio-economic services to the people amidst the continuing increases of oil prices in the world market and the uncertainties hounding the American economy.

“We assure you we will continue to work harder to sustain the economic growth in spite of the various threats to the international economy,” the President added.

DOLE wants destination countries to assist gov't in training OFWs

Labor Sec. Arturo Brion has urged the destination countries of overseas Filipino workers to assist in the education and training of the workers to make them fully productive assets.

Speaking at the 4th Ministerial Consultations on Overseas Employment and Contractual Labor for Countries of Origin and Destination in Asia held in Abu Dhabi on January 21-22, Brion said the OFWs are contributing to the economic development of their host countries based on the education and training they acquired in the Philippines.

He said that under meaningful interdependence, it may only be fair that the countries of destination share with the Philippines part of the burden in the training and education of OFWs to ensure that needed skills are continually replenished.

He noted the Philippines ' proposal for destination countries to provide assistance in OFW training and education will boost labor-matching.

Brion joined other labor ministers from both countries of origin and destination in Asia such as Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Nepal, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, Vietnam, and Yemen at the ministerial consultation in Abu Dhabi dubbed the "Abu Dhabi Dialogue."

The consultation was held to establish collaborative undertakings in promoting the welfare of migrants and sustaining the benefits of contractual labor between countries of origin and destination.

Brion led the discussions on establishing series of partnerships between countries of origin and destination designed to leverage temporary labor mobility towards fostering development.

Aside from presenting the idea on sharing in the training and education of OFWs, Brion also pushed for the cooperation of destination countries in the Gulf region in the drive against the exploitation of vulnerable OFWs and other migrant workers by illegal recruiters who brought them to destination countries without proper documentation.

He said the country scored high in its efforts to stop the exploitation and promote the welfare of OFWs in the Middle East, citing the local drive against illegal recruitment.

Brion also boasted that the Philippines is already a step ahead among countries of origin in the management of labor mobility. He said the country now provides a whole cycle of protection that starts before the OFWs are deployed and continues onsite abroad and upon their return to the country. - GMANews.TV

DFA to OFWs: Deal only with licensed firms

CEBU CITY - Applicants for work abroad must see to it that the recruitment agency they are dealing with is accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration so their rights could be protected.

This was the advice of April Liong, in-charge for Assistance of National Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs during a labor forum at the University of Cebu Maritime Education and Training Center (UC-METC) yesterday.

Liong discussed matters protecting the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in a forum.

She said jobseekers for abroad continue to fall victim to illegal recruiters.

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“Illegal recruitment shall mean any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring and procuring workers that include contract promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-licensed or non-holder of authority" Liong said.

She said trafficking of OFWs is rampant.

Female applicants are promised jobs as entertainers but end up as commercial sex workers. Others are sent to other countries as tourists with a promise that jobs await them there when in fact there is none.

Future

“That’s human trafficking that will cost you money and your future, especially if you are imprisoned in other countries," Liong said.

There is also a total ban on deployment of OFWs to Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Nigeria because of the violence there, she told the audience.

“The government in the pursuit of national interest or when the public welfare so requires, can anytime terminate or impose ban on the deployment of migrant workers," Liong said.

Big salaries

But she there are many OFWs who insist on going to these places because of the big salaries there, she said.

Liong said that if an OFW is not paid the right salary stated in the contract, he can seek assistance from the Philippine Embassy or consulate in that country.

But if he has been repatriated without his salary, he can file a case against his foreign employer and his recruiter with the National Labor Relations Commission.

Katrina Coloso, chairperson of the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines, said the People’s Globalization Awareness Initiative Network and the UC-METC Anchor student publication organized the forum with theme: “Abroad na! Saan ka pa? A forum on Filipino Labor Migration in a Globalized World". - Sun.Star

KL-bound workers warned vs dubious recruiters

The Philippine embassy in Kuala Lumpur has warned potential recruits to Malaysia against agencies with tempting job offers but end up substituting contracts once they get there.

Ambassador Victoriano Lecaros issued the advisory as the embassy is having a hard time providing shelter and assistance to at least 71 Filipinos having problems with their employment in Malaysia.

Lecaros reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila that the distressed OFWs came in different groups, asking to be accommodated at the embassy.

Almost half of the 71 Filipinos housed at the Workers’ Resource Center are men.

Lecaros noted that the stories the OFWs recounted have a common thread: Philippine and Malaysian agencies charged them excessive placement fees and substituted new contracts to supplant those that previously met Philippine government standards.

The workers also complained of unexpected salary deductions and having been forced to work on 12-hour shifts but getting paid only for eight hours. They also said they received threats and other acts of harassment.

To avoid being in similar situations, Lecaros advised Filipinos applying for work in Malaysia to be wary of recruitment agencies committing the same violations, and to do a background check on the agencies even before they apply for employment. - GMANews.TV

DFA to OFWs: Deal only with licensed firms

CEBU CITY - Applicants for work abroad must see to it that the recruitment agency they are dealing with is accredited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration so their rights could be protected.

This was the advice of April Liong, in-charge for Assistance of National Section of the Department of Foreign Affairs during a labor forum at the University of Cebu Maritime Education and Training Center (UC-METC) yesterday.

Liong discussed matters protecting the rights and welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in a forum.

She said jobseekers for abroad continue to fall victim to illegal recruiters.

Advertising

“Illegal recruitment shall mean any act of canvassing, enlisting, contracting, transporting, utilizing, hiring and procuring workers that include contract promising or advertising for employment abroad, whether for profit or not, when undertaken by a non-licensed or non-holder of authority" Liong said.

She said trafficking of OFWs is rampant.

Female applicants are promised jobs as entertainers but end up as commercial sex workers. Others are sent to other countries as tourists with a promise that jobs await them there when in fact there is none.

Future

“That’s human trafficking that will cost you money and your future, especially if you are imprisoned in other countries," Liong said.

There is also a total ban on deployment of OFWs to Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Nigeria because of the violence there, she told the audience.

“The government in the pursuit of national interest or when the public welfare so requires, can anytime terminate or impose ban on the deployment of migrant workers," Liong said.

Big salaries

But she there are many OFWs who insist on going to these places because of the big salaries there, she said.

Liong said that if an OFW is not paid the right salary stated in the contract, he can seek assistance from the Philippine Embassy or consulate in that country.

But if he has been repatriated without his salary, he can file a case against his foreign employer and his recruiter with the National Labor Relations Commission.

Katrina Coloso, chairperson of the College Editor’s Guild of the Philippines, said the People’s Globalization Awareness Initiative Network and the UC-METC Anchor student publication organized the forum with theme: “Abroad na! Saan ka pa? A forum on Filipino Labor Migration in a Globalized World". - Sun.Star

Warning aired vs new hiring policy for OFWs

The issuance of a new policy on direct hiring will hinder the job opportunities for overseas Filipino workers and place an additional layer of bureaucracy on foreign employment, according to a recruitment industry consultant.

Employment consultant Emmanuel Geslani in a statement on Monday said that Memorandum Circular No. 4, series 2007 that took effect last Jan. 15 will also mean additional costs for interested employers.

“The new guidelines will reduce the chances of Filipino workers in acquiring their own employers through their own efforts," Geslani said.

Under the new rules, direct hiring of OFWs by foreign employers will be allowed upon approval by the Secretary of Labor and subject to screening of employers and employment contract verification by the labor attaché or the Philippine embassy.

In addition, direct hiring will also be allowed only for members of the diplomatic corps and of international organizations, government officials of ministerial level, and employers who are hiring on one-time or trial basis.

The number of employees to be hired directly shall not exceed 5.

The new rule also directs the employers to comply with stricter documentation and processing requirements. This includes the posting of repatriation bond in the amount of US$5,000 per employee to guarantee the repatriation of the worker or of his remains, in the event of death, and performance bond of US$3,000 per employee to guarantee payment of the employee's salary for the duration of the employment contract.

The bonds could be secured from local bonding companies. They will also provide the employees with health and medical insurance.

Geslani said before the issuance on the guidelines, the contract for direct hiring just needs verification from the POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Offices) and submission to the POEA for processing.

He said the approval of the Labor Secretary in all cases specified under the new guidelines is just another layer to the process of recruitment and will result to the delay of employment.

Geslani added that the $5,000 bond for repatriation, performance bond equivalent to three months salary, and medical insurance will discourage foreign employers to hire Filipinos.

Labor Secretay Arturo Brion explained that the adoption of a stricter policy on direct hires is aimed at strengthening the protection mechanisms for the OFWs. - GMANews.TV

Midwife denies committing error over death of Pinoy mom in UK

The midwife who was on duty when a potent anesthetic was wrongfully administered to a Filipino mother in Britain denied committing the fatal medical error, but admitted being unsure about the events that led to the incident.

According to a report from UK newspaper The Guardian on Tuesday, Marie To was caring for Mayra Cabrera, a Filipino theater nurse, at the Great Western Hospital in Swindon, Wilshire, Britain in 2004.

Mayra, 30, died shortly after giving birth to Zachary on May 11 of that year after an epidural, a local anesthetic administered into the lower spine to relieve labor pains, was wrongly injected into her arm during childbirth.

"Not 100%," To replied when asked by Wiltshire coroner David Masters in the inquest proceedings if she was sure about what she did at that time.

She claimed that following the delivery at 8:14 a.m., Dr. Gourab Mistra instructed her to put some saline solution up in a drip should Mayra’s blood pressure fall.

Meanwhile, To instead suggested using gelafusin, a blood volume expander to boost blood pressure, to which Mistra agreed.

However, the midwife was unable to let Misra double check on the bag of fluid, as required, since the doctor was out of the room when she administered gelafusin on the patient.

It was later discovered that a bag of Bupivacaine fluid had been wrongly administered via a drip into Cabrera's hand.

By 9 a.m., Mayra began to feel dizzy. She started to fit and frothed at the mouth before having a heart attack.

Efforts to resuscitate her failed and she was pronounced dead at 10:47 a.m. The cause of death was found to be Bupivacaine toxicity.

No knowledge

When police questioned the midwife after the incident, she said she did not inject the drug to Mayra.

"To my knowledge and belief I did not administer this drug," she said in her statement to the police.

She also said she did not know who administered the drug, when Masters interrogated her.

Lawyer Gerwyn Samuel, representing Mayra’s husband Arnel, also asked To if she erroneously administered a bag of Bupivacaine on an intravenous drip.

"[This is] a serious dereliction of duty," Samuel said.

Masters reminded To that according to law, she was not compelled to answer self-incriminating questions.

But To replied: "I did not put up Bupivacaine knowingly. I put up a bag of what I
thought was gelafusin."

She also said that while she wanted Misra to verify the bag, the doctor was “too quick" for her and squeezed it to get the fluid moving to Mayra’s bloodstream.

"We know that the doctor squeezed that bag of Bupivacaine and we know that that was the bag you put up," asserted Samuel.

To said she read the bag and was convinced “it said gelafusin."

Swindon and Marlborough NHS Trust, which partly controls the Great Western Hospital, has admitted liability for the error, said the report.

It also said that the Crown Prosecution Service decided not to charge anyone.


Husband faces deportation

Meanwhile, Arnel, 38, is appealing to the Home Office in Britain to allow him to stay in England and raise his now three-year-old son, Zachary.

Arnel is given until the end of February to return to the Philippines, upon completion of the inquest proceedings on the case, as his visa was only dependent on his wife who was working in UK.

He was also working as a technician in the Great Western hospital.

"The person who gave Mayra that drug robbed me of my family. I want to know how it happened. I can't forget. I need to know whether the action was intentional or unintentional. How can anyone make this kind of error and not be made to answer for it? I was very angry I'd been lied to for so long about how my wife died," Arnel said in the January 7 inquest.

The couple went to the hospital before 4 a.m. on May 2004. At 8:14 a.m, their healthy 8-pound baby was delivered with forceps.

The Guardian said the hearing will continue today (January 22). - Mark Ubalde, GMANews.TV

OFWs will continue to boost economy - TUCP

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Tuesday expressed confidence that dollar remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will continue to boost Philippine economic growth despite the expected economic slowdown in the United States.

The labor group’s spokesman Alex Aguilar told GMANews.TV in a phone interview that while the US remains the largest source of dollar remittances, inflows from other countries have grown considerably over the years.

“Definitely, the US remains a huge source of dollar inflows that grow by an average of 15 percent annually. But if we look at the overall remittance trend, money transfer from OFWs in other parts of the world is actually growing even faster," he said.

Aguilar brushed aside speculations that the economic slump in the US would result in the decline of OFW remittances.

Aguilar noted that remittances from the Middle East grow at an annual rate of 21 percent and those from Europe by 17 percent.

He added that remittances of OFWs from other countries are also expanding. Money transfers from Kuwait have been increasing at an annual rate of 51 percent. This is followed by Australia, 37 percent; Singapore, 33 percent; United Arab Emirates, 32 percent and the UK, 26 percent.
For the first time, remittances from Saudi Arabia breached the $1-billion annual mark in 2006, Aguilar said.

He said the TUCP sticks to its previous forecast that dollar remittances would grow at an average annual rate of 15 percent, and that by 2010, annual total could hit $21.4 billion.

In 2006, dollar remittances sent through banks reached $12.8 billion. From January to November 2007, the total was already at $13.1 billion.

Citing Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas records, Aguilar said that remittances from the US grew only by one percent in 2007, although 51 percent of the of total remittances in 2006 came from OFWs in that country.

He said that most of the higher-paid Filipinos in the US are employed in “recession-proof" jobs such as those in the health-care sector. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

Pinoy in Saipan gets 5 mos after stealing for kin's needs

SUSUPE, Saipan – A Filipino worker in Saipan was sentenced to five months in prison for stealing $19,183.26 from his employer out of “desperation" to help his ailing mother with her medical expenses in the Philippines and his sister with her medical bills in Bahrain.

Arnel Ruga Del Rosario, 42, could be facing a much longer imprisonment than five months had he not produced documentation of medical bills to show the court that he in fact used the funds for his family members’ medical needs.

He entered a guilty plea to one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.

Del Rosario told the Superior Court of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI, that he had no choice because of his mother and sister’s medical needs.

According to court documents, Del Rosario said he wanted to repay the money but was unable to do so before his employer, Beijing Wholesale, discovered the theft.

When confronted by his employer, Del Rosario admitted his offense and accepted responsibility for his actions.

CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted Del Rosario’s guilty plea.

Justice Manglona’s judgment and commitment order stated that Del Rosario produced documentation of medical bills to prove to the court that he in fact used the funds he stole for such purposes.

In sentencing the worker, the judge said Del Rosario had been living and working on Saipan for over 12 years without committing any crimes, has expressed sincerity and emotional remorse during the sentencing hearing, and recognized his wrongdoing.

But just the same, the judge said Del Rosario’s intent to help his family members in their financial hardship outside the CNMI “jeopardizes the financial welfare of those relying on businesses within the CNMI."

“Therefore, a period of incarceration is warranted to deter others who may be inclined to commit similar acts and create further financial hardships that may lead to desperate acts," the judge said.

The judge sentenced Del Rosario to five years in jail, all suspended except for five months with 72 hours credit for time already served.

Both the defense and the government recommended that Del Rosario be given a five-month jail term as it was his first criminal offense, and he has no children or immediate family on Saipan.

The judge added that Del Rosario’s strong likelihood of being gainfully employed with the mandate to pay full restitution “calls for some leniency."

Del Rosario was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and theft by unlawful taking.

His counsel, Assistant Public Defender Malik Edwards, and the government, represented by Chief Prosecutor Jeffery Warfield Sr., noted that Del Rosario committed the offense because “he desperately wanted to help his ailing mother with her medical expenses in the Philippines and his sister with her medical bills in Bahrain."

The judge ordered Del Rosario to report to the CNMI Department of Corrections on Feb. 1 at 8 a.m. to start serving his unsuspended jail term.

Del Rosario will be released on June 28 at 8 a.m. and will be placed on supervised probation for four years and seven months.

The judge ordered him to pay a restitution fee of $19,183.26 to his former employer and to submit an apology letter.

He is also to pay a $100 court assessment fee and a $100 probation fee, as well as perform 200 hours of community work.

Del Rosario’s review hearing was set for Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. - Haidee V. Eugenio, GMANews.TV

Siblings of Pinay killed in Canada seek justice

The siblings of a Filipino woman found dead on Friday at the back of a Baptist Church in Calgary, Canada are seeking justice for the death of their sister.

The Calgary Sun reported Tuesday that the siblings of Arcelie Laoagan, 40, are still in shock after learning about the fate of their sister, who took two jobs to support her family in the Philippines.

"It's a nightmare," Oswald Sombrito, Arcelie’s younger brother, told the Calgary Sun.

Oswald, along with his sisters Marlyn Hori and Caroline Maximo, flew to Calgary from Toronto on Saturday upon learning that Arcelie was reported missing.

"We want justice," said Oswald.

Marlyn said she could not believe that her sister could be killed in a country like Canada, a place she deemed a much safer place than the Philippines.

“It's so shocking. I thought Canada is a safe place," she said.

"If she died in an accident it would be easier to deal with. The way she died, it's horrible," she added.

According to a report in the Calgary Herald on Sunday, Arcelie was returning home from one of her jobs late Thursday night when she died under suspicious circumstances near the Franklin C-Train station.

Aracelie worked as a scanning operator for West Canadian, a digital printing company, and also did part-time job as a restaurant server.

On Thursday, a roommate reported that Arcelie was missing when she did not return home after leaving work at West Canadian at 10 p.m.

The Calgary Sun reported that Arcelie was last heard from when she made a panicked phone call to a friend to say she was being assaulted, shortly before the line went dead.

Arcelie’s bloodied body was later found in a secluded area behind the Grace Baptist Church in Calgary.

Arcelie worked for two years in Hong Kong before migrating to Canada in 2004. She was in the process of sponsoring her sons, aged 8 to 19, and husband from the Philippines, the report said.

She last saw her family in the Philippines six years ago. - Mark Ubalde, GMANews.TV

HK group slams restrictions on OFW direct hiring

A militant group based in Hong Kong on Tuesday criticized a new policy issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) imposing restrictions on direct hiring of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

United Filipinos in Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK)) said that the “rigid" policy would expose OFWs to more abuses.

“We are being thrown to the wolves, and still the government calls it protection," Dolores Balladares, Unifil’s chairperson, said in a statement.

Only members of the diplomatic corps, international organizations, and government officials of ministerial level, and employers who are hiring on a one-time or trial basis are allowed to directly hire OFWs, under the new POEA policy.

It also requires employers to pay a performance bond of US$3,000 and posting of repatriation bond of US$5,000 per hired OFW.

The performance bond will guarantee payment of the OFW’s salary for the duration of his or her job abroad. The repatriation bond will assure that if the OFW dies, he or she can be sent back to his or her country.

However, Balladares said the policy “will leave (the OFWs) completely under the mercy of recruiters."

He said the policy “will take away the option for direct hiring that migrant workers, particularly in Hong Kong have fought for since the POEA issued Memorandum Circular 41."

The hiring of OFWs was deregulated through the said circular, wherein Filipinos were first made to pass through recruitment agencies before they could be hired abroad by their actual employers.

Balladares also said that forcing overseas employers to pay bonds would discourage them from directly hiring Filipinos.

“Instead of effectively curbing overcharging and illegal practices of recruitment agencies, the [Department of Labor and Employment] DOLE-POEA is making it appear that direct hiring is causing most of the problems of OFWs, thus needing stricter policies," she said.

“But what they want is to ban direct hiring to force OFWs to pass through recruitment agencies, which in statistics and in real life cause our major woes," she added. - Mark Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Home > Pinoy Abroad > Top Stories Seal labor pacts, not just consensus in GFMD - NGO

The second Global Forum for Migration and Development (GFMD), which will be held in the Philippines in October, must be used as an occasion to clinch bilateral labor agreements with countries hosting overseas Filipino workers, a non-government organization said Thursday.

The Kapisanan ng mga Kamag-anak ng Migranteng Manggagawang Pilipino, Inc. (Kakammpi) is urging the Philippine government to focus on sealing labor deals as it hosts the GFMD because mere consensus on some migration issues would not immediately translate into workable protection mechanisms for OFWs.

“Mere talks and consensus forming on some issues confronting migrant workers would just end up as pieces of nonbinding documents that cannot be expected to address the problems of OFWs," said Ma. Fe Nicodemus, executive director of Kakammpi.

Nicodemus was reacting to an earlier statement of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr that by hosting the GFMD the country could expect to reach consensus that might lead to better treatment of OFWs.

“Labor deals with OFW-receiving countries are quickest and surest way to protect our workers abroad. Better understanding on migrant issues among states participating in the GFMD 2008 is desirable, but this cannot give immediate protection for OFWs," Nicodemus said.

In an earlier statement, Conejos said that the Department of Labor and Employment will make sure that the forum will not be another “talk shop" for foreign leaders by taking out ‘politics’ in the meeting and instead invite “high-level policy practitioners" and migration experts in the discussions.

“We are looking for practical solutions for practical problems," said Conejos in a press conference in Makati City after signing a memorandum of agreement designating the Ayala Foundation to head the civil society component of the GFMD.

He noted that the Philippines must show to participating states that the government is serious in safeguarding the welfare of OFWs. Over 192 United Nations-member states are expected to participate in the event in Manila.

Brussels hosted the first global forum on migration in July 2007. - Luis Gorgonio, GMANews.TV

Pinoy in Saipan gets 5 mos after stealing for kin's needs

SUSUPE, Saipan – A Filipino worker in Saipan was sentenced to five months in prison for stealing $19,183.26 from his employer out of “desperation" to help his ailing mother with her medical expenses in the Philippines and his sister with her medical bills in Bahrain.

Arnel Ruga Del Rosario, 42, could be facing a much longer imprisonment than five months had he not produced documentation of medical bills to show the court that he in fact used the funds for his family members’ medical needs.

He entered a guilty plea to one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.

Del Rosario told the Superior Court of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI, that he had no choice because of his mother and sister’s medical needs.

According to court documents, Del Rosario said he wanted to repay the money but was unable to do so before his employer, Beijing Wholesale, discovered the theft.

When confronted by his employer, Del Rosario admitted his offense and accepted responsibility for his actions.

CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted Del Rosario’s guilty plea.

Justice Manglona’s judgment and commitment order stated that Del Rosario produced documentation of medical bills to prove to the court that he in fact used the funds he stole for such purposes.

In sentencing the worker, the judge said Del Rosario had been living and working on Saipan for over 12 years without committing any crimes, has expressed sincerity and emotional remorse during the sentencing hearing, and recognized his wrongdoing.

But just the same, the judge said Del Rosario’s intent to help his family members in their financial hardship outside the CNMI “jeopardizes the financial welfare of those relying on businesses within the CNMI."

“Therefore, a period of incarceration is warranted to deter others who may be inclined to commit similar acts and create further financial hardships that may lead to desperate acts," the judge said.

The judge sentenced Del Rosario to five years in jail, all suspended except for five months with 72 hours credit for time already served.

Both the defense and the government recommended that Del Rosario be given a five-month jail term as it was his first criminal offense, and he has no children or immediate family on Saipan.

The judge added that Del Rosario’s strong likelihood of being gainfully employed with the mandate to pay full restitution “calls for some leniency."

Del Rosario was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and theft by unlawful taking.

His counsel, Assistant Public Defender Malik Edwards, and the government, represented by Chief Prosecutor Jeffery Warfield Sr., noted that Del Rosario committed the offense because “he desperately wanted to help his ailing mother with her medical expenses in the Philippines and his sister with her medical bills in Bahrain."

The judge ordered Del Rosario to report to the CNMI Department of Corrections on Feb. 1 at 8 a.m. to start serving his unsuspended jail term.

Del Rosario will be released on June 28 at 8 a.m. and will be placed on supervised probation for four years and seven months.

The judge ordered him to pay a restitution fee of $19,183.26 to his former employer and to submit an apology letter.

He is also to pay a $100 court assessment fee and a $100 probation fee, as well as perform 200 hours of community work.

Del Rosario’s review hearing was set for Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. - Haidee V. Eugenio, GMANews.TV

Pinoy in Saipan gets 5 mos after stealing for kin's needs

SUSUPE, Saipan – A Filipino worker in Saipan was sentenced to five months in prison for stealing $19,183.26 from his employer out of “desperation" to help his ailing mother with her medical expenses in the Philippines and his sister with her medical bills in Bahrain.

Arnel Ruga Del Rosario, 42, could be facing a much longer imprisonment than five months had he not produced documentation of medical bills to show the court that he in fact used the funds for his family members’ medical needs.

He entered a guilty plea to one count of theft by failure to make required disposition of funds.

Del Rosario told the Superior Court of the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, or CNMI, that he had no choice because of his mother and sister’s medical needs.

According to court documents, Del Rosario said he wanted to repay the money but was unable to do so before his employer, Beijing Wholesale, discovered the theft.

When confronted by his employer, Del Rosario admitted his offense and accepted responsibility for his actions.

CNMI Superior Court Associate Judge Ramona V. Manglona accepted Del Rosario’s guilty plea.

Justice Manglona’s judgment and commitment order stated that Del Rosario produced documentation of medical bills to prove to the court that he in fact used the funds he stole for such purposes.

In sentencing the worker, the judge said Del Rosario had been living and working on Saipan for over 12 years without committing any crimes, has expressed sincerity and emotional remorse during the sentencing hearing, and recognized his wrongdoing.

But just the same, the judge said Del Rosario’s intent to help his family members in their financial hardship outside the CNMI “jeopardizes the financial welfare of those relying on businesses within the CNMI."

“Therefore, a period of incarceration is warranted to deter others who may be inclined to commit similar acts and create further financial hardships that may lead to desperate acts," the judge said.

The judge sentenced Del Rosario to five years in jail, all suspended except for five months with 72 hours credit for time already served.

Both the defense and the government recommended that Del Rosario be given a five-month jail term as it was his first criminal offense, and he has no children or immediate family on Saipan.

The judge added that Del Rosario’s strong likelihood of being gainfully employed with the mandate to pay full restitution “calls for some leniency."

Del Rosario was charged with theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and theft by unlawful taking.

His counsel, Assistant Public Defender Malik Edwards, and the government, represented by Chief Prosecutor Jeffery Warfield Sr., noted that Del Rosario committed the offense because “he desperately wanted to help his ailing mother with her medical expenses in the Philippines and his sister with her medical bills in Bahrain."

The judge ordered Del Rosario to report to the CNMI Department of Corrections on Feb. 1 at 8 a.m. to start serving his unsuspended jail term.

Del Rosario will be released on June 28 at 8 a.m. and will be placed on supervised probation for four years and seven months.

The judge ordered him to pay a restitution fee of $19,183.26 to his former employer and to submit an apology letter.

He is also to pay a $100 court assessment fee and a $100 probation fee, as well as perform 200 hours of community work.

Del Rosario’s review hearing was set for Aug. 6 at 9 a.m. - Haidee V. Eugenio, GMANews.TV

Sentosa nurses did not endanger nursing home patients

The US Health Department cleared ten of the Sentoza 27, a group of Pinoy nurses being charged with reckless endangerment of their patients whom they allegedly walked out on in 2006.

A spokesman from the state Department of Health said in a report by New York’s Newsday said that in their inquiry, they found that residents at a Smithtown nursing home "were not placed in jeopardy" by the mass resignation of 10 nurses in 2006.

The health department's findings were released less than two weeks before the nurses - all immigrants - are scheduled for a January 28 trial in Suffolk County, New York, on charges of conspiracy and endangering patients in a pediatric ventilation unit at Avalon Gardens Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.

The Suffolk County district attorney's office questioned the thoroughness of the inquiry and defended the grand jury probe that led to the nurses' indictment in March.

Still, the health department is the second major state government agency to support the nurses' claims that patients were not endangered. The state Education Department, which licenses nurses, found in 2006 that the nurses did not abandon patients.

"This is the final straw," defense attorney Oscar Michelen said. "This is vindication that these nurses did nothing wrong, especially when it is the department in charge of patient care saying it."

Prosecutors and the nursing home's main owners, Benjamin Landa and Bent Philipson, contend that the nurses endangered patients by prompting a staffing crisis with their resignations on April 7, 2006.

The nurses did so after they complained for months about working conditions – they said they were recruited to work as nurses but were placed as caregivers in nursing homes with a lower salary and less benefits than originally promised.

Records reviewed by the health department's Office of Long-term Care showed that the nursing home was fully staffed after the nurses' departure, said Jeffrey Hammond, a health department spokesman.

"The shifts were covered and patients were not placed in jeopardy," Hammond said.

The inquiry was begun in October to determine why Avalon Gardens did not inform state health authorities of the incident. Newsday articles on Sept. 23 and 24, 2007 reported that all shifts were covered on the day the nurses resigned and described connections between the nursing home owners' political relationships and the indictment of the nurses.

State law requires a nursing home to report any "mistreatment, neglect and abuse" to the health department.

The district attorney's probe began after a private meeting District Attorney Thomas Spota held with the nursing home's owners, attorney and administrator in May 2006. Spota had received $1,500 in campaign contributions from the attorney, Howard Fensterman, a prominent Democratic Party fundraiser. Fensterman and Spota have said the contribution played no role in the investigation.

Robert Clifford, a spokesman for Spota, said in a statement that the health department did not contact the district attorney's office.

"The 10 nurses and their attorney are under indictment after a grand jury heard evidence that they endangered the welfare of children and a disabled person who are dependent on mechanical ventilators to breathe," Clifford said.

Assistant District Attorney Leonard Lato said the Health Department did not visit the nursing home or contact its administrator. Rather, Lato said, the department asked one of the nursing home's owners for records showing which nurses were on call to fill shifts left open by the resigning nurses.

"That's it. Nothing beyond pure numbers. No doctor was spoken with, no nurse, nobody who was actually caring for these children," said Lato, who said his information came from the nursing home's administrator, Susan O'Connor.

Hammond said he could not say whether an on-site visit was made by the state.

Gary Lewis, a spokesman for SentosaCare, headquartered in Woodmere, a group of nursing homes including Avalon Gardens, declined to make O'Connor available for interviews because she will testify at the upcoming trial.- ABS CBN News

5 runaway OFWs repatriated from Jordan

Five Filipino women workers are arriving from Jordan with shattered dreams.

Maricel Cabarillas, a 34-year-old mother of two from Shariff Kabungsuan in Maguindanao, is suffering from depression. She jumped from the second floor of the Filipino Workers’ Resource Center in Amman and sustained fracture on her left leg on New Year’s Eve in 2007.

Mary Celle Biton, also 34 years old, is a teacher from Digos City, Davao del Sur. She is suffering from blurred vision and symptomatic lupus erytopolosis.

Emma Alegre is coming home two days after the remains of her mother, Priscilla, was shipped to the Philippines from Jordan.



The Philippine embassy in Jordan said it worked out the cancellation of Emma’s overstay penalties and runaway case at the police.

The embassy also sent home Sharon Atanacio, who suffering from mental delusion, and Mary Diph Ibagat whose case against her abusive employer had been resolved.

The five distressed OFWs left Amman, Jordan via Kuwait Airlines on Thursday. - GMANews.TV

DOLE suspends OFW deployment to Jordan

(Updated 2:30 p.m.)The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) temporarily suspended deployment of Filipino workers to Jordan following an increase in number of distressed workers in that country, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration said Wednesday.

In a press briefing, POEA administrator Rosalinda Baldoz said Labor Secretary Arturo Brion ordered the suspension Monday after noting that some 120 to 150 Filipino workers have sought refuge in workers resource center in Amman, Jordan due to labor problems.

She said some of the distressed workers were victims of abuse and maltreatment.

Majority of the OFWs that were housed in the FWRC or the resource center are domestic helpers that encountered problems with their employers which ranges from cases of abuse, non-payment of wages, maltreatment to even rape cases.

Baldoz said the deployment ban only covers the newly hired OFWs since returning workers which don’t have problems with their employers are allowed to return to Jordan and complete their contract.

In 1990, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) suspended the deployment of OFWs in Jordan due to high cases of maltreatment and exploitation committed among the Filipino domestic helpers.

However, in 2005, DoLE through then Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas ordered the lifting of the deployment ban with the opening of a Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Amman and the implementation of a “special work contract" which provides for a liberal welfare provisions for the foreign household service workers.

Meanwhile, Baldoz said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) are now arranging the possible repatriation of the 120 to 150 distress OFWs in Jordan.

Aside from Jordan, deployment ban are also in effect in Nigeria, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan.

A total of 1,073,402 documented Filipino workers left the country last year while 1,062,567 were deployed in 2006. - GMANews.TV

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Going to Brazil? Get anti-yellow fever vaccine

Filipinos planning to travel to Brazil should have anti-yellow fever immunization 10 days prior to their arrival in the South American state, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in an advisory on Wednesday.

Brazil’s health ministry has advised both residents and foreigners to take the anti-yellow fever vaccination following the death of two persons, one in Brasilia and the other in Goiania.

Eight other suspected cases are under investigation.

The DFA said the Philippine embassy in the South American country recommends that all Brazil-bound Filipinos above six months of age, including those planning to attend the Carnival festivities in February, get the anti-yellow fever shot prior to their departure.

Brazil’s Health Minister Jose Gomes Temporao has declared the situation under control and discounted the possibility of the disease spreading into epidemic proportions in heavily populated areas. - GMANews.TV

HK migrants' group criticizes GFMD objectives

disaster in the making for the millions of overseas Filipino workers.

That was how the militant United Filipinos n Hong Kong (Unifil-Migrante-HK) view the Philippines’ hosting on October 27 – 30 of the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development where some 200 delegates from various sectors worldwide are expected to participate.

“What benefits can OFWs get from a process that aims to intensify labor export, increase remittances and profit from labor migration, ensure the flow of cheap but skilled migrant labor to receiving countries, and practically substitute forced migration as a development framework instead of genuine development in sending countries?" asked Unifil chairperson Dolores Balladares.

The DFA signed a Memorandum of Agreement on Monday with Ayala Foundation that was designated to head the civil society component of the GFMD.

Balladares sought to dispute the assurance of Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said the forum is expected to improve the condition of the nearly 10 million OFWs across the globe.

“We expect to reach a consensus with countries hosting Filipino workers for better treatment of OFWs," Conejos said, asserting that the Philippine government will work out arrangements for better benefits and more secure working conditions with countries hosting OFWs.

“For us, the GFMD in Manila is another disaster-in-the-making. The Philippines’ hosting of the GFMD is a recognition of how this government has transformed forced migration and commodification of migrants to a level of near perfection – with billions of dollars in remittances, millions more in government charges, and an ideal partnership between the government and private businesses that participate in the migration process," Balladares countered.

She said her group is highly-skeptical of the “practical solutions for practical problems" that Conejos, who has been designated as GFMD chairman, has outlined as the thrust of the forum.

“GFMD merely discusses management of the migration process that they could not push in the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) Mode 4 talks with the collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Nowhere in the process are the actual practical issues of migrants tackled such as low wages, abuses of recruiters, absence of protective labor laws to migrants, widespread discrimination and xenophobia, criminalization of undocumented migrants, and real welfare assistance to migrants," Balladares said.

According to her, the Philippine government’s plan to impress protection of migrant workers to receiving countries by showing how it does so with Filipino workers is an “empty brag" and “extremely hypocritical."

“What kind of protection can the Philippine government show when it is the promoter of policies like the POEA guidelines that make us vulnerable to abuses? What kind of welfare can it promote when its own program is impotent and reeks of corruption and anomalies?" she asked further.

She said the Manila forum “will yet again distort the reality of forced migration and skirt the primary issues of migrant workers."

“The Philippine government is an expert in issuing motherhood statements on the protection of migrant workers while aggressively seeking out markets for its primary commodity and source of income – the Filipino migrant workers – regardless of the condition we face abroad. This is the only lesson it can impart to fellow labor exporters and the only agenda it has for receiving countries," Balladares said.

For the GFMD to have real benefits to migrant workers, she urged migrant workers to challenge the framework of the GFMD talks and force governments to table concrete issues of migrant workers.

“Especially for Filipino migrants, the GFMD in Manila is a venue to expose the disaster that is the Philippine labor export program. We should unite with migrant workers of other nationalities to stop the commodification of migrant labor and demand for genuine development that will finally end forced migration," she suggested.

In September 2006, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) convened a high-level dialogue to discuss the nexus between migration and development. Then Secretary General Kofi Annan, a vigorous supporter of the dialogue, proposed the creation of a global forum to mark the beginning of inter-governmental discussions about migration and development.

The inaugural GFMD was held in Brussels, Belgium in 2007. The forum is a government-led initiative that is open to all 192 United Nations-member states.

It is a voluntary process that addresses issues related to migration and development through the identification of best practices, promotion of exchange of experiences while adding value to existing regional consultations, identification of obstacles to smart policymaking, exploration and adoption of innovative approaches, and enhancement of cooperation among countries. - GMANews.TV

DFA assures help for 20 OFWs hoodwinked in Sudan

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said it is already taking the necessary measures to assist the 20 overseas Filipino workers in Sudan who are reportedly being abused by their employer.

DFA spokesman Claro Cristobal said in an interview that the government is finding it difficult to coordinate with the OFWs considering that the Philippines does not have an embassy in the African nation.

However, Cristobal told GMANews.TV said that they have already asked Filipino diplomats from the nearby Philippine Embassy in Cairo, Egypt to fly to Sudan and come to the aid of the Filipinos.

Meantime, Cristobal said they have carried out the initial stage of extending assistance to the 20 Filipinos, whose identities the DFA has yet to verify.

"We have taken the first task in assisting them by making contact with an honorary consul in Sudan," Cristobal said.

An appointed honorary consul, according to Cristobal, is a native of the host country who is requested to assist the OFWs on behalf of the government until an accredited consular team reaches the area.

He, however, did not deny the fact that the absence of a Philippine ambassador to Sudan, "limits the speed and extent of the assistance."

Meanwhile, DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo told radio dzMM in an interview that they will be taking care of the 20 Filipinos's travel documents as well as their repatriation expenses.

The DFA's Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs said that they were informed about the condition of the Filipino laborers on Friday last week.

DFA officials were able to speak on the phone with one of the OFWs, who said that they were tricked by their recruitment agencies in the Philippines into believing they will immediately land good jobs once in Sudan.

The Filipino laborers said they were not being paid their salaries on time and were being deprived of an overtime pay. They were also only allowed to eat twice a day.

Without money in their pockets and already starving, the group of OFWs said they will be forced to leave their employer's compound if the Philippine government fails to extend assistance to them soon, the dzMM report said.

But upon getting wind that the group of Filipinos are mulling on seeking help from the authorities, their employer reportedly moved for the cancellation of their travel permits.

Cristobal, however, assured that the consular team that will be sent to Sudan will immediately coordinate with the Sudanese immigration to work out the exit visas of the Filipinos, if ever they decide to leave the African country.

But the Filipino worker contacted by the DFA was quoted as saying they are willing to go back to their work but are considering on lodging complaints against their employer.

For its part, the Overseas Workers Welfare Authority also told GMANews.TV they have yet to confirm the identities of Filipinos but expressed concern about OWWA also not having any overseas post in Sudan. - Mark Merueñas, GMANews.TV

15 missing as RP fishing vessel sinks off Taiwan

TAIPEI, Taiwan - Fifteen crew members were missing Wednesday and five others had been rescued, after a Philippine fishing vessel sank off the southern Taiwanese coast, a Taiwanese official said.

Coast Guard spokesman Hsieh Ching-ching said helicopters and one ship dispatched by the Taiwanese government rescued two of the sailors from the Panama-registered Horng Yun in heavy seas, and nearby cargo vessels saved another three.

''We have asked Hong Kong and the Philippines for extra help as the ship was closer to the Philippines,'' Hsieh said. ''Rescuers are still searching for the missing 15 fishermen.''

Taiwan TV said weather conditions were stormy in the area where the Horng Yun went down. - AP

Pinoy TNTs sa US apektado sa 'real ID system'

Inaasahang maapektuhan ang Filipino community sa Estados Unidos ng pinaplanong “Real ID system" na nais ipatupad doon bilang bahagi ng kampanya ng Amerika laban sa terorismo at illegal immigrants.

Sa ulat ng GMA News Saksi nitong Martes, sinabi ni US immigrant lawyer Michel Templo na ang mga Filipino na hindi dokumento o TNT (tago-ng-tago) ang siguradong maaapektuhan ng Real ID system.

“Not so much impact if they maintain their legal status. If they maintain their visa or legal immigration status, there is no much impact on that. The greater impact will be on TNTs," paliwanag ni Templo.

Dahil sa bagong ID system, inaasahan na magiging mahigpit ang US authorities sa paghingi ng mga ipakikitang dokumento ng mag-a-apply ng ID.

Sa listahan ng Commission on Filipino Overseas, lumitaw na umabot sa mahigit dalawang milyon ang Filipino na may permanent status sa US; mahigit 100,000 ang may temporary residence; at tinatayang 103,000 ang hindi dokumentado o ilegal.

Sa ilalim ng Real ID scheme, magiging mahigpit ang Amerika sa pagpoproseso ng mga mag-a-apply ng drivers license, at iba pang government-issued identification. Tanging ang mga may Real ID compliance lamang ang papayagang makasakay sa eroplano at makapasok sa federal buildings simula sa susunod na taon.

“There are three categories of people who will be very unhappy about secured driver’s licenses – terrorist and people who wanted to get on airplane and federal buildings and avoid terrorist watch list, illegal immigrants who wanted to work in this country by pretending to be American citizens, and convicts," ayon kay Michael Chertoff, secretary ng US Homeland Security.

Tiyak umanong aakyat sa Federal Supreme Court sa US ang usapin ng ID system dahil tulad ng pangamba ng mga Filipino sa isinusulong na National ID system sa Pilipinas, pinangangambahan na makapanghihimasok ito sa pribadong buhay ng mamamayan. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

Fil-Am soldier killed in Iraq gets full honors from US

Reno S. Lacerna, a Philippine-born sergeant at the US army, received full military honors on his interment on Wednesday.




Lacerna was the latest Filipino-American casualty in the Iraq war. He served with the 226th Quarter Master Company, 87th Corps Support Battalion, 3rd Sustainment Brigade of the 3rd Infantry Division based in Fort Stewart, Georgia.

In recognition of his valor and dedication, Sgt Lacerna received posthumously the Bronze Star Medal, the fourth highest US military award for gallantry in action.

Lacerna was interred at the Manila Memorial Park in Paranaque City on Wednesday.

US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney, Brigadier General Xavier P. Lobeto, Commanding General of the 19th Sustainment Command, 8th US army and a funeral honor from US Forces Korea-United Nations Command were present along with military representatives from the US embassy in Manila to honor Sgt Lacerna and his next of kin.

Sgt Lacerna was born in Manila on April 25, 1963. He had a Bachelor of Science degree in Management and Industrial Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Hawaii.

He first joined the US army in January 1997. Upon completion of his term of active duty service in December 2003, he joined the Hawaii Army National Guard “C" Company, which was deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II.

He was honorably discharged in June 2006 and six months later, returned to Iraq following re-enlistment into the US army.

He is survived by his wife Concepcion, and two sons, Iram, 13 years old and, Rencio, 12 years old; father, Augusto, and mother, Adoracion; and one brother and four sisters. - GMANews.TV

Customs chief says 2008 goal 'impossible' due to strong peso

An official of the Bureau of Customs on Wednesday said its 2008 revenue goal of P254.5 billion is unrealistic because of the continuing strength of the peso against the US dollar. Instead, Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales said the collections goal should be set below 2007's P228.2-billion target.

“With the continued peso appreciation, it will be next to impossible to meet this current goal," the Customs chief said. The government's collection goals are set by the Development and Budget Coordination Committee, an inter-agency body.

Last year, Customs fell short of its P228.2-billion collection target by P17.3 billion after it only managed to collect P210.9 billion. This year’s collection target of P254.5 billion is 20.7 percent or P43.6 billion higher than last year’s actual collections.

The government is looking at the possibility of reducing the collection target of the Customs by to P240.2 billion instead of the original goal of P254.5 billion due to lower import growth and revised foreign exchange assumptions.

This, after the Cabinet-level DBCC approved a revised foreign exchange forecast of P42 to P45 versus $1 from the original forecast of P46 to P48 per $1 and at the same time reduced the import growth forecast to nine percent instead of 11 percent.

Morales said DBCC's revised forex assumption for this year may even be unrealistic considering most banks anticipate the peso to further appreciate to P35 per $1.

According to him, the only factor that can jack up Customs' collections is the rise in crude oil prices to an average of $68 per barrel in 2007 from $27.89 per barrel in 2000. However, Morales clarified that collections from oil imports only account for about 30 percent of the agency’s total revenues. - GMANews.TV

Inquiry on gov't help to OFWs in coping with strong peso sought

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teodoro Casino has filed a resolution asking the House committee on economic affairs to review the action taken by the government to help the overseas Filipino workers and other sectors affected by the strong peso exchange against the dollar.

Interviewed over the phone on Wednesday, Casino said he expects the House leadership to support his resolution and give importance to it so that public hearings could start immediately.

Congress resumes regular sessions on January 28 after more than a month of vacation for the Christmas holidays.

“Due to urgency of the matter, I hope Speaker Jose de Venecia will support this resolution and the Rules committee will immediately refer it to the appropriate committee so the committee can start the hearing," Casino said.

Aside from the impact of a weak dollar to the OFW sector, Casino said he is also concerned about the situation of the import sector that depend highly on dollar denomination in doing their business.

“There's a reported decline in Philippine export earnings from electronics, garments, and manufactured goods, with about 3.5 million exporters affected by diminishing profits and the influx of cheaper imported products," Casino said.

He added that concerned sectors warned that the peso uptrend could result in massive displacement of workers and the shutting down of firms in the export sector that should be avoided.

The value of the peso against the dollar reached P41.4:$1 last December, the strongest showing since May 2000. Economists predicted that peso could reach P38:$1 this year.

To cushion the impact of a strong peso, the government has initiated a hedging program for the export sector and OFWs through the Development Bank of the Philippines.

Casino said although the hedging program could be useful to the export sector, he doubted if this could be effective to help OFWs and their families.

“Maganda marahil ang intensyon ng hedging program pero ano ang itsura nito at papaano ito direktang makatutulong sa OFWs na sila talaga ang nasa frontline na apektado ng mahinang dollar," the lawmaker explained.

Casino also finds the hedging program too technical, and can't be easily understood.

“Ang karaniwang OFW, regular na nagpapadala ng pera sa Pilipinas. Sa tingin ko hindi n'ya kakayanin na patulugin ang dollar n'ya ng ilang buwan sa hedging program. Ang hahanapin natin sa hearing 'yung immediately assistance na pwedeng magawa ng gobyerno," the lawmaker said. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV
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