Tuesday, April 29, 2008

China visa restrictions hit Filipino tourists

HONG KONG - Hundreds of Filipino tourists who go to mainland China on a regular basis appear to be among those hard hit by new entry visa restrictions imposed by Beijing on April 15.

A trip to the Chinese Foreign Ministry office in Wan Chai days after the new visa requirements were imposed showed no fewer than 50 Filipino visa applicants being turned away on a single day.

They included tourists planning to go on a day-long shopping trip to Shenzhen, regulars who buy and sell goods from the mainland, a group planning to attend a trade fair, and women working in Wan Chai bars who cross the border to get exit stamps on their passports.

Despite this, no one has reportedly sought the Philippine Consulate’s help in securing a mainland visa.

“We have heard from other Consulates, mostly Europeans, on how the new restrictions are affecting the way they do business with the mainland," said Consul General Alejandrino A. Vicente. “But we have not heard from our own nationals, including business people."

He said what he did was report the matter to the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila, and also asked Beijing for more details on the new restrictions.

The new rules that took effect only a day after they were made known to travel agents require all foreign passport holders, except those holding HK ID cards, to apply for a visitor’s visa from their country of origin.

And despite Beijing’s statement that multiple-entry visas are still issued, travel agents say only single-entry visas are now available.

The new rules are believed to have been imposed ahead of the Summer Olympics later this year.

Among those who had hoped to get into Shenzhen a few days after the tighter rules were imposed was Harvi, who works at a call center in Manila and sells clothes and fashion accessories on the side. She used to cross the border from HK to buy some of her goods, and was disappointed that she could no longer do it this time.

She was accompanied to Hong Kong by her cousins who had more time to plan their trip, and managed to apply for single-entry visas with the Chinese Embassy in Manila. They had to pay P1,400 for the visa issued within the maximum four-day waiting period. In comparison, short-term visas issued at the border cost only $150, or less than P800.

Among those who were turned away at the Foreign Ministry Office were three Wan Chai bar girls who appeared lost when told they would not be allowed inside the building because they did not have a Hong Kong ID.

One said she should have just applied for a visa in Bangkok, obviously still not aware that as a Filipino tourist, the only place she could have gotten a China visa was either from the Chinese Embassy in Manila or its Consulate in Cebu.

Told that the new visa rules could mean many Filipino bar girls in Wan Chai would be forced to return home, Vice Consul Val Roque of the Consulate said this could be “a blessing in disguise."

As head of the assistance to nationals section of the Consulate, Roque has had to deal with problems of human trafficking involving Filipinas who are lured to work as bar girls in Wan Chai.

The illicit trade has led to dozens of Filipinas being arrested and charged with soliciting for “immoral purpose." Many others have sought the Consulate’s help in escaping from the clutches of those who lured them into the profession.

“But of course, this should also be a cause for concern as legitimate traders could be affected," he said. “What they should do is plan ahead so they could apply for the visa in Manila."

An employment agency staff said the new visa rules are also proving to be a problem to another group of Filipinas: those who wait it out in Shenzhen while their new employment contract is being processed in Hong Kong.

“Wala na, hindi na sila puwedeng maghintay doon kasi wala pa naman silang HK ID. Yun namang meron ay limited na lang ang panahon na pwede silang tumigil sa Shenzhen (They can’t just wait it out there because they don’t have a HK ID. Those who have the ID have a limited time to spend in Shenzhen)," he said.

Hong Kong immigration rules require foreign domestic helpers to leave the territory while waiting for their work visa, but do not require them to return to their home country. Thus, those who want to avoid going through yet more screening and getting charged additional fees in Manila opt to wait it out across the border.

Labor Attache Romulo Salud sees the tightened visa rules as good news.

“We have always told our workers that they should go through the [Philipppine Overseas Employment Administration] in Manila so they are protected," said Salud. “When they exit only to Shenzhen, they technically become illegal workers and we will have difficulty providing them assistance."

For those who are persistent enough, though, there is always Macau.

Filipino entrepreneur Jonathan Aquino, who runs a travel agency on top of several other businesses in Macau, said Filipino tourists may still stay for up to a month in the enclave on their first arrival. However, their limit of stay is often cut to just 10 days on their second entry.

But as in Hong Kong, crossing into the Chinese border city of Zhuhai from Macau has also become more difficult for Filipino tourists.

Aquino said the three to six-month visas used to be given to Filipino tourists are no longer available. Now, they can only apply for a group visa of up to six days’ stay in Zhuhai, and must leave and return to Macau at the same time.

To be considered as a group, there should now be a minimum of five, instead of the previous three people required before the new rules were tightened. – GMANews.TV

Pinoy archbishop named Papal Nuncio to Mongolia

MANILA, Philippines - After being named the Vatican's ambassador to Korea, Filipino Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla received a second diplomatic assignment, that of papal nuncio to Mongolia.

The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines announced Monday that Pope Benedict XVI tapped Archbishop Padilla to succeed Archbishop Emil Paul Tscherrig, who was reassigned to northern Europe last January.

It noted that after the fall of communism in the early 1990s, the first Catholic missionaries – a Belgian and two Filipinos – arrived in Mongolia where few people had heard of Jesus Christ.

According to the CBCP, the Holy See established diplomatic relations with the former communist country in 1992.

It said the Church in Mongolia consists of one apostolic prefecture in Ulan Bator. Tibetan Buddhism is the most widely practiced religion in the country.

Born on Aug. 5, 1942, in Cebu province, Archbishop Padilla was ordained a priest in 1966 for Cebu archdiocese. He later obtained a doctorate in canon law.

Since 1972, Padilla has served as secretary and counselor at the nunciatures in France, Haiti, Ireland, Mexico, Nigeria and Sri Lanka.

He also served as nuncio to Panama (1990-1994), Sri Lanka (1994-1998), Nigeria (1998-2003) and Costa Rica (2003-2008).

Archbishop Padilla is fluent in English, French, Italian and Spanish. - GMANews.TV

Alleged illegal recruiter falls upon return from HK

MANILA, Philippines - A woman facing a string of illegal recruitment charges was arrested shortly upon arrival in the Philippines from Hong Kong.

Radio dzBB's Denver Trinidad reported Tuesday that aviation police arrested Connie Gomez at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The police served Gomez an arrest warrant issued by Manila judge Rustico Panganiban, stemming from charges lodged against her by at least 15 complainants.

According to alleged victims, Gomez promised them jobs in the United States and Canada, but the these never materialized.

Gomez was turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation after her arrest. - GMANews.TV

Alleged illegal recruiter falls upon return from HK

MANILA, Philippines - A woman facing a string of illegal recruitment charges was arrested shortly upon arrival in the Philippines from Hong Kong.

Radio dzBB's Denver Trinidad reported Tuesday that aviation police arrested Connie Gomez at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

The police served Gomez an arrest warrant issued by Manila judge Rustico Panganiban, stemming from charges lodged against her by at least 15 complainants.

According to alleged victims, Gomez promised them jobs in the United States and Canada, but the these never materialized.

Gomez was turned over to the National Bureau of Investigation after her arrest. - GMANews.TV

Pinay tagged as mastermind in $30-M bank scam

CHICAGO, Illinois-- A former US Air Force enlisted man who was sentenced to 41 months in prison in connection with a $30-million scheme to defraud a US-based bank, tagged a Filipina as the mastermind of the scheme.

Daniel Curran, 53, who was sentenced last April 23 by the US District Court of Columbia said Marilyn Ong “masterminded the whole scheme" to swindle the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im Bank).

According to Curran, from October 2000 to June 2005, he acted as a purported “exporter" of approximately $30-million worth of fraudulent loan transactions, falsified documents sent to US banks and to the Ex-Im Bank, and misappropriated about $24-million in loan proceeds.

The Irish-American was a former owner of Dankim Trading Corp., an exporting company located in Boynton Beach, and pleaded guilty on June 8, 2007, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and one count of mail fraud.

Curran, admitted keeping approximately $400,000 of those proceeds and transferring approximately $23-M to bank accounts owned and controlled by Ong, a co-conspirator in the Philippines.

To date, six individuals – Curran, Filipino-American David Villongco, Edward Chua, Robert Delgado, Christina Song and Jaime Galvez – have pleaded guilty for their involvement in the fraud scheme.

Curran’s sentencing is part of a broader investigation into an $80 million scheme to defraud the Ex-Im Bank between November 1999 and December 2005.

Villongco was sentenced on Feb. 29, 2008, to 33 months in prison; Galvez was sentenced on Jan.7, 2008, to one year in prison; and Delgado was sentenced on Oct. 5, 2007, to two years in prison.

In addition, four other individuals – Marilyn Ong, Ildefonso Ong, Nelson Ti and Joseph Tirona – have been indicted by a federal grand jury sitting in the District of Columbia for their alleged involvement in the scheme.

Curran’s cooperation provided critical information to investigators about the ‘inner workings’ of the scheme.

His testimonies also led to the investigation and prosecution of Ong, and others, including Galvez, whose JG International Freight Corporation was used by Curran as freight forwarder for the fraudulent loan transactions.

Laura E. Sweeney of the office of public affairs of the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., said Monday (April 28) that Curran, was sentenced to a three-year supervised release, forfeiture of his share of $140,000 of the $400,000 he received from the fraud to the US and restitution of $23,156,828 to the Ex-Im Bank.

Assistant Attorney General Alice S. Fisher of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Jeffrey A. Taylor of the District of Columbia said the “substantial assistance Curran provided to the government in its investigation and prosecution of others was taken into consideration at sentencing" for a “six-level" downward departure from level 28 (78-97 months) to level 22 (41-51 months) imprisonment.

Born in Yonkers, New York, Curran married Mary Catherine Curran (formerly Seeto Ong), who is the niece of Ong. He has two daughters.

A US Air Force freight traffic specialist for four years, he later worked as a Quality Assurance Manager for a New York plastic company for 11 years.

In the last years of his employment in the plastic company, he opened DanKim Trading and began engaging in the fraudulent Ex-Im Bank scheme, which funded primarily his livelihood. - Joseph Lariosa, GMANews.TV

2 Pinays who gave birth in Jeddah cell, 6 others, to return home

MANILA, Philippines- Two Filipinas who both gave birth inside a Jeddah deportation cell, along with six other Filipinos left Saudi Arabia Monday night and are bound to the Philippines, an official said.

According to Romeo Pablo, Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) Welfare Officer, six unnamed Filipinos left Dammam last night upon the consul's endorsement.

Two Filipina mothers, Shahani Odin at Zubaida Insiang were also returned home along with their new-born babies Ahmad Odin and Abdulaziz Insiang.

“They are the last stranded Filipinas endorsed to leave Saudi, “Pablo said.

The Filipinos were on board an Ittihad (EY-428) flight that left Saudi Arabia on the night of April 28.

The runaway Filipinas were endorsed by Consul General Ezzedin Tago for deportation last February.

Pablo explained that Odin and Insiang’s repatriation to the Philippines was earlier moved from early April to last night after the two unexpectedly gave birth inside the deportation cell.

Based on their list, Pablo said all distressed female overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) offered the legal deportation process by the consulate have returned home.

Six other Filipinos are left in Damman while another is still inside the deportation cell in Jeddah, Pablo reported.

"Right now we are still finishing the summary of all stranded OFWs who were endorsed by the consulate and have already been repatriated," he said. - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sixty Pinoys deported from California

More than 60 Filipinos were deported from the Los Angeles, California last week, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau reported.

The Filipinos, mostly permanent residents with criminal offenses were all flown back from the Unite States on a chartered flight.

Meanwhile, the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) arrested more than 200 undocumented workers in various states also last week.

Most of those arrested were Mexicans working in chicken farms in Mount Pleasant, Texas, Batesville, Arkansas, Live Oak, Florida, Chattanooga, Tennessee and Moorefield, Virginia.

However, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau said there could have been some Filipinos included.

Arrests were also made in Buffalo, New York, Bradford, Pennsylvania, Mentor, Ohio, West Virginia and Georgia.ABSCBN News
MIA standards at par with all global airports

Good News Pilipinas

The International Civil Aviation Organization gives the Manila International Airport the thumbs up.

ICAO says it is now at par with all airports in the world after it complied with international standards and hurdled the required security measures.

"The ICAO officials were impressed with the consistent high standard screening procedures of persons and luggage at various screening points," said Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi.

Cusi said that ICAO representatives Ken Robinson and Graham Lockwood remarked that "the pat down process was not only efficient but also non-intrusive."

He assured ICAO officials that the MIAA would continue to sustain its security grip of the premier airport, consistent with international standards set by the world body.

"The MIAA is exerting all efforts geared towards further improving not only the security process, but also taking care of the sensitivity of passengers not to be unduly bothered by body frisking, which annoys many air travelers," he said.

Robinson and Lockwood were in the country incognito last March 13 to oversee airport security procedures, so that MIAA personnel would be able to execute their assigned task unaware that they were being watched.

The ICAO's agent left the country after two weeks and submitted a report praising the MIAA's performance.

The Bangkok-based duo said that they were satisfied that the personnel complied fully with the mandate of ICAO Annex 17 Standards and Recommended Practices.

The MIAA also underwent regular inspections by ICAO personnel without advance notice, the same practice that they apply in all ICAO member countries, to assure that the level of safety of passengers and aircraft remain up to world standards.

Erring countries are immediately notified of violations and those unable to cope with a prescribed regulation find themselves downgraded to a lower category.

Angel Atutubo, general manager for Security and Emergency Services, wrote Robinson, a senior adviser and coordinator of the Civil Aviation Security Program (CASP) in Asia Pacific, and welcomed their findings.

Cusi stressed that the MIAA would continue to sustain ICAO standards for public safety. ABSCBN News

'New' tax on remittances old provision

Non-governmental organizations has cleared up the reported additional tax on overseas remittances saying this documentary stamp tax is nothing new.

Center for Migrant Advocacy Executive Director Ellene Sana told abs-cbnNEWS.com she verified the matter with the Bureau of Internal Revenue who said it was an old provision in the law.

"I spoke with Atty. Elenita Quimosin, chief of staff of the BIR deputy commissioner and she said even long ago, the documentary stamp tax (DST) has always been part of the taxes on remittances," Sana said.

Sana said overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were probably unaware of Section 181 of RA 8424 (the Comprehensive Tax Reform Act) which says "Upon any acceptance or payment of any bill of exchange or order for the payment of money purporting to be drawn in a foreign country but payable in the Philippines, there shall be collected a documentary stamp tax of Thirty centavos (P0.30) on each Two hundred pesos (P200), or fractional part thereof, of the face value of any such bill of exchange, or order, or the Philippine equivalent to such value, if expressed in foreign currency."

This amount translates to 0.15 percent of the total amount.

OFWs were already in an uproar because of a reported documentary stamp tax, which in actuality was not new. Furthermore, there were some erroneous reports that the DST amounted to 15 percent of remittances but in actuality was only 0.15 percent.

But even before Sana verified the reports, Filipino community leader in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Ronnie Abeto, said "this is actually a hoax email and was created by someone with imagination and plenty of time on his hands.

"Any new tax has to be legislated as an amendment to the Comprehensive Taxation Law which exempts OFWs from paying taxes. If you will check in Senate at Congress website – there is not even one resolution or bill filed or even just a proposal concerning this issue," Abeto said. ABSCBN News

Group slams RP officials for OFW's death in Jeddah

MANILA, Philippines-A Middle East-based migrant workers’ organization urged Philippine embassy officials to reveal the conditions of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) instead of sugar-coating the situation.

Migrante-Middle East issued the statement on Friday after the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah confirmed that an OFW died in a deportation cell earlier this month.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME’s regional coordinator said that Philippine officials in the oil-rich states do nothing else but deny or confirm reports.

"Then a lot of excuses will follow," Monterona added.

On Tuesday, Migrante International, the group’s umbrella organization, broke the news that a certain Ryan Castillo, 30, from Batangas City , died under harsh conditions in a Jeddah deportation cell.

Arman Navarro, a dump truck driver in Jeddah who was among the first batch of Filipinos repatriated to Manila this week, said that a friend of Castillo told him that the OFW had long been sick while inside the deportation cell but was not allowed to be sent to a hospital for treatment.

Esteban Conejos Jr, Foreign Affairs undersecretary for migrant workers affairs told GMANews.TV on Thursday that Castillo suddenly collapsed in jail. Responding personnel failed to revive the OFW.

Philippine consul general Ezzedin Tago only confirmed on Thursday that Castillo died on April 6 and admitted that the OFW was unaccounted for as he was not endorsed for deportation.

Castillo reportedly posed as a pilgrim who had lost his identification and turned himself in to expedite his deportation.

Because of this, the consulate was not able to endorse Castillo.

“If this has not been reported by Migrante to members of the Philippine press, Consul Tago will keep mum and would only exert little efforts to ease the deplorable conditions of the distressed OFWs inside the Jeddah deportation center," Monterona said.

Alarming cases of violence

According to Monterona, their group receives an average of three cases from OFWs a day.

“The rights violation committed against our fellow OFWs or even of other nationalities is quite alarming. Everyday, we are receiving E-mails and calls to an average of three cases from OFW victims asking for help and advise on what they should do on their respective cases," he explained.

Unable to receive help from the embassy, OFWs run to Migrante-ME’s Rights and Welfare Assistance Desk for assistance, Monterona claimed.

He added that some Filipino workers narrate how Philippine Embassy and Consulate officials even threaten them to be returned to their employer or send them to jails if they will not accept the so-called “amicable settlement" with their abusive employers.

“This neglectful support system, values and culture prevailing in Philippine Embassies and Consulates should be changed. And this could only be done if all the inept post officials abroad will be fired and be replaced by someone who has a heart and is willing to serve in the promotion and protection of OFWs rights and welfare ," he asserted.

Repatriation of OFWs

Monterona noted that their group has been calling for the immediate repatriation of distressed OFWs in Jeddah almost six months ago.

Most of these OFWs ran away from their ‘abusive’ employers and resided under the Al-Khandara flyover, awaiting arrest from the deportation police. Some of them also worked in Jeddah illegally.

“Six (6) months are a valuable time for the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to do prove to OFWs and families that it can advance and protect OFWs welfare by immediately sending them home without wait of anything awful that might happen," Monterona said.

Philippine officials in Jeddah earlier explained that the Filipino workers need to secure exit visa’s prior to being repatriated. -Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Pinoy arrested in Jeddah for raping 10-year-old girl

MANILA, Philippines - A 50-year-old Filipino was arrested by Saudi police last week after being accused of repeatedly forcing a 10-year-old girl to have sex with him at their compound at the Al-Ruwais district in Jeddah.

The suspect, identified only as Armando from Nueva Ecija, worked as a restaurant chef and lived in the same compound with the victim’s family.

According to the girl, Armando would call her to his home and force her to watch pornographic films before having sex with her.

"Pinapanood nya po ako nang mga sex video tapos pinapagaya nya po sa akin ang mga inaano ang mga nasa video na yun tapos sabi nya na huwag ko daw sabihin kahit kanino kahit sa magulang ko," the fourth-grader narrated, adding that that she was raped twice in a week.

(Translation: "He would force me to watch sex videos before asking me to imitate what I saw. He ordered me not to tell anyone – not even my parents – what we were doing.")

Armando also told her he wanted to have their child.

Neighbor’s tip

Fearing that their lives would be in grave danger, the victim hid the incident from relatives.

The girl’s mother, Liza, said she wouldn’t have known of her daughter’s rape if a neighbor had not tipped her of Armando’s "strange" behavior toward her child.

The neighbor suspected something was wrong when he caught the 50-year-old man allegedly bringing food to the young girl.

When Liza confronted her daughter, the girl finally broke her silence.

"Hindi pa nagsasalita ang anak ko ay para na pong may malaking trak na bumundol sa dibdib ko, dahil may kutob na nga po ako (Even before my daughter spoke I felt like a huge truck had rolled over me because I was already suspecting something)," the teary-eyed mother said.

Immediate arrest

Liza then complained to Saudi police who immediately arrested Armando as he was about to leave for Hawaii at around 2 a.m. (Jeddah time) last Thursday (April 17) .

The victim’s aunt claimed that Armando offered to just settle the case outside the court to which they vehemently refused.

"Siya ay gumawa nang isang bagay na talagang kasuka-suka. Pagdusahan niya dapat ang kanyang ginawa sa lupa at managot sya sa itaas kung ano ang magiging hatol sa kanya (He did something very disgusting. He should suffer for what he did and I hope the Lord will judge him accordingly)," the girl’s aunt said.

The family is preparing charges against the suspect. - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

Pinoy arrested in Jeddah for showing porn films

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino allegedly operating a movie house showing obscene films in the Al-Sinaiyah district in Jeddah was arrested by Saudi authorities in a raid last month.

Saudi Arabia's Committee for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice discovered, after a concerned citizen's tip, the establishment showing pornographic movies, mostly to Filipino patrons.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago said that a "liquor factory" was also found in the area, allegedly also owned by the Filipino. The equipments were confiscated following the unidentified Filipino's arrest.

Tago warned Filipinos in Saudi Arabia to avoid engaging in illegal activities so that they may not end up in jail.

He also assured that the consulate will do its best to assist the arrested Filipino in Jeddah. - Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

OFW who died in Saudi cell changed name for backdoor exit

MANILA, Philippines - The Filipino who died in a Jeddah deportation cell earlier this month was not endorsed by the consulate after using a different name in preparation for a 'backdoor exit.'

This was the clarification of Philippine Consul General Ezzedin Tago after several militant groups blamed the officials there for the death of 30-year-old Ryan Castillo inside the Jeddah deportation center on April 6.

According to Tago, Castillo used a false name when he went to the deportation facility on his own volition, making it difficult for them to find out his condition.

"When we received a call, we immediately sent our people to check up on him. He was rushed to the hospital but he already lost his vital signs there," Tago said.

An umbrella organization of Filipinos in Jeddah came to the defense of Tago in the incident.

Kapulungan ng Samahang Pilipino (KASAPI) Congress asserted that Tago was unaware of Castilo’s plight inside the deportation cell especially since the OFW was using a different name.

"We should not blame these incidents to the Philippine Consulate since Ryan Castillo used another name inside the facility," Jouhari Usman, a member of KASAPI defended.

Tago meanwhile assured that the Philippine consulate is exerting all efforts to repatriate Castillo’s remains as soon as possible.

Backdoor exit

Tago explained that most runaway OFWs from different parts of Saudi Arabia flock Jeddah’s holding facility in the belief that it’s easier to undergo the deportation process there through a ‘backdoor exit.’

The backdoor exit is an illegal means of deportation in Saudi Arabia where an OFW changes his/her Christian name to a Muslim one to assume that he or she was stranded there after the Islamic pilgrimages of Hajj and Umrah.

Since there is a yearly repatriation for Muslim pilgrims who overstayed, some OFWs take this opportunity to become backdoor deportees.

(For more information click this link.)

"We do not immediately know the situation of OFWs who use a different name until the Saudi deportation authorities finishes their investigation and ask us through an official letter to issue the necessary travel documents," Tago explained.

Even if consulate officials go to the deportation centers daily to list the names of the Filipino deportees, however, Tago said that other OFWs will just write an ‘assumed name.’

"They do not write their real names fearing that we will turn them in to Saudi authorities which we never do. Some of those who have illnesses also do not tell us their health condition," he said.

Militant groups like Migrante-Middle East scored Tago and other Philippine officials in Jeddah for neglecting the plight of the stranded Filipinos in the oil-rich country.

With the death of Castillo, the group also calls for the replacement of all Philippine embassy and consulate officials in Jeddah.

According to Nhel Morona, secretary-general of Migrante-United Arab Emirates, there are 2,000 more distressed and abused OFWs awaiting repatriation in the Middle East.
- GMANews.TV

Filipino nurses aspiring to work in the US have declined

MANILA, Philippines - The number of Filipino nurses who applied for work in the United States have declined during the first three months of 2008, compared to the same period last year.

Data provided by Catanduanes Representative Joseph Santiago indicated that only 4,686 Filipino nurses took a US-administered exam from January to March 2008, lower than the 5,076 who also took the test the previous year. The number decreased by 390, or seven percent.

In 2007, a total of 21,499 Filipinos took the said test—the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX)—for the first time, excluding repeaters. This was an increase of 42 percent compared to the 15,171 Filipino nurses who took the exam in 2006.

The NCLEX is administered by the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc. (NCSBSN).

Santiago, who has been pushing for reforms to build up Philippine nursing education, said the 2007 figures “translate to a daily average of around 60 Filipino nurses seeking to practice in the US alone."

Besides demanding the closure of substandard Philippine nursing schools, the Catanduanes representative also earlier publicized a list of institutions that have performed below par.

He also expressed support for a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) directive compelling each independent Philippine nursing licensure examination review center to promptly affiliate with an accredited college, or face closure.

The senior lawmaker said this move would ensure the scholastic accountability of review centers and check the spread of deficient ones, including fly-by-night operators, which have been since increased due to the high demand for nurses.

Nursing has become the preferred course of a growing number of college enrollees.

The CHED’s Office of Policy, Planning, Research and Information sees almost half a million or 497,000 students taking up nursing in the school year 2008-2009.

Next to nursing, the second most favored course is hotel and restaurant management, with some 134,600 projected students, followed by computer science which is expected to attract 100,700 students.

Students interested in taking criminology are expected to reach 96,900, information technology, 95,300; accountancy, 89,500; business management, 82,800; elementary education, 67,000; English education, 52,300; and electronics and communications engineering, 48,200. - GMANews.TV

HK bank sees 3.9% GDP, bleak 2008 for RP

MANILA, Philippines- Hong Kong-based brokerage and investment group CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets has painted depressing scenario for the Philippine economy, which it sees growing by only 3.9 percent this year from 7.3 percent last year due to weak export earnings and remittances from overseas Filipinos.

In a weekly economic commentary entitled “Manila Oblivion," CLSA also blamed galloping inflation for their bleak forecast.

“We are less sanguine, forecasting 3.9 percent growth this year and 3.4 percent in 2009, after 7.3 percent growth last year," the investment bank said. The 2007 GDP growth was the fastest achieved in 31 years.

CLSA's GDP growth forecast is way below the government target of between 6.3 percent and 7 percent expansion for 2008.

“We expect economic growth to moderate this year on the back of slowing remittance inflows, weakening export demand and as rising inflation bites in to real spending," it added.

Robust economic growth last year, CLSA said, could be attributed to the six percent growth in consumption due to the record $14.3 billion remittances from overseas Filipinos. With the world economy slowing down and prices of consumer products rising fast, the investment firm said the factors propping up the country's economy will significantly diminish.

The investment bank said Philippine remittances are more vulnerable despite growing 15 percent in the first two months of the year as bulk of the overseas jobs are in pro-cyclical sectors and about 50 percent are in the United States.

Furthermore, it warned that rising inflation due to higher oil and food prices is eroding purchasing power. Inflation swelled to a 20-month high of 6.4 percent in March from 5.4 percent in February due to rising oil and rice prices.

“The rise in inflation due to rice prices bears close watch though not only because of the adverse implications for consumer spending but also government finances," CLSA said.

The investment bank sees the state-run National Food Authority (NFA) losing between P40 billion and P50 billion this year due to the rice crisis putting more pressure on the government’s commitment to balanced the budget this year.

“There will be fiscal slippage this year even though the budget deficit ended at a decade low of 0.2 percent of GDP last year. Growth in tax revenues are slowing and privatization proceeds are likely to be smaller this year," it warned.

Due to rising inflation, the investment bank sees the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) slashing the overnight borrowing and lending rates by 25 basis points this year. The central bank kept overnight borrowing rate at 5.0 percent and lending rate at 7.0 percent the other day.

Likewise, CLSA pointed out that export growth of the Philippines is past the peak as exports in terms of volume are softening due to the economic slowdown in the US – the country’s major export market. - GMANews.TV

DBP offers scholarship for aspiring nurses

MANILA, Philippines - In a bid to ensure an “adequate and continuing supply of trained and qualified professionals for domestic and overseas requirements," the Development Bank of the Philippines is providing a special scholarship program for indigent but qualified students who wish to work as nurses and seamen, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said Sunday.

Bunye in his column “View from the Palace" said the DBP Endowment for Education Program (DEEP) will initially focus on training of nurses who are in demand in the Philippines and abroad.

Under DEEP, nursing scholars would be provided a scholarship grant that covers all expenses from first year up to graduation.

“What is unique about this program is that funds will be released in advance to participating schools, relieving scholars of the burden of having to re-apply every semester," he said.

Bunye revealed that an initial 545 “indigent but deserving applicants" have already taken the nursing scholarship entrance exams conducted through DBP’s partner-schools that include St. Louis University, Our Lady of Fatima, Cebu Normal University, Mindanao State University, West Visayas State University, Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila.

Of the 545, 188 have already passed the entrance exams.

DBP President Reynaldo David said DEEP is part of the bank’s contribution to sustainable development of the country’s human resource.

David said that after the nursing scholars, DBP would then provide a similar scholarship grant for seamanship. - GMANews.TV

Beware of job offers in Romania using just tourist visas – POEA

QUEZON CITY, Philippines - Beware of recruiters who offer jobs in Romania but say that you would have to enter the country first as tourists, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) warned on Saturday.

According to a POEA advisory, the recruiters will promise the potential overseas Filipino workers that a work permit will be when they arrive in Romania.

"Working in Romania using tourist visa (that is, a short-stay visa) is not possible because it is issued only through invitation and cannot be used for a longer stay," the advisory said. "Filipino workers who wish to legally stay and work in Romania should acquire the appropriate visa."

Employers there need to file with the Romanian immigration office a labor permit (that is, long-stay visa for labor purposes) on behalf of foreign workera. Employers have justify the necessity of hiring the foreign workers. - GMANews.TV

OFWs shouldn't be sent to areas with record of abuse - Villar

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

DAVAO CITY, Philippines - If he can have it his way, Senate President Manuel Villar will impose an outright ban on the deployment of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to countries that have track record of abusive employers.

In an interview Friday, Villar said what is more important is for the government to protect the welfare of its people than keep good diplomatic relations with countries that have a long list of abuses inflicted on the OFWs.

"It is okay to strain relations. You have to protect your people first," Villar said when asked if a ban would affect the diplomatic relations of the Philippines with other countries.

Villar was in Davao City Friday to bring home an OFW who escaped from her employer in Abu Dhabi after her employer refused to pay her monthly salary.

He added that the countries, with a long list of abuses to OFWs, are relatively small in number. "Europe and Asia are okay, we just have to focus on these countries which are known for abusing our OFWs," Villar said. - Sun.Star Davao

Group on distressed OFWs: If Villar can do it, why not Arroyo?

MANILA, Philippines - If Senate President Manny Villar managed to repatriate 14 distressed overseas Filipino workers from Middle East in a short period of time, why can’t President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo do the same?

This was the query made by John Leonard Monterona, coordinator of militant Migrante International in the Middle East, as he appealed to the Arroyo government to repatriate an estimated 2,000 distressed and runaway OFWs in the oil rich region.

“If Senator Villar could bring stranded OFWs to their home in just a short time, the Arroyo administration, having all the machinery and resources of the government, could surely bring home the almost 2,000 OFWs," he said.

Monterona said the distressed OFWs are in different deportation and resource centers in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Kuwait, Bahrain and Qatar waiting their chance to go back home.

“We could clearly distinguish the difference between a leader who has a compassion and sincere recognition on OFWs rights and welfare, and a leader who do not have such quality; the former is more on action and the latter is criminally neglectful to OFWs and their families," Monterona explained.

Nine OFWs from Jordan returned home last Monday and another five OFWs from UEA arrived Thursday.

Villar shouldered the expenses for the plane tickets of the migrant workers who were believed to be victims of different kinds of maltreatment.

The Senate leader chanced upon the distressed OFWs in Jordan and UAE while on his way to South Africa, where he attended the annual Interparliamentary Union (IPU) summit last week.

After helping in the repatriation of distressed OFWs, Villar filed a resolution seeking heavier penalties against syndicates involved in human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Villar on Thursday filed Senate Resolution No. 366 which urges the Senate to conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation of labor recruitment, anti-human smuggling, and immigration laws of the country. - Fidel Jimenez, GMANews.TV

California court convicts a Filipino for killing wife, son

COMPTON, Calif - A Filipino man convicted of stabbing to death his wife and smothering their 8-year-old son in a Paramount apartment before setting their bodies on fire has been sentenced to life in prison.

Deputy District Attorney Ann Park tells The Associated Press a Superior Court judge sentenced 36-year-old Ernesto Acedo on Thursday to 35 years in prison plus two life terms for the August 2005 killings. A jury convicted Acedo in February.

Park says Acedo has a tourist visa and will be serving his prison time in the United States.

Messages left for Acedo's attorney Frederick Lacey were not immediately returned.

Prosecutors say Acedo believed his 30-year-old wife Maila, a Filipino immigrant and registered nurse, was having an affair. - AP

US Senate approves WWII veterans compensation bill

CHICAGO, Illinois - The United States Senate has approved a veterans’ benefits law, helping the cause of Filipino war veterans looking to receive pensions from both Manila and Washington.

The Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act (S. 1315) was passed by an overwhelming 96-1 votes in the US chamber which has 100 senators.

The bill now moves to the US Congress for debate and a floor vote. If the proposed law passes muster, it will then go to President George W. Bush for his signature.

Once approved, it will allow some 13,000 Filipino war veterans to receive $300 as monthly pension and other benefits from the US government. It will also allow them to receive benefits from the Philippines.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would provide a veterans’ pension to Filipino veterans of World War II residing in the US and in the Philippines.

Under the proposed bill, veterans residing in the Philippines would receive a smaller pension than those residing in the US, to account for differences in cost-of-living in the two countries.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 also includes a multitude of improvements to veterans’ benefits, including provisions to establish a new program of insurance for service-connected disabled veterans; expand eligibility for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under Service members’ group life insurance; increase the maximum amount of veterans’ mortgage life insurance that a service-connected disabled veteran may purchase;
provide individuals with severe burn injuries specially adapted housing benefits; and extend for two years the monthly educational assistance allowance for apprenticeship or other on-the-job training.

The US bill’s Senate enactment was delayed for some time since a Philippine law forfeited Filipino veterans’ benefits should they choose to secure pension from the United States.

Republic Act No. 6948 also known as “An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and Their Dependents" was later amended by Philippine Senator Richard J. Gordon, allowing Filipino veterans to receive benefits from governments of both countries.

When the bill was introduced in the US Senate floor, the proposed law provided for a flat rate of $3,600 annual non-service disability pension for single Filipino veterans living in the Philippines, $4,500 annually for married veterans, and $2,400 annually for surviving spouses.

A similar bill pending at the US Congress currently pending before Chairman Bob Filner seeks higher benefits.

US presidential hopeful hails passage of veterans’ bill

“Our veterans and service members have made incredible sacrifices for our nation, and today, the Senate honored their service by providing them with the care and benefits they deserve," Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama said in a statement.

For his part, Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, who also chairs the US Veterans Affairs’ Committee, applauded his colleagues for passing the bill.

Prior to voting on the bill’s final passage, the US Senate debated on an amendment to remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans residing in the Philippines.

This amendment was defeated by a vote of 56-41, with Akaka leading the charge for the Filipino veterans’ pension.

According to Jon Meligrito, press spokesman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), for the amendment to pull through, it required 49 votes since there were 97 senators present.

Six Republicans joined the Democrats in rejecting what was widely viewed as a highly discriminatory act against Filipino veterans.

NaFFAA National Chair Alma Kern asked the Filipino American community members not to rest on this milestone yet.

“They have to keep on calling members of the House of Representatives to urge them to support the Filipino Veterans Act. We have to see this campaign thru to the finish. It’s up to us to make it happen," Kern said.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye, sponsor of the original S. 57, the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill, hailed the passage of legislation that provides approximately $166 million for a special pension for Filipino veterans who fought alongside US forces during World War II.

“Senate approval of the benefits for the surviving Filipino veterans is the first step in removing a more than 60-year-old stain on our national honor," Inouye said. “Senate approval was the right action to take, and it fulfills our long-held promise to our Filipino comrades in arms."

For nearly 20 years, Senator Inouye has fought to have the Filipino veterans’ benefits restored. - JOSEPH G. LARIOSA, GMANews.TV

Friday, April 25, 2008

RP execs to OFWs: Don't defy travel ban vs Iraq

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine authorities in Iraq are verifying reports that seven Filipino workers in Dubai left their work site two months ago and slipped into Iraq.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported Thursday that the news prompted the Philippine consulate general to caution Filipinos against going to Iraq.

Consul Vicente Bandillo has warned Filipinos in the United Arab Emirates about violating the travel ban to the troubled country.

Bandillo cited reports Wednesday that seven Filipino workers in Dubai left their work site slipped into Iraq using their old passports.

He said that the Philippine government's travel ban to Iraq has been in force since 2004.

But since Philippine passports are good for two years, some Filipinos whose passports are due to expire next year without the notice "Not Valid For Travel To Iraq" are taking the risk by using their expiring passports to slip into the war-torn country, he said.

Back to Iraq?

Following the US State Department’s renewal of its contract with Blackwater, a US-based private contractor providing securities to American diplomats and personnel in Iraq, John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East earlier feared that more Filipinos would soon be deployed there.

Monterona said his group has received reports that several OFWs deployed in Iraq are serving in construction and security in US facilities in Iraq and US military camps such as Camp Anaconda and Camp Victory, using Kuwait as a point of entry.

This was validated by Roy Cimatu, presidential special envoy to the Middle East, when he went to Iraq in August last year to investigate the alleged trafficking of 51 Filipinos into Baghdad to work in the construction of the huge US embassy compound there.

“We believe that there are still a considerable number of OFWs in Iraq right now, whose very lives are at stake given that the war waged by the Iraqi revolutionary movements against the US military invaders are escalating, especially in Basra and inside Baghdad City as well," Monterona said.

Last year, two former employees of First Kuwaiti General Trading and Contracting Co. confessed in a US congressional proceeding that Filipino workers promised jobs in Dubai hotels were deceptively recruited and trafficked to Iraq for a massive US embassy construction project in Baghdad.

John Owens and Roy Mayberry, both Americans, testified before a US congressional oversight investigation that 51 Filipino laborers at the US embassy construction site, were living in substandard conditions and paid minimally. - GMANews.TV

7 female OFWs return to RP with tales of abuse

MARK MERUEƱAS, GMANews.TV


Email this | Email the Editor | Print | Digg this | Add to del.icio.us (Updated) MANILA, Philippines - Seven overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded in the United Arab Emirates were flown back to the Philippines on Thursday, telling stories of abuse from their employers.

A radio report said that the all-female group of repatriates arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) from Abu Dhabi on Thursday afternoon via Etihad Airways at about 2:40 p.m.

The seven OFWs who returned home in the country were Lea Malunes, 27, of Camarines Sur; Salama Bakal, 28, of Cotabato City; Bernadette Romero, 38, of Cavite; Luciana Lunar, 44, of Batangas; Fennie Tiletile, 48, of Tagum City; Mesa Palares; and Loyda Adlawa, from Pangasinan whose age is unknown.

The radio report quoted the repatriated women as saying their employers subjected them under harsh working conditions – including being overworked, maltreated, and deprived of regular meals.

“Pinalo ako sa likod tapos sabi ko isugod ako sa ospital kasi sumusuka ako ng dugo. Sabi niya, buti nga mamatay ka na. Buti nga sabi niya mamatay ka na (My employer hit me in the back. I told my employer to rush me to the hospital because I was coughing up blood. My employer only said, ‘It’s better that you die’)," one of them said immediately after disembarking from their plane.

Bakal recounted how even her employers’ children would beat her up, saying “Mahirap kasi ang dami ng anak ng amo ko, ang lalaki at salbahe po (It was difficult because my employer has many children. They were all big and abusive)."

“Sinaktan po kami. Pinipilit kaming magtrabaho kahit ayaw na naming magtrabaho kasi nga nananakit po iyong aming mga amo (We were battered. They forced us to work even if we refused to because they would only hurt us)," Adlawa, for her part, recalled.

One Filipino worker even said she had only been in the UAE for barely four months but could no longer withstand the heavy work load.

When she pleaded with her employer that she be returned to her recruitment agency, she was allegedly hammered with a hanger.

The women also asked the government to also assist the remaining Filipino workers in UAE, who are unable to escape since their passports are being withheld from them by their employers.

The seven OFWs were repatriated with the help from Senate President Manuel “Manny" Villar Jr, who shouldered the airplane tickets of the workers.

On Monday, nine stranded Filipino workers, including minors, were flown back to the Philippines almost one year after allegedly enduring abusive treatment from their employers in Jordan.

The overseas workers were also given financial assistance by the Senate President.

Villar has filed a Senate resolution demanding for a more comprehensive review of the implementation of labor recruitment and immigration laws in the country.

He also said in the interview that he would be pushing for an amendment of the Overseas Workers Welfare Authority charter, so that assistance will be given not only to OWWA members but also to those who are undocumented workers. - GMANews.TV

Villar wants stiffer penalties vs illegal recruiters, human traffickers

MANILA, Philippines - After helping in the repatriation of 15 distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the Middle East, Senate President Manny Villar is now seeking heavier penalties against syndicates involved in human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Villar on Thursday filed Senate Resolution No. 366 which urges the Senate to conduct a comprehensive review of the implementation of labor recruitment, anti-human smuggling, and immigration laws of the country.

He presented his resolution to the media during the Senate visit of five allegedly maltreated OFWs from Abu Dhabi who had returned to the country.

Villar, who shouldered the airfares of the five OFWs as well as those of the 10 others who returned from Jordan last Monday, said illegal recruitment is considered as an offense involving economic sabotage when committed against three or more persons as defined in the Labor Code.

According to the Senate president, there is a need for comprehensive review of immigration laws in the wake of the reported rampant human smuggling activities, the increasing number of incarcerated OFWs particularly in the Middle East, the reported maltreatment and abuse of OFWs, and the illegal recruitment even of minors using the 'escort system.'

"The OFWs are now considered the biggest partners of our country's economic development with their remittances accounting for the continuing appreciation of the peso," Villar said.

The Senate president noted that there are at least 7,945,252 OFWs whose remittances through formal banking institutions alone reached over $7 billion in the first half of 2007.

"There is a seemingly lax implementation and trend towards compromise of our laws and policies on illegal recruitment, anti-human smuggling and immigration in exchange for economic benefits and dollar remittances of OFWs," Villar said in his resolution.

"This review must be conducted immediately to realize the objectives of the constitutional provisions on a truly meaningful and caring labor environment," he added.

The five OFWs who visited Villar at his office were Lea Malunes, 27, from Camarines Sur; Salama Bakal, 28, from Cotabato City; Bernadette Romero, 38, from Cavite; Luciana Lunar, 44, from Batangas; and Fennie Tiletile, 48, from Tagum City.

The five said they escaped from their respective employers due to overwork, maltreatment, and insufficient food.

Villar welcomed them with sari-store pangkabuhayan goodies, while Senate doctors examined their conditions. - GMANews.TV

OFWs hit documentary stamp tax on remittance

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines - Migrante, an alliance of overseas Filipino workers’ organizations, said the impending documentary stamp tax (DST) imposition on all international transfers, including OFW remittance, is but another scheme of state exaction burdening OFWs and families.

Migrante spokesperson John Monterona told Sun.Star Bacolod in a phone interview that they “deplore the Congress for formulating tax legislation, courtesy of pro-Arroyo senators and congressmen, devoid of consultation and public hearing imposing the DST.

“This impending tax imposition on OFWs remittance is but another scheme of state exaction burdening and exploiting OFWs and families in time of soaring prices of food and relatively weak dollar exchange," said Monterona.

Monterona said Migrante and other OFWs got the information that the Arroyo administration would soon be imposing the DST on all international transfers from a branch of Western Union based in the United Arab Emirates.

“Our sources have confirmed this impending imposition equivalent to 0.15% of the remitted amount," he added.

“The DST will cover all remittance companies and banks in the Philippines."

Monterona said the OFWs and their families will reject this additional tax imposition on OFWs’ meager income, where most OFWs are receiving salary ranging from US$250 to US$400 monthly, especially in time of economic crisis.

“If an OFW is to send US100, which is P4,160 based on the current exchange rate, the 0.15% (DST) is P6.24, which would be deducted from his remittance, (aside from the remittance fee of 35 Riyals (P130) charged by the remittance center where he send his remittance).

The remittance to be receive by the OFW family is obviously not enough in time of soaring prices of food and basic commodities," Monterona added. - Sun.Star Bacolod »

Gov’t urged to remove taxes on OFW remittances

MANILA, Philippines - A migrant workers' organization on Thursday appealed to the government for an “economic relief" by removing unnecessary taxes imposed on dollar remittances of overseas Filipino workers.

Maita Santiago, secretary general of the militant group Migrante International, told GMA News that many OFWs and their families are not aware how much taxes the government collects from their remittances.

“Many OFWs have no idea that the government is deducting a hefty percentage from every dollar they are sending home," Santiago said.

The report said banks and remittance centers abroad collect an average $15 to $26 service for every transaction of dollar remittances. This is on top of the bank service charges and documentary stamp tax collected from the remittance once it reaches the Philippines.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue said that in every $1,000 remittance the government collects P61 documentary stamp tax.

Labor Sec. Marianito Roque, also the concurrent administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), said collecting documentary tax from dollar remittance is in the Internal Revenue Code.

“That has been in existence since 1990s and that is part of the internal revenue code so [banks must comply]," Roque said.

However, MalacaƱang said it is open to discuss the plea of OFWs.

Mely Tee, whose sister is a maid in Hong Kong, said removing those taxes would mean additional savings to her budget. “I can save a lot. The amount of tax that would be removed could buy a half sack of rice."

Last year, OFW remittances reached $14 billion or $1 billion a month – of which an estimated P62 million goes to documentary stamp tax. - GMANews.TV

US Senate approves WWII veterans compensation bill

CHICAGO, Illinois - The United States Senate has approved a veterans’ benefits law, helping the cause of Filipino war veterans looking to receive pensions from both Manila and Washington.

The Veterans’ Benefits Enhancement Act (S. 1315) was passed by an overwhelming 96-1 votes in the US chamber which has 100 senators.

The bill now moves to the US Congress for debate and a floor vote. If the proposed law passes muster, it will then go to President George W. Bush for his signature.

Once approved, it will allow some 13,000 Filipino war veterans to receive $300 as monthly pension and other benefits from the US government. It will also allow them to receive benefits from the Philippines.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 would provide a veterans’ pension to Filipino veterans of World War II residing in the US and in the Philippines.

Under the proposed bill, veterans residing in the Philippines would receive a smaller pension than those residing in the US, to account for differences in cost-of-living in the two countries.

The Veterans Benefits Enhancement Act of 2007 also includes a multitude of improvements to veterans’ benefits, including provisions to establish a new program of insurance for service-connected disabled veterans; expand eligibility for retroactive benefits from traumatic injury protection coverage under Service members’ group life insurance; increase the maximum amount of veterans’ mortgage life insurance that a service-connected disabled veteran may purchase;
provide individuals with severe burn injuries specially adapted housing benefits; and extend for two years the monthly educational assistance allowance for apprenticeship or other on-the-job training.

The US bill’s Senate enactment was delayed for some time since a Philippine law forfeited Filipino veterans’ benefits should they choose to secure pension from the United States.

Republic Act No. 6948 also known as “An Act Standardizing and Upgrading the Benefits for Military Veterans and Their Dependents" was later amended by Philippine Senator Richard J. Gordon, allowing Filipino veterans to receive benefits from governments of both countries.

When the bill was introduced in the US Senate floor, the proposed law provided for a flat rate of $3,600 annual non-service disability pension for single Filipino veterans living in the Philippines, $4,500 annually for married veterans, and $2,400 annually for surviving spouses.

A similar bill pending at the US Congress currently pending before Chairman Bob Filner seeks higher benefits.

US presidential hopeful hails passage of veterans’ bill

“Our veterans and service members have made incredible sacrifices for our nation, and today, the Senate honored their service by providing them with the care and benefits they deserve," Illinois Democratic Senator Barack Obama said in a statement.

For his part, Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii, who also chairs the US Veterans Affairs’ Committee, applauded his colleagues for passing the bill.

Prior to voting on the bill’s final passage, the US Senate debated on an amendment to remove a provision providing a limited pension for Filipino World War II veterans residing in the Philippines.

This amendment was defeated by a vote of 56-41, with Akaka leading the charge for the Filipino veterans’ pension.

According to Jon Meligrito, press spokesman of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA), for the amendment to pull through, it required 49 votes since there were 97 senators present.

Six Republicans joined the Democrats in rejecting what was widely viewed as a highly discriminatory act against Filipino veterans.

NaFFAA National Chair Alma Kern asked the Filipino American community members not to rest on this milestone yet.

“They have to keep on calling members of the House of Representatives to urge them to support the Filipino Veterans Act. We have to see this campaign thru to the finish. It’s up to us to make it happen," Kern said.

Senator Daniel K. Inouye, sponsor of the original S. 57, the Filipino Veterans Equity Bill, hailed the passage of legislation that provides approximately $166 million for a special pension for Filipino veterans who fought alongside US forces during World War II.

“Senate approval of the benefits for the surviving Filipino veterans is the first step in removing a more than 60-year-old stain on our national honor," Inouye said. “Senate approval was the right action to take, and it fulfills our long-held promise to our Filipino comrades in arms."

For nearly 20 years, Senator Inouye has fought to have the Filipino veterans’ benefits restored. - JOSEPH G. LARIOSA, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Underage OFWs abused by employers in Jordan

MANILA, Philippines - After months of calling on Philippine officials to facilitate their repatriation from Jordan, nine overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), five of them minors, breathed a collective sigh of relief on Monday afternoon following their arrival in Manila.

Now that they have returned home, the OFWs begin to tell their tragic experiences in the hands of their employers.

“My male employer punched me then dragged me to the living room. Fearing that neighbors might hear me cry, he dragged me again behind the door, where I was made to sit," an underage female OFW told GMANews' reporter Lei Alviz in Filipino.

A 13-year-old girl meanwhile said that she was not paid by her abusive employers so she decided to run away.

The OFW repatriates were emotional as they were greeted by their relatives at the airport.

Senate President Manuel "Manny" Villar financed the repatriation of the OFWs after he personally witnessed in October last year the conditions of around 200 Filipinos stuck in Jordan.

Avic Amarillo, Villar’s media officer, earlier said the senator chanced upon the distressed OFWs in Jordan while on his way to South Africa, where he attended the annual Interparliamentary Union (IPU) summit.

Villar shouldered the airplane tickets of the OFWs via Thai Airways after being stranded in the Middle East kingdom for almost a year.

The Senate president, lamented the fact that three of the OFWs were allowed to work abroad despite being minors.


With the “police’s" help

One of the young workers, whose identity was withheld, said she was able to go out of the country with the help of ‘policemen.’

“There were two ‘policemen’ who escorted me so that I can enter the airport," one of the young repatriates revealed to Alviz in the interview.

It was not clear whether the ‘policemen’ were airport police or members of the Philippine National Police

Reports also said some of the OFWs’ recruiters were able to convince them to work abroad despite the absence of some of the requirements with the assurance that immigration officers will help them.

Villar explained that although it is indicated in the passport that the holder is of age, one can easily determine that it is not true as the holder looks young.

"There seems to be racket that allows minors or undocumented OFWs to be smuggled past immigration officers at the airport. And because they're young, they were abused in the countries they went to," Villar said.

Meanwhile, the senator said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration should explain the slow process in the repatriation of Filipinos abroad.

Villar also suggested raising more funds to repatriate other distressed and runaway OFWs especially in the Middle East.

Investigation

Airport Development and Corporate Affairs Assistant Gen Manager Tirso Serrano vowed to investigate the allegations that certain airport and immigration officials connived to facilitate the escape of the underage OFWs.

“Illegal trafficking has no place at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport," Serrano told GMANews.

“What is important is that we catch who is involved here. If a certain syndicate continues to operate, we will definitely get to the bottom of things," he added.
- Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

RP nurses call for an end to bullying by US doctors, supervisors

NEW YORK - Jocelyn was a trainee nurse in a Queens hospital when a doctor yelled at her for asking a question: the spelling of the patient’s name.

"I wanted to be sure I got it right," she recalled, adding that the incident left her very upset and made her contemplate leaving the profession.

Grateful for the support of fellow Filipino nurses who rallied around her, Jocelyn is now a supervisor in another New York hospital. However she admits to still witness yelling directed toward young nurses. What she sees as a “rite of passage" is actually bullying at its crudest form.

“It’s quite common in the ICU or ER, where the pressure is so high," she said.

Bullying is a festering problem in the health care profession, and among its quietly suffering victims are the nurses, according to the Center for American Nurses that called for a “zero tolerance policy to disruptive behavior" in a position paper.

The Center described bullying as “an offensive, abusive, intimidating, malicious or insulting behavior, or abuse of power conducted by an individual or group against others, which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated, or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress."

As a behavior, bullying is usually “persistent and systematic," said the Center. “The culture of the health care setting has been historically populated by images of the nurse as a ‘handmaiden’ in a patriarchal environment," said the position paper issued in February. “The balance of power has not been in the nurses’ favor."

The report said bullying is especially common among new nurses, resulting in young professionals having a feeling of “hopelessness and dissatisfaction." Verbal abuse does not come from organizational hierarchy such as physicians, nurse managers or supervisors, but also from patients’ families.

It also cited a 2004 survey by the Institute for Safe Medication Practices, showing that half the 2,095 respondents confessed to having been a victim of verbal abuse in many instances, including “contacting a physician to clarify medication prescription."

This pattern of bullying creates a hostile environment as it affects communication and patient safety, said the Center report.

In a society with a projected nursing shortage of 500,000 nurses by the year 2025, bullying and other forms of lateral violence may yet push many nurses to leave their profession. As a matter of fact, the demand for nurses grows by 2 percent to 3 percent annually, according to industry reports.

“Bullying and lateral violence have a negative impact on the ability of the nursing profession to retain both new and long-term colleagues," the Center report stated.

Many nursing organizations – among them the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses, the International Council of Nurses, and the National Student Nurses Association -- have decried intimidation in the work place and called for zero tolerance to abuse. They have expressed concern that despite reports to their supervisors, nothing has been done about workplace intimidation.

The Center recommends the following strategies to deal with bullying and lateral violence as manifested in “verbal affront," “sabotage," “infighting," “scapegoating," “backstabbing," or “failure to respect privacy:"

• Workplace leaders, managers and supervisors should adopt a model behavior;
• Recognize and address bullying through conflict management resolution;
• Promote a culture of safety that encourages open and respectful communication among all health care providers and staff;
• Provide education and counseling to victims.

The Philippines is one of the leading suppliers of nurses to the US. Actual number is not immediately available, but industry estimates place Filipino nurses as comprising 75% of foreign-trained nurses in the US. Every American hospital has Filipino nurses in its staff.

A huge wave of migration by nursing professionals occurred in the 1960s when nurses easily found employment even on tourist visas, which their sponsors converted into work visas. The migration has not abated. From about a dozen nursing schools in the 60s, there are currently about 300 schools in the Philippines offering Nursing as a course.

About 4,000 Filipino doctors in the U.S. are said to be retraining to join the nursing force.
- Maricar Hampton, Philippine News

Corrupt RP officials smuggled minors for overseas jobs

MANILA, Philippines - Senate President Manuel Villar on Monday said corrupt immigration officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport and illegal recruiters were behind the smuggling of minors and undocumented workers outside the country.

This was after nine of the 10 overseas Filipino workers from Jordan, whom Villar helped return to the country, arrived Monday and narrated how they were able to go abroad without the proper documents.

Five of the OFWs were minors.

One of the young workers, whose identity was withheld, said they were able to go out of the country with a tourist visa.

She said their recruiter was able to convince them to work abroad despite the absence of some of the requirements and they were able to get out of the country with the help of immigration officers conniving with their recruiter.

Villar said although it is indicated in the passport that the holder is of age, one can easily determine that it is not true as the holder looks young.

On the other hand, the senator said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration should explain the slow process in the repatriation of distressed Filipinos abroad.

Villar shouldered the airplane tickets of the OFWs. The distressed workers arrived from Jordan via Thai Airways after being stranded in the Middle East kingdom for almost a year.

Ms Avic Amarillo, Villar’s media officer, earlier said the senator chanced upon the distressed OFWs in Jordan while on his way to South Africa, where he attended the annual Interparliamentary Union (IPU) summit. - GMANews.TV

OFW sentenced to death in China for drug trafficking

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipina beautician in Macau was sentenced to death by firing squad after being caught with illegal drugs while on vacation in China.

Marissa Collado was arrested in China’s Guangzhou province last year for the possession of about two kilos of heroine, Jiggy Manicad said in a GMANews exclusive report on Monday.

Collado told her relatives in a letter last December that she was on a vacation to China when authorities seized the prohibited drug inside her luggage.

She denied owning the substance.

The report also said that Collado had already entrusted the care of her three children to her siblings in the Philippines.

“Hindi namin kayang tanggapin na ganun-ganoon na lang 'yun (We just can’t accept that my sister’s fate would just be that)," Leonila Cruz, Collado’s sister told Manicad in an interview.

Collado’s relatives are asking President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to save their loved one from the death sentence.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs, Esteban Conejos said that while the family is pleading to save Collado from death, they can only ask for her commutation.

According to Conejos, since the Philippine government has adopted a strong stance against drug trafficking, the department can only do so much to save Collado’s life.

“Because we are also strongly against [drug trafficking] we will only intervene to request for a commutation," he admitted. - GMANews.TV

Pinoy teen killed in British Columbia, suspect arrested- report

MANILA, Philippines-A 24-year-old Filipino who was on his way home from a date was stabbed to death in British Columbia, Canada last week.

Charle Dalde died an hour after he was rushed to a nearby hospital on April 14, the Richmond Review reported.

The suspect, Umut Ari, 24, was arrested by the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) two days after the incident. Ari was turned in by his own brother.

The report quoted IHIT spokesperson Cpl. Dale Carr as saying that what happened to Dalde was a "vicious unprovoked attack" and that there is nothing to suggest that the victim and suspect knew one another.

Investigators have not yet determined the motive for the killing.

Dalde's father Cezar said that while he welcomes the arrest of the suspect, he still feels sad that his son was gone.

Ari is charged with second-degree murder.

Walking home

According to the report, Dalde had taken the bus from his girlfriend's home in Surrey and was on his way to his apartment on Lansdowne Road at around 9 pm last Monday when the incident occurred.

A witness earlier told the Richmond Review that a black-haired guy with a pony tail behind his ears was seen running from the crime scene after the incident happened

At the time of the stabbing incident, Dalde’s mother, Harlyn, had heard a ruckus in the fire lane that divides several apartment buildings south of Lansdowne Road.

Both her husband and youngest son, Cehar, 18, recalled hearing noises outside, the Richmond Review said.

Not long after, Cezar saw a police officer string up yellow police tape in the distance, and then minutes after that, they got a phone call from Richmond Hospital.

Wrongful arrest?

As they were about to leave, another call came, this time from police who told all three of them to come out of their apartment unarmed.

The three were surprised to see several police officers pointing their guns and ordering them to lie on the ground with their arms behind their heads.

All of them were handcuffed, but released after their apartment was searched.

The Canadian dream

Harlyn told the Richmond Review that she and her husband made sacrifices to give their sons a promising future in Canada.

After working for some time there, she petitioned her sons to join her.

Harlyn’s son wanted to become a licensed practical nurse after studying medical technology in the Philippines.

He graduated from R.C. Palmer Secondary and was attending Vancouver Community College to upgrade his English language skills.

The 24-year-old was also juggling school work with a part-time job at Hudsons, a souvenir store at the Vancouver International Airport.

Dalde is not the first Filipino teen to die this year from stabbing.

High school student Deward Ponte, 15, was stabbed to death on January 27, 2008 in a neighborhood Park in East Vancouver.

Ponte and his sister were sponsored by their mother in Canada after working in the country for five years.

Police said the Filipino teen was a victim of a fight between two groups of teenagers in Gray’s Park near the 1000 block of East 33rd Avenue.
Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

9 OFWs, including minors, repatriated from Jordan

MANILA, Philippines - Nine overseas Filipino workers, including at least three minors, are back in the Philippines after being stranded in Jordan for almost one year.

The nine arrived Monday after Senate President Manuel "Manny" Villar financed their repatriation.

Villar offered to take up the cudgels for the distressed repatriates after he personally witnessed in October last year the conditions of around 200 OFWs stuck in Jordan, the dzBB report said.

The Senate president, who welcomed the OFWs at the airport's Dignitary's Lounge at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), lamented the fact that three of the OFWs were allowed to work abroad despite being minors.

Villar said Immigration officials could have possibly colluded to allow the minors to work and leave the country despite their age.

When asked in a radio dzBB interview how she got herself to work abroad despite being underage, all a 13-year-old repatriate could say was, "Ewan ko po. Hindi ko po alam (I don't know)."

The unnamed teenager, who hails from North Cotabato province, said in the dzBB radio interview that she was promised job once in Jordan.

"Naglalaba po at naglilinis po (I do the laundry and clean the house)," the girl described her work in the Middle Eastern country.

In her travel passport, the girl was declared to be 24 years old even as dzBB's Lito Laparan described the girl as looking way younger.

Earlier, Villar filed a resolution asking Senate to investigate how minors managed to pass the security of immigration officers at the airport.

"Parang may raket na ini-smuggle ang mga menor de edad o walang dokumentong mga OFW at nakakalusot sa immigration sa airport. Dahil sa mga bata sila, naaabuso sila sa bansa na pinupuntahan nila (There seems to be racket that allows minors or undocumented OFWs to be smuggled past immigration officers at the airport. And because they're young, they were abused in the countries they went to)," he said.- GMANews.TV

Local rice supply adequate amid rising prices - Singapore exec

SINGAPORE - A Singapore official said Monday that the city-state's supply of rice was adequate despite growing concerns of tightness in domestic stocks of the staple food.

The government is monitoring the rice market closely, S. Iswaran, minister of state for trade and industry, told Parliament.

"Our rice importers have been conducting their business responsibly and maintaining normal supplies to consumers, despite the volatility in global markets," Iswaran said.

Iswaran added that there was no evidence of hoarding by rice importers and said authorities would punish such behavior.

"We have no reports of any profiteering or any anticompetitive behavior by our rice importers ... they have been very responsible," Iswaran said in response to questions from lawmakers.

"As a condition of their license, rice importers are not allowed to engage, directly or indirectly, in price fixing or other unfair trade practices relating to the import or sale of rice," he said.

Iswaran said retail prices of rice have risen about 10-15 percent since January. That's an increase of about 2 Singapore dollars ($1.47; €0.94) for each 10-kilogram (22-pound) packet of rice.

A sharp rise in the price of rice is hitting consumer pocketbooks and raising fears of public turmoil in the many parts of Asia where rice is a staple.

Part of a surge in global food costs, rice prices on world markets have jumped 50 percent in the past two months and at least doubled since 2004. Experts blame rising fuel and fertilizer expenses as well as crops curtailed by disease, pests and climate change.

There are concerns prices could rise a further 40 percent in coming months. - AP

DFA warns travelers vs taking items banned in Singapore

MANILA, Philippines-Filipinos planning to travel to Singapore should leave their collection of porno magazines, gun-shaped lighters, and chewing tobacco behind because they are part of a long list of items prohibited in the Lion City.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) issued the warning in a travel advisory released on Thursday, noting that the Philippine Embassy in Singapore reported the recent arrest of a Filipino traveler for the unlawful possession of a knuckle duster.

Under the Arms Offences Act of Singapore, anyone caught with any of the prohibited items will be imprisoned and caned.

To avoid encountering problems with the police or customs authorities, the DFA issued a list of prohibited items:


firearms or firearms parts, including magazines
live bullets, including blanks, of small or large caliber for revolver, pistol, or rifle
air pistol or air rifle or parts
spear guns or cross bows
explosive blasting caps, dynamite, detonators, detonating cords
fireworks
spent or empty ammunition cartridges, including bullets rendered "safe’"
signal flares
tear-gas spray, pepper spray
walking stick with dagger
industrial acid and other corrosive substances
flick or fan knives, gravity knives
whips made from bicycle or motorcycle chains
nunchaku, knuckle dusters, ninja stars, throwing knives
stun guns and taser guns
toy guns that resemble real guns
bullet-proof vests
batons, t-baton, night sticks, truncheons, handcuffs
replica or dummy and model explosives
cornershot device
lighters shaped like grenades, bullets, or firearms

Singapore also prohibits the importation of the following items:


chewing gum, except dental or nicotine gum


chewing tobacco and imitation tobacco products


cigaretter lighters of pistol or revolver shape


controlled drugs and psychotropic substances


endangered species of wildlife and their by-products


firecrackers


obscene articles, publications, video tapes or discs, and software


reproduction of copyright publications, video tapes, video compact discs (VCDs), laser discs, records or cassettes


seditious and treasonable materials


- GMANews.TV

New passports passed international standards - DFA

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday declared that the new machine-readable passports (MRPs) being issued by the department are tamper-resistant and complies with international standards.

In a press statement, the DFA said the MRPs are fully compliant with the standards and requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

The DFA said that the MRP's features are specifically designed to discourage tampering and improve the integrity of the passport system.

The agency also said that tampered or forged passports will be rejected at airports, ports of entries of foreign countries.

The MRPs' security features include the following:

o watermarked paper and colored fibers,

o ultraviolet (UV) - reactive inks,

o a combination of security prints, such as fine lines with modulation, guilloche design, art screen and dash effects and microtext,

o laser-perforated alpha-numeric serial numbers,

o security laminates that are ultra thin with strong adhesion to prevent chemical, thermal or mechanical forgery,

o high-level origination and high image definition,

o high security animated and color switch optical imaging, and

o nano imaging.

The DFA said all relevant Philippine government agencies particularly the Bureau of Immigration, as well as all governments of other countries, have been fully apprised of the features of the new Philippine passport and are thus able to detect forgeries and discrepancies which is highly prejudicial to Filipinos using forged/fake passports.

It said immigration officers are equipped with special tools for ascertaining the genuineness of passports.

It said the new MRP system includes the development and maintenance of a secure passport database to aid in rooting out identity theft and raising the integrity of the country's passport system.

It said since the launch of the new MRPs in June last year, the DFA has not had any verified case of fraud successfully foisted against the Philippine MRP.- GMANews.TV

Monday, April 21, 2008

Group slams RP officials for OFW's death in Jeddah

MANILA, Philippines-A Middle East-based migrant workers’ organization urged Philippine embassy officials to reveal the conditions of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) instead of sugar-coating the situation.

Migrante-Middle East issued the statement on Friday after the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah confirmed that an OFW died in a deportation cell earlier this month.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-ME’s regional coordinator said that Philippine officials in the oil-rich states do nothing else but deny or confirm reports.

"Then a lot of excuses will follow," Monterona added.

On Tuesday, Migrante International, the group’s umbrella organization, broke the news that a certain Ryan Castillo, 30, from Batangas City , died under harsh conditions in a Jeddah deportation cell.

Arman Navarro, a dump truck driver in Jeddah who was among the first batch of Filipinos repatriated to Manila this week, said that a friend of Castillo told him that the OFW had long been sick while inside the deportation cell but was not allowed to be sent to a hospital for treatment.

Esteban Conejos Jr, Foreign Affairs undersecretary for migrant workers affairs told GMANews.TV on Thursday that Castillo suddenly collapsed in jail. Responding personnel failed to revive the OFW.

Philippine consul general Ezzedin Tago only confirmed on Thursday that Castillo died on April 6 and admitted that the OFW was unaccounted for as he was not endorsed for deportation.

Castillo reportedly posed as a pilgrim who had lost his identification and turned himself in to expedite his deportation.

Because of this, the consulate was not able to endorse Castillo.

“If this has not been reported by Migrante to members of the Philippine press, Consul Tago will keep mum and would only exert little efforts to ease the deplorable conditions of the distressed OFWs inside the Jeddah deportation center," Monterona said.

Alarming cases of violence

According to Monterona, their group receives an average of three cases from OFWs a day.

“The rights violation committed against our fellow OFWs or even of other nationalities is quite alarming. Everyday, we are receiving E-mails and calls to an average of three cases from OFW victims asking for help and advise on what they should do on their respective cases," he explained.

Unable to receive help from the embassy, OFWs run to Migrante-ME’s Rights and Welfare Assistance Desk for assistance, Monterona claimed.

He added that some Filipino workers narrate how Philippine Embassy and Consulate officials even threaten them to be returned to their employer or send them to jails if they will not accept the so-called “amicable settlement" with their abusive employers.

“This neglectful support system, values and culture prevailing in Philippine Embassies and Consulates should be changed. And this could only be done if all the inept post officials abroad will be fired and be replaced by someone who has a heart and is willing to serve in the promotion and protection of OFWs rights and welfare ," he asserted.

Repatriation of OFWs

Monterona noted that their group has been calling for the immediate repatriation of distressed OFWs in Jeddah almost six months ago.

Most of these OFWs ran away from their ‘abusive’ employers and resided under the Al-Khandara flyover, awaiting arrest from the deportation police. Some of them also worked in Jeddah illegally.

“Six (6) months are a valuable time for the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah to do prove to OFWs and families that it can advance and protect OFWs welfare by immediately sending them home without wait of anything awful that might happen," Monterona said.

Philippine officials in Jeddah earlier explained that the Filipino workers need to secure exit visa’s prior to being repatriated. -Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

RP envoy urges OFWs in Korea to save first before spending

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine officials in Korea stressed the value of saving before spending to overseas Filipino workers(OFWs) there as they launched a financial literacy program.

A statement on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website on Friday said Philippine ambassador Luis Cruz stressed "Savings before expenses" as the battle cry of the financial literacy campaign.

"Our effort is to build the financial capacity of Filipinos in Korea to be used for their livelihood projects upon their return to the Philippines. It will also be used as a hedge against the volatile exchange rate of the strengthening peso against other currencies,"said Cruz, who noted the Philippine peso has gained 28 percent against the Korean currency since 2006.

The DFA said the campaign was launched on March 30 and aimed at promoting savings consciousness for 50,000 Filipino workers in Korea.

Cruz led the launching of the reintegration program, which includes financial planning, at the Kasan Migrant Center in the presence of members of the Filipino community.

Some 50 elected officers of various organizations in Pocheon City, one and one half hours away from Seoul, were also inducted to office.

These activities were spearheaded by the President of the Kasan Migrants Community, Mr. Anthony Cad Dacones, under the guidance of Sister Juliana Kim, SJBP, sister-in-charge of the Kasan Migrant Workers Center, and Sister Luz Olalia.

Consul Juan Dayang, Jr., the coordinator of the financial literacy program, conducted a lecture on savings, investments, and risk protection.

"If there's one thing I want you to remember, it is this: Save first before you spend," Dayang said.

The financial literacy campaign is part of the Embassy's effort to empower the OFWs by building their capacity to be financially fit through savings consciousness and sound financial investments, and learn ways to protect their hard-earned money.

"OFWs should also avoid accumulating unnecessary debts by practicing frugality and maintaining simple lifestyles," Dayang added.

Cruz said the aim of the program is to help OFWs learn about money and eventually become entrepreneurs when they return home.

While abroad, Filipino workers should save and involve their families in financial management.

He added that the reason he wants the reintegration program to succeed is to mitigate the increasing trend in the number of broken families among Filipinos working in Korea as a result of overseas migration.

"OFWs, especially EPS workers under a three-year term, should focus their attention on savings and investments while in Korea and eventually reunite with their families back home" Cruz said.

The reintegration program also intends to encourage OFWS to start their own business and become entrepreneurs. - GMANews.TV

Canadian firm to put up $25M in local biofuels

MARIA KRISTINA C. CONTI, BusinessWorld

MANILA, Philippines - Canadian renewable energy firm Green Corp. is riding on the global biofuel rush by investing $25 million (about P1 billion) in the local coco-biodiesel industry over the next two years.

The investment will be coursed through a third party that handles socioeconomic projects, and should benefit 100 coconut farmers’ organizations and cooperatives, and more than 5,000 families, the government said on Friday.

Countries all over are relying on fuel from crops as an alternative to traditional fossil fuels, which are dirtier and limited in supply.

But critics say using crops for fuel has led to rising food prices and massive deforestation as farmers convert rainforests to croplands.

Green Corp. said on its Web site it would deploy 100 mid-sized biodiesel processing units in coconut-producing areas of Luzon, based on a deal it had signed with an agency of the Agriculture department.

The company did not detail the financial deal, saying only it would share in the biodiesel sales.

Green Corp. said it was eyeing the participation of coconut-rich provinces like Quezon, Laguna, Batangas and several areas in the Bicol region.

The project aims to produce from each processing unit 1,000 liters of coconut methyl ester per day.

The company will deploy the GS1000, the company’s most advanced biodiesel processor. Patented in Canada, the equipment will refine coconut oil to coconut methyl ester, an additive to fossil fuel-based diesel.

The first 20 production units will be delivered this year, said partner Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp. (PADCC) in a separate statement.

The agreement was signed in Washington D.C. last month by Green Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rely A. Diego and PADCC President Marriz B. Agbon.

Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Oscar G. Garin said the investment relies on increased coconut production. The Philippines is now the world’s top coconut oil exporter.

He said the country wants to become the top producer of coco methul ester. Local production, at 265 million liters last year, was three times the demand. Green Corp. said it would also launch similar projects in Asian countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. - BusinessWorld

Canadian province looking for Filipino workers

MANILA, Philippines - Another Canadian province, Nova Scotia is suffering from a labor shortage and is looking at the Philippines to solve their employment problems.

However, just like with Manitoba, British Columbia, and Saskatchewan, appropriate legal arrangements—including a memorandum of understanding between both countries—must first be enacted before overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can be recruited.

Besides ensuring fair labor rights to Filipino workers, a memorandum of understanding between Manila and several Canadian provinces also sets provisions for salary, housing, and medical benefits.

The agreement also establishes formal processes for worker recruitment and protection and provide requirements for training and certification.

Dante Ang, Chairman of the Commission of Filipinos Overseas, said that the country has “an abundance of well-educated and well-trained professionals in the Philippines and Nova Scotia has a shortage. More Filipinos will come to Nova Scotia, but there must be a process in place."

According to Ang, there are lots of good reasons why Filipino workers would find working in Nova Scotia favorable.

“When professional people in the Philippines think about Canada they think first about British Columbia, and then perhaps about Toronto and perhaps Montreal. They would give more thought to coming to Nova Scotia if they knew more about it," he said.

The chairman also said that only 500 Filipino families are based in Nova Scotia. The figures are expected to dramatically increase once the formal labor agreement is formalized and implemented. - OFW Guide

Canadian mayor invites more Filipinos to work there

MANILA, Philippines-Praising their admirable work ethics, the mayor of Kingston town in Ontario, Canada hopes to lure in more Filipino migrants to work there.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said in a statement on Friday that Kingston Mayor Harvey Rosen aspires to make his town a major destination for migrant workers, particularly Filipinos.

The Philippine embassy officials in Canada led by Ambassador Jose Brillantes visited Kingston as part of the Embassy’s outreach and information-dissemination program.

“[During the courtesy visit] Mayor Rosen said that, since Kingston is the hub of eastern Ontario, with immediate and easy access to the major population centers of Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and even Syracuse, New York, the city needs hardworking immigrants such as Filipinos who could competently fill the jobs generated by businesses choosing to locate or expand in Kingston," the DFA statement read.

The DFA also said that according to Rosen and Bill Gray of the Kingston Economic Development Corp. (KEDCO) the town’s strategic location has made it attractive for such industries as transportation and logistics, business outsourcing, warehousing and distribution, information technology and knowledge-based innovation in biotechnology, health sciences and fuel cells.

“With Kingston considered as one of the top 25 cities in Canada, the Mayor said he hopes for Kingston to be a major immigrant destination, particularly for Filipinos," the statement added.

Kingston, Ontario- Canada’s first capital- has been tagged as the “Limestone City" because of the many historic buildings made from limestone. -GMANews.TV
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