Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Workers warned against accepting job offers through the Internet

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today warned Filipino workers against accepting job offers locally or overseas from any individual or agency through the Internet without checking the legitimacy of the job offers with concerned authorities.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque issued the warning in view of a South African couple who were duped by unscrupulous individuals offering non-existent jobs in the Philippines through the Internet.

Citing a report from the DOLE office in Region 7 (Cebu), Roque said the South Africans, Errol Froman and his wife, were promised jobs as managers for a beach resort by certain Franz Baumann and Alan Gonzaga whom they met through the Internet. The resort named Sunset Garden and Dive Resort was purportedly located in Bgy. Libaong, Panglao Island in Bohol.

The DOLE Chief disclosed that Mr. Froman communicated with the Philippine Embassy in South Africa to inquire about the job offer only after sending money to Baumann and Gonzaga.

He said that after successive exchange of e-mails, the Fromans sent US$350 to Baumann and Gonzaga as payments for their supposed work permits along with their scanned passports and birth certificates. Afterwards, the couple no longer heard from the two nor received any correspondence relative to the status of their supposed employment and arrival to the Philippines.

Upon advice of Filipino officials in Pretoria, the DOLE-Region 7 looked into their records and found that no Alien Employment Permit has been issued to Franz Baumann. Further investigations also indicated that Panglao didn't have residents by the name of Franz Baumann and Alan Gonzaga.

The DOLE regional office also has no records of an establishment named Sunset Garden and Dive Resort in Bgy. Libaong. Nevertheless, the regional staff still checked on the said barangay and found that no such resort exists in the area.

It is obvious that the South African couple have been victimized by an Internet scam, Roque said as he urged the workers to verify first with the DOLE, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Philippine Embassies overseas any offer of employment they may receive through the Internet whether locally or in other countries.

He said the names of Baumann and Gonzaga could be fictitious and only created by an Internet scammer who could be the same person who victimized a certain Madeliene Oberhoster of Pretoria, South Africa using similar representations and modus operandi.

Workers should be wary against individuals and agencies asking money allegedly for requirements that applicants should meet in connection with job offers. Roque said adding that these offers are most likely non-existent and only being dangled by Internet scammers trying to extract money from unsuspecting and vulnerable jobseekers on the Net.

Source: Information and Publication Service, DOLE

Drive against illegal recruitment, human trafficking strengthened

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque today said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) would vigorously continue to exert more efforts in curbing illegal recruitment and human trafficking in all fronts, locally or overseas.

Roque as DOLE chief and Chair of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Board, made this assurance as recent news reports by a non-government organization (NGO) indicated an increase in human trafficking activities in the Philippines.

Roque said the government has consolidated all its resources and focal agencies into one Task Force that would directly address the problem of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

Roque said through Executive Order (EO) 548-A issued recently by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the role of the POEA, an attached agency of the DOLE, has been clearly defined and strengthened as mandated by R.A 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.
The order has amended and superseded the previous EO, which created a task force against illegal recruitment under the supervision of the Commission of Filipino Overseas (CFO), Roque said.
He clarified, however, that the CFO shall be in charged of the task force against human trafficking (TFHT) as provided for by EO 548-A.
EO 548-A, he stressed, redefined in clearer terms the functions of POEA and CFO in the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.
"This shall enable the POEA in coordination with the regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure greater focus in fighting illegal recruiters down to the local level," he said.
Roque said that the executive order underscored the on-going campaign of POEA to involve local government units (LGUs) in the fight against illegal recruiters.
He said that the agency has forged agreements with LGUs in Metro Manila late last year, particularly with the city governments of Taguig, Valenzuela, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa and Quezon City.
The agreements, he said, called for the active participation of the concerned local government authorities in surveillance and investigation of establishments and entities suspected of engaging in illegal recruitment in their respective jurisdiction.
The labor chief said that POEA is set to forge similar agreements with other LGUs in Metro Manila and other regions this year in line with Executive Order No. 548-A and RA 8042.
Pursuant to the law, POEA shall continue to adopt policies and procedures and implement programs towards the eradication of illegal recruitment. The agency shall also coordinate with the TFHT, along with other government agencies and the CFO which serves as task force chair, in addressing the problem on human trafficking.
As TFHT chair, the CFO shall recommend to the inter-agency council against trafficking (IACAT) policies, programs, and services aimed at eliminating trafficking in persons.
The IACAT is the primary body tasked to coordinate, monitor, and oversee the implementation of programs against trafficking in persons as provided for by RA No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.
"We always believe that the best way to prevent or minimize illegal recruitment or human trafficking is for would be overseas workers to check and verify first with the authorities, particularly with POEA, any offer of overseas job by individuals or entities engaged in overseas employment before dealing with them," Roque said.

The labor secretary added that among the safety nets and measures established by the DOLE to mitigate if not totally eradicate or prevent illegal recruitment and human trafficking is the conduct of Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars, the establishment of Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs) in cities and municipalities nationwide which assist workers for their local or overseas employment; and linkages with various agencies of government charged with migration and travel.

Overseas, the Labor Chief said the 34 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices of the DOLE established worldwide help trace, shelter, assist and repatriate victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

source: Information and Publication Service,DOLE

OFWs, travelers to Saudi Arabia told to declare cash, jewelry worth over SR60,000

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today advised overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other travelers to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to declare upon arrival and departure cash, precious metals or jewelry worth over SR 60,000 (Saudi Riyals) or US$16,000 to avoid confiscation or legal penalties.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque issued the advisory upon receiving a communication from the Saudi Embassy in Manila on the matter.

Roque said the Saudi government has enjoined all travelers to their country to strictly follow Saudi Arabia's Customs Department rule on the declaration of cash, transferable monetary instruments or precious metals and jewelry exceeding SR60,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency to customs officials upon arrival or departure.

The labor secretary, quoting a statement from the communication, said the main purpose of the declaration was to prevent "money laundering and some forms of terrorist funding."

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has intensified its efforts to combat money laundering at the national, regional and international levels, the statement said.

"The Kingdom is among the first few countries, which gave special attention to counter money laundering by committing to and complying with many rules and international conventions," said Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf in a statement.

The filing of the declaration was in accordance with Article 14 of the Anti-Money Laundering Law of the Kingdom and "those who do not declare the precious metals and jewelry they possess while leaving the Kingdom have to pay customs duty on them on their return," the statement said.

The statement said declaration forms are available at all of the Kingdom's entry points, including airports and seaports. Passengers should write their names, passport numbers and addresses in Saudi Arabia. They should also state their country of origin and destination, flight numbers, the type of currency they are carrying, the total amount in Saudi riyals, the value of precious metals in Saudi riyals, their source and the purpose of carrying them.

The DOLE has noted that most of the OFWs in the Kingdom are fond of buying precious metals and jewelry for "pasalubong" or for "investment purposes" and it would be to their best interest if they were made aware of this latest developments.

The Labor Chief has called on all concerned sectors, including the media, to help in disseminating the information to OFWs and the traveling public.

source: Information and Publication Service, DOLE

Filipino crew member died on hijacked Malaysian tanker

Agence France-Presse

KUALA LUMPUR - A Filipino crew member died in an "accident" while the Malaysian palm oil tanker he was working on was seized by pirates off the coast of Somalia last week, the ship's owner said.

The Bunga Melati Dua, owned by Malaysian shipping company MISC, was seized last Tuesday in the Gulf of Aden with 39 crew, including 29 Malaysians and 10 Filipinos, and remains in the hands of the pirates.

The tanker, fully laden with 32,025 tons of palm oil, was heading towards the Dutch port of Rotterdam from Sumatra in Indonesia at the time of the attack.

"We have been able to establish more communication with the crew of Bunga Melati Dua and are now able to confirm that the fatality on board involving a Filipino crew member was an accident during the time of boarding of the vessel by the hijackers," MISC said in a statement issued late Monday.

"All remaining crew members are safe and are taken care of. Negotiations are ongoing to secure the safe release of the crew members," it said.

MISC did not elaborate on the accident or how the man died.

"To protect and safeguard the safety of our people on board, we are not able to provide any detailed information at this point of time," it said.

Last Thursday, three more ships -- German, Iranian and Japanese -- were hijacked off the Somali coast in an unprecedented series of attacks. Seven ships have been menaced in the Gulf of Aden in the past month.

Noel Choong, head of the Kuala Lumpur-based International Maritime Bureau's (IMB) Piracy Reporting Centre, said he was unable to provide further details on the Malaysian ship or the other vessels.

"The ships are still hijacked, nothing has changed yet," he told AFP.

Somalia has no central government and the IMB has called on the United Nations to take action to secure the waters and stop the piracy menace in the Gulf of Aden.

The waters off Somalia and Nigeria are the most pirate-infested in the world, with the IMB reporting 24 attacks in Somalia and 18 in Nigeria between April and June this year.ABSCBN News

Family says foul play, not suicide, caused OFW's death

MANILA, Philippines - The family of a deceased Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is seeking justice for what they feel is a cover-up of the real cause of death of the migrant worker.

OFW Evelyn Milo’s family does not believe that she committed suicide by jumping off a building in Abu Dhabi in the UAE on August 10. Her remains arrived in the Philippines on August 19.

According to an exclusive report from Ian Cruz of GMA’s Unang Balita, the OFW’s family said that she hasn’t been buried yet because of the lack of support from placement agency that sent Evelyn abroad and the Philippine government.

She has been in her wake in Singalong, Manila for almost a week now.

Evelyn’s mother, Thelma, told Cruz that she saw signs of foul play on her daughter’s body. She said that there were bruises on her legs and what looked like strangle and stab marks on her chest.

Thelma is asking for justice for her daughter’s allegedly suspicious death.

"Sa kutob ko po bilang magulang, may gumawa ng ‘di maganda sa anak ko. Di po gagawin ng anak ko iyan – magpakamatay (My intuition as a mother says that somebody did something terrible to my daughter. My daughter would never commit suicide)," she said.

The OFW’s mother asked the Philippine government to pay some attention to Evelyn’s case.

Meanwhile, Anita Macalintal, Evelyn’s aunt said that if one were to jump off a building, he or she wouldn’t be recognizable, something which the dead OFW was.

“Pero ano ibig sabihin nung mga pasa-pasa? (But what do the bruises mean?)," she asked.

Evelyn’s family is now waiting for the report of the autopsy that the National Bureau of Investigation conducted.

Just recently, Migrante International urged the government to look into the apparent rise in suicides by Filipino workers in the UAE. It said in a statement that seven Filipinos had committed suicide in the Mideastern country in the first eight months of the year.

“It's not normal that seven Filipinos would commit suicide in eight months. We want (the Philippine authorities in the UAE) to find out why they are committing suicide," Nhel Morona, secretary-general of Migrante-UAE, said in the statement.
The group was surprised that despite the sudden dramatic increase in OFW, government officials in the Emirates have done nothing but declare the cause of deaths as suicide.

Morona said they have records of a case of a man who allegedly hanged himself on February 4 and a woman named Norayda Ayuman who was reported jumped from the 7th floor of a building and died on February 6.

Five more OFWs allegedly attempted to kill themselves by jumping off buildings. They were Jeffrey Alberto So, Mitos Vergara, Remedios Waayan , Myrna Baylosis, and Evelyn Lilo.

Philippine authorities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai previously said they could only confirm three suicide cases while all the confirmed cases were in Dubai and the Northern Emirates.

"We don't know whether they were accidents, suicides or foul play," Philippine consul-general in Abu Dhabi Noel Servigon had said.

The Philippine consul general in Dubai, Benito Valeriano, said that naturally, they are concerned when citizens commit suicide but also said that there was not much that they could do to prevent such things from happening.

"Suicides can happen to anybody, regardless of religion and culture. It's a person's own decision," he had been quoted in reports as saying.

Valeriano added that Philippine Overseas Labor Offices offer counseling but that these people don't go there for help and just suffer in silence."- Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV

Filipino sailor died in pirate attack off Somalia

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — A Filipino sailor died aboard a Malaysian vessel hijacked last week off the coast of Somalia as negotiations continued on Tuesday to free other crew members.

The seaman died in an accident when pirates boarded the palm-oil tanker Bunga Melati Dua in the Gulf of Aden last Tuesday, Malaysian shipping line MISC Berhad said in a statement. It did not explain what kind of accident resulted in his death.

"We have been able to establish more communication with the crew," the statement said. "All remaining crew members are safe and are taken care of. Negotiations are ongoing to secure the safe release" of the remaining 29 Malaysian and nine Filipino crew members.

A company spokeswoman declined to elaborate, citing the ongoing negotiations.

Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was quoted by The Star daily Tuesday as saying the Malaysian government was following the negotiations, "but for now nothing has been achieved." His aide, who declined to be named citing protocol, confirmed the comment.

Pirates hijacked three other vessels in the Gulf of Aden last week — an Iranian bulk carrier with 29 crew, a Japanese-operated chemical tanker with 19 crew, and a German-operated cargo ship with nine crew.

Two other hijacking attempts in the region failed Saturday. A Japanese-operated ship managed to escape from armed pirates in two speedboats, while a Liberian cargo ship was rescued by a multinational naval patrol deployed in the area.

Following the surge in attacks, the US Naval Central Command has said it will establish a permanent Maritime Security Patrol Area in the Gulf of Aden. Coalition navy warships and aircraft will patrol the area under a commander from the Royal Canadian Navy.

Somalia is the world's piracy hotspot. Thirty out of 36 attacks on ships off Somalia's coast have occurred in the Gulf of Aden, a busy waterway connecting the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean. AP

Fil-Ams Support Obama’s Choice of Biden

JOSEPH G. LARIOSA, GMANews.TV

SPRINGFIELD, Illinois – Some Filipino-Americans who openly supported Sen. Hillary Clinton during the Democratic presidential primary are now warming up to the choice of Sen. Joe Biden as Sen. Barack Obama’s vice presidential Democratic nominee.

Among those now seeking support for the Obama-Biden tandem is businesswoman Loida Nicolas Lewis, who was a campaign leader among the Filipino-Americans for Hillary Clinton for president during the primary.

“Sen. Biden is the wrong choice. But Democrats should support the ticket of Senators Obama and Biden in the general elections," Lewis told this reporter in an interview before she delivered her keynote speech at the Gintong Pamana Awards Foundation, Inc. ceremonies at Chicago’s suburbs of Oak Brook, Illinois last Aug. 23. Twelve outstanding were honored during the occasion.

Another pro-Clinton supporter, Ting Joven, also a Filipino American community leader in Chicago, appealed to Democrats who are saying that they would turn Republicans if Mr. Obama did not pick Hillary Clinton to “please think twice."

“I was so disappointed. I was still hoping that the choice would be Sen. Clinton. But since Joe Biden is the best next to Hillary, I still have my full support to them and I would like to appeal to Filipino-American voters to please support Barack Obama and Joe Biden because he (Obama) is the change that we want and he is opening doors not only for you and me but for everybody. You don’t want another four years of Bush-McCain regime, do you?" he said.

On the other hand, Filipino American Skokie, Illinois Commissioner Jerry B. Clarito, an Obama supporter, was beaming, saying the Obama-Biden tandem “is a winning team."

“Obama is the vision of the future while Biden’s wisdom and experience make them the winning team. The experience complimenting the optimism of the future is really unbeatable. And besides, Biden is a very pro-people, pro-simple people and has served the Senate for 30 years and a man with that experience means big for the working class people and the middle class people and because Mr. Biden has seen the ups and downs in the government, this will help Mr. Obama work within that framework," Clarito said.

Before an estimated 35,000 supporters, SObama publicly announced Biden as his vice presidential running mate last Aug. 23 with the Old Capitol building and a huge American flag as the back drop in Springfield, Illinois. To show that he has the physical capacity to run for office, the 65-year-old Biden jogged onstage.
“Today, I come back to Springfield to tell you that I found that man. A man with a distinguished record, a man with fundamental decency and that man is Joe Biden." Obama said.

“Biden, for decades, has brought change to Washington but Washington has not changed him. He directs a foreign policy, with his heart and values rooted in middle class, stared down dictators and spoke up for the American cops and firefighters. He is uniquely suited to be my partner as we work to put our country back on track. Now, I could say he is one of the finest public servants of our time," he said.

Obama described Biden’s character for making “triumps only after great trial."

Referring to Biden’s way of commuting home by Amtrak train every night from the Capitol Hill in Washington D.C. to Wilmington, Delaware to be with his family, a choice he made after his first wife, Nelia, and an infant daughter, Naomi, died in a car accident just before he took office in the Senate in 1972.

He would raise his two sons as a single father, with the help of his sister, Valerie, until he met his second wife, Jill, a teacher he has been married for 30 years.

“Joe still rides the train back to Washington every night. Out of the heartbreak of that unspeakable accident, he did more than become a senator. He raised a family.

“That is the character of the man, who is going to be the vice president of the United States of America. He came back stronger than before. He has become more resilient by overcoming adversities for his work in the Senate. He raised his family with a strong commitment to work and with a Catholic Faith and with a belief that Americans can make it if they try," Obama said.

Biden was responsible for passing the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 also known as the Biden Crime Law, which according to Obama, put “100,000 cops on the street, starting an eight-year drop in crime rate throughout the country."

Biden also authored the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) of 1994, which according to Obama, saw “the rate of abuse among women dropped dramatically and countless women got a second chance at life."

Obama also described Biden as “America's leading voice on right to liberties, college tuition, rising women, family leave, reflect his leading voice of national security, and he looked at (Serbian leader Slobodan) Milosevic in the eye and called him a war criminal and helped shape the policies that would end killings in the Balkans and brought Milosevic to justice.

Obama said Biden led in the lockdown of chemical weapons and let Bush bring Europe democracies in its trail. He has been a powerful critic against the Iraq War.

Following Russia’s invasion of Georgia this month, Biden went to Georgia, called for aid and a tough message for Russia.

“Joe Biden is what many others pretend to be," Obama said. “A statesman who wants to keep America strong. He will make a good president and a great vice president. Joe will give us the real straight talk," Obama said.

“He is at home in a foreign scene like Iraq and corridor of Congress and the center of international crisis. He beat odds, a scrappy kid from Scranton, and a dedicated family man, who knows everyday the conductor of the Amtrak train to Wilmington. That’s the kind of fighter, whom I want to be by my side for years to come," he added. - GMANews.TV

CNMI House nixes bill seeking better immigration status for OFWs

CAPITAL HILL, Saipan - Thousands of overseas Filipinos workers (OFW) in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) encountered another roadblock in their attempt at having a better immigration status and job security in the CNMI.

The CNMI House of Representatives on Friday rejected House Bill 16-86 that seeks to allow long-time nonresident workers in the Marianas to apply for a more permanent immigration status.

Voting 13-2, the House adopted the Judiciary and Government Operations (JGO) Committee report recommending the shelving of the bill.

Though the measure does not offer permanent residency, resident status, citizenship, or nationality to Filipinos and other foreign nationals who have been in the CNMI for at least five years, it would enable them to live and work “at will" in the Marianas like permanent residents.

The bill also gives preference to long-term nonresident workers over other foreign workers.

The Human Dignity Movement, which has thousands of OFWs and other Asian workers as members, expressed disappointment over the bill’s rejection.

“We are not happy with what happened to the bill. However, we salute Rep. Tina Sablan for her efforts in stabilizing the Saipan workforce," the group’s president, Jerry Custodio, of Tacloban, told GMANews.TV on Sunday.

Most of the over 18,000 foreign workers in the CNMI are Filipinos.

Workers’ groups in the CNMI seek the bill’s passage to protect long-time foreign workers from deportation during the transition period from a CNMI-controlled to a US-controlled immigration system.

Only Sablan and Rep. Edward Salas, who co-authored the bill, opposed the adoption of the JGO committee report.

After a long deliberation on the measure, Rep. Victor Hocog announced his withdrawal as co-author of the bill. Another co-author, Rep. Heinz Hofschneider, was absent.

Lawmakers who were against the bill said acting favorably on the measure was a “moot point" because the new US immigration law applying federal immigration to the CNMI would already be implemented next year.

Rep. Rosemond Santos, who chairs the JGO committee, said the bill gave “false hopes" to foreign workers in the CNMI.

Other lawmakers said that while thousands of jobs were being given to guest workers, thousands of local residents remained jobless.

But the lawmakers nevertheless agreed that the CNMI did not have enough local workers to run the economy, thus it continued relying on foreign contract workers.

Custodio said his group was waiting for a 22-page report on the plight of guest workers in the CNMI. The report is being prepared by Florida-based activist Wendy Doromal for submission to the US Congress.

Doromal actively seeks the US government’s granting of “green cards" to long-term guest workers in the CNMI. - HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, GMANews.TV

Group seeks restraining order on psych tests for OFW

MANILA, Philippines - Members of Migrante International on Tuesday said they would file a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) mandatory implementation of the psychiatric tests for all Filipinos seeking work abroad.

The group said its members would troop to the DFA national headquarters to warn the chairman of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) Esteban Conejos Jr against implementing the tests.

“The tests are discriminatory against departing domestic workers," said Migrante International spokesperson Garry Martinez. “The psychiatric tests are additional burden to the OFWs and another reason for government to exact unreasonable fees from us."

Recently, OFWs repatriated from Jordan said that they were asked by embassy officials to admit crimes they did not commit just so they could escape detention abroad.

“Isn’t it the height of lunacy that not one of the three officials have done anything about reports that innocent Filipino citizens were being forced by their own embassy officials to accept crimes they did not commit, just so they can escape abusive employers and go home?" said Martinez.

“And to the disclosures of accused OFWs being forced to plead insanity as the only legal defense offered by our embassy officials, Conejos has the temerity to brandish highly questionable data about maids in death row and submit psychiatric testing as the solution. What a loony solution!" he added.

The Migrante leader urged the government to look at “the other side of the coin" referring to abusive employers, even murderous ones, who had gotten away with their crimes and embassy officials in cahoots with them because “this government would rather have our bagong bayani as sacrificial lambs rather than risk their cheap labor export industry and the billions of dollars in remittance it churns out to save the economy."

“The psych test is indicative of what the Conejos will bring to the upcoming GFMD in October. The government will merely play lip service to protecting and empowering migrants," said Martinez.

To counter DFA's move, Migrante International, the International Migrants’ Alliance, the Asia-Pacific Mission for Migrants and Ibon International, will hold the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees to challenge the GFMD to tackle genuine migrant issues such as forced migration and poverty. - GMANews.TV

Group urges seamen to train in fighting pirates

MARK JOSEPH H. UBALDE, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - Seamen passing through pirate-prone areas need not become vulnerable to sea bandits if they undergo proper training in dealing with piracy, a group of Filipino seamen said.

According to Engineer Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers, robberies in high seas are common, and thus seafarers should know how to defend themselves from pirate attacks.

“Dadaan at dadaan sila d’yan (Most of them will undergo this ordeal eventually)," said Ramirez in a recent interview with GMANews.TV.

He said all ship officials are required to take the ship security officer training, while crew members should undergo the ship security awareness program to avoid being taken over by pirates, who are often equipped with faster boats.

Ramirez said that because international law prohibits the carrying of guns in commercial vessels, ship captains are trained to shoot pirates with a fire hose.

Last July, the Associated Press (AP) cited a report from the International Chamber of Commerce’s International Maritime Bureau (IMB) that pirate attacks worldwide grew 19 percent from May to April compared to the January to March period.

The report said that according to IMB, piracy incidents grew from 52 to 62, due to attacks in Somalia and Nigeria.

Though the second quarter figure was lower than the 85 attacks recorded in the same period last year, and that attacks on the first half of 2008 fell to 114 from last year's 126, the IMB believed that many attacks were not reported due to the safety concerns of seafarers.

The IMB, a non-profit organization fighting against all types of maritime crime and malpractice, said the “frequency and level of violence directed at seafarers is cause for alarm," and that “the abduction of crew and the increasing use of automatic weapons remain unacceptable."

The AP said that based on 2008 IMB’s report, Africa remained the world’s top piracy hotspot, with 24 attacks in Somalia and 18 in Nigeria. Indonesia ranked third on the list with 13 incidents of mostly low-level theft.

AP said violence was pronounced in Somalia, where pirates were often armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons.

Attacks were also recorded by IMB in Tanzania, Bangladesh, and India, with seven each this year, and in Malaysia with six.

The IMB said sea bandits boarded 71 vessels this year, and hijacked 12, with a total of 190 crew members taken as hostage. Seven of these crew members were killed, while another seven were missing and presumed dead.

The IMB said that in 2006, there were 239 attacks in high seas where 77 crew members were kidnapped and 188 were taken hostage. Fifteen of the pirate attacks resulted in murder.

In 2007, the IMB said the attacks rose by 10 percent to 263 attacks, while there was a 35 percent increase on reported attacks involving guns.

Last Saturday, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said that nine more Filipino seafarers were abducted off the coast of Somalia.

Esteban Conejos Jr, DFA undersecretary for migrant workers affairs, said the Filipinos were part of the 13-man crew of the German-owned, Antigua and Barbuda-flagged freighter M/T BBC Trinidad.

The said freighter ship was hijacked by suspected Somali pirates on August 21, the same day when chemical tanker MT Irene, a Panama-flagged and operated by Japan ’s Koyo Company, was hijacked with 19 crewmen including 15 Filipino seamen.

On Aug. 19, suspected Somali pirates also seized MT Bunga Melati 2 with 10 Filipino seamen, while 20 other Filipino seafarers were held captives by the pirates when they commandeered MV Stella Maris on July 27.

“The DFA has instructed embassies in Berlin and Nairobi to coordinate with ship owners, international maritime authorities and host government, in the efforts to secure the safe and speedy release of the crew members," Conejos said.

Ramirez said the Gulf of Aden is a hotspot for pirates because it serves as highway for various vessels particularly container ships, which are easier for pirates to climb.

Following the August 19 hijacking, the IMB warned all ships crossing the Gulf of Aden to look out for two suspicious vessels believed to be used in piracy.

The IMB advised ship officers to "maintain a strict visual and radar watch" when passing through the Gulf of Aden. - GMANews.TV

Arroyo says Kuwait ready to hire up to 1 million OFWs

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Pampanga - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Monday said the oil-rich state of Kuwait would be ready to hire a large number of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

During the inauguration of the Global Gateway Logistics City (GGLC) here, Mrs Arroyo said the OFWs’ skills “are known and acknowledged in Kuwait," which hosts about 100,000 OFWs, the third largest Filipino community in the Middle East.

“According to His Highnesss the Prime Minister (Nasser Al-Mohammad A- Ahmad Al-Sabah) they would welcome even a million...There is no quota to limit the number of Filipino workers in Kuwait," she said.

During the event, the President reiterated her gratitude to Kuwait for the commutation of the death sentences of Filipino workers May Vecina and Marilou Ranario.

She also thanked Kuwait for its commitment to help upgrade the Davao Regional Hospital and the Cotabato Regional Medical Center into a national cancer center and regional cancer center respectively, and modernize the Zamboanga Medical Center surgery block.

Mrs Arroyo said Kuwait was the first Arab country to extend a developmental loan to the Philippines for the 115-kilometer road covering the provinces of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur and, Maguindanao, and the cities of Pagadian and Cotabato, 30 years ago.

The President said the projects and jobs provided by Kuwaitis both in their country and in the Philippines provided Filipinos with much-needed jobs, and strengthened the Philippines’ ties with Kuwait.

President Arroyo led the groundbreaking ceremonies for the GGLC, marking the start of the construction of the $1.02-billion project with Kuwait.

Mahdy Al-Jazzaf, Kuwait and Gulf Link (KGL) Investment Company head, said the nine-year GGCL project was expected to provide about 70,000 jobs upon its completion.

President Arroyo said the GGLC was a product of her visit to Kuwait last year. The project is being funded by KGL, and is being carried out in the Philippines by Peregrine Development International.

She said GGLC would be the first fully integrated master planned center for airport and aviation-oriented operations and business in the Philippines. Mrs Arroyo said the project would serve as a “crucial hub in what we envision to be the best service and logistics center in the region."

The first phase of the project, which will cost $25 million, involves the construction of roads, sidewalks, utilities and access points, fencing, and installation of street lights. The second phase, which will cost $1 billion, involves the seven-year development of GGLC’s main facilities and buildings.

The GGLC will provide logistics-dependent businesses with warehousing, distribution, multi-nodal logistics, and light manufacturing services alongside complementary business operations and facilities to support aviation-related activities within the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport’s Civil Aviation Complex. - GMANews.TV

Monday, August 25, 2008

Pirates seize nine more Pinoy seamen off Africa

FIDEL JIMENEZ AND MARK JOSEPH UBALDE, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs on Saturday said nine more Filipino seafarers have been seized by sea pirates in the Gulf of Aden.

DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said the figure raises the total number
Filipino seafarers being held captive off the Horn of Africa to 54.

In a text message coursed through DFA spokesman Claro Cristobal, Conejos said the additional nine captive Pinoy seamen were part of 13-man crew of the German-owned, Antigua and Barbuda-flagged freighter M/T BBC Trinidad.

The said freighter ship was hijacked by suspected Somali pirates on August 21, the same day when chemical tanker MT Irene, a Panama-flagged and operated by Japan’s Koyo Company, was hijacked with 19 crewmen including 15 Filipino seamen, not 16 as earlier reported.

On Aug. 19, suspected Somali pirates also seized MT Bunga Melati 2 with 10 Filipino seamen, while 20 other Filipino seafarers were held captives by the pirates when they commandeered MV Stella Maris on July 27.

“The DFA has instructed embassies in Berlin and Nairobi to coordinate with ship owners, international maritime authorities and host government, in the efforts to secure the safe and speedy release of the crewmembers," Conejos’ message said.

Following the August 19 hijacking, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned all ships crossing the Gulf of Aden to look out for two suspicious vessels believed to be used in piracy.

The IMB, a non-profit making organization, which fights against all types of maritime crime and malpractice, advised ship officers to "maintain a strict visual and radar watch" when passing through the Gulf of Aden.

"The description of the suspected trawlers - long white, Russian made stern trawlers with names 'BURUM OCEAN or ARENA or ATHENA'," posted the IMB in its website.

It added: "One of the trawlers is believed to be operating at approximately 60 NM NE of Bossasso, Somalia in the Gulf of Aden."

According to the IMB, in 2006, there were 239 attacks in high seas where 77 crew members were kidnapped and 188 taken hostage but only 15 of the pirate attacks resulted in murder.

In 2007 however, the attacks rose by 10% to 263 attacks while there was a 35% increase on reported attacks involving guns.

The impoverished country of Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and foreign vessels are frequently seized for ransom by pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons, making it difficult and expensive to deliver aid to the region.

In June, the UN Security Council voted to allow international warships to enter Somali waters to combat the problem. But its 1,880-mile coastline — the longest in Africa — remains virtually unpoliced. - GMANews.TV

Solon wants probe of Pinoy trafficking in Singapore

MANILA, Philippines - A party-list representative is seeking a congressional inquiry into the alarming increase in the reported cases of human smuggling in Singapore that is being linked to cheaper air tickets.

In a statement on Monday, Alliance for Rural Concerns Rep. Narciso Santiago III, said Congress should investigate reports claiming that Filipino trafficking in Singapore had reached record high last year due to the introduction of budget air fares.

Santiago said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) cited a report by Philippine Ambassador to Singapore Belen Fule Anota revealing that there were 212 cases of human trafficking in 2007, a 70 percent increase from the 125 cases reported in 2006.

Singapore is among the top destinations in Asia among unskilled and low-skilled Filipino workers. Illegal recruiters often lure Filipinas into working as food servers in Singapore only to be duped later on as prostitutes in the Lion City's red light district or in neighboring Malaysia.

According to Santiago, the report described the increase as "alarming" even as it noted that the figure might represent only a small fraction.

"Those interviewed have said many others were either unable or too afraid to escape from where they were being exploited," Santiago said.

According to Santiago, budget airfares served as the aggravating factor as it significantly lower the cost of travel from the Philippines to Singapore, making it easier and cheaper for traffickers to victimize Filipinas.

Santiago said the embassy was also blaming the network of illegal recruiters that allegedly managed to persuade their recruits through various modes of deception.

"Filipino victims are pushed to try their luck in Singapore not only because of poverty but also because of the promise of a lucrative job overseas. The report states that the existence of a large number of bars or pubs in Singapore’s red light districts fuel the demand for Filipino women," he said.

Santiago said the operation involves illegal recruiters promising young women non-existent jobs as waitresses or guest relations officers in restaurants and hotels in Singapore.

The exploited workers are charged a minimum of $100 as recruitment fee, according to Santiago. They are also given "round trip tickets where the return ticket is oftentimes fake, a fake invitation letter, and 'show money' for presentation to Philippine immigration officials who scrutinize their financial capacity as tourists."

"They are forced to provide sexual services to customers and earn commissions from alcoholic drinks to enable them to pay the $1,000 to $4,000 they allegedly owe their handlers," Santiago said. - Aie Balagtas See, GMANews.TV

Friday, August 22, 2008

Pichay out in OWWA search panel's shortlist

KIMBERLY JANE TAN, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - The top post at the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is still vacant after all, and that nomination is still open, according to an association of overseas Filipino organizations.

The Global Filipino Nation (GFN) said it learned from Patricia Sto. Tomas, head of the executive search for OWWA administrator, on Wednesday that the committee has already ranked and rated a number of people and submitted seven names to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo about two or three weeks ago.

GFN convenor Victor Barrios would not divulge any of the seven top nominees, but hinted that former Surigao del Sur congressman Prospero Pichay Jr. is not one of them. Pichay’s nomination to the post elicited criticisms from overseas Filipinos, who expressed concern about Malacańang’s intentiopns.

“It was comforting to hear her confirm that the name that the global Filipino community was fearful might be appointed is out of the running," he said.

Barrios begged off from divulging the names of the seven included in committee’s shortlist, saying that Sto. Tomas shared the names with them in confidence.

Rumors that Pichay has cornered the position flew when a Palace official wrote a letter to the OWWA addressed to “Administrator Pichay" on August 6. The Palace later claimed that the letter was a case of a wrong addressee.

Efforts to contact Sto. Tomas on Thursday proved futile.

Susan Solo, member of the search committee and an official of the Presidential Management Staff, told GMANews.TV on Thursday that they couldn’t release the list publicly because it would create many “implications." She refused to elaborate.

“Just wait for the appointment," she said.

Solo added that the search committee can submit a list to the President but that it is still up to her who to choose. “We cannot say if she’ll like the people we recommend."

During her meeting with the GFN, Sto, Tomas reportedly urged those who want to make nominations to do so urgently because the President may make her choice at any moment.

“If the President chooses to cast a wider net, that is within her prerogative," she said.

Sto. Tomas, who chaired the OWWA Board of Trustees during her stint as labor and employment secretary from 2001 to 2006, also said that the search committee is looking for an OWWA administrator who has “clear operational skills" for running national and international groups of people meant to help Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) and their families in the Philippines.

She said the administrator mush also have "fund management ability" to safeguard OWWA’s almost P10-billion fund, and must have “networking skills" since addressing the needs of OFWs means working with other government agencies and non-government and international organizations.

Meanwhile, GFN recommended that an assessment be conducted on OWWA by an international consulting team. Sto. Tomas commented that it was a sound idea and already suggested a meeting with Labor Secretary Marianito Roque about it.

The overseas organization also proposed that OWWA conducts a regular report and consultative meeting with its constituents at least twice a year. Sto. Tomas said that she was in favor of this and suggested it also be applied to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). - GMANews.TV

2 Pinoys arrested in Kuwait for stealing iron

MANILA, Philippines - Two Filipinos were arrested in Kuwait City for stealing iron from a construction site near Abdali motorway in Kuwait City, an online news site reported Thursday.

Arab Times Online reported that a night patrol team made the arrest but did not immediately name the two.

Sketchy initial details showed the two Filipinos took a large quantity of stolen goods and tried to run away on seeing police, but they were caught and referred to authorities.

In a separate incident, police arrested a 20-year-old Filipino woman and a 40-year Egyptian man for "committing immoral acts."

The report cited a security source as saying some families at a beach in Shuwaikh called police when the couple was seen embracing and kissing in public. - GMANews.TV

Pinoy ‘illegals’ in Sabah given until October to fix papers

MANILA, Philippines - The Malaysian government has given undocumented Filipinos in Sabah until the end of October to regularize their stay and avoid deportation, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

Esteban Conejos Jr, DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs, said Filipinos can stay longer in Sabah if their employers will agree to sponsor them.

Conejos explained that the employers would have to write to the Sabah immigration authorities and register the Filipino worker. Sabah’s Department of Immigration will then send an acknowledgment receipt approving the employer’s application so that the Filipino worker can legally stay and work in the island.

“With the receipt of acknowledgment from the Department of Immigration, our embassy will now issue a passport to each of them because they have already been regularized," Conejos said.

A seven-man Philippine consular team in Sabah is processing the travel documents of the workers and providing assistance to the overstaying Filipinos who have been apprehended by authorities, Conejos added.

Conejos said the team will stay in Sabah until the end of October while there is an ongoing crackdown on illegal aliens, comprised mostly of Filipinos and Indonesians.

“This is to make sure that those who are given the chance to be regularized will be regularized," he said.

Quoting a Philippine Embassy report, Conejos said Sabah immigration authorities recently arrested 11,000 undocumented workers. Around 397 of this number were found to undocumented Filipinos.

“These are the guys now that we’re going to issue travel documents so they can be brought back to the Philippines," he said as he dismissed reports that arrested Filipinos were subjected to intimidation or harassment by immigration authorities.

Sabah, which is located south of Mindanao, is an island territorially disputed by the Philippines and Malaysia. A Philippine claim for sovereignty over island has remained dormant for decades in international courts.

Manila and Kuala Lumpur nearly severed its ties in 2003 after thousands of Filipinos who were expelled from Sabah allegedly suffered abuse in holding centers.

The Philippine government lodged a diplomatic protest against Malaysia as Filipino deportees accused Malaysian authorities of violating their human rights and subjecting them to torture.

Most of the undocumented Filipinos in Sabah hail from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, and other far-flung provinces in the south that are among the Philippines’ poorest and constantly plagued by war.

There are about 200,000 undocumented Filipinos in Sabah mostly working in plantations, construction, trade and services sectors. - GMANews.TV

Recruiters urge Pinoys in Jeddah to oppose unified contract

KIMBERLY JANE TAN, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine recruitment agencies called on the Filipino community in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to oppose the "unified contract" which will be implemented by the Saudi National Recruitment Committee (Sanarcom) starting September 1.

Victor Fernandez, president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (Pasei), the largest group of Philippine service exporters with 700 member organizations, said that it was important that Filipino workers know that the provisions in the “unified contract" are unfair.

The industry leader met with the Kongreso ng Kapulungan ng mga Samahang Pilipino (KASAPI) congress and Filipino communities in Jeddah.

The people present in the meeting were enraged when Fernandez explained to them the implications of the provisions in the contract to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW).

A part of the "unified contract" states that the deal between Saudi employers and the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) will be covered by contracts drafted by Sanarcom, overriding the approved Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) contracts which were attested by the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices.

Rudy Dianalan, chairman of KASAPI, said that the implementation of the “unified contract" would just be additional burden to OFWs.

The KASAPI congress decided to make a resolution opposing the implementation of the said contract. It also said that it will start collecting signatures from OFWs which they hope can be sent back to the Philippines as soon as possible to show their opposition against the anomalous contract.

According to Peter Bermudez, one of those present in the meeting, said that it is unacceptable that the Arroyo administration is not doing anything to stop the implementation of the “unified contract" in September.

The Filipino community in Jeddah decided to draft a letter to be signed by OFWs appealing to all government agencies in the Philippines especially to the President to prevent the impending implementation of the said contract.

Red Bual, president of the Boholano community in Jeddah said that the signature campaign must be started immediately.

“Hindi makatarungan ang nilalaman nang Unified Contract at ito isang malinaw na panloloko sa mga Pinoy (The content of the “unified contract" is unjust and it is a scam to dupe Filipinos)," he added.

Fernandez stressed that they are chiding the member agencies of Sanarcom, not the agencies of the Saudi government.

Meanwhile, Danny Londonio, chairman of the Bag-ong Bicol Saro community in Jeddah, said that they will do everything in their power to spread the campaign to Filipinos in Saudi in the quickest way possible. - GMANews.TV

Armed pirates seize 26 Pinoy seamen in 2 ships off Somalia

FIDEL JIMENEZ, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs on Thursday night said at least 26 Filipino seamen have been seized by gunmen in the Gulf of Aden off north Somalia in a series of attacks as an international maritime body urged the United Nations to restore law and order to the notorious African waters.

In a text message to GMANews.TV, DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr, citing the reports from Philippine Embassy in Nairobi and local manning agencies, said the Filipinos are among the crewmen of two ships recently hijacked by suspected Somali pirates.

The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

Conejos said that palm oil-laden tanker MT Bunga Melati 2, owned and operated by MISC Berhad of Malaysia, has 39 crewmen, including 10 Filipino seamen. The DFA official said MT Bunga Melati 2 was hijacked on August 19.

Meanwhile, the chemical tanker MT Irene, a Panama-flag and operated by Japan’s Koyo Company, has 19 crewmen including 16 Filipino seamen. Suspected pirates seized the tanker on Thursday.

The message added that the DFA has instructed the Philippine Embassies in Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo and Nairobi to coordinate with the ship owners, international maritime authorities and host government on safe and speedy release of all crewmembers.

The Associated Press later Thursday reported that pirates also seized a German ship off the coast of Somalia, the third hijacking in a day.

Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau told AP that the German-operated cargo ship was seized at about 0900 GMT Thursday in the Gulf of Aden off the Somalian coast.

He said the hijacking occurred hours after a Japanese-operated tanker and an Iranian ship off the coast of Somalia were hijacked in the same area.

Choong said three hijackings in a day "is unheard of."

So far seven ships have been hijacked in the important African shipping lane since June 20.

Choong, who heads IMB's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur, strongly urged the United Nations "to take serious action to stop this menace."

Choong said there has been no communication so far with any of the hijacked vessels.

But a multi-coalition naval force in the area has been informed and is "taking action." The naval force includes the United States, France, Germany, Pakistan, Britain and Canada, which currently holds the rotating command.

The IMB also issued an urgent warning to all ships in the Gulf of Aden to maintain a strict watch.

Choong said pirates seized a Japanese-owned cargo ship with 20 Filipino sailors on July 20 in the gulf. A Nigerian vessel was later hijacked followed by a Thai cargo ship with 28 crew members earlier this month.

Pirates in all of those cases demanded ransom for the release of the crews, and negotiations are continuing, he said.

The impoverished country of Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and foreign vessels are frequently seized for ransom by pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons, making it difficult and expensive to deliver aid to the region.

In June, the U.N. Security Council voted to allow international warships to enter Somali waters to combat the problem. But its 1,880-mile coastline — the longest in Africa — remains virtually unpoliced. - GMANews.TV/ AP

Guidelines on direct-hiring of OFWs by Taiwan employers signed

MANILA, Philippines — Direct-hiring of Filipino workers by Taiwanese employers is now possible with the signing of the implementing guidelines of a memorandum of understanding that Philippine and Taiwanese officials have earlier forged.

Officials of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) and the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) signed the implementing guidelines during the recent Philippines-Taiwan Third Joint Labor Conference in Cebu.

The Special Hiring Program for Taiwan (SHPT), as the scheme is called, allows Taiwanese employers to directly hire Filipinos without the intermediation of labor brokers and recruiters in the Philippines or Taiwan. The setup allows local employers to hire Filipinos through the Philippine government rather than private agencies.
MECO officials earlier estimated that workers could save up to NT$100,000 (P144,991) in brokerage expenses through the SHPT and that the program would loosen the grip of brokers on Taiwan’s foreign labor market.

Signing the document were MECO managing director and resident representative Antonio I. Basilio and TECO representative Donald C.T. Lee, with Rosalinda Baldoz, administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), and CLA director-general Chen-Min of the Bureau of Employment and Vocational Training, witnesses.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque underscored during the labor conference the importance of the SHPT as a manifestation of the commitment of Philippines and Taiwan to improve the welfare of OFWs in Taiwan’s labor market.

Political Deputy Minister Pan Shih-Wei of the Council of Labor Affairs of Taiwan (CLA) expressed hope that the implementing guidelines will enhance the promotion of simplified application procedures for SHPT and cut red tape for employers and Filipino workers.

Covered by the special hiring scheme are industrial or factory workers; construction workers; household workers; caregivers; caretakers and institutional nursing workers; and, fishermen.

The guidelines likewise provides that professional and skilled overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) be placed under the facilitative services of MECO.

It will also be the responsibility of MECO as provided in the guidelines to assist in an information dissemination campaign to encourage workers hired under the SHPT who had run away from their legitimate employers to “surrender."

The guidelines also provides that MECO assists workers who have surrendered or are detained in facilitating their immediate repatriation to the Philippines. It provides further that erring employers who retain a worker’s passport in their country will be reported to Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs (CLA) and disqualified from further hiring OFWs.

On the matter of dispute settlement, the guidelines provides that cases arising from employer-employee relationships be settled on-site, through the intervention of competent authorities in Taiwan, particularly the Foreign Workers Counseling Center (FWCC) and in coordination with MECO. - GMANews.TV

Govt urged to junk mandatory psychiatric tests for OFWs

D’JAY LAZARO, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines — A migrant advocacy group on Friday said those pushing for a mandatory psychiatric test for Filipinos seeking work abroad should have their heads examined.

Migrante International said the proposed mandatory test only betrays the Arroyo government’s low regard for workers.

“For the Arroyo government, those they have hailed as “bagong bayanis" (new heroes) are lunatics," Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said in a statement.

“It is the (officials of the) Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and, definitely, not the OFWs who should have their heads examined if they really believe mandatory psychiatric tests could help prevent OFWs from snapping in the workplace," she added.

Regalado said the DFA should realize that deplorable working conditions overseas; verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse; torture and non-payment of wages are major factors that drive OFWs to the brink of insanity.

“By refusing to acknowledge these realities and by conveniently glossing over the fact that most of the time OFWs commit crimes to defend themselves, others are just plain victims of frame-up; the DFA, in essence, is condemning our OFWs," Regalado said.

“If we are to follow the DFA’s rationale, then OFWs like Sarah Balabagan, Mary Jane Ramos and Joselito Alejo are lunatics and not heroes as they were hailed when they arrived home after their ordeal overseas," said Regalado, noting that these OFWs committed heinous crimes, but escaped execution because they were found merely defending themselves.

Regalado also cricized Vice President Noli de Castro and Undersecretary Esteban Conejos for “even considering such a preposterous and anti-migrant proposal. It is such a shame that those who are directly responsible for pushing migrants rights are the ones who are blind and deaf to the real issues OFWs face."

Vice President Noli de Castro is the presidential adviser on overseas Filipino workers while Usec Conejos is co-chair of the forthcoming Global Forum on Migrants and Development which will be held here in the Philippines on October 29-30.

“This is just one of the reasons why Filipino migrants are speaking out. On October 28-30, Migrante International will join other migrants from different nationalities and countries in the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees to challenge the GFMD to face up to the truth that migration can never lead to development," Regalado said.# - GMANews.TV

After Pinoy abductions, ships warned against 2 vessels in Somali waters

MARK JOSEPH H. UBALDE, GMANews.TV

The Gulf of Aden connects the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and is one of the world's busiest shipping lanes. Photo from WikipediaMANILA, Philippines - Coming on the heels of the abduction of 26 Filipino seafarers in Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) warned all ships crossing the Gulf of Aden to look out for two suspicious vessels believed to be used in piracy.

The IMB, a non-profit making organization, which fights against all types of maritime crime and malpractice, advised ship officers to "maintain a strict visual and radar watch" when passing through the Gulf of Aden.

"The description of the suspected trawlers - long white, Russian made stern trawlers with names 'BURUM OCEAN or ARENA or ATHENA'," posted the IMB in its website.

It added: "One of the trawlers is believed to be operating at approximately 60 NM NE of Bossasso, Somalia in the Gulf of Aden."

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday night said that two tankers with Filipino crew members were hijacked on August 19.

The palm oil-laden tanker MT Bunga Melati 2, owned and operated by MISC Berhad of Malaysia, has 39 crewmen, including 10 Filipino seamen.

Meanwhile, the chemical tanker MT Irene, a Panama-flag and operated by Japan’s Koyo Company, has 19 crewmen including 16 Filipino seamen. Suspected pirates seized the tanker on Thursday. Two other ships were hijacked on the same day.

The international community has urged the Somalian government to heighten measures to protect vessels transiting off the coast of Somalia to prevent future hijackings and piracy.

According to the IMB, in 2006, there were 239 attacks in high seas where 77 crew members were kidnapped and 188 taken hostage but only 15 of the pirate attacks resulted in murder.

In 2007 however, the attacks rose by 10% to 263 attacks while there was a 35% increase on reported attacks involving guns.

The impoverished country of Somalia has not had a functioning government since 1991 and foreign vessels are frequently seized for ransom by pirates armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and automatic weapons, making it difficult and expensive to deliver aid to the region.

In June, the U.N. Security Council voted to allow international warships to enter Somali waters to combat the problem. But its 1,880-mile coastline — the longest in Africa — remains virtually unpoliced. - GMANews.TV

49 Filipinos deported from US for committing various crimes

LOS ANGELES — A total of 49 Filipinos were deported back to their home countries by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) last week.

Forty-six of those removed had been convicted of criminal offenses that include felony drug trafficking and possession, child abuse, sex crimes, aggravated assault, weapons possession, identity theft, stalking and burglary.

The ICE did not name the 106 immigration violators - including the 57 other Southeast Asian nationals - or specify which criminal offense the Filipinos were convicted of. The repatriated Southeast Asians also include 44 Indonesians and 13 Cambodians. The group included 98 males and eight females.

These individuals came into ICE custody from locations throughout the United States and were housed at various detention facilities across the country before being transported to the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Wash., shortly before the flight last Tuesday, Aug 14.

ICE officers and medical staff with the Division of Immigration Health Services accompanied aliens on the flight along with consular officials from the destination countries.

This marks only the second time ICE, the largest investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security, has carried out such a flight to Southeast Asia. Early this year, the ICE removed 123 nationals of the Philippines and Indonesia.

Forty-three of the individuals have criminal convictions that include aggravated assault, aggravated assault with a firearm, burglary, sexual assault, sexual offenses against a child, drug offenses and fraud.

“This year ICE expects to remove a record number of immigration violators from the country and charter flights like this are helping us to achieve those gains," said Jim Hayes, acting director of ICE detention and removal operations, in a statement.

“The United States welcomes law-abiding immigrants, but foreign nationals who violate our laws and commit crimes in our communities should be on notice that ICE is going to use all of the tools and resources at its disposal to find you and send you home."

During the first 10 months of fiscal year 2008, ICE removed more than 235,000 individuals from the United States, including more than 74,000 who had criminal histories. - Pasckie Pascua, Philippine News

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Truck driven by missing Pinoy in Saipan found after 18 days

HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, GMANews.TV


MARPI, Saipan – A Filipino drafter remains missing for 21 days in the US territory of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) but the pickup truck he was last seen driving on July 29 was found abandoned on Aug. 16 near a cave in the northern part of Saipan.

Alex Matubis, 47, is from Camarines Sur province in the eastern region of Bicol. He is a husband and a father to two children now living in Laguna province, south of Manila.

This is the fist time in recent years that a Filipino contract worker has been reported missing for weeks in the CNMI where about 10,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Americans currently work and live.

The blue Toyota pickup truck he had been driving until the day of his disappearance is owned by the son of his employer for almost 23 years, Castro & Associates, one of the oldest existing surveying firms on Saipan.

Filipinos who were part of a trekking group saw the pickup truck on Saturday morning near the Kalabera Cave in Marpi in the northern part of Saipan.

Saipan is the capital of the CNMI.

They contacted the police about the vehicle bearing the license plate number ABS 683, whose engine was still hot and the key still in the ignition when discovered.

Detectives from the CNMI Department of Public Safety searched the area but didn’t see any trace of Matubis or anything suspicious in the area where the muddy pickup truck with white doors was found.

The following day, members of the Filipino community in Saipan helped in the search of the same area for any clue about Matubis.

Veminda Castro, president of the Marianas Filipino Women’s Association (Mafilwa) and wife of Matubis’ employer, told GMANews.TV on Tuesday that police have yet to release the results of their initial fingerprinting on the pickup truck.

“Nobody knows for sure if he’s the one who brought the vehicle there, or someone else drove it to the place. Mainit pa daw yung makina ng sasakyan nung makita nila (The vehicle’s engine was still hot when it was found)," Castro said.

Police still have the vehicle in their custody. The case is still under investigation.

“The response from the community is good. I thank those who helped search the area near the Kalabera Cave – Irene Tantiado, Bong Malasarte and the MDX group, and representatives from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration," she added.

The Castros, friends, the Filipino community and the police are appealing for the community’s help in finding Matubis.

Anyone with information about Matubis is being asked to call the Criminal Investigation Bureau of DPS at 664-9042 or 664-9047.

His younger brother, Arnold Matubis, who is also an OFW in Saipan, also gave his contact numbers for any information about his brother: 234-5419 or 484-0226.

According to Castro, Matubis went to Tinian Island on July 27 for a project. He went back to Saipan on July 29 to take care of a separate project.

Castro said she picked up Matubis from the Saipan airport when he got back from Tinian.

“I noticed when I picked him up at the airport that he’s sad. In the afternoon of that same day, he was supposed to call me up but never did. And that’s the last time I saw him. We never heard from him since then," Castro said.

When two days had gone without seeing and hearing from Matubis, Castro said she called Matubis’ family in the Philippines to tell them of his disappearance.

Castro said Matubis is an intelligent person, cheerful, always goes to church, God-fearing and always tells stories that’s why it was strange that he started being withdrawn, seemed sad and depressed for days until his disappearance.

Matubis disappeared about a month after he arrived on Saipan from a vacation in the Philippines.

His younger brother, Arnold Matubis, said he also noticed that his brother had been depressed since returning from the Philippines.

Castro said Matubis even remitted to the Philippines on the day he was last seen.

Matubis’ personal belongings, including his passport, are still in his barracks.

His younger brother said there’s no immigration record indicating that the older Matubis left the CNMI. - GMANews.TV

OFW expresses dismay over Arroyo in a poem

KIMBERLY JANE TAN, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - Speculations about President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s real intention in forging a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has inspired an overseas Filipino worker to express his dismay in a poem.

It all boils down to lust and greed for wealth and power, the OFW using the pen name Kabalyero said in the poem written in Filipino, in answer to questions raised by other migrant Pinoys in an exchange of e-mails on Monday.

One e-mail participant echoed claims by opposition politicians and other critics of the government that the President was using the peace talks with the MILF as an excuse to amend the Philippine Constitution to perpetuate herself to power.

Malacańang officials have repeatedly denied charges of a sinister motive, saying that the government’s sole intention is to bring about peace in Mindanao and the country as a whole.

But Kabalyero, who is probably based in Australia, said he believes otherwise and referred to the President in his literary piece as “lango sa kapangyarihan" (drunk with power) and “uhaw sa kayamanan" (thirsty for riches).

He added that Arroyo is “nag-uumapaw ang pagnanasa" (overflowing with lust) and “gustong magpasasa" (wants to lavish).

With the help of her “maaamong galamay" (subservient underlings), her “pusong punong-puno ng kasakiman" (heart full of greed) will definitely prevail, said the poem.

The author suspects that the agreement with the MILF itself is anomalous because it basically surrenders every part and corner of Mindanao to the MILF. And now, Arroyo is trying to mimic former President Joseph Estrada by using an iron fist to crush the alleged terrorists, said the poem.

Kabalyero believes the war that Ms. Arroyo has declared against the MILF is another trick to cling to power, probably as a pretense to declare martial law.

He said the President won’t care if someone gets hurt, and even if it is freedom or lives that are put at risk for she will remain GMA: Gahaman, Mandaraya at Ambisyosa (greedy, cheater, and ambitious).

He ended the poem by posing an appropriate question to the nation. “Saan ka tutungo (where will you go)?" he asked.

Below is the poem in full text:

Hanggang lango pa si GMA sa kapangyarihan,
habang uhaw pa sya sa kayamanan,
habang nag-uumapaw pa sa kanya ang pagnanasa,
habang naglalaway pa at gustong magpasasa
habang may mga maaamo pa syang galamay
Mananaig ang pusong punong-puno ng kasakiman
Mananaig ang pagkaduhapang na makamtan ang lahat
Gaano man at sinuman ang masagasaan
kapalit man nito ang ating kasarinlan
o maging ang mahal nating buhay
Patuloy siyang magiging
Gahaman,
Mandaraya at
Ambisyosa.
Pilipinas, saan ka tutungo? - GMANews.TV

OFW remittances to flow in despite US slowdown

MANILA, Philippines - The US economic downturn should not raise fears that the country will see less remittance inflows as more Filipinos are also seeking opportunities in other regions where growth remains intact, the Philippine Equity Partners, Inc. (PEP) said in a research note released Tuesday.

PEP said the US economic slump appeared not to have an impact on the remittance inflows to the country.

The US economy, although fraught with subprime mortgage crisis problems that eventually resulted in banks’ hesitance to lend funds and growing unemployment rate, still managed to grow beyond expectations.

"The sustained growth in remittance should ease fears that slowing economic growth in the US may impact the remittance flow," PEP said.

Recent data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed that money coursed through banks by Filipinos living and working abroad grew by 17% year-on-year to $8.2 billion in the first half, compared to $7.03 billion in the same period last year.

The PEP also said that while about half of remittances originated from Filipinos based in the US, a significant sum of remittances also came from other regions.

Remittances from Filipinos working in the Pacific islands grew by 23.4% to $73.48 million in July, while those from other Asian economies grew by 15.4% to $890.2 million.

Remittances from Europe, which was pegged at $1.4 billion, grew by 13.7%, while those from oil-rich countries in the Middle East grew by 4.94% to $1.2 billion.

Central bank officials said remittance receipts could grow by more than 10% from last year’s $15.4 billion, owing to the growing number of Filipinos working abroad.

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed that deployments reached 640,401 as of the first half, 33.5% more than the 479,725 recorded in the same period last year. — Gerard S. dela Peña, BusinessWorld

Cops ‘rescue’ recruits for overseas employment in Valenzuela

MANILA, Philippines - A composite team of law enforcement agencies on Tuesday raided a dormitory in Valenzuela to “rescue" several would-be domestic helpers who were promised jobs abroad, according to a television report.

GMA News reporter Jiggy Manicad said the raiding team were composed of operatives from the Central Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police, anti-illegal task force of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Office of the Vice President.

The four-story dormitory building where the applicants were herded is owned by Thelma Kwe of the Phil. Quest International Management and Service Contractor, Karuhatan, Valenzuela City.

The report said Noria Salik, an applicant from Cotabato province had sought police assistance after the agency allegedly prevented her to leave the area unless she pays P10,000 fee.

It took two hours before the Kwe allowed the raiding team to enter the building and allowed the applicants to leave the dormitory.

One applicant said she has been staying in the dormitory for two months as she waited for her deployment abroad. Others were complaining about their visa and contracts.

“Mahirap magtrabaho ng walang sahod," one applicant said.

Another applicant said she wanted to get a refund from the agency and planning to return to her province.

A minor was among the applicants, the report claimed. The 17-year-old girl said her age was forged in her passport.

The recruiter is a legal company but it violated some recruitment regulations including asking for placement fee and other charges.

“Sa ngayon kasi ang DH na nagnanais magpunta sa ibang bansa para maging domestic helper ay hindi dapat magbayad ng placement fee at lalo na ang processing fee. Walang ring salary deduction," said Atty. Alejandro Diaz, director POEA anti Illegal recruitment branch.

Police Sr Supt Gilbert Sosa, of the CIDG added: “Lumalabas na ang mga kontrata nila hindi ipinapakita ang kontrata na ganito ang sweldo. Pero actually ang nakalagay sa kontrata ay hindi actual na pera na makukuha nila…mga deduction na hindi naman nakalagay sa kontrata."

Kwe refused to make a comment on the issue, according to the report. - GMANews.TV

RP consulate in HK hit by deluge of contract renewals

HONG KONG - It is a scene reminiscent of the days when the overseas employment certificates were issued only at the Consulate. Dozens of people cram the service area and lift lobby of the Consulate, while 14 floors below, many more patiently wait to be allowed to take the lift up.

This time around, the rush is for work contracts to be renewed ahead of time so employers could avail of a government offer to allow them to skip paying the $400 monthly levy for hiring foreign domestic helpers.

According to Consul General Alejandrino A. Vicente, the number of work contracts submitted to the Consulate for verification has more than tripled since the two-year levy suspension was announced on Aug. 1

Before this, the Consulate processed an average of 300 contracts daily, with the number reaching a high of between 700 and 800 during the peak season. But since the start of the month, the number of contracts submitted on any given day has averaged around 1,000.

To manage the deluge, the Consulate has asked the building management to help with crowd control. Only a certain number of people are allowed to go up the lifts at any given time so the staff attending to them are not overwhelmed.

Congen Vicente says the crowd could become unwieldy at times "so we hold them off."

Most Consulate personnel have already been designated as marshals, but they reportedly continue to meet regularly to find other ways to speed up the processing of documents while maintaining order.

"Hopefully it (the crowd) will peter out soon," he says.

But in the meantime, he says labor staff at the Consulate are forced to keep very long hours to cope with the daily deluge.

According to Vice Consul Val Roque, it would help if people go there in the afternoon, "when the queues are shorter."

Beyond this, there is not much that the Consulate could do to prevent the scramble for contract renewal.

"The matter is now in the hands of the HK government," says Congen Vicente.
With the news that the levy was going to be suspended for two years effective Aug. 1 came the announcement that the waiver could also be availed of by those whose contracts have yet to run the full two-year course, on condition that the helper is rehired by the employer.

But employers of workers whose visas were stamped before the suspension took effect are still required to pay the outstanding levy. The government also reiterated that there will be no refund for those who have already paid their dues.

The idea is to prevent a massive pre-termination of work contracts by employers who want to immediately avail of the levy-free period. It also allows the domestic helper to remain in HK while the new contract is processed, which could be done within the same day if the required documents are in order.

But this new "eligibility criteria" failed to appease the domestic helpers under the banner of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body who staged a rally on July 31 at the Central Government Offices.

AMCB again urged the government to implement the suspension for all contracts and the ultimate abolition of the levy. Protesters still feared massive termination of existing contracts if the government does not impose a blanket suspension.

"Our issues are still the same: massive termination and job security for the next two years (because) the government is still insisting on excluding the ongoing employment contracts from this levy suspension, " said AMCB spokesperson Eni Lestari.

She also said the problem with the advance contract renewal is that it only applies to those renewing with the same employers which means that those processing with new employers would still be required to go home and wait for their visas in their home countries.

Also, she said, the new process is not clear cut.

"What does it mean with advanced renewal contract, is it one month early, one year? It is not very clear. "

United Filipinos in Hong Kong Eman Villanueva, meanwhile, criticized the government's move and said, "The option is only made available to employers. The helpers are (still) at the mercy of the employers."

He said, "There's an easy way out! Suspend the levy for all contracts. For more information on the two-year suspension of the levy, visit the Immigration Department website at: http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/faq_fdh.htm#levy. - The Sun

37 abused Pinoy workers in Jordan return to RP

MARK JOSEPH H. UBALDE, GMANews.TV

Three overseas Filipino workers from Jordan were briefly interviewed by the doctor from the Philippine Senate's office upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Wednesday afternoon. - MJU, GMANews.TV(UPDATED 5:08 p.m.) MANILA, Philippines - Thirty-seven overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Jordan, including two who are said to be mentally ill, arrived in the Philippines on Wednesday afternoon.

The two mentally ill workers, both in their mid-20s, were flown via Etihad Airways under the sponsorship of Senate President Manuel Villar Jr.

According to Vice Consul Mark Francis Hamoy of the Philippine Embassy in Amman, Jordan, the two ill OFWs are from the provinces of Bulacan and Basilan. Hamoy said the two are possibly suffering from delusions.

However, Dr. Cristeta Cocjin of the Senate Medical Clinic told GMANews.TV that she found the two OFWs showing no signs of mental illness.

"They were able to answer all my questions correctly. I guess they were just really stressed," Dr. Cocjin said.

Meanwhile, another Filipino worker identified as Joan Balangot was also flown home on Wednesday upon the request of her mother.

Full list of OFWs on board the Kuwait Airlines flight
1. Adjak, Faidalyn
2. Ambalgan, Zuhira
3. Balaud, Noria
4. Bantao, Mariza
5. Bellen, Leah
6. Brasuela, Jocelyn
7. Brutas, Shiela
8. Cabasal, Lea
9. Cadiente, Gladis
10. Calma, Nhor
11. Calsib, Marilou
12. Castillo, Ma. Bernadette
13. Claudio, Roddelyn
14. Dela Cruz, Eva
15. Embalgan, Fatima
16. Fajardo, Josephine
17. Fursical, Cydan (documented)
18. Hinting, Nursiya
19. Kasim, Tayan
20. Magnon, Julaida
21. Maitog, Normina
22. Masangya, Josephine
23. Noces, Catalina
24. Parong, Rachelle
25. Parungao, Normita
26. Pimentel, Roselle
27. Ragojos, Mylene
28. Reyes, Glessie
29. Rivero, Annaliza
30. Rosales, Dina (documented)
31. Samra, Anto
32. Samson, Analita
33. Tambalo, Geralyn
34. Yara, Erlinda

GMANews.TVBalangot, who was unable to finish her contract, convinced her employer to allow her to return to the Philippines to care for her ailing father.

According to Villar's office, the senate president has been able to repatriate about 115 Filipino workers - mostly from the Middle East.

Out of the 37 repatriates on Wednesday, 11 were under the care of Villar while the other 26 on board Kuwait Airlines flight number KU411 were repatriated through the help of Vice President Noli de Castro.

According to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administrations (OWWA), these Filipinos were mostly undocumented workers who ran away from their employers because they were reportedly maltreated, unpaid or mentally and physically abused.

Before the repatriation, they were under the care of the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO) in Jordan after they asked for help from the Office of the Vice President.

Philippine Ambassador to Jordan Julius Torres told GMANews.TV that there are 25,000 Filipino workers in the said Middle East country.

"About 90 percent of them are working as household service workers," he said.

Under the Migrant Workers Act of 1995, the repatriation of distressed or abused Filipino workers must be shouldered by the government through the OWWA fund as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs' assistance to nationals fund.

"However, we welcome any help individuals or private citizens extend to the repatriation of our OFWs. This will help augment what is already appropriated by the government," Torres said. - with reports from Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV

remittance fees will go to corruption, says group

MANILA, Philippines - A migrant workers advocacy group on Wednesday said that the exorbitant fees being collected from overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will not go to the national budget but to the pockets of corrupt politicians.

Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado told GMANews.TV in an interview that the government is intensifying its collection tactics to earn more from our workers overseas.

Private cash transfer firm Western Union Co. has already begun collecting documentary stamp tax from money sent home by OFWs.

Patricia Riingen, regional vice president for Western Union, said in a recent briefing that this is not part of their company’s remittance charges and that the revenue will actually be remitted to the national government.

Section 181 of the Tax Reform Act of 1997 says that a documentary stamp tax of thirty centavos for every P200 shall be collected from money coming from a foreign country.

Regalado said that revenue from the stamp tax is supposed to go back to the Filipino people in the form of services. “The problem is that the priority of government officials is different – their own pockets," she said.

“While government and big business rake in gargantuan profits, OFWs are left with almost nothing. The $200 monthly remittance their families receive have radically shrunk and continues to shrink with the spiraling prices of almost all basic needs and services," Regalado added.

A study by the migrant group revealed that for every $200 OFW remittance sent every month, at least $15 to $22 in service fees are charged to the sender. Since about 10 million Filipino workers are sending at least this amount per month, about $1 billion would be earned by banks every month alone.

Meanwhile, the government earns an average of $1.5 million or about P62 million for every billion dollar remitted monthly, not including the fees OFWs pay before leaving the country.

Chapters of Migrante will be launching a signature campaign this month to demand from the Arroyo administration to scrap the stamp tax and remittance fees.

OFW remittances are expected to reach about $15.65 billion or an estimated P700 billion by the end of 2008 since already $8.2 billion or about P360 billion has been sent home just in the first six months of the year.KJTan, GMANews.TV

Deployment freeze looms over termination of Pinoy nurses in UAE

MANILA, Philippines - A freeze in deployment of Filipino nurses to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) looms after the termination of several Filipino nurses there.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported Thursday that Philippine Ambassador Libran Cabactulan hinted at this as he started investigating the matter.

"This is the first time Filipino nurses are said to have failed to qualify in the clinical assessment test. Indeed, this is very surprising," he stressed.

The terminated Filipino nurses were working at the Al Mafraq hospital.

Cabactulan held a dialogue at the Philippine embassy Wednesday with 17 of 100 Filipino nurses whose employment contracts were not renewed.

He expressed alarm over the matter, adding it was very unusual as all nursing institutions in the Philippines are well known worldwide.

Also, he said the Philippines has been deploying nurses to the UAE, the UK and other European countries.

Cabactulan said he is planning to take up the matter with the UAE's Ministry of Health.

He said he would discuss the possibility of subjecting UAE’s clinical assessment tests to assessment by internationally accredited nursing institutions in the Philippines.

Also, he noted the Filipino nurses who were said to have failed the tests had passed the internationally renowned Commission on Graduates of Foreign Nursing Schools (CGFNS) test.

CGFNS is the requirement set by hospitals in the US, Canada and Europe, for foreigners to be able to work in these countries.

He added that most of these nurses have been working in Al Mafraq Hospital for 10 to 25 years.

At a meeting with the Ambassador, the Filipino nurses told him they strongly felt they had passed the clinical assessment, which included two written examinations and one demonstration.

The nurses also alleged they were asked to take the written test without writing their names, and the administrative department refused to either give or let them see the results of their written examination when they asked for it. - GMANews.Tv

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Cops ‘rescue’ recruits for overseas employment in Valenzuela

MANILA, Philippines - A composite team of law enforcement agencies on Tuesday raided a dormitory in Valenzuela to “rescue" several would-be domestic helpers who were promised jobs abroad, according to a television report.

GMA News reporter Jiggy Manicad said the raiding team were composed of operatives from the Central Investigation Detection Group (CIDG) of the Philippine National Police, anti-illegal task force of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Office of the Vice President.

The four-story dormitory building where the applicants were herded is owned by Thelma Kwe of the Phil. Quest International Management and Service Contractor, Karuhatan, Valenzuela City.

The report said Noria Salik, an applicant from Cotabato province had sought police assistance after the agency allegedly prevented her to leave the area unless she pays P10,000 fee.

It took two hours before the Kwe allowed the raiding team to enter the building and allowed the applicants to leave the dormitory.

One applicant said she has been staying in the dormitory for two months as she waited for her deployment abroad. Others were complaining about their visa and contracts.

“Mahirap magtrabaho ng walang sahod," one applicant said.

Another applicant said she wanted to get a refund from the agency and planning to return to her province.

A minor was among the applicants, the report claimed. The 17-year-old girl said her age was forged in her passport.

The recruiter is a legal company but it violated some recruitment regulations including asking for placement fee and other charges.

“Sa ngayon kasi ang DH na nagnanais magpunta sa ibang bansa para maging domestic helper ay hindi dapat magbayad ng placement fee at lalo na ang processing fee. Walang ring salary deduction," said Atty. Alejandro Diaz, director POEA anti Illegal recruitment branch.

Police Sr Supt Gilbert Sosa, of the CIDG added: “Lumalabas na ang mga kontrata nila hindi ipinapakita ang kontrata na ganito ang sweldo. Pero actually ang nakalagay sa kontrata ay hindi actual na pera na makukuha nila…mga deduction na hindi naman nakalagay sa kontrata."

Kwe refused to make a comment on the issue, according to the report. - GMANews.TV

RP consulate in HK hit by deluge of contract renewals

Daisy C.L. Mandap and Smiley D. Julve, THE SUN

HONG KONG - It is a scene reminiscent of the days when the overseas employment certificates were issued only at the Consulate. Dozens of people cram the service area and lift lobby of the Consulate, while 14 floors below, many more patiently wait to be allowed to take the lift up.

This time around, the rush is for work contracts to be renewed ahead of time so employers could avail of a government offer to allow them to skip paying the $400 monthly levy for hiring foreign domestic helpers.

According to Consul General Alejandrino A. Vicente, the number of work contracts submitted to the Consulate for verification has more than tripled since the two-year levy suspension was announced on Aug. 1

Before this, the Consulate processed an average of 300 contracts daily, with the number reaching a high of between 700 and 800 during the peak season. But since the start of the month, the number of contracts submitted on any given day has averaged around 1,000.

To manage the deluge, the Consulate has asked the building management to help with crowd control. Only a certain number of people are allowed to go up the lifts at any given time so the staff attending to them are not overwhelmed.

Congen Vicente says the crowd could become unwieldy at times "so we hold them off."

Most Consulate personnel have already been designated as marshals, but they reportedly continue to meet regularly to find other ways to speed up the processing of documents while maintaining order.

"Hopefully it (the crowd) will peter out soon," he says.

But in the meantime, he says labor staff at the Consulate are forced to keep very long hours to cope with the daily deluge.

According to Vice Consul Val Roque, it would help if people go there in the afternoon, "when the queues are shorter."

Beyond this, there is not much that the Consulate could do to prevent the scramble for contract renewal.

"The matter is now in the hands of the HK government," says Congen Vicente.
With the news that the levy was going to be suspended for two years effective Aug. 1 came the announcement that the waiver could also be availed of by those whose contracts have yet to run the full two-year course, on condition that the helper is rehired by the employer.

But employers of workers whose visas were stamped before the suspension took effect are still required to pay the outstanding levy. The government also reiterated that there will be no refund for those who have already paid their dues.

The idea is to prevent a massive pre-termination of work contracts by employers who want to immediately avail of the levy-free period. It also allows the domestic helper to remain in HK while the new contract is processed, which could be done within the same day if the required documents are in order.

But this new "eligibility criteria" failed to appease the domestic helpers under the banner of the Asian Migrants Coordinating Body who staged a rally on July 31 at the Central Government Offices.

AMCB again urged the government to implement the suspension for all contracts and the ultimate abolition of the levy. Protesters still feared massive termination of existing contracts if the government does not impose a blanket suspension.

"Our issues are still the same: massive termination and job security for the next two years (because) the government is still insisting on excluding the ongoing employment contracts from this levy suspension, " said AMCB spokesperson Eni Lestari.

She also said the problem with the advance contract renewal is that it only applies to those renewing with the same employers which means that those processing with new employers would still be required to go home and wait for their visas in their home countries.

Also, she said, the new process is not clear cut.

"What does it mean with advanced renewal contract, is it one month early, one year? It is not very clear. "

United Filipinos in Hong Kong Eman Villanueva, meanwhile, criticized the government's move and said, "The option is only made available to employers. The helpers are (still) at the mercy of the employers."

He said, "There's an easy way out! Suspend the levy for all contracts. For more information on the two-year suspension of the levy, visit the Immigration Department website at: http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/faq_fdh.htm#levy. - The Sun

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Arroyo, Kuwaiti PM discuss fate of 2 OFWs on death row

President Arroyo on Friday took the opportunity to discuss with Kuwait's prime minister the possible commutation of sentences of two Filipino workers on death row in the emirate.

Esteban Conejos Jr., foreign affairs undersecretary for migrant workers affairs, confirmed that the President had met with Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Ahmed Al-Jaber Al-Sabah.

Conejos said Mrs. Arroyo first expressed her gratitude to the prime minister for the commutation earlier this year of the death sentences of OFWs Mae Vecina and Marilou Ranario.

Mrs. Arroyo then mentioned the cases of Bienvenido Espino and Jakatia Pawa who were convicted in April and May this year.

Espino was convicted for killing a fellow Filipino. Pawa was sentenced to death for killing the 22-year-old daughter of her employer.

According to Conejos, the prime minister said that they should first wait for the result of the Kuwaiti legal process before talking about the commutation. The cases are both on appeal before the Kuwaiti appellate court.

Kuwait’s prime minister arrived in Manila Thursday to witness the signing of agreements on the energy cooperation agreement which includes joint oil exploration, the agreement on health which will enhance the sharing of expertise in health-related services and an agreement that aims to increase tourist exchanges between the two countries and encourage tourism-related investments. With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News
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