Friday, October 31, 2008

IOM backs pilot project for Asian migrant workers' benefits

MANILA, Philippines — A pilot project seeking to increase benefits of labor mobility in Asia received the backing of the International Organization of Migration (IOM).

The project, launched in Manila by the governments of India, the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), was announced at the Global Forum on Migration and Development.

"Its objectives include the development of more transparent recruitment processes, contracts that are fully understood by the workers, pre-departure orientation and an end to the charging of excessive or illegal recruitment fees," IOM said in an article on its website (www.iom.int).

The IOM said it is backing the project, which will focus on introducing policies to improve the recruitment of temporary contractual workers, their working and living conditions in the UAE, and their economic and social reintegration when they return home.

The initiative is a practical outcome of the Abu Dhabi Declaration signed by 20 Asian migrants sending and destination countries in January 2008.

Under that agreement, signatories will observe multilateral cooperation to protect the rights of temporary contractual workers, while enhancing their contribution to both their countries of origin and destination.

Every year, almost three million Asian contract workers travel to Asia, Europe and North America. Many arrive in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, which include the UAE.

The pilot project will identify and test best practices in the administration of the temporary contractual employment cycle focusing on a selected group of some 3,000 Filipino and Indian workers in the construction, health care and hospitality sectors.

Better mechanisms including post-arrival counseling and hotline assistance will also be created for workers to resolve issues associated with their contracts and unsatisfactory working or living conditions.

Overseeing the project will be a steering committee made up of representatives from India's Ministry of Overseas Indian Affairs (MOIA), the Philippines' Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and UAE's Ministry of Labor (MOL), together with the International Labor Organization (ILO), the Arab Labor Organization (ALO) and IOM.

Parties to the Abu Declaration are 11 countries of origin:
Afghanistan; Bangladesh; China; India; Indonesia; Nepal; Pakistan; Philippines; Sri Lanka; Thailand, and Vietnam.

Countries of destination include: Bahrain; Kuwait; Malaysia; Oman; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Singapore; United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. - GMANews.TV

Report: Deported Pinoys forced out of hotel room in Oman

MANILA, Philippines - At least three Filipinos who were deported from Oman last Wednesday complained of being forced out of their hotel room even after they had paid the fine for overstaying.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported Friday that the Filipinos claimed the hotel's general manager had collected Dh2,650 (P35,131.35) from each of them.

The Filipinos were among those stranded in Oman.

Six Filipinos, including the three who were deported, claimed they had paid for the overstay fines, but none of them was given an official receipt.

Also, they said they did not get the chance to meet the Immigration officers because the hotel management was in possession of their passports since the day they checked in.

But the hotel management said what they did was to simply facilitate the Filipinos' safe return to Manila. The general manager also claimed he had returned the money to the Filipinos.

The general manager, whose identity the report withheld, added he merely helped them clear their outstanding fines at the airport.

He said the hotel had facilitated their departure because they wanted to go home as they had no money.

"Our service van took the three to Muscat at 4 p.m. Tuesday and bought their air ticket for the flight on Wednesday," he said.- GMANews.TV

UAE to provide 1,500 Filipinos with jobs - DOLE

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) has announced that the United Arab Emirates (UAE) would be providing 1,500 jobs for Filipinos in three sectors.

A pilot project providing jobs in the health care, hospitality and construction sectors was launched Thursday by the DoLE and the UAE Labor Ministry.

The project will follow workers from recruitment to reintegration. The UAE government said that it was testing out policies for temporary contractual employment. If the project becomes a success, policies will be institutionalized.

The project focuses on four cycles of employment: recruitment, residency, preparation for reintegration and reintegration. The UAE will take charge of cycle two and three.

The project will benefit 3,000 workers from both India and the Philippines, officials said.

"This is an advantage to both sending countries [like the Philippines and India] as well as destination countries like the UAE," said Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque.

Mr. Roque also said that the agreement with UAE shows the commitment of the Philippines to expand "safer migration channels."

UAE Labor Minister Saqr Gobash Saeed Ghobash said the project would take care of workers’ welfare.

"Our government wants to make sure that the workers we are getting know what they are getting into and we want to help them," said Mr. Ghobash.

Members of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) who attended the program’s launch said that the UAE pilot project was a step in the right direction, as agreements like that of the Philippines and India with the UAE were concrete steps to promote "safe migration."

"We want to encourage more regional participation. Regional agreements [like this one of India, Philippines and UAE] are easily replicable," said IOM Asia-Pacific spokesperson Christopher Lom.

Mr. Lom noted that bilateral labor agreements are not easily reproduced by other countries as the issues involved are usually very specific to the parties.

The criteria for selection of the workers are still unclear. Philippine Overseas Employment Administration chief Rosalinda D. Baldoz said that a steering committee would be meeting this Monday to discuss the mechanisms of the pilot project.

"We’re happy because finally, destination countries are doing their responsibility to provide means to train and help to reintegrate the workers. It shows that the Middle East is finally opening up," Ms. Baldoz said. — E.N.J. David, BusinessWorld

Illegal recruiter nabbed in Pasay

MANILA, Philippines – A suspected illegal recruiter was apprehended in Pasay City for allegedly duping 70 applicants whom she had promised employment in Macau.

In his report in GMA News’ 24 Oras Thursday, reporter Ian Cruz said the suspect, Maritess Cabbab, has collected P60,000 to P100,000 from the victims as placement fee.

The report added that Cabbab has issued unofficial receipt to the applicants, some of whom pawned their land title so that they can have cash for the placement fee.

Most of the victims refused to be interviewed on camera because their relatives in their provinces thought they are already in Macau.

Cabbab denied the allegation and said she is also a victim of the circumstances.

Recently, Senate President Manuel Villar warned would-be Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) against illegal recruiters offering non-existent jobs in Macau, where the number of Filipinos that have fallen prey to large-scale illegal recruitment has reportedly increased.

“I have received reports that batches of our countrymen have arrived in Macau as tourists, hopeful of finding employment promised by their recruiters who disappeared. This must be stopped," said Villar in a statement.

He said at least 10 workers who recently returned to the Philippines have filed complaints with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) against recruiters in Manila, who charged them exorbitant fees but only facilitated their entry to the Chinese territory as tourists with no jobs waiting for them. - GMANews.TV

15,000 RP nurses want to go to the US yearly - labor leader

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino nurses are keeping their eyes on greener pastures abroad as 15,079 graduates took the US licensure exams for the first time from January to September this year, a trade union leader said.

Ernesto Herrera, former senator and now Trade Union Congress of the Philippines secretary-general, said in a statement on Thursday that the number of Filipino nurses showing interest to immigrate to the US for work remains almost unchanged as 15,083 took the same test during the same period in 2007.

The National Council Licensure Examination administered by the US (National Council of) State Boards of Nursing Inc. is required for all nursing graduates who wish to work in American hospitals.

For the whole period last year, a record total of 21,499 Filipinos took the NCLEX for the first time. This is a 42 percent rise compared to the 15,171 first-time NCLEX takers in 2006.

Herrera’s statement came on the heels of reports that the global financial crisis would affect the deployment of Filipino workers, including nurses, in the US.

According to Herrera, the Philippines is the number one supplier of foreign nurses in the US. The demand for nurses not only in the US but also in the Middle East and Canada has led to the mushrooming of nursing schools and graduates in the Philippines.

Herrera however cautioned against the proliferation of fly-by-night nursing schools that charge exorbitant fees but fail to produce any board passer.

Citing a report by the Commission on Audit, the statement said that out of 263 nursing schools surveyed, only 111 had at least 50 percent of their graduates pass the local nursing eligibility test from 2001 to 2005.

Meanwhile, Herrera added that of the 132,187 nursing graduates that took the last two Philippine nursing licensure tests in December 2007 and in June this year, only 56,689 or less than 43 percent passed.

“Regulators should now be extra watchful, and see to it that nursing students are kept away from low-grade schools," Herrera said.

Herrera also pushed for the increase in the entry-level monthly basic pay of government staff nurses to P16,093, as mandated by the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. He said that up to now, many government staff nurses are receiving only P8,000 per month.

Earlier, Dr Leah Samaco-Paquiz, Philippine Nurses Association president, said the demand for Filipino nurses had “plateaued" in the US since 2006 because of the “visa retrogression" there.

“In the US, the quota for visas has been filled up resulting in delayed processing of visas with current efforts focused on 2006 accepted applicants," Paquiz said.

She added that “many licensed nurses are now underemployed or unemployed as a result of changes of policy in destination countries, the current situation of oversupply and quality problems, among others."

Dr. Jaime Galvez Tan, a professor at the University of the Philippines College of Public Health, meanwhile said there is no reason for Filipino nurses to feel that there are no job opportunities for them when there remains a high demand for Philippine health workers overseas.

According to Tan, new labor markets in Saskatchewan and Alberta in Canada have opened recently when their representatives signed a pact with the Philippines to cater to Filipino nurses.

They have even offered a number of incentives for the families of the nurses.

“We are not beggars. In fact, the world is kneeling before us; Give us your nurses, give us your doctors," he said. “The vacancies are there. The US (for instance) needs 300,000 foreign nurses this year."

Senator Richard Gordon, Senate tourism committee chair, said the Philippines could put a stop to the exodus of Filipino workers abroad if the country would develop its medical tourism industry.

Gordon said the Philippines could get a share of the reported $30.3 billion to $79.4 billion expenditure of as many as 15.75 million Americans who seek medical services in other countries.

A militant group has said that the continuous sending of Filipino nurses abroad is causing the quality of the Philippine’s health sector to decline.

"The bulk of our nurses go abroad, the ones left are the new graduates, thus the quality of our health care declines," said Dr. Carol Araullo, chairperson of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan).

She said this “short-sighted labor export policy" has caused our hospitals to lose experienced medical consultants and doctors who have converted to nursing. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

DOLE not ready to lift suspension of deployment to Jordan

MANILA, Philippines - While the Jordanian government is all set to include the protection of migrant workers’ rights in its labor laws, the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment is adopting a ‘wait-and-see’ attitude before relaxing a ban on deployment of Filipino workers to the Mideastern kingdom.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque told GMANews.TV on Thursday that the Philippine government would have to wait for the implementation of protection measures before allowing Filipino domestic workers to be deployed in Jordan.

Earlier, Salah Jaber, a lawyer of the Ta’amneh law firm in Jordan, told GMANews.TV on Wednesday that the Jordanian government wants to include migrant workers, particularly domestic helpers, in its labor law and secure their protection from various forms of exploitation and abuse.

Once implemented, Filipino domestic workers will be entitled to a minimum wage pay of 150 Jordanian dinar, equivalent to P10,580. Aside from this, workers will be entitled to a maximum of eight hours per day working schedule and a day a week day off.

“We have to wait until they implement the amendments," said Roque. “(But until that happens) the ban in Jordan remains."

Earlier reports said a memorandum being drafted in coordination with the Philippine Embassy in Amman would give Jordan’s honorary consul in the Philippines a bigger role in supervising and monitoring the recruitment of Filipino workers for Jordan.

The government stopped the sending of Filipino workers to Jordan upon recommendation of the Philippine Embassy, which was alarmed by the rising number of Filipino women victimized by abusive employers.

Last August, Roque partially eased the ban and allowed returning household service workers in Jordan. Newly hired Filipino domestics, however, are still not allowed to enter the Middle East country.

Roque also instructed the Philippine Overseas and Employment Agency (POEA) and the Philippine Labor Office in Jordan (POLO) to resume the processing of employment documents of qualified returning HSWs.

Returning domestic helpers as well as skilled workers are allowed to be deployed to Jordan, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr said.


Ongoing deployment

Although the Philippine government has put a lid on the deployment of Filipino domestic workers there, a migrant workers’ leader in Jordan said the HSWs from the Philippines continue to pour into the country.

Hadeel Abdel Aziz founding member of the Justice Center for Legal Aid, told GMANews.TV that Jordanian employers have no problem looking for Filipino domestic helpers despite the January 2008 deployment ban.

Citing reports reaching her, Aziz said most Filipinos cross the border in Israel or Saudi Arabia to reach Jordan.

“I tell you, there is no problem with the supply of Filipino domestic helpers in Jordan. They keep coming," Aziz said.

Earlier this year, about 260 Filipino domestics sought refuge at the Philippine Embassy in Amman early this year, most of them claiming they were not paid their proper wages.

Since Filipino workers flooded the embassy and consular offices in Amman, the Philippine government decided to cancel the deployment of Filipino domestics to Jordan.

According to a recent study, one out of every two overseas Filipino workers last year ignored reports of harsh working conditions abroad and still chose to work in the Middle East.

A report by the National Statistics office (NSO) said that from April to September 2007, almost half or 46.8 percent of overseas workers were hired in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and other Middle East countries.

Last year, 45.8 percent of the OFWs worked in the Middle East during the same period, according to NSO. - GMANews.TV

New pact reaffirms Philippine commitment to UN peacekeeping efforts

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has committed to keep military personnel and equipment on standby for any peacekeeping operations of the United Nations.

The commitment was formalized in a Memorandum of Agreement on Contributions to the UN Standby Arrangement System, which UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo signed Wednesday night.

The pact was signed in Malacaňang before a gala dinner tendered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in honor of Ban, who was in Manila to address the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development GFMD).

Under the agreement, the Philippines committed to "make available specified resources that could be made available for UN Peacekeeping Operations within the agreed response time."

The resources agreed upon shall remain on standby in the Philippines where necessary operations, including UN-guided trainings, are conducted, the MOU stated.

It added that resources will be used exclusively for peacekeeping operations mandated by the UN Security Council.

A Malacañang statement on Thursday said the commitment could be in the form of military formation, specialized personnel, services, as well as materiel and equipment.

"We are very proud of the signing of the agreement earlier for a standby arrangement with our peacekeeping forces. We are very proud of our police force which is one of the biggest contingents in the UN Peacekeeping Operations," President Arroyo said in a statement before the gala dinner.

Ban lauded the Philippines for being "one of the strongest supporters of the UN Peacekeeping Forces."

The Philippines has 621 police and military personnel serving in nine UN mission areas — Afghanistan, Koltival, Darfur, Georgia, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sudan and Timor Leste. - GMANews.TV

Officials tag global migration meet successful

MANILA, Philippines - Although many government and non-government officials have tagged the recently concluded the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) to be a successful meeting of 163 countries and 1,100 delegates overall, its results remain a blur.

The forum's chair, Philippine Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., on Thursday said that the four-day forum was productive.

"This is not a forum about making speeches, but a forum about taking action," he told reporters during a press conference after the closing session of the conference at the Philippine International Cultural Center in Manila.

Vice President Noli De Castro specifically said during his closing address of the event on Thursday that he was impressed with the discussions over the past four days of the global forum.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in a speech before delegates to the forum, called on governments to strengthen laws to protect migrant workers, saying, "All eyes may be glued to stock markets, but we can't lose sight of the poor."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also enjoined governments to protect the rights and livelihoods of millions of migrant workers especially in the face of a global slowdown.

Ban warned that as countries slip into recession, migration flows have started to reverse, with foreign laborers leaving the construction and tourism sectors in industrialized nations.

He cited a slowdown in remittances — the backbone of poor nations' economies like the Philippines — and the risk of discrimination as national financial crises caused a rise in unemployment, personal hardship and anxiety.

Rather than a curse, Ban said migration should be seen as a tool to lift economies because human mobility makes them more efficient "even if they are not growing by ensuring that the right skills can reach the right places at the right time."

Migration "also helps redress the enormous imbalances that have led to harsh economic realities" as the developing world's young adults provide a counterbalance to an aging and shrinking population in the developed nations, he said.

Ban said that constraining migration will only make lives more miserable for an estimated 200 million laborers, but will never stop them from crossing borders.


Increasing interdependence

Greek Deputy Minister of Interior Athanassios Nakos, in his speech during the closing ceremonies, said that in “migration there is an increasing interdependence of all countries."

With that in mind, he said Greece aims to maximize the benefits from international migration and minimize its impacts.

“We should work so that migration becomes a choice instead of a necessity," he said.

He also pointed out that since Greece will host the 3rd GFMD on Nov. 4 and 5, 2009 they will focus their efforts “on the fact that international migration cannot be a substitute to development."

Nakos also announced that the European Union, of which is country is a member, has adopted a global approach for its migration policy, which “ attaches the greatest importance to guaranteeing respect for the human rights and the human dignity of all migrants, and to fighting against racism, xenophobia and human trafficking, particularly in the context of its migration policy."

“Thus, our regulations have established the conditions of entry, stay, residence and return of third-country citizens in the countries of the EU. At the same time, migrant workers who are legally present in the EU benefit from the same labor laws, and the same principles of non-discrimination, as do the citizens of the EU," he said.

Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo has also earlier pointed out that empowering migrants can lead to an increase in their "development impact" in both migrant sending and receiving countries.

However, he said that empowering migrants would entail a focus on human rights protection and the welfare of migrant workers and their families.

He said that migrant workers were the source for more than US $240 billion or almost P13 trillion in remittances, $104 billion or about P5 trillion in official development assistance, and $460 billion or more than P22 trillion in direct investments to developing nations in 2007.


Frank exchange


"The frank exchange of ideas, the open flow of communication, the desire to accommodate new approaches in solving age-old problems – these made this conference truly interesting and productive," Conejos said.

He said that the informality of the process, which is not aimed at forging agreements, has helped achieve international debates on principles and norms.

"(This is) bringing us closer from a consensus of understanding to a consensus of action," said the DFA official during the closing session of the GFMD on Thursday.

On the other hand, De Castro said that he will take the insights from the conference and "bring them out" to policy-makers.

"Migration and development are shared responsibilities of the countries of origin and destination. We know that one of the more tricky aspects of managing migration is the need for coordination between two governments," he said.

The vice president also expressed his support for the recommendations of the civil society groups presented during the first two days of the GFMD.

"I join them in making the call for governments to seriously undertake measures that will protect, support, and empower migrant workers abroad," said De Castro.

However, Conejos said that the global forum remains to be a process to be completed, to be continued.

"Doing important things is the same as doing things right," he said.

This, he said, will change way countries deal with the two complex but intertwined subjects – migration and development.


Recommendations

Meanwhile, the reports of the general rapporteurs for the three roundtable discussions during the government days of the forum were bound by the creation and effectiveness of current government policies.

Rapporteur for roundtable one Patricia Sto. Tomas said that migrants need to be covered by more laws and international conventions.

"In the absence of binding, bilateral agreements, there must be a layer of protection," she said.

Moreover, she said that there was a need for the exercise of political will to turn legal policies into action.

Likewise, rapporteur for roundtable two Han-Maurtis Schaapveld said that comprehensive policies relative to the country of origin are needed to address brain drain.

"No one size fits all," he said.

He said that models differ from country to country and that the possibility of implementing rules would vary.

"We often talk of the governments but we don't talk about the migrants," said Schaapveld.

Rapporteur for roundtable three Judith Macgregor suggested that an ad-hoc data and research group improve the data and researches done about migration.

"Accurate data is needed in better understanding the impact of migration," she said.

She also recognized the role that policies played in the development of a better setting for migrants.

"Policy and coherence are considered crucial for maximizing the benefits of migration," said Macgregor.


The Philippines as a host country

Peter Sutherland, the United Nations Secretary-General’s representative, complimented the Philippines over and over for what he said was a "genuinely superb hosting."

"There's no more important country involved in migration than the Philippines," he said.

With more than 8 million overseas workers, the Philippines is among the world's top exporters of human labor, together with Mexico, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
Some $14 billion remittances last year amounted to 10 percent of the Philippines' gross domestic product.

The Philippines supplies one-third of the world’s shipping manpower with about 270,000 Filipino seamen employed by foreign maritime agencies, according to the Department of Labor and Employment. - GMANews.TV

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Plight of Asian women migrants raised at 2nd GFMD

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

A migrants' rights advocate on Wednesday raised her concerns over several issues confronting Asian foreign workers.

“Almost a third of the world’s migrants are Asian migrants,” said Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, a group that promotes the rights of land- or sea-based Filipino migrant workers and immigrants, including their families.

These migrants, Sana said, leave their children, their families and country behind to work under a temporary-entry migration program where they are expected to return home when labors are no longer needed.

Speaking before representatives of 163 United Nations member state during the report of the civil society meeting on the opening session of the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Sana stressed that this is a great concern because states have committed to provide decent work, decent wages, social protection, including the right to mobility and right to stay.

Another issue that she highlighted was that Asian migration has a woman’s face because more than 50 percent of Asian migrants are women.

Domestic workers

“We are concerned because most of our women are concentrated in domestic work, which is not covered by labor and social laws of many countries, and as such, they are most vulnerable to abuses and exploitation,” Sana said.

According to Sana, Asian migration is also dominated by private recruitment agencies “who are more often than not, not properly and effectively regulated by the state.” These agencies thus become another party that exploits the migrants and their families.

“We are concerned in Asia, because the labor migration that is taking place is more of a consequence of our country's development program and policy that actually results in more social inequality and impoverishment of the Asian people,” said Sana.

“It is a consequence of our country's inability to provide job opportunities for all,” she added.

Furthermore, while the causes of labor migration have yet to be addressed, efforts to protect and promote the human rights of migrants and their families will always be not enough.

Plight of Asian women migrants raised at 2nd GFMD

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

A migrants' rights advocate on Wednesday raised her concerns over several issues confronting Asian foreign workers.

“Almost a third of the world’s migrants are Asian migrants,” said Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy, a group that promotes the rights of land- or sea-based Filipino migrant workers and immigrants, including their families.

These migrants, Sana said, leave their children, their families and country behind to work under a temporary-entry migration program where they are expected to return home when labors are no longer needed.

Speaking before representatives of 163 United Nations member state during the report of the civil society meeting on the opening session of the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Sana stressed that this is a great concern because states have committed to provide decent work, decent wages, social protection, including the right to mobility and right to stay.

Another issue that she highlighted was that Asian migration has a woman’s face because more than 50 percent of Asian migrants are women.

Domestic workers

“We are concerned because most of our women are concentrated in domestic work, which is not covered by labor and social laws of many countries, and as such, they are most vulnerable to abuses and exploitation,” Sana said.

According to Sana, Asian migration is also dominated by private recruitment agencies “who are more often than not, not properly and effectively regulated by the state.” These agencies thus become another party that exploits the migrants and their families.

“We are concerned in Asia, because the labor migration that is taking place is more of a consequence of our country's development program and policy that actually results in more social inequality and impoverishment of the Asian people,” said Sana.

“It is a consequence of our country's inability to provide job opportunities for all,” she added.

Furthermore, while the causes of labor migration have yet to be addressed, efforts to protect and promote the human rights of migrants and their families will always be not enough.

Arroyo: Going abroad should be a career option, not a must

by CARMELA FONBUENA, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Even as President Arroyo said that the Philippines “stands ready to champion the cause of migrant workers,” she told world leaders participating in a global migration forum in Manila that she “longs for the day when going abroad for a job is a career option, not the only choice, for a Filipino worker.”

“That is why we remain so stubbornly focused on the economy. We need to create and spread the wealth and keep the people working here at home,” she told participants at the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development on Wednesday.

The forum was also attended by United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-Moon.

President Arroyo said the government is trying to attract more investments that will make available high-income jobs like business process outsourcing (BPO). She said the BPO sector alone provided around 400,000 jobs since she assumed the presidency in 2001.

President Arroyo said her administration has created almost seven million jobs or an average of one million jobs for every year of her administration.

“By continuing down this path, we hope to increasingly be keeping our best and brightestest here in the Philippines, closer to friends and families, helping to build our communities and providing the next generation of leadership,” she said.

RP a Model in Protecting Migrants?

President Arroyo also said that the Philippines is a model for other countries in terms of protecting migrant workers.

“We have established what is considered one of the best-regulated expatriate worker programs in the world. On the basis of their contributions and of the nation’s humanitarian responsibilities to its people wherever they are, our government works doubly hard to strengthen migrant workers’ protection—protection from the depredations of domestic recruiters as well as of overseas employers, agents and officials, and protection from physical harm.

“Our comprehensive and multi-dimensional 'life-cycle' strategy covers all facets of the overseas employment process, from pre-departure orientation to post-return reintegration and retraining. The effectiveness of this approach in terms of protecting workers has been repeatedly acknowledged by international bodies,” she said.

The Philippines was chosen as the venue for the global forum because of its rich experience in migration. According to government statistics, there are around eight million Filipino migrants that can be found in various countries worldwide.

Seeking Host Countries’ Cooperation

President Arroyo also called for the cooperation among origin and host countries, acknowledging that the efforts by the Philippine government are not enough to protect the Filipino migrant workers, especially at a time when there is a global financial crisis,

She urged countries to ratify the convention that protects migrant workers. “We urge all countries, which have not yet done so, to ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families,” she said.

“The global financial crisis currently taking place challenges us again to gather our forces, within government and in partnership with other countries, to better protect our people abroad against financial and economic shocks, and the side effects of such shocks—exploitation, abuse, and other forms of ill treatment.

“The full protection and empowerment of migrants is a task that goes far beyond what individual countries of origin can do on their own,” she said.

“All eyes may be glued on the stock market, but we must never lose sight of the often unseen impact of the global credit crunch on the long-term needs of the poor, including the migrant poor,” she said.

“Whether there’s a financial crisis or not, instead of viewing migrants as depersonalized movable components of globalization, or worse, as inconvenient necessities, we must embrace them a human beings who contribute to our essential well-being in this age of vast movement and change. We must prepare them for and make them full partners in our world of developmental, demographic and democratic transformation,” the President said.

“Our Global Forum [on Migration and Development] offers us a community space to explore those challenges together and to find the best policies, the best practices to meet the challenges of migration in mutually beneficial ways,” she said.

Arts, music express impact of migration on children left behind

States must take responsibility for labor export social costs on children left behind
October 30, 2008, Manila – Children left behind by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) expressed their plight, dreams and hopes through art, music and poetry in a Children’s Caravan held October 30 here. The Caravan is an initiative within the People's Global Action on Migration, Development, and Human Rights, a civil society-led event timed to coincide with the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) 2008 in Manila from 27-30 October.
It is part of larger initiatives by civil society groups to challenge governments and States to consider in their discussion the impact of migration on children left behind by migrant workers.
While there are efforts to address the problems of migrants themselves, few actions are made to support the increasing number of children left behind to cope, remain safe, and have a healthy childhood even as they grow up in this “new” type of family setting where one or both parents are away. Nor are there enough efforts to support the individual parents left behind to care for the children or to the alternative care givers like grandparents, aunts, and friends. There is a prevailing assumption that given their new financial capacities, the children and families of migrant workers are in situations that are better than the rest. But experiences show that this is not always the case. Long term separation from parents without having these children supported by other able and caring adults can be detrimental for children’s development, sense of well-being, and their future. It is time to calculate the social costs of labour migration and gauge whether the economic gains do in fact compensate the costs of having generations of children growing up in these new family settings.
In the Caravan, and during a series of art and cultural workshops held earlier, the children embodied through various art forms their desire to be reunited with their parents. They also expressed the social and emotional impacts of migration on themselves, which included: lack of parental care and communication; feelings of anger, depression and rebellion at their parents’ absence; social isolation, even among their relatives or extended family; lack of financial support and security.
The children in the Caravan also expressed their care and concern over the situation of their parents working abroad, asking their mothers and fathers to always take care of themselves and stay healthy; and, telling them of their wish to be reunited as families.
Last October 24, child rights organisations gathered with university students for debates on the impact of migration on children. The two debates – the debate on Economic Benefits versus Social Costs for Children of International Migration and the debate on Deportation and the best Interest of the Child- policy recommendations were placed forward to mitigate the negative impacts of migration on children. Concrete recommendations that address the plight of the children left behind included entrusting children to a designated parental authority to guard against placing children in vulnerable situations; allowing documented migrants to bring their families to the receiving countries eventually; and, providing child services with emphasis on coping techniques and the development of resiliency. The Council for the Welfare of Children endorsed the programme and the resulting recommendations.
This series of events are jointly supported by the UNICEF Philippines, Asia ACTs, the International Labour Organization's the Mekong Trafficking in Children and Women Project, and Save the Children UK’s Cross-border Project for the Protection of Vulnerable Migrant Children.
A call to for governments and civil society to uphold the human rights of children affected by migration across the globe


On October 29-30 governments from at least 167 migrant sending and destination countries are expected to attend the2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development in Manila. The Asia ACTS, ILO TICW, Save the Children UK and the UNICEF joined by other local and international organisations are making this call for the governments, trade unions, migrant networks, and many other civil society organizations to recognise that migration for labour has direct impact on children left behind by their parents and that there are children among the migrants and their rights and special needs deserve to included in any discussion on migration and development alongside other pressing concerns of women and gender, labour and human rights, the climate and ecology. The lack of recognition of children in the migration and development policies and programs is keeping hundreds and thousands of children around the world at risk.

We call for cooperation and actions across all sectors to make the children affected by migration visible and their rights protected in all our policies, programmes, and actions.

The children left behind

Economic disparities among countries and the globalization of economies have resulted to the high rate of migrations across the world, particularly for labour. For a number of developing countries, labour migration is no longer a short-term-stop gap measure by governments but has actually become a key element to long term economic development strategies. Given the increasing dependency of governments on revenues from the foreign employment of their nationals instead of developing their local income opportunities at home, millions of children today grow up with a parent or both parents living and working away from home.

While there are efforts to address the problems of migrants themselves, few actions are made to support the increasing number of children left behind to cope, remain safe, and have a healthy childhood even as they grow up in this “new” type of family setting. Nor are there enough efforts to support the individual parents left behind to care for the children or to the alternative care givers like grandparents, aunts, and friends. There is a prevailing assumption that given their new financial capacities, these children and families of migrant workers are in situations that are better than the rest. But experiences show that this is not always the case and long term separation from parents without having these children supported by other able and caring adults can be detrimental for children’s development, sense of well-being, and their future. It is time to calculate the social costs of labour migration and gauge whether the economic gains do in fact compensate the costs of having generations of children growing up in these new family settings.



Migrant children

Children had always been a part of the migration flows across the world. Migrant children include children who move across country borders independently for work or to search for better opportunities in life, those who move with their migrant parents, those who are born in the countries of destination, and those who are trafficked across country borders. It is difficult to gauge the number of migrant children as most of them are undocumented and migrant registration procedures often exclude children and families of migrant workers. In this region, we can only cite the example of Thailand where there was an attempt to register migrant working children together with adult workers. The labour registration process in 2004 indicated that there were 96 thousand children (7%) among the 1.3 million migrant workers who registered in 2004.

While there are migrations of children that end with better situations for them, a big number of children, particularly those who are undocumented find themselves in situations of discrimination, neglect, abuse, and exploitation. They are considered by the States as violators of the immigration laws and end up deported or in jails for this violation. For those who are working and trafficked, their ‘illegal status’ is used by employers and traffickers as a tool to control them, instilling fear of being picked up by the police.

While sending countries have the responsibilities to improve the situations of their children and address the roots of risky child migration, destination countries are equally accountable to ensure that migrant children in their territories are accorded protection and their basic rights. The Committee on the Rights of the Child that monitors and guides the implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has clearly stated in the General Comment No. 6 (2005) that: “The enjoyment of rights stipulated in the Convention are not limited to children who are citizens of a State party and must therefore, if not explicitly stated otherwise in the Convention, also be available to all children – including asylum seeking, refugee and migrant children – irrespective of their nationality, immigration status, or statelessness. States are also tasked to take into account the vulnerabilities of unaccompanied and separated migrant children which require special protection measures.”

Deportation and stopping migration of children are not solutions for the problems of migrant children. We must recognize that there are strong interweaving motivations behind each migration – economic, personal, social – such that seeking a stop to migration of children without viable alternatives, may only force migrants to move through more irregular or clandestine channels.

As our contribution to addressing these negative social impacts of migration on children, both to children left behind by migrant workers and migrant children, we would like to make the following recommendations.

1. Acknowledge the presence of children in the migration phenomena in our countries, and listen to their voices and perspectives– both those of the child who are left behind by migrant parents and those who are among the migrants.
2. Find ways of working with them directly and recognise them persons human rights and with evolving capacities to participate and make decisions in finding solutions to their own problems.

For children left behind:

3. Sending and destination countries must reconsider their labour migration policies such that long term separation of parents and children are avoided and the right of workers and children to family unity is protected.
4. Promote programmes that develop communities’ awareness on migration realities, allow children to articulate their feelings and views on the migration of their parents and help them cope with the challenges of separations, bridge communication gaps in the families, support management of family finances, and help the children set and achieve educational and other future goals.
5. Ensure that family based care and community protection systems are in place for children left behind who are at risk of neglect, abuse and exploitation. Institutional care of children must be taken as a last resort.
6. Conduct studies that combine quantitative and qualitative approaches to assessing the psychosocial effects and other costs of migration to children left—behind, as well as studies on families that positively cope with migration to generate guidance for more effective policies and programmes.

For migrant children:
7. States must declare a moratorium on the immediate deportation of undocumented children and instead develop strategies to handle cases of migrant children taking into account the best interests of the child.
8. In destination countries, develop mechanisms for the protection of migrant children and enforce policies that that support their basic rights particularly to education, health, birth registration, decent work for those in working ages, and lasting alternative care for children without parental care.
9. It is important that destination and sending countries ensure that children who move do not end up stateless. Birth registration and nationality determination processes must be agreed on between known sending and destination countries.
10. Ensure that migrant children are not criminalisedbecause of their migration status. Rights of children who enter come in conflict with the law must be protected, including provision of language support and legal representation, communication with their families, and adequate temporary care facilities.
11. Ensure that migrant children who are exploited or trafficked are identified as victims, and that they receive necessary recovery support including counseling, health care, and shelter. Timely and safe repatriation and reintegration programmes must be agreed on together by both origin and destination countries..

RP can’t even help ailing Pinay in Jeddah - group

MANILA, Philippines — A migrant advocacy group on Thursday urged President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to first get her officials to do their jobs properly in helping distressed overseas Filipino workers before telling others to help ensure the protection of migrant workers.

Migrante – Kingdom of Saudi Arabia pointed to the case of Aida Gutierrez, a 41-year-old dressmaker from San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, who is confined at a hospital in Jeddah and whose health is allegedly deteriorating due to the inability of the Philippine mission there to extend any real assistance.

“Arroyo should call for better migrant protection in front of a mirror," said Migrante KSA chairperson A. M. Ociones in response to the President's keynote speech before a gathering of world representatives on Wednesday on the third day of the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Manila.

Mrs. Arroyo said she wanted “to gather (the) collective will, joint resources, and common efforts" of “international organizations and global civil societies for the protection of migrant workers rights."

“Help begins at home," the advocacy group said, reminding the government that it would be a shame to seek help from others while doing nothing to solve one’s own problems.

According to Ociones, OFW Gutierrez was confined at the Saudi German Hospital in Jeddah on October 2 due to diabetes mellitus and chronic renal failure.

Because she had to be placed under intensive care, her bills continued to balloon, another reason why she could not be discharged from the hospital.

As of October 25, her bill reached 118,838.70 Saudi riyals (roughly PHP 1,564,383.


Twice abandoned

Ociones said Gutierrez's employer did not provide for any medical insurance coverage as mandated by local Saudi laws and has refused to shoulder her hospitalization from the very start.

“Her employer has already abandoned her, fearing the high medical cost and now the government has abandoned Gutierrez by totally ignoring her needs," Ociones lamented.

Quoting relatives in their documentation, Migrante KSA noted that the government representatives’ response to Gutierrez' case ranged from a “non-committal" promise of “assistance… sa abot ng aming makakaya" from Consul General Ezzedin Tago to an outright “wala kaming pondo" by representatives of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

A case profile prepared by Migrante KSA also claimed that Labor Attaché Buliok Nilong, head of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah, “apparently admitted to the victim's sister that they cannot do anything by saying ‘wala tayong magagawa d’yan. Walang batas na pwedeng magpwersa sa employer na sagutin ang pagpapagamot."

“These responses is totally reflective the government's de facto policy of reneging on their mandate to serve migrant Filipinos," Ociones said.


Fund-raising

On the other hand, OFW groups in Saudi Arabia, including Migrante, are now all busy raising funds for the hospitalization cost of Gutierrez, but Migrante KSA said they could only raise so much.

“OWWA has billions in its coffers but nothing for situations like these! Where does all our money go?" Ociones asked, citing the admission of Welfare Officer Romeo Pablo that OWWA has no funds and that he will ask other community organizations to start raising money.

“Surely, OWWA do have the funds, but no, they expect that the cost be shouldered again by the virtuous charity of OFWs," Ociones added, blasting President Arroyo at the same time for her policy to pull out the medical coverage from the OWWA and transferring it to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) in 2004.

Before the controversial transfer which critics have linked to Arroyo’s election campaign, the OWWA Medicare shouldered the hospitalization expenses of OFWs who were not covered by health insurance in their place of work.

Migrante and other OFWs asserted that the transfer of OWWA Medicare coupled with the implementation of the OWWA Omnibus Policy in September 2004 effectively denied OFWs with proper medical coverage.

PhilHealth, according to Migrante and by own admission of OWWA staff in Jeddah, can only own up to 20 percent of total hospitalization cost, which can only be reimbursed in the Philippines.

“In a way, Arroyo is right," Ociones said. “Arroyo's government is noteworthy for passing the burden of protecting and ensuring the rights and welfare of migrant workers on people other than themselves who was mandated by the Constitution."

Arroyo made the call to the GFMD in the context of current global financial crisis which, Migrante asserted, affects Filipino migrant workers in more ways than one.

“That employers are abandoning their workers like Aida Gutierrez is a direct result of the global economic crunch," Ociones concludes. “And we expect more of these happening with the intensification of labor-export under the GFMD." - GMANews.TV

Jordan to include migrant workers in its labor laws

MANILA, Philippines - Some 25, 000 Filipino workers in Jordan will be assured of being paid their proper wages and would not be forced to work beyond eight hours should amendments to the Arab country’s labor law push through next year, a migrant workers’ lawyer said Wednesday.

Salah Jaber, a lawyer of the Ta’amneh law firm in Jordan, told GMANews.TV that the Jordanian government seeks to include migrant workers, particularly domestic helpers, in its labor law and secure their protection from various forms of exploitation and abuse.

Jaber said the amendment was in line with Jordan’s signing of several agreements on human and workers’ rights drafted by the United Nations and the International Labor Organization.

Once implemented, Filipino domestic workers will be entitled to a minimum wage pay of 150 Jordanian dinar, equivalent to P10,580. Aside from this, workers will be entitled to a maximum of eight hours per day working schedule and a day a week day off.

The Philippine government imposed a partial deployment ban of Filipino workers to Jordan last January after it received reports that cases of abuse and maltreatment of Filipino workers in Jordan were rising.

About 260 Filipino domestics sought refuge at the Philippine Embassy in Amman early this year, asking authorities to send them back home.

The Jordanian Times in an earlier report quoted Amjad Weshah, recruitment director of the Jordanian Labor Ministry, as saying that a delegation led by Jordan’s labor minister would go to Manila in October to sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Philippine authorities.

The report said the memorandum, which was being drafted in coordination with the Philippine Embassy in Amman, would also give Jordan’s honorary consul in the Philippines a bigger role in supervising and monitoring the recruitment of Filipino workers for Jordan.

Weshah reportedly said that to both ensure the protection of Filipino domestic helpers and their employers, the MoU would set recruitment guidelines consistent with Jordanian laws.

Hadeel Abdel Aziz founding member of the Justice Center for Legal Aid, an organization providing free legal services to migrant workers in Jordan, feared that the amendments would not be fully implemented by the government.

Although the Jordanian government seems to be receptive to the pressure from the international media, Aziz said, it still has a lot to prove in terms of implementation.

“There’s still so much room for improvement," said Aziz. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Filipino scholar has found new source of coherent light - DOST

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino scientist currently studying in the United States has found a new source of coherent light, like lasers, which only potentially needs lower power to operate, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) said on Wednesday.

In a press statement, the DOST's Science Education Institute (DOST-SEI) said Ryan Balili, together with his adviser David Snoke of University of Pittsburgh, were able to demonstrate that the transition of particles into waves could be done at higher temperature which would require lesser power to generate.

The phenomenon is called Bose-Einstein Condensation (BEC), named after Indian physicist Satyendranath Bose who worked on the statistics of monoatomic ideal gases and Albert Einstein who speculated this macroscopic coherent state.

“Einstein proposed that at very low temperatures a certain type of identical particles, now called bosons, would’collapse,’ or condense, into a single quantum mechanical wave.

“However, in Balili’s work, he was able to demonstrate the same phenomenon at higher temperatures using polaritons, an energy particle which exists only in a medium that can be polarized by an electromagnetic wave," the statement explained.

It quoted Balili as saying that the main challenge was making the polariton transition into a BEC even if polaritons exist only for very short times, approximately a few picoseconds.

Nevertheless, Balili and his adviser were able to trap polaritons which turned into a single, spatially compact condensate of gas analogous to atomic BEC.

“One way to think of a polariton BEC is that it is a state of matter that has some of the properties of a laser and some of the properties of a superconductor," the DOST-SEI statement said.

Balili and his group at the University of Pittsburgh said that what they were able to show is that the emitted light of the polariton BEC and its electrons are coherent, which is a property of superconductors that allows it to make electric current flow without resistance and wavelike interference of electrical signals.

He said that the most promising applications of the polaritons BEC are in optical devises which takes advantage of laser-like sources at low-power coherent light sources.

“This may be useful for signaling, switching, and amplification in optical communications," he said.

Balili, a 2002 summa cum laude Bachelor of Science in Physics graduate of the Mindanao State University - Iligan Institute of Technology, is currently taking up his doctorate in Physics at the University of Pittsburgh where he also finished his Master of Science in Physics.

Balili was a scholar of the DOST during his undergraduate years.

Dr. Ester B. Ogena, director of the DOST-SEI, lauded Balili’s work saying his discovery is a manifestation of the caliber of scholars the DOST is getting every year.

“We are the germination box of soon-to-be great names in the science and technology world. Balili is just one of them and every year we get around 3,500 scholars who in the future would propel the Philippines into first world status," she said in the statement.

Ogena expressed optimism that more DOST-SEI scholars would make a mark in science and technology with the implementation of the Accelerated Science and Technology Human Resource Development Program (ASTHRDP) and the Engineering Research and Development for Technology Program (ERDTP) which provides students to proceed to the MS and PhD studies as a scholar.

“We are beefing up our critical mass of scientists and engineers through the ASTHRDP and ERDTP by providing them with scholarships in our top universities," she said.

Ogena avowed to continuously entice students to venture into science careers through promotional programs and scholarship grants.

“We shall be at the forefront of science and technology human resources development and create the necessary critical mass of scientists and engineers the Philippines needs," she said. - GMANews.TV

Filipino Muslims in KSA appeal for end to fighting in Mindanao

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Filipino Muslim organizations in western Saudi Arabia have added their voices to a call for government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to return to the peace table.

In an appeal addressed to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the United Bangsaranao Council (UBC), a Jeddah-based umbrella organization of 32 Maranao community organizations, expressed concern over the effects of continuing hostilities between government and MILF combatants on civilians.

“Fighting punishes the innocent, particularly the young, old, and the infirm," a UBC statement said during a gathering at the Tropicana Restaurant in Jeddah over the weekend.

They noted that more than half-a-million people, Muslims and Christians alike, were forced to flee their homes at the height of fighting between government forces and fighters of the MILF led by Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdulrahman Macapaar, a.k.a. Commander Bravo in Central Mindanao over the past weeks.

Over 80 people have been reported killed and scores more were injured in days of fighting.

Kato and Bravo seized or attacked several barangays in the southern provinces of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte after the Supreme Court on August 4 stopped government and MILF from signing a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, which sought to delineate more than 700 villages in Mindanao and Palawan to constitute a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

The memorandum would have committed the government to sign a peace deal with the MILF and granting the group control over the BJE, which would constitute a Muslim homeland that includes the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Amid an outrage among politicians in Mindanao who were opposed to the expanded autonomous region, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo abandoned talks with the MILF. She blamed the attacks by Kato, Bravo and another commander for her decision, and demanded that the MILF leadership arrest and hand over the two commanders to government authorities to answer for their attacks.

In their appeal, UBC leaders said it is incumbent upon the Arroyo government to demonstrate its sincerity in pursuing a lasting peace in the southern Philippines.

Sheik Albani Maungco of the Council of the Maranao Leaders said the government ought to offer and a solution that is acceptable to the Bangsamoro people.

"Political solution ang pinakamagandang pormula sa Mindanao dahil ang giyera ng mahigit apat na dekada na ay nabigong maipakita na iyon ang solusyon (A political solution is still the best formula to resolve the Mindanao crisis. As had been shown in the past four decades, war is not a solution)," Maungco said.

Among the organizations under the United Bangsaranao Council are the Bangsaranao Overseas Solidarity for Social Welfare, Ranao Claims against the Power Plant , Abna Marantao Fi Saudia, Amboloto Clan, Amsoda, Association of Ranao Engineers, Baloi and LN Muslim Expatriates Association, Binidayan Islamic Association, Buadi Puso Buntong Association, Ewaton International, Ganassi Union Islamic Development, Green land Unayan, Lanao Lakers.

It also includes the Maisa, Malabang Islamic Foundation, Malumbay International, Marawi Expatriates, Moriatao Angoyao, Moriatao Diwan, Mulondo Overseas Association, Nunungen Overseas Association, Pantarian Plotters, Pantao Ragat Overseas Org., Madalum Islamic Solidarity Assn., Saguiaran International Assn., Shakba International, SILSILA, Tamparan Islamic Bro. Assn., Taraka Alkhairia, Togayanian, Tubaranians and the Pualas Expatriates. - GMANews.TV

Filipino Muslims in KSA appeal for end to fighting in Mindanao

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Filipino Muslim organizations in western Saudi Arabia have added their voices to a call for government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to return to the peace table.

In an appeal addressed to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the United Bangsaranao Council (UBC), a Jeddah-based umbrella organization of 32 Maranao community organizations, expressed concern over the effects of continuing hostilities between government and MILF combatants on civilians.

“Fighting punishes the innocent, particularly the young, old, and the infirm," a UBC statement said during a gathering at the Tropicana Restaurant in Jeddah over the weekend.

They noted that more than half-a-million people, Muslims and Christians alike, were forced to flee their homes at the height of fighting between government forces and fighters of the MILF led by Ameril Umbra Kato and Abdulrahman Macapaar, a.k.a. Commander Bravo in Central Mindanao over the past weeks.

Over 80 people have been reported killed and scores more were injured in days of fighting.

Kato and Bravo seized or attacked several barangays in the southern provinces of North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte after the Supreme Court on August 4 stopped government and MILF from signing a memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain, which sought to delineate more than 700 villages in Mindanao and Palawan to constitute a Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE).

The memorandum would have committed the government to sign a peace deal with the MILF and granting the group control over the BJE, which would constitute a Muslim homeland that includes the existing Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Amid an outrage among politicians in Mindanao who were opposed to the expanded autonomous region, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo abandoned talks with the MILF. She blamed the attacks by Kato, Bravo and another commander for her decision, and demanded that the MILF leadership arrest and hand over the two commanders to government authorities to answer for their attacks.

In their appeal, UBC leaders said it is incumbent upon the Arroyo government to demonstrate its sincerity in pursuing a lasting peace in the southern Philippines.

Sheik Albani Maungco of the Council of the Maranao Leaders said the government ought to offer and a solution that is acceptable to the Bangsamoro people.

"Political solution ang pinakamagandang pormula sa Mindanao dahil ang giyera ng mahigit apat na dekada na ay nabigong maipakita na iyon ang solusyon (A political solution is still the best formula to resolve the Mindanao crisis. As had been shown in the past four decades, war is not a solution)," Maungco said.

Among the organizations under the United Bangsaranao Council are the Bangsaranao Overseas Solidarity for Social Welfare, Ranao Claims against the Power Plant , Abna Marantao Fi Saudia, Amboloto Clan, Amsoda, Association of Ranao Engineers, Baloi and LN Muslim Expatriates Association, Binidayan Islamic Association, Buadi Puso Buntong Association, Ewaton International, Ganassi Union Islamic Development, Green land Unayan, Lanao Lakers.

It also includes the Maisa, Malabang Islamic Foundation, Malumbay International, Marawi Expatriates, Moriatao Angoyao, Moriatao Diwan, Mulondo Overseas Association, Nunungen Overseas Association, Pantarian Plotters, Pantao Ragat Overseas Org., Madalum Islamic Solidarity Assn., Saguiaran International Assn., Shakba International, SILSILA, Tamparan Islamic Bro. Assn., Taraka Alkhairia, Togayanian, Tubaranians and the Pualas Expatriates. - GMANews.TV

Noli to head anti-illegal recruitment task force

MANILA, Philippines - Vice President Emmanuel de Castro has been given a new job. On Wednesday, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo named him chair of the Presidential Anti-Illegal Recruitment Task Force or Pairtf.

Mrs Arroyo formalized this by issuing Executive Order No. 759 dated October 23.

Under her directive, Arroyo also named the Immigration chief as vice chairman and designated as members of the body the secretaries of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Labor and Employment.

Also named as members were the head of the police' Criminal Investigation and detection Group-Anti Transnational Division (CIDG-ATD), the National Bureau of Investigation director, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency administrator and general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority.

Initial funding for the Task Force would be sourced from the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission.

However, other agencies involved in the campaign against illegal recruitment are authorized to allocate their existing funds when necessary.

Malacañang justified the unit, saying that it was important to create such a task force as the problem of illegal recruitment "has already reached alarming proportion as to cause public concern."

"It is of critical importance that the State safeguards public interest and protect the Filipino worker form losing their hard earned money and property to unscrupulous recruiters and syndicates, and save the government from incurring expenses due to repatriation of victims of illegal recruitment," the EO further read.

Under the EO, the Pairtf is tasked to formulate strategies against modus operandi of illegal recruiters like "escort services" in the international air and sea ports.

It was also tasked to come up with strategies against syndicates in tampering and sale of spurious travel documents and ensure the prosecution of illegal recruiters, syndicates and their protectors.

The Task Force was also empowered to conduct surveillance and entrapment operations and effect warrants of arrest against the illegal recruiters, cause immediate investigations and speedy prosecution of cases. - GMANews.TV

New interagency group to intensify drive vs illegal recruitment

MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has created a new inter-agency task force that will intensify the drive against illegal recruitment.

"There is a need to create a new task force against illegal recruitment... in order to ensure a more focused, coordinated and effective program of action to curb illegal recruitment," read Executive Order (EO) 759 signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita on Oct. 23.

In a chance interview, Mr. Ermita said the task force will provide "more teeth" to measures that seek to address illegal recruitment.

The Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (TFAIR) will be headed by Vice-President Manuel "Noli" L. de Castro, who is also Presidential Adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers.

It shall consist of the Bureau of Immigration commissioner, who will serve as vice-chairman; and as members the secretaries of the departments of Foreign Affairs, Justice, and Labor and Employment; heads of the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group and anti-transnational division; director of the National Bureau of Investigation; head of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration; and general manager of the Manila International Airport.

TFAIR will develop and execute strategies against the modus operandi of illegal recruiters, draw measures against syndicates who tamper and sell fake passports and travel documents, and ensure the prosecution of syndicates and their protectors.

It is empowered to conduct surveillance and entrapment operations, direct the investigation and speedy prosecution of cases involving illegal recruitment, and coordinate with agencies involved in anti-illegal recruitment campaigns.

"It is of critical importance that the state safeguards public interest and protects the Filipino workers from losing their hard-earned money and property to unscrupulous recruiters and syndicates and save the government from incurring expenses due to repatriation of illegal recruitment," the EO read.

There are around eight million Filipino migrant workers worldwide.

Meanwhile, a state training agency is expecting increased enrollment due to foreseen higher demand for cheaper, skilled workers abroad.

Augusto L. Syjuco, director-general of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), Wednesday told reporters after a weekly forum in Greenhills, San Juan City that "demand for [skilled workers] abroad will not go down even if there is an economic crisis," adding Western countries demand "cheaper" labor.

He noted Guam needs 20,000 workers; Canada, 30,000; and New Zealand, 20,000 for the next three years. He said the Saudi Arabian embassy alone processes 1,000 passports daily.

"The best time to invest in any skilled development is when the market is down," he said. "But we cannot serve that overnight."

Mr. Syjuco said about 532,000 have enrolled in TESDA as of August. In 2007, total enrollees reached 2.14 million from 1.73 million in 2006. "About 48% of our 2007 graduates readily found employment within six months."

Meanwhile, an additional P300 million has been given by Mrs. Arroyo to boost TESDA’s scholarship grants. This is on top of P4.5 billion in subsidies announced by the Palace on Tuesday.

In a related development, representatives of militant migrant workers from different parts of the world gathered at the Mehan Garden in Manila Wednesday to seek representation in the four-day Global Forum on Migration and Development that ends today. They also called for the creation of additional domestic jobs, and celebrated the Zero Remittance Day.

"Today, we are collectively exercising our power to show our governments and big businesses that we are finally standing up against modern-day slavery that is forced migration," said International Migrants Assembly Chairman Eni Lestari. — A. D. B. Romero, B. U. Allauigan, BusinessWorld

“OFWS MUST BE TREATED HUMANELY BY HOST COUNTRIES ALL THE TIME—CHR CHAIRPERSON LEILA M. DE LIMA”

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) will be a key participant of the Global Forum on Migration & Development during the relevant activity to be held at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC), CCP Complex, Roxas Blvd., Metro Manila.

According to CHR Chairperson Leila M. De Lima, the Forum on Migration & Development is an appropriate venue to provide more effective mechanisms in laying down better rules and regulations with regards to safeguarding the welfare and wellbeing of thousands of migrant workers all over the world, including the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“As the world continues to be impressed with the reliability, competence and skillfulness of the Filipinos as contract workers, the government must double its effort to realize what they (the government) refer them to be -- as the country’s economic heroes.”

The CHR Chief said that as a `sending nation’ of an estimated eight (8) million OFWs to over one hundred `host or receiving countries’, it is not enough that these `unsung’ heroes receive merely lip service from concerned government officials.

However, the CHR head admitted that through the years, the government has effectively placed measures in addressing the needs of the OFWs since the Philippines is one of the few sending countries where mechanisms for migrant workers, especially during emergency cases, are in place. Nonetheless, as a `temporary’ way of earning a living `away’ from their respective families, several factors must also be considered in the process.

Chairperson De Lima added that the social cost of migration, for example, is one of the many `cons’ of being an OFW. “It’s not always the money that counts but the relationship of the family that matters.” So there should be a balance between the two, and the government must have a support system for the families who are temporarily left behind.”

It is a fact, the CHR Chairperson said, that the remittances of the OFWs continue to serve as the economic equilibrium of the country. As such, the government, specifically the people from our Embassies and the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs), should assert the beneficial aspects that the host countries derive from our `own’ nationals. This is where we need to strengthen bilateral agreements especially to countries where mistreatment and, worse, maltreatment abound.

“More than any other relevant discussions on this forum, let this be the venue to put an end to any harsh treatment toward any migrant worker in any part of the globe,” De Lima stressed.

The Commission on Human Rights would always assert fair treatment to every Filipino or any individual for that matter, regardless of their status in life, be it here or outside the country.

CHR Director Government Linkages Karen A. Dumpit sits as CHR’s observer during the two-day forum. The first meeting of the forum was initiated and hosted by Belgium. Representatives from other countries will also participate during the dialogues and discussions. One of the most interesting issues will focus on the positive impacts on both the communities of origin and the communities of destinations. xxx

Pope urges RP: Address needs of migrants, OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - Pope Benedict XVI urged the Philippine government to address the needs of emigrant citizens and overseas Filipino workers, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines said Wednesday.

An article on the CBCP website said the Pope relayed his message to new Philippine envoy to the Vatican Cristina Ponce Enrile.

"Governments must work for proper integration of immigrants ...
governments must work for proper integration of immigrants," he said in hits first meeting with the new envoy last Oct. 27.

The CBCP article said the Pope also made references to the attention of the Filipino government toward its own emigrant citizens.

In this regard, Benedict spoke of immigration as a "resource for development."

"Government leaders face numerous challenges as they strive to ensure that immigrants are integrated into society in a way that acknowledges their human dignity and affords them the opportunity to earn a decent living, with adequate time for rest and a due provision for worship.

The just care of immigrants and the building up of solidarity of labor requires governments, humanitarian agencies, peoples of faith and all citizens to cooperate with prudence and patient determination.

Domestic and international policies aimed at regulating immigration must be based on criteria of equity and balance, and particular care is needed to facilitate the reunification of families. At the same time, conditions that foster increased work opportunities in peoples' places of origin are to be promoted as far as possible," he said.

On the other hand, he supported the collaboration between Church and state, saying that the Church is "equally convinced" that State and religion are called to support each other as they together serve the personal and social well-being of all.

"This harmonious cooperation between Church and State requires ecclesial and civic leaders to carry out their public duties with undaunted concern for the common good. By cultivating a spirit of honesty and impartiality, and by keeping justice their aim, civil and ecclesial leaders earn the trust of the people and enhance a sense of the shared responsibility of all citizens to promote a civilization of love," he said.- GMANews.TV

RP seeking agreements with migrant-receiving countries

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines is seeking bilateral agreements with countries employing migrant workers not only to secure more jobs for Filipinos but also to ensure their protection and welfare.

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) chief Carmelita Dimzon said the agreements would be patterned after those being negotiated with France and Italy.

"The draft (for France) is almost finished while Italy (has only) groundwork pa lang," she said in an interview with reporters on the sidelines of the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) at the Philippine International Cultural Center in Manila on Wednesday.

Templates for other European and Middle East countries are also in the works, she said.

"’Pag nag-start sunud-sunod na ‘yan, like with Canada (Once its starts, everyone will follow, just like with Canada)," said Dimzon, a long-time deputy administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) prior to her appointment as OWWA chief in September.

The POEA is tasked to locate labor markets worldwide and regulate the country’s labor export industry, which is one of the biggest in the world with 8.7 million Filipino migrant workers.

The OWWA is responsible for providing welfare and protection for OFWs, hundreds of whom are under detention in foreign jails for various offenses. Thousands of OFWs, particularly the Filipino domestic workers abroad are also in the “distressed" category and are supposed to be assisted by the agency.

Dimzon assured OFWs that these agreements or memorandum of understandings contain provisions meant to protect workers’ rights.

She said the provisions would also require host governments to give funds for the training and education of the people they are going to hire.

Four regions in Canada have already entered into MOUs with the Philippines, while the renewal of the 2006 memorandum with Spain has been postponed indefinitely.

Dimzon said she was pleased with the many countries who expressed interest in the Philippines and its people.

"Nakakatuwa, ang daming interesado (I'm happy to see that so many are interested)," she said.

Dimzon said that an Israeli organization recently approached her and said that it wanted to help Filipino workers in its country gain skills and training.


Dimzon said that the current financial crisis doesn't feel like it is affecting non-Western countries at all.

"Sa (In the) Department of Labor and Employment, we're not pessimistic about this, we don't want it to be called a global financial crisis" she said.

She cited the health care industry to be one sector that is most likely to be unaffected by the financial crunch.

"Despite the financial crisis, you can't keep people from getting old or getting sick," she said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that countries like Hong Kong are thinking of either freezing the current minimum wage of foreign workers or decreasing it to cushion the effect of the crisis on its citizens. - GMANews.TV

Migrant trends

In 2005, there were an estimated 191 million migrants worldwide, up from 176 million in 2000.

• Roughly 30 to 40 million are considered unauthorized migrants, comprising around 15 to 20 percent of the world's immigrant stock.

• Women accounted for 49.6 per cent of global migrants in 2005.

• United States has the biggest migrant population at 38.35 million. It was followed by Russia at 12,08 million; Germany, 10.14 million; Ukraine, 6.83 million; France, 6.47 million; Saudi Arabia, 6.36 million; Canada, 6.1 million; India, 5.7 million; United Kingdom, 5.4 million; and Spain, 4.79 million. For a complete list, click this link.

• 75 per cent of all international migrants are in 12 per cent of all countries.

• Migrants remitted some in US$337 billion, of which US$251 billion went to developing countries.

• In 2007, the global number of refugees reached an estimated 11.4 million.

• Although the number of Asian migrants has increased from 28.1 million in 1970 to 43.8 million in 2000, Asia’s share of global migrant stock decreased from 34.5 per cent to 25 per cent over the same period.

• Africa has also seen a decline in its share of international migrants: from 12 per cent in 1970 to 9 per cent in 2000

• This is also true for Latin America and the Caribbean (down from 7.1 per cent to 3.4 per cent); Europe (down from 22.9 per cent to 18.7 per cent) and for Oceania (3.7 per cent to 3.3 per cent).

• Only Northern America and the former USSR have seen a sharp increase in their migrant stock between 1970 and 2000 (from 15.9 per cent to 23.3 per cent for Northern America and 3.8 per cent to 16.8 per cent for the Former USSR). In the latter case however, this increase has more to do with the redefinition of borders than with the actual movement of people.

Sources: International Organization of Migration, UN Commission on Population and Development

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Migrant groups stage ‘zero remittance’ protest

MANILA, Philippines — Migrants rights advocates from 29 countries on Tuesday refused to send remittances home in a symbolic protest against the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) being held in Manila.

Around 5,000 migrants, migrant advocates and supporting sectors also held a protest march in Manila to coincide with the start of the government-level discussions of the GFMD at the Philippine International Convention Center.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo addressed the various government representatives from 162 countries on Wednesday as it opened at around 9 a.m.

Protesters carried thought balloons where the calls "No to GFMD," "End labor export," "End poverty," and "Create jobs at home," written in different languages.

Eni Lestari, International Migrants Alliance (IMA) chairperson, said among those who joined the remittance boycott were migrants from the Philippines, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Germany, Italy, Belgium, United States, Canada, Fiji, Argentina, South Korea, South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong.

It could not be immediately determined whether the boycott had any impact, although Philippine officials earlier said such a protest would not have any negative impact on the Philippine economy, which is dependent to a big extent to dollars remitted by its 8 million or so migrant work force.

"Today, we are collectively exercising our power to show governments and big businesses that we are finally standing up against modern-day slavery that is forced migration," said Lestari.

He said the GFMD “has no right to speak about protecting our rights now when we have been treated for decades as nothing more than sources of profits and exactions. We know that the GFMD is just after our money, which migrants have paid for with blood and tears."

Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante International chairperson and IMA secretary-general, said: "By showcasing to the international community its labor-export program and the country's dependence on remittances, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is exposing the government's inability to create jobs at home and keep the economy from sinking like a dead weight.

“This shameful inability is caused by neo-liberal policies imposed by the same imperialist powers behind the GFMD," she added.

The protest rally culminated in a “Migrants' Speak Out" at the Bonifacio Shrine at 4 p.m., where participants of the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) shared their lives and struggles through speeches, songs, poems, and dances.

Migrant leaders from the Philippines, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Thailand, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Nepal, and the United States talked about issues such as sex trafficking, violence against women, unpaid/low wages, domestic work, undocumented workers, state exactions, labor contract violations, refugees and political persecution, and racism and xenophobia.

"For many years, many have spoken for us. This time, we will speak for ourselves … let our voices be heard!" said Lestari.

The IAMR was organized as an “alternative" to the GFMD (hosted by the Philippine government) and the People’s Global Action on Migration (PGA), Development and Human Rights, a parallel gathering of various migrant advocacy groups worldwide.

While the PGA was supposed to be meant to supplement the forum of government representatives, its participants also marked their activities with protests in a bid to be heard.


As far as the IAMR was concerned, both the GFMD and PGA were “sham proceedings" and that it was the only “genuine gathering of migrants and migrants organizations from various countries of the world." - GMANews.TV

Visa sought for live-in Filipino domestics in HK

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino household workers who are forced to live with their employers may soon have the choice not to do so if a visa for domestic helpers would be issued soon.

Rex Varona, Asian Migrant Center executive director, told GMANews.TV that different foreign domestic helper unions are seeking to professionalize household service as a decent profession by pushing for their very own visa.

With a visa, Filipino domestic helpers may no longer be bound to their employers' homes and would therefore lessen the chance of various domestic abuses, Varona said.

Live-in domestic helpers in Hong Kong often endure working for more than the prescribed eight hours because they are always on-call inside their employer's residence. Employers also often seize their passports or lock them up inside the house so they would not escape.

"The live-in condition makes the domestic helper hostage to the employer," Varona said.

He said more than 120,000 Filipino domestic helpers in the former British colony would benefit from the visa.

A Filipino domestic helper in Hong Kong, earns about HK$3,580 ( roughly P22,689.89) per month, said Varona.

When asked if the new visa would elicit more opposition from the migrant workers than support since it would be deemed as an added financial burden to them, Varona answered: "Even if it's an added cost, it is a necessary cost."

He said the visa fee is relatively smaller compared to the placement fees asked by recruitment agencies in the Philippines.

A survey recently released by the Mission for Migrant Workers shows most overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong pay processing fees that are far higher than what is required under the law.

A study conducted by the non-government Mission for Migrant Workers (HK) Society Ltd showed that most Filipinas working in Hong Kong as domestic helpers paid “dubious" placement fees of P 60,000 to P 100,000 to recruitment agencies.

Another burden is the high cost of living in Hong Kong. The Mission breaks down an overseas domestic helper’s average monthly expenditure into the following:

• HK$ 156 for food
• HK$ 63 for clothing
• HK$ 85 for personal groceries
• HK$ 136 for phone cards
• HK$ 381 for savings, and
• HK$ 404 for non-agency related debt

The Mission said that with such burden, “it is astonishing" that overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong can still remit money to their families.

According to Varona, this various forms of exploitation and abuses would only be put to an end once domestic worker unions take a collective stand on the issue.

He said the organizations of household service workers in Hong Kong has been actively participating in pushing for better treatment and rights from their employers. - GMANews.TV

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Govt sets aside P250M for returning OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - The government has allotted P250 million for livelihood and training assistance for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are likely to be displaced by the global economic crunch.

At the 34th Business Conference and Exposition, Arroyo said the government has allocated the fund even if there is no threat of displacement.

The Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund the government has created aims to provide reserve money for returning Filipinos. This is only one among a set of contingency plans to assist OFWs affected by the global crisis.

Aside from the fund assistance, which the returning OFWs could use for livelihood and business formation program, the government is setting up a reintegration center providing business counseling.

The President said part of the contingency is to conduct a "24/7 heightened monitoring of overseas labor market displacements" including the monitoring of job orders for possible decrease in overseas labor demand.

"We will register our workers so we can get track of them and we will redeploy them to emerging labor markets. We continue to identify and develop new market niches and we assist in repatriation," she added.

Quoting a report from the Department of Labor and Employment- Philippine Overseas Labor, The President said there is no threat of displacement related to the present financial crisis.

She said employment of the about 2 million Filipinos in the Middle East remains secure and stable, including some 500,000 expatriates in Europe.

She added that the Philippines is also expecting continued increase in employment opportunities in the Middle East in addition to some 30,000 current job opportunities in Canada in the next two years.

Also, some 30,000 jobs in Australia await Filipinos, another 10,000 in New Zealand and 20,000 in Guam. GMANews.TV

23 OFWs now back in RP after ordeal in Carribean

MANILA, Philippines – The ordeal of 23 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were detained in Trinidad and Tobago finally ended on Wednesday as they returned to the Philippines.

The workers, all from Cebu in the central Philippines, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 3:20 p.m. on board a Qatar Airways flight from London and Doha in Qatar, where they stopped over in their long flight from the Caribbean. From Manila, they were flown to Cebu at 7:30 p.m.

Previous reports by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the workers left their employer in Tobago due to breach of contract and tried to transfer to another employer in Trinidad, but upon arrival they were detained by immigration authorities for allegedly holding fake documents based on a report by their first employer.

Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state in the southern Caribbean and lies northeast of the Venezuela and south of Grenada.


Pinoys' help

Engineer Jacqueline Fortuna told GMANews.TV that they woudn't have been repatriated quickly had it not been for the help of fellow Filipinos who were working inside the Trinidad and Tobago jails.

Fortuna, the only woman in the group, said a Filipina who worked in the women's desk immediately notified the Philippine consulate office as well as Fortuna's relatives in Cebu.

Other Filipino workers also assisted them to bring their plight to the authorities particularly the offices of Sen. Villar and Governor Gwen Garcia of Cebu, who shouldered the plane tickets of the 23 OFWs.

Fortuna said they were prohibited from calling their own relatives inside the cell. “We were just victims in this incident," she told GMANews.TV in an interview. “Thank God there were Filipinos who helped us."

Fortuna also thanked the Philippine Consul Marie Magno-Advani, who immediately rushed to the jail upon knowing of their situation.

Fortuna said they were jailed in September 19 and were freed October 20. The group is also thinking of lodging a formal complaint against their employers for the alleged contract substitution.


Seed capital

Meanwhile, the office of Villar extend a “seed capital" worth P 5,000 to each of the 23 repatriated OFWs to start their own businesses.

A representative of Villar handed over the seed fund to the workers upon their arrival at the NAIA.

A press statement by Villar’s office said the families of the OFWs earlier asked his assistance for the immediate repatriation of their loved ones in Trinidad.

“Not only do we want to assure the safe return of our Visayan kababayan but we also want to know why and how their recruitment was arranged when there was already prior knowledge that a bogus employer awaited them abroad," Villar stressed in the statement.

Villar, who has vowed to continue helping distressed OFWs, also led the repatriation of 23 distressed Filipinos workers from Jordan on Sept. 22. He personally went to Amman, the capital of Jordan, and took home the domestic helpers, most of whom were sick, underage, and maltreated.

Below is a list of the repatriated OFWs:

1. Jacqueline Ann Fortuna of Mandaue City;
2. Roberto Gubalani of Cebu City
3. Raul Gonzaga of Camotes, Cebu;
4. Alex Gonzaga of Camotes, Cebu;
5. Wenrito Wenceslao of San Francisco, Cebu;
6. Edsel Otadoy of Camotes Cebu;
7. Fortunato Barral Jr. of Camotes, Cebu;
8. Allan Andrade of Camotes, Cebu;
9. Edwin Andrade of Camotes, Cebu;
10. Joeros Arguedo of Camotes, Cebu;
11. Jason Lawas of San Francisco, Cebu;
12. Vincent Luchavez of Danao City;
13. Alfredo Casona of Danao City;
14. Rolando Hablero of Cebu City;
15. Reynaldo Estrelleoso of Cebu City;
16. Porfirio Canete of Cebu City;
17. Cleofas Pat of Cebu City;
18. Raul Ybanez;
19. Jose Clubio;
20. Regine Nellas;
21. Barry Bacus;
22. Alvin Catalan; and
23. Carlos Villacarlos.

- GMANews.TV

Married to strangers, Filipinas endure isolation in South Korea

MANILA, Philippines - When Jennifer, a 38-year-old nurse from the Philippines, decided to marry a virtual stranger from Busan City in South Korea, she never expected that the union could lead to isolation.

It wasn’t that Busan is 328 kilometers from Seoul or that Korea’s capital is 2,613 kilometers from Manila. The isolation that Jennifer felt was not about distance but more about culture.

She did not take delight in eating pungent kimchi. She never really knew how to speak Korean. So it was hard to love her husband without verbal intimacy. Worse, she did not feel that her in-laws loved her well enough, much less did she feel accepted by the community.

Jennifer’s struggle is also experienced by other Filipinas and Asian women from developing countries who marry Korean men, according to migrant advocacy group Kanlungan Center Foundation Inc.

And yet the number of foreign wives in Korea is increasing. Koreans who used to be proud of keeping their bloodlines pure by not marrying foreigners are now in a hurry scouring for wives from the Philippines, China, and Vietnam.

Data from the US Department of Defense show that interracial marriages in Korea started to triple between 2001 and 2006. Quoting reports from the Korean Statistics Office, the department said one in eight Koreans had married foreigners. In rural areas, the figure rose past 30 percent.

From 1990 to 2006, 6,216 Filipino women tied the knot with Koreans, or one marriage every day, according to the same office.

Kanlungan says that today, one in 10 marriages in Korea, the third largest country in Asia, is between a native and a foreigner. Of these, 70 percent is between Korean men and women from other Asian countries.

The trend of rural Korean men seeking brides from poor Asian nations is expected to continue. By 2012, it is estimated that for every 100 women there will be 124 men in Korea aged 24 to 30.

Not love

The motivation for marrying foreigners among Korean men is not necessarily anchored on love or deep emotional commitment.

According to the Action Research on Marriage Migration Network (ARMMNet), interracial marriages in Korea are often consensual, but many unions "have not grown from genuine emotional investment and sustained by equal roles of partners."

If it’s not love, then what prods Korean men to chase women from poorer Asian countries?

Experts are one in saying that the economic boom in Korea, which has the 13th largest gross domestic product in the world, has played a major role in the change of marriage patterns in the country.

They say the boom has empowered Korean women, making them more educated and financially secure. They have left the countryside, moved to cities, and decided to either not marry or delay marriage until Mr. Right shows up.

This has resulted in the decreasing number of Korean women who no longer want to play the role of traditional housewives and the increasing number of bachelors in rural Korea, mostly farmers and fishermen who long for domesticated spouses.

Wanted: Submissive wives

A study by Mika Toyota, a research fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Asian Research Institute, shows that Korean men, especially those in the countryside, have been active in seeking traditional wives from poorer countries – those who can stay home, take care of kids, and do household chores.

According to Gavin Jones, another sociologist at the same institute, Korean men are looking for "submissive women," who they can no longer find in their own country.

Another study by Hye Kyung-Lee of South Korea’s Pan Chai University echoes Toyota and Jones’ findings.

He says Korean men prefer Filipina and Vietnamese brides because of their subservience. "Lower class" Korean men look for "more submissive, obedient, and traditional (foreign) wives to serve them and take care of their parents," says Hye.

In many cases, the interracial unions result in problems among virtual strangers in a supposedly intimate relationship.

“Most brides expect a better life in Korea but they realize they have been conned as soon as they arrive. Many marriage migrants suffer from domestic violence or economic problems, severe intervention by in-laws or their husbands’ incapability," says Kim Na Hyun, a Vietnamese marriage migrant and a member of ARMMNet.

But the issue of interracial marriage, which victimizes Asian women in poor countries, is often being sidestepped, according to ARMMNet members.

"Despite its significant social and cultural impact, marriage migration has not been included in mainstream migration agenda, (and are) merely (being) explained as sex trafficking, mail order bride, or female migrant labor issues," members of the network say.

For Tesa de Vela, associate director of Isis International, the problem can be addressed if governments start taking the lead in ensuring that the rights and welfare of these women are protected, while nongovernment organizations "look into ways of supporting women wherever they may be."

Maureen Pagaduan, research fellow of the Asian Regional Exchange on New Alternatives, agrees, adding that states with marriage migrants should start recognizing home and family as "sites" where "democratic practice" should be promoted. - A.R. Sabangan, with reports from Kim Tan, GMANews.TV
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