Thursday, November 27, 2008

25 Pinoys stranded in Thailand safe - DFA

MANILA, Philippines - About 25 Filipinos remain stranded in Thailand after protesters shut down the Bangkok International Airport amid an escalation in the four-month campaign to oust the prime minister.

In an interview on radio dzBB, Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Antonio Rodriguez said the Philippine embassy is attending to the 25 Filipinos who are currently staying in hotels near the airport after they were left behind by their flights back to the Philippines last Tuesday.

“Meron tayong humigit kumulang na dalawampu na nasa Twin Towers Hotel…At tsaka merong lima sa Novotel. Yung 20 dun, 18 yung naiwan ng Cebu Pacific sa Manila . Yung dalawa [naiwan] ng PAL [Philippine Airlines Flight] the same day," Rodriguez said.

(We have about 20 Filipinos in the Twin Towers Hotel. The other five are staying at the Novotel. Of the 20 Filipinos, 18 were left by their Cebu Pacific Flights to Manila . The other two were left by a PAL flight during the same day.)

Except for the 25 Filipinos stranded in the airport, the other Filipinos in Thailand are in relatively good condition, Rodriquez assured. He added that it is “business as usual" in Thailand as protestors from the People’s Alliance for Democracy (PAD) are only targeting the government offices.

The official said that that the Philippine Embassy personnel were allowed Wednesday by the People’s Alliance for Democracy protestors to enter Thailand ’s main international airport to look for the stranded Filipinos.

"Kahapon nang pinayagan kaming pumasok, may checkpoint ang People's Alliance for Democracy sa airport, nang pumasok ang van sa embassy, may dalawang empleyadong ginalugad ang airport, nahanap namin lahat (On Wednesday the protesters allowed us to enter the airport compound.

Two of our personnel searched the airport for Filipinos and found them)," Rodriguez said.

In the interview, Rodriguez also said that Thai Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat already arrived at the country and entered through the Chiang Mai airport after attending the Asia-Pacific summit in Peru. - Sophia Dedace, GMANews.TV

Pinoy guard in Dubai denies intent to kill wife

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino security guard told the Dubai Criminal Court of First Instance that he did not intend to kill his wife when he stabbed her last May 2, an online news site said Thursday.

Khaleej Times said the guard suspected his wife of infidelity and stabbed her in the chest and neck after a heated argument.

The report, which withheld the guard's identity, said the guard had shared a room in a villa at the Al Tawar area in Dubai with his wife and another couple.

According to a roommate, the guard attacked his wife with a knife after he suspected her of having an illicit affair.

He narrated that at the time, "he had stabbed her in the chest and the wife lodged a complaint with the Rashidiyah police station. She later withdrew the complaint."

"At about 4 a.m. on that day, as we were in the room we saw the victim opening the door and falling down. She was asking for help as the suspect had stabbed her repeatedly. When we intervened, he told us not to do so and threatened us as well," the roommate narrated.

"He was very intoxicated, but we finally managed to snatch the knife from him," he added.

When the police arrived, the accused was still in his bloodstained clothes.- GMANews.TV

RP tourists urged to defer unnecessary trips to Bangkok

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) echoed a message to Filipino tourists on Wednesday to postpone “non-essential" travel to Thailand after Thai protesters took over the country’s main airport.

Quoting an advisory from the Philippine Embassy in Thailand, DFA spokesperson Claro Cristobal said Filipino tourists should not push through with their travel plans unless necessary.

As this developed, local airline company Cebu Pacific, said it has cancelled all flights to the troubled nation. (see related story here.)

“In consideration of the Filipino travelers’ safety and convenience … (we) recommend that non-essential travel to Bangkok be postponed," Cristobal said in a text message.

Thousands of Thai protesters took over Suvarnabhumi Airport in the country’s capital of Bangkok on Tuesday in an effort to halt the return of Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat, whom they accuse of being the puppet of a ousted leader Thaksin Shinawatra.

Wongsawat was scheduled to return late Wednesday from an Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Peru and would land at a military airport, officials told the Associated Press in a report.

A Philippine official said the civil unrest has no sign of simmering down just yet as anti-government forces moved unopposed in Thailand, having the upper hand of the situation.

A source quoted by the Philippine Embassy in Bangkok said there are 10,000 Filipinos all over the Southeast Asian kingdom working mostly as teachers, entertainers, hotel workers, and employees of various international organizations like the UN. An estimated 5,000 Filipinos, including permanent residents, stay in Bangkok.

Filipino tourists requiring assistance or further information are advised to contact the Philippine embassy in Bangkok at (+662) 2590139 to 40.

Malacañang, meanwhile, expressed confidence that the Filipinos’ “political maturity" would prevent them from replicating the Bangkok protests.

“That's a very remote scenario. Our people have reached a high degree of political maturity whereby our people respects due process and the rule of law," deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez said. - GMANews.TV

Merchants urge gov’t to repatriate stranded OFWs in Jeddah

MANILA, Philippines - An association of Filipino merchants on Tuesday urged the Philippine government to expedite the repatriation of stranded OFWs in the western Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah to end their sufferings.

The Filipino Salesman and Merchandisers Association (Filsama) made the appeal after interacting with the stranded workers at the shelter being maintained by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) inside the Philippine consulate compound in Jeddah.

Most of the workers are domestic helpers who reportedly ran away from abusive employers.

Filsama officers and members led by their president, Abdulmoen “Teng" Laguialam, visited the workers and brought gifts of canned goods, noodles and personal items.

Filsama’s other leaders included Edgardo Santos, vice president; Roberto Bato, secretary-general; Rene Valle, treasurer; auditors Manny Manalo and Ogie Nucump; business managers Frank Reales and Jal delos Reyes; public relations officers Romy dela Cruz, Ramil Portillo, and Jhong Mamang; and sergeants-at-arms Edwin Tulah and Gilbert Chiong.

Welfare Officers Nene Lanto and Romeo Pablo accepted the donations on behalf of the stranded workers.

The workers were thankful of the donations that they received.

“Wag sana kayong magsawang magbigay sa amin (I hope you will not get tired of helping us)," said Jennebel Cuaresma who spoke for the distressed workers.

The merchant group also thanked the OWWA officials for taking care of the stranded OFWs.

But Laguialam said that the year would end better for the workers if Philippine government officials would exert more effort in helping them return home so that they could start life anew.- Ronaldo Concha and Kimberly Jane Tan, GMANews.TV

Fil-Canadian family to file a civil rights lawsuit over spoon-and-fork row

CHICAGO, Illinois – The family of Filipino-Canadian Luc Cagadoc, a seven-year-old Grade 2 student who was reprimanded by his lunch supervisor for eating with a fork and spoon, is seeking the help of the Filipino community in Montreal, Canada and everywhere to help them in filing a civil rights lawsuit against the school board and the educators involved.

Fo Niemi, executive director of Center for Research Action on Race Relations (Crarr), also said that while Crarr and the Cagadocs had “filed a request for administrative review with the Quebec Human Rights Commission, Maria Gallardo Cagadoc and her family have decided to file a civil rights lawsuit against the school board and the educators."

Mrs. Cagadoc also appealed to Filipinos to help her invite a member of the Filipino Human Rights Commission to be a guest speaker in the fund-raising for Luc’s case.

In a letter to human rights conscious friends, Niemi said, “We need your help to support equality and dignity for the Filipino community of Montreal – as a matter of fact, for Filipinos everywhere."

Luc and his mother lost their battle against a school board and its educators who made discriminatory statements against the Filipino people’s culture and eating habits.

In 2006, when Luc was reprimanded for eating with a fork and spoon, Maria and her husband, Aldrin, with the support of the Filipino community, asked the help of Crarr to help them file a complaint before the Quebec Human Rights and Youth Rights Commission to uphold their civil rights.

Last September, the Commission declared that Luc’s lunch supervisor, Martine Bertrand, of the daycare service Ecole Lalande in Montreal, was guilty of discriminating against Luc and violating Luc’s human rights when Bertrand asked Luc, “in your country (the Philippines), do people wash their hands before they eat?,’ although Luc is a dual Filipino-Canadian citizen.

As Bertrand also described Luc’s eating habit of eating with spoon and fork “disgusting," the Commission suggested that Bertrand reprimand Luc for his “inconvenient" eating manner at lunch, and his acting like a clown, rather than for his culture-based practice of eating with a fork and spoon.

Instead of filing the case before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal, the Commission suggested mediation for both parties.

When Crarr reviewed the decision, it found “several procedural anomalies, which affected the decision." Among them are:

1. The Commission’s investigator met with and took written statements from two individual respondents, as well as two employes of the School Board. However, no meetings were held nor interviews were conducted with Mrs. Gallardo, her husband, their son, or any of their witnesses on the Complainant’s side. In fact, the Commission never contacted the family to obtain additional information;

2. During the investigation, the Commission failed to reveal to Crarr that it had received from the Respondents certain documents about Luc’s evaluation by his educator, which undoubtedly influenced the decision. By not disclosing the documents, the Commission prevented Ms. Gallardo and Crarr from responding to the documents and addressing them; and

3. The investigation did not take into account key evidence presented to the Commission. Particularly, it ignored a newspaper article in which one respondent, the school principal, Normand Bergeron, was reported to have made discriminatory comments similar to those complained about by Mrs. Cagadoc, which she considered to be offensive to the Filipino community as a whole (such as “you are here in Canada. You should eat the way Canadians eat"). During the investigation, Crarr repeatedly raised this evidence and urged the Commission to examine it; the Commission did not even address the issue.

Mrs. Cagadoc doubts that the Commission could be fair in its investigation because it was selective in interviewing “representatives of the School Board" but excluding her, her son or her husband.

According to Crarr’s civil rights advocate Leila Jawando, “Procedural fairness is the cornerstone of the Human Rights Commission’s investigative process. If these rules are not obeyed during the Commission’s investigation, then, the Commission ought to address the administrative unfairness by rescinding its decision and correcting its errors."

The Crarr will develop a public awareness program of the case in French, in Tagalog and in English to inform Filipino Montrealers of racism and its manifestations, and of their civil rights.

Donors to the public awareness program to support Mrs. Cagadoc and her family and the Crarr’s work to file a civil rights case may get in touch with the Institute for Research and Education on Race Relations (IRERR), a charitable organization, at 460 Sainte-Catherine, West, Suite 610, Montreal H3A 1B7, Tel. 514.939.3392, Charity No. 89210 4720 RR0001, for a tax deductible donation. For non-tax deductible donations, donors may get in touch with the website of Crarr at ( or may write Crarr at the same address of IRERR above or call Tel. 514.939.3342 or Fax at 514.939.9763 or email: - GMANews.TV

Stronger legal support for OFWs-in-distress sought

MANILA, Philippines - Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in trouble in their host countries should get legal assistance from government, the House of Representatives said Wednesday.

Quezon Rep. Proceso Alcala filed House Resolution 872 saying OFWs deserve such help for their immense contribution to help the Philippine economy.

"We respectfully urge the Departments of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labor and Employment, and the Overseas Workers' Welfare Administration to assure adequate legal representation to our OFWs who may be facing legal problems in foreign countries," Alcala said in an article on the House of Representatives website.

Alcala cited the latest such incident involving the controversial conviction and beheading of Jennifer "Dodong" Beduya.

Beduya reportedly met his sad fate without due legal representation and support from the government agencies concerned.

"Considering their number, many OFWs from time to time find themselves in trouble, facing criminal charges often involving the penalty of death or life imprisonment," he said.

"Charges against them usually result from self-defense arising from maltreatment, abuse and even rape by their employers," he added.

Yet, Alcala said OFWs have time and again been referred to as the country's modern-day-heroes because of their invaluable contribution to the country's economy.

"This is a matter which we cannot do without especially during these times of financial uncertainty due to global economic difficulties," he said.

Alcala said that in 2007 alone, the country's nine million OFWs remitted a total of $14.4 billion to the economy. Of this, $8.2 billion were remitted by the 3.7 million OFWs in The Americas; $2.4 billion by the 953,519 OFWs in Europe; $2.2 billion by the 2.2 million OFWs in the Middle East; $2.2 billion by the 266,553 sea-based OFWs; $1.5 billion by the 1.2 million OFWs in Asia; $121.4 million by the 362, 014 OFWs in Oceana; and $15 million by the 90,403 OFWs in Africa. - GMANews.TV

Int’l labor group warns of wage cuts for migrant workers in 2009

MANILA, Philippines - The threat of the global economic crisis might just come true as wage cuts await the millions of migrant workers worldwide, a recent report conducted by the International Labor Organization (ILO) said on Tuesday.

Referring to the report titled Global Wage Report 2008-2009, ILO Director General Juan Somavia said in a statement on Tuesday that difficult times lie ahead for the world’s 1.5 billion wage earners.

“Slow or negative economic growth, combined with highly volatile food and energy prices, will erode the real wages of many workers, particularly the low-wage and poorer households. The middle classes will also be seriously affected," he said.

Economists have warned the Philippines to brace itself for the effect of a worsening crisis considering that the economy is highly dependent on the remittances of more than eight million overseas Filipinos.

Government data show that in 2007 alone, overseas Filipinos remitted a total of $14.4 billion to the economy. Of the amount, $8.2 billion were remitted from the Americas, largely from the United States, which has been hit by recession.

Various migrant groups have also asked the Philippine government to prepare for the impending lay off of tens of thousands of Filipino workers as other foreign economies, notably the United Kingdom and Taiwan, are already reeling from the impact of the global crisis.

Based on figures obtained by the International Monetary Fund, the ILO said it forecasts a global growth in real wages at best reach 1.1 percent in 2009, compared to 1.7 percent in 2008.

However, it also said that wages are expected to decline in a large number of countries, including the major economies. It said that even wage growth in industrialized countries is expected to fall from 0.8 percent in 2008 to -0.5 percent in 2009.

The ILO report showed that this prediction is part of the global economic pattern that always fails to advance the wage of workers.

According to the report, each additional one percent in the annual growth of Gross Domestic Product per capita led to an average of only a 0.75 percent increase in the annual growth of wages between 1995 and 2007.

Moreover, it said that there was an “unsustainable growth in wage inequality."

Since 1995, ILO reported that the inequality between the highest and lowest wages has increased in more than two-thirds of the countries surveyed.

Among developed countries, Germany, Poland, and the United States are amongst the countries where the gap between top and bottom wages has increased most rapidly while inequality has also increased harshly in Argentina, China, and Thailand.

“If this pattern were to be followed in the rapidly spreading global downturn it would deepen the recession and delay the recovery", said Somavia.

However, some countries have succeeded in reducing wage inequality, particularly in France and Spain, as well as Brazil and Indonesia, though the last two countries still maintain a high level of inequality.

In addition, the report said that even the pay gap between genders is high.

“Although about 80 percent of the countries for which data are available have seen an increase in the ratio of female to male average wages, the size of change is small and in some cases negligible," said the ILO.

Having found out the information mentioned, the labor group encouraged governments to “display a strong commitment towards protecting the purchasing power of wage earners."

ILO said that minimum wages should “effectively protect the most vulnerable workers" and that it together with wage bargaining should be “complemented by public intervention through income support measures".

“Effective minimum wages – by providing a wage floor – can reduce wage inequality in the bottom half of the wage distribution, limit low pay, and reduce the gender pay gap," it said.

The ILO study also said that there has been a “reactivation" of minimum wages around the world in the past years in order to reduce social tensions because of obvious inequalities.

In 2001 to 2007, minimum wages have risen by an average of 5.7 percent yearly around the world. - GMANews.TV

Cancer-stricken Pinay in Jeddah seeks help

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - A cancer-stricken Filipina domestic worker in Saudi Arabia is seeking repatriation and financial help.

Fely Borlongan, a 61-year old who had been diagnosed with lung cancer, on Monday said she has not other recourse but to appeal for help from those with “kind hearts."

“Hirap na po ako dito, gusto ko na umuwi nang makasama ko ang aking mga anak. Tanging ang mga anak ko na lang ang nagbibigay sa akin nang lakas. Kumakatok po ako sa aking mga kababayan na matulungan nyo ako makauwi (I am having a really hard time here, I want to go home and be with my children, they are the only ones who give me strength. I am appealing to my fellow Filipinos to help me come home)," she said.

A widow with five children in Bulacan, Borlongan said that she could not properly come home because she ran away from her employer in Jeddah more than a year ago.

Having worked in Saudi Arabia since 1989, she found out that she had lung cancer just last August. She had been relying on help from friends since then, but because her condition has worsened, she wants to come home and be with her children.

“Hirap na hirap ho si Fely lalo na ‘pag sumusumpong ang kanyang sakit hindi sya makagulapay sa sakit na kanyang nararamdaman (Fely suffers when her disease acts up, the pain disables her)," said Borlongan’s friend Paz Bayan.

Apart from her repatriation requirements, Borlongan also has to pay the penalty for her expired Iqama or national ID, which contains her work permit, and the cancellation of the report that she ran away from her employer.

“San ako kukuha nang ganyang kalaking halaga? Wala na po akong trabaho, ang perang naikontribusyon nang aming mga kaibigan ay naubos na sa pagpapagamot ko dito (Where will I get that kind of money? I don’t have a job and the money given by my friends has been used up for my treatment)," she said.

She said she was also concerned how she will be able to provide for her three grandchildren who were left in her care by her deceased daughter.

Borlongan has approached the Assistance to Nationals section of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah for help. The consulate reportedly coordinated with her former employer immediately to obtain her passport.

According to Elsa Masa of the Assistance to Nationals section, they are doing everything that they can in order to help Borlongan come home. The consulate official said she has already sent a request to their office in Manila and is just waiting for a reply.

“Wala naman nang problema sa kaso niya dahil nakipag-coordinate na ang kanyang amo," she said.

Masa said that they will take care of the Iqama penalty and also said that Borlongan’s former employer gave 500 Saudi Riyals or about P7,000 for the OFW’s repatriation.

Nonetheless, she said additional help for Borlongan would be most welcome since she has to continue with her medical treatment. - GMANews.TV

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Filipino stabbed by suspected robbers in Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino in Kuwait was reportedly stabbed by three unidentified persons, an online report said on Tuesday.

Citing a police report, Arab Times Online reported that a Filipino man was found in a pool of blood in Al-Sawaber in Kuwait after three suspected robbers attacked him.

The man was stabbed after an eyewitness raised an alarm that the three men were trying to rob the victim, said the report.

It said the robbers escaped while the victim was being taken to the nearest hospital. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Arroyo accused of neglecting Filipinos in US

MANILA, Philippines - Citing various policies or the lack of it, an organization of Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles, California on Tuesday accused President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of neglecting Filipinos in the United States.

The Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines (AJLPP) said in a statement that the Arroyo administration is not doing anything to protect undocumented Filipinos in the US country.

“Arroyo is guilty of being silent on the community demand for amnesty and legalization of 12 million immigrants in the US, the US-Arroyo regime shows its brazen puppetry," it said.

According to the Migration Information Source, Filipino immigrants made up 4.4 percent of all immigrants in the US in 2006.

It also said that two-thirds of the Fil-Am population were concentrated in five states: California (750,056 Filipinos - 45.8 percent), Hawaii (99,341 or 6.1 percent), New York (87,407 or 5.3 percent), Illinois (85,612 or 5.2 percent), and New Jersey (82,356, or 5.0 percent).

Together, these five states account for 67.4 percent or 1,104,772 of all Filipino-born immigrants.

Not protecting undocumented Filipinos in the US

Recent reports said that the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has stepped up its efforts in catching “fugitive aliens" around their country.

It has already made 34,000 arrests in 2007, more than double the number two years ago, with still 560,000 illegal immigrants in the US.

Overall, there are about 11 million illegal immigrants living in the US in 2007.

But with the current global financial crisis, more undocumented immigrants are expected to flock the US.

Migrant groups like Migrante International have warned that with this crisis, thousands of Filipinos and migrants of other nationalities might lose their jobs and that after they are repatriated, no jobs would be waiting for them back home.

“Malinaw lang na wala din silang ibibigay na magandang trabaho kundi itutulak lang din sila sa labas (It’s clear that they don’t have any good jobs (in the Philippines) to offer but only work overseas)," said former Migrante Chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado in a recent interview.

As such, the AJLPP condemned Arroyo for her “utter neglect" of the Filipino American community during the deep financial crisis in the United States.

“The US-Arroyo regime, instead of catering to the needs of the Filipino American community, exacerbates their sufferings," it said.

Criticized policy of sending Filipino workers abroad

Aside from neglecting Filipinos in the US, AJLPP also scored the Philippine government for persisting in sending our workers abroad instead of creating job opportunities in the country.

“By promoting a labor or workers export program of OFWs, the US puppet deserves our utmost contempt and condemnation," said the group.

Other militant groups have also said that there is a fundamental flaw in our labor export policy.

“Bulok ang takbo ng ekonomiya at ang lusot ay kung saan nakakapagpadala ng migrants (The flow of the economy is not good, with migration as our only scapegoat)," said Bayan chairperson Carol Araullo in an interview.

Militant women’s groups have also branded Philippine labor export policies to be “anti-women" and “anti-development," adding Filipinos should not take pride in it.

Mercy Fabros, lead convener of the Welga ng Kababaihan (Women's March) said in a recent statement that such policies are “an indictment of the failure of the national economy to provide employment and to care for its people."

She also expressed concern that what started out as an emergency measure during the Marcos regime has become the main economic development strategy of the country.

“Labor export cannot be the motor of development of the country. It will be unstable and not sustainable because it relies on the volatile and dependent on speculative global labor market," she said.

Moreover, as most migrant advocates say, even if remittances help keep the Philippine economy afloat, it cannot become the main driver of national progress.

About $12.3 billion or P615 billion were sent home by OFWs during the first nine months of 2008, a 17.1 percent increase despite the global slowdown that economists warned may bite the local economy in 2009.

The total remittances of Filipino workers abroad reached $1.3 billion or more than P65 billion in September alone, 16.9 percent higher than in 2007.

The government also predicts that the 2008 remittances will hit $15.7 billion or almost P800 billion seeing as last year’s remittances reached $14.45 billion or more than P722 billion. - GMANews.TV

More OFWs laid off in Taiwan, APPM reports

MANILA, Philippines — At least 893 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been laid off in Taiwan and the figure could hit 2,400 by the yearend, a migrant group based in Hong Kong reported on Tuesday.

The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APPM) said the workers lost their jobs after their employers declared bankruptcy as the global financial crisis hit the island-nation.

By next year, some 11,500 foreign workers are expected to be retrenched and OFWs are not likely to be exempted, considering that there are about 90,000 Filipinos workers in Taiwan, it added.

Based on data gathered by APPM, 93 of the workers were laid off only on Monday by Coretronics in Taipei, with branches in Kaohsiung and Taichung; 261 were employed by GRPS manufacturer Garmin in Linkou, Taipei; 46 by Kingtech in Hsinchu; 44 by Syntech in Tainan; 173 by Hanstar in Kaohsiung; 87 by Optimax; and 120 by Promos.

The others are employed by Meiser in Hsinchu, 6; Monterey,27; Acme,11; Chroma,8; Hometec,6; and Gigasolution,11.

APPM said they have information that another big company plans to lay off OFWs by Dec. 16 - 17 even though their contract extend up to January or February next year.

It said the Philippine government should be on alert because some companies plan to slash their work force by 10 percent and to further cut cost by not shouldering the air fare of dismissed workers, with a promise to hire them again.

Taiwan, being heavily dependent on export, has been hard hit by the global economic crisis. To cut cost drastically, many companies are reportedly resorting to shifting and doing away with overtime. - D’Jay Lazaro

Migrant group challenge RP officials claim of better pay for OFWs in Kuwait

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine officials are deluding themselves in claiming that the era of cheap labor in Kuwait is over, a group of migrants based in Hongkong said on Wednesday.

In a press statement, the Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) pointed to news reports quoting Ambassador Ricardo Endaya and Labor Attaché Josephus Jimenez as saying most Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait are now earning 109 Kuwaiti dinar or US$400 per month.

Endaya was also reported saying that the Philippine government has requested employers to raise the average pay for those working in the service sector, especially in fast food chains, to at least KD120 (US$444) from the current KD85 (US$315).

Jimenez, in a separate report, was quoted saying that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) will not process the job orders of any placement agency with an absconding domestic worker housed in the Filipino Workers Resource Centre (FWRC).

APMM coordinator Gi Estrada said: "That is where their illusion ends. If that is really the case then why did the ambassador say that they would want to promote highly skilled Filipino workers and decrease the deployment of domestic workers? And if the labor attaché is true to his word, why did he state that he has suspended only one placement agency if he also admitted in a much earlier press release that 5 to 10 domestic helpers run away form their employers each day and seek shelter in the FWRC. May we also ask why Atty. Jimenez is willing to suspend only manpower agencies and not employers of the domestic workers?"

Contrary to the statement of the two officials, Estrada said, most Filipino domestic workers in Kuwait still receive KD45 (US$167) – KD50 (US$185) monthly.

He said the starting salary for those working in Sheraton hotel, for instance, is KD75 (US$283); for caregivers in Al Essa KD70 (US$264) + KD10 (US$38) food allowance; Filipino cleaners in KGL and gas boys in OULA are paid KD60 (US$226).

The Kuwaiti government has also recently stipulated a minimum wage of KD40 (US$148) for cleaners and KD70 (US$259) for security guards, he further said.

“Clearly both the ambassador and labor attaché are dreaming. And both would want Kuwait to hire more Filipino skilled workers.

“While it is true that the deployment of new hires domestic workers in Kuwait fell from 19,097 in 2006 to just 4,806 in 2007, there is no corresponding big increase in the number of IT-related workers and nurses deployed to Kuwait during that time. The former even lessened from 11 to 6 while the latter had a minimal increase from 354 – 393," Estrada said.

Instead of having grand delusions, we suggest that the ambassador and labor attaché do more in upholding the rights and welfare of OFWs in Kuwait than in promoting the deployment of more Filipinos there.

She cited the case of Canora Paloma who has been detained for 5 months now even though she reportedly has no case pending.

Paloma was detained when her employer reported her to the police station after her co-worker escaped and sought shelter in the embassy, which has not assisted her.

“She is now worried about the conditions of her children in the Philippines who are in need of her guidance and financial support," said the APPM statement.

The promotion of OFWs in Kuwait will be through a Filipino employment and remittance summit there on December 3 – 4 to be graced by no less then Secretary of Labor Marianito Roque, the person who will implement the mandatory psychological tests for domestic workers. - GMANews.TV

RP ready to absorb laid off Pinoy workers from Taiwan - DOLE

MANILA, Philippines - Jobs would be awaiting more than 300 Filipino workers who were laid off in Taiwan, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) assured on Friday.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said the unemployed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) could breathe a sigh of relief because the country is willing and able to absorb them should they return home.

"We can readily absorb them, mabibigyan kaagad natin ito ng trabaho (we can immediately give them jobs)," Roque said in a radio interview.

The laid off Filipino workers in Taiwan are the latest casualties in the US-led financial crisis slowly plaguing various economies in Asia.

While Roque admitted that the workers were hit by the crisis since they were employed in the export industry, he allayed fears that a massive lay-off would be the trend in other countries.

"We have not seen an abnormal trend. We still process an average of 2,800 contracts for outbound OFWs everyday. Compared to the same period last year, there is clearly an increase in overseas deployment," Roque said.

More OFWs would lose their jobs

Since various economies started feeling the brunt of the financial crisis in the middle of the year, fears arose that more than 1-million Filipino workers would lose their jobs.

Economists like Emmanuel Leyco, who had worked in a credit rating agency, predicted that the US recession would create a domino effect all over the globe and cause millions of OFWs to lose their jobs.

"In a global recession, immigrants are the first to go," Leyco told GMANews.TV in an interview last month.

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

The Labor Department has quelled such speculations and assured that unless the economic crisis severely affects top OFW destinations like the Middle East, that scenario is far from becoming a reality.

"I believe (that) would not happen," Roque said referring to reports that one million OFWs would lose their jobs.

Roque added that the country is prepared to absorb between 50,000 to 75,000 retrenched Filipinos overseas. The Labor chief owed the country’s capability to absorb laid off workers to the 200,000 to 225,000 increase in OFW deployment every month.

More OFWs laid off in Taiwan, APPM reports

MANILA, Philippines — At least 893 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have been laid off in Taiwan and the figure could hit 2,400 by the yearend, a migrant group based in Hong Kong reported on Tuesday.

The Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants (APPM) said the workers lost their jobs after their employers declared bankruptcy as the global financial crisis hit the island-nation.

By next year, some 11,500 foreign workers are expected to be retrenched and OFWs are not likely to be exempted, considering that there are about 90,000 Filipinos workers in Taiwan, it added.

Based on data gathered by APPM, 93 of the workers were laid off only on Monday by Coretronics in Taipei, with branches in Kaohsiung and Taichung; 261 were employed by GRPS manufacturer Garmin in Linkou, Taipei; 46 by Kingtech in Hsinchu; 44 by Syntech in Tainan; 173 by Hanstar in Kaohsiung; 87 by Optimax; and 120 by Promos.

The others are employed by Meiser in Hsinchu, 6; Monterey,27; Acme,11; Chroma,8; Hometec,6; and Gigasolution,11.

APPM said they have information that another big company plans to lay off OFWs by Dec. 16 - 17 even though their contract extend up to January or February next year.

It said the Philippine government should be on alert because some companies plan to slash their work force by 10 percent and to further cut cost by not shouldering the air fare of dismissed workers, with a promise to hire them again.

Taiwan, being heavily dependent on export, has been hard hit by the global economic crisis. To cut cost drastically, many companies are reportedly resorting to shifting and doing away with overtime. - D’Jay Lazaro

30 distressed OFWs in UAE get early Christmas gift

MANILA, Philippines - Another group of Filipinos stranded in the United Arab Emirates will fly home on Tuesday night, no thanks to the Philippine government agency tasked to provide welfare and protection to distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

A press statement of the Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP) on Tuesday said the 30 OFWs are scheduled to depart from Dubai International Airport on Tuesday nightand arrive in Manila on Wednesday at about 10:30 onboard a Cathay Pacific Airlines flight.

MSP vice chairperson said John Leonard Monterona said the repatriation expenses for the 30 OFWs, including the plane tickets and payment for their exit fees, cancellation fees, and penalties, were handled not by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) but by Senator Manuel Villar.

He said that Villar will also pay for the fares of the workers when they go home to their respective provinces.

“Indeed, this is what the 30 OFWs, like the thousands stranded in the Middle East, (have) been praying and wish(ing) for – to be reunited with their loved ones especially during Christmas," Monterona said.

He said the workers sought refuge at the OWWA shelter in Abu Dhabi after running away from their employers who allegedly maltreated, overworked, or did not pay them.

Monterona took the occasion to scold the government agencies concerned and the Arroyo administration for always falling short of the assistance they give to distressed OFWs.

“The Arroyo administration, having control of the government’s resources and the P10-billion Overseas Worker Welfare Administration fund, could not facilitate the immediate repatriation of thousands stranded OFWs in the Middle East," he said.

The party also accused the Arroyo administration of allotting funds for payola but not having a single centavo for the repatriation of the thousands stranded and distressed OFWs in the Middle East and other parts of the world.

Other OFW groups have in the past scored the OWWA for being slow in assisting distressed workers, including cases that needed urgent intervention.

They also noted that the OWWA is quick in acting only when there is politics involved.

In one instance in mid-2003, the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah repeatedly requested for plane tickets for 13 Filipino fishermen who left their employer after months of unpaid work.

POLO officials complained then that their request for assistance from Manila had been slow in coming.

But when opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson ordered plane tickets for the fishermen after learning about their plight during his visit to Jeddah in July 2003, the OWWA immediately sent the tickets the POLO had long requested.

The incident was reported in Arab News, an English daily based in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, on July 22, 2003. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

2 freed RP seafarers back home Tuesday night - DFA

MANILA, Philippines - Two Filipino seafarers who were freed by Somali pirates last week after 62 days in captivity are scheduled to arrive Tuesday evening, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

The two Filipino seamen were among the 22-man crew of the M/T Stolt Valor, a Japan-owned and India-operated cargo ship hijacked last September 15 as it sailed off to the Gulf of Aden.

DFA spokesperson Claro Cristobal said 1/E Israel Lumpas, 28, of Tacloban City and 3/E Ernesto Cuartero, 58, of Las Piñas City would be flown to Manila via CX 193 from Hong Kong around 10 p.m.

The M/T Stolt Valor was released November 16 by Somali pirates after ship owners allegedly paid ransom.

The number of abducted Filipino seafarers being held in waters off Somalia rose to 134 last week as the DFA confirmed the hijacking of three vessels with Filipino seamen on board.

This year alone, a total of 17 vessels with Filipino crewmen were hijacked by Somali pirates, data culled from records of the DFA showed.

The 17 ships had a total of 208 Filipino seamen, of which 74 have been released, including the body of a crew member of the Malaysian tanker MV Bunga Melati Dua who was killed in an accident during the hijacking.

Filipino seafarers who have been recently released had told GMANews.TV that their Somali captors had locked them up inside the hijacked vessels and were not fed well.

Somali pirates often loot the seafarers' belongings but take no interest in the ship's cargo. Engineer Nelson Ramirez, president of the Manila-based United Filipino Seafarer's group, earlier said the sea bandits profit from the million-dollar ransom money paid by the ship owners. - GMANews.TV

Pinoy Muslims to perform traditional dance on UAE Day

MANILA, Philippines - Filipino Muslims will showcase the "Singkil" Muslim royalty dance and six other native dances and songs at the 37th United Arab Emirates (UAE) National Day on December 2.

Online news site Khaleej Times reported that the Maranao Community (Marcom) Dance Troupe will make the presentation at the amphitheatre in Mamzar.

Sahron Tamano, president of the Maranao Community in UAE, said "Singkil" will be the troupe's contribution of the Filipino expatriates to the country's national day celebration.

He said the dance, performed to the rhythmic clapping of bamboo poles while the dancers weave expertly through crisscrossed bamboos, will also be performed at the 4th anniversary of the founding of Maranao Community in UAE at Trader's Hotel Ballroom in the morning and at the Philippine Pavilion on the Global Village in the evening on the first day of Eid Al Adha this December.

The Marcom Dance Troupe's participation on the national day is upon the invitation of the Dubai Municipality.

It will also perform every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening at the Philippine Pavilion in the forthcoming weekends following the Eid celebration until February 22, the culmination of the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF).

The entire cultural presentation involves six royal dances, warrior dances, "Apir" (Fan Dance), "Kamalong-Malong," and "Sagayan" (a variation of war dance by a warrior courting a lady he loves).

Three pure Maranao songs will also be sung on the occasion. - GMANews.TV

TV ads against abuse of migrant workers aired in MidEast

MANILA, Philippines - Like an obedient dog, she kneels on the polished floor, her face devoid of any emotion as her eyes stare blankly to space.

This is how abuse on foreign domestic workers is pictured in a print advertisement campaign initiated by a television station in Saudi Arabia.

Dubai-based MBC TV shouldered the cost of the three advertisements that show the various forms of abuse experienced by migrant workers, particularly domestic helpers. The TV network paid for the campaigns that began airing last week throughout the Middle East and North Africa.

Kaswara al Khatib, MBC’s founder, told online website The National that abuse of domestic workers was an issue that needed to be addressed in Arab countries.

“Eventually someone has to speak up and raise their voice. These people need someone to stand up for them," Khatib said.

In the same report, MD Moniruzzaman a labor counselor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Abu Dhabi, said he hoped Emiratis would be hit by the print and TV campaigns.

The labor counselor disclosed that they receive as many as 80 complaints of domestic abuse a year.

“It’s one of the biggest problems. These people’s behavior is very injurious and alarming. It’s not everyone, but people who do, it is dangerous," Moniruzzaman said.

The commercials are set to continue showing until January 2009.

Jean Enriquez, executive director of the Manila-based group Coalition Against Trafficking in Women-Asia Pacific (CATW-AP), said that the advertisements are a welcome move from the Middle East, which is often hit for their poor migrants’ rights record.

“I feel that it's about time that advertisements as these come out, and it's good that they're coming from our Muslim brothers and sisters," Enriquez told GMANews.TV on Monday.

While lauding MBC’s initiative, Enriquez said Khatib’s depiction of abuse on migrant workers is “not an exaggeration."

“In fact, domestic workers have suffered even worse than what were illustrated. It would be better if the advertisements included ways for the domestic workers to seek immediate assistance, if in distress," she said.

Since the ads were initiated by Saudi groups, Ellen Sana, executive director of the Center for Migration Advocacy, said the message could be more welcomed by other countries in the Middle East.

“We hope and pray that the effect will really be positive -- seeing changes in protection mechanisms, policies, practices and attitudes in the region that will respect and uphold the dignity of migrant domestic workers," Sana told GMANews.TV.

While the print and TV campaigns affirm the conditions prevailing in the Middle East, Sana expressed concern that one possible reaction to the ads is denial.

"A possible immediate reaction also by the employers and the government could be one of denial that could result to harsher treatment of migrant domestic workers; or of employers cautioning their migrant workers NOT to say anything about their situation; or that concerned governments will exercise censorship of media and screen information that comes out to the public," Sana said. - GMANews.TV

Registration for Pinoy absentee voters in New York begins

NEW YORK — All citizens of the Philippines abroad, who are at least 18 years of age and who wish to vote for President, Vice-President, Senators and Party List Representatives in the May 10, 2010 Philippine elections must file applications for registration/certification as overseas absentee voters from Dec. 1, 2008 to August 31, 2009 at the Philippine Consulate General in New York.

The voting period will be from April 10, 2010 until 3 p.m. Philippine time to May 10, 2010. The Philippine Consulate General is located at 556 Fifth Avenue, New York, New York 10036 between 45th and 46th Sts.
Applicants must personally bring the following:

1. A valid Philippine Passport;

2. In the absence of a valid Philippine Passport; a) original/certified true copy and photocopy of Birth Certificate from the National Statistics Office in Manila (BC-NSO) and b) Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card");In the absence of the BC-NSO, a) original / certified true copy of non-availability of birth certificate from the National Statistics Office (NSO) in Manila and b) original; / certified true copy of Birth Certificate issued by the Local Civil Registrar (BC-LCR) or baptismal certificate.

3. If a dual citizen, the original or certified true copy of Order of Approval of his application to retain or reacquire his Filipino citizenship or Oath of Allegiance issued by Philippine Embassy/ Consulate or Bureau of Immigration;

4. If a seafarer, a copy of the Seaman’s Book or any other document that will prove that he is a seafarer;

5. In case identity and qualification of applicants cannot be established, additional documents to support identity and qualification of applicants may be required.

The Philippine Consulate General may also conduct field registration to states under its jurisdictions where there are large concentrations of Filipinos who intend to register and vote.

For any questions, please contact the Philippine Consulate General in New York at (212) 764-1330 ext. no. 603 or visit - Philippine News

OFWs' guide in dealing with racism

MANILA, Philippines - Racism is defined as a discrimination and prejudice based on a person’s race. It is a very common and very real social problem in our world today. It can be very difficult to deal with. People are so floored by racist slurs that they do not know what to do. As a result, they end up responding negatively causing further problems. Below are a few tips that will help in dealing with racism.


For those who haven’t directly experienced a racist attack, advice such as respecting yourself may seem futile. But, those who have landed in the thick of racially charge situations understand the need for self respect. It always goes that you cannot expect others to respect you if you don’t respect yourself. Get rid of that colonial mentality and really believe that you are as good as anybody else – regardless of the color of their skin. Once you have established inner strength, dealing with racism gets easier. You can now stand up against racial slurs and recognize it as a result of ignorance, instead of a direct attack to your person.


Assert you rights. Assert you position. Let people know that you deserve to be where you are and that you are equals. Gently (but firmly) remind them that the color of your skin does not dictate your abilities. Nor does it give them a reason to treat you badly. Keep in mind that being assertive is not the same as being superior or arrogant. Be assertive in things that you deserve. Don’t let it go too far or you’ll find that you are just as bad as the racist who attacked you.


When someone attacks you racially, your first impulse may be to respond with equal negativity. Hold off on that response. Instead try you best to steer the situation positively. Stand your ground and don’t stoop to their level. Do your best to educate your abuser. Inform them that they should look past the color of your skin and focus instead on your abilities. Responding in this manner to a racist act can be very frustrating. You may not be able to see results at the start, but later on you will see positive results.

Tips 4 - COUNT TO 10

Responding to a racist slur or attack positively may be the right thing to do, but it can be also be very difficult. More than once you will feel the need to shout and get mad. It may seem like the right thing to do at that time, but it’s really not. In these situations, it is best to take a step back and slowly count to ten. Let your self cool down before moving forward. If 1 to 10 isn’t enough, don’t worry you have every number in the universe at your disposal.


With every negative situation, the need to vent is always present. That is why it is necessary and helpful for you to find a support group. Look for fellow Kababayans who are going through the same things that you are. Share your experiences with them and listen to theirs too. Support Groups can help you see that this isn’t happening to you alone. Members may even give you more tips on how to deal with racist attacks.


Sometimes the best way to silence racist attacks is by excelling in what you do. Gain the respect of the people around you and show them that you capable. Show them that you can do your job as well as, if not better than anyone else can. Flaunt (through your actions) the fact that you are a skilled individual and that you help make the organization better.


No matter how positive you are or how you are in your job, there will always be people who just don’t understand. Some of them grew up thinking that they are superior among other races. They may be the ones who are constant in their attacks. Or those that hit your where it hurts the most. In cases like these, it takes more than a smile to make it go away. It is cases like these that you have to assert your legal rights. Report it to your superior or to the authorities before things get too violent. You have the right to do so. - OFW Guide

Group raises fund for kin of murdered Pinoy guard on Saipan

SUSUPE, Saipan – A group of foreign workers in the US island of Saipan is raising funds for the family of a Filipino security guard who was murdered while on night duty at the Marianas High School (MHS) on Nov. 17.

The United Workers Movement NMI, which consists mainly of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), issued an open letter on Monday morning condemning the killing of Efren L. Ballesteros and launched a fundraising for the victim’s family, specifically his two youngest children who are on Saipan.

"Our group condemns the killing of our fellow guest worker and the manner he was killed. The worker community of the CNMI mourns his untimely passing," United Workers Movement NMI president Irene Tantiado, of Cebu, said.

Ballesteros, 45, left behind a wife and five children. The youngest is five months old who was christened on Saipan days after his father’s murder.

A portion of the proceeds of the fundraising will pay for the transportation of Ballesteros’ body this week from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila to his province of Isabela in northern Philippines where he will be laid to rest.

Three teen students at MHS were arrested separately on Wednesday in connection with Ballesteros’ murder.

The three suspects admitted beating Ballesteros to death with a PVC pipe, an iron rebar and a 2x2 wood so they could steal laptops at the biggest high school campus on Saipan.

Ballesteros, who had been an OFW on Saipan since 1992, was found lying face down in a pool of blood in a hallway on MHS campus on Tuesday morning.

Arrested were Eric Rabauliman, 18, and two juveniles who will be tried as adults. They are Randy Igisomar, 16, and Edward Blas, 16. The three are students at MHS.

The murder suspects will return to court on Nov. 26 for their preliminary hearing. They will be arraigned on Dec. 1.

They will also face burglary, robbery and theft charges in relation to the Nov. 17 burglary that led to the death of Ballesteros, an employee of Global Security Agency.

Ballesteros’s widow, Adelaida Abella, was waiting for her husband to come home on the morning he was found dead because they were supposed to process the papers for their youngest child’s christening.

It was only at 10 a.m. on Nov. 18 when a friend called her on the phone that her husband had been found dead at MHS.

Ballesteros’s wallet containing $300 cash and a wristwatch were also stolen.

His body was found barely a few days after three fellow OFWs died in a car crash also on Saipan, the capital of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands where some 10,000 Filipinos and Filipino-Americans live and work. Saipan is only about three hours away from Manila. - GMANews.TV

Americanized Fil-Ams perform poorly in school

Role models are needed to combat the "colonial mentality" persisting among Filipino-Americans AP photoSAN FRANCISCO - The more Americanized Filipino students become in the US, the worse they tend to perform in school. Such was the finding of a study of 10 urban communities across America conducted by the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) of Washington, DC.

Speaking at the quarterly ‘Kapihan’ (‘Coffee time’) meeting of the Philippine American Press Club (PAPC) last November 15 at the West Bay Pilipino Multi-Service Center in San Francisco, Dr. Anthony Ogilvie, Executive Dean of Seattle Central Community College, spoke on the key notes of the study funded by Wells Fargo providing insight on the academic performance of Filipino students in 10 US metropolitan areas namely:

1) Chicago, 2) Honolulu, 3) Jersey City, NJ, 4) Las Vegas/Clark County NV, 5) Los Angeles County area, 6) Miami-Dade County, 7) New York City, 8) San Diego, 9) San Francisco, and 10) Seattle.

"In the older Filipino communities in this country (San Francisco, Honolulu and Los Angeles), some one-third of Filipino students are failing, while in cities like Miami, where the Filipino influx is newer, they’re doing well," Dr. Ogilvie said.

Himself a European-American born in Manila, Ogilvie summarized: "The more Americanized we become, the less well our students do. This study is a wake-up call."

Remarking upon how families in the Philippines differ from their U.S. counterparts, outgoing PAPC President Charito Benipayo said, "Even families (in the Philippines) with meager income try to get their children the best education they can."

Similar families in the US however, often find that making ends meet economically hampers their participation in their children’s school activities.

Hydra Mendoza of the San Francisco School Board pointed out that 36 percent of Filipino students in San Francisco dropped out of high school which, while still 8 percent below the district average, still constituted a cause for alarm amongst Filipino parents.

Concerning the nearly 19 percent of Filipino students in San Francisco who were limited English-speakers, she said, "I’m a big proponent of total immersion programs."

"We should be worried because the trends in the urban areas are not good," said lawyer Rodel Rodis of the San Francisco City College Board of Trustees.

Rodis also spoke on the trend amongst Fil-Am youth to allow social pressures such as drugs, promiscuity, gang affiliations and other social ills to encroach upon their academic performance.

Speaking on the need for role models and a better self-image to combat the "colonial mentality" still persisting amongst Filipino adults and youth in the U.S. as mentioned in the report, Rodis told of his efforts to have some schools in the Bay Area renamed after some prominent Filipino figures.

"All of my efforts were in vain," he said. "In this area, there are eight to 10 schools named for Blacks, five or six named for Chinese, four or five named for Hispanics."

But even in Daly City, that contains a significantly high population of Filipinos, he said, "No street or schools in Daly City are named for a Filipino."

He further pointed out that 10 years ago, there were 10 or 12 Filipino school principals in San Francisco. "Now there’s only two or three."

Fil-Ams have highest drop-out rate

PAPC-USA Kapihan Chair Rudy Asercion pointed out that "Filipino-Americans have the highest drop out rate of all Asian students" within the Bay Area.

"When we fail to provide for our children educationally, we put our future at risk," said author Ruby Munoz, who pointed out the considerable advantages programs such as Head Start have provided for disadvantaged children since the program’s inception in 1968.

"The ‘No Child Left Behind’ program is a mandate with no funding," said Thelma Boac, principal of Silver Creek High School in San Jose.

She detailed how Filipino students tend to do very well from kindergarten through 8th grade, but noted how the Academic Performance Index fell noticeably once FilAm students entered high school.

"Most kids do well until high school," said Boac. "When the hormonal changes in their bodies and other factors start to play a role."

Stressing the need for increased parental involvement, Boac said.

"I’ve found parents are very involved at the elementary school level, but in high school, that involvement falls," she added.

Jeff Burgos, principal of the Bessie Carmichael Elementary School/ Filipino Learning Center, spoke on how family economics are causing FilAm students to do less well than they probably could do.

The meeting was moderated by Henni Espinosa, PAPC-USA Press Relations Officer.

In the following question and answer period, Burgos further addressed the need for Fil-Am parents to become more involved in their children’s academic lives as well as in their respective communities in order to push for educational assistance.

"Little problems put together become very, very big," Burgos said. "Working together is not always the easiest thing for the Filipino community." Murmurs of “That’s right" were heard from the audience.

Answering a question about gang-affiliation among youth, Burgos said "I’m beginning to understand that each student needs three to five significant adults to talk with. If they don’t have this, they tend to go astray."

Intervention is needed

Jovina Navarro, a licensed psychologist at San Jose State University, stressed the need for early-intervention program and sex education projects.

"These projects aren’t being funded," she said.

Patrick Keeley, principal of Corpus Christi High School, a Catholic private school with a large percentage of FilAm students, seconded the need for parental involvement.

"We, as a community, have to be willing to say ‘We have a problem,’" added Mendoza.

Overall the NaFFAA report recommended:

(1.) The need to dis-aggregate data on the Fil-Am students from those of other Asians collectively;

(2.) The hiring of more Filipino administrators, teachers and counseling staff to deal appropriately with Fil-Am cultural issues;

(3.) Revising and infusing the existing curriculum with Filipino culture, history and experiential content as well including these features in the training of other educators;

(4.) The increased involvement of the entire Filipino community and Fil-Am parents particularly in the educational system, and;

(5.) Encouraging the involvement of Filipino parents in school activities and programs. - Philippine News

15 runaway Filipino domestic workers 'trapped' in Oman

MANILA, Philipppines - At least 15 Filipino maids found themselves trapped in Muscat after running away from their employers in the United Arab Emirates, an online news site reported Monday.

Khaleej Times reported that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Abu Dhabi and Muscat are working to stop the transport of such workers from UAE to Oman.

The report said the 15 Filipino maids who ran away from their employers in the UAE due to abuse and employers' disregard for contracts are now with the POLO in Muscat.

Philippine labor attache in Abu Dhabi Nasser Munder said his office is locating partners of the 15 runaway maids' in Manila to demand air tickets for their repatriation.

On the other hand, Munder also said five manpower agencies based in Dubai and Al Ain were found transporting runaway Filipino maids from UAE to Muscat.

He said the agencies had been supplying these workers to Omani employers already blacklisted by the POLO there.

"We have already met with these manpower agencies, but they claim that they have not forced these maids to shift to Oman. The Dubai and Al Ain manpower agencies have linked up with recruitment agencies in Muscat for this," he said.

Philippine Ambassador to Oman Akmad Omar said he had already made diplomatic representation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oman to compel employers to secure a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the POLO in Muscat before processing the employment visas of the Filipino domestic servants.

Earlier, the POLO in Muscat blacklisted a number of employers for maltreating and verbally, sexually and physically abusing their Filipino maids.

"Now, they go for direct hiring through manpower agencies in Dubai and Al Ain as they can no longer hire and recruit from Manila," Omar told the Khaleej Times.

The runaway maids from the UAE were being supplied to employers in Muscat.

"They are like table tennis balls, bandied about from one player to another. This is unacceptable," he said.

Omar said that during interrogation, the maids claimed that they were forced by their agencies to go to Oman after they sought help for transfer to other employers in the UAE due to abuses.

UAE and Omani immigration officials do not question a domestic help crossing the borders because Arab families normally travel with their maids when they go on holidays. - GMANews.TV

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reminders for Safe Travel to America

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who are about to leave or enter United States of America (USA) are reminded that there are strict travel policies that they must follow to avoid hassles and embarrassment. Be reminded that a wise traveler is always aware of the immigration rules and travel advisory of any country they wish to visit.

As Filipinos are used to helping out one another and are fond of giving gifts, balikbayans in the Philippines or those about to go to abroad would always have pasalubong or padalas with them. There is nothing wrong with that but do check all items that you are carrying including contents of packed items so you avoid violating any travel policy.

Here’s a list of some of the prohibited items that a traveler cannot bring in the land of Stars and Stripes.

Cash amounting to more than USD 10,000: This is included in the list of things that you cannot bring when traveling to and from America. Immigration policy in US states that it is illegal to import and export over USD 10,000 in any Asian countries to prevent the possibility of supporting terrorism.

Fake signature items: Do not attempt to bring imitation items such as Louis Vuitton bags, Guess watches, etc. as you risk being questioned by the custom officers of America.

Pirated DVD’s/CD’s: The call to eradicate piracy is worldwide so pirated video and audio tapes are banned. It doesn’t matter if it is only one or two pirated CD’s with you, you will still be questioned and punished.

Pirated Books: As requested by the American Association of Publishers (AAP), custom officials in America are also on the look out for pirated books. Any traveler caught with fake print materials is charged with violation of intellectual property rights and will be automatically deported as punishment.

If you are a nurse or nursing student that wishes to take NCLEX or CGFNS in USA, make sure that your reviewers and reference books are not pirated.

Other Reminders:

The US Immigration is serious in implementing these policies because grave punishment awaits law offenders. The rule applies even to American Citizens. While visas of non-Americans are cancelled and deported, US citizens are arrested, undergo a criminal trial and pay civil fines.

Also, all ports of entry in America now follow a fingerprinting system. Travelers are advised to bring extra identification cards aside from passports to facilitate entry in the US Immigration.

An Unfortunate Story

This incident happened in real life and was shared by a Filipino employed as Immigration Inspector at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).

A Filipino-American citizen about to go on a vacation to the Philippines was detained by an Airport Immigration agent after her baggage was checked and gone through the X-ray machine.

Then she was randomly checked and was instructed to reveal the contents of all the envelopes inside her bag. Ten envelopes with money amounting to USD 11,000 for various people in the Philippines were found. She was held for almost 5 hours and so missed her flight back to the Philippines.

When questioned, the Fil-Am traveler said that she doesn’t know the contents of the envelopes as they were sealed and were only padalas of fellow Filipinos.

However, even if she claims ignorance, she was made to pay USD 500 as fine. That is not all, the Immigration department also labeled her name “red” meaning every time she travels, she will undergo 100% search.

Outbound OFWs Advised to Secure Their Exit Clearances Early

Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) set to go on a vacation to the Philippines this December are advised by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to secure their exit clearances early. They can do this by going to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in their respective host countries before their flight back to the Philippines.

By taking care of their exit clearances even before arriving to the Philippines, they don’t need to go the POEA office in Ortigas to get clearances when it is time for them to return to their host county. It will also prevent long lines and crowds at the POEA so the OFWs and the government agency are spared of the holiday hassle.

Accoding to Jennifer Jardin-Manalili, POEA Administrator Jennifer Jardin-Manalili

long lines at the Balik-Manggagawa Processing Center has long been a common sight at the POEA office after the holiday season.

OFWs that are going back to their provinces may get their exit clearance in POEA offices located in Clark Field in Pampanga and the cities of Baguio, Tuguegarao, San Fernando in La Union, Calamba, Legazpi, Tacloban, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Cagayan de Oro, Zamboanga, and Davao.

Manalili also said OFWs could use the overseas employment certificate courier system available at their website (

DOLE ready to sign deal with Australia for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said it would ink a deal with the government of South Australia to make jobs available to Filipinos.

In a statement, Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that preparations are under way for the deployment of workers to South Australia.

The program would be similar to previous agreements with various provinces of Canada. The South Australia deal would also "facilitate the flow of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families."

The Labor department signed deals with four provinces of Canada this year namely Manitoba, Alberta, Saskatchewan and British Columbia.

These deals would provide safe and ethical recruitment avenues for OFWs and provide protection for workers and human resource development programs, which would upgrade the skills of OFWs.

Mr. Roque said that the agreement with South Australia would provide more opportunities for workers that could be laid off due to the global financial crisis.

He added that the labor market in South Australia would be attractive to skilled workers needed for manufacturing.

A team from the department has met with the South Australian government to fine-tune the provisions of the memorandum of understanding. Mr. Roque said that the team also checked out the labor market of South Australia.

"The memorandum of understanding will most likely be signed early next year," Mr. Roque said. — Emilia Narni J. David, BusinessWorld

15 runaway Filipino domestic workers 'trapped' in Oman - report

MANILA, Philipppines - At least 15 Filipino maids found themselves trapped in Muscat after running away from their employers in the United Arab Emirates, an online news site reported Monday.

Khaleej Times reported that the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Abu Dhabi and Muscat are working to stop the transport of such workers from UAE to Oman.

The report said the 15 Filipino maids who ran away from their employers in the UAE due to abuse and employers' disregard for contracts are now with the POLO in Muscat.

Philippine labor attache in Abu Dhabi Nasser Munder said his office is locating partners of the 15 runaway maids' in Manila to demand air tickets for their repatriation.

On the other hand, Munder also said five manpower agencies based in Dubai and Al Ain were found transporting runaway Filipino maids from UAE to Muscat.

He said the agencies had been supplying these workers to Omani employers already blacklisted by the POLO there.

"We have already met with these manpower agencies, but they claim that they have not forced these maids to shift to Oman. The Dubai and Al Ain manpower agencies have linked up with recruitment agencies in Muscat for this," he said.

Philippine Ambassador to Oman Akmad Omar said he had already made diplomatic representation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oman to compel employers to secure a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the POLO in Muscat before processing the employment visas of the Filipino domestic servants.

Earlier, the POLO in Muscat blacklisted a number of employers for maltreating and verbally, sexually and physically abusing their Filipino maids.

"Now, they go for direct hiring through manpower agencies in Dubai and Al Ain as they can no longer hire and recruit from Manila," Omar told the Khaleej Times.

The runaway maids from the UAE were being supplied to employers in Muscat.

"They are like table tennis balls, bandied about from one player to another. This is unacceptable," he said.

Omar said that during interrogation, the maids claimed that they were forced by their agencies to go to Oman after they sought help for transfer to other employers in the UAE due to abuses.

UAE and Omani immigration officials do not question a domestic help crossing the borders because Arab families normally travel with their maids when they go on holidays. - GMANews.TV

RP lifts ban on OFWs right to join, form unions

MANILA, Philippines - Aspiring overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now allowed to organize or join labor unions in their destination countries after the 33-year-old exemption on migrant workers was recently lifted by the Philippine government, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) said.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque told GMANews.TV that the prohibition for Filipino migrants to join labor unions was scrapped recently from the OFWs’ model employment contract and would be fully implemented next year.

Roque explained that the Philippines adopted the rule in 1975 when the Iranian government under the Shah, declared joining or forming trade unions illegal in the Gulf country. Since then, the rule has been followed by other Gulf countries and was placed in the OFW’s contract.

The Labor chief was quick to clarify, however, that despite the erasure of the prohibition, OFWs are still required to follow the laws of their destination country.

Most countries in the Middle East such as the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates still prohibit migrant workers from joining labor unions.

Ellene Sana, Center for Migration Advocacy executive director, welcomed the Philippine government’s decision to scrap the 33-year-old rule despite the fact that it won’t have much effect on a majority of OFWs who are in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Sana however reported that OFWs could opt to go to Bahrain where the unions are already on its “infancy stage."

More than a million OFWs in the Middle East - the top destination region of Filipino workers – are employed in both low-skilled and high-skilled jobs.

Migrant workers who are not allowed to join labor unions cannot haggle for their wages, engage in collective bargaining agreements with their employers, as well as assert and ensure their rights as workers. Aside from the Middle East, Asian countries such as Singapore, Myanmar and South Korea do not allow migrant workers to join labor unions.

Despite welcoming the lifting of the rule against joining unions, Josua Mata, Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) secretary-general, told GMANews.TV that they want to find out who should be blamed for the 33-year-old “blunder."

According to Mata, the rule against forming and joining unions is against the International Labor Organization convention, which the Philippines signed.

“How can we be sure that the blunder won’t happen again? Who is accountable for it?" Mata asked. - GMANews.TV

Obama's victory showed overseas Pinoys the power of the vote

Democrats in the Philippines celebrate after Barack Obama was declared the winner in the US presidential elections. Benjie CastroMANILA, Philippines - After the dust has settled in the historic US presidential race, Filipinos all over the globe not only witnessed the possibility that a man of color could be elevated to the White House but also that their vote - at least in efficient democratic countries - counts.

While the Philippines’ own presidential elections has yet to unfold in the next two years, overseas Filipinos couldn’t help but compare the glaring differences on how the US conducts its elections.

"The elections there are lightning fast," said Aurelia Holandes, a 78-year-old grandmother who has relatives in the US. “In the Philippines, the results are known in a month, and even then not all votes are counted. But in the US it only takes one day, one day I tell you."

Pinoys have never felt more valued during Election Day in the US where votes are electronically cast and counted. In the West Coast in particular, some poll booths like in Carson City, California even had Tagalog instructions for Filipinos.

When Obama was elected as the first African-American president about 2.7- million Filipinos were in the US, according to the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. A majority of US-based Filipinos like Anna, are in California - the state with the largest population of Filipinos outside the Philippines. She chose the Chicago senator over war veteran John McCain simply because of skin color. “We’re minorities. I’d rather have somebody that will represent us," she told GMANews.

Most Filipino-Americans have been rooting for Obama to win the presidential elections to better their chance of voicing out their concerns. “The Filipino-American US citizens are really making a history, you know? It’s awesome," said New Jersey-based Susan Dikes, executive director of the Filipino Americans Services Group, on the turnout of Pinoy voters in the US polls.

The essential principles of electoral participation as well as equality before the law were held by Filipino migrants in high esteem, said a recently published study by German researchers Dr. Christl Kessler and Stefan Rother.

However, when they asked 1,000 overseas Filipino worker (OFW) returnees from the Middle East and East Asia, they discovered that while migrants are determined to exercise their democratic right to vote, they also become more critical of the Philippines after having been abroad.

Filipinos who come from states, which the Freedom House Index identifies as democratic – Japan and Taiwan – and authoritarian – Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Hong Kong - often feel alienated.

“I myself am a Filipino, but I don’t give a damn about this country," a 24-year-old respondent from Dubai was quoted as saying.

Migration changes the yardstick on which output performance is measured, according to the study. “They think the nation is run by a powerful few and they cannot do much about whoever people vote for since it does not lead to change," it added.

It can be argued that since the overthrow of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos in 1986, the Filipino voting public had remained cynical of Philippine elections which are often marred by issues of cheating, violence and corruption.

This situation is very different in the US where elections are fast, orderly, and seldom controversial. A day after the elections, the results had been made. Republican candidate John McCain immediately conceded and extended his hand of support to his Democrat rival.

“Here in the Philippines no one loses," said a Filipino broadcast journalist, “Everyone just got cheated."

Filipino presidential candidates are also often deemed as “trapos" or traditional politicians which in one way or another have roamed the government’s halls for years and have nothing new to offer to the country.

Greg Macabenta, a syndicated journalist and national chair of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations, said Filipino migrants have yet to realize that they are a powerful force to be reckoned with in Philippine politics.

“Our involvement in Philippine affairs still needs to go beyond sending money," he told GMANews.TV in an e-mail. “(That’s why) overseas voting registration continues to be dismally low."

As of 2007, only 504,124 of the estimated eight million Filipinos overseas have registered to vote. The number of absentee voters could go down when the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) updates its records next month, said a government official.

Beyond the perceived lack of interest in Philippine politics, however, Macabenta believes overseas Pinoys who don’t want to vote are simply uninspired.

“Right now, overseas Filipinos still see no one in the Philippines who can inspire them with respect to the 2010 elections," he said.

This seems to be the sentiment of second generation migrants in the US like Luisa Ramirez, who waited in line for 30 minutes under Florida’s humid weather to vote on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old nurse had settled in sunny Florida for a decade after her mother petitioned them from Quezon City. “This is my chance to be heard," she told GMANews.TV in a phone interview on Thursday.

“I went to the precincts in the Philippines to cast my ballot several years ago as a first-time voter. But I know this will be the first time I’ll be heard," she said. - GMANews.TV

Hundreds dismayed as Arroyo fails to show up in LA

LOS ANGELES — Hundreds of Filipino-Americans coming from as far as San Diego and the state of Arizona were here to see Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Friday night, only to be dismayed when told that she was not coming.

On her way to Peru for the 16th Asia- Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit, President Arroyo was to make a brief stopover in Los Angeles to address a reception of the Filipino-American community at Sheraton Gateway Hotel.

However, she failed to make it after her plane made an unscheduled stop in Osaka, Japan when First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo fell ill.

Philippine Ambassador Willy Gaa, speaking on the President’s behalf, said Mrs. Arroyo regrets not being able to visit Los Angeles.

He said that the Philippines honors the contributions of the Filipino-Americans. Gaa then urged the community to continue to support the campaign for the Filipino WWII Veterans who need recognition and pension.

Likewise, he congratulated those who successfully organized the event.


Among those who regretted President Arroyo’s failure to show up were activists led by the Gabriela Network, Bayan-USA, ILPS, Alliance for a Just and Lasting Peace in the Philippines (AJLPP), and Answer-LA, who staged a picket rally outside the hotel to demand a stop to the political killings in the Philippines.

An effigy of Arroyo was displayed, waiting to be burned, and pictures of those who have disappeared were shown, among them Jonas Burgos, son of the late Malaya publisher Jose Burgos Jr., who has never been found after being allegedly abducted by military agents.

The protesters wanted to tell Mrs. Arroyo to forget about her trips to the United States and instead prevent the assassination of community leaders, students and workers who dissent the sociopolitical conditions in the Philippines.

“She should concentrate on providing jobs for the women and men who continue to leave the country and become victims of menial labor or suffer abuses in foreign countries," said Jollene Levid, secretary-general of Gabnet.

Lovid pointed out that 93 women have been killed in the Philippines. She said further that Gabnet is in the frontline of the protest to bring attention to the many problems of women in the Philippines, among them the millions of Filipinas who are domestic workers because of extreme poverty and thousands of them funneled into sex trade.

Interim Gabnet chairperson Anna Lisa Enrile said, “The frenetic kowtowing of Arroyo to the US government, with her trips abroad, derail the efforts of the community to have the US government address issues of social justice for the Fil-Am community and the participation of the US military in Mindanao through the Visiting Forces Agreement. The truth is Arroyo should stop using the people’s money in traveling abroad and solve the economic problems of the Philippines and the political killings."

According to the Manila-based human rights group Karapatan, more than 221 people have killed by military security forces since Mrs. Arroyo assumed power in 2001

Karapatan said 43 people had been victims of "summary executions or arbitrary killings" in the first nine months of the year. It said among the most recent killings was a labor activist, Maximo Aranda, who was gunned down in July by three unidentified armed men in Compostela Valley in the southern Philippines. In August another activist, Roel Doratot, was also shot dead also in the south. Both men belonged to groups that have been highly critical of the military and the Arroyo administration.

Tough task for envoy

When asked about the political killings in the Philippines, Ambassador Gaa explained that such crimes were not being promoted by the government. He said that military officers who have been accused of involvement in possible political killings are not promoted.

“We have also increased the number of investigators and prosecutors who handle political killings so that the cases can be solved quickly. Modern equipment for investigation has also been procured by the Philippine government to help in the prosecution and gathering of evidence to solve the killings," Gaa said.

On the possibility of President Arroyo extending her term, Gaa emphasized that the Office of the President has declared that Mrs. Arroyo will step down from her office in 2010.

Consul General Mary Jo Aragon added that the budgets of the government institutions in charge of investigating the political killings have been increased so that they can resolve the extrajudicial killings in the Philippines. Aragon pointed out that the cases have to go through a process.

“Those accused of being responsible for the political killings must also be able to defend themselves and that proper investigations must be conducted," Aragon stressed.

Those who attended the event took the opportunity to have their photos taken with Ambassador Gaa and Consul General Aragon. - GMANews.TV

Sanctions sought vs. DFA execs for OFW's ordeal

MANILA, Philippines - A migrant rights advocate on Friday urged concerned offices to investigate the jailing of Filipino worker Pedro “Jamil" Mabanto, who was falsely accused of killing a colleague in Saudi Arabia.

Joseph Espiritu of the OFW-SOS group and, a site for overseas workers, said the inquiry should pinpoint who among the personnel of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in Manila were responsible so that they could be sanctioned.

Mabanto suffered more than three years in jail because certain Embassy and DFA functionaries failed to present to the Saudi court medical certificates showing that the Filipino worker Mabanto was accused of killing actually died of a heart attack, Espiritu said.

“As an OFW, I would like to demand the ouster of the Embassy officials, Oumwa officials who handled this case for being irresponsible, insensitive and for being corrupt," he said in an e-mail to Vice President Noli de Castro, Sen. Jose “Jinggoy" Estrada as chairman of the Senate labor committee, and to the DFA.

Records of the case obtained by GMANews.TV showed that Mabanto, an employee of Saudi Catering and Contracting Co., was thrown in jail in Riyadh for the death of compatriot and co-worker Benjamin Cruz on June 7, 2005.

Just recently, the Saudi court hearing the case took note of medical findings that Cruz was not a victim of a physical attack and ruled that Mabanto should be freed.

According to Espiritu and other migrant workers’ advocate following the case, Mabanto would not have lost his job and suffered in jail time had the officials who handled his case been “responsible" enough to give the OFW or his family with a copy of the disputed medical report.

“He could have spent the lost time with his family. His family would not have suffered," Espiritu said.

Espiritu named Attaché Reynaldo Banda as the officer who failed to submit the medical report of Cruz to the Saudi court on time.

Espiritu said other Embassy and officials of the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (Oumwa) should also be held liable for allegedly giving the family of Mabanto the run-around when they tried to secure a copy of the medical certificates.

Court records showed that Mabanto and Cruz had a heated argument on that day inside their room at the Aramco Compound in Saad Al Wasiyah when Cruz began to have difficulty breathing.

Alarmed, Mabanto rushed out to seek help from co-workers at the nearby clinic. An ambulance immediately took Cruz to a hospital but he was declared dead on arrival. Doctors later certified that Cruz died of a heart attack.

“This medical report was submitted to the lawyer one year and 3 months after Cruz’s death," Espiritu asserted.


In an earlier interview with GMANews.TV, Oumwa executive director Crescente Relacion vehemently denied the negligence charge, saying his office extended all the necessary assistance to Mabanto.

Relacion said the DFA even hired a Saudi lawyer to ensure that Mabanto’s case was handled well.

“We provided him with a lawyer who was paid for using the legal assistance fund. Tinututukan ‘yan ng lawyer niya (His lawyer had focused on the case)," he said.


Espiritu asserted that in many instances, Philippine officials have refused to give Mabanto’s family a copy of the medical report that would have lowered the OFW’s jail time earlier.

“Mabanto’s brother asked for a copy of this medical report. I asked the ambassador to give Mabanto’s brother a copy of this medical report. Mabanto also asked the ambassador for a copy of this medical report. Jasmin Mabanto and CMA (Center for Migrants Advocacy) asked a copy for this medical report from OUMWA. (CMA executive director) Ellene Sana asked Director Relacion a copy of this medial report," Espiritu said.

“Their answer was "NO" and many invalid excuses," he added.

“I cannot think of any reason except of covering their mistakes," he said. - GMANews.TV

4,000 Filipino Muslims expected to join this year's Haj

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - The Philippine Consulate General here is in the thick of preparations to assist Filipino pilgrims for this year’s Haj in Makkah.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago said that about 4,000 Filipino Muslim pilgrims are expected to participate in this year’s Haj, which will be in December.

The Haj is the largest annual pilgrimage in the world and is the fifth pillar of Islam, an obligation that must be carried out at least once in an Islam devotee's lifetime if he or she can afford it and is able to do so.

The first batch of Filipino pilgrim arrived at the Haj terminal of the King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah on November 11.

Tago said that consulate personnel are all set to assist the pilgrims from their arrival up to their return to the Philippines. The Saudi government has also reportedly expressed its willingness to assist the consulate.

He also said that despite the exhaustion brought about by the long trip to Saudi Arabia, most pilgrims still seem to be lively and happy to reach the holy land.

As of posting time, three flights from the Philippines have arrived in Saudi Arabia, which are reported to have carried an estimated 820 pilgrims.

Last year, among the prominent Filipino pilgrims were former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste and her more famous equestrienne daughter Toni; Reps. Mujib Hataman of the Anak Mindanao party-list group and Yusuf H. Jikiri of the 1st district of Sulu; Govs. Andal Ampatuan of Maguindanao, Sakur Tan of Sulu, and Sadikul A. Sahali of Tawi-Tawi. - Ronaldo Concha and Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

British Columbia elects first Filipino politician

MANILA, Philippines - Canada's British Columbia (BC) has recently elected its first Filipino politician, an online report said.

Rod Belleza, 57, is believed to be the first Filipino elected into BC's board of education after receiving a total of 12,414 votes, a report on BC Local News said.

A candidate from the Richmond Independent Team of Electors (RITE), he was reportedly all smiles after the final results flashed on a computer monitor last weekend.

Belleza said that the result was "overwhelming."

"I share the passion, I share the desire to serve the people — bringing the board closer to the people," he said in the report. Belleza immigrated to Canada in 1980.

The newly elected board member said that healthier, safer schools are big on his agenda.

Moreover, he said he wants to see a school program aimed at developing life skills and leadership in its students.

Joining him on the school board are his RITE running mates Chak Au and Carol Day.
Meanwhile, those re-elected were Linda McPhail, Donna Sargent, Grace Tsang, and Debbie Tablotney. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

3 Pinoys die in separate incidents in UAE - report

MANILA, Philippines - At least three Filipinos were killed in separate road incidents in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)in the last four days, an online news site reported Saturday.

Khaleej Times reported that the three expatriates died just a few months after they started working there.

Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano in Dubai said employers of the three are contacting the victims' families and preparing for the repatriation to the Philippines.

Christine Catchellar, 21, a hairdresser, was a back rider on a motorcycle when the bike crashed into a vehicle last Nov. 13, and was thrown off the bike.

A second worker, house helper Gloria Estrada Bacanay, 40, had just got down from a bus in front of Ansar Mall in Sharjah when a speeding car hit her at around 8 p.m. Nov. 14.

Bacanay, a single mother, used to work as a quality controller in a factory in Baguio City, but left for Sharjah to work as a maid just to save for her daughter's future.

Joselito Pataksil, her brother-in-law, had brought her to the Dubai Mall earlier in the day as she had been in Dubai just for six months.

"It is really sad because she wanted to earn more to send her only daughter to college. I will be accompanying her body back to Manila so we can all think of how to bring up Gloria's daughter," he said.

The third Filipino, Bertito San Pedro, 53, truck driver, was crossing a three-lane Emirates road to have coffee at 11:30 p.m. Nov. 16 when a car hit him.

San Pedro's best friend and co-worker, Reynaldo Anchita, was shocked to see a speeding car hit and kill his friend as they crossed the road on Emirates Road just before Al Taya roundabout just across Enoc Patrol Station.

"I crossed the road ahead of him and, as I reached the other end of the road, I heard a big sound. When I looked back, I saw my friend thrown, lifeless on the centre of the road in a pool of blood. It was very traumatic. He was in Dubai for only eight months," he said. - GMANews.TV

2,000 Muslim nurses needed in Saudi Arabia

KORONADAL CITY, Philippines — Saudi Arabia is in need of some 2,000 Muslim nurses, with a top official in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) calling on its professional nurses to grab this opportunity.

Datu Aladdin I. Ampatuan, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration-ARMM acting director, said that nurses are needed in hospitals in the cities of Medina and Mecca. He lamented, however, a shortage of skilled applicants like engineers and construction workers in the area.

Owing to this, Mr. Ampatuan asked the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority to provide skills training to those interested to work in the construction industry.

There is a stiff competition from other countries in as far as the quality of construction workers is concerned that’s why we need to upgrade our manpower’s skills so that we will not be left out, he said. - BusinessWorld

OFW who lost her sanity repatriated from Jeddah

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - A Filipino domestic helper who left her family in Mindoro to work in Saudi Arabia only last August was sent home earlier this week after exhibiting signs of insanity, Philippine officials in Jeddah said.

Arlene (not her real name), 33, an OFW from Oriental Mindoro, arrived in Jeddah on August 3 to work as a domestic helper for the family of a Saudi pilot.

Welfare Officer Romualdo Exmundo of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Jeddah said that Arlene's employer took the maid to the Philippine Consulate on Oct. 15 to seek help, saying she started acting strangely after only a month at work.

Nagmakaawa ang (asawa ng) employer na iwan muna sa OWWA si Arlene dahil hindi na
nga raw nila kaya lalo pa't laging nasa labas ang employer niya na isang piloto (Her employer’s wife pleaded that Arlene stays at the OWWA shelter because they cannot take care of her anymore, especially since pilot employer is always not at home)," said Exmundo.

The welfare officer said that Arlene was always meek and quiet even when she was at the shelter. Exmundo said they were surprised when the woman she escaped from the consulate early this month.

"Buti na lang at nahuli sya nang mga pulis at ibinalik sa konsulado si Arlene kaya ang ginawa namin ay dinala na agad sya sa hospital (It's a good thing that the police caught her and brought her back to the consulate after which we immediately brought her to the hospital)," he said.

Exmundo then asked the employer to let Arlene come back to the Philippines so that she can be properly treated and cared for. Her employer agreed and took care of everything that Arlene needed to be able go home.

He said that Arlene was lucky to have been hired by a kind employer.

"Hindi mo talaga masasabi kung ano ang pwedeng mangyari sa ating mga kababayan na nakikipag sapalaran dito (We really cannot say what can happen to our fellow Filipinos who try their luck here)," he said.

The welfare officer said Arlene was escorted home by Vice Consul Lorenzo Jungco to Manila the other day via Saudi Airlines.

He said that Jungco had to escort the former OFW home because she cannot be left alone in her current condition.

However, Jungco clarified that Arlene was not violent and that escorting her wasn't a problem since other deported OFWs who were also on their flight assisted.

"Ang mga ganitong sitwasyon ay palagi naming tinututukan para maayos na
maihatid sa kanyang pamilya at mabigyan nang maayos na pangangalaga sa
piling nila (We always see through these kinds of situations so that these OFWs can be properly sent back to their families and taken cared of)," he said.

He also said that having seen Arlene's case, aspiring OFWs should become stronger while working overseas.

"Sa araw-araw na pakikipagtunggali sa ating buhay dapat ay marunong tayo tumanggap nang ibinibigay sa atin nang panahon. dapat ay maging preparado ang ating isipan at damdamin sa anumang bagay na dumarating sa atin (With our everyday struggles, we should know how to deal with what is thrown at us, we should prepare our hearts and minds for whatever comes)," he said.

There are more than 60 distressed OFWs, some of whom have also become mentally unstable, temporarily housed at the OWWA center in Saudi Arabia while waiting for their cases to be resolved., welfare officers at the consulate say.

The cases of Arlene and a Filipino driver who ran berserk earlier this month in Jeddah,killing three people, could further boost a proposal by the Department of Foreign Affairs to require every Filipino seeking work abroad to undergo psychiatric or psychological examination.

The proposal has come under fire from various migrant groups, who warned that the requirement could only lead to unnecessary expenses by OFWs. - Ronaldo Concha and Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV
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