Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Memorial plaque for 956 Ondoy-Pepeng dead unveiled in Australia

Some 956 Filipinos who died during the destructive cyclones Ondoy (Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma) will be forever remembered in Australia after a memorial plaque for them was unveiled in New South Wales.

The plaque was unveiled at the Pinegrove Memorial Park in Minchinbury, New South Wales, according to a report from the Philippine Consulate General in Sydney.

According to the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs, the plaque is now a permanent marker in a section of the cemetery called the “Filipino Memorial of Christ the Risen Lord."

Philippine Consul General Eva Betita and Invocare General Manager Arman Mikaelian were present at the unveiling held during the solemn rituals concelebrated by the priests of the Filipino Chaplaincy of the Sydney Diocese and the Filipino Chaplaincy of the Parramatta Diocese.

Figures from the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) show at least 956 deaths in the wake of the two cyclones, including 492 from Pepeng and 464 from Ondoy.

As of November 15, the Filipino community in New South Wales had donated at least A$470,000 (P20.031 million) in assistance funds, as well as over 1,400 boxes of relief goods and 21 pallets of canned food products totaling over 26 metric tons, to the victims of the recent floods.

The Australian government gave A$3 million (P127.859 million) in relief assistance to the calamity victims. - JV/GMANews.TV

US-based media groups raise funds for slain journalist

CHICAGO, Illinois - Chicago-based media organizations – including a group of Filipino journalists in the United States – have begun raising funds for one of the 31 media workers who were killed in the Maguindanao massacre.

Donations have begun to be collected by members of the National Press Club of the Philippines in the United States (NPC Philippines-USA) for the survivors of the late Alejandro “Bong" Reblando, reporter of Manila Bulletin, who was among the slain journalists.

Although NPC Philippines-USA aims to donate to survivors of other victims, its limited resources “would only be good for the survivors of Reblando as we want to return him the favor when he paid us a visit eight years ago," former NPC Philippines-USA president Yoly Tubalinal, said.

“Perhaps, if we can get more donations, we can consider giving away donation to other victims’ survivors in the future," she added. [See: Journalist in Ampatuan town carnage saw himself on front page]

To start the fund drive, a $100 donation was committed by the Chicago Journalists Association (CJA) for Reblando’s surviving family members.

Marlon L. Pecson, Joe Balmadrid and Manny Zambrano and other members present started contributing as low as $20 to kick off the donation drive.

One of the friends of the NPC-Phil.-U.S.A., Atty. Loida N. Lewis, has also pledged to donate to the fund drive.

Names and amounts of the donation are going to be posted on the club’s listserv.

Prospective donors may communicate with the club treasurer, Ms. Ting Joven-Giovanelli, at her email address at tingjoven@aol.com.

In 2001, Reblando was one of the NPC delegation members who visited Chicago for the induction of NPC Philippines-USA officers led by Bart SG. Tubalinal, The Fil-Am Weekly Megascene publisher-editor.

Reblando was accompanied by then-NPC President Louie Logarta, Director Lolit R. Acosta, Fred Gabot, former NPC president; and Mel T. Velasco also of Manila Bulletin.

In the meantime, the CJA also announced it was offering a $1,000 scholarship to one of the orphans of the slain journalists who is pursuing a journalism or mass communications degree.

The scholarship check will be handed over to the recipient if another sponsor can extend a complimentary round-trip ticket that will take the recipient to Chicago for turnover ceremonies slated for October 3, 2010, CJA President Allen Rafalson told GMANews.TV.

Earlier, the New York City-based Committee to Protect Journalists, issued a statement saying, it “is working with local and international media support groups to extend assistance to the families of the numerous journalists killed Monday in a brutal election-related massacre in the Philippine province of Maguindanao." - Joseph Lariosa, GMANews.TV

OFWs based in Dubai to lose bonus, not jobs

First the good news: Filipinos in Dubai are not likely to lose their jobs just yet. Then the bad news: Filipinos in Dubai are not likely to receive a Christmas bonus.

While massive layoffs in Dubai are not imminent, delayed payments and reduced work hours have already been felt by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the debt-hit emirate, the Labor department said.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said most OFWs’ wages in Dubai are delayed by one to two months but quelled fears of a repeat of the massive layoffs similar to the onset of the US-led economic crisis last year.

"Some might not get their Christmas bonus," Roque told GMANews.TV during the 76th anniversary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Tuesday. "They won’t lose jobs yet, their income would just be lessened."

The so-called Dubai debt crisis took place after a United Arab Emirates (UAE) investment company deferred debt payments for six months. This stalled the ongoing development of Dubai’s artificial islands and other construction projects.

Worries arose that Filipinos working in construction would be laid off due to the crisis.

But Roque said that except for architects and engineers, only a small percentage of the 250,000 documented and undocumented Filipinos working in the glittering Arab city are engaged in construction. Most Filipinos in the emirate are in hotels, restaurants, and IT companies.

In case OFWs do lose their jobs in Dubai, Roque assured the government would be able to secure other employment for them in neighboring Gulf countries. [See: DOLE, OWWA to provide aid to Dubai-based OFWs]

"We still have between 60,000 and 70,000 unfilled job vacancies in Qatar alone," Roque said.

But Julius Cainglet of the Federation of Free Workers said the layoffs in Dubai had already begun even in sectors deemed by the DOLE chief as safe for Pinoys.

"My friend who went to Dubai six months ago is already back in the country. He is from the IT sector. Layoffs are already happening," Cainglet told GMANews.TV.

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) feared that the job losses may cut OFW remittances by as much as $300 million. Next to Saudi Arabia, where some two million Filipinos work, the UAE is the Philippines’ biggest source of remittances in the Middle East.

But the TUCP admitted that remittances are expected to grow by $500 million to $1 billion to an unprecedented $17 billion this year after OFWs are seen to send more cash home to assist their families whose houses have been damaged by typhoons. - RSJ, GMANews.TV
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DOLE, OWWA to provide aid to Dubai-based OFWs

Two government agencies have been tasked to provide assistance – and possibly even redeploy Dubai-based Filipino workers to other Middle Eastern countries – after a debt crisis erupted in the city-state.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) were mandated to take charge of distributing assistance to Dubai-based workers, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said.

Issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the order also instructed both agencies to look into the possibility of redeploying workers to other Middle Eastern countries, Remonde added.

The so-called Dubai debt crisis – which took place after a United Arab Emirates (UAE) investment company deferred debt payments for six months – may eventually cut jobs of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Next to Saudi Arabia, the UAE is the Philippines’ biggest source of remittances in the Middle East.

The crisis could force Dubai-based firms to cut jobs in real estate, construction, financial services, travel, and tourism, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said in an earlier statement.

In turn, job losses may cut remittances by as much as $300 million, TUCP secretary general Ernesto Herrera said.

About 200,000 OFWs are employed in Dubai, comprising a bulk of the half a million who work in the entire UAE.

But at the same time, the Press Secretary allayed concerns about job losses, citing employment commitments secured by the President during her visits to the UAE and other Middle Eastern countries.

“The government remains confident of being able to redeploy skilled workers," Remonde said. “Those who may be unable to secure jobs will nevertheless get benefits from OWWA."

These benefits will help them secure retraining or start small businesses in the country, he added.

In the meantime, OFWs may be transferred to the UAE’s other six emirates or in countries like Qatar, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia, DOLE Secretary Marianito Roque said. - with RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

Japan hails Pinay researcher's work on agriculture

For her study on mitigating food and environmental problems, a Filipina researcher brought honor to the country after being conferred a commendation award in Japan this month, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.

Dr. Maria Junemie Hazel Leonida Lebata-Ramos won the Japan International Award 2009 for Young Agricultural Researchers from the Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council.

Ramos is a researcher for the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), the DFA said, citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

The Filipina researcher was conferred this Commendation Award last November 4 for her study entitled ‘Stock Enhancement of commercially important and threatened marine invertebrates in tropical areas,’ the DFA said.

Ramos is currently the Program leader in the Aquatic Ecology Program at SEAFDEC.

The organization provides sustainable fisheries development in the region on various activities such as fisheries and aquaculture technologies and practices, post-harvest technology, international and intra-regional fish trade, fisheries management concepts and approaches, policy and advisory services, and addressing international fisheries issues.

The Japanese Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Research Council of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and fisheries (MAFF) gives the award yearly to deserving Agricultural Researchers. - JHU, GMANews.TV

10 illegitimate Pinoy kids from Kuwait return to RP

At least 10 illegitimate Filipino children aged four months to four years were repatriated to the country from Kuwait, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Saturday.

The DFA said the 10 children arrived Friday and paid a courtesy call on DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo and DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr.

“The children were repatriated to prevent the expulsion of their parents from Kuwait, which has very strict laws against immorality and illegitimate children," the DFA said.

It said the children arrived via Kuwait Airways, accompanied by Carlito San Diego of the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait.

A contingent from the DFA Office of the Undersecretary of Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) led by Atty. Enrico Fos welcomed them at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Funding for the airfare of the six children came from the Embassy’s Assistance to Nationals Fund (ATN), while the rest were funded by their parents.

Seven of the children came from the Filipino Workers Resource Center, two were from the Al-Adan Hospital, while one was from the Farwaniya Hospital. - JHU, GMANews.TV
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

‘Christmas in Somalia likely for 71 kidnapped RP seafarers’

JOSEPH HOLANDES UBALDE, GMANews.TV


With only 24 days before Christmas, some 71 Filipinos who are held captive by Somali pirates in the Horn of Africa are likely to spend the holidays locked up on their ships than at home with their loved ones, the head of a seafarers’ group said Tuesday.

“Although the Philippine government began to move swiftly in calling for the release of the seafarers, there is a big possibility that they will spend the holidays there," said Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers (UFS).

Interviewed by GMANews.TV, Ramirez said the government needs to send out more men to Africa to pressure shipowners in facilitating the release of the captured seafarers.

Hijacked ships in Somalia with Filipino seafarers on them
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Win Far 161 - Hijacked on April 6 with 17 Filipinos.

MV Charelle- Hijacked on June 13 with 3 Filipinos.

Sichem Peace - Hijacked on July 4 with 2 Filipinos.*

Thai Union 3- Hijacked on October 29 with 2 Filipinos.

MV Delvina - Hijacked on November 5 with 14 Filipinos.

MV Filitsa – Hijacked on November 11 with 19 Filipinos

MV Maran Centaurus – Hijacked November 29 with 16 Filipinos

* Except for the Sichem Peace, all the ships mentioned are in the hands of pirates in Somalia.

“It’s okay that the government is coordinating with the shipowners, but they need more people to handle such concerns. They need to deploy people to Africa and help in coordinating with the release of the Filipinos," he said.

Filipinos make up a third of the world’s seafarers, making them the most visible nationality in the world’s ships as well as the most vulnerable to pirate abductions.

Foreign Affairs spokesperson Ed Malaya said the Philippine government has kept pressuring shipowners for the early release of the Filipino seafarers. “The pressure is there, it never waned," Malaya told GMANews.TV in a phone interview from Indonesia.

"Each negotiation has its own dynamics, and it is difficult to predict when a specific negotiation may be concluded. Nonetheless, we will exert efforts to have them resolved, through the proper parties, as soon as practicable," he added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs, which confirmed on Tuesday the hijacking of a third Greek-owned ship with 16 Filipinos on board, said the government has already instructed the Philippine Embassy in Athens to coordinate the safe and immediate release of the Filipino seafarers.

Manila does not directly negotiate with the hostage-takers but continues to coordinate with the transitional government of Somalia and the shipping firms to work for the immediate and safe release of the hostages. Somalia has no central government.

The Greek-flagged Maran Centaurus and its 28-man crew were hijacked last November 29 by Somali pirates as the vessel sailed about 750 nautical miles off the coast of Somalia.

Last year, 91 Filipino seafarers on board five vessels spent their Christmas in Somalia.

Pirate attacks worldwide in the first nine months of 2009 exceeded the whole of last year's total because of more frequent raids in the Gulf of Aden and off the east coast of Somalia, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.

According to the maritime watchdog group, the number of attacks rose to 306 between January and September, surpassing the 293 incidents recorded throughout 2008.

The use of guns in the attacks more than doubled to 176 cases in the first nine months of 2009 from 76 in the same period of last year, the report added.

The higher number of attacks was due mainly to increased Somali pirate activity off the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest sea lanes, and the east coast of Somalia, which combined accounts for 147 cases, the report said.

Somalia has been ravaged by violence and anarchy since 1991 and piracy has flourished off its coast, making the Gulf of Aden one of the most dangerous waterways in the world. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Arroyo names Congress ally as envoy to Italy

11/29/2009 | 06:36 PM
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has named a congressional ally as the country’s next envoy to Italy, a Malacañang official said on Sunday.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said President Arroyo designated Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to Italy.

“You are hereby nominated as ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary to the Republic of Italy with rank and emoluments of Chief of Mission Class 2," Remonde said on government-run dzRB radio, reading from a directive of President Arroyo.

Cuenco, 73, presently chairs the House of Representatives’ committee on foreign relations. He is a member of the Promdi-BOPK-Lakas party and is on his third and last term.

On the other hand, Remonde said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano is no longer keen on running for an elective post next year and is likely to stay at his Cabinet post.

“Last time nag-usap kami, tinatanong ko siya, ayaw tumakbo. Mananatili si Ace sa Department of Tourism, which is good because he’s doing a good job there (Last time we talked, he was not keen on running. He will stay at the Department of Tourism, which is good because he is doing a good job there)," he said.

Remonde also disclosed that President Arroyo made permanent the appointment of Joel Tan Torres as Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) commissioner.

Other appointments included:

* Pilita Venturanza as deputy executive secretary for general administration, with rank of undersecretary;

* Salome Habal as head of the National Parks Development Committee; and

* Soledad Emilia Cruz (corporate operations office), Ma. Teresa Habitan (fiscal policy and planning office) and Ma. Lourdes Recente (research and information office) as Department of Finance assistant secretaries;

Remonde also reiterated the Palace has completed its list of possible appointments for Cabinet members who may quit their posts to run in 2010. He did not name them, saying he will do so at the proper time.

“We have a very deep bench, we have people to immediately replace them. In fact I already have the names of people we will replace but we will announce at the proper time," he said. - GMANews.TV

UAE court upholds Pinoy accountant's jail term

A court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has upheld a two-year jail term for a Filipino accountant who was convicted for torching two offices in his former workplace.

The UAE Court of Appeals also upheld the Filipino’s deportation once he serves his jail term, according to a report on UAE news site Khaleej Times.

It referred a separate embezzlement charge against the Filipino to the UAE Court of Misdemeanors.

Last October 13, the Court of First Instance sentenced the Filipino accountant to two years in prison followed by deportation for arson.

Court records showed the female director of the company where he used to work accused him of embezzling Dh10,000 (P127,865) while he was the accountant there.

She also accused him of setting her office and his office on fire. She alleged that he had been absent from work frequently.

The Filipino admitted to the prosecutors to setting the offices on fire.

On the other hand, the criminal evidence report showed that there were marks of tampering with the safe where the money, passports and files were kept. - GMANews.TV

US journalists raise funds for kin of slain RP mediamen

CHICAGO, Illinois – Several news organizations in the United States have launched fund drives for the families of the Filipino journalists slain in the politically motivated killings in Maguindanao.

Los Angeles-based Media Breakfast Club (MBC) will be launching a “Support for the Orphans of Slain Journalists" (SOS-J) drive. MBC head Bobby Reyes said the group had discussed the plan among their members.

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We must never forget their courage and willingness to risk their lives to get their stories to the public.
– Allen Rafalson, president of the Chicago Journalists Association
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Meanwhile, the Chicago Journalists Association will hold a brief ceremony for the slain journalists at their upcoming 71st annual dinner.

“Far too many men and women in our profession have been killed reporting on wars, corruption and crime. We must never forget their courage and willingness to risk their lives to get their stories to the public," said Allen Rafalson, president of the Chicago Journalists Association.

Other US media groups meanwhile, condemned the act committed against the Filipino journalists.

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA), one of the biggest press organizations in the US, said the massacre would have strong repercussions for Filipino mediamen.

“The brazen act, we fear, could have a chilling effect on reporters and their work," said AAJA national president Sharon Chan.

“And to the Filipino journalism community at large, we express solidarity and offer our encouragement. We look to them to help reveal what happened in Maguindanao this week, and to continue the important journalistic role of pursuing truth and reporting without fear. We, at AAJA, stand with them on these shared principles," she added.

The number of identified journalists who had died in the November 23 massacre in Ampatuan town in Maguindanao province has risen to 30, based on the list complied by GMANews.TV and the non-government, Center for International Law. [See list of slain journalists in the Maguindanao massacre here.]

New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, non-profit organization, acknowledged the government’s efforts to seek justice for the slain mediamen but stressed the need for more information on the tragedy.

“The state of emergency declared in the province must not interfere with journalists seeking access and information to report on the killings," Bob Dietz, CPJ’s Asia program coordinator said.

“[President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo] might not be able to reverse the culture of violence that surrounds so much of political life in the Philippines, but she can certainly use this terrible incident to fight the impunity that surrounds journalists’ deaths," Dietz added. - JHU, ARCS,

Model OFW families: Pinoys who invest remittances wisely

For promoting cooperativism and entrepreneurship, two families – one each from Batangas and Masbate provinces - were named model overseas Filipino worker (OFW) families for 2009.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said Saturday the winners of this year’s Model OFW Family of the Year Awards (MOFYA) are the Lubis family from Lipa; and Bello family from Baleno, Masbate.

Engineer Rodolfo Pita Lubis of Lipa, Batangas represents land-based OFWs, while Capt. Emilio Bajar Bello of Baleno, Masbate represents sea-based OFWs.

Roque, who conceived the MOFYA when he was still the head of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), said the Lubis and Bello families exemplify OFWs model families in the country who have demonstrated the best practices of OFWs and their families in overcoming the challenges of migration.

Lubis worked in Saudi Arabia for more than 30 years, while his family invested his overseas earnings in various agri-business enterprises that employ more than 200 workers.

The Lubises have also developed their first Gawad Kalinga Reunion Village where residents are given employment, livelihood capital, and scholarship for their children.

Also, the family planted more than 45,000 narra and mahogany trees as their contribution to the “Greening of the Environment."

Bello, on the other hand, worked as a seaman for almost 29 years starting only as ordinary seaman in 1971.

His family invested his overseas earnings in various agri and retail business ventures as well.

Upon his retirement in 2000, Capt. Bello started to engage in community projects particularly in sharing his expertise on food sanitation and entrepreneurship through the OFW chapter of the Baleno Fishermen and Farmers Cooperative.

The MOFYA is a search for families who have maintained strong family relations, properly managed the financial benefits from the OFWs’ overseas employment, have educational achievements and exemplary performance in their respective professions, and at the same time have a positive impact in the community where they reside. - JHU, GMANews.TV

Ensuring OFWs' welfare to help boost economy

The Philippines should actively safeguard “the welfare of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)" to further boost the economy, the country’s acting socioeconomic planning secretary said.

Ensuring their safety and well-being will help keep steady growth of remittances, which in turn, boost the domestic economy, Augusto Santos, acting director general of the National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA) said.

Money sent home by OFWs are used by beneficiaries to purchase goods and services, helping the Philippines’ consumption-driven economy.

Remittances also provided the Philippines some “cover" in its trade gap, measured as the amount left over after its imports are subtracted from its exports.

Unlike its export-dependent Asian neighbors such as Taiwan and Singapore, the Philippines also depends on remittances to support its economy.

Santos said one of the advantages of the Philippine economy is that it is not solely reliant on exports, unlike its Asian neighbors such as Taiwan, and Singapore.

From July to September this year, the Philippine economy expanded 0.8 percent, a far cry from the 4.6 percent expansion last year.

Weaker growth for the quarter also fell below the official forecast range of 1.6 percent to 2.6 percent, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said on Thursday.

The decline was brought about by the slowdown in the manufacturing and farm sectors.

At the same time, he also exhorted the government’s economic managers to “navigate through the [financial meltdown] through a calculated exit plan," he said.

An “even grander entrance plan" should also be formulated for “better socio-economic achievement in the coming years," Santos said.

Among his proposals include cutting costs of electricity in the country – considered as the second-highest in Asia – and providing greater credit access to small and medium-scale enterprises. - with RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

No more mano-mano polls for Pinoys in HK, Singapore

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) agreed to spend P40 million to conduct the polls, after they signed a memorandum of agreement on the matter Friday.

At least 606,414 registered overseas absentee voters worldwide - including the 128,272 in Hong Kong and Singapore - are expected to participate in the overseas absentee voting from April 10 to May 10, 2010. [See more election-related topics at Your Vox]

DFA Undersecretary for Special and Ocean Concerns Rafael Seguis and Comelec Commissioner signed the agreement at the DFA office in Pasay City.

Seguis chairs DFA-Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat (DFA-OAVS), while Velasco chairs the Comelec Committee in Overseas Absentee Voting.

According to Seguis, Hong Kong and Singapore were chosen because they are nearest to the Philippines, among other foreign service posts that obtained the highest number of registrants

“It will be easier and will cost less to send technical people to Hong Kong and Singapore, than to Los Angeles or Dubai," Seguis added. “We expect speedy, transparent, and accurate count of votes in these posts."

Other than the Philippine posts in Hong Kong and Singapore, other embassies and consulates will continue to employ the traditional overseas absentee voting for the 2010 elections, such personal voting and voting by mail.

Under the MOA, DFA and Comelec will share the expenses in the conduct of the automated elections in Hong Kong and Singapore.

An estimated P40 million will be spent, to be equally funded by the two government agencies.

Seguis said the goal is to have automated election system in all Philippine Embassies and Consulates all over the world. - JHU, GMANews.TV

Friday, November 6, 2009

2 Filipino seafarers hurt in ship fire in United Arab Emirates

Two Filipino seamen were injured after their ship caught fire five miles off Khor Fakkan port in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last Wednesday.

UAE-based Khaleej Times reported Friday the two Filipinos were among four crewmen injured in the incident.

A Greek crewman died while an engineer from Ghana and a Sri Lankan national were also injured in the incident, the report said.

The Khaleej Times report quoted a Sharjah police officer as saying fire broke out in the engine of the Liberian-flagged ship, which was being used as a bunker to refuel other ships.

“Apart from the Greek, four others suffered serious burns," the officer said.

He added the Greek man likely died after inhaling smoke that billowed out into the sky after the engine caught fire.

The four other crew members were immediately taken to a Fujairah hospital with one of the survivors discharged the same day.

Investigators are working with Sharjah Ports Authorities to find out what caused the fire. The injured crew members will be questioned after they recover. - GMANews.TV

Migrants 'silenced' in Athens global forum on migration - group

Organizers of the third annual international meeting on global migration are being criticized for allegedly silencing the sector that they were supposed to serve.

An advocacy group claimed that the Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) recently held in Athens, had “deliberately sought to alienate the role of migrants in the discussion process."

“(It) has demonstrated a clear lack of transparency and accountability where many non-binding agreements are made in closed-door meetings outside the scrutiny of rights-based observers," the Coordination of Action Research on AIDS and Mobility Asia (CARAM) said in a statement.

While the group acknowledges the GFMD as the largest platform for international dialogue on issues related to migration, CARAM said the annual meeting had failed to address the real problems of migrants.

“The GFMD will never become a platform of positive change in the field of migration until it seeks to engage directly with migrants and their communities and halt their continued promotion of failed economic policies," CARAM said.

The group is opposed to the promotion of migration as a means to generate remittances and keep the economies of developing countries afloat.

Citing a recent study by the United Nations Development Programme on the Human Development Index, CARAM said that in many cases, the quality of education, health, and overall standard of living in developing countries still decreased despite the record-level remittances generated by these nations.

The forum met similar criticisms when it was held in Manila in October 2008. Migrant groups said the GFMD was nothing more than a shoptalk event meant for labor-sending nations to market migrants in other countries.

But organizers of the event in Manila said the forum was a success in ensuring the welfare of migrants especially at the onset of the financial crisis.

CARAM urged participants of the GFMD to undertake several measures to make it more relevant for migrants. It said countries participating in the GFMD should sign and ratify the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of all Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

The group likewise urged GFMD organizers to improve transparency and accountability in the dialogue process.

“This must include the participation of grassroots organisations to address the wider social issues related to migration including addressing gender specific vulnerabilities," CARAM said, adding that some non-binding agreements should not be made behind closed doors.

CARAM also said that countries hosting female migrant workers must adhere to the latter's existing rights as laid out in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. - GMANews.TV

Batangueña gets 4 mos. in HK for forged passport stamps

A Filipino woman visiting Hong Kong for the first time would be staying in the Chinese province’s jail for four months after immigration authorities found out she had fake passport entry/exit stamps, the Philippine Consulate there reported Thursday.

The tourist, who hails from Batangas province, was returning to the Philippines with her family last Oct. 28 when Hong Kong airport authorities discovered that her immigration stamp showed she had been to the former British colony a couple of times before.

According to the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong, the Filipina was brought to Shatin Magistrates’ Court two days later and pleaded guilty to the offense of possession of a false instrument. She was sentenced to four months imprisonment.

"The Consulate has made a recommendation to authorities in Manila for the investigation of the case," the office of Vice Consul Val Roque said in a statement.

Filipino tourists and workers are often lured by unscrupulous agencies to obtain forged entry/exit immigration stamps in order to bolster his/her chances at getting a visa from certain embassies in Manila.

As a strategy, long-time Filipino workers in Hong Kong get a better chance of getting work in Canada after showing good immigration status in the Chinese province. Often, Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong apply for caregiver jobs in Canada after two years of service.

Mere possession of a false instrument, however, is an offence under Section 75 of Hong Kong’s Crimes Ordinance and carries with it a maximum penalty of 3 years’ imprisonment.

"Filipinos should be aware that these embassies also report fraudulent visa application documents to the National Bureau of Investigation," the consulate added.

There are more than 130,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong; most of whom are working as domestic helpers in the city’s urban districts. - GMANews.TV

Crisis restricted migrant workers' movement - UN

Besides bringing discrimination and threats of job losses, the global crisis has also restricted the movement of migrant workers the world over, a United Nations official said.

This has reduced migrant workers’ opportunities, causing a slowdown in remittance flows, said Carlos Lopes, executive director of the UN Institute for Training and Research.

“Many countries which depend upon these flows will be adversely affected not only economically, but also socially," Lopes said at the opening of the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in Greece on Thursday.

The 2nd GFMD was held in Manila in October last year.

Lopes, who also chairs the Global Migration Group, said that while remittance was relatively resilient, the World Bank forecasts that flows to all developing regions will decline between seven and ten percent in 2009.

“Too often this will negatively affect development outcomes, for example in the area of children’s and especially girls’ education and health," he added.

But Filipino economists project that the remittances from more than 8.7 million Filipinos living and working abroad would climb to $17 billion despite the crisis.

From January to July this year, remittances have risen 3.8 percent to nearly $10 billion, boosting consumption spending, which comprise 70 to 80 percent of the economy.

Lopes also said that many states have adopted restrictive requirements for foreigners obtaining entry, legal residence, and work permits.

“Additional restrictions can also reinforce the impression that migration is a questionable, criminal phenomenon, thereby contributing to anti-migrant, xenophobic reactions in destination countries," he said.

From October 2008 to March 2009 the Labor department noted that some 60,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returned home, jobless.

Earlier, Emmanuel Leyco, a professor at the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), said 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.

Leyco said 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.

“When factories or offices are closing (not even) seniority (counts)," he said.

Lopes echoed this observation in his opening remarks at the GFMD, adding that the continued layoffs of migrant workers slow down the process of recovery.

“From a development perspective, such measures risk slowing down the resumption of growth," he said.

The UN official said that States must be vigilant against xenophobic sentiments and discriminatory practices prompted by the economic crisis.

The recently released 2009 UN Human Development Report, entitled Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development, called for wide-ranging reforms to maximize the gains from migration and to protect the rights of migrants – now estimated to be one out of every seven persons in the world, Lopes added. - GMANews.TV

Groups want an OFW as senatorial candidate

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Several Filipino groups in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have called on political parties to field at least one overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in the senatorial ticket for the 2010 elections.

“It’s high time that they consider the OFWs to have a representation in the Senate," said Vic Aguila, chairman of KASAPI Congress, an umbrella organization of Filipino migrant groups in Saudi Arabia.

In an open letter to the political parties, KASAPI said it was important to have OFW representation in the Senate to recognize their importance in the decision-making process in the country.

Money coming from OFWs is considered the lifeblood of the Philippine economy. A record-breaking $16.4 billion was remitted by OFWs in 2008.

Another group, Ang Ating Gabay OFW, said an OFW senator would help push for pro-migrant worker legislation that have otherwise gathered dust in Congress.

“Ever since we do not have any representative in the Senate. Whatever passes in the Lower House must have a follow-up in the Senate," said Jauhari Usman, president of Ang Ating Gabay OFW and former chairman of KASAPI.

In Riyadh, former chairman of United OFW Frank Naval said the group’s current chairman Eli Mua has sent an email to the Office of the President requesting the inclusion of an OFW in the Senate slate of the ruling party.

“This is the time for us (OFWs) to be represented and we are hoping that they would listen to our clamor," said Naval.

In the House of Representatives, OFWs have received a recent blow when the country’s poll body delisted Migrante in the party-list elections for 2010.

The Comelec is still deliberating on the requests for accreditation of more than 200 groups wishing to participate in the May 2010 party-list elections.

Since the party-list system began in 1998, no OFW group has succeeded in winning a seat in the House of Representatives. - GMANews.TV

89 OFWs in KSA seek repatriation

More A total of 89 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have called on the Philippine government to repatriate them from Saudi Arabia after their employer allegedly committed labor malpractices.

According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the OFWs stopped working last October 12 to protest their employer’s alleged labor malpractices that included unauthorized salary reduction, illegal salary deduction, and delayed payment of salaries.

The DFA has called on the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Riyadh to discuss with the OFWs’ employer, Annasban Group of Companies, a local outsourcing company, to return home even after completing their contracts.

“POLO-Riyadh has asked for the early repatriation of those Filipino workers who wish to return to Manila under their employer’s expense. Those who would opt to stay, however, may continue their work under improved working conditions," the DFA said in a statement Tuesday.

This is not the first time Annasban figured in labor malpractice complaints.

Last year, Migrante International, an OFW-advocacy group, said at least 70 Filipina health workers have been virtually held hostage by Annasban.

The group said the agency is not allowing the Filipinas to leave until their replacements arrive. In protest, the Filipino employees have refused to work. - GMANews.TV

RP to repatriate OFW convicted in Saudi for drug offense

More The Philippine government is now working for the repatriation of an overseas Filipino worker who finished serving his prison term for a drug-related offense in Saudi Arabia.

Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Jose Jonathan Botor Bigas had finished serving his term in August 2008.

"Mr. Bigas was scheduled to be repatriated last month but due to administrative procedures between the Saudi court and the Governor’s Office, he remains incarcerated at the Dammam Reformatory Jail," the DFA said in an article posted on its Web site.

The DFA said Philippine Embassy officials asked concerned Saudi authorities to inquire into this matter.

Also, the Philippine Embassy has requested the DFA to disburse funds for Bigas’ repatriation "for humanitarian consideration," the department said. - GMANews.TV

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Repatriation of distressed OFWs delayed for Arroyo’s Jeddah visit?

abs-cbnNEWS.com

An alliance of Filipino migrant groups expressed concern that the repatriation of distressed overseas Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia could have been put on hold to wait for the visit of President Arroyo.

“But their repatriation will not happen any day from now until Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrives in Saudi Arabia reportedly on 21st September,” said John Leonard Monterona, regional coordinator of Migrante-Middle East chapter.

Monterona said Migrante chapter in Jeddah informed them that the number of stranded workers in Jeddah seeking repatriation is now estimated at 300.

“Just like her previous visit in the Kingdom, she will make sure that she has a trophy to present to the public –the 300 stranded OFWs; this is cheap publicity stunt at the expense of OFWs lives and well being,” Monterona said.

He said the repatriation of distress OFWs usually increase during and after the Ramadan. He added that this has been a problem that the Philippine Consulate General failed to solve.

“But this should not be case, the “One Country Team” approach by the government is not working and ineffective; it must be coupled with genuine protection mechanism that would ensure that OFWs rights and welfare is being guaranteed by receiving host governments as well,” Monterona stressed.

Monterona said the 300 stranded OFWs are now inside the Hajj Airport in Jeddah hoping for their immediate repatriation.

“In fact, they are readying and now eager to be home and be reunited with their loved ones. But according to PCG announcement, only 170 of them will be repatriated,” he said.

He added: “With or without Gloria coming to Saudi Arabia, the hundreds of distressed and stranded OFWs must be repatriated immediately as it is primary government responsibility.”

Repatriation on going

On Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs announced that 71 OFWs are set to arrive from Jeddah on Wednesday.

According to the DFA’s Web site, the third batch consists of 62 female, six male and three children. They are expexted arrive at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 11 p.m.

“The Philippine Government extends its gratitude to the Saudi government for the immediate processing of the exit papers of the 71 Filipinos,“ the DFA stated.

On Monday, 66 Filipinos composed of 24 adults and 42 children returned to the country. They were repatriated by Saudi Arabia deportation authorities.

The OFWs were among the Filipino migrant workers who stayed under a bridge in Jeddah.

Doubts cast on new OWWA board appointee

abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA - An advocacy group called for transparency after the appointment of a person allegedly in close association with President Arroyo to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Board of Trustees.

“Our question on the lack of standard in handing out appointments has not been addressed,“ said Daphne Ceniza of the Center for Migrant Advocacy.

Ceniza was referring to the appointment of Jose Jouelito Sapio to the OWWA Board of Trustees representing the Land-based sector.

OWWA chief Carmelita Dimzon said Sapio was appointed by President Arroyo.

A portion of Dimzon’s letter to CMA Executive Director Ellene Sana read: “We cannot question the authority and prerogative of Her Excellency in the appointment of Mr. Sapio. Having been appointed, he needs all your support and cooperation so that he can perform his duties and responsibilities as the trustee for the land-based sector. Let us give him a chance to represent you and be your voice in the Board.“

However, Ceniza pointed out that appointing an OWWA land-based representative to the OWWA Board will affect millions of migrant workers abroad.

“It should not be handed as a Presidential prerogative especially from a government that has consistently been tainted by corruption and abuse of power in handing a position,“ Ceniza said in her letter-response to Dimzon.

The CMA earlier wrote to OWWA and the labor department verifying the appointment of Sapio who is from Hong Kong. In the letter, Sana said they were informed that Sapio “headed the presidential campaign of Pres. Arroyo in 2004 in his capacity as founder of GMA Ikaw Pa Rin Movement in Hong kong. Subsequently, in the 2007, Mr. Sapio was lead campaigner for Pres. Arroyo's Team Unity.“

“The lack of transparency on the selection process and the cavalier attitude of the President in handing out appointments as payment for services rendered reflects the government's low regard for migrant workers. Please note that Mr. Sapio heads the Gloria Pa Rin Movement in Hong Kong,“ Ceniza said.

Ceniza added “The management and allocation of OWWA funds has already been questioned by migrant workers in the past. The manner in which Mr. Sapio was appointed gives us further reason to doubt that OWWA funds wil be used judiciously for the welfare of migrant workers.“

Meanwhile, Migrante International Middle East chapter also raised the issue of transparency by stressing that the appointment was “devoid of democratic consultations from OFWs and their organizations.“

“OFWs and their families could not forget that Mrs. Arroyo and her administration has a long list of alleged OWWA fund misuses and fund diversion devoid of consultations from OFWs stakeholders; thus we can’t simply give a nod to the appointment made by her to the OWWA-BoT without giving OFWs the chance to be heard and consulted,” Migrante-ME regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona said.

Pinoys in Vienna divided over Noynoy's presidential bid

by Hector Pascua, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau




Filipinos in Austria have mixed feelings about the decision of Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to run for president in next year’s polls.

"Noynoy doesn't seem to have solid credentials. Indeed, he is a good guy at isa pa anak ng mga sinasabing heroes ng Pilipinas. He is Okay but he has no charisma and so far no leadership or even management skill,” a United Nations employee in Vienna who declined to be named told ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau.

Sen. Noynoy Aquino is the son of democracy icon President Corazon “Cory” Aquino and the late senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. who was assassinated in 1983.

“The Aquino’s possesses a very clean record. Their record of decency will surely be Noynoy’s ‘political capital’ in winning widespread grassroots support from Filipinos. Di ba, kung malinis kang tao, marami kang ma-aatract din na malilinis at honest na tao? Decency coupled with dedication will surely help to make our country move forward," said Filipino economist Rene Ilagan.

Henry Llacuna of the Alpha Phi Omega Vienna chapter welcomed Sen. Noynoy Aquino’s decision to run for president.

“The Filipino people are tired of traditional politicians! Noynoy will surely change the political system of our country,” Llacuna said.

Angelita de Guzman, a Pinay nurse working in a public hospital in the city believes that the senator’s parents instilled good values in them and this is surely a very good start.

“If ever elected as President in 2010, Noynoy might not be able to make a quick change in our economy but being a honest person and hopefully having sincere, truthful government officials surrounding him, the Philippines may have a chance,” de Guzman said.

Though there are unsettled opinions of “kababayans” in Austria on Noynoy’s capability to run for President, still the majority of Filipinos here wish and pray that they would be united to help change and reform politics in the Philippines.

Remittances rise in July on Pinoy labor demand

HARD WORK. Nearly 10 percent of the country's 90 million people work abroad — many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen. Charlie Magno file photoRemittances from Filipinos working abroad amounted to $1.5 billion in July, up 9.3 percent from a year earlier due to sustained demand for Filipino manpower and increased access to money transfer facilities, officials said Tuesday.

Cental Bank Governor Amando Tetangco said Tuesday he expects remittances to remain stable for the rest of year because of the “sustained remittance flows at the onset of the second half of the year and continuing signs of improving global economic conditions."

Remittances in January-July have totalled $10 billion, up 3.8 percent from a year earlier.

The United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Britain, Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Germany have been the major sources of remittances this year.

Nearly 10 percent of the country's 90 million people work abroad — many as nurses, maids, engineers, construction workers and seamen.

Last year, overseas Filipinos sent home $16.4 billion, equal to 10.4 percent of the country's gross domestic product and fueling domestic consumption.

Aggressive marketing by banks and non-bank remittance centers abroad have resulted in the “greater capture" of money being sent home by Filipinos overseas, the central bank said. - AP

66 stranded OFWs return home from Jeddah

Almost 200 Filipino workers still remain at the Hajj terminal in Jeddah - a safe house temporarily provided by the Philippine Consulate for stranded workers who are awaiting repatriation. - Ronaldo Concha A total of 66 stranded Filipino workers have finally returned to the Philippines from Jeddah after they were repatriated by Saudi deportation authorities, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

In a statement, the DFA said the group consisted of 24 adults and 42 children. They arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday.

According to Anthony Basil, administration staff of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), most of these workers were runaways from Riyadh and the Eastern Province.

But instead of seeking help from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Alkhobar, many of the workers opted to travel to Jeddah in hopes of being sent home for free by Saudi authorities through a deportation process.

Some of them even lived under the Khandara Overpass, along with other nationals such as Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, who are also trying to attract the attention of Saudi police so that they would be brought to their countries.




They were transferred to the Hajj terminal after they camped out in front of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, demanding repatriation.

The DFA said Friday that they were the ones who recommended the case of the OFWs to the Saudi immigration. DFA undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said 170 of the workers would soon be repatriated.

According to the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, a group consisting of 62 females, six males, and three children is expected to arrive on Wednesday at 11 a.m. This will be the third group of Filipinos to be repatriated from Jeddah. The first batch brought home 100 workers while the second repatriated 66.

At present, there are still 123 male and 52 female stranded OFWs awaiting repatriation at the Hajj terminal.

The Filipino community in Saudi Arabia is estimated to have reached 1.2 million last year and the figure continues to increase. It is also still the top destination among overseas Filipino workers, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan and Ronaldo Z. Concha, GMANews.TV

22 Pinoy seafarers freed by pirates in Somalia

22 RP SEAFARERS STILL HELD HOSTAGE

Win Far 161 - Hijacked April 6 with 17 Filipinos.

MV Charelle- Hijacked June 13 with 3 Filipinos.

Sichem Peace - Hijacked July 4 with 2 Filipinos.*

* Except for the Sichem Peace, all the ships mentioned are in the hands of pirates in Somalia.

- Data collected by GMANews.TV (Updated: 3:43 PM) After more than five months in captivity, 22 Filipino seafarers on board a Greek merchant ship were freed by their Somali captors, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the DFA said the local manning agency of MV Irene confirmed the safe release of the all-Filipino crew on Monday.

"Negotiations for the release of the vessel and its crew had been successful and that it is now working on the repatriation of the Filipino seafarers," the DFA said.

The St. Vincent-flagged merchant ship was hijacked off the Gulf of Aden last April 15.

This latest development has brought down to 22 the total number of Filipino seafarers still held hostage this year.

Somali pirates often do not hurt their hostages and only demand a hefty ransom from ship owners. Last year however, a Filipino seafarer died by accident, when the Somali bandits boarded their ship. The body has since been repatriated.

Earlier, Malacañang refused to direct any of the Department of Foreign Affairs’ funds to pay any part of the $2.8 million or almost P137 million in exchange for the release of the 22 Filipino seafarers of MV Irene.

The families of the victims have earlier appealed to the Philippine government, the United Nations, the African Union, and other international organizations to intervene for the release of the hostages.

An online petition has even been set up for the release of the hostages and the growing problems of piracy. A similar petition has also been set up on networking sites such as Facebook.

It was not clear whether the Somali pirates received money in exchange for the release of the MV Irene or its crew. - Joseph Holandes Ubalde, GMANews.TV

Some stranded OFWs in Jeddah already sick

Consulate officials give medical attention to stranded Filipino workers who got sick while staying at a safe house in Jeddah before repatriation. - Ronaldo ConchaJEDDAH, Saudi Arabia - - Because of the hot weather and lack of supplies, many of the stranded Filipino workers staying at the Hajj terminal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia have been falling sick.

“We have lots of the stranded here in the safe house who (are) suffering from high blood pressure, others have flu. Some of the stranded females here are pregnant. We have also some children and they need milk and pampers and our problem is we do not have any more resources to support or daily expenses," said Conrado Soriano, one of the leaders of the stranded Filipinos.

According to Anthony Basil, administration staff of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), most of the stranded OFWs are runaways from Riyadh and the Eastern Province.

But instead of seeking help from the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Alkhobar, many of the workers opted to travel to Jeddah in hopes of being sent home for free by Saudi authorities.

Some of them even lived under the Khandara Overpass, along with other nationals such as Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangladeshis, who are also trying to attract the attention of Saudi police so that they would be deported to their countries.

They were transferred to the Hajj terminal after they camped out in front of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah, demanding repatriation.

Upon hearing of their grievances, OWWA officials checked the condition of the workers, conducted treatment, and distributed medication.

“I’m happy that the Philippine Consulate is doing their best to accommodate us especially when they provided us shelter and food and they look after our sick colleagues here and provided us medicines," said Soriano.

OWWA welfare officer Romualdo Exmundo, a doctor by profession, said some of the stranded have flu and high blood pressure after examining them.

“The highest I checked (has) a 200 over 120 blood pressure...the poor lady did not know that her blood pressure is already high. She can have a stroke or a heart attack with her condition," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Friday said they have already recommended the case of 170 stranded Filipino workers to the Saudi immigration. DFA undersecretary for migrant workers affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said they would soon be deported.

This group is already the second batch to be repatriated to Manila. An earlier batch consisting of 100 OFWs have already returned to the country.

The Filipino community in Saudi Arabia is estimated to have reached 1.2 million last year and the figure continues to increase. It is also still the top destination among overseas Filipino workers, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed. - GMANews.TV

OFWs told: Beware of agencies with canceled, suspended licenses

Overseas Filipino workers (OFW) should be wary of recruitment agencies that are still operating despite having their licenses suspended or canceled, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) warned Monday.

"The (POEA) advises the public to be wary of recruitment agencies with canceled or suspended licenses that are still actively recruiting for overseas jobs," the agency said in an advisory.

It has canceled the licenses of 451 recruitment agencies since the start of its operations and placed 44 others under preventive suspension.

From 2008 until the first eight months of 2009 alone, the POEA had canceled 74 operating licenses and suspended or fined 22 agencies due to recruitment violations.

To verify the status of a certain agency, you may log on here.

Earlier, the Task Force Against Illegal Recruitment (Tfair) named the suspected illegal recruiters with the most number of pending warrants of arrest.

Senior Superintendent Gilbert Sosa, Tfair operations chief, said that at least 276 Filipinos have a total of more than 20,000 unserved warrants of arrest for large-scale illegal recruitment.

Of the 276 suspects, 68 have double digit warrants of arrests.

But Sosa had also told GMANews.TV earlier that they have already narrowed down these arrests after the task force conducted several back-to-back entrapment operations.

Sosa, who is also from the Philippine National Police’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, said they plan to come up with a list of the top 50 most wanted persons in large-scale illegal recruitment and seek public help in rounding them up.

Based on statistics supplied by the non-government organization Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (Ideals), there were 1,662 confirmed victims of illegal recruitment from January to November 2008, an increase of four percent from 1,539 during the same period in 2007.

According to the POEA, a total of 1, 236, 013 Filipinos were deployed in 2008 – with Saudi Arabia still as the top destination for OFWs with 275, 933 deployed there. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

RP to send 336 Filipino peacekeepers to Syria

The Philippines has assured the United Nations (UN) that it will send a 336-strong peacekeeping battalion to the Golan Heights in Syria to help them keep peace in the conflict-ridden area, the Department of National Defense (DND) said Monday.

"It is a great honor for the Philippines to be given the opportunity to participate in United Nations peacekeeping operations. Despite our own constraints and requirements, we can be expected to continue to fulfill our obligations as a responsible and reliable troop-contributing country," Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro assured UN Undersecretary for Peacekeeping Alain Le Roy on Monday.

Teodoro just arrived from a six-day official visit to the US. During the visit, he held talks with US Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hilario G. Davide Jr.

The DND chief assured Le Roy that the Philippines will strictly enforce “a zero-tolerance policy" against misconduct and select only the best personnel for the peacekeeping mission. He also said he will look into increasing the number of female personnel available for deployment overseas.

The first Philippine battalion to Golan Heights will start deployment by the end of September with a 12-man advance party. They will take over the peacekeeping responsibilities of the Polish Battalion in the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) mission area before the end of October.

"The UNDOF is a big step forward for the Philippines and is a mark of confidence in the country’s ability to send larger units to support UN peacekeeping operations abroad," Teodoro said.

For his part, Le Roy expressed his gratitude for the help that Filipino peacekeepers give the UN in bringing peace and stability in conflict areas across the globe, specifically in Haiti, Liberia, and Timor Leste. The UN is looking forward to more contributions from the Philippines in the future, he said.

Davide said the Philippines first participated in UN peacekeeping operations in the 1960s with the deployment of an Air Force squadron in the Congo.

Since then, the country has sent military and police personnel to UN missions in Cambodia, Burundi, Georgia, Haiti, Iraq, Kosovo, and Nepal.

At present, the Philippines is the 29th largest troop contributor to UN peace operations with a total of 611 Filipino peacekeepers deployed – consisting of 295 troops, 22 military observers, and 294 police officers serving in Afghanistan, Cote d’ Ivoire, Darfur, Haiti, Liberia, Sudan, and Timor Leste.

This number does not include the three military officers who were recently sent to the UN Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region. - GMANews.TV

Pinay mail-order brides still rampant in SKorea

Despite an ongoing ban on illegal matchmaking agencies, a number of Filipino women were married to their South Korean partners as mail-order brides, according to a Philippine envoy.

In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Luis Cruz said that as of April 2009, around 6,000 Filipino women met their South Korean spouses through matchmaking agencies.

“Many were quick to accept the whirlwind marriage in order to seek employment abroad and have better opportunities in life," Cruz said.

However, aside from receiving complaints about false information regarding their partner’s background, the envoy also said he has been getting reports about domestic violence against Filipina wives, noting that the abuses would often lead to abandonment, separation and divorce.

Most of these troubled marriages there, he said, were those that had been arranged by illegal matchmaking agencies.

While international marriage broker agencies are allowed in South Korea, these firms can not operate in the Philippines, he added.

“Philippine Republic Act 6955, or the Anti-Mail-Order-Bride Law, makes it illegal for a person, natural or juridical, association, club or any other entity to establish or carry on a business which has for its purpose the matching of Filipino women for marriage to foreign nationals either on a mail-order basis or through personal introduction," Cruz said.

According to the law, it is illegal for anyone “to advertise, publish, print or distribute or cause the advertisement, publication, printing or distribution of any brochure, flier, or any propaganda material" promoting the services of these matchmaking agencies.

The law also rules against the use of emails or Web sites in mail-order bride schemes.

In addition, the law requires Filipino spouses or partners of foreign nationals to participate in the Guidance and Counseling Program of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) before they can get a passport to leave the country. Certificates are awarded to those who have completed the program.

The program is designed to inform Filipinos about the facts of inter-racial marriages, as well as migration laws and support services in their countries of designation.

So far, there are only two groups that provide these counseling services, namely the St. Mary Euphrasia Foundation-Center for Overseas Workers (SMEF-COW) and the People’s Reform Initiative for Social Movement Inc. (PRISM).

However, the CFO reported that fake certificates are being peddled by the illegal matchmaking agencies, a violation of the Anti-Mail-Order-Bride Law and Anti-Human Trafficking Law (RA 9208). – GMANews.TV

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

US Labor Day compels recall, of study on women migration

by RUBEN JEFFREY ASUNCION
www.ofwjournalism.net


QUEZON CITY–A STUDY that concluded female migrate to the United States out of filial ties resonates as the nonprofit ethnic media organization behind the study focused on immigrants to celebrate Labor Day.
The New America Media group posted on its website a commentary by Manuel Pastor, Professor of Geography and American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California, which emphasized the importance of immigrants.
So much so that he advises taking a new method at viewing this phenomenon as a tool to solve the US ’s pending demographic problems.
Pastor’s commentary, which dedicated September 6 to immigrants, compels a review of the results of NAM’s survey titled “Women Immigrants: Stewards of the 21st Century.”
The study released last May bared that women immigrants move to the US to help their families start a new life in the country once touted as a nation founded by migrants.
According to United States Census data cited in the study, 49 percent of the total 18.9 million immigrants in the US as of 2007 are women.
Based on the survey of 1,002 respondents, the NAM study said female foreign immigrants move to the US primarily to join family members already living there.
The study said these women immigrants are generally professionals by the time they fuse into the American society.
Sixty-four percent of respondents who said they have Filipino ethnic origins told NAM they emigrated from the Philippines to "join family members already in the US".
Of the total respondents, a hundred were Filipino women, more than half of whom lived in the US for more than 20 years. Respondents of Latin American, Arab, Asian, and African origins also participated in the survey conducted through random digit dialling and ethnic encoding methods.
The latter uses the first and last names in determining ethnicity. Still, Filipinos formed the largest percentage among the ethnic groups surveyed.
Forty-five of the Filipino women respondents said that once they arrived in the US , they focused their concern on helping their children "achieve critical success."
Pastor’s commentary echoes such views as well as what the study noted. Contrary to popular perception, the study said migration had strengthened rather than weakened family ties because it motivates female migrants to work harder for their families.
Almost all respondents from all ethnic groups surveyed reported that they lived with their husbands within the same city and that most of them had already brought all their children below 18 to the US .
"In the 21st century, the face of the immigrant is of that of a mother," the report said.
The face is also that of a wife, as 61 of the 65 married Filipino women respondents reported that they live together with their husbands in the same city.
Majority (76) of all Filipino women respondents said that none of their children under 18 were left behind in the Philippines when the family emigrated to the US. When asked if they will bring home their children if they are asked to go back to the Philippines, 58 Filipino women respondents said yes.
While a same percentage (26 percent) of respondents said that they are the head of households in the Philippines and the US, almost seven out of ten Filipino women respondents said that decisions pertaining to finances, family size, and sensitive family issues are arrived at in consensus with their husbands.
Still, more than half (56) said they have become more assertive in their roles as housewives when they migrated into the US.
This is not unique to Filipino women as respondents from other ethnic groups also reported that many of them became ''head of the households" upon arriving in the US. Majority of them said decisions they make are also arrived at after discussion with their husbands.
"These findings are significant because they dispel the notion that immigration is breaking up families," notes the report.
The study also noted that more than half of respondents from all groups, except the Vietnamese and Latin Americans, reported being professionals while still residing in their home countries.
The situation changed with their arrival in the US, with more than half of respondents from all ethnic groups reporting working in blue-collar jobs such as factory technicians, maids, waitresses and house cleaners, upon migrating to the US.
Six out of ten Filipino women respondents were white-collar workers before emigrating to the US. Seven out of ten Filipino women respondents said they have blue-collar jobs upon settling down in the US.
The study found out that 54 percent of Filipino women respondents said it took them less than three months to find a job in the US. Latin American and Korean respondents reported higher percentages of being able to find work three months after arriving in the US.
Four out of ten respondents from Vietnam, India and Africa reported not being able to find work within a year.
Upon finding work, two out of ten Filipino women respondents report as having earned $5OO-$1000 in their first job, well within the $500 average income of all respondents. Only 14 reported they earned $200-$500 while 41% of Koreans reported earning between $500-$1,000 on their first job.
But more Koreans received the highest salary among all ethnic groups in their current job –only 45 Filipino women respondents said they earn such level, $2,000, in their current work.
The study also found out that unlike other ethnic groups, women from the Philippines and India said they didn’t encounter difficulties in communication. Only eight Filipino women respondents claimed they had difficulty conversing in English when they arrived in the US . In contrast, seven out of ten respondents both from Vietnamese and Latin American origin said they didn’t speak English when they immigrated to the US .
Filipino and African women were among the most educated migrants while seven out of ten Latin American and Chinese respondents reported as finishing only either the primary or secondary levels of education, the study added.
Thirteen Filipino women respondents claimed that discrimination is a major problem for them.
“On Labor Day, it is important to remember that immigrant labor has been a key to economic growth, and it will continue to be in the future,” NAM said in its introduction to Pastor’s commentary.
Founded by the nonprofit Pacific News Service in 1996, the California- headquartered NAM claims to be the first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations in the US.
OFW Journalism Consortium

Foreign workers for the US are casualties twice over

by T. CHRISTIAN MILLER (Pro-Publica), contributor
www.ofwjournalism.net

MANILA—REY Torres dreamed of a better life for his wife and five children when he left a neighborhood of wooden shacks and burning trash piles to drive a bus on a U.S. military base near Baghdad.
He hoped to send his children to college and build a new home with the $16,000 a year he earned in Iraq — four times what he could make in the Philippines.
Then, in April 2005, Torres, 31, was killed in an ambush by Iraqi insurgents. His widow and children were supposed to be protected by a war zone insurance system overseen by the U.S. government. They were eligible for about $300,000 in compensation.
But Gorgonia Torres knew nothing about the death benefit and did not apply. When she did learn about the insurance, two years later, it was from a reporter. She has since turned down an insurance company's $22,000 settlement offer. Her only hope of receiving full compensation is a legal fight that could drag on for years.
"He knew it was dangerous.... He had second thoughts all the time," she said of her husband. "But he'd say, 'If I don't go, there's no way we'll be able to survive.'"
Torres was among tens of thousands of civilian contract workers from poverty-stricken countries hired to support the U.S. war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan. In case of injury or death, they are supposed to be covered by workers' compensation insurance financed by American taxpayers. But the program has failed to deliver medical care and other benefits to many foreign workers and their survivors, a Los Angeles Times-ProPublica investigation found.
Previous articles by the Los Angeles Times and ProPublica described how American civilians injured in Iraq have had to battle insurers for medical care, artificial limbs and other services.
An examination of what happened to foreign nationals has uncovered an even more dismal record. Injured workers have gone without medical treatment and compensation because they were never informed of their right to the benefits. Widows and children have not received death payments for the same reason.
The system relies on companies to make employees aware of insurance coverage and to report deaths and injuries to insurers and the federal government. But some employers have shirked those obligations, and the U.S. Department of Labor, which oversees the program, has done little to ensure compliance, punish violators or reach out to injured foreigners or their survivors.
An analysis of Pentagon and Labor Department records indicates that thousands of injured foreigners have fallen through the cracks.
About 200,000 civilians are working in Iraq and Afghanistan under U.S.-funded contracts. Many are so-called third-country nationals, from countries other than the United States, Iraq or Afghanistan. The rate of reported injuries among these workers is much lower than for Americans doing similar jobs.
Nearly 22,000 injury claims were filed by third-country nationals and American workers from 2003 through 2007. Although they outnumbered Americans by about 2-to-1, the third-country nationals filed just 14 percent of the total claims.
Insurance experts said the numbers suggest that many wounded foreigners never apply for benefits, even though U.S. taxpayers have paid more than $1.5 billion in premiums for the war-zone insurance.
Those who do apply often confront rejections and resistance from insurers. It can take years for them to receive compensation.
"It's been a big problem," said Jack Martone, a former top Labor Department official. "The Department of Labor is not well equipped to police" the conduct of employers and insurers.

Coverage required
INSURANCE for civilians working in war zones is required under a World War II-era law known as the Defense Base Act. Companies providing services to the U.S. government must secure a special type of workers' compensation coverage for their employees, both American and foreign.
The insurance covers all injuries and deaths, whether caused by workplace accidents or roadside bombs. Companies bill the cost to U.S. taxpayers as part of their government contracts.
For decades, this system was overseen by a handful of federal bureaucrats who processed a few hundred claims a year. That changed when the U.S. went to war in Afghanistan in 2001 and later in Iraq.
In both conflicts, the U.S. military has relied on civilian workers to a greater extent than ever before — to cook meals, clean latrines, deliver fuel and translate for troops, among many other tasks. There are more civilians than uniformed soldiers in the two war zones, and more than 1,400 contract workers have died.
Despite this large-scale mobilization of civilians, the Labor Department did not increase staff or budget to handle Defense Base Act claims and was quickly swamped.
The department stationed no one in Iraq or any other country to help injured foreigners file claims. Nor did it make a serious effort to ensure that companies posted information about workers' rights, as required by law.
"I see a complete absence of claims or payments for foreigners," said Joshua Gillelan, a former Labor Department attorney who now represents injured contract workers. "They are never going to be enforced."
Thousands of companies have worked under U.S. contracts in Iraq, but since the war began in 2003, the department has fined only one, a small security subcontractor, for not reporting worker injuries, according to Labor Department figures.
Similarly, the department has not prosecuted any companies for failing to buy war-zone insurance, although the Times-ProPublica investigation identified at least five cases in which military contractors did not provide coverage for employees.
The department does not even attempt to communicate with injured Iraqis or Afghans for fear that a letter from the U.S. might imperil their lives. Instead, the department asks employers to forward Labor Department mail informing workers of their rights.
"It's the biggest fiasco. Almost all of it is returned," Richard Robilotti, a department official who oversees many of the claims, told a recent conference.
Labor Department officials said cultural barriers and war-zone dangers have prevented them from reaching out to injured foreigners.
"There is no mechanism for the Department of Labor to stand around in Baghdad and drum up claims," said Shelby Hallmark, who oversees the department's Defense Base Act program. Officials try "to get the word out down through their chains of subcontractors on how this works. Is it perfect? No, I wouldn't say it is."
Insurers defended their performance. American International Group Inc., the insurance giant that received a huge taxpayer bailout last year after suffering heavy losses in the derivatives market, is the largest provider of workers' compensation coverage in Iraq.
In a statement, the company said it conscientiously fulfilled its obligations to workers injured in the war zone and took "numerous extraordinary measures under very difficult circumstances to locate and pay claimants or their beneficiaries."
AIG opened an office in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to handle claims and translated Labor Department guidelines into Arabic, Turkish and other languages. In some cases, AIG has hired insurance research companies to track down widows and injured workers.
CNA Financial Corp. has the second-largest number of claims in Iraq and Afghanistan. The insurer said it "routinely pays claims made by foreigners" and "is not aware of a problem with regard to foreign workers."

Incident rates differ
KBR Inc. is the largest employer of contract workers in Iraq, with about 16,000, most of them U.S. citizens, according to a July 2007 Pentagon census.
The Houston engineering and construction firm reported more than 700 serious injuries or deaths in the first six months of 2007 — almost five incidents for every 100 workers.
Prime Projects International of Dubai was the largest employer of foreigners in Iraq, with about 10,000 civilian workers.
The company reported 43 serious injuries or deaths in the first six months of 2007 — less than one per 100 workers.
The same held for other subcontractors with large foreign workforces, such as Saudi-based Gulf Catering Co. and Tamimi Global Co. and Turkish firm Kulak. None of the companies responded to requests for comment.
“When you're dealing with these subcontractors, a lot of them would just as soon wash their hands and walk away," said an official with Vetted International Ltd., a North Carolina firm that researches claims for insurance companies. He did not want to be named for security reasons relating to his work in war zones. "A lot of claims go unreported and these people just don't get care."
Many of the Middle East firms providing services to the U.S. military in Iraq are subcontractors for KBR. In a statement, KBR said its "top priority is the safety and security of all employees and those the company serves.... We expect those we do business with to uphold that same commitment."
When an employer neglects to report an injury or death, it is difficult for foreign workers or their survivors — assuming they even know about the war-zone insurance — to persuade U.S.-based insurance companies and federal bureaucrats that they are entitled to benefits.
Gorgonia Torres found that out after losing her husband in Iraq.
Rey Torres had gone to Baghdad in December 2003. Stationed at Camp Victory, a U.S. military complex on the outskirts of the Iraqi capital, he was a jack-of-all-trades, working as a driver, janitor and security guard, according to his wife.
On April 17, 2005, Gorgonia got a call from one of Rey's co-workers, who told her he had been killed traveling through an insurgent-infested neighborhood of Baghdad.
Eleven days later, her husband's remains were delivered to her in a coffin sealed with red wax. Gorgonia took a deep breath when she remembered looking inside.
"Every part of my body was in pain. I felt like I had just run a long distance. I couldn't even feel my legs. Everything hurt," said Gorgonia, 38, a slight woman with high cheekbones and short black hair.
The Philippine government paid Gorgonia about $5,000, a death benefit for citizens working abroad. Her husband's employer, Qatar International Trading Co., made a one-time payment of $16,000, representing a year of his salary.
That was a fraction of what she was due. Under the Defense Base Act, a widow is entitled to as much as half her spouse's salary for the rest of her life — more if the deceased left children behind. For foreigners, the law allows insurers to calculate a lump sum based on an estimate of the widow's remaining life span, and pay half that amount.. (Survivors of U.S. citizens receive the full lump sum or lifetime monthly payments.)
Under the formula, Gorgonia and her children were eligible for up to $300,000. But until a reporter visited her in 2007 after learning of her case from a Philippine government Web site, Gorgonia had never heard of the insurance.
Qatar International never told her about it, Gorgonia said. Nor is there any record that the firm reported Rey Torres' death to the U.S. government.
When she finally applied for compensation, the Labor Department sent her a notice in English that she could not read. It said that AIG, Qatar International's insurance carrier, was disputing her claim and wanted more time to investigate the death and verify her husband's employment.
AIG recently offered a one-time payment of $22,000, Torres said. She turned it down. She hired a U.S. lawyer and is pursuing full compensation through the Labor Department's dispute resolution system, a process that can take years.
AIG declined to comment on any individual case.
Qatar International, a logistics and support firm, did not return phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.
Torres used the $21,000 she received after her husband’s death to build a two-story, two-room concrete house among tin shacks and rutted roads in a poor area of San Fernando, a provincial capital on Luzon, the Philippines' main island.
The bottom floor houses the family business, a store crammed with sacks of rice, cases of soda and canned squid. Gorgonia and the five children live upstairs.
Business is bad. One December day, Gorgonia fretted that she would not earn enough to put food on the table. One of her children hunted for snails in a ditch for dinner. Another went Christmas caroling in hopes of getting donations to buy pants for school.
"As time goes by, it gets worse and worse," she said.

Claim goes unfiled
MARCELO Salazar, a Filipino from the resort island of Cebu, was killed in Iraq in April 2005 while working as a truck driver. He left behind his partner, Vicky Buhawe, their baby son and an unfinished house.
Buhawe has no right to benefits under the Defense Base Act because she and Salazar were not married. Their son, John Mark, now 4, is eligible for a one-time payment of about $14,000, based on his father's wages. But Buhawe was unaware that civilians employed in the war zone were covered by insurance and never filed a claim.
There is no record that Kuwait-based El Hoss Engineering and Transport Co., Salazar's employer, reported his death to the Labor Department. The company did pay compensation to Salazar's son by a different relationship, according to a Philippine government news release.
Efforts to reach El Hoss for comment were unsuccessful.
"Sometimes we go to Marcelo's grave and we whisper, 'How will we survive tonight?'" Buhawe said as she held John Mark on her knee. "Tonight, I am not sure where we're going to get dinner."
Another Filipino, Leopoldo Soliman, took a job in a warehouse on a U.S. military base in Iraq in 2003, hoping to save enough to build a home for his wife and children in a village northeast of Manila.
He earned $9,000 a year working for Prime Projects International, a KBR subcontractor. In 2004, he was given a commendation by U.S. soldiers for "hard work and tireless dedication."
Then, in May 2005, a mortar shell fell near his living quarters in Balad, a military logistics hub north of Baghdad. Shrapnel blew a hole in his knee.
Prime Projects paid for his initial medical care in Iraq and the United Arab Emirates and his transport back to the Philippines, he said. But since then, he has had to pay out of his own pocket for pain medication, follow-up surgery to remove shrapnel and physical therapy.
Soliman said Prime Projects ignored his pleas for help. He said he never received any information about the war-zone insurance and has not filed for benefits.
Prime Projects did not respond to requests for comment.
Solomon said the company "treated me well during the accident. After that, when I came home, nothing."

A global workforce
THE Defense Base Act was not designed for the complexities of the global contractor workforce now in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Citizens of at least 45 countries are working under U.S. contracts in the two nations. Yet Labor Department notices are printed in English and Arabic, but not Tagalog, Hindi or the many other languages spoken by foreign workers.
Overseas companies often ignore orders from Labor Department administrative law judges to appear in court or pay benefits.
Contracts for support services often involve layers of subcontractors. A Sri Lankan janitor might work for an Indian labor broker hired by a Middle Eastern subcontractor for a U.S. company. The chain is so complex that foreign workers can have trouble proving they were employed on behalf of the U.S. war effort.
In 2004, a dozen Nepalese were killed in western Iraq by insurgents. They had been on their way to work at a U.S. base. Daoud & Partners Co., a Jordanian logistics firm, held a contract. The company denied employing the men, foreclosing death benefits for their survivors.
After news reports about the case, attorneys from the Washington law firm of Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll volunteered to represent relatives of the slain Nepalese.
Atty. Matthew Handley traveled to Nepal to take witness statements and discovered, by chance, a copy of an employment contract that showed the men worked for Daoud.
In 2008, four years after the killings, a Labor Department judge ruled that Daoud and its insurance provider, CNA, were obliged to pay death benefits. That June, CNA began paying compensation, ranging from $35,000 for dependent parents to $175,000 for young widows of the dead workers.
Daoud did not respond to requests for comment.
"I couldn't imagine anyone without counsel, never mind somebody from Nepal, trying to navigate through this process," Handley said. "When it comes to third-country nationals, it becomes a black hole. You're lucky if you're able to get payments."

Survivor's struggles
EVEN when foreigners know their rights, the system can be daunting.
Daniel Brink, a South African, was working as a security guard in Iraq when his SUV was hit by a string of roadside bombs in December 2005.
Brink, a former police officer, lost his right leg and most of his fingers. He was flown to London, where surgeons used some of his toes to replace some of his lost fingers.
CNA, the insurance carrier for Brink's employer, paid for that treatment. But when he returned to Johannesburg, South Africa, disputes arose over the cost of follow-up surgeries, psychological counseling, an electric wheelchair and related renovations to Brink's house. CNA took months to pay for the surgeries and rejected the other bills, Brink said. His credit rating plunged, his wheelchair was repossessed, and he lost his home to foreclosure.
In May 2007, Brink flew to Chicago, believing he had an appointment to meet with his CNA claims adjuster. When he arrived, Brink said, he was told nobody would meet with him. Security guards escorted him out of CNA headquarters.
Two years later, Brink is pressing his claim in the Labor Department's dispute-resolution system. He said his outstanding medical bills total about $150,000.
CNA said that it "does not have any direct contact with workers," but otherwise declined to comment, saying that individual cases are confidential.
Brink, 39, said scores of South Africans who worked in Iraq are in similar situations. He is now in law school and hopes to represent injured contract workers from his country someday.
"It's not that I want something out of the ordinary," Brink said. "I just wan t what I'm entitled to, nothing more, nothing less." (This story can also be found at http://www.propublica.org/feature/foreign-workers-for-u.s.-are-casualties-twice-over-619)
OFW Journalism Consortium

OFWs in low-skilled jobs remain RP’s,top remitters, gov’t survey bares

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
www.ofwjournalism.net


MANILA—LABORERS and unskilled workers, mostly women, have been the country’s top remitters in the last two years.
Results from the 2008 Survey on Overseas Filipinos (SOF), done by the National Statistics Office (NSO), show that laborers and unskilled workers sent home P19.491 billion ($397.8 million at US$1=P49) last year compared to the P17.574 billion ($358.7 million) sent in 2007.
In both years, laborers and unskilled workers were the top remitters in terms of remittance volumes.
The SOF, a rider to the fourth quarter round of the NSO’s Labor Force Survey, captures overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were in the country from April to September. The survey culls demographic information and basic details about their remittances (including amounts and transmission channels).
The biggest gainers from the year-on-year remittance volumes are trades and related workers (mostly men). From P13.220 billion in 2007, Filipinos abroad who are in these jobs sent home P18.065 billion in 2008, for a gain of P4.845 billion.
Professionals also sent home bigger money in 2008 (P13.237 billion) than in 2007 (P9.422 billion) —the difference being P3.815 billion. However, professionals are only the fifth biggest occupational group in terms of remittance volumes.
By total remittance volumes, laborers and unskilled workers and trades and related workers ranked first and second, with plant and machine operators and assemblers third (P15.55 billion) and service workers and shop and market sales workers fourth (P14.014 billion).
OFWs surveyed by the SOF in 2008 sent home P103.928 billion in cash remitted through formal and informal remittance channels, P30.53 billion in cash brought home, and P7.446 billion worth of in-kind remittances (such as items sent through the balikbayan box).
Of the P103.928 billion remitted, those sending through banks remitted P79.097 billion, while those sending through door-to-door channels remitted P12.212 billion.
Monthly data issuances of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas for the year 2008 did not explicitly credit laborers and unskilled workers, such as domestic helpers and caregivers, and trades and related workers such as those in construction, for the rise of Philippine remittance volumes.
The BSP press releases on 2008 remittances, issued March 2008 –covering January 2008 figures —and up to February 2009— covering December 2008 and the year-long total volumes–show rising monthly remittances from abroad are due to four major elements.
These are the increasing labor demand in identified countries and the skilled labor and professionals such as doctors, nurses, engineers and those in food and hotel services. The increase is also credited to the efforts of Philippine government agencies to forge deals with host countries to recruit Filipino labor, notably skilled workers, and to market Filipino workers for overseas jobs. The BSP also acknowledged the work of the private sector, in particular commercial banks, to service Filipino remitters.
The most recent BSP issuance, covering remittances in the first six months of 2009 which reached P8.479 billion, announced that some 4,000 medical workers might be recruited to Libya. It also cited government’s expansion of employment opportunities for Filipinos to work for the hotel, oil and gas, and technical services sectors in Algeria, Chad, Malta, and Morocco.
As well, BSP’s release noted the prospective hiring of production workers to Taiwan, a country whose manufacturing and electronics sectors were hit by the global economic crisis, through a special hiring program for Taiwan.
Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on deployed new-hire overseas workers from 1992 to 2007 (see Table 1) show that female domestic helpers are the most in number with 931,289.
Female choreographers and dancers (366,359) and female composers, musicians and singers (235,348) are the next two biggest groups of new-hire OFWs. New-hire professional nurses deployed during the 16-year period total to 107,192. OFW Journalism Consortium

Permanent settlers abroad keep , OFW money flow up —economist

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
www.ofwjournalism.net


MANILA — GROWTH rates of remittances are due to sustained sending from two types of overseas Filipinos, University of Santo Tomas economics professor Alvin Ang said.
These are residency permit holders and naturalized citizens in Japan, Germany, Norway, Greece, the Netherlands and Canada. They are also in countries whose demand for Filipino workers is next to nil.
Ang describes these Filipinos as “non-traditional” remittance senders. But they have helped the Philippines weather the storm of possible remittance declines as a result of the global economic crisis, according to him.
“You wonder why they are sending more money at this time. Or first of all, why them?” Ang told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
Permanent migrants are sending more money now regardless of what jobs they have overseas. They include Filipinos holding residency permits doing domestic work for foreign households and who have their families with them, Ang says.
Data on the first six months of remittance inflows from Filipinos in 239 countries and territories saw the country receiving US$8.479 billion, higher than the US$8.241 billion for the same six-month period last year.
Prior to the events that triggered a global economic crisis in September last year, Ang predicted that remittances from overseas Filipinos will reach a plateau that, according to him, is within growth range of one to three percent.
True enough, after the first half of the year, the year-on-year remittance growth of 2.89 percent is within his plateau range forecast.
While Ang said he wasn’t surprised with the plateauing and the continued positive growth rates for remittances, what caught his fancy is the volume of remittances from these specific countries.

Non-traditional
FIRST off is Japan, which Ang said, made the entry of overseas performing artists or entertainers doubly stricter since 2005.
However, based on the 16-page report of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, Japan’s year-on-year remittance growth rate is higher by 61.56 percent to US$390.3 million as against the US$214.6 million received from this country during the first half of 2008.
Germany, known to be a destination country for Filipino women marrying German nationals, posted a 55.27-percent growth. The Philippines got US$228.7 million from Germany during the first half of this year.
Remittance from Greece, known for money sent by seafarers and domestic workers was smaller compared to Germany at US$92.7 million. Still, money flow from Greece was at a 52.08-percent year-on-year growth rate.
Likewise, money from the Netherlands is smaller at US$73.1 million but the year-on-year growth rate is 94.16 percent.
Filipino seafarers sending money from Norway were primarily responsible for not just the US$177 million sent to the Philippine as of June this year, but also for the 63.99 percent year-on-year growth rate.
These countries made up for the nearly negative growth rate of remittances from Filipinos in the United Kingdom (minus-0.70 percent), and from the declines of flows coming from Italy (minus-26.53 percent)—traditionally, the two highest-remitting countries in Europe.
Filipinos from these countries are among the “non-traditional” remittance sources for the Philippines, especially so that many of remitters have brought their families with them, Ang said.
As of 2007, data on the stock estimates of overseas Filipinos show that the United States alone has 2,517,833 permanent migrants and the whole of Europe only has 284,987 permanent migrants.
Remittance inflows coming from the US continue to slump with a minus-13.13 percent growth rate. The US$3.510 billion that came from the US during the first six months was lower than the US$4.041 billion during the same period last year.
Canada, known for its demand for Filipino workers and for its visible number of permanent residents (410,626), posted a 58.25-percent growth rate given the US$913.3 million that came in as of June 2009.




Defy
ANG thinks Filipino permanent residents in these countries may be getting ready to return to the Philippines and got scared of what might happen to them “so they are sending more money”.
Knowing also the Filipino remitter’s mentality, especially when additional incomes arrive, the overseas Filipino will send money “no matter what.”
Recruiter Lito Soriano of LBS e-Recruitment Solutions, on the other hand, thinks the government’s improved system of capturing bank and non-bank remittance inflows contributed to the current remittance uptick.
Soriano, himself a former overseas worker, though, projects remittance growth for 2009 to reach only 1.5 percent.
But he said he’s also “worried” because it took the country five years for remittances to be above 1998 levels (US$7.578 billion was recorded in 2003) and there are signs remittance growth rates in terms of volume and value are slipping to the single-digit levels.
Ang said while the World Bank forecast a decline in remittances, he forecast a five-percent growth rate in remittance inflows this year.
The forecast is slightly above his plateau range but lower than BSP Governor Amando Tetangco’s double-digit growth forecast.
Tetangco’s forecast defies World Bank projections that the global economic crisis in developed countries (where most of the world’s migrants are) will hit on migrants’ remittances to developing countries.
Global remittance flows, the World Bank predicts, will decline by 7.3 percent this year. The sources of risk to the remittance outlook include uncertainty about the duration of the crisis and unpredictable movements in exchange rates.
Flows to Latin American countries (including Mexico) and Sub-Saharan African countries are projected to decline while money to South Asia and Southeast Asia “have been strong but are expected to decline somewhat,” the World Bank report said.
OFW Journalism Consortium
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