Tuesday, March 31, 2009

MANILA, Philippines - Chip Tsao would go down in the short-term memory of Filipinos, along with Malu Fernandez and the Desperate Housewives slur as one who demeaned hardworking and often harshly treated Filipinos working abroad.

His comment triggered an uproar in the Philippines, with one lawmaker urging Filipinos to boycott Hong Kong for a year.

It took three days for the publishers and editors of HK Magazine to say sorry for the “politically incorrect" column it ran last March 27 following calls from Manila for an apology.

The infamous column by the “best-selling author" called the Philippines nation of servants and even threatened a Filipino maid of being fired should the Philippines finally take over the disputed Spratly Islands.

Asia City Publishing House, HK Magazine's publisher, with office at 301 Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road in Hong Kong, issued the statement on Monday:

"The publisher and editors of HK Magazine wish to apologize unreservedly for any offense that may have been caused by Chip Tsao’s column dated March 27. HK Magazine has long championed the rights of Filipinos working in Hong Kong. We note that Filipinos have often been unfairly treated in Hong Kong, and that they make an important contribution to this community."

The column had disappeared from the magazine’s Web site as of posting time.

Despite admitting that Tsao’s column was offensive, the publishing company defended that the column was satirical and could be read “in different ways."

“One aspect of satire is that it can be read in different ways. In this particular case, many people have read meanings into this column that were never actually intended."

Tsao wrote in his March 27 column for the HK Magazine that the Philippines has no right to lord over the disputed Spratly Islands because it is "a nation of servants" who shouldn’t “flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter."

China has a long-standing claim over the islands, which lie at the South China Sea.

’Chip’/Cheap shot

A non-government organization assisting migrant Filipino workers on Sunday scored Tsao for his “satirical" tirade on the Philippines.

Former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said Chip Tsao should be blacklisted as an “undesirable foreign employer" for allegedly using his Filipino house maid as “pawn" in the Spratlys controversy.

This, Ople said, “is already a sign of an unstable, irresponsible and racist employer who resorts to verbal abuse for perceived bilateral and historic infractions."

Ople asked the Philippine Consulate, particularly its Office of the Labor Attaché, to look into the work conditions of “Luisa," the Filipino maid, as she expressed personal concern for her safety and health.

“Luisa deserves a sane and more humane employer while he [Tsao] deserves to clean up his own filth," Ople said.

Soon after, Filipino lawmakers sounded the alarm over the racist column.

In a telephone interview with GMANews.TV on Monday, Foreign Affairs committee chair Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco said he would ask the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to lodge a protest.

"That comment is uncalled for, it's atrocious. We should protest vigorously against this slur against Filipino workers in Hong Kong," Cuenco said.

Likewise, senior deputy minority leader and Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez said the DFA should lodge a formal protest over the incident.

In a text message to reporters, Golez also proposed a six-month boycott against Hong Kong by not traveling to the place and not purchasing its products.

"If Filipinos stop going to Hong Kong, their economy would collapse. I propose a six-month, nay a one-year boycott of Hong Kong and let's see what happens to their shops and hotels. We can do without going to HK and HK products," Golez said.

The lawmaker also slammed Tsao by saying "he does not know there are many Hong Kong and multinational companies where key management positions are held by Filipinos."

The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) tried to douse the flames by saying that Tsao does not represent the entire Chinese population.

"It's the view of one person and we don't think it is shared by the Hong Kong community and society.... I think we ought to take it as that," DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya said in an interview on radio dzBB.

This was echoed by Center for Migration Advocacy head Ellen Sana: “Will you dignify this? He is not a representative of the Chinese people, not even the Hong Kong-Chinese people."

Nevertheless, Sana disapproved the government turning a deaf ear on the issue, especially since it puts the entire country in a bad light.

“The government should always react, especially since the Philippines is being branded as a nation of maids," she said.

This is not the first time such clamor was heard from Filipinos. Sana recalled that back in the early ‘90s Filipinos protested the inclusion of the term “maid" as an encyclopedia definition of ‘Filipinas.’

“We protested so it didn’t push through," she said.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde called the article "reprehensible," but said Malacañang will still look into the issue to decide on its response.
Excerpt of Chip Tsao's 'The War At Home' column

HK Mag: Sorry for 'maid-country' remark on RP

MANILA, Philippines - Following calls from Manila for an apology, the Hong Kong based-magazine that ran a column demeaning the Philippines as a country of "slaves" has said sorry for the "politically incorrect column."

Asia City Publishing House, HK Magazine's publisher, with office at 301 Hollywood Centre, 233 Hollywood Road in Hong Kong, issued the statement three days after the controversial column came out.

"The publisher and editors of HK Magazine wish to apologize unreservedly for any offense that may have been caused by Chip Tsao’s column dated March 27," the statement read.

"HK Magazine has long championed the rights of Filipinos working in Hong Kong. We note that Filipinos have often been unfairly treated in Hong Kong, and that they make an important contribution to this community," it added.

Despite admitting that Tsao’s column was offensive, the publishing company defended that the column was satirical and could be read “in different ways."

“One aspect of satire is that it can be read in different ways. In this particular case, many people have read meanings into this column that were never actually intended."

Deputy Consul General Kira Danganan earlier demanded an apology from Tsao who had insulted more than 127,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong as domestic helpers.

“While Mr. Tsao may have intended his column to be a piece of satire, he has miserably miscalculated in this endeavor," Danganan said in a statement on Monday. “Mr. Tsao and Asia Publishing owe the Filipino community in HK a formal apology for the grave disrespect they have shown."

Tsao wrote in his March 27 column for the HK Magazine that the Philippines has no right to lord over the disputed Spratly Islands because it is "a nation of servants" who shouldn’t “ flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter."

China has a long-standing claim over the islands which lie at the South China Sea. - with Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

RP envoy wants apology over HK columnist’s racist remark

MANILA, Philippines - The Filipino community in Hong Kong deserves an apology from Chinese journalist Chip Tsao who called the Philippines a country of slaves and threatened to fire her Filipina maid should the Spratlys be taken over by the Philippines.

Deputy Consul General Kira Danganan said Tsao has to say sorry to more than 127,000 Filipinos working in Hong Kong as domestic helpers who were insulted by his racial slur.

“While Mr. Tsao may have intended his column to be a piece of satire, he has miserably miscalculated in this endeavor," Danganan said in a statement on Monday. “Mr. Tsao and Asia Publishing owe the Filipino community in HK a formal apology for the grave disrespect they have shown."

Tsao wrote in his March 27 column for the HK Magazine that the Philippines has no right to lord over the disputed Spratly Islands because it is "a nation of servants" who shouldn’t “ flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter."

China has a long-standing claim over the islands which lie at the South China Sea.

“It is unfortunate that such an article could be published in a city that prides itself as a progressive society, that has achieved milestones in multicultural harmony, and whose very character is defined by the presence of people from all corners of the globe," Danganan said.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque had earlier cautioned Tsao to be careful with his words especially since Hong Kong depends on Filipino maids to keep their economy going.

“What if in one day our 133,000 Filipino workers in Hong Kong decide not to work? Let’s see if their economy won’t stall," Roque told reporters in Filipino.

“Their finance manager might not come to work just to take his kid to school," Roque added.

Despite Tsao’s harsh statements, Danganan is relieved that the columnist’s view of Filipinos is not shared by the rest of Hong Kong.

“Fortunately, their views are not shared by the larger society in Hong Kong…the long-standing friendship and mutual respect being enjoyed by the Filipino community in HK society will remain," she said. - GMANews.TV

'RP should think twice before lifting deployment ban to Lebanon'

MIGRANT WATCH/ BULATLAT.COM

MANILA, Philippines - A migrant group urged the government not to lift the deployment ban to Lebanon as the situation remains volatile.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said that war could spark again any time following the assassination of Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) deputy representative in Lebanon Kamal Naji.

Monterona said, “There is strong speculation that this unfortunate event will revive the war between Lebanon and Israel as many believe that Israel could be behind the assassination of Kamal Naji."

“What has been reported in the media regarding what is actually happening in Lebanon, specifically the still volatile peace and order situation contradicts what the Arroyo administration is telling our people and aspiring overseas Filipino workers that peace and stability have already been restored in Lebanon," Monterona said.

Recently, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has agreed to lift the three-year deployment ban to Lebanon. According to the DFA, the armed conflict in the Middle East state “has already ended and is no longer posing a security threat" to overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

Vice President Noli de Castro supported the DFA’s decision and said that Lebanon could provide an alternative destination to laid-off OFWs.

Monterona said the Arroyo administration should not rely on sugar-coated reports from its officials in Lebanon who have wrongly assessed the security and stability situation in Lebanon.

The group maintained that the government must ensure the safety and security of overseas Filipino workers, as well as the protection of their labor rights and welfare to include the provision of humane, safe living and working conditions, and decent pay and other labor rights as guaranteed by international labor standards.

Monterona said these primordial considerations have been set aside by the Arroyo administration in its continued effort to sell OFWs’ cheap labor.

Monterona also said the Arroyo administration must attend to the plight of thousands of OFWs in Lebanon, Jordan, Kuwait, the UAE, and in the entire Middle East. - Bulatlat.com

DFA downplays writer's 'maid-country' remark

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday downplayed a Hong Kong columnist's depiction of the Philippines as "a nation of servants" by saying it was the opinion of only one person.

Still, DFA spokesperson Eduardo Malaya called columnist Chip Tsao's remark "uncalled for," and declared the Philippine consulate-general in Hong Kong will make appropriate action upon consultation with the Filipino community there.

"It's the view of one person and we don't think it is shared by the Hong Kong community and society.... I think we ought to take it as that," Malaya said in an interview on radio dzBB.

"It does not come from an official of the Hong Kong government, it does not come from the government itself," he added.

Despite this, Malaya said there was no excuse for the remark, which he said failed to recognize the contribution of the Filipino community in Hong Kong.

Earlier in the day, House Foreign Affairs committee chair Antonio Cuenco and senior deputy minority leader Roilo Golez urged the DFA to lodge a protest before Hong Kong authorities over the remark.

Malaya said a protest is not being prepared yet, but the Philippine consulate-general in Hong-Kong is already "evaluating" the commentary to decide on the appropriate action.

"They will - in consultation with community members, our Filipino community members in Hong Kong - undertake the needed and appropriate response to this particular commentary," said the DFA spokesperson.

Citing the Philippine consulate-general's initial report, however, Malaya said Tsao is "already getting an earful" from readers of the widely-circulated HK Magazine where his controversial piece "The War at Home" was published last March 27.

In his commentary, Tsao depicted the Philippines as "a nation of servants" unworthy of claiming the Spratlys from China.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde on Monday called the article "reprehensible," but said Malacañang will still look into the issue to decide on what to doe next. - Johanna Camille Sisante, GMANews.TV

Solons urge DFA to protest over HK columnist's article on RP

MANILA, Philippines - Two lawmakers on Monday urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to lodge a formal protest before Hong Kong authorities over a columnist's depiction of the Philippines as "a nation of servants."

In a telephone interview with GMANews.TV, Foreign Affairs committee chair Cebu City Rep. Antonio Cuenco said he will ask DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo to lodge a protest after columnist Chip Tsao described the Philippines as a "nation of servants" in his opinion piece "The War At Home" which appeared in the March 27 edition of the widely-circulated HK Magazine.

"That comment is uncalled for, it's atrocious. We should protest vigorously against this slur against Filipino workers in Hong Kong," Cuenco said.

Likewise, senior deputy minority leader and Parañaque City Rep. Roilo Golez said the DFA should lodge a formal protest over the incident.

In a text message to reporters, Golez also proposed an, at least, six-month boycott against Hong Kong by not traveling to the place and not purchasing its products.

"If Filipinos stop going to Hong Kong, their economy would collapse. I propose a six-month, nay a one-year boycott of Hong Kong and let's see what happens to their shops and hotels. We can do without going to HK and HK products," Golez said.

The lawmaker also slammed Tsao by saying "he does not know there are many Hong Kong and multinational companies where key management positions are held by Filipinos."

In his article, Tsao depicted the Philippines as a "nation of servants" not worthy of claiming the Spratlys from China, which employs hundreds of thousands of Filipino domestic helpers on very low wages.

Earlier on Monday, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde called the article "reprehensible," but said Malacañang will still look into the issue to decide on its response. - Johanna Camille Sisante, GMANews.TV

Monday, March 30, 2009

DOLE, labor unions to conduct 'Jobapalooza' on May 1

abs-cbnNEWS.com

Hundreds of thousands of local and overseas employment are set to be offered particularly to displaced workers and new graduates in the biggest, simultaneous job fairs nationwide on May 1, 2009.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque said around 1,000 employers and recruitment agencies around the country would join the jobs fair dubbed “Labor Day Tayo Na! Trabaho Na! Jobapalooza 09”.

In a statement, DOLE announced that the job fairs will be spearheaded by labor unions in collaboration with government and private sector to hasten assistance extended to workers who have been affected by the global economic crisis.

Roque said DOLE’s social partners have recognized the need for collective action and mutual collaboration in mitigating the effects of the global crisis on the workers and the economy.

Trade unions and labor groups reportedly approved to celebrate Labor Day with job fairs which will be held simultaneously in 16 regions on May 1.

The participating trade unions are the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines, Federation of Free Workers, Associated Labor Union, Philippine Transport General Workers Organization, All Workers Alliance Trade Union, Trade Union of the Philippines and Allied Services, Alliance of Filipino Workers, Philippine Organization of Labor Unions, and the National Association of Trade Union.

Roque added that President Arroyo would launch the main celebration on May 1 at the SMX Convention Hall at SM Mall of Asia (MOA) in Pasay City.

Apart from the job fair, there will also be skills demonstration, livelihood products display and sales, and distribution of training and scholarship certificates. To cap the night, an “Alay sa Manggagawang Pilipino” concert featuring the country’s top bands will pay tribute to the country’s working men and women at the MOA grounds near the SMX.

'Filipinas in Arab states HIV vulnerable'

By DAVID DIZON/abs-cbnNEWS.com

Thirty-four-year-old Rina (not her real name) looks like any capable migrant worker who has endured her fair share of hardship while working overseas.

Rina started work as a domestic helper in Qatar in 1992. Since she was only 17 at the time, she had to change her surname and age on her passport to be allowed to work overseas.

In the Arab state, she said she was made to work from sunrise to sundown for her employer and for her employer’s extended family. Aside from the long hours, she said she was not given adequate food and would often be subjected to verbal and physical abuse. Her salary was often delayed and was lower than what was promised by her recruiter.

“I would get sick but I was never given any medicine. For one whole year, I was only given one day-off. One time, my employer told me to give him a massage while he started mashing my private parts,” she said in a forum at the Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City.

Because of homesickness, she said some Filipinas in Qatar would get into relationships with other OFWs to find the love and compassion that they were yearning for. Some of the women migrants who felt pressured to send more money home to their loved ones would sell their bodies to earn extra income, she said.

When she moved to Dubai a few years later, Rina's situation turned from bad to worse as her new employer raped her repeatedly. Out of desperation, she informed her employer’s wife about the abuse and got sympathy and support.

“The wife confronted [my employer] about the rape and he got very angry. He started beating her. I escaped and sought help from the police, but they didn’t even bother to acknowledge my case,” she recounted.

Rina escaped to the Philippines in May 2000. Upon her arrival, she fell ill and had to rest for a month before applying for another job, this time in Malaysia.

A mandatory blood test, however, showed that she was already HIV positive -- a cruel reminder of her ordeal in Dubai.

“I cried and wished I was dead. I was depressed for weeks. I wasn’t a sex worker and I never had affairs with the other Filipinos when I was abroad. I asked God ‘How could this happen to me?’” she said.

Not the exception

Rina’s case is not unique. According to a study by the UN Development Programme and the Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) launched Tuesday(March 10, 2009), women migrant workers in Asia including Filipinas who work in the Arab states are targets of sexual exploitation and violence and are highly vulnerable to factors that lead to HIV infection.

Based on almost 600 interviews in four Asian states and three in the Arab states, the report “HIV Vulnerabilities of Migrant Women: From Asia to the Arab states” reveals the social, economic and health toll that migration imposed on emigrating women, particularly low-skilled ones who are lured by job prospects.

The Arab states are the primary destination for many migrant workers from Asia, including Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Pakistan and the Philippines. The study estimates that 70 to 80 percent of migrants from Sri Lanka and the Philippines to the Arab states are women.

The study revealed that more women are vulnerable to HIV because of limited preparedness and poor access to information and services. It also showed female domestic workers are often only recognized as official employees when it comes to pre-employment HIV testing, but they are not protected by the basic labor rights of migrants as their jobs are not recognized by labor laws.

It also showed that there is little to no assistance for returning HIV positive migrants to reintegrate and to be able to access HIV services, counseling and alternative livelihoods.

In Rina's case, she had to approach a nongovernment organization to help her deal with her problem and finally inform her parents about the diagnosis. Now married with two children, Rina said she takes retroviral drugs for her illness while working as an advocate to inform others about HIV.

"I realized that HIV/AIDS is not a death sentence, that I can still function and work and be productive," she told reporters.

Migration not a risk factor

Renaud Meyer, UNDP Country Director for the Philippines, said that while migration itself is not a risk factor to HIV infection, the conditions under which some workers migrate and their living conditions in the host countries make them highly vulnerable to HIV.

“While there has been enormous progress in the Philippines with very progressive and effective initiatives developed by the government and NGOs, this work needs to be expanded further. Programs in the Philippines need to ensure that all migrants move in safe conditions that they know how to protect themselves in difficult circumstances,” he said.

The study showed that of the total number of HIV cases recorded in the Philippines since 1984, OFWs make up 34 percent (1,162) or about a third of the total. Over the years, the HIV Registry has tracked the growing number of HIV cases among OFWs.


According to the last available breakdown of OFW data in the HIV Registry, out of the 1,061 OFWs who tested positive in December 2007, 33 percent (347) were seafarers, 17 percent (179) were domestic workers, nine percent (97) were employees, eight percent (81) were entertainers, and six percent (65) were health workers. Sexual transmission remained to be the leading mode of transmission (94 percent) of HIV among OFWs.

The study showed that host countries and countries of origin have an equal responsibility to provide protective policies and programs. Several of the recommendations included in the report are:

Migrants who have a medical condition that does not impair their ability to work, such as living with HIV, should not be denied the right to work;
Health insurance schemes for migrant workers should cover all aspects of health, including HIV;
Blacklisting abusive employers and their hiring agents and sharing the information among host countries and countries of origin;
Training embassy and consular staff in host countries on the special needs and vulnerabilities of migrant women;
Reform existing labor laws to cover migrant workers in the domestic sector.
The study also outlines positive steps that are being taken in some host countries in the Arab states to ensure responsiveness to the needs of migrant women. In Lebanon, all working migrants have health insurance while in the United Arab Emirates, a new unified contract to regulate the rights and duties of domestic workers includes a medical aid provision.

“The government of Bahrain, NGOs and the UN are committed to starting a project to strengthen information and HIV/AIDS services for migrant women,” said Sayed Aqa, UN resident coordinator in Bahrain.

25,000 jobs in Canada exclusively for Pinoys

By APPLES JALANDONI, ABS-CBN News

There are 25,000 job opportunities exclusively for Filipinos in Canada this year. This is according to Richard Mills of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Mills said these are in health care, engineering, and the oil industry.

This was confirmed by Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque.

Roque said the job openings are actually part of the four memorandums of understanding that the Philippines signed last year with four provinces of Canada, namely British Columbia, Manitoba, Alberta, and Saskatchewan.

Roque admitted they had initially agreed on 40,000 jobs but Canada had to cut the number down to 25,000 because of the crisis.

Roque said the job openings are now posted at the Web site of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. He also reminded applicants that they do not have to pay a placement fee when applying.

The Philippine’s labor secretary clarified that those who would get jobs would be treated as guest workers. He also said however that they could apply to be a migrant after working in Canada for two years.

Apart from employment in Canada, Canadian companies will also continue to offer jobs to Pinoys locally. Mills said 10 percent of the business process outsourcing centers in the Philippines are Canadian firms. This means, these firms may provide 10% or 10,000 of the projected 100,000 job openings in the BPO industry this year.

Kin wants to be with terminally-ill caregiver in Canada

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

The family of a cancer-stricken caregiver in Canada wants to be with their kin who was given just a few months to live.

“My wife is dying,” said Celia Mansibang’s husband William Mallinllin in a phone interview with abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Mallinllin and their two children, Vincent and La Sandra, were saddened by the news about Celia’s health condition. Celia was diagnosed with stomach cancer. The cancer is reportedly at stage four and treatment could no longer be recommended.

“Gusto kong makita ang asawa ko kasi naghihirap siya sa Canada. Gusto kong makasama misis ko kahit ano pa ang mangyari, gusto ko kasama misis ko,” Mallinllin said.

Mallinllin said their two children have been deeply affected after learning that their mother was terminally-ill in a foreign land.

“Nasasaktan sila, nag-aalala apektado pagaaral nila,” he said.

A former teacher, Mansibang spent more than a decade as an overseas worker reportedly to provide her family back home with a little comfort in life. She worked as a domestic helper in Hong Kong, then as caregiver under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP) in Canada.

“Sa Hong Kong 12 years siya. Sabi niya tatanda na ako bilang contract worker, kaya nagpunta siya ng Canada para sa amin. Pero doon siya nagkasakit,” said Mallinllin.

According to the March online edition of the Manila Media Monitor, Butch Galicia reported that Mansibang was earlier denied permanent residency under the LCP because of her illness. She applied for permanent residency with the Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) and included her sponsorship for her husband and children.

It was learned that even Mansibang's Ontario Health Insurance coverage was also canceled.

Mansibang may soon be reunited with her family, the report said, after the Ottawa-based Citizenship and Immigration Canada Case Management (CICCM) branch allegedly stated in a March 5 communication to Mansibang's lawyer Maria Deanna Santos, that it would issue temporary resident permits for the family to join the terminally-ill caregiver in Canada.

Santos is assisting Mansibang pro bono. Aside from Santos, others have expressed their concern for Mansibang too, like the Caregiver Resource Center (CRC) in Canada founded by Terry Olayta, Fr. Ben Ebcas, mission director of the Archdiocese of Toronto Filipino Mission Center, Our Lady of Assumption Catholic Church on Bathurst and Dr. Rolando Gallardo to name a few.

“Hindi ako makapagsalita sa labis na kaligayahan na ang mga professional people ay pinagsama-sama ni Lord upang saluhin at sagipin sa kalungkutan sa sakuna si Celia at ng mga iba pang may mga malulubhang karamdaman,” said Olayta.

Merfa Yap Bataclan who has been with Mansibang’s side said the caregiver underwent blood transfusion last Monday.

“We are really hoping that the Canadian Minister of Immigration would immediately approve her application for permanent residence here so that her health benefits will be granted too,” Bataclan said in one of her email letters to abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Bataclan, who also serves as Mansibang’s counselor for psychosocial support reported that the caregiver remains to be in high spirits despite her very critical condition.

“Celia is still in critical condition as she continues to bleed because of her stage four stomach cancer. We ask everyone to pray that God will grant her pleadings for a longer life and a life with her family here in Toronto as permanent residents,” she said.

CRC member Jerry Mariano initiated an online signature campaign (http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/support-signature-for-celia-mansibang) to generate more support for Mansibang. Thousands have already affixed their signatures on the electronic and hard copy of the signature drive for Mansibang and her family to be granted permanent resident status in Canada.

Pinays in Brussels back EU bid to protect women’s rights

By RAQUEL BERNAL-CRISOSTOMO, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau


In celebration of International Women’s Month, the European Commission in Brussels stressed its commitment in protecting rights of women.

In a statement published by European Union Information Society, Vice-President Jacques Barrot regrettably admitted, however, that despite the worldwide campaign to protect women from violence, it is still true that a lot of them still fall prey to abusive perpetrators.

“Despite the progress achieved in equality between the sexes and increased opportunities for women in professional and private life, it is sadly true that women all over the world still suffer serious violations of their fundamental rights through acts of violence, exploitation and abuse,” he said.

He went on to quote that “Council of Europe estimates that around 20-25% of women in Europe alone suffer physical abuses once in their adult lives and at least 10% suffer sexual violence”.

The figure according to Barrot is “highly unacceptable and the problem is still widely underestimated” which results to social and financial causes to the society.

Some alarming reports show, however, that of all the places, the home is considered one of the most dangerous places for women worldwide. Majority of female victims of violence are insulted, humiliated, beaten and even killed by people whom they trust so much----husbands or ex-partners.

With this, the EU Commission affirmed that instead of abusing, women should be treated with utmost respect at all times. Equal rights and privileges shall be given to them not to mention recognition of women’s significant contributions particularly in the fields of arts, culture, science, and even in politics.

The EU body said it is determined to use its political, legislative and financial powers and resources to help eradicate abuses against women in Europe and elsewhere, the reason why they give financial aid to NGOs that support this fight.

Pinays in Belgium consider this very timely.

Baby Van Bogaert, a Pinay married to Honorary Consul General of Belgium Peter Van Bogaert, made it clear that even at work, there should be equal rights between men and women.

“Di dapat na ina-under estimate ang mga babae di ba? Kasi lalo na kapag qualified sila. Dapat pantay ang tingin, pati na rin salaries nila, pantay din,” she said.

Mary Ann Ballesteros, member of Kababaihang Rizalista stressed that women nowadays are capable of doing jobs which were once identified only with men.

“Dito sa Europe, marami tayo makikita na driver ng bus, ng tram, ng train na actually ginagawa ng mga lalaki. Even in government offices, marami na ring mga top executives or top government officials na mga babae;” she said.

She even cited that President Arroyo and Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel are both women

OFW commits suicide in Dubai

A 34-year-old Filipino overseas worker allegedly took his own life in Dubai reportedly due to debt and desperation.

Reports said Romulo Cañada allegedly committed suicide on the day that he and his roommate were supposed to vacate their rented room.

Cañada’s friend and roommate Danny Jones Regencia said that in the past three days, he noticed that the OFW looked bothered and deeply worried.

"Parang depressed siya. Then, sinasabi niya sa akin may utang siya sa credit card niya, kailangan niyang mabayaran. Tapos may loan siya,” said Regencia.

Cañada had been working in Dubai for two years but reportedly failed pay his debts in the Philippines. It was also alleged that he owed his company and friends some money.

"Disturbed talaga ‘yong mind niya for that three days. Minsan hindi na siya tumitingin sa akin ng diretsohan. Minsan pagdating ko sa bahay tulog na siya,” Regencia said.

Deep in debt, Cañada reportedly also worried about the ultimatum given to them by their landlord. It was learned that the room rented out by the OFWs was illegal because only people who are related to each other were allowed to stay in the villa.

This reportedly prompted them to move out of the house. However, Cañada allegedly pleaded to remain in the room because he had no money to pay for a new one.

"Nakiusap sa tenant na dito na siya tumira pero di na nga puwede kasi wala na ilaw, wala nang tubig. Nalaman na lang namin na dito na siya nagpakamatay sa bahay,” Regencia said.

A native of Calamba in Laguna, Cañada worked as warehouse assistant in a company. Regencia said Cañada was also supporting the studies of his girlfriend back home.

Regencia is saddened by his friend’s death but lamented Cañada’s alleged decision to take his own life.

"Hindi tularan ‘yong desisyon niyang magpakamatay dahil hindi naman sa atin ang buhay, galing sa ating Panginoon," he said.

Regencia also has a message to landlords "sa mga tenant lalo na sa kapwa Pilipino, nakita man ninyo ‘yong kababayan nating naghihirap hindi makabayad ng bahay, sana nagbigay kayo ng pagkakataon para makabayad ‘yong tao. Hindi ultimatum kaagad. Paalisin kami na parang aso,” he said. Report from Rachel Salinel, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau

Senator slams HK writer for 'nation of servants' remark

MANILA, Philippines –Sen. Pia S. Cayetano has joined calls to demand a public apology from a top Hong Kong publication and one of its columnists over an opinion article that called the Philippines "a nation of servants."

The opinion piece – "The War At Home" by Chip Tsao – appeared in the March 27 edition of the widely-circulated HK Magazine.

The column depicts the Philippines as a "nation of servants" not worthy of claiming the Spratlys from China, as the latter employs hundreds of thousands of Filipino domestic helpers on very low wages.

"Instead of contributing to intelligent discussions on ways to resolve the Spratlys dispute, Tsao only succeeded in eliciting hatred and sowing more confusion not only among Filipinos but maybe even among his fellow Chinese who are not aware of the intricacies of the issue," Cayetano said.

Cayetano, chair of the Senate Committee on Social Justice, said Filipinos deserved no less than a formal public apology from Tsao and HK Magazine.

In a statement issued on Sunday, Cayetano said:

"Let’s not dignify Tsao’s views by not stooping down to his level. We shouldn’t allow ourselves to be bullied by people with narrow minds like him. HK Magazine and Tsao must apologize for insulting Filipinos, and they should pledge not to commit this mistake again.

"Our being a poor nation does not diminish the validity of our historical and legal claim to the Spratlys. In the proper forum, this dispute will eventually be threshed out and resolved. Ignorance, hatred and racial bias are the last things we need in approaching this long-standing controversy.

"Our claim to the Spratlys is as valid as the other claims being pushed by other nations. It does not mean that we’re disregarding the claims of others. We respect their claim inasmuch as they should acknowledge ours."

Cayetano added that Tsao's Filipino househelper should not worry about the writer's threat to fire her if she would not say in public that the Spratly Islands belong to China.

"I’ll personally appeal on my Filipino and foreigner friends based in Hong Kong to hire her," Cayetano said. "I’m sure there are many more enlightened minds out there willing to take her in. Filipino domestic helpers are very much in demand in Hong Kong precisely because of their efficiency and positive ethic at work." - D'Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV

HK scribe hit for calling RP ‘nation of servants’

MANILA, Philippines - A non-government organization providing assistance to migrant Filipino workers on Sunday scored a Hong Kong journalist for describing the Philippines as a “nation of servants" in his magazine column.

Former Labor Undersecretary Susan Ople, head of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, said Chip Tsao should be blacklisted as an “undesirable foreign employer" for allegedly using his Filipino house help as “pawn" in the Spratlys controversy.

Ople alleged that Tsao mocked the Philippines as a “nation of servants" in his column called “The War At Home" that appeared in HK Magazine last March 27.

Tsao reportedly warned his Filipino maid that she would lose her wages if she would not tell her fellow Filipinos that Spartly Islands belong to China.

This, Ople said, “is already a sign of an unstable, irresponsible and racist employer who resorts to verbal abuse for perceived bilateral and historic infractions."

Ople asked the Philippine Consulate, particularly its Office of the Labor Attache, to look into the work conditions of “Luisa," the Filipino household help, as she expressed personal concern for her safety and health.

“Luisa deserves a sane and more humane employer while he [Tsao] deserves to clean up his own filth," Ople said.

Tsao also allegedly said in his column that the Philippines’ claim on Spratlys was “reproachable," adding that “as a nation of servants, you don’t flex your muscles at your master, from whom you earn most of your bread and butter."

China has protested the newly passed Philippine baselines law, saying it "has indisputable sovereignty" over the contested territories. It also said that the Philippines' claim to islands "is illegal and invalid."

Ople also called the attention of the Philippine government to the last paragraph of Tsao’s column where he said that some of his friends “declared a state of emergency at home" wherein their Filipino maids were made to shout “China, Madam/Sir’ loudly" at the mention of the word Spratly. - GMANews.TV

Sentosa nurses re-launch campaign for justice in NY

MANILA, Philippines - Supporters of 27 former Sentosa nurses and their lawyer Felix Vinluan recently re-launched their campaign to seek justice against illegal recruitment in New York.

With the theme "Up the Ante," the so-called Sentosa 27++ welcomed last March 22 some 150 representatives from various organizations supporting their quest for justice.

The nurses, former employees of Avalon Gardens in Woodmere, New York, were charged with patient endangerment by SentosaCare after they resigned from their posts in 2006 due to unpaid back wages, discrimination and being recruited under false pretenses.

“We would like to up the ante, to increase the value of our campaign, by giving more attention and focus this time to our civil and federal discrimination cases, and to our Philippine labor cases, as we already won the legal battle in the criminal prosecution front," said Mark Dela Cruz, one of the 10 nurses who were indicted for alleged patient endangerment.

Mary Joy Garcia-Dia of the Philippine Nurses Association of America (PNAA) and Julia Camagong, co-executive director of Philippine Forum, welcomed around 150 representatives from various organizations supporting the Justice for Sentosa 27++ (J4S27++) Campaign.

Rico Foz, executive vice president of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (Nafcon) narrated the history of the campaign – from the time when only the nurses and their lawyers believed in their cause – to the present when support comes from all sectors of society, not only in the US and in the Philippines, but in other countries as well.

Foz’s narrative history was complemented by a video presentation of the Campaign’s events prepared by Jonna Baldres of Anakbayan NY/NJ.

The Appellate Division of the New York Supreme Court, Second Department, issued last January 13, 2009 a writ prohibiting the nurses’ and Vinluan’s criminal prosecution. The Court ruled that the criminal prosecution violated the nurses’ 13th Amendment right against involuntary servitude and Vinluan’s 1st Amendment right to free speech.

“Even while we are successful in getting the criminal cases dropped, we should strive even harder to obtain our Campaign’s other demands, foremost of which are the dropping of the breach of contract cases against us, and the shutdown of Sentosa Recruitment Agency," said Harriet Avila, another one of the former 10 Avalon nurses who were prosecuted.

Vinluan challenged the organizations and individuals in attendance to remain standing side-by-side with him and the nurses until total justice is obtained, not only for the Sentosa 27++ nurses, but also for the many other Filipino immigrant nurses who continue to suffer silently at Sentosa’s employ.

PNAA’s Leo Felix Jurado and Philippine Nurses Association of New York’s (PNA-NY) Leonila Mariazeta saluted the Sentosa 27++ nurses for their courage in fighting for their rights and reiterated their respective memberships’ unwavering support to the J4S27++ Campaign. - GMANews.TV

Maximum punishment sought for Pinoy in UAE rape

MANILA, Philippines — A United Arab Emirates prosecutor has sought the "maximum punishment" for a Filipino accused of raping a 12-year-old schoolgirl, an online news site reported Tuesday.

Khaleej Times (www.khaleejtimes.com) reported that Prosecutor Tareq Yaqoub Al Khayyat sought the penalty with the Criminal Court of First Instance Monday.

Al Khayyat said that while the 29-year-old defendant pleaded guilty, he deserved maximum punishment, to deter “human monsters" like him from hurting vulnerable minors.

The verdict is expected on April 6, the report said.

Court records showed the 29-year-old man, who stays with the 12-year-old girl’s family, allegedly raped her twice while her parents were away.

He also faces a charge of consuming alcohol.

The rape was discovered last Dec. 24 when the girl handed over a note to her mother as she returned from work that evening.

According to the mother’s statement, the victim said she tried to resist him but could not, and asked her mother to send him back to his country, as she did not want to see him again.

When the mother confronted the daughter, the latter broke into tears and said she was raped also on Nov. 16 last year.

The victim’s sister confirmed the incident, saying when she entered the room, the defendant was naked. He turned the lights off and asked her to leave. - GMANews.TV

Pinoy butcher in UAE loses hand to grinder - report

MANILA, Philippines - A Filipino butcher in the United Arab Emirates accidentally minced his hand while trying to unclog an electric grinder he was using, an online news site reported Saturday.

Online news site Arab News reported that rescue workers from Dubai police rushed to the supermarket where the butcher worked but failed to remove his hand.

The report quoted a police source as saying the police tried to sedate the still conscious victim.

The victim, who was not identified in the report, fought off as the rescue workers tried to free his hand from the grinder. This prompted the rescuers to dismantle the grinder and brought it to the trauma center with the butcher's hand still stuck in it.

At a hospital, the rescuers freed the hand after doctors fully sedated the victim. They were however forced to chop off the hand since it had been mutilated. - GMANews.TV

NZ factory accused of favoring Pinoys over native workers

MANILA, Philippines - A factory in New Zealand has been accused of favoring Filipinos over native workers.

According to the New Zealand Herald, government and union officials are currently investigating allegations made against a factory in New Plymouth that reportedly favors migrant workers, especially Filipinos.

In the report, MCK Metals chief executive Pramod Khatri confirmed that his company employed workers from the Philippines in October 2007 under the work skills shortage policy.

He said MCK hired the Filipinos to undertake specialized aluminum welding and polishing after the company failed to get skilled New Zealand workers to fill up the vacancies.

In October 2008, the factory allegedly fired 28 local workers but retained 24 Filipino welders.

"We are asking the question why the migrant workers on short-term visas appear to have been given priority over long-term workers able to give a long-term commitment to the company who have been made redundant," said Engineering, Printing, and Manufacturing Union national secretary Andrew Little.

In a separate report, Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman said that he understood that the Filipinos were originally hired to work for aluminum welding. He was however confused why the firm was so "keen" on retaining them even after their contracts had already ended.

Coleman said the Filipinos were even transferred into steel work that the New Zealanders
were already doing.

"From what the department is telling me, if they had known that MCK Metals were to be laying off people in the near future, these Filipino welders wouldn't have got an extension on their work permits," Coleman said.

Coleman said the government was very concerned about New Zealanders losing jobs to
migrant workers. "If the company had breached immigration policy, action would be taken." - Kimberly Tan, GMANews.TV

Brunei employer fined for failure to pay Pinay maid's salary

MANILA, Philippines - The Magistrate's Court has fined a Bruneian employer for failing to pay the salary of his Filipina maid for almost 15 months.

The Borneo Bulletin reported on Friday that Awang Haji Mahat bin Ahmad, the employer of Nurina Hadjiota, was ordered to pay a fine of $4,500 or face 30-week imprisonment if he would fail to pay the penalty.

Brunei's Labor Act mandates employers to pay salaries not later than 10 days from the stated date, according to the report.

The court gave Awang Haji Mahat two months to settle the fine with the help of a guarantor. His license to employ foreigners was also revoked permanently. - Kimberly Tan, GMANews.TV

33 Pinoy seamen aboard 2 ships held off Somalia

MANILA, Philippines – In less than 24 hours, 33 Filipino seamen on board two European chemical tankers were kidnapped by pirates off the coast of Somalia, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Friday.

DFA spokesman Ed Malaya quoted a report by the Philippine Embassy in Kenya as saying that 18 Filipinos were on board the first ship, while another 15 were on the second vessel.

“The Philippine Embassy in Nairobi reported that Greek-owned MT Nipaiya, with 18 Filipino seafarers on board, was taken over by pirates last March 25," said Malaya.

Then the following day, chemical tanker MT Bow Asir, carrying the 15 other Filipinos, was also hijacked, according to Malaya.

MT Nipaiya is managed bye Lotus Shipping of Athens, while MT Bow Asir is a Bahamas-registered vessel owned by Salkus Shipping of Norway.

“The DFA is coordinating with the POEA for the identities of the Filipino crew members of both vessels and for the notification of their families," Malaya said.

The department also said that the Philippine government is also coordinating with the principals of the vessels and concerned authorities to immediately secure the release and repatriation of the Filipino seafarers.

A report by the Associated Press said pirates armed with machine guns on Thursday hijacked the Norwegian chemical tanker off the coast of Somalia, less than 24 hours after a smaller Greek-owned vessel was seized in the same area.

The US 5th Fleet, which patrols the pirate-infested Gulf of Aden, confirmed both hijackings, saying the incidents took place in the same area but separate from the gulf, one of the world's busiest, and now the most treacherous sea lane.

The 23,000-ton Norwegian-owned Bow Asir was captured 250 miles off the Somali coast Thursday morning, while the 9,000-ton Greek-owned Nipayia, with 19 crew members, was seized 450 miles off Somalia on Wednesday afternoon, according to the European Union's military spokesman.

Commander Jane Campbell of the US 5th fleet said the hijackings took place in a vast Indian Ocean covering more than 750,000 square miles.

"This activity highlights the complexity of even trying to monitor an area this size," Campbell said. Pirates also tried to hijack another Panamanian-flagged boat Wednesday but the crew fought off them off by speeding away and using fire hoses, according to the commander.

Norway's shipowners association said the Bow Asir had a crew of 27 with a Norwegian captain, but the 5th Fleet said there were 23 crew on board. Apart from the 19 Filipino crewmen, the crew included five from Poland, one from Russia and one from Lithuania.

A Nairobi-based diplomat also said the Nipayia had 18 Filipinos on board and a Russian captain.

Chased by two boats

The owner of the Bow Asir, Salhus Shipping AS, said it received a security alert from the ship Thursday morning saying it was being chased by two small boats with suspected pirates. Sixteen minutes later, the ship's captain reported that pirates had boarded the vessel.

Three hours later, the shipping company received an e-mail from the Bow Asir confirming that 16 to 18 pirates carrying machine guns had gained control, managing director Per H. Hansen said in a statement.

"We have no reports of any injuries," he said. "We are doing our utmost to ensure the safety of the crew."

Late Thursday, Bow Asir was heading northwest in the direction of Somalia, according to the Norwegian Shipowners' Association.

"We have no information about any demands from the pirates yet," spokesman Haavard Aagesen. "Our main concern now is the crew members and their families."

Pirate attacks off the Somali coastline hit unprecedented levels in 2008, when pirates made 111 attacks and seized 42 vessels, mostly in the Gulf of Aden.

Seven ships have been seized so far this year, although there were roughly 10 times as many attacks in January and February 2009 as there was over the same period last year. There have been almost daily attacks in March.

Somalia has not had a functioning government since clan-based militias overthrew a socialist dictator in 1991 and then turned on each other.

Also Thursday, NATO announced its anti-piracy flotilla of five ships was resuming patrols off the Horn of Africa, joining at least 20 warships from the EU, the US, China, Russia and other navies that are trying to stop pirate attacks there.

Graeme Gibbon Brooks, founder of London-based private security company Dryad Maritime Intelligence, said the latest hijackings showed that the Somali pirates were moving their area of operations into the Indian Ocean.

"The coalition have put so much pressure on the Gulf of Aden that the pirates are popping up everywhere else," he said. "Because the area is that much bigger, it will be more difficult for the coalition to achieve the same amount of success as they have in the Gulf of Aden." - Mark Ubalde and Kimberly Tan, GMANews.TV, with an AP report.

Transfer of sentenced persons between RP and Spain pushed

MANILA, Philippines — Filipinos serving jail sentences in Spain will soon get a chance to do their time in the Philippines.

Lawmakers are pushing for the adoption of House Joint Resolution No. 11, which authorizes the Department of Justice (DOJ) to issue the implementing rules and regulations (IRRs) to effectively carry out the provisions of the treaty on the transfer of sentenced persons between the Philippines and Spain.

Rep. Narciso D. Santiago III (Partylist, ARC), principal author, said the Department of Justice, being the central authority in all the treaties on sentenced persons, must be the agency responsible for formulation of the IRRs.

Santiago and Reps Matias V. Defensor, (3rd Dist., Quezon City) Chairman of the Justice Committee and Junie E. Cua (Lone Dist., Quirino) stressed the need for the issuance of IRRs to guarantee effective implementation of the treaty.

The treaty entered into by the governments of the Philippines and Spain aims to ensure the effective reformation and rehabilitation of Filipinos serving their sentence in Spain, as they will be afforded the opportunity to serve their sentences in the Philippines and vice versa.

“As per the instruction of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations the IRRs shall provide for the definition of nationality, as to whether it refers to citizenship, habitual residents or all of the above," Santiago said.

Santiago said the IRRs must resolve the issue on which state shall determine the duration of the penalty, when the sentence imposed is shorter in the administering State than in the sentencing State.

“It should provide for the mechanism to be used so that if the sentencing State, after final judgment rejects the case, the same person could be brought back to the sentencing State," Santiago stressed.

Santiago said the IRR based on the Senate’s Committee on Foreign Relations instruction must also provide for the ground for granting or denying a request for transfer made under Article 6.

“This is necessary, because under Article 3 paragraph 4, there is no need to state the grounds when one state makes a decision in order to execute the treaty," Santiago said.

Santiago added that the IRRs must also define whether a person can be forced to transfer if he or she does not want to go back to the country of nationality, among others.

The measure as referred to the House Committees on Justice and Appropriations seeks an initial budget of P5 million for the implementation of the said treaty. - D'Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV

Int’l group to aid Jap-Fil kids adjust to life in Japan

MANILA, Philippines - The International Organization for Migration (IOM) will be giving direct assistance to at least five Japanese-Filipino children to make their transition into life in Japan better.

In a statement, IOM said that the kids will be given pre-departure and post-arrival orientation, livelihood assistance, and Japanese language skills training.

This program, the organization said, will be part of a two- year project funded by the Toyota Foundation, which aims to promote the rights and welfare of Japanese-Filipino (JFC) children and enhance cooperation and improve public awareness on JFC issues both in Japan and in the Philippines.

It said the initiative stemmed from recent amendments in Japan’s Nationality Law wherein individuals born out of wedlock to Japanese and Filipino parents would be able acquire Japanese citizenship – provided that the child is recognized by the Japanese father.

There are an estimated 200,000 Japanese-Filipino children.

Under the project, the IOM will also conduct needs assessments and develop JFC-specific strategies in the Philippines with non-government organizations Batis Center for Women, Development Action for Women Network, and the Citizen’s Network for Japanese-Filipino Children (Maligaya House).

To achieve this, consultations will be held in the cities of Legaspi, Cebu and Davao – where there are large JFC populations. Culminating national conferences will also be held in both Manila and Tokyo before the end of the year.

The organization said that the consultations will serve as a “platform" to improve the understanding of the changes in the Japanese Nationality Law and its implications.

In addition, IOM said it will facilitate the formation of a “multisectoral network" that would improve the social, economic, and legal support for JFCs.

The Philippine representatives for this will include the Department of Foreign Affairs, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Commission on Filipinos Overseas, Bureau of Immigration, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, and the Philippine Embassy in Japan.

On the other hand, the Japanese government counterparts will include the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, and the Japanese Embassy in the Philippines. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

RP, Japan agree to train Filipino seafarers while global economy is down

The Philippines has entered into an agreement with the transport ministry of Japan to provide for the skills training and upgrading of Filipino seafarers employed in international vessels which have been idled or laid-up due to the global economic downturn, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that during his recent trip to Japan, he signed the Memorandum of Cooperation on Development of Asian Seafarers with Minister Kazuyoshi Kaneko of Japan's Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism to seal the agreement providing for the training of Filipino seafarers under the International Cooperative Training Project for Asian Seafarers.

Roque was in Tokyo last week for the signing and also to represent the country, along with tripartite partners from the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen's Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) and the Philippine-Japan Consultative Council, at the Philippine-Japan Seafarer Policy Forum to seek for the preservation of the jobs of over 40,000 Filipino seafarers employed in Japanese vessels.

He implored on the Japanese ship owners to keep the Filipino seafarers on-board even as their ships could be laid-up due to lack or absence of demand for cargo. He said that cargo ships forced to dock at ports for longer periods due to the economic crisis still need manpower for ship maintenance.

At the same time, DOLE Chief called on the Japan Seaman's Union (JSU) to lend a hand in the provision of social safety nets to other Filipino seafarers who may not be able to remain on board Japanese vessels due to the crisis. Members of the union, he said, include about 35,000 to 45,000 Filipino seamen.

He thanked the JSU for its willingness to study the possibility of giving livelihood assistance for Filipino seafarers who may be forced to go on vacation while cargo demand is nil.

Roque also cited the Japan transport ministry for the training project it would implement in collaboration with DOLE, saying the project would help address the global shortage of skilled seafarers and qualified officers by training and upgrading the skills of Filipino seafarers especially those who may have to go home for vacation while their vessels are laid up.

He said the training would be an opportunity for Filipino seafarers affected by the crisis to train and upgrade their skills while waiting for their return on board.

"This will enable us to develop our seafarers particularly as vessel officers who are in short supply and badly needed by the international seafaring industry," Roque said, adding "once the global cargo trading resumes its robustness, our seafarers would be in a better footing to land in better paying positions on board."

Under the agreement, the DOLE and the Japan Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism would jointly implement the training project with the latter providing for technical, funding, and human resources. The former, on the other hand, will seek the support of manning agencies and maritime training schools for the implementation of the project.

source: Information and Publication Services
(DOLE News)

Gamca lists diseases that would make OFWs unfit to work

The Gulf Cooperation Council-(GCC) Accredited Medical Clinics Association (Gamca) recently released the list of diseases that would render overseas Filipino workers (OFW) unfit to work in GCC countries

Under the hiring policies of GCC states – Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, foreign workers from the Philippines and other Asian countries are required to pass the medical tests conducted only by Gamca clinics.

These include:

Infectious category
• HIV/AIDS reactive
• Hepatitis B surface antifgen, HCV reactive
• Microfilaria positive and malaria blood film positive, known leprosy patients
• Tuberculosis – any type, X-ray showing active PTB, past evidence of PTB or healed • Pulmonary scar, including minimum fibrosis, calcification (granuloma) pleural thickening, pleural effusion, tuberculosis lymphadenitis
• VDRL/TPHA reactive

Non-infectious category
• Chronic renal failure
• Chronic hepatitis failure
• Congestive heart failure
• Hypertension
• Diabetes mellitus
• Known case of cancer
• Psychiatric disease and neurological disorders
• Physical disabilities, i.e. color blindness, deafness
From GMANews.TV

DFA: 17 Pinoy hostages in Somalia in good condition

MANILA, Philippines - The 17 Filipino seamen on a ship hijacked last weekend in the Gulf of Aden are in good condition, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya said they are contacting the families of the 17 to inform them about the latest update on the hostages.

"Sinabi ang mga Pilipinong tripolante are all in good condition at saka yung ating manning agency ay in the process of informing the families of the Filipino seamen [The Filipino seamen are all in good condition and their manning agency is now in the process of informing their families]," he said in an interview on dzXL radio.

He said the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi earlier confirmed the hijacking of a vessel carrying 17 Filipino, three Greek, three Romanian and one Ukranian.

Malaya added that based on information from Philippine Embassy and the manning agency that sent the Filipinos, the owner of the ship had made contact with the hijackers.- GMANews.TV

It's OK to lift deployment ban to Lebanon - DFA

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has agreed to lift the three-year deployment ban to Lebanon after the safety of Filipinos in that Western Asian country was assured.

According to the DFA, the armed conflict in the Middle East state “has already ended and is no longer posing security threat" to overseas Filipino workers (OFW)

Presidential envoy to the Middle East Roy Cimatu, who was sent to Lebanon last month to assess the security condition in the country, said that it was already safe to resume the deployment of OFWs there because peace and stability had returned to the Middle East state.

Vice President Noli de Castro supported the DFA's decision and said that Lebanon could provide an alternative destination to laid off OFWs. “There is no more reason to maintain the deployment ban to Lebanon. Many of our countrymen badly need jobs today and Lebanon offers plenty of employment opportunities."

But before the ban could be officially lifted, De Castro called on the Labor department and the DFA to negotiate a bilateral agreement with Lebanon to protect the welfare of OFWs.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) earlier said that it was in no rush to allow the re-entry of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) to Lebanon unless authorities could safeguard the welfare of OFWs.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque told GMANews.TV that the DOLE had not yet decided to lift the ban pending proposed amendments from the department. He said the DOLE had sent out a draft of a memorandum of understanding to their counterparts in Lebanon as condition for the redeployment of Filipino HSWs.

Included in the MOU are the protection of workers’ rights and the minimum salary for HSWs pegged at $400 per month.

Job opportunities

The DFA expects that the lifting of the 2006 ban in Lebanon will lead to more job opportunities for thousands of Filipinos affected by the US-led global economic slump.

Lebanon's honorary consul-general to the Philippines, Josef Assad, welcomed the proposed lifting of the ban. “This is a positive step in the in normalization and improvement of relations between Lebanon and the Philippines."

“This will perk up relations between the two countries as this will remove the barrier which has prevented thousands of Filipinos from working in Lebanon which is now experiencing an economic boom and is need of thousands of construction workers to complete the infrastructure billion-dollar projects like highways and bridges," Assad said.

The government stopped sending Filipino workers to the Mideastern state in 2006 when violence between Hezbollah and Israeli forces escalated.

At that time, some 6,000 OFWs, many of them undocumented, were repatriated to the Philippines. Some 26,000 opted to stay either due to fear of losing their jobs or because they were not allowed by their employers to leave.

The Philippines had also stopped sending workers to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, and Nigeria. - with Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

18 Pinoys aboard Japanese ship evade capture

MANILA, Philippines - Eighteen Filipino seamen aboard a Japanese ship evaded capture by Somali pirates who fired rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons at the vessel.

Masami Suekado, a Japanese Transport Ministry official, told the Associated Press on Monday that the 13,000-ton "Jasmine Ace," with an all Filipino crew, was en route to Mombasa, Kenya, when it was attacked by the pirates on Sunday.

Suekado said pirates on board two small vessels approached the Jasmine Ace and fired several shots before fleeing. Bullets reportedly broke the ship’s windows and hit the ceiling of the vessel’s bridge.

There are more than 3,000 Japanese vessels plying international waters, according to Labor Secretary Marianito Roque, about 70 percent of which are manned by Filipinos.

On Thursday, 17 Filipino seafarers on board a Greek-owned bulk carrier were kidnapped by Somali pirates. This development brings to 71 the total number of Filipinos held by the pirates since November last year.

DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya told GMANews.TV that the MV Titan, a St. Vincent-flagged ship with 24 men on board, was en route to South Korea when it was hijacked by Somalis in the troubled Gulf of Aden. - Mark Joseph Ubalde, GMANews.TV

17 Filipino seamen abducted by pirates in Somalia - DFA

MARK JOSEPH H. UBALDE, GMANews.TV

MANILA, Philippines - Seventeen Filipino seafarers on board a Greek-owned bulk carrier were kidnapped by Somali pirates on March 19, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday. This development brings to 71 the total number of Filipinos held by the pirates since November last year.

DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya told GMANews.TV that the MV Titan, a St. Vincent-flagged ship with 24 men on board, was en route to South Korea when it was hijacked by Somali pirates in the troubled Gulf of Aden.

"The DFA instructed the Philippine embassy in Nairobi to coordinate with proper authorities concerning the safety and well-being of the seamen," Malaya said.

Reports from the Philippine Embassy in Kenya said that aside from the 17 Filipinos, three Greeks, three Romanians, and one Ukranian seamen were also aboard the ship.

Data from the DFA showed that aside from the MV Titan, three other vessels with 54 Filipinos remain anchored in Somalia.

The other vessels hijacked by Somali pirates include the MV Stolt Strength (with 23 Filipinos), MT Longchamp (with 12 Filipinos), and a previously unreported MV Saldanha (hijacked last Feb. 22 with 19 Filipinos).

The MV Stolt Strength, which was hijacked last Nov. 10, has been in the hands of Somali pirates for 133 days.

Third ship

MV Titan is the third ship predominantly manned by Filipinos that was hijacked by Somali pirates this year.

Last year, 208 Filipinos on board 17 vessels were kidnapped by pirates in the Horn of Africa.

Somali pirates are known to demand ransom from shipowners in exchange for the release of their vessels, including crewmen and valuable cargoes. The Philippine government, however, won't confirm any exchange of money between shipowners and pirates.

The government maintains that it does not talk directly with the kidnappers but merely coordinates efforts to expedite the safe release of the Filipino seamen. - GMANews.TV

Agency hiring 1,500 workers for Metro Manila hotels

MANILA, Philippines - A Philippine recruitment agency is on the lookout for 1,500 workers to fill up positions in Metro Manila hotels until April 15, 2009.

Besides waiters and cocktail attendants, local recruiter Mabis Manpower Services will also be hiring accountants, sales executives, housemen, powder girls, room attendants, and receptionists.

The local recruiter, which claims to be the first to secure government approval to deploy workers to Australia, will also be hiring laundry attendants, locker attendants, pool maintenance, stewards, kitchen helpers, and cooks.

Monthly salaries of hotel staff will be based on an August 28, 2008 Wage Order No. NCR-14, Heidi Sapiandante, Mabis Manpower Services Office Manager said.

Employees hired will enjoy health, accident, and death insurance benefits, Sapiandante said.

MABIS Manpower Services (DoLE-NCR M-09-00339) is the local manpower provider of MAB Int'l. Services Inc. (POEA-035-LB-101306-UL).

Applicants may email their resumes to cvmabis@gmail.com and cv_mabis@yahoo.com.

Interested applicants may call up (+632) 9111218, 4403033, or 9119991 for more inquiries. - GMANews.TV

Filipina in US honored on women’s history month - report

ROSEMEAD, CA— As a part of its celebration of National Women’s History Month in March, Southern California Edison (SCE) is recognizing employee Gladys B. Delemos for her professional leadership and work in the community.

“We are proud to recognize employees like Gladys Delemos who share their leadership skills with their co-workers and with the comm unity," said Frank Quevedo, SCE’s vice president, Equal Opportunity.

“As we celebrate National Women’s History Month, we are proud to highlight the achievements and contributions of Gladys and the many thousands of female employees who have contributed to our company’s success."

As president of FilBarkada, Southern California Edison’s Filipino employee affinity group, Gladys B. Delemos is proud to celebrate the culture and tradition of the Philippines with her co-workers, especially during National Women’s History Month.

“Definitely, one of the positive aspects of working at Edison, especially as a minority woman, is knowing that it is a company that values its employees and the diversity of its workforce," she said.

An analyst with the Center for Continuous Improvement within SCE’s Enterprise Resource Program, Delemos was born and raised in the Philippines. “I am very much a proud Filip ino at heart," Delemos said. “FilBarkada demonstrates two of the traits Filipinos are known for: ingenuity and bayanihan or cooperative effort."

Last year, for example, FilBarkada members worked together on several weekends and lunch breaks to handcraft crystal bracelets, which raised $1,000 for the Filipino American Service Group, Inc. (FASGI), a community-based nonprofit social service agency that promotes the health and welfare of older adults.

FilBarkada also donated funds to Asian disaster relief efforts, the Red Cross and both funds and supplies to St. Margaret’s Center, a special service organization for low-income individuals and families.

“Over the past three years, we have donated approximately $3,500 to various nonprofit agencies," Delemos said.

In the coming year, Delemos plans to launch a biweekly FilBarkada bulletin to highlight tidbits about the Philippines and be a “resource for everything and anything Filipino."

The organization also will celebrate Fil-Am Friendship Day in June, a California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) event as part of a customer suppor t program, a beach cleanup day as well as the annual FilBarkada Christmas luncheon.

SCE has consistently been ranked in Fortune magazine’s annual survey of the top companies for ethnic minorities in America. Information on employment opportunities at Southern California Edison is at www.edisonjobs.com. - Philippine News

Pinay caregiver in Canada an 'OFW par excellence' - group

MANILA, Philippines - A migrants’ group paid tribute to Juana Tejada, the Filipino caregiver who campaigned for overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) and immigrants’ rights in Canada even while waging a fight against cancer. In its tribute, Migrante International called her a “female OFW par excellence".

Tejada went to Canada in 2003 to work as a caregiver under the Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP). She completed the 24-month residency requirement, thereby becoming eligible for permanent resident status. However, after going through a medical examination, she was diagnosed with cancer and was informed that she could not stay in Canada as she would be a “burden" to the Canadian health system. She reapplied for permanent residency and was, for the second time, denied.

Through her lawyer Rafael Fabregas, she challenged the decisions of the Citizenship and Immigration Canada, and after that appealed on humanitarian grounds.

She won, and after her victory continued to push for changes in the LCP, and, together with her lawyer, as well as Migrante Ontario and other people’s organizations, for amendments to Section 38 (2) of Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. They demanded that members of the Live-in Caregiver Class be added to the list of applicants who would automatically be exempted from the law’s “good health" requirement. The proposed amendment was passed and is now known as the Juana Tejada Law.

Tejada lost her battle with cancer on March 8, International Women’s Day. She was 39. Her remains arrived in Manila on March 20. Migrante International members joined her relatives in paying tribute to her at the Pair Pags Center along Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Road in Pasay City.

“We give our highest salute to Juana Tejada," said Migrante International chairperson Garry Martinez. “She is, indeed a female OFW par excellence, who, while battling the debilitating disease of cancer, relentlessly worked for the rights and welfare of caregivers in Canada."

“Our commemoration of (International Women’s Month) would certainly be more meaningful as we add Juana’s name to the list of resolute and courageous women we will remember," Martinez added.

“It is not so much her triumph but her dignity and commitment to struggle against an oppressive system that will inspire many of us to go on with the struggle, not only for migrants’ rights, but for the emancipation of the toiling masses from exploitation."

Tejada’s remains are to be interred in her home province, Abra. - Bulatlat.com

Remains of Pinay who inspired better treatment for caregivers in Canada brought home

MANILA, PhilippinesM - The remains of the Filipina live-in caregiver who fought hard to remain in Canada, but finally succumbed to lung cancer has finally been brought home to the Philippines.

Q’s Balitanghali reported that Juana Tejada, who fought hard for better treatment of caregivers in Canada died on March 8 in Toronto at the age of 39.

Rafael Fabregas, Tejada’s immigration lawyer, recently told GMANews.TV that Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, is looking into a bill that would improve the immigration status of Filipino live-in caregivers.

“Minister Kenney also indicated that he will soon be conducting consultations on reforming the live-in caregiver program, and will seriously consider the principle behind our proposed ‘Juana Tejada Law’ exempting caregivers from the requirement of a second medical exam before being granted permanent residence," he said.

“Maraming matutulungan na mga caregiver kasi yung Juana Tejada law hindi lamang para sa kanya, para sa mga naiwang caregivers doon," [The Juana Tejada law will help many more caregivers like her]," Noli Azada, Tejada’s husband, told GMA News reporter Mark Salazar.

Tejada was lured to work in Canada in 2003 under the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), which grants foreign workers permanent residency— and an opportunity to petition their entire family — upon fulfillment of their three-year assignment as well as necessary medical and criminal clearances.

On a routine medical check-up in 2006, doctors found out that she had terminal cancer. Tejada was told by Canadian immigration officials that her illness made her ineligible to become a permanent resident.

Determined to give her family a better life, Juana appealed to waive the good-health requirement for humanitarian reasons. Her petition was denied twice.

Eventually, following a public campaign, Canada’s immigration department yielded and granted Tejada her permanent residence on July 17, 2008.

According to the report, her remains will be buried in the northern home province of Abra. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Remains of Pinay who inspired better treatment for caregivers in Canada brought home

MANILA, PhilippinesM - The remains of the Filipina live-in caregiver who fought hard to remain in Canada, but finally succumbed to lung cancer has finally been brought home to the Philippines.

Q’s Balitanghali reported that Juana Tejada, who fought hard for better treatment of caregivers in Canada died on March 8 in Toronto at the age of 39.

Rafael Fabregas, Tejada’s immigration lawyer, recently told GMANews.TV that Jason Kenney, minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, is looking into a bill that would improve the immigration status of Filipino live-in caregivers.

“Minister Kenney also indicated that he will soon be conducting consultations on reforming the live-in caregiver program, and will seriously consider the principle behind our proposed ‘Juana Tejada Law’ exempting caregivers from the requirement of a second medical exam before being granted permanent residence," he said.

“Maraming matutulungan na mga caregiver kasi yung Juana Tejada law hindi lamang para sa kanya, para sa mga naiwang caregivers doon," [The Juana Tejada law will help many more caregivers like her]," Noli Azada, Tejada’s husband, told GMA News reporter Mark Salazar.

Tejada was lured to work in Canada in 2003 under the Live-In Caregiver Program (LCP), which grants foreign workers permanent residency— and an opportunity to petition their entire family — upon fulfillment of their three-year assignment as well as necessary medical and criminal clearances.

On a routine medical check-up in 2006, doctors found out that she had terminal cancer. Tejada was told by Canadian immigration officials that her illness made her ineligible to become a permanent resident.

Determined to give her family a better life, Juana appealed to waive the good-health requirement for humanitarian reasons. Her petition was denied twice.

Eventually, following a public campaign, Canada’s immigration department yielded and granted Tejada her permanent residence on July 17, 2008.

According to the report, her remains will be buried in the northern home province of Abra. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

PDEA moves to shield OFWs from drug rings

Manila Philippines - The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) is working on a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to help prevent overseas Filipino workers from being used as “drug mules."

PDEA director general Dionisio Santiago said the agreement would include a lecture on dangerous drugs awareness in the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars being conducted by the POEA for Filipino workers bound for work abroad.

Santiago said the campaign is imperative in view of the rising number of Filipinos being arrested for serving drug couriers or “mules."

The PDEA said international drug groups operating in Asia, the Middle East, and South Africa employ West Africans who recruit unsuspecting travelers – who are in dire need of money – as drug couriers.

A recent report by the Philippine Ambassador to China, Sonia Brady, said that on March 11 alone, 16 Filipino drug couriers were apprehended in various parts of China.

Santiago said he was “deeply concerned" with the rising trend of Filipino travelers being used to smuggled drugs because it is damaging the country’s reputation.

He warned that such trend could place every Filipino traveler under suspicion of being a potential drug courier.

“In fact, strict restrictions are now being imposed against Filipino travelers due to the involvement of Filipinos in illegal drug smuggling," he said.

Santiago said that Filipinos should not risk their life and future smuggling illegal substances, no matter what amount is being offered to them.

“[They wouldn’t want to suffer] the same fate as the Filipinos who either died or are languishing in jail in China and other foreign countries for drug trafficking," he said.

He also requested Filipino travelers not to accommodate any requests to carry baggage from strangers because these many contain dangerous drugs.

“It is sad to note that Filipino travelers caught transporting illegal rugs can be meted the death penalty, even if they did not know they were carrying such dangerous substances," said Santiago. - GMANews.TV

Filipino author releases ‘Pinoy Capital’ in US

MANILA, Philippines — Another feather to the growing cap of the Philippines is in the hands of author Dr. Benito Vergara Jr., a UPLB and Cornell University graduate, for his new book titled “Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City."

The book has recently been published by Temple University Press in San Francisco, California, the city also famous for the historic “Summer of Love." Vergara held his most recent book talk at the San Francisco State University where he shared with students and participants what the book is all about.

“It's about Filipinos in the US, how they live, what they left, and what money and nation mean to them," said Vergara.

Vergara, 38, said the book was officially released in January 2009 and is set for more book talks and other events related to his book. He said he decided to focus on Daly City, the subject of his book, when he visited one time and was amazed at how many Filipinos he had met.

“I was amazed with what I could see and how many Filipino products — food, newspapers, videos, etc. — one had access to. It was quite a contrast to central New York," he said, comparing his experience in the East Coast.

The book, he said, is about Daly City, host to the highest Filipino population in the US. According to his book the city has the highest concentration of Filipino residents for a mid-sized American city, about a third of Daly City's 100,000 residents. Vergara said there are lots of Filipinos all over the San Francisco Bay Area, but Daly City has an almost mythic personality as being full of “Pinoys."

He said he finds it amazing that once it gets known as being predominantly Filipino, more Filipino immigrants may want to live in Daly City for that reason.

The first chapter of his book started with a running joke that when someone sees the usual fog in Daly City, that only means the Filipinos are rolling their rice cookers either for lunch or dinner.

Vergara said he came out with the title of the book because Daly City after all is famous to be the Pinoy Capital of the USA; yet, a pun about money and its significance to Filipino immigrant lives. He added that his immersion in the city and his exposure to other parts of the US where Filipino immigrants live helped him tremendously to write his book.

“Immigration is a funny thing," he said, “We like to think of statistics, of demographics, of patterns, etcetera when we talk about immigrants. But we talk about them as if they were fully rational actors, but they're not."

Vergara averred that he didn’t refer to them as irrational but Filipinos have many different and sometimes even contradictory reasons for coming to the United States. He said his book tries to disentangle the “messy reality" that underlies immigration; why people leave, what they miss about "home;" why they sometimes feel guilty about leaving; and, what they do in order to not feel as guilty.

He said, “Basically all the stuff that doesn't get seen when looking at just numbers. Also, there have been only a few academic monographs, relatively speaking, on Filipinos in the US in general, and even less on those emigrating after 1965."

Vergara said he hopes that the book will leave questions to the readers such as a question about political participation as to why the first-generation Filipino immigrants, particularly those who are now US citizens, are still knowledgeable about major and minor issues in the Philippines.

“Not necessarily about the politics of their newly-adopted country? I don't write this outright, but I think there's a double accommodation that should happen: on the part of the US government, which should understand that loyalties to different places are easier to maintain nowadays, and on the part of the Filipino immigrant community, which should understand that citizenship does entail certain responsibilities to one's new country."

Vergara moved to the US in 1990 with his family and relatives all the way from his beloved hometown in Los Baňos, Laguna. He finished high school at the University of the Philippines Rural High School in Los Baňos. He graduated from UPLB with a Communication Arts degree with his thesis centered on writer and author F. Sionil Jose.

He took his MA in Asian Studies and Ph.D. in Anthropology both from Cornell University. He now lives in the East Bay, a sub region of the San Francisco Bay Area.

Vergara said he missed the Philippines that when he was researching for his book, he couldn’t help but relate to his interviewees, especially when he asked them of what they are nostalgic about their home country.

“Pinoy Capital: The Filipino Nation in Daly City" is now available online through Amazon.Com or through Temple University Press website at www.temple.edu.

Vergara is scheduled for another book talk on April 4, 3:30 p.m. at the Eastwind Books in Berkeley, a city considered to be another center of academic achievement in California. - GMANews.TV

DOLE assures help for RP seamen facing layoffs

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Labor and Employment will help Filipino seamen who could be affected by the possible massive layoffs in the global seafaring industry.

About 40,000 seamen on board Japanese vessels are currently in danger of losing their jobs because container ships, car carriers, and product transport ships have been cutting down on their cargoes due to the slump in international trade.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said Filipino seafarers should not worry because the government is closely coordinating with the Japanese government about the matter.

“That was what we went to Japan for, to plead upon the Japanese ship owners that our seafarers should be kept on board as long as possible," he told GMA News in an interview.

In fact, the Philippines has already entered into an agreement with Japan’s transport ministry to provide trainings that will upgrade the skills to Filipino seamen.

“This will enable us to develop our seafarers particularly as vessel officers who are in short supply and badly needed by the international seafaring industry," said Roque.

If layoffs cannot be avoided, the government will ensure that Filipino seafarers get the necessary assistance, according to the DOLE secretary.

“If in case ‘di maiwasan ang [If in case we cannot avoid the] temporary reduction in crew, they will be provided assistance in the form of livelihood tsaka [and] training," he said.

Roque earlier said that Japanese ship owners were hinting at the possibility of using the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority as well as the Malalad Bay in Davao as lay up centers for Japanese vessels.

He said that being one of the closest neighbors of Japan, the Philippines is a cost-efficient area for Japanese ship owners to dock their vessels until a strong demand for shipping cargo returns.

He added that Japan is also eyeing the Philippines as a ship-breaking port, where old ships could be dismantled and scrap metal from the vessels sold.

There are more than 3,000 Japanese vessels plying international waters – about 70 percent of which are manned by Filipinos. - GMANews.TV

Lebanese consul welcomes possible lifting of OFW deployment ban

MANILA, Philippines - The honorary consul general of Lebanon to the Philippines on Friday welcomed the possible lifting of the deployment ban to the Mideast country by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“This is a positive step in the normalization and improvement of relations between Lebanon and the Philippines," said Consul Joseph Assad in a statement sent to the media.

He said this will “perk up" relations between the two countries because it will remove the “barrier" that has prevented thousands of Filipinos from working in Lebanon – which he said was a waste because his country is experiencing an “economic boom."

The government stopped sending Filipino workers to the Mideastern state in 2006 when violence between Hezbollah and Israeli forces escalated.

At that time, some 6,000 Filipino workers – many of them undocumented, were repatriated to the Philippines. Some 26,000 opted to stay out of fear of losing their jobs or because they were not allowed by their employers to leave.

However, Assad claimed that almost 43,861 Filipinos still entered Lebanon since August 2006.

He said that about 25,000 Filipino domestic helpers refused to be evacuated and are now working in restaurants and offices in Beirut as waitresses and secretaries – many of whom receive $600 to $800 or P28,000 to P29,000 salaries every month.

The consul said that the lifting of the ban will be a big help to the many undocumented overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Lebanon.

“The government’s proposal to lift the deployment ban to Lebanon will help undocumented Filipinos now working in Lebanon to be registered as Overseas Workers Welfare Administration members and … avail of the welfare and protection benefits as documented OFWs," he said.

With this, he said they might finally be given insurance, PhilHealth coverage, and benefits including burial assistance.

“It will [also] give Philippine Overseas Employment Administration a clear picture [of] how many OFWs are working in those areas to avoid speculation on the actual numbers of OFWs inside Iraq and Lebanon," he said.

The DOLE has said that it is in no rush to allow the re-entry of Filipino household service workers (HSWs) to Lebanon unless authorities could safeguard the welfare of OFWs.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said in a previous interview with GMANews.TV that they cannot decide on the matter until a decision has been finalized on the amendments they have proposed.

He said they have already sent out a draft of a memorandum of understanding to their counterparts in Lebanon as a condition for the redeployment of Filipino HSWs.

The DFA has also followed up this cooperation between the two countries, with Ambassador Gilberto Asuque calling on Lebanese Labor Minister Mohammad Fneish to discuss the matter.

“Ambassador Asuque presented copies of the Philippine proposal for a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) on Labor Cooperation between the Philippines and Lebanon with the Protocol on the Deployment of Filipino Household Service Workers," said the DFA.

The same proposal has been earlier submitted to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Emigrants for consideration by the Lebanese government.
Aside from Lebanon, the Philippines stopped sending workers to Afghanistan, Iraq, Jordan, and Nigeria. - GMANews.TV

Friday, March 20, 2009

OFW money may drop, cutting country's growth

MANILA, Philippines - Money sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) may drop by as much as a third this year, cutting consumption demand and compromising the country’s growth goals.

Remittances may decline to $11.4 billion for 2009, Citibank said during its Asia-Pacific market analysis held on Thursday. The cited figure is approximately 30 percent lower than 2008’s $16.4 billion.

Lower remittances may compromise the country’s economic growth targets since funds from OFWs boost demand for products ranging from cellphones to condominiums.

The “global supply" of OFWs may diminish, Citi analyst Jun Trinidad said in his report.

New hires and rehires were seen to decline by anywhere from 37 to 51 percent as the crisis cuts demand for labor in foreign shores, he said, adding that OFW deployment may fall to an eight-year low.

In 2001, only 800,000 secured jobs abroad.

Currently, 8.7 million Filipinos work abroad. Besides accounting for ten percent of the Philippines’ total population, OFWs also constitute 24.2 percent of the country’s labor force, as of 2007.

Moreover, if OFW earnings are cut by 15 percent – a move that is seen to preserve jobs – remittances would plunge to as low as $11.4 billion this year.

As a result, the lack of OFW dollar inflows may increase the budget deficit to three percent of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), an amount equal to anywhere from P229 billion to P238 billion, Trinidad said.

“Whether the government would be in the position to cut spending and prioritize fiscal deficit containment rather than growth would be the difficult policy choice to make," Trinidad said.

Moreover, Trinidad said that the “stock" of working Filipinos abroad than the flow of foreign-bound Filipino workers would determine the foregone opportunity for remittances.

“It has always been the rising stock of Filipino workers abroad that is largely responsible for the strong remittance inflows over the past years," Trinidad said. - GMANews.TV

Recruiters seek changes in Saudi 'UC' policy

MANILA, Philippines - Local recruiters have proposed some amendments to Saudi Arabia’s contested “unified contract" policy, with an appeal to the Philippine government to push for its adoption.

“If it cannot be totally stopped, perhaps it could be tempered in a way that won’t be disadvantageous to Filipino workers, service providers and the Philippine economy as a whole," said Victor Fernandez Jr., president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc. (Pasei).

Fernandez earlier warned that the Philippine government’s inaction on the impending implementation of the contract could lead to the local overseas recruitment industry being placed under the control of the Saudi National Recruitment Committee (Sanarcom).

Under the existing system, Philippine recruitment agencies deal directly with Saudi employers. But if the “unified contract" scheme prevails, local recruitment firms will have to deal with a Saudi recruitment agency that is a member of the Sanarcom.

Fernandez said it is not just the recruitment agencies who would be “adversely affected" by the scheme.

He said it could lead to more cases of “contract substitution," a prevailing practice by employers in the Middle East by which the contracts of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are replaced with disadvantageous ones that have not been scrutinized by Philippine officials.

Under the contract, a Filipino worker cannot seek the help of the Philippine labor representative and would not be allowed to avail of the services of mediators or any parties in settling disputes or disagreements with their employers.

In addition, if the unified contract is accepted, Sanarcom will do the verification of the worker’s contract and it would not need to go through the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLO).

“This is highly objectionable to us as Sanarcom is not a government body, but an association of private recruitment companies. The unified contract is seeking to create a middleman between the worker and the employer and puts into place a brokering system, which is unacceptable," said Fernandez.

Pasei’s proposal that it has submitted to the government panel dealing with the Sanarcom group hopes to address the above concerns.

The salient points of the proposed amendments include:

• A Filipino worker shall not reject any work or run away as long as he or she is treated “humanely and properly, is not oppressed or exploited, receives just wages regularly and on time, is not abused and not harmed in any way."

• The Saudi recruitment agency shall pay the local manning agency a recruitment fee equivalent to one month salary of the worker and $250 for processing and documentation. It will also pay for all air fare, training, trade tests and assessment fees of the worker – without deducting anything from him or her.

• The transportation, salary, benefits, work conditions, and employment terms of the worker shall be based on the offer of the client but must also be in accordance with Philippine laws, codes, rules, and regulations.

• The work contract shall be one that was approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) duly attested by the Philippine Consulate or Embassy and shall not be substituted with any other contract nor amended without the approval of the local recruitment firm.

• The Philippine manning agency shall not shoulder the deportation of the worker who rejected work for no reason or who ran away from his or her employer because of unjust treatment.

• If there are any reports of rejection of work or runaways, they shall be resolved with help from the Philippine government.

• The local manpower firm shall inform the worker recruited of the actual situation of his or her potential workplace – regulations, rules, living conditions, weather conditions, and the offer presented by the client including the salary and benefits, if any.

• Both the Philippine and Saudi agency shall agree to abide by the POEA rules and regulations governing the recruitment and employment of land-based overseas workers.

• The Saudi agency shall provide the worker with copies of the documents such as the employment contract, passport, labor permit, residency permit, insurance coverage, driving license (if needed), and shall assist him or her by giving advise (if requested).

• The contract shall be valid for one year and shall be automatically renewed unless one party has no desire to do so.

• The terms and conditions mentioned in the contract shall be covered by Philippine laws, with any dispute regarding it to be resolved in a Philippine court.

• The contract shall be stated in English and will have an Arabic translation.

This proposal, which is still considered a working draft, is currently being tackled as of posting time during a multi-stakeholders meeting attended by representatives from the POEA, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Congress, and industry leaders.

Meanwhile, Pasei told GMANews.TV in an e-mail on Wednesday that the Sanarcom delegation was in the Philippines last January 21.

During that time, the DOLE and POEA hosted a meeting between the Sanarcom and Philippine representatives at the Casa Marinero in Intramuros, Manila where individual provisions of the “unified contract" were discussed and debated.

But since the Philippine delegation raised too many issues and concerns that both parties failed to resolve during the meeting, the country was given 60 days (
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