Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Memorial plaque for 956 Ondoy-Pepeng dead unveiled in Australia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US-based media groups raise funds for slain journalist

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

OFWs based in Dubai to lose bonus, not jobs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Japan hails Pinay researcher's work on agriculture

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 illegitimate Pinoy kids from Kuwait return to RP

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

‘Christmas in Somalia likely for 71 kidnapped RP seafarers’


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

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

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

Hijacked ships in Somalia with Filipino seafarers on them

Win Far 161 - Hijacked on April 6 with 17 Filipinos.

MV Charelle- Hijacked on June 13 with 3 Filipinos.

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

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

MV Delvina - Hijacked on November 5 with 14 Filipinos.

MV Filitsa – Hijacked on November 11 with 19 Filipinos

MV Maran Centaurus – Hijacked November 29 with 16 Filipinos

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Arroyo names Congress ally as envoy to Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other appointments included:

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

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

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

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

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

UAE court upholds Pinoy accountant's jail term

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

US journalists raise funds for kin of slain RP mediamen

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

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

We must never forget their courage and willingness to risk their lives to get their stories to the public.
– Allen Rafalson, president of the Chicago Journalists Association

Meanwhile, the Chicago Journalists Association will hold a brief ceremony for the slain journalists at their upcoming 71st annual dinner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Model OFW families: Pinoys who invest remittances wisely

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ensuring OFWs' welfare to help boost economy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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