Monday, November 29, 2010

OFWs may lose Taiwan jobs as firms buck mandatory insurance – recruiters

Criticism against the compulsory insurance policy of the Philippine government for overseas Filipino workers continue to mount, with Taiwanese employers also threatening a moratorium on hiring Filipino workers unless the policy is scrapped.

The Pilipino Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan Inc. (PILMAT) said companies in Taiwan have threatened to cancel some 50,000 job orders for Filipinos next year and instead source workers from other countries, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, if the government insists on implementing the policy.

“With the imposition of this insurance scheme, we will lose our competitiveness in the labor market," PILMAT president Jackson Gan said.

Gan said Taiwanese companies have expressed “strong opposition" to the policy, as labor laws in the island already mandate insurance coverage for contract workers.

According to Gan, Taiwan’s labor laws mandate personal insurance for contract workers, with coverage amounting to $800,000 NT dollars or about P1.2 million, and group insurance covering all workers in the facility.

“This is definitely superior to the insurance coverage under the (Philippine) law," Gan maintained.

The compulsory insurance coverage, under Republic Act 10022 which took effect on November 8, requires employers or recruiters to secure a two-year policy coverage for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) amounting to a fixed rate of US$144, on top of the premiums.

The policy includes benefits of $15,000 in case of accidental death; $10,000 in case of natural death; and $7,500 in case of permanent disablement, including repatriation costs, subsistence allowance benefit, money claims, compassionate visit, medical evacuation and medical repatriation.

A certificate of cover provided by an insurance company that is licensed and certified by the Insurance Commission is now required before the issuance of overseas employment certificate or exit clearance of agency-hired overseas workers.

Hong Kong-based news sites earlier reported some 100 employers have canceled contracts for Filipino domestic helpers to protest the new law, as households already shell out about HK$900 every two years for foreign domestic workers’ insurance as mandated by the region’s laws.

Amid issues with the new law, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) maintained it is merely implementing the law, and that it will have to consult Congress about exempting Hong Kong and Taiwan from the law.

POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili added that while it recognizes that some countries or destinations provide insurance policies for OFWs, these do not cover all risks required under Republic Act 10022.

Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani, however, said Taiwan and Hong Kong offer better insurance coverage to workers with higher death benefits.

He added some employers in Hong Kong also offer their workers a comprehensive insurance package, which includes medical benefits.

Geslani warned that the country stands to lose some 80,000 jobs in Taiwan and Hong Kong if the POEA insists on implementing the new policy.

Manalili earlier said the POEA has already asked Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz to “immediately" convene the inter-agency committee on insurance to discuss the issues in implementing the compulsory insurance.

Records from the POEA show over 280,000 Filipino workers were deployed to Taiwan in the last seven years, most of whom are caregivers and workers in the electronic and manufacturing factories.

As of December 2009, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas has recorded over 90,000 Filipinos in Taiwan, whose remittances have reached over US$91 million in 2009. – Jerry M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Baldoz, Binay to discuss mandatory OFW insurance

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz will meet with Vice President Jejomar Binay to thresh out the problem involving mandatory insurance for overseas Filipino workers.

Baldoz said the meeting will be held this week, where she will update Binay on the implementation of the mandatory insurance, and get his inputs on the matter.

“I will be meeting with the Vice President this week. One of the agenda will be to provide him an update on what’s happening in the implementation of the mandatory insurance for overseas Filipino workers," she said in an article posted on the government portal.

Baldoz said she asked for the meeting, and will bring her officials including Undersecretary Hans Leo Cacdac instead of Undersecretary Danilo Cruz, who is attending the Global Forum on Migration and Development in South America.

She said she will also bring with her the heads of the various Labor agencies involved in the implementation of the mandatory insurance for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), including Philippine Overseas Employment Administration head Jennifer Manalili and National Labor Relations Commission chairman Jose Nograles.

“I will also invite to the meeting the heads of the Insurance Commission," she said.

The mandatory insurance for OFWs is a key provision of RA 10022, the amendatory legislation to the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

It mandates that every departing newly-hired OFW processed through an agency be covered by insurance to cover for accidental death; natural death; permanent total disability; repatriation cost of worker; subsistence allowance benefit; money claims arising from the employer’s liability; compassionate visit; medical evaluation; and medical repatriation.

The mandatory insurance is to be paid for by the overseas recruitment agency and it should not be charged against the worker.

But many foreign employers are opposing this, including those from Hong Kong and Taiwan.

Even recruitment agencies in the Philippines voiced concerns this will result in fewer job orders and the termination of employment of OFWs, and asked for exemption from the new law.

Baldoz said one aim of the meeting with Binay is to look into the nature and extent of the complaints against the insurance.

The POEA, which implements the insurance, had explained though that it has no discretion to deviate from the law.

“With the law already in effect, the POEA is under obligation to implement the provision of RA 10022 on mandatory insurance cover for agency-hired workers leaving the country for the first time or those under new contracts for employment," Manalili had said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

DOLE drawing up list of undocumented OFWs in Korea

As the tension in Korea is still high, Philippine labor officials are drawing up a list of undocumented Filipino workers there who may need assistance if the situation worsens.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said they have coordinated with the Filipino community in Korea to locate these undocumented workers, radio dzBB’s Carlo Mateo reported Friday.

According to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), there are 50,000 to 60,000 Filipino workers in Korea, Baldoz said.

On Thursday, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. had said their records as of December 2009 show there are 50,270 Filipinos in Korea.

Tension in Korea is expected to rise further this weekend when the United States and South Korea engage in joint military exercises.

The exercises stemmed from North Korea’s artillery attack on South Korea earlier this week.

P25-M fund for OFWs in Korea

On Thursday, Baldoz said labor officials have readied P25 million for overseas Filipino workers based in South Korea in case of any contingency.

She said her department also ready to augment the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and welfare office personnel if needed.

“The (Overseas Workers Welfare Administration) Board of Trustees has initially set aside P25 million ready to be used for any contingency involving our OFWs in South Korea," she said in a statement posted on the DOLE website on Thursday.

Baldoz added that the DOLE is also ready to augment POLO and welfare office personnel in Seoul if there is a need.

Baldoz reassured the OFWs’ families their loved ones are “safe and all right" amid news of the skirmish between North and South Korea military forces.

Baldoz said the POLO in Seoul headed by Labor Attaché Felicitas Bay has reported the Philippine Embassy is coordinating with Filipino community leaders.

“As members of the Crisis Management Team under the Contingency Plan, our POLO and welfare officers are closely working with and following the lead of the Philippine embassy in this regard. The DOLE, through the International Labor Affairs Bureau, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, is closely monitoring the situation," she said. – VVP, GMANews.TV

More than 25% of recorded HIV patients in PHL are OFWs

More than 25 percent of the recorded Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)-positive patients in the Philippines are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said.

In a statement issued on Monday, the TUCP said out of the 5,729 HIV-positive cases listed in the National AIDS Registry since 1984 up to the end of October this year, 1,501 cases are OFWs. The country's first case of HIV was recorded in 1984.

In October, 104 HIV-positive cases were reported. Twenty cases involved OFWs, and the median age of the HIV-positive OFWs was 36.

"This is very unfortunate because at 36 years old, they are at the prime of their lives and productivity," said TUCP secretary general and former Senator Ernesto Herrerra.



Out of the total number of HIV cases among OFWs, about 75 percent of the infected patients (or 1,127 persons) are males.

Around 96 percent of the HIV-positive OFWs were infected through sexual contact.

Herrera said the figures underscore the need for government to aggressively encourage safe sex through the use of male and female condoms.

"OFWs are particularly vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases because they are exposed to foreign cultures that tend to abet high-risk behavior, including casual sex," he said.

He also said among OFWs, Filipino sailors are exceptionally susceptible, after spending lengthy periods at sea.

"Sailors are often deluged by commercial sex workers at their foreign ports of call, and they have the money to pay for the services," he said.

TUCP urged two government agencies — the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) — to include AIDS preventive education in its free seminars for departing workers.

TUCP also urged the two agencies to invest in AIDS awareness activities for OFWs and their families.

HIV cases rising in PHL

The Department of Health (DOH) is alarmed at the number of HIV cases in the country, especially because more than 50 percent of the cases recorded belong to the age bracket 20-29 years old.

In the first 10 months of this year, 1,305 cases reported, a spike from last year's 800 cases.

In the Philippines, the most common type of sexual transmission is through men having sex with men (MSM), which account for 80 percent of all HIV cases in the country.

The DOH said it is highly likely that more cases are left unreported because HIV patients are afraid to come out and seek treatment.

The health department assured that HIV testing and counseling facilities around the country offer confidential services and emotional support for HIV-positive patients.

Reports of contaminated donated blood

Meanwhile, the DOH is looking into the reported contamination of donated bloods in the country’s blood banks, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said on Monday.

“It's important that have a safe and secure blood bank for us to use. Pag-aaralan iyan at pagtutuunan ng pansin ni (Health) Secretary (Enrique) Ona iyang problem sa HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) contaminated blood," he said.

He said the DOH is determining how the contaminated blood were collected and why they were kept in blood banks.

“The DOH will undertake the necessary actions to protect the bloodbanks," Lacierda said.

LPGMA (Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association) Party-list Representative Arnel Ty said around 124 units of donated blood were found with HIV by the National Voluntary Blood Safety Program, which monitors the purity of donated blood in the country.

The Research Institute for Tropical Medicine confirmed the findings.
— Candice Montenegro, VVP, GMANews.TV

Foreign firms in Algeria on the prowl for OFWs

Foreign companies with projects in Algeria continue to prefer overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), saying they intend to employ more people for construction and oil and gas projects.

At least three companies intend to hire more OFWs for various projects in Algeria, according a release by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

The release is based on a report by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Tripoli, Libya.

Labor Attaché Nasser Mustafa said he conducted site verification and ocular inspection of Algeria-based companies COJAAL, Samsung, and Doodsal and found that work conditions in the companies’ sites are “satisfactory."

He also met with the management of MITAC, the Japanese firm which built a 220-km road project with the Algerian National Agency for Highways.

The road project was clinched through COJAAL, a consortium of five Japanese companies including Kajima, Taichi, Nishimachu, Hajana, and Ituchu.

Mustafa said that COJAAL is now starting the construction of another 17-kilometer superhighway to connect Annabah to the Tunisian border.

Most MITAC-COJAAL workers that completed the 220-km Constantine project have been transferred to Camp 7, a project site which has two satellite work sites that need more highly skilled workers, he added.

At COJAAL Satellite No. 3, Mustafa personally saw the working and living conditions of the Filipino workers. “The OFWs there were highly regarded by the COJAAL management as evidenced by the ‘zero’ complaints as to date," he said.

Food and accommodation in the satellite site were not only suitable but also adequate. Each room has four beds, with the building having common entertainment and several comfort rooms, the labor attaché said.

The whole camp also has wireless Internet access, allowing workers to communicate with their families back home.

The labor attaché said that the workers are satisfied with the company’s remittance system, as pay is guaranteed every 16th of the succeeding month and their money being sent in three methods:



Money sent 100 percent to an account of the worker’s spouse or family in the Philippines


Money sent to two separate Philippine accounts — worker’s and spouse’s/family’s — with the worker deciding on how much is placed in each


Not more than 20 percent of OFW's salary retained in Algeria and the rest remitted to the Philippines.


Mustafa said in all instances, the company shoulders whatever charges these transactions involve.

Meanwhile, Mustafa reported that more than 400 OFWs are at COJAAL Satellite No. 2.

In a dialogue with the workers, Mustafa said the questions raised were mainly about the workers’ deploying agencies: HRD, Camox Philippines, Asia Contract, and WERR.

It was discovered that 20 WERR-deployed OFWs were not verified by POLO.

Mustafa said the transfer of COJAAL workers deployed by Asia Contract to a different client was a concern among other OFWs, as the transfer might entail several immigration documents that may delay repatriation back to the Philippines when those workers finish their contracts.

Mustafa also inspected Samsung Co. Ltd., the Korean company which won a contract to build a $5-billion “liquid and gas project" (L&G) at Schikda.

Samsung’s general manager said the company plans to hire an initial 20 professional and highly skilled oil and gas workers, Mustafa said.

The labor attaché said that India-based Doodsal Co. is also involved in Algeria’s L&G project, particularly in Schikda, and currently employs more than 100 Filipinos.

In his meeting with the human resource manager of Doodsal, Mustafa said he mentioned that the workers’ were concerned that the Algerian Labor Law does not offer end-of-service benefits or gratuities to foreign workers who have completed their contracts, unlike in many Middle East countries.

In 2009, there were some 3,200 Filipino workers deployed in Algeria, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration records showed.

But the Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimated there were about 4,900 Filipinos in the North African country as of December 2009. — VS, GMANews.TV

No sign of panic among Pinoy students in SKorea

Some Filipino students in South Korea do not seem to mind the tension in the Korean peninsula caused by last week’s artillery attack by North Korea on a small South Korean island, Sen. Edgardo Angara, who is in Seoul, said on Monday.

“I was surprised that when I arrived here there was no sign of panic, contrary to what is being reported in the Philippines," said Angara in a statement.

Angara, chairman of the Senate education committee, met with 82 Filipino scholars in Seoul last Saturday to assure them that the Philippine government is closely monitoring the situation there.

Angara was in South Korea as a keynote speaker at the Korea-Philippines Multi-Industry Cluster (MIC) Development Cooperation Forum held last Sunday. He and Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri went there on Wednesday, a day after North Korea’s attack.

Four South Koreans, two of them civilians, died after Pyongyang rained artillery on the small Yellow Sea island of Yeonpyeong, which is home to both fishing communities and military bases.

Despite the increasing tension, Angara told the Filipino scholars to continue with their studies. “Learn as much as you can and bring that knowledge home so that you can help raise the living standards of our people," he said.

“Your scholarship is a rare opportunity and a concrete result of our friendship with South Korea. It’s a chance to be part of something that can help improve your home country and build a better society," he added.

Angara said that there are currently more than 400 Filipino students in Korea, mostly majoring in Science and Technology, Wireless and Information Technology, International Relations, Business Administration, and Policy Development at Seoul National University, Korea National University, Catholic University of Korea, EHWA, Hannam, Kyungpook, Korea Aero Space University, Sogang University, MJU, Trinity Graduate School, HUFS, Myongji, KFRI, ITCC, Sungkyungkwan, Kongku, and Dengguk University.

On the other hand, labor officials said there are around 50,000 to 60,000 Filipino workers in Korea. Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said this aside from the 11,000 illegal or undocumented Filipinos there.

The Philippine government has for the meantime suspended the deployment of Filipino workers to Korea while awaiting the assessment of the inter-agency committee studying the situation in the region.

Baldoz clarified that the suspension would only be in effect until December 7. She said they have readied P25 million for overseas Filipino workers based in South Korea in case of any contingency.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr. said labor records indicate some 1,000 Filipino workers were due to be deployed to Korea up to December. - KBK, GMANews.TV

DFA: Six Filipinos killed, 21 others hurt in Japan bus accident

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said six Filipinos died and 21 others were hurt in a road accident in Japan over the weekend.

According to the DFA website, the Philippine Consulate General in Osaka reported that 12 slightly injured Filipinos who figured in a road accident in Kameyama City, Mie Prefecture were discharged from the hospital.

The minibus driver, a Japanese citizen, was among the injured.

Nine other seriously injured Filipinos remain confined in six different hospitals, the DFA said.

The Filipinos, including one naturalized Japanese citizen, were on the way to work at the Sharp Kameyama facility.

The victims' minibus collided with a truck at an intersection at about 7:45 a.m. on Sunday.

Six passengers died in the accident. In a report by radio dzBB's Nimfa Ravelo, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration head Carmelita Dimzon identified the six fatalities as:


Randy Bayron Cornel

Alma Dula Adarlo

Remedios Bertoldo Cargullo

Ceferino Salengua Pedro Jr.

Mabini Bangi Paler III

Analou Pater Dogami

Philippine Consul General Maria Lourdes Lopez said five of the Filipinos died immediately, while the other died on the way to the hospital.

The victims were heading to a liquid crystal panel factory in the city when they met the accident.

Assistance for the victims

According to the DFA, the injured Filipinos are now in the hospital receiving treatment and are being assisted by Consulate General staff members.

Lopez is in contact with the local authorities in Mie Prefecture.

"The Consulate General is extending its full assistance to the victims and their families, and is coordinating with the DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs for the repatriation of their remains and the extension of other assistance," the DFA said.

Citing initial reports, the DFA said the minibus was going through the intersection when it collided with the truck.

Police arrested the truck driver, Takao Moriwaki, 45, who was required to stop at the crossroad. — RSJ/VVP, GMANews.TV

Honest immigration officer returns $10K to Canada-bound Filipino

Overcoming the temptation to use the money for his cancer-stricken mother's hospital bills, an airport immigration officer returned the $10,000 left on his desk by a Canada-bound Filipino passenger.

Immigration officer Amando Amisola admitted in a radio interview Monday he was tempted to keep the money but eventually decided he had to do the right thing.

"Honestly naalala ko mother ko na Stage-4 cancer itatakbo that morning sa hospital. Kalalabas lang sa PGH kaya lang naghihingalo na. Pinakita ko sa kasamahan ko, parang sinasadya ng tadhana, parang pagsubok. Naisip ko di akin yan kaya isauli ko sa may-ari," Amisola, 37, said in an interview on dzBB radio.

(Honestly I thought of my mother who is suffering from Stage-4 cancer. She was to be rushed to the hospital that day. I showed the envelope with the $10,000 to my work colleagues and remarked fate must be testing me. But in the end I decided the money was not mine, so I decided to return it.)

Amisola said the incident occurred on Saturday when Patricio Francisco accidentally left behind a brown envelope containing some documents and $10,000.

Francisco and his family were heading for Canada to start a new life there. Amisola said Francisco was overjoyed to see the money returned to him.

Amisola said he knew he would not be able to pay for his mother Rosita's hospital bills but he was sure she would be happy because he did the right thing.

He said his mother is suffering from ovary cancer and had been brought out of the Intensive Care Unit at the University of Santo Tomas Hospital in Manila because his family could not afford to pay the hospital bills.

She had been moved to an isolation room, he said.

"Masaya siya sa ginawa ko dahil tama ang ginawa ko ... Marunong po ang Diyos (My mother would be happy because I did the right thing. I know God will provide)," he said. – VVP, GMANews.TV

ZOTO-ADOC Blog Competition

Last October 11, 2010, the APEC Digital Opportunity Center (ADOC) Secretariat in Chinese Taipei announced the country champions for the first round of the ADOC 2.0 blog competition. In the Philippines, the Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo Organization (SM-ZOTO) was declared country champion besting 6 other teams in the process.

The Samahan ng Mamamyan – Zone One Tondo Organization is the oldest urban poor federation in the country today. It is composed of 646 local urban poor organizations with 32,777 members working within 28 relocation sites in Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

It envisions a society of economically and politically empowered citizens who are accorded their due dignity, who foster gender equality and democracy and live in a healthy and bountiful environment.

One of its programs, the computer literacy program under the children and young people’s program, is being supported by ADOC. As an ADOC supported organization, it is eligible to join the ADOC 2.0 blog competition.

The ADOC 2.0 blog competition is a process of searching for stories of people who underwent ICT related trainings and graduated from an ADOC sponsored center. An ADOC sponsored center is built on the main objective of ADOC 1.0 and 2.0 projects that is to reduce digital divides in the APEC region by enabling people to overcome technological limitations due to age, gender, health, social or education status, and to enjoy the 4A (anytime, anyone, anywhere, anything) benefits of the digitalization.

In the different centers, a wide range of ICT training programs are being provided, tailored to the needs of partner economies and focused on the disadvantaged groups in remote areas, including women and children.

The blog competition features and highlights stories of people who became involved and are now using their new found knowledge and skills to make a difference in their lives, to better their situation.

In choosing the country champions, ADOC 2.0 Secretariat used 3 indicators. The first indicator being the number of successful stories submitted by the competing center, next is the number of successful stories submitted by the competing center and last is the total points of on-line voter’s opinion.

Being declared as a country champion, the Samahan ng Mamamayan – Zone One Tondo Organization (SM-ZOTO) is now competing at the international level. In the international level, 8 Participating Member Economies (PME) or countries are competing and these include Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Mexico, Peru, Chile and the Philippines.

To be declared as the final winner of the competition, each PME blog entry will be evaluated through (1) Online Voting 50%; (2) Press Promotion 20%; (3) ADOC Secretariat Auditing Meeting 30%. With these, SM-ZOTO as the Philippines’ country representative is in need of the support of all. To vote, go to www.apecdoc.org, register and go to the page on blog competition.

The prizes from the competition will be utilized as part of the expansion of the computer literacy program of the organization. The expansion will cater to those urban poor communities in relocation sites such as Towerville in San Jose Del Monte City, Bulacan and those victimized by the Typhoon Ondoy last 26th of September 2009 and the Navotas Fire last 26th of August 2010.

Also, it will be used not only to expand the program but to expand the courses offered as well. One of the courses intended to be developed are on e-Commerce. This way, community produced like vegetables, fruits and other products can be marketed locally and globally through on-line technology. This is on the lines of urban poor communities in relocation sites are trying to developed alternative means of “putting food on the table” and embarking on social enterprises while doing so. Example of such is the backyard/ herbal garden being piloted in Towerville.

Another expansion is on developing a course tailor made for the needs of OFWs, displaced workers and those up for employment. In bridging the digital divide, it is important to connect people and to make technology work for them especially that these people are the backbone of our economy. Capacitating them increases economic chances for recovery.

We are encouraging everyone to cast their votes and join in the triumph of bridging the digital divide! But more than helping the organization through your votes, we do hope that you will be inspired by the stories of the real people who took part in the program and whose lives have been changed.

CBCP to Vatican: On RH issue, laypeople defend the Catholic faith

Philippine bishops, leaders of the world's third largest Catholic Church, told the Vatican that Filipino laypeople have been defending the faith on crucial issues such as reproductive health.

Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) president and Tandag Bishop Nereo Odchimar mentioned this in an interview with Vatican Radio in Rome last week.

Nearly 100 Catholic bishops are visiting Rome in three batches from November 25 this year to March 5 next year, for their "ad limina visit."

The "quinquennial visit ad limina apostolorum" or simply "ad limina visit" refers to the obligation of diocesan bishops to visit every five years the tombs of the Apostles, Saints Peter and Paul.

The bishops also have to meet the Pope and report on the state of their dioceses or prelatures.

According to the news site Zenit, Odchimar spoke with Vatican Radio about the priority issues that Catholic bishops are facing in the Philippines.

With an estimated 73 million Catholics, the Philippines has the world's third largest Catholic Church, after Brazil and Mexico.

Zenit reported that Odchimar spoke about Filipino laypeople defending the Catholic faith which is being attacked in the media, especially on the reproductive health (RH) issue.

Odchimar mentioned doctors "who explain the limits of the arguments in favor of the law on reproductive health from a scientific and juridical point of view, who defend the position of the Church in favor of life."

"In our parishes we are promoting programs that support the family and we have lay organizers committed to educating ordinary people on natural methods of birth control," the bishop added.

Odchimar said "there are people who, especially through the media, support the promotion of artificial birth control. Our episcopal conference is committed to making known the position of the Catholic Church."

He said Philippine bishops give special attention to the family "to protect it from the danger of fragmentation, which occurs given intense emigration and attacks coming from phenomena such as abortion, divorce and consumerist models of life."

Ecumenism

Aside from the RH issue, the Catholic Church faces challenges from non-Catholics who come to the Philippines to "proselytize" or convert to their faith, Odchimar said.

He said the CBCP has established a commission for ecumenism to dialogue with non-Catholic Christians.

"We work together," he said, "especially on social issues as, for example, agrarian reform."

First batch of bishops

The first batch of bishops, which includes Archbishops Gaudencio Rosales (Manila) and Ricardo Vidal (Cebu), are in Rome from November 25 to December 6.

It will be the bishops’ first “ad limina" visit to Pope Benedict XVI. The Philippine bishops’ last “ad limina" took place in 2003, the CBCP said.

A practice since the 1500s

The ad limina visit has been an official practice of Catholic bishops since the 1500s.

In 1585, Pope Sixtus V issued the "Constitution Romanus Pontifex," which specified the norm for the ad limina visits.

On December 31, 1909, in a "Decree for the Consistorial Congregation," Pope Pius X stated that a bishop needs to report to the pope on the state of his diocese once every five years, starting in 1911.

Three batches of bishops

The bishops who will go to Rome have been divided into three groups:

(1) Prelates from 30 pastoral jurisdictions in Metro Manila and Central and Northern Luzon; scheduled to stay at the Vatican from November 25 to December 6 this year;

(2) Bishops from the 28 dioceses in Southern Luzon, Visayas and the Military Ordinariate; will visit the Vatican from February 7 to 19, 2011.

(3) Bishops from Mindanao including the Archbishop of Lipa; February 21 to March 5, 2011.

RH bill 96

Several versions of the RH bill have been filed in previous congresses in the Philippines. In the present Congress, the RH bill is known as "Bill 96" whose main proponent is Minority Leader Edcel Lagman of Albay.

The RH is based on the premise that the country's population growth impedes economic development and exacerbates poverty.

The bill seeks to “guarantee to universal access to medically-safe, legal, affordable and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information."

The bill also seeks a “consistent and coherent national population policy," citing studies that show that "rapid population growth exacerbates poverty while poverty spawns rapid population growth."

Catholic Church's "champ" vs artificial contraception

Meanwhile, Sarangani Rep. Emmanuel “Manny" Pacquiao has become the Catholic bishops' new champion against artificial contraception.

Pacquiao received praise from retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz for remaining firm on his stand against artificial contraception.

On November 22, Pacquiao issued a statement sayign he is for natural family planning, particularly abstinence.

In that interview, Pacquiao urged couples to control their sexual urges because condoms and abortions are sinful.

Aside from the recent victory over Margarito, Pacquiao had won the World Boxing Council (WBC) Flyweight Champion in 1998-1999; International Boxing Federation (IBF) Super Bantamweight Champion in 2001-2004; RING Featherweight Champion in 2003-2005; WBC and RING Super Featherweight Champion in 2008; and WBC Lightweight Champion, 2008-2009.

He is also the current champion of the International Boxing Organization (IBO) and RING Junior Welterweight Champion as well as in the World Boxing Organization, and reigning World Boxing Organization (WBO) Welterweight Champion.
– VVP, GMANews.TV
Certification requirement of host countries for OFW deployment suspended11/29/2010 | 06:57 PM

Share3 Vice President Jejomar Binay has suspended for 60 days the implementation of the required certification of host countries for the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

A statement posted on the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) website quoted Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on OFW concerns, as saying that the suspension was to allow for ample time to assess compliance of host countries with the new Philippine law on migrant workers.

The newly amended Republic Act 10022 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos’ Act of 1995 seeks to intensify protection for OFWs by deploying them in migrant-friendly countries.

The statement said that in a meeting of the POEA Governing Board that was attended by Binay last week, both the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) agreed to extend the 90-day and 120-day certification periods to give more time to assess if host countries are able to comply with the requirements of the amended RA 10022.

Under the amended law, Philippine embassies will make a survey to certify if the rights of migrant workers are protected in countries under their jurisdiction. The DFA then issues a certification that the host country meets the criteria set by the law for the deployment of OFWs.

The criteria for the survey are:

- if the receiving country has existing labor and social laws protecting the rights of migrant workers;

- if the receiving country is a signatory to and/or has ratified multilateral conventions, declarations or resolutions relating to the protection of migrant workers;

- if the country has concluded a bilateral agreement or arrangement on the protection of the rights of overseas Filipino workers; and

- if the receiving country is taking positive and concrete measures to implement the first three criteria.

Under the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 10022, embassies were given until November 11 to submit the certification for countries under their jurisdiction. For territories where there are no Philippine embassies, the government set a deadline of December 11 to identify the safety of migrant workers there.

“The DFA believes that the certification of countries will allow prospective OFWs to make informed decisions whether they want to work in a given country. It will also allow them to take advantage of working in a country where their rights are more protected," the DFA said in an earlier statement.

The DFA also said earlier that based on initial survey, the countries were the rights of migrant workers are protected include Kuwait, Cambodia, Timor-Leste, Laos, Myanmar, Ireland, Saipan, Norway, Syria and Vietnam.

Last year, the government deployed some 1.4 OFWs, majority of whom are domestic helpers, nurses, caregivers and waiters, generating over US$17 billion in remittances, according to data from the POEA. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Govt has enough funds for repatriation of OFWs in Korea, Budget chief says

As tension continues to rise in Korea, the Department of Budget and Management reassured Filipinos in Korea that the government has enough funds for their repatriation if the need arises.

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad gave this assurance Monday as he said President Benigno Simeon Aquino III continues to monitor closely the situation in the Korean Peninsula.

“Meron tayong kahandaan na tumugon sa anumang contingency sa kasalukuyang tension na nangyayari sa Korea," Abad said in an interview on dzXL radio.

(We are prepared to respond to any contingency resulting from the tension in Korea.)

However, he did not give figures on how much the government expects to spend for repatriation if the need arises.

Tension in the Korean Peninsula escalated over the weekend as the United States and South Korea started military exercises.

Last week, North Korea shelled a South Korean island where four South Koreans, including two civilians, were killed.

North Korea insisted its attack was in self-defense, citing South Korea’s military exercises at the time near the Northern Limited Line.

On the other hand, he said Aquino continues to monitor the situation.

“Palaging mino-monitor ni Pangulong Aquino ang situation sa Korea (The president continues to monitor the situation in Korea)," he said.

Meanwhile, Philippine officials in Korea held a dry run of the contingency plans to be implemented if the situation worsens.

Radio dzBB reported Philippine special envoy Roy Cimatu led the dry run, including an escape route for Filipinos from Seoul to Busan.

The Philippine Embassy in Beijing has also been directed to look after the welfare of at least nine Filipinos in North Korea.

Last weekend, the government put on hold the deployment of Filipino workers to Korea due to the tension although Malacañang “clarified" this was not tantamount to a deployment ban. – VVP, GMANews.TV

PHL, Israel ink customs mutual assistance pact

The Philippines has signed a mutual assistance agreement with Israel on Customs matters in that country, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Tel Aviv, the DFA said the Mutual Assistance in Customs Matters was signed in Israel on Tuesday.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and Philippine Ambassador Petronila Garcia signed the agreement on behalf of their governments, the DFA said on its website.

Garcia said the Philippines is very fortunate to have Israel as a partner in this endeavor, noting that the negotiation process began five years ago.

The agreement is essential for countries to safeguard their economies, public welfare, and international interest, she added.

The agreement establishes the framework by which both countries will assist each other on customs-related issues according to the domestic laws of each party.

Under the agreement, both countries will:


Exchange information on whether goods exported from/imported to the country of a requesting Party were done legally;


provide information on offenses that may have been committed or are expected to be committed within the customs territories of the two countries;


conduct special surveillance over transportation, goods, individuals or places suspected of being involved in committing customs-related offenses, and


Professional and technical cooperation and assistance.

Ayalon said the agreement is a landmark in the bilateral relations between the Philippines and Israel as it brings the two parties closer together.

Garcia said the signing marks the beginning of another chapter in strengthening Philippines-Israel relations.

Witnessing the signing ceremony were:

Israeli Customs Authority Director General Doron Arbely;

Israel Tax Authority Senior Director on International Affairs Daniel Dragucki;

Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) International Affairs Office Chief John Simon;
BOC International Control Office's Wilnora Cawile, and

Embassy officers and staff.
– VVP, GMANews.TV

Monday, October 11, 2010

RP mission in UAE to hold outreach program

Philippine diplomatic and labor officials will hold an outreach program in two areas in the United Arab Emirates this weekend to cut down the large number of applicants for travel documents.

An 18-member team from the Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai will hold the program in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah on Saturday.

“The outreach program will help reduce this number as applicants from RAK and Fujairah will not have to queue up at the Consulate," Consul General Benito Valeriano said in an article posted on UAE news site Khaleej Times Friday.

He said the mission will cater to Filipino applicants queuing up at the consulate for affidavits and e-passports.

Valeriano said the outreach program will serve the Filipino Community in Ras Al Khaimah in the morning and in Fujairah in the afternoon.

Applicants for notarized affidavits and e-passport had gone up to an average of 300 and 200 daily, he noted.

“Many of the staff have had a hectic schedule with long hours of work to be able to release the notarized affidavit within five days," he said.

Valeriano said he has only 15 consular staff and they are “saddled with too much work considering that there has been no additional staff since the implementation of the new travel requirement in Manila last month."

He said the 15 includes those assigned to assist Filipinos who have police, immigration and labor cases in the UAE.

On the other hand, Valeriano extended the number of days for releasing the notarized affidavit from five to 10 days because work on that has affected the issuance of the e-passport and other documents.

“It appears that more time has been used up in affidavit issuance as against our regular task of e-passport issuance and the authentication of special power of attorney and other documents, which are equally important," he said.

He called upon Filipino expatriates in RAK and Fujairah to be present during the Consular outreach program.

Services to be rendered during the program are e-passporting, receiving of applications for the notarization of affidavits, special power of attorney and other documents that require consular processing.

The team will include staff from the Consular Office, Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Social Security System (SSS) and Pag-IBIG Fund.—JV, GMANews.TV

RP mission in UAE to hold outreach program

Philippine diplomatic and labor officials will hold an outreach program in two areas in the United Arab Emirates this weekend to cut down the large number of applicants for travel documents.

An 18-member team from the Philippine Consulate General and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai will hold the program in Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah on Saturday.

“The outreach program will help reduce this number as applicants from RAK and Fujairah will not have to queue up at the Consulate," Consul General Benito Valeriano said in an article posted on UAE news site Khaleej Times Friday.

He said the mission will cater to Filipino applicants queuing up at the consulate for affidavits and e-passports.

Valeriano said the outreach program will serve the Filipino Community in Ras Al Khaimah in the morning and in Fujairah in the afternoon.

Applicants for notarized affidavits and e-passport had gone up to an average of 300 and 200 daily, he noted.

“Many of the staff have had a hectic schedule with long hours of work to be able to release the notarized affidavit within five days," he said.

Valeriano said he has only 15 consular staff and they are “saddled with too much work considering that there has been no additional staff since the implementation of the new travel requirement in Manila last month."

He said the 15 includes those assigned to assist Filipinos who have police, immigration and labor cases in the UAE.

On the other hand, Valeriano extended the number of days for releasing the notarized affidavit from five to 10 days because work on that has affected the issuance of the e-passport and other documents.

“It appears that more time has been used up in affidavit issuance as against our regular task of e-passport issuance and the authentication of special power of attorney and other documents, which are equally important," he said.

He called upon Filipino expatriates in RAK and Fujairah to be present during the Consular outreach program.

Services to be rendered during the program are e-passporting, receiving of applications for the notarization of affidavits, special power of attorney and other documents that require consular processing.

The team will include staff from the Consular Office, Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Social Security System (SSS) and Pag-IBIG Fund.—JV, GMANews.TV

Pinay faces UAE court for 'forcing' compatriots into prostitution

A Filipina hairdresser faced a court in Dubai last Thursday for allegedly forcing two women into prostitution after luring them to the United Arab Emirates.

The 33-year-old Filipina was accused of human trafficking before the Court of First Instance, news site Khaleej Times reported Friday.

One of the victims, a 25-year-old Filipina, told prosecutors the woman offered her a job as a saleslady in a supermarket in Dubai and demanded Dh6,000 (P71,132) as visa fee, flight ticket charge and housing cost.

When the complainant could not pay the amount, the defendant allegedly agreed to shoulder the cost but on the condition that the complainant would pay it back.

Last April 23, the defendant and a Filipino man met the complainant at the Dubai International Airport and took her to the defendant’s apartment in Muraqqabat.

“There, she told me that I should pay her Dh20,000 (P237,108) as flight ticket charge, visa fee and rent for staying with her," the complainant said.

When she told the defendant that she did not have any money, the defendant told her that she had to work as a prostitute to repay the money.

The complainant refused and asked her to send her back to the Philippines.

“She forcibly took my passport and said she would not return it unless I paid her Dh20,000," the complainant claimed.

The defendant allegedly told her that there was no use in calling the police because she had many friends in the Criminal Investigation Department.

In the apartment, the complainant saw a follow Filipino woman who told her that the defendant had done the same to her.

The defendant used to call the customers, then drop the two women at an apartment or hotel and wait for the “clients."

None of the two victims could run away as the defendant would not leave them alone and she would always lock them up. The complainant worked in the flesh trade for two weeks while the other woman about one month.

On May 7, they were at an apartment of an Egyptian customer in Al Nahda in Sharjah. When he fell asleep, they escaped and took a cab to her aunt’s place in Sharjah after calling her.

The complainant could not call her aunt earlier because that was the first time the defendant gave her a mobile phone.

The two victims and the aunt went to the Police Department where they lodged a complaint against the defendant on May 9. The defendant was arrested the same day.

Her house was searched and different currencies were found. She first denied forcing the two women into prostitution or seizing their passports. She alleged the two requested to stay with her until they found a job. — LBG, GMANews.TV

Report: 1 of 2 escaped OFWs returning from Jordan Sunday

One of two overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who escaped from their employers in Jordan is due to return home this Sunday.

Melith Ante, 27, is due to arrive with other OFWs on Sunday, her mother Berlita said in an article on news site Visayan Daily Star Friday.

But Melith's sister Lenen, 25, is reportedly still en route to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Amman, Jordan, Mrs. Ante said.

She said Lenen was rescued on Oct. 4 and was admitted to a hospital for a checkup.

The elder Ante called anew for justice and settlement for the moral and financial damages her daughters incurred during their ordeal.

Melith escaped from her employer after an attempted rape, and sought help at the Mactav Recruiting Manpower Domestic Worker.

She stayed there for two days without food and was taken into custody by the Philippine Embassy.

Mrs. Ante said her daughters were recruited for janitorial jobs by a friend who worked in a city government.

Berlita said she was asked to pay P11,000 but received no receipt last July.

She said she was surprised when her daughters called her the day after they arrived in Aqaba, Jordan, telling her that they were forced to work as domestic helpers.

After two months, they still received no salaries and their cellular phones were confiscated by their employers, she added.

Mrs. Ante also warned applicants for work abroad to avoid a recruitment agency with offices along Genral Malvar Street, Malate, Metro Manila.

She said the agency is not registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

“This is why we are calling concerned government agencies to take immediate action to prevent more victims and further damage to take place," said Larry Occeña, Migrante-Negros chairman. — LBG, GMANews.TV

'Preaching OFWs' arrested in Saudi denounce RP embassy

Two of the 12 overseas Filipino workers arrested for taking part in a religious activity in Saudi Arabia criticized the Philippine embassy for refusing to sign the "kafala" or written guarantee for their release.

One of the OFWs, an engineer, said the embassy promised to sign the written guarantee for them but never did.

"We had to depend on our respective employers for our release. By 3 a.m. on Saturday, the police gave us back our iqamas," the OFW, who is also a local community leader, said in an article posted on Arab News Friday.

“There were assurances that the Philippine Embassy would sign a kafala for us, but it never came," he added.

Another OFW said that while they are thankful for the embassy's show of concern, they were "helpless" as far as the kafala was concerned.

“We are thankful to the two officials because they showed concern for us, except that they were helpless as far as the issuance of a kafala was concerned," said the second OFW, an administrative officer at a local company.

The Arab News report cited sources who said the Philippine embassy may have been reluctant to issue the kafala due to a previous bad experience.

“Some time back, members of a group were arrested by the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice for holding a meeting in Badiah. A kafala was signed for them by the embassy but when they were needed by the authorities, they did not show up," Arab News quoted the source as saying.

Saudi authorities arrested the 12 OFWs for taking part in a Christian activity last weekend.

Conducting religious activities of faiths other than Islam is strictly prohibited in Saudi Arabia.

Members of the Commission for Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice detained the OFWs then turned them over to the police station in Rawdah district.

The engineer said they were released on Saturday.

“The embassy's refusal to sign a kafala for us is not a good sign for OFWs. It means that we cannot depend on our embassy for total help and protection if needed," he said.

Consul General Ezzedin Tago is the current charge d'affaires of the embassy. Ambassador Antonio Villamor ended his stint in the Kingdom on September 30.

Tago earlier said two embassy officials had gone to the police station to assist the 12 OFWs. –VVP, GMANews.TV

Monday, September 27, 2010

84 Pinay cleaners in UAE left without food, water

At least 84 Filipina cleaners have been living in misery since being abandoned by their employer without salary, food, water and electricity at a home in the United Arab Emirates.

While the local Filipino community has extended some help, the Filipina cleaners are also seeking redress from labor officials in Dubai as well as help from doctors.

“We welcome any Filipino doctor who will come and check our health. Many have symptoms of hypertension due to the depressing situation, breathing difficulties, asthma, skin rashes, cough and cold. We are sleeping on the rooftop where we can get fresh air," Mary Grace Teneros said in an article posted Sunday on UAE news site Khaleej Times.

Teneros was one of the first four cleaners who filed a suit before the Dubai court after they found out they were illegally brought there.

For now, leaders of the Filipino community have helped keep up the spirits of the stranded Filipina workers and have brought them food, medicines, and toiletries.

Roach infested

“We are very happy for the help we are receiving now, even from the Baptist Church. They also checked the villa, which as of now, is breeding lots of cockroaches and other insects as we cannot maintain the cleanliness for the lack of water," Manorin Fernandez, 38, said.

She also said the Philippine Overseas Labor Office has helped them since August to file their cases at the Dubai labor department.

“Our assistant labor attaché, Venus Abad, explained everything to us. Our contract signed at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reflected a Dh1,800 (P21,491) monthly salary and food allowance of $150. (But) we were asked to sign another contract here in Dubai, which stated our salary to be Dh700 (P8,357) which we did not receive for three months," Teneros said.

Also, the Filipino community will seek to have the Filipina cleaners’ water and electricity restored. Power and water had been cut off since September 13 due to unpaid bills amounting to Dh23,000 (P274,616).

Liza Concepcion, the president of the Filipino Community (FILCOM), is set to tackle the issue with Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano at a meeting.

No salaries

The Khaleej Times report said the 84 Filipina cleaners did not receive their salaries for three
months and have been living in the dark without food, water and electricity. Four of them filed cases with the Dubai Court as early as July 17 after they found out that they were staying illegally.

According to them, their employer got labor cards for them but did not secure employment visas with the Dubai immigration department. The rest filed complaints with the Dubai Labor September 14 for non-payment of salaries and food allowances.

In its decision, the Dubai Court ordered the employer to give them one way air tickets and settle the unpaid salaries.

On the other hand, the employer allegedly did not visit them nor care for their needs. Dubai immigration computed their overstay penalties at Dh15,000 (P179,097), which totaled Dh1.26 million (P15.044 million).

Another Filipina cleaner, Merle Perez, 42, said they had been advised to leave the villa last September 23.

“We made our appeal and showed them our papers with Dubai Labor seeking redress. We appreciate the assistance of a real estate manager, in representing us with the building owner, who turned out to be a kind-hearted man. He is now helping us," she said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Actors turn into OFWs

Iniwan nila ang glamoroso at maingay na mundo ng showbizness upang makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa at makapagsimula ng bagong buhay.

Sa episode ng OFW Diaries hosted by Kara David nitong Biyernes, ikinuwento nina Julio Diaz at Bernardo Bernando ang kanilang naging karanasan bilang mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Dekado 80 nang sumikat si Julio sa industriya ng showbiz bilang dramatic actor. Sa husay niya sa pag-arte, dalawang Best Actor Award na kanyang naiuwi.

Ngunit matapos makagawa ng mahigit 60 pelikula, unti-unti nang nawala ang ningning ng bituin ni Julio, na nagmarka sa ginawa niyang pelikula tungkol sa buhay ng bayaning si “Macario Sakay."

“During that time kasi nandito ako sa bansa natin, siyempre medyo bumaba na nang bumaba yung career ko, bumaba na yung marketing value ko rito as an actor, so sabi ko hindi ako puwedeng titigil lang dito para lang sa isang bagay na para bang maghihintay," kuwento ni Julio sa OFW Diaries.

Taong 2002 nang lumipad si Julio sa Australia at nagtrabaho siya doon bilang waiter. Dahil sanay sa hirap ng buhay, nagawa rin ni Julio na magtrabaho bilang construction worker kung saan naging assistant siya sa paglalagay ng tiles sa mga bahay.


For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Bukod sa Australia, nasubukan din ni Julio na magtrabaho sa Japan bilang entertainer.

Ngunit hindi katulad ng malaking kita niya sa pag-aartista noon, naging buwanan ang sahod ni Julio bilang isang OFW.

Sa kabila nito, ipinagmamalaki ni Julio ang kanyang mga karanasan at hindi raw niya ikinahihiya ang pakikipagsapalaran sa ibang bayan.

Tulad ni Julio, dekada 80 rin nang pasukin ng komedyanteng si Bernardo Bernardo ang showbizness. Masasabing dekada 90 nang sumikat siya nang husto dahil sa karakter niyang mataray na boss ng Comedy King na si Dolphy sa isang sitcom.

Sadya raw iniwan ni Bernando ang showbiz noong 2002 at lumipad patungong California, USA dahil naramdaman na niyang hindi na siya masaya sa kanyang ginawa sa harap ng camera at ibabaw ng entablado.

“Siguro masasabi ko na pinaka-height ng career ko sa telebisyon ang makasama si Dolphy, the one and only Dolphy sa isang sitcom, Home Along the Riles of course. Na for almost 11 years hit sa Philippine television at hanggang ngayon pinapanood pa sa cable," pagmamalaki niya.

“Sa totoo po n’yan kaya ako umalis hindi na ko masaya. Kumbaga nagawa ko na ang gusto kong gawin sa Pilipinas; sa entablado, sa pelikula, sa telebisyon," pagtatapat

Case of Pinay helper battered in UAE reopened

A battered Filipino maid in the United Arab Emirates is getting another shot at justice after officials in Sharjah emirate decided to reopen her case.

UAE-based news site Khaleej Times reported the Sharjah Immigration is looking into the reasons why Marialyn Vinluan has not received compensation for torture she endured from her employer.

Vinluan had escaped from her Lebanese lady employer in Ajman on August 9 last year after she was beaten up, but it was not until May this year that the unpaid compensation came to light. (See: UAE-based Pinoy workers rally around battered colleague)

Maritess Bautista, a coordinator of the consulate, said immigration authorities learned that Vinluan is being forced to go home without compensation for physical and mental torture.

Bautista is assisting distressed Filipino workers in Sharjah, Ajman, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.

Major Ibrahim Hamdan, assistant investigation officer at the Sharjah Immigration, meanwhile said the papers for Vinluan’s case are now with the Chief Dispute Officer of the Immigration’s Follow-up Section.

“Hopefully, the case will be closed soon," Ibrahim said.

Vinluan and her former employer were supposed to meet on September 19 at the Follow-up Section but the meeting was rescheduled.

“Vinluan is asking for damages of Dh50,000 (P599,185). But her employer wants to pay only Dh20,000 (P239,674)," Bautista said.

Vinluan said she does not want to lower the demand as she needs to undergo further medical treatment in the Philippines.

“I still have pain in the area where my rib was broken and I get black spots around my eyes every now and then," she was quoted in the report as saying.

Last May, a court in Ajman ordered the employer and her sister to settle the unpaid salary of Vinluan, who had also worked for a month without pay under her employer’s sister.

Vinluan had said her employer kept promising to pay her unpaid salary for one year and seven months when she was working as a domestic helper for the family.

But she also said she was regularly beaten up by her lady employer for the slightest reason.

From August 9 to 24 last year, Vinluan was hospitalized at Shaikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman for a broken rib, blurred vision and severe injuries in various parts of her body.

The injuries stemmed from brutal beatings allegedly by her employer using iron cords and electrical extension wires until bits of them were embedded in her body.

“I know promises are endless. Finally, I informed Philippine Consul-General Benito B. Valeriano about my decision to go home. Maritess Bautista brought me to the Sharjah Immigration Department to get my work permit cancelled so that I could leave the UAE," Vinluan said.

“To my surprise, immigration officials wanted to arrest me for absconding. My employer in Ajman had reported me to the Sharjah Immigration, which issued my work permit, as an absconder on the same day my agency brought me to Shaikh Khalifa Hospital in Ajman where I had been admitted for 12 days," she added.

Vinluan’s employer and the employer’s sister were arrested on the same day Vinluan reported to the Sharjah Immigration.

They are temporarily released pending hearing after they deposited their passports with the Sharjah Immigration.

Vinluan has been under the care of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration of the Philippine Consulate since August 24, 2009.

The battered Filipina said she finally received her long-overdue salary of Dh11,800 on May 2. “They gave me a cheque of Dh8,800 (P105,456) and Dh3,000 (P35,951) in cash," Vinluan said.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Help sought for OFW who suffered stroke in KSA

overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia needs government assistance as his health is deteriorating after suffering a stroke last August.

Migrante Middle East regional coordinator John Monterona said Tamano Saltan Ismail, 35, is staying at a shelter and needs to be rehospitalized.

“Fellow workers and some kababayans (compatriots) are taking care of him but his recovery is too slow due to lack of proper medication and medical attention. As the KGS (Kapatiran sa Gitnang Silangan) welfare officers have told us, his condition is now deteriorating," Monterona said in an article on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines news site.

“We believe he must be rehospitalized for better medical attention and we need the help of the Philippine consulate on this matter," he added.

Monterona said Ismail, a native of Maguindanao, was rushed to the King Saud Medical Center last August 24, and underwent brain operation.

Citing a clinical abstract signed by attending physician Ali Bin Salamah, Migrante said Ismail was almost unconscious when he arrived at the hospital.

Shortly after arriving at the hospital, he fell into a coma. His blood pressure has recorded a high 200/120, but has regained consciousness.

He was transferred to Shumesy Hospital for further medication before he was released.

He is staying at a shelter run by KGS, a local organization under Migrante.

Monterona voiced fears that a proposed budget cut in the Department of Foreign Affairs’ Assistance To Nationals and legal assistance fund in the 2011 budget may make it difficult for the DFA to provide the necessary assistance to illness-stricken OFWs such as Ismail.

“We’re hoping that the cut will not be done as it was illegal and of course, immoral as the government is expected to extend all the necessary assistance to migrant workers who are helping the [Philippine] economy to stay afloat," he said.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

RP officials help overstaying OFWs avail of KSA amnesty

Philippine officials have started helping overstaying Filipinos in Saudi Arabia take advantage of a six-month amnesty period allowing overstaying foreigners to leave the kingdom without punishment.

Ambassador Antonio Villamor said he will meet with Interior Ministry officials in Saudi to clarify certain details so he can guide the concerned overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) on how to avail of the amnesty.

"I have informed the Department of Foreign Affairs in the Philippines about this development. We are indeed thankful to Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah for this generous gesture," Villamor said in an article on Saudi-based news site Arab News.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah said it will issue an advisory about the amnesty to the concerned OFWs.

Labor Attache David Des Dicang of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in the Eastern Region said the organization was “indeed happy beyond words over this good development."

“OFWs who ran away from their sponsors and whose visas have expired could now expect to go home without penalty," Dicang said.

“If their passports have expired, they will have to fill up forms, including travel documents," he added.

Runaway OFWs

The Arab News report said the Philippine Embassy could not give an accurate number of runaway OFWs in the kingdom.

It cited figures from militant group Migrante International indicating that some 3,000 runaway OFWs have sought its help.

However, there are many other undocumented OFWs, including maids who have run away from their sponsors and are now working for other employers.

There are also OFWs who have escaped from their sponsors without informing the embassy and are staying with other Filipinos.

Eligible for amnesty

The Saudi Interior Ministry said the amnesty would cover the following:

those who arrived in the Kingdom on Haj, Umrah visa

those whose visas that have expired, and

those who have violated Passport Department laws.

The Interior Ministry advised those eligible to report to the nearest Department for Foreigners’ Affairs (Wafideen) from September 25 this year to March 23, 2011.

The ministry advised all overstayers and other illegal residents to benefit from the pardon and leave the Kingdom before the grace period. V

The violators caught after the amnesty will receive harsh punishments, including jail time and a fine.

Assistance for foreign workers

Meanwhile, in Jeddah, the Saudi National Committee of Sunni Yuvajana Sangham (SYS), a Kerala-based sociocultural organization, welcomed the amnesty.

In a statement, Syed Habibul Bukhari, the committee’s president, urged all illegal residents in the country to take advantage of the amnesty.

Bukhari said their group will help foreign workers meet the requirements needed in availing of the amnesty.

The organization will also hold awareness programs to help foreign workers understand the details about the amnesty, he added. –VVP, GMANews.TV

7 Pinays nabbed by UK immigration

Seven Filipinas staying in London were recently arrested by the United Kingdom (UK) Border Agency and are set to be deported following a series of immigration crackdown operations.

In a release posted on the website of the British Embassy in Manila, the seven Filipino women were arrested, along with other foreign nationals, during Border Agency raids on different addresses in Willesden in northwest London on September 16.

“The enforcement operations are part of a planned nationwide crackdown by the UK Border Agency to tackle illegal working, sham marriages, bogus colleges and organised immigration crime," the release said.

It was unclear, however, what specific immigration laws were violated by the seven.

The release said UK Border Agency officers received information on locations of illegal migrants in Willesden and conducted the raid, along with Metropolitan Police officers and Brent Council staff.

They found 50 people inside the addresses and in one accommodation, and arrested 11 of them – seven Filipino women, three Chinese men and a Chinese woman due to unspecified immigration offenses.

The seven Filipinas, according to the UK Embassy, are currently being detained pending their deportation.

“This is the latest in a series of operations designed to find and remove those who have no right to live or work in the UK. We continue to work closely with the police and other agencies to target those who are here illegally, and more raids like this are planned across the UK," said Steve Fisher, head of the Border Agency's Brent local immigration team.

In July, the Border Agency likewise arrested six Filipinos, along with other migrants from Malawi and Ghana, by the Border Agency at a private nursing home in Poulner, Ringwood.

“We urge all Filipinos to comply with the conditions of their entry when visiting the UK. While the UK welcomes genuine visitors from the Philippines, we are also committed to tackling immigration abuse robustly, as evidenced by these recent arrests and removals," said Ed Mackie, UK Border Agency’s regional manager in the Philippines.

“We also continue to work closely with the Philippines Government to raise awareness of this issue and to discourage people from offending," Mackie added.

The UK Embassy noted that Philippine nationals working illegally in the UK have been apprehended by the Border Agency in regular enforcement operations and returned to Philippines.

In 2009, 85 Filipino nationals were deported from the UK after being held in detention for immigration offenses.

"Arrests are carried out by trained immigration officers who carry out operations at businesses and private addresses, acting on intelligence received from the public and other sources," the release added.

Filipinos planning to visit the UK can check the immigration rules here.–Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Help illegal OFWs avail of Saudi pardon, group urges

After Saudi authorities announced a blanket royal pardon for all violators of the Kingdom’s residency laws, a Filipino migrant advocacy group there urged the Philippine government to assist undocumented overseas Filipino workers to avail of the amnesty.

In a statement, Migrante-Middle East said there are thousands of undocumented Filipinos in the Kingdom who can benefit from the pardon.

“We are urging the concerned RP posts to immediately guide and provide assistance to undocumented and illegally staying OFWs to avail of the Royal pardon," said Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

An article posted on the Saudi Gazette said Saudi’s Ministry of Interior has announced a blanket “Royal pardon" for residency law violations, and illegal residents are advised to complete the procedure for their departure at the foreigners’ personnel offices of the Kingdom.

According to the article, applications for inclusion in the pardon will be processed from September 25, 2010 to March 23, 2011.

“The ministry advised all individuals who have broken the law to take up this opportunity. There will be harsh penalties for people who continue to commit violations, including for those who shelter violators. Penalties include imprisonment, fines, confiscation of vehicles and having their names published in local newspapers," the article stated.

Monterona said the amnesty will benefit OFWs who remain in the Kingdom even as their iqama or residency permits have already expired.

He added most of the Filipino workers illegally staying in Saudi Arabia are absconders who ran away from their employers, claiming abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices.

Records from the group show that of the 2 million-plus Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, some 3,000 are undocumented.

“There is also a considerable number of illegal and undocumented OFWs in other Middle East countries like the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, and Oman," Monterona said.

Government records show Saudi Arabia remains the top destination for OFWs, with almost 300,000 Filipinos deployed in the Kingdom last year.

The Saudi Gazette article said there is an estimated one to three million illegal residents in the country.

According to the report, 105,494 attempts to enter the country at nine land and sea crossing points were registered in the first seven months of this year, with the highest single figure registered in Jizan province where 89,942 illegal immigrants were detained.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

RP agencies scored for ‘illegal’ rider in Taiwan OFWs’ contract

JERRIE M. ABELLA,

Migrants’ rights groups have slammed two agencies of the Philippine government for allowing an “illegal" provision to be added to the employment contract of the 13 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in Taiwan who have raised it as one of their labor issues.

The Asian Pacific Mission for Migrants (APMM) scored the Manila Economic and Cultural Office in Taiwan (MECO) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) for letting the 13 OFWs sign an addendum in their contract, which they said was declared illegal under Taiwanese law since 1999.

According to a CBCP News article, the APMM said the addendum required OFWs to pay 2,500 New Taiwan Dollars (about P3,400) for their food, accommodation and airfare to and from Taiwan.

APMM director Ramon Bultron said that by allowing the addendum to be part of the workers’ contract, both the MECO, the Philippines’ representative office in Taiwan, and the POEA are party to the crime of human trafficking.

The addendum, the article added, was signed by the workers’ company, AV Tech Corporation; two brokerage firms from Manila and from Taiwan; and the OFWs.

Through negotiations facilitated by the Taiwanese Bureau of Labor Affairs (BLA), the 13 OFWs were able to pressure their employer to give in to 10 of their 12 demands, including returning the employees’ passports and updating their pay slips, which were delayed by two to three months, according to Migrante-Taiwan which assisted the workers. (See: 13 OFWs win case vs Taiwanese firm)

Addendum was “valid"

While the OFWs have asserted that the addendum is contradictory to labor standards and prejudicial to the interests of the migrant workers, the BLA, which currently hears the OFWs’ complaints, has said the addendum was legal.

In a separate interview, MECO Labor Affairs director Reydeluz Conferido also said the addendum was “valid".

“Contracts can be amended to improve their provisions and to make them suited to existing conditions," Conferido said.

He explained that both Philippine and Taiwanese labor laws provide that contracts may be amended, provided it is allowed by pertinent government agencies and that all signatories agree to the amendments.

Taiwanese labor laws, he noted, likewise allows renegotiation of contracts, including provisions on wages, especially if it is proven that the company was affected by an economic recession.

Group demands removal of MECO worker

As this developed, Migrante-Taiwan chairperson David Chang accused an employee of MECO of working against the interests of the workers and demanded that she be removed from her post.

In a separate statement, Chang said Gina Lin, a translator for the MECO’s labor office, insisted that she be one of the negotiators in the conciliation, and asked that Chang and another Migrante official to present their alien residence certificate (ARC) to the BLA for proper identification.

Chang said they refused Lin’s request, which they described as “irresponsible", as showing their ARC will expose their address to both the company and the brokerage agency and make them vulnerable to retaliation.

“As the negotiations pushed through, we found out that Lin was a former employee of the brokerage agency being accused of labor malpractice. It was she who earlier told the complainants that the MECO cannot help them on their case and that it takes two weeks for the National Immigration Agency to provide them shelter," Chang said in the statement.

The BLA later sided with Migrante and the workers, and barred Lin from participating in the negotiations.

According to Conferido, he sent Lin to be MECO’s official representative in the conciliatory talks.

Lin’s request, Conferido said, was valid as they had to determine Migrante’s authority to represent the workers and participate in the negotiations.

Conferido added they have yet to verify the reported decision of the BLA in favor of the workers.

GMANews.TV tried to contact POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili but her phone was unattended.

Meanwhile, the APMM asked the Philippine government to disallow the signing of an addendum to employment contracts, and to immediately investigate the incident and prosecute officials who allowed illegal amendments to contracts.

“It is bad enough that the Aquino administration has slashed the legal assistance budget for OFWs by half. Allowing labor exploitation to be put into paper is another," Bultron said. (See: P2-B cut in DFA budget scored by OFW groups)—JV, GMANews.TV

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

DOLE urged to prioritize OFWs from Iraq in Guam deployment

A labor group has urged the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to prioritize overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coming from Iraq when deploying laborers to Guam.

In a statement, the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said DOLE should give preference to some 6,000 Filipino workers who will move out of Iraq, as it is set to enlist as many as 10,000 workers for deployment to Guam.

"On one hand, we have 6,000 workers out of Iraq. On the other hand, we have 7,000 to 10,000 initial job openings in Guam. The DOLE might as well give priority to our workers from Iraq in filling up the Guam vacancies," said TUCP secretary-general Senator Ernesto Herrera, a former senator.

He said doing so will minimize the potential economic impact on workers and their families of the continuing employment ban in the war-torn country.

The US government last July ordered all its military contractors to send home all foreign workers coming from countries that have imposed a deployment ban to Iraq.

Filipinos have been prohibited from working in Iraq since 2004 following a series of suicide bombing attacks and abduction of foreigners, including two Filipinos, as a result of the US-led war.

Late last month, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that while the total ban remains, OFWs already in Iraq and deployed in US military facilities may continue working there until they finish their contracts.

"The job openings in Guam are mostly construction-related activities and services anyway. And many of our workers out of Iraq were engaged to perform similar tasks," Herrera pointed out.

He said given the nature of work of laborers hired by American military contractors in Iraq, Filipino workers coming from the country will readily qualify for the job vacancies in Guam, a US territory.

The DOLE earlier announced that thousands of construction jobs in Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands (CNMI) could be available to OFWs should the US$700-million-worth US military hospital project there push through.

Herrera meanwhile said Guam may need up to 30,000 foreign workers in the coming months, as the US military scrambles to build up t infrastructure and services in the US territory.

This is in preparation for the relocation of some 9,200 US troops and their 10,000 dependents from the Japanese island of Okinawa, according to Herrera.

He explained foreign workers needed in Guam include project managers, engineers, accountants, duty-front managers, plan makers, cost-control managers, nurses, doctors, electricians, construction laborers, plumbers, welders, carpenters and brick layers.

Also expected to be in demand are computer graphic artists, computer operators, audio-visual technicians, chefs, cooks, food and beverage managers, bar boys, drivers, receptionists and stewards. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

RP post in Jeddah verifying if helper who jumped to death was Filipina

The Philippine post in Jeddah in Saudi Arabia on Monday said it is still confirming the nationality of the domestic helper who reportedly jumped to her death last week to escape her employer.

In a phone interview, welfare officer Nini Lanto of the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah told GMANews.TV they have yet to verify if the domestic helper was a Filipina.

“As of Sunday, we have yet to confirm if she was a Filipina. But out Assistance to Nationals Section (ANS) is working on the case," Lanto said.

A report by the Saudi Gazette said the helper jumped from the window of her employer’s flat on the seventh floor of a building in Madina on August 31.

The report said based on information from witnesses, the woman used an umbrella as a parachute to escape, but the umbrella failed to open at the right moment and the domestic worker crashed on the pavement, killing her instantly.

Witnesses said the helper tossed out a bag containing her clothes before jumping.

Her employer said the building’s guard told him about the incident and said he found the umbrella hanging on the balcony. A knife used by the maid to open the tightly closed window was also found.

The worker was immediately buried in accordance with the request of her family, the report quoted the employer as saying.

Migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East earlier urged the Consulate to conduct an investigation to confirm the victim’s nationality.

“Concerned fellow [overseas Filipino workers] have called me, in separate calls, last week to tell us about the death of a domestic worker who reportedly jumped to her death from the window of her employer’s house," said Migrante regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona.

Monterona, however, said the concerned OFWs failed to identify the nationality and name of the victim.

Lanto was likewise unable to give the name and age of the victim.

“It is of particular interest and concern to us because aside from the need to establish the victim’s identity, (we need to know) what forced the worker to jump from the building," Monterona said.

He added Migrante case officers have previously attended to similar cases in the past, involving abused OFWs jumping from buildings to escape their employers. Some of the victims’ relatives have likewise complained of foul play.

For her part, Lanto said the domestic helper may not be a Filipina, even as the ANS continues to verify the helper’s identity. “Normally, the Consulate is immediately alerted by the local police if there is a Filipino involved in cases like this," she said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Militants ask Aquino to seek 'Ramadan amnesty' for OFWs in Saudi jails

A militant migrants’ group asked President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to seek pardon for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) jailed in Saudi Arabia.

Migrante Middle East (Migrante-ME) said the Royal Family in Saudi Arabia usually grants amnesty for OFWs before or after the holy month of Ramadan, which ends September 10.

“Gaining amnesty for jailed OFWs is usually granted by the Royal Family, before or after the Ramadan. We’re hoping that President Aquino should grab this opportunity to help our compatriots in jail, here in Saudi," Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona said
in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines news site.

Monterona voiced alarm over the death of prisoners in jails in Saudi Arabia due to suffocation reportedly because of the high temperature and overcrowding in jails.

He cited a newspaper report indicating that five Ethiopian prisoners died due to the heat in a Saudi jail in Jizan province.

“In Malaz (district) Central Jail, for example, more than a hundred people are being imprisoned in a five-meter-by-eight meter cell," he said.

He said the OFWs jailed in Malaz complained the temperature in their prison cells reach 44 degrees Celsius during the day. There are reportedly around 200 OFWs jailed there.

“The jailed OFWs also informed us that most of them are sleeping on the floor with only used cartons serving as their sleeping mat," he said.

Monterona said the OFWs there are asking for mattresses, blankets and medicines against colds, flu and other diseases as it becomes cold at night.

He added Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia must act swiftly and see the conditions of OFWs imprisoned in different jails in Saudi.

Meanwhile, Migrante-ME estimates there are more than 1,000 Filipino men and women, languishing in different prisons in Saudi.

“Most of them have committed petty crimes, such as violating customary laws, while others have been charge of absconding or running away from their employers due to abuses and labor malpractices," Monterona said. –VVP, GMANews.TV

All 698 Pinoys in Saudi shelter repatriated — DOLE

All the close to 700 Filipino workers who were staying in a shelter in Saudi Arabia had been repatriated, according to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

In a statement, DOLE Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said all the 698 Filipinos who used to stay at the Seaport Hajj Terminal in Jeddah have been repatriated as of September 1.

“Our Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Jeddah had reported that as of September 1, there is not a single Filipino national remaining in the Hajj Seaport Terminal," Baldoz said.

Citing a report by Labor Attaché to Jeddah Vicente Cabe, Baldoz said that 137 of the 628 repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Jeddah from July 10 to August 31 this year were children.

Of the total number of repatriated Filipino workers, 399 were adult females while 162 were adult males.

OFWs who seek shelter in Saudi Arabia are usually those who escaped abusive employers.

The DOLE explained that the Seaport Hajj Terminal is a place designated and operated by the Saudi government as a temporary shelter for deportees to curtail the incidence of overstaying foreigners loitering in public places like the Kandara Bridge.

“This is the place where overstaying foreigners, including Filipinos, who surrender for voluntary deportation, are brought. The Philippines is one of only two countries that have made an arrangement with the Saudi government for the use of the terminal. The other country is Egypt," Baldoz said.

She added the Philippines is only one of two countries in Saudi Arabia that shoulder the repatriation tickets of its overstaying nationals, and assist them in the process of repatriation.

In his report, Cabe said not all Filipinos qualified for repatriation stayed at the terminal, but everyone who were there were provided meals twice a day by the POLO, which also paid for the accommodation of Filipino nationals in the terminal.

Baldoz dismissed reports that the OFWs who were admitted to the terminal were not properly attended to by the POLO and the Philippine Embassy, saying that Philippine officials and staff regularly visited the Filipinos there to monitor their situation and provide assistance.

Baldoz earlier ordered to all labor attaches and welfare officers to speed up the repatriation of all OFWs who would like to return to the Philippines regardless of their status, and had issued the policy that distressed Filipino nationals be repatriated within 30 days after their exit permits have been obtained.

She had also authorized the use of P10 million from the 2010 budget of the DOLE as additional repatriation fund. The amount is part of the P50 million allocated by Congress last year as repatriation fund. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Monday, September 6, 2010

HK police to return 3 phones in hostage probe mix-up

The Hong Kong police will return the three mobile phones that the Manila authorities have mistakenly handed over along with the personal belongings of the victims of the August 23 hostage tragedy.

According to a news report of the South China Morning Post (SCMP) on Monday, the Hong Kong police confirmed on Sunday that some of the mobile phones turned over to them by the Philippine authorities did not belong to the Hong Kong victims.

The mix-up was revealed on Saturday when the Philippine investigating team discovered that one of the two phones that the hostage-taker used on August 23 was missing.

"Of the eight phones that were given to them, only five were identified as belonging to the Hong Kong victims," said Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). The Philippine National Police (PNP) is an attached agency of the DILG.

Robredo is the vice-chairman of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) probing the August 23 hostage incident.

On that day, a dismissed senior police inspector, Rolando Mendoza, hijacked a tourist bus carrying 21 Hong Kong tourists and four Filipinos. The hostage-taker was demanding for his reinstatement and the dismissal of a pending case against him at the Office of the Ombudsman. After an 11-hour standoff, Mendoza and eight Hong Kong tourists were killed.

The Philippine investigating panel was also told that Mendoza used at least two phones on August 23.

One was supplied by the police negotiators to communicate with him. The other was his personal phone, from which alleged copies of text messages he received have been leaked to the media. Most of the messages were from relatives pleading with him to surrender.

It is not yet certain whether the phone of hijacker Mendoza was among the three phones that were mistakenly handed over to the Hong Kong police.

"At this point, we can't really make a conclusion if the three phones are relevant or material," said Robredo, who believed one of the phones might have belonged to one of the Filipinos who accompanied the Hong Kong tour group.

According to the SCMP news report, Hong Kong legislator James To Kun-sun, deputy chairman of the Legislative Council's security panel, urged local police to return the phones to the Manila authorities as soon as possible.

"The last thing we want to see is that Manila will make use of this as an excuse to delay the inquiry," To was quoted as saying.

The five-member Philippine panel probing the incident will extend its investigation. The panel was earlier expected to complete its work today but needs more time to interview other witnesses and stage a reenactment of the hostage incident.

The investigating team will submit a formal report to President Benigno Simeon Aquino III and the Hong Kong government.

Meanwhile, the Hong Kong police granted a request for assistance from Philippine authorities, who will be sending a delegation to Hong Kong to interview the victims. –VVP, GMANews.TV

Bangko Sentral to revise 2010 BOP surplus target

The central bank is again set to revise the country's balance of payments (BOP) position forecast, confident that the projected surplus would be breached this year.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said over the weekend that monetary authorities will review the revised BOP surplus projection of $3.7 billion set in April, and come up with a revised target.

"We will be reviewing the numbers and releasing the updated projections by November," Tetangco said.

He attributed the widening of the surplus to strong foreign exchange inflows – higher foreign commercial borrowings of the national government, increased remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and robust earnings of the business process-outsourcing (BPO) sector.

The BOP measures the difference between foreign exchange inflows and outflows representing the country's transactions with the rest of the world I n a given period.

BSP data showed that the country's BOP surplus climbed 22.2 percent to $3.326 billion in the first seven months of the year from $2.722 billion in the same period last year due to strong investment inflows and higher OFW remittances.

In April, the BSP's Monetary Board said the 2010 BOP surplus would amount to $3.7 billion from the original target of $3.2 billion.

The country's BOP surplus narrowed to $89 million in 2008 from $8.67 billion in 2007 as international trade shrunk from global financial crisis.

The BOP position recovered last year with a surplus of $5.295 billion.

The strong foreign exchange inflows, Tetangco clarified, would not necessarily put more pressure on the peso that continued to strengthen against the US dollar.

Tetangco said the BOP surplus would continue to give the peso a fundamental support in the foreign exchange market.

"The exchange rate is affected by many things. It can also be affected by what is happening to the US dollar, investors' sentiments, then when there's news about global economic recovery. You see it is responding to a lot of different factors. But BOP surplus will give the fundamental support," Tetangco said. —JE/VS, GMANews.TV

Bangko Sentral to revise 2010 BOP surplus target

The central bank is again set to revise the country's balance of payments (BOP) position forecast, confident that the projected surplus would be breached this year.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said over the weekend that monetary authorities will review the revised BOP surplus projection of $3.7 billion set in April, and come up with a revised target.

"We will be reviewing the numbers and releasing the updated projections by November," Tetangco said.

He attributed the widening of the surplus to strong foreign exchange inflows – higher foreign commercial borrowings of the national government, increased remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and robust earnings of the business process-outsourcing (BPO) sector.

The BOP measures the difference between foreign exchange inflows and outflows representing the country's transactions with the rest of the world I n a given period.

BSP data showed that the country's BOP surplus climbed 22.2 percent to $3.326 billion in the first seven months of the year from $2.722 billion in the same period last year due to strong investment inflows and higher OFW remittances.

In April, the BSP's Monetary Board said the 2010 BOP surplus would amount to $3.7 billion from the original target of $3.2 billion.

The country's BOP surplus narrowed to $89 million in 2008 from $8.67 billion in 2007 as international trade shrunk from global financial crisis.

The BOP position recovered last year with a surplus of $5.295 billion.

The strong foreign exchange inflows, Tetangco clarified, would not necessarily put more pressure on the peso that continued to strengthen against the US dollar.

Tetangco said the BOP surplus would continue to give the peso a fundamental support in the foreign exchange market.

"The exchange rate is affected by many things. It can also be affected by what is happening to the US dollar, investors' sentiments, then when there's news about global economic recovery. You see it is responding to a lot of different factors. But BOP surplus will give the fundamental support," Tetangco said. —JE/VS, GMANews.TV

97 OFWs from Kuwait to arrive home Monday

Ninety-seven repatriated overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Kuwait will arrive in Manila on Monday morning, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Sunday.

Most of the workers left their employers for various reasons and sought refuge at the government-run Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) where they stayed for three to eight months, a DFA statement said.

According to Philippine Ambassador Shulan Primavera, Kuwaiti immigration authorities waived the usual exit or repatriation requirements through representations made by the Embassy and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office there.

Kuwaiti authorities also shouldered the repatriates’ plane fares, the DFA said.

The DFA said the usual deportation procedure requires the OFWs from FWRC to be surrendered to the local police first. The police will then summon the workers’ employers, who will then be required to surrender the workers’ passports. The workers’ visa will also be canceled and authorities will produce their plane tickets.

Primavera said the 97 were spared from that process.

“Our OFWs were spared from being placed at the deportation center where they could have stayed for more than three months. It can even be longer if the sponsor refuses to cooperate with the police," Primavera said. - Jerrie M. Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV
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