Monday, April 26, 2010

DFA: Arroyo to welcome 651 OFWs repatriated from ME on Friday

04/22/2010 | 07:37 PM

At least 651 Filipinos repatriated from the Middle East will arrive in Manila Friday afternoon, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said.

The DFA said President Arroyo will personally welcome the repatriates at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

"Majority of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are from Jeddah, with 302 repatriates; followed by Riyadh, with 150; and Abu Dhabi, with 60. The other repatriates will come from Dubai (50), Jordan (49), Al Khobar (26), and Bahrain (14)," the DFA said in its website (www.dfa.gov.ph).

It said the repatriates include distressed OFWs sheltered at the Filipino Workers Resource Centers.

Also expected to meet them are DFA Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (DFA-OUMWA) Executive Director Enrico Fos, DFA-OUMWA Principal Assistant Maurice Tiempo and representatives from the DFA-OUMWA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

The DFA said the mass repatriation project was conceived and realized through the concerted efforts of both public and private sectors.

On the government side, the DFA-OUMWA, OWWA, the Philippine Embassies and Consulates General in the Middle East, and the Department of Labor and Employment facilitated the processing of papers and other clearances of the repatriates.

"Majority of the return plane tickets purchased for the mass repatriation were funded by the Development Bank of the Philippines, Landbank, Pag-ibig Fund, San Miguel Corporation, and First Metro Pacific," the DFA said.

Earlier, the DFA facilitated the repatriation of 113 Filipinos from Jeddah and Qatar who arrived in four batches during the Holy Week.

The DFA-OUMWA continues to work closely with the Philippine Embassies and Consulates General to facilitate the repatriation of other distressed Filipinos overseas.—JV, GMANews.TV

Arroyo set to meet with repatriated OFWs from Mideast

04/24/2010 | 06:01 AM

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is set to meet on Friday with almost 500 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) who were repatriated back to Manila from various Middle East countries where they encountered problems and became stranded, according to Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) director Eduardo Bellido.

Due to arrive Friday afternoon in three batches were 574 OFWs—465 women and 52 men—with Mrs. Arroyo leading the welcoming ceremony at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Bellido said in a Malacanang briefing.

The first batch is composed of 454 workers from Saudi Arabia. The second batch has 37 from Syria and Bahrain. The third batch of 83 came from the United Arab Emirates, mostly from Abu Dhabi and Dubai. Also included are 57 children, mostly OFW kids.

According to Bellido, said the repatriation was a goodwill gesture offered by different Middle East countries following the recent visits made by the President.

The repatriated OFWs from Metro Manila will be given allowances to pay their travel fare to their provinces. Those going to the provinces, especially in the Visayas and Mindanao, will be staying at the OWWA Halfway Home or the Metro Manila Development Authority Gwapotel until their trips shall have been booked.

Bellido said the returning OFWs would also be given livelihood and skills training, and s assistance in getting local jobs.—JV, GMANews.TV

Pinoy held for girlfriend’s murder in UAE

A 43-year-old Filipino is now being held in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the killing of his Filipina girlfriend in Dubai one month ago.

UAE news site Khaleej Times reported on Wednesday the Filipino confessed to killing the woman, with whom he had a love affair for three years.

The incident occurred in the Al Twar area of Dubai, prompting police to question some 421 Asians in a span of one month to get to the suspect.

But Dubai police, with help from the victim’s relatives in the Philippines, managed to identify and track down the suspect.

Investigation showed the Filipino killed the woman after they had a fight in a parking lot of a residential area, with the man losing his temper when the woman threw sand in his face.

The man held her by her neck and pushed her into his car. He returned to the car after washing his face.

When the woman continued to argue with the man, he caught her again by the neck and strangled her with his belt.

The woman lost consciousness soon and the boyfriend headed straight to his friends’ home. Not finding anyone there, he fled, leaving the unconscious Filipina on the doorstep.

Acting on information regarding a body in Villa No. 1 in Al Twar, police rounded up 421 Asian expatriates in the locality and interrogated them.

One of them identified the victim and showed the police her flat.

Sometime later, a police official patrolling the area saw the victim’s lover getting out of the flat carrying a bag. The police apprehended him and found the victim’s clothes in the bag.

The police also learned the woman had absconded from her sponsor in 2007 but the sponsor had not informed the police. — LBG, GMANews.TV

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

No Pinoys hurt in strong Sumatra quake — envoy

The Philippine Ambassador to Indonesia eased fears that Filipinos might have been hurt in the 7.7-magnitude quake that jolted the northwest island of Sumatra early Wednesday morning.

Ambassador Vidal Querol said no Filipino was injured in the quake that struck at 5:15 a.m. He said the information came from his "focal person" in Banda Aceh, the provincial capital and the largest city of Aceh that is located in Sumatra.

"Ang ulat po sa atin, wala pong Pinoy na nasaktan. Pero wala lang pong power doon. Ang pagkawala ng power ay resulta ng lindol (We received a report that no Filipino was hurt but there is still no power in the area)," Querol, a former Philippine police general, said in an interview on dzBB radio.

According to the December 2008 records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Authority, there are more than 11,600 overseas Filipino workers in Indonesia.

An Associated Press report said state meteorologists in Indonesia have issued a tsunami warning after the quake, but lifted it two hours later.

Aceh Governor Irwandi Yusuf likewise said there was no initial report of damages or casualties and that “the situation is under control.

A 2004 tsunami triggered by a magnitude-9.2 earthquake in the western coast of Sumatra killed 230,000 people in a dozen countries on the Indian Ocean basin. — Sophia Dedace/RSJ, GMANews.TV

DFA opens multi-million consular office

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Monday opened its new multi-million consular and passport services building along Macapagal Boulevard in ParaƱaque City.

In a release posted on the agency’s web site, DFA officials held a blessing for the new office of its Office of Consular Affairs (OCA), a 7,000-square-meter, four-storey building.

The building is currently on lease to the DFA by its owner, Development Bank of the Philippines, for P530 million.

Consular clients will now have the comfort of waiting their turn while seated on ergonomically-designed, stainless steel benches, the DFA said. Instead of long queues, clients can shorten their wait by accessing the DFA's online appointment system and would to move from ground to second floor only for their consular applications.



The facade of the new Department of Foreign Affairs building along Diosdado Macapagal Avenue in Pasay City awaits finishing touches and landscaping. The new facility will provide better and efficient services to OFWs. Mark Adrian

The new facility is equipped with fiber-optic lines, closed-circuit TV cameras and other high-tech information and communications infrastructure. Made of tempered glass and steel, the modern OCA office departs from the traditional concrete buildings.

“[This is] part of the ongoing modernization program undertaken [by the agency] to further improve its frontline services which include harnessing new technologies in passport and visa issuances and streamlined procedures in the authentication of documents," the DFA said.

The new facility is located at the corner of Bradco and Macapagal Avenues in Aseana Business Park, just a few minutes away from the SM Mall of Asia. It will be open to the public in a few weeks. Consular services meanwhile will continue at the DFA’s existing consular facilities along Roberts Street.

The new facility will be the home of the ePassport, the electronic authentication system, the electronic visa system, and digitized consular records system.

“The OCA building is poised to set the new standard among government front-line offices, providing the public with fast, efficient, and comfortable service," the DFA said. - Jerrie Abella/KBK, GMANews.TV

Pinoy doc in Congo dies while moving to safety

A Filipino doctor was killed while evacuating to safer grounds when a town and airport in Mbandaka, Congo (DR Congo) was attacked by rebels.

The Department of Foreign Affairs cited a report from the Philippine Embassy in Nairobi identifying the fatality as Dr. Jay Basilio-Bool.

It said Bool worked with the United Nations contractor PAE Group, and died due to cardiac arrest during the evacuation.

A report from Charges d'Affaires Donna Celeste Feliciano-Gatmaytan cited a report from a representative of the doctor's employer, Willem Ackerman.

"The PAE Group is a contractor providing airport support services to the United Nations Organization Mission in DR Congo (MONUC). His family has been informed of the incident," the DFA said.

On the other hand, the DFA said four other Filipinos from the same company are reported as safe and accounted for.

It identified them as Fire Officer Juanito Sape, Firefighter/Equipment Operators Noel Lee and Laborce Hilario, and EMT Lead Rolando Tullao.

The PAE is making arrangements for the shipment of Dr. Bool's remains.

A representative from the company has also been designated to accompany his remains back to the Philippines.

Recent news reports indicated government and UN forces have retaken the airport, which is now opened to traffic.

Other casualties included three members of the MONUC, a peacekeeper from Ghana, a South African pilot and a civilian employee.

Four Congolese soldiers and two police officers were also killed in the fighting. - GMANews.TV

Filipina victimized in UAE payroll robbery

A Filipina was victimized in a payroll robbery staged by at least two men, one of whom was her co-worker, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week.

But Sharjah police arrested two suspects shortly after the crime, after noting some booboos committed by the co-worker, UAE-based Khaleej Times said in a report on Monday.

Police investigators indicated the crime was amateurish, with the suspects seeming to take cues from police television shows.

Brigadier Yousef Musa al Naqbi, head of the Sharjah Police Criminal Investigation Division, said the crime was motivated by a series of police drama series on television as the two criminals were not experienced in whatever they were doing.

“The robber threatened the driver verbally and the Filipina with a knife, the robber tied the driver with a rope and the driver made no resistance at all. Even after the robber fled, the driver stayed in his seat. It was the Filipina that moved out to seek assistance," he said.

The incident occurred last Wednesday, when the Filipina and a company driver, a Pakistani, went to the bank to collect the salaries of workers, police said.

The report did not name the Filipino employee and the suspects.

After the Filipina and the driver withdrew Dh142,000 (P1.736 million), a man suddenly entered their car and tied the driver with a piece of rope.

He then threatened the Filipino woman with a knife before he fled with the money.

Police said their investigation showed the Pakistani driver was involved in the plan to rob the money.

The Khaleej Times report quoted police as saying the driver eventually confessed that he had planned the robbery.

Police said the driver told police the Filipina would transport the employees’ earnings at the end of every month.

According to the driver, he and his companion knew she was collecting about Dh100,000 (P1.222 million) at the time.

The driver told police during questioning he and his companion had planned to use the money to buy cars and resell them in their country.

He also said he and the robber kept constant communication and his companion was at the bank minutes before they arrived.

Investigation also showed the robber watched the Filipina and the driver enter the bank and withdraw the money.

When they returned to the car, he attacked them by threatening them with a knife.

Police arrested the Pakistani driver’s companion in a follow-up operation.

Recovered from the companion was Dh136,033 (P1.663 million). The companion said he used some of the money to pay for an airplane ticket.

The two suspects confessed to the robbery and have been referred to the Sharjah Public Prosecution. - GMANews.TV

Filipina victimized in UAE payroll robbery

A Filipina was victimized in a payroll robbery staged by at least two men, one of whom was her co-worker, in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) last week.

But Sharjah police arrested two suspects shortly after the crime, after noting some booboos committed by the co-worker, UAE-based Khaleej Times said in a report on Monday.

Police investigators indicated the crime was amateurish, with the suspects seeming to take cues from police television shows.

Brigadier Yousef Musa al Naqbi, head of the Sharjah Police Criminal Investigation Division, said the crime was motivated by a series of police drama series on television as the two criminals were not experienced in whatever they were doing.

“The robber threatened the driver verbally and the Filipina with a knife, the robber tied the driver with a rope and the driver made no resistance at all. Even after the robber fled, the driver stayed in his seat. It was the Filipina that moved out to seek assistance," he said.

The incident occurred last Wednesday, when the Filipina and a company driver, a Pakistani, went to the bank to collect the salaries of workers, police said.

The report did not name the Filipino employee and the suspects.

After the Filipina and the driver withdrew Dh142,000 (P1.736 million), a man suddenly entered their car and tied the driver with a piece of rope.

He then threatened the Filipino woman with a knife before he fled with the money.

Police said their investigation showed the Pakistani driver was involved in the plan to rob the money.

The Khaleej Times report quoted police as saying the driver eventually confessed that he had planned the robbery.

Police said the driver told police the Filipina would transport the employees’ earnings at the end of every month.

According to the driver, he and his companion knew she was collecting about Dh100,000 (P1.222 million) at the time.

The driver told police during questioning he and his companion had planned to use the money to buy cars and resell them in their country.

He also said he and the robber kept constant communication and his companion was at the bank minutes before they arrived.

Investigation also showed the robber watched the Filipina and the driver enter the bank and withdraw the money.

When they returned to the car, he attacked them by threatening them with a knife.

Police arrested the Pakistani driver’s companion in a follow-up operation.

Recovered from the companion was Dh136,033 (P1.663 million). The companion said he used some of the money to pay for an airplane ticket.

The two suspects confessed to the robbery and have been referred to the Sharjah Public Prosecution. - GMANews.TV

15 Pinoy crew of sunken cargo vessel due home Wednesday

04/06/2010 | 03:02 PM

Fifteen Filipino crew members of a Barbados-registered cargo vessel that sank off Spain will arrive in Manila Wednesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

Citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Madrid, the DFA said the 15 are to arrive in the afternoon at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) via Thai Airways.

Expected to welcome them are DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Executive Director Enrico Fos and officers of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, the DFA said in its Web site.

Fos said representatives of the local manning agency and indemnity insurance company would assist and assure the rescued Filipino seafarers of insurance and other benefits. He said the manning agencies also assured the seafarers of employment when they are able and ready.

On the other hand, benefits for the families of the two Filipino seafarers still missing - Leonilo Rosales and Jimmy Gabayoyo – have been readied as well.

The vessel MV Kea sank in Cape Villano in Galicia, Spain from St. Petersberg, Russia to Columbia last March. It had 19 Filipino seafarers on board.

Of the 19, 17 Filipino seafarers were rescued. Fifteen were treated at the San Rafael Hospital in Coruna, Spain while two arrived in Rotterdam last April 3 after being rescued by another vessel, MV Sapphire. - KBK, GMANews.TV

19 Pinoy seafarers on board hijacked tanker: DFA

Nineteen Filipinos were among the crew members of the South Korean ship hijacked by Somali pirates on Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs confirmed Monday.

“The Philippine Embassy in Nairobi [in Kenya] sent an initial report to the [DFA] today that another ship with 19 Filipino crew members were seized by Somali pirates," the department said in a statement.

Five South Koreans were believed to be on board the M/V Samho Dream when it was hijacked northeast of the Somali Basin on Sunday. The ship had reportedly come from Iraq and was heading for Louisiana in the United States when it was hijacked, the DFA said.

The DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs is coordinating with the “vessel’s principal, the local manning agency" and the Philippine embassies in Nairobi and Seoul regarding the incident, according to the statement.

The latest hijacking brings to 24 the number of Filipino seafarers on board four vessels held captive by Somali pirates. – SD/YA, GMANews.TV

DFA: 19 RP seafarers rescued from sinking vessel off Spain

03/31/2010 | 10:40 AM

More Share11 At least 19 Filipino seafarers who were aboard a cargo vessel that sank off Spain are safe, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

Radio dzBB's Allan Gatus reported that DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya cited initial reports indicating that the Filipinos, who he did not name, were rescued.

Initial reports indicated the cargo vessel "Kea" sank off Cape Vilano in Galicia, Spain, due to bad weather. The vessel was carrying ammonium nitrate.

The vessel's crew included 19 Filipinos, two Croatians and seafarers from Ghana, Russia and Latvia.

Kea was heading for Colombia from St. Petersburg, Russia, when it sank. — LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV

Remains of Pinay slain in Singapore arrive in RP

03/27/2010 | 12:11 PM

The remains of a Filipino woman who was slain in Singapore last March 15 arrived in Manila Friday night and was received by her sister at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's cargo section.

A report on dzXL radio on Saturday said the body of Roselyn Reyes Pascua was brought to Manila on a Cebu Pacific flight at 9:05 p.m.

Pascua’s sister Jenny Leda said they plan to bury the remains this coming Tuesday at the Garden of East Memorial Park in Sta. Cruz, Laguna.

Pascua, 30, was found with stab wounds in her rented room at Bencoolen Street before dawn last March 15.

The Philippine Embassy in Singapore said Pascua entered Singapore on February 3 as a tourist and extended her social visit pass until April 4.

She was staying alone in a rented room at the Peony Mansion when the incident occurred.

Police arrested an Indian suspected to be behind the killing of Pascua. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) did not identify the suspect but said he was 34 years old.

“Murder is a serious crime. We will spare no efforts to bring the perpetrator to justice. My officers have worked round the clock and left no stone unturned in their hunt for the suspect," said Senior Assistant Commissioner Ng Boon Gay, director of the Criminal Investigation Department. — LBG, GMANews.TV
RP post in Riyadh denies neglect in repatriation of pardoned OFWs
JERRIE ABELLA, GMANews.TV
03/24/2010 | 04:47 PM

More Share3 The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has denied it had "overlooked" the repatriation schedule of 11 pardoned overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the Kingdom, which resulted in the workers missing their flight.

In a statement posted on the Embassy’s Web site Tuesday, it said the workers are in the custody of Saudi jail personnel, who in turn have the sole authority to make arrangements for the OFWs’ repatriation.

"From their detention cells, the (OFWs) are directly brought to the tarmac and board the plane without going through the normal immigration procedure; they are not subjected to the departure protocols at the airport. It has to be emphasized that only Saudi authorities can bring the detainees to the airport and this Embassy does not have any authority to do so," the Embassy stated.

The 11 pardoned Filipinos were originally scheduled for repatriation to Manila on March 15, but missed their midnight flight as their group, escorted by Saudi police authorities, arrived just a minute too late at the airport.
The Embassy also said only Saudi Arabian authorities have control over the re-booking of the OFWs’ flight.

The Embassy was reacting to statements in the previous report by migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East, which said that while the Embassy admitted it has overlooked the OFWs’ repatriation schedule, it promised to speed up the efforts to rebook the workers’ flight.

"While the Embassy closely monitors and makes strong representations for the release of Filipino detainees who have served their sentences or have been pardoned and in certain cases, assists in submitting the tickets of the detainees, the confirmation of these flights is also done by the jail authorities," it wrote.

An earlier statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs, however, said the Embassy was arranging the rebooking for the workers’ repatriation at the next available flight.

The DFA added that the Embassy had earlier notified and coordinated with the DFA about original repatriation schedule of the OFWs.

As this developed, the DFA said at least 200 Filipinos imprisoned for petty offenses in Saudi Arabia have been pardoned and repatriated to the Philippines since December last year.

Half of the 200 pardoned are female, and half are males, according to the DFA.

The department said its embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah made vigorous representations for clemency for the Filipinos.

"The DFA remains focused on looking after the welfare of our OFWs, and will continue to do so," DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said.

The pardoned Filipinos previously in jail have been repatriated under a royal pardon issued by the Saudi King on December 11 for petty crime offenders. — RSJ/KBK, GMANews.TV
The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh has denied it had "overlooked" the repatriation schedule of 11 pardoned overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the Kingdom, which resulted in the workers missing their flight.

In a statement posted on the Embassy’s Web site Tuesday, it said the workers are in the custody of Saudi jail personnel, who in turn have the sole authority to make arrangements for the OFWs’ repatriation.

"From their detention cells, the (OFWs) are directly brought to the tarmac and board the plane without going through the normal immigration procedure; they are not subjected to the departure protocols at the airport. It has to be emphasized that only Saudi authorities can bring the detainees to the airport and this Embassy does not have any authority to do so," the Embassy stated.

The 11 pardoned Filipinos were originally scheduled for repatriation to Manila on March 15, but missed their midnight flight as their group, escorted by Saudi police authorities, arrived just a minute too late at the airport. [See: 11 pardoned OFWs miss flight back to Manila]

The Embassy also said only Saudi Arabian authorities have control over the re-booking of the OFWs’ flight.

The Embassy was reacting to statements in the previous report by migrants’ rights group Migrante-Middle East, which said that while the Embassy admitted it has overlooked the OFWs’ repatriation schedule, it promised to speed up the efforts to rebook the workers’ flight.

"While the Embassy closely monitors and makes strong representations for the release of Filipino detainees who have served their sentences or have been pardoned and in certain cases, assists in submitting the tickets of the detainees, the confirmation of these flights is also done by the jail authorities," it wrote.

An earlier statement from the Department of Foreign Affairs, however, said the Embassy was arranging the rebooking for the workers’ repatriation at the next available flight.

The DFA added that the Embassy had earlier notified and coordinated with the DFA about original repatriation schedule of the OFWs.

As this developed, the DFA said at least 200 Filipinos imprisoned for petty offenses in Saudi Arabia have been pardoned and repatriated to the Philippines since December last year.

Half of the 200 pardoned are female, and half are males, according to the DFA.

The department said its embassy in Riyadh and Consulate General in Jeddah made vigorous representations for clemency for the Filipinos.

"The DFA remains focused on looking after the welfare of our OFWs, and will continue to do so," DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. said.

The pardoned Filipinos previously in jail have been repatriated under a royal pardon issued by the Saudi King on December 11 for petty crime offenders. — RSJ/KBK, GMANews.TV

Pinoy, 2 others on trial for UAE kids’ fatal food poisoning

A Filipino restaurant supervisor, as well as a Nepali cook and Iraqi general practitioner, are on trial in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the fatal food poisoning of two children last year.

UAE-based news site Khaleej Times has reported that the Court of Misdemeanors deferred until April 5 the hearing of the case to facilitate the recording of a forensic doctor’s statement.

The case also involved alleged negligence from the local hospital that attended to siblings Nathan, 5, and his sister Chelsea, 7.

Initial investigation showed the children were rushed to the hospital a few hours after consuming the meal but were eventually discharged.

The children’s father, Patrick D’Souza, held doctors and the hospital responsible for the death of his children, believing that they would have been alive had they been given proper medical care.

“I had left it up to the Dubai authorities and I hope they will make sure that it doesn’t happen again to any child or family. I think hospitals here have to take responsibilities more seriously," D’Souza said.

He added that he and his wife have yet to overcome the loss of their children nine months ago.

The two restaurant employees are accused of not adhering to standard hygienic conditions prescribed for preserving and storing the food, which turned out to have been contaminated with bacteria.

On the other hand, an Iraqi doctor has been accused of negligence for failing to provide the two siblings with adequate medical urgent assistance when they were admitted at the hospital on June 12, 2009.

While the report did not name the Filipino and the Nepali, it described the Filipino as 34 years old, the Nepali as 26 years old, and the female Iraqi doctor as 47 years old. — with a report by Nikka Corsino/LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV

Dubai opening world's tallest building amid crisis

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Dubai prepared to inaugurate the world's tallest skyscraper on Monday, hoping to shift international attention away from the Gulf emirate's deep financial crisis and rekindle the optimism that fueled its turbocharged growth.

Crews rushed to complete preparations for the official opening of the tower, which stands at least 160 stories high. The exact height will only be revealed at the evening inauguration. The developer's chairman said it cost about $1.5 billion to build the tapering metal-and-glass spire billed as a "vertical city" of luxury apartments and offices. It boasts four swimming pools, a private library and a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

Dubai's ruler will open the skyscraper with a fireworks display and light show in a celebration that also marks four years since his ascension to power. Security is expected to be tight with more than 1,000 security personnel including plainclothes police and sharpshooters, local media reported. Cleaning crews were busy scrubbing windows and sweeping the plaza at the tower's base just hours before festivities began.

Burj Dubai opens in the midst of a severe financial crisis in the city-state — one of seven tiny sheikdoms that make up the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai was little more than a sleepy fishing village a generation ago but it boomed into the Middle East's commercial hub over the past two decades on the back of business-friendly trading policies, relative security, and vast amounts of overseas investment.

Then property prices in parts of sheikdom popular with foreign buyers collapsed by nearly half over the past year, and firms owned by the government struggled to pay their massive debts. Dubai had to turn to its richer neighbor and UAE capital Abu Dhabi for bailouts totaling $25 billion in 2009 to help cover debts amassed by a network of state-linked companies.

Now Dubai is now mired in debt and many buildings sit largely empty — the result of overbuilding during a property bubble that has since burst.

Burj developer Emaar is itself partly owned by the government, but is not among the companies known to have received emergency bailout cash.

Despite the past year of hardships, the tower's developer and other officials were in a festive mood, trying to bring the world's focus on the Dubai's future potential rather than past mistakes.

"Crises come and go. And cities move on," said Mohammed Alabbar, chairman of the tower's developer Emaar Properties, told reporters before the inauguration. "You have to move on. Because if you stop taking decisions, you stop growing."

Alabbar said the landmark tower is 90 percent sold in a mix of residential units, offices and other space, offering a counterpoint to Dubai's financial woes.

The developer has only said the spire stands more than 2625 feet (800 meters) tall. Alabbar said Dubai's ruler will announce the height at the inauguration ceremony.

At a reported height of 2,684 feet (818 meters), the Burj Dubai long ago vanquished its nearest rival, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

But the tower's record-seeking developers didn't stop there.

The building boasts the most stories and highest occupied floor of any building in the world, and ranks as the world's tallest structure, beating out a television mast in North Dakota. Its observation deck — on floor 124 — also sets a record.

"We weren't sure how high we could go," said Bill Baker, the building's structural engineer, who is in Dubai for the inauguration. "It was kind of an exploration. ... A learning experience"

Baker, of Chicago-based architecture and engineering firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, said early designs for the Burj had it edging out the world's previous record-holder, the Taipei 101, by about 33 feet (10 meters). The Taiwan tower rises 1,667 feet (508 meters).

Work on Burj Dubai began in 2004 and moved ahead rapidly. At times, new floors were being added almost every three days, reflecting Dubai's raging push to reshape itself over a few years from a small-time desert outpost into a cosmopolitan urban giant packed with skyscrapers.

The tower is more than 50 stories higher than Chicago's Willis Tower, the tallest building in the U.S. formerly known as the Sears Tower.

At their peak, some apartments in the Burj were selling for more than $1,900 per square foot, though they now can go for less than half that, said Heather Wipperman Amiji, chief executive of Dubai real estate consultancy Investment Boutique.

Besides luxury apartments and offices, the Burj will be home to a hotel designed by Giorgio Armani.

It's also the centerpiece of a 500-acre development that officials hope will become a new central residential and commercial district in this sprawling and often disconnected city. It is flanked by dozens of smaller but brand-new skyscrapers and the Middle East's largest shopping mall.

That layout — as the core of a lower-rise skyline — lets the Burj stand out prominently against the horizon. It is visible across dozens of miles of rolling sand dunes outside Dubai. From the air, the spire appears as an almost solitary, slender needle reaching high into the sky. - AP

UAE reiterates vow to protect domestics

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday reiterated its commitment to provide a proper working environment for workers, particularly domestic helpers, in the country.

In a report by UAE-based news site Khaleej Times, Major-General Nasser Al Menhali, acting Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residency and Exits Affairs at the Interior Ministry, said the ministry is committed to provide a working environment conducive to the welfare and interests primarily of domestic helpers deployed there.

Al Menhali urged embassies of foreign countries in the UAE to fulfill their roles in addressing complaints by housemaids, by raising their awareness and helping them to pursue channels set up by the Ministry of Interior for protecting their rights under a "humanitarian and legal framework."

The report also quoted the top ministry official as saying that all departments of naturalization and residency across the country have units to settle disputes of housemaids.

In case of a dispute between the sponsor and employee, the section receives and examines the complaint

If found guilty, Al Menhali said the sponsor will be compelled to grant the complainant his or her delayed salary in full and the travel fare if the employee wishes to return home.

This is in addition to all rights under the signed contracts between the two parties, the report added.

In case no compromise is reached, the section will submit the complaint to a court proceeding.

Al Menhali said based on their records, the Dispute Settlement Section dealt with 8,216 cases in 2008.

According to Al Menhali, this was a marked drop from the 19,814 cases in 2007.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency indicate that in 2008, the UAE registered 193,810 Filipino workers.—Jerrie Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

PDEA chief wants zero govt help for ‘drug mules’

Filipinos who allow themselves to be used as “drug mules" by foreign drug syndicates do not deserve the help of the government, the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said.

“We will recommend that the Philippine government will no longer intervene in their cases. A number of those caught transporting illegal drugs were proven to be knowledgeable of their acts," said PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago in a statement.

He noted that the government is not remiss in its duty to warn Filipinos, especially those who are seeking employment abroad, of the dangers of allowing themselves to be used as drug couriers by international syndicates. (Read: Number of Filipino drug mules increasing)

A number of Filipinos had been arrested in other countries for drug trafficking, the latest of whom was Maria Elenita Rivera. She was arrested Bangkok last March 22 for attempting to smuggle 3.2 kilograms of cocaine.

Santiago said these Filipinos are usually employed by West African drug groups to send their shipments of illegal drugs to their clients in Asia, Middle East and South America.

The issue of drug mules was part of the agenda during the recent International Drug Enforcement Conference Far East Regional Working Group (IDEC-FERWG) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, that was president by Santiago, the group’s current chairman.

During the meeting, Santiago stressed to representatives of the 17 member-countries the need to heighten their alert on the increasing participation of West African drug syndicates in global drug trafficking activities. He said these groups should be part of the major operational targets of the respective drug law enforcement agencies of the IDEC-FERWG countries.

“This is a persistent and continuing collaborative effort. While we are domestically intensifying our drug law enforcement operations against high value targets, we are also holding pro-active bilateral and multi-lateral meetings with fellow stakeholders to come up with effective and efficient countermeasures," Santiago, a former military general, said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

More Share11 Filipinos who allow themselves to be used as “drug mules" by foreign drug syndicates do not deserve the help of the government, the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said.

“We will recommend that the Philippine government will no longer intervene in their cases. A number of those caught transporting illegal drugs were proven to be knowledgeable of their acts," said PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago in a statement.

He noted that the government is not remiss in its duty to warn Filipinos, especially those who are seeking employment abroad, of the dangers of allowing themselves to be used as drug couriers by international syndicates. (Read: Number of Filipino drug mules increasing)

A number of Filipinos had been arrested in other countries for drug trafficking, the latest of whom was Maria Elenita Rivera. She was arrested Bangkok last March 22 for attempting to smuggle 3.2 kilograms of cocaine.

Santiago said these Filipinos are usually employed by West African drug groups to send their shipments of illegal drugs to their clients in Asia, Middle East and South America.

The issue of drug mules was part of the agenda during the recent International Drug Enforcement Conference Far East Regional Working Group (IDEC-FERWG) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, that was president by Santiago, the group’s current chairman.

During the meeting, Santiago stressed to representatives of the 17 member-countries the need to heighten their alert on the increasing participation of West African drug syndicates in global drug trafficking activities. He said these groups should be part of the major operational targets of the respective drug law enforcement agencies of the IDEC-FERWG countries.

“This is a persistent and continuing collaborative effort. While we are domestically intensifying our drug law enforcement operations against high value targets, we are also holding pro-active bilateral and multi-lateral meetings with fellow stakeholders to come up with effective and efficient countermeasures," Santiago, a former military general, said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

RP posts in the Americas conclude OAV training

With a recently-concluded training held in Los Angeles on how Filipinos abroad can vote for the May 10 elections back home, Philippine diplomatic posts in the Americas have hiked up preparations for overseas absentee voting (OAV) which is set to start in just over a week.

In a release posted Thursday on the Department of Foreign Affairs website, the Philippine Embassy in Ottawa reported that its office and Consulates General in Canada and the Americas conducted a training for OAV last March 11 to 13.

Embassy and Consulate officials and staff in Canada, the U.S. and other posts in Central and South America participated in the training which was held at the Wilshire Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles, California.

Attending the training from Canada were Philippine Ambassador to Canada Jose S. Brillantes as Head of the Special Board of Canvassers (SBOC), Minister and Consul General Joseph Gerard B. Angeles as Head of the Special Ballot Election Inspectors (SBEI) and Alvar E. Rosales as Head of the Special Ballot Reception and Custody Group (SBRCG).

Also from Canada were the SBEI and SBRCG heads for the Philippine Consulates-General in Canada, namely Consul-General Ruth Morales Prado and Abigail Monte-Ma of Vancouver, and Consul-General Minverva Falcon and Evangeline Cayongcat of Toronto.

The training was conducted by a team from the Commission on Elections headed by Commissioner Armando Velasco, in cooperation with the Philippine Consulate-General in Los Angeles.

Philippine elections—the first to be automated nationwide—are scheduled on May 10, 2010. Through the OAV procedures, Filipino voters abroad will be allowed to vote for the President, the Vice President, senators and congressional party-list representatives. Overseas voting will start on April 10 and will last for a month.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Pinoys in Portugal want diplomatic office

Filipinos in Portugal are clamoring for a diplomatic office there, a Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) official said.

CBCP Episcopal Commission on Migrants and Itinerant People (ECMI) executive secretary Fr. Edwin Corros said he learned of this during a recent visit to the European country.

“They lamented too of having to take a plane to Paris or catch a long trip to Madrid in order to transact business for consular needs," Corros said in an article posted on the CBCP news site.

He added that Filipinos in Portugal are hoping that the Philippine government would understand their plight despite their small number in the country.

Records of the Commission on Filipinos overseas indicate there are about 4,306 Filipinos in the westernmost European country. Of these, only about 399 are considered permanent residents.

However, the figure may be as high as 20,000 considering many enter Portugal illegally by taking advantage of the free movement of persons within the EU under the Schengen Agreement, the use of fake passports, and various other clandestine methods of illegal migration. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Saturday, April 3, 2010

UAE reiterates vow to protect domestics

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday reiterated its commitment to provide a proper working environment for workers, particularly domestic helpers, in the country.

In a report by UAE-based news site Khaleej Times, Major-General Nasser Al Menhali, acting Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residency and Exits Affairs at the Interior Ministry, said the ministry is committed to provide a working environment conducive to the welfare and interests primarily of domestic helpers deployed there.

Al Menhali urged embassies of foreign countries in the UAE to fulfill their roles in addressing complaints by housemaids, by raising their awareness and helping them to pursue channels set up by the Ministry of Interior for protecting their rights under a "humanitarian and legal framework."

The report also quoted the top ministry official as saying that all departments of naturalization and residency across the country have units to settle disputes of housemaids.

In case of a dispute between the sponsor and employee, the section receives and examines the complaint

If found guilty, Al Menhali said the sponsor will be compelled to grant the complainant his or her delayed salary in full and the travel fare if the employee wishes to return home.

This is in addition to all rights under the signed contracts between the two parties, the report added.

In case no compromise is reached, the section will submit the complaint to a court proceeding.

Al Menhali said based on their records, the Dispute Settlement Section dealt with 8,216 cases in 2008.

According to Al Menhali, this was a marked drop from the 19,814 cases in 2007.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency indicate that in 2008, the UAE registered 193,810 Filipino workers.—Jerrie Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Gulf nations' job markets improve despite crisis

The job market in Gulf countries are improving despite the global economic slowdown, a survey undertaken by an online recruitment portal in the Middle East that was cited by the Philippine government said.

The GulfTalent.com survey, cited by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, covered Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Oman and the United Arab Emirates for the period 2009-2010.

The survey showed that despite the salary growth slump in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the average pay rises have for the first time exceeded the increase in the cost of living.

As a result, many residents, including foreign workers, have seen an improvement in their quality of life and saving potential, particularly in Dubai and Doha where rents have fallen by over 30 percent.

There has also been a gradual move in the region towards greater legal rights and protection for employees, as more countries made it easier for employees to switch jobs, and new labor laws have been passed into law or are under review with more pro-employee provisions.

However, further job cuts may still be likely in the future but at a slower pace than has been witnessed over the past 12 months.

The survey estimates that half of the companies are expected to create new jobs to compensate for the ones being lost.

But there are setbacks in the one-year period, the survey notes.

Recruitment has slowed down significantly across the Gulf, most notably in Dubai, in light of its higher exposure to credit financing and global markets.

A significant slump in the salary growth was also noted across the region, with base salaries rising at an average rate to 6.2 percent over the 12-month period to August 2009, compared with 11.4 percent for the same period in 2008.

The biggest average pay rise was recorded in Oman at 8.4 percent, followed by Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain at around 7 percent.

The UAE and Kuwait stood at the bottom with 5.5 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively.

In terms of industries, the audit sector had the highest average rise, as demand for audit services surged after the high-profile collapse of major global institutions.

According to the survey of employers, the GCC average pay rise in 2010 is expected to stand at 6.3 percent.

Also, 10 percent, or one in ten professionals, lost their jobs based on the survey as many companies cut staff in 2009.

This was highest in the UAE at 16 percent and, on a sector basis, in real estate at 15 percent.

The disparity in the economic conditions of the different countries has meanwhile led to increased mobility across the region.

In particular, a sizeable number of expatriate professionals have relocated from Dubai to Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia to take up employment opportunities there.

Nonetheless, Dubai still remains the region’s most popular destination for expatriates and is likely to get back much of the talent it lost as soon as an upturn emerges.

Based on data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration as of 2008, over 60 percent of the total 974,399 land-based overseas Filipino workers (OFW) are deployed in the six GCC countries, accounting for 616,289 Filipino workers.

Remittances from OFWs in the six GCC countries also reached $2.5 billion in 2009, which is about 15 percent of the total $17.3 billion in remittances for that year.

Of the six countries, only Kuwait registered a decline in OFW remittances, down to $104 million in 2009 from $125 million in 2008. - RJAB Jr., GMANews.TV

Pinoy, 2 others on trial for UAE kids’ fatal food poisoning

A Filipino restaurant supervisor, as well as a Nepali cook and Iraqi general practitioner, are on trial in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) for the fatal food poisoning of two children last year.

UAE-based news site Khaleej Times has reported that the Court of Misdemeanors deferred until April 5 the hearing of the case to facilitate the recording of a forensic doctor’s statement.

The case also involved alleged negligence from the local hospital that attended to siblings Nathan, 5, and his sister Chelsea, 7.

Initial investigation showed the children were rushed to the hospital a few hours after consuming the meal but were eventually discharged.

The children’s father, Patrick D’Souza, held doctors and the hospital responsible for the death of his children, believing that they would have been alive had they been given proper medical care.

“I had left it up to the Dubai authorities and I hope they will make sure that it doesn’t happen again to any child or family. I think hospitals here have to take responsibilities more seriously," D’Souza said.

He added that he and his wife have yet to overcome the loss of their children nine months ago.

The two restaurant employees are accused of not adhering to standard hygienic conditions prescribed for preserving and storing the food, which turned out to have been contaminated with bacteria.

On the other hand, an Iraqi doctor has been accused of negligence for failing to provide the two siblings with adequate medical urgent assistance when they were admitted at the hospital on June 12, 2009.

While the report did not name the Filipino and the Nepali, it described the Filipino as 34 years old, the Nepali as 26 years old, and the female Iraqi doctor as 47 years old. — with a report by Nikka Corsino/LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV

UAE reiterates vow to protect domestics

The United Arab Emirates on Thursday reiterated its commitment to provide a proper working environment for workers, particularly domestic helpers, in the country.

In a report by UAE-based news site Khaleej Times, Major-General Nasser Al Menhali, acting Assistant Undersecretary for Naturalisation, Residency and Exits Affairs at the Interior Ministry, said the ministry is committed to provide a working environment conducive to the welfare and interests primarily of domestic helpers deployed there.

Al Menhali urged embassies of foreign countries in the UAE to fulfill their roles in addressing complaints by housemaids, by raising their awareness and helping them to pursue channels set up by the Ministry of Interior for protecting their rights under a "humanitarian and legal framework."

The report also quoted the top ministry official as saying that all departments of naturalization and residency across the country have units to settle disputes of housemaids.

In case of a dispute between the sponsor and employee, the section receives and examines the complaint

If found guilty, Al Menhali said the sponsor will be compelled to grant the complainant his or her delayed salary in full and the travel fare if the employee wishes to return home.

This is in addition to all rights under the signed contracts between the two parties, the report added.

In case no compromise is reached, the section will submit the complaint to a court proceeding.

Al Menhali said based on their records, the Dispute Settlement Section dealt with 8,216 cases in 2008.

According to Al Menhali, this was a marked drop from the 19,814 cases in 2007.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency indicate that in 2008, the UAE registered 193,810 Filipino workers.—Jerrie Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

PDEA chief wants zero govt help for ‘drug mules’

Filipinos who allow themselves to be used as “drug mules" by foreign drug syndicates do not deserve the help of the government, the head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said.

“We will recommend that the Philippine government will no longer intervene in their cases. A number of those caught transporting illegal drugs were proven to be knowledgeable of their acts," said PDEA Director General Dionisio Santiago in a statement.

He noted that the government is not remiss in its duty to warn Filipinos, especially those who are seeking employment abroad, of the dangers of allowing themselves to be used as drug couriers by international syndicates. (Read: Number of Filipino drug mules increasing)

A number of Filipinos had been arrested in other countries for drug trafficking, the latest of whom was Maria Elenita Rivera. She was arrested Bangkok last March 22 for attempting to smuggle 3.2 kilograms of cocaine.

Santiago said these Filipinos are usually employed by West African drug groups to send their shipments of illegal drugs to their clients in Asia, Middle East and South America.

The issue of drug mules was part of the agenda during the recent International Drug Enforcement Conference Far East Regional Working Group (IDEC-FERWG) meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, that was president by Santiago, the group’s current chairman.

During the meeting, Santiago stressed to representatives of the 17 member-countries the need to heighten their alert on the increasing participation of West African drug syndicates in global drug trafficking activities. He said these groups should be part of the major operational targets of the respective drug law enforcement agencies of the IDEC-FERWG countries.

“This is a persistent and continuing collaborative effort. While we are domestically intensifying our drug law enforcement operations against high value targets, we are also holding pro-active bilateral and multi-lateral meetings with fellow stakeholders to come up with effective and efficient countermeasures," Santiago, a former military general, said. - KBK, GMANews.TV

Migrant rights group urges Pinoys abroad to guard OAV

As Filipinos abroad gear up for the start of the overseas absentee voting (OAV) on April 10, a migrants' rights group based in the Middle East urged their overseas compatriots Thursday to remain vigilant and help guard their votes.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said Filipino overseas communities and organizations should actively participate in periodic elections “through overseas absentee voting" and make sure to “elect principled and responsible" candidates who can effect the “desired change in governance and in society in general."

Monterona said OFW communities and groups can play a vital role in making OAV successful.

“For one, OFWs organizations could very well remind and urge their members who are registered absentee voters to cast their votes during the 1-month absentee voting," he added.

Monterona explained that Migrante chapters in the Middle East will officially call on their members and urge fellow OFWs to cast their votes early, especially for those who are far from designated polling precincts usually located in Philippine embassies, consular offices, and foreign service establishments.

Monterona said the encouragement and concrete services that OFW organizations can provide their members could greatly boost the OAV turnout. The voter turnout among overseas Filipinos has been dwindling in previous elections.

Accredited OFW organizations are allowed to designate a watcher each to their respective posts as per the OAV law and COMELEC-promulgated general instructions, Monterona said, citing COMELEC Resolutions No. 8750 and 8751 which govern the conduct of manual and electronic OAV.

The function of designated watchers of OFW groups is central to safeguarding the votes of overseas Filipinos, he added.

“We view that the May 10 elections as a mixture of threats and opportunities. We would be very careful and vigilant of such threats as killings, violence, vote padding and shaving, and failure of elections, among others. But we should also maximize the opportunity that elections give us in choosing good, principled, and responsible leaders," according to Monterona.

OAV is set to start on April 10, a Saturday, and will last for a month. Majority of the polling precincts for OAV have announced that they will be open even on Saturdays and Sundays to accommodate the influx of OFWs who have free time to vote only during weekends.—JV, GMANews.TV

2 RP seafarers missing after ship sank off Spain

Two Filipino seafarers were reported missing after a cargo vessel sank off the coast of Spain last Tuesday, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Thursday.

The DFA had clarified its earlier statement that all Filipinos aboard the MV Kea had been rescued.

"Rescue operations for two missing Filipino seafarers are ongoing. Their identities are being withheld until their families have been informed," the DFA said in a statement.

The MV Kea, en route to Colombia from St. Petersburg, Russia, sank in Galicia, Spain, on Tuesday. The DFA statement did not cite the reason for the sinking.

Among the crew members were 19 Filipinos, two Croatians, and one Russian, Latvian, and Ghanaian. The DFA earlier reported that 22 of the seafarers were already rescued, including all the Filipinos.

The department also announced on Thursday the repatriation of the 15 Filipino seafarers first rescued. They are expected to be released from San Rafael Hospital in Coruna, Spain, on April 2, Friday.

"They are being treated for bruises and muscle swelling but are not suffering from any serious injuries," the DFA said.

Two more Filipino crew members, who were rescued by another vessel, are en route to Rotterdam in the Netherlands and are due to arrive there on April 3, Saturday, the DFA said. - Nikka Corsino/KBK, GMANews.TV

DFA confirms Pinoy seafarer among those seized in Somalia

The Department of Foreign Affairs has confirmed that a Filipino seafarer was among those seized in the March 29 hijacking of MV Iceberg 1, some 10 nautical miles from Aden Port in the Gulf of Aden.

The Philippine Embassy in Nairobi, through the DFA reported this on Wednesday.

The DFA said that its Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs (OUMWA) is coordinating with the vessel's principal and local manning agency.

"OUMWA will continue to coordinate with the manning agency of the vessel and the Philippine Embassies concerned for the resolution of the case," DFA Undersecretary Esteban B. Conejos, Jr. said in a statement.

The Panamanian-flagged vessel was carrying 24 crew members from Yemen, Pakistan, Ghana, India, Sudan, and the Philippines.

It was not immediately clear, however, how many Filipinos were onboard.

The DFA reported that there are now five Filipino seafarers, on board three vessels, held captive by Somali pirates. [See: Somali pirates hijack vessel with Filipino crew] - Nikka Corsino/LBG/RSJ, GMANews.TV
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