Friday, May 21, 2010

Crisis pushed more Pinoys abroad — analyst

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
OFW Journalism Consortium


PASIG CITY—CRISIS not only brings out the best in people; in the Philippines’s case, it brought out the best people and in droves.
So claims Maruja M.B. Asis of the Scalabrini Migration Center.
At a policy conference organized by the SMC here, Asis said there’s a visible volume of OFWs across all occupational groupings, including production workers, service workers (including domestic workers) and professional and technical workers (the top three occupational groupings of OFWs in 2008).
Hence, she said the year-long increase of migrant worker deployment in 2009 “isn’t surprising”.
Last year, economists chewed on their nails as a financial fiasco in the United States housing industry in 2008 cascaded over the real sector and burned markets trading with the world’s largest economy.
Some economists like Alvin Ang of the University of Santo Tomas said remittances from overseas Filipino workers in host countries like the US would either drop or remain flat because of the crisis.
Remittances data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (see Table 1) revealed seven host countries of overseas Filipinos, including the US, Hong Kong, Italy, and Taiwan, achieved negative growth rates for remittances.
Remittance volume from the US, the epicenter of the global crisis, dropped 6.41 percent while colony Guam dipped 8.03 percent. From Kuwait, remittances plunged 16.36 percent; Hong Kong 16.39 percent; and Italy 23.17 percent. Taiwan posted a staggering 52.71-percent drop in remittance volume.
By volume of money, remittances from the US were less by US$501.946 million. Filipinos from Canada made up for the US shortfall by US$90.325 million.
Still, overall remittances from Filipinos abroad in 2009, totaling US$17.348 billion, were more than the 2008 volume (US$16.426 billion) by 5.61 percent.
That year-on-year remittance growth rate, however, was lower than the 13.68 percent achieved in 2008.
But Ang also noted the diversification of the OFW workforce has been a mitigating factor to the crisis’ impact on remittances.
Most domestic workers “are virtually shielded from the crisis,” he said in a paper on remittances and household behavior released earlier this year by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Ang and co-authors Shikha Jha of India and Guntur Sugiyarto of Indonesia said this is because most employers of domestic workers “have gotten used to a lifestyle with domestic help” and “...the pay of these workers is relatively affordable despite the crisis.”
This phenomenon was also seen during the 1997 Asian financial crisis when the demand for service workers “remained the same.”
Asis said the global economic crisis “provided an additional push” for the Philippines to intensify the deployment of contract workers for overseas job markets.
Deployment data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reveal that deployed newly-hired and re-hired OFWs reached 1,422,586 in 2009, a 15.1 percent growth rate from 2008 figures numbering to 1,236,013.
Two years after the Asian crisis, the Philippines had 831,643 land- and sea-based OFWs in 1998 and 837,020 in 1999.
Year 1998-2009 figures of the annual deployment of newly-hired and re-hired migrant workers by the POEA showed that 2009 OFW deployment flows to Saudi Arabia (291,419), UAE (196,815), Kuwait (45,900), Bahrain (15,001), and Singapore (54,421) were 12-year record highs.
And while Hong Kong’s OFWs sent less last year, POEA data reveal that the 2009 deployment of OFWs to Hong Kong (100,142) was 27.8 percent more than the 78,345 deployed in 2008.
The country also deployed more seafarers last year at 330,424, an all-time record-high.
Crisis or no crisis, whether it comes within or outside of the Philippines, it is “migration as usual” for the Philippines, Asis said. OFW Journalism Consortium

Asia structurally dependent on labor migration –analysts

by JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
OFW Journalism Consortium


PASIG CITY–ANALYSTS claim the movement of workers from home countries in Asia already reached a level wherein their economies are now “structurally dependent” on migration.
Labor migration for Asia is “not a mom-and-pop story anymore,” Ma. Alcestis Mangahas of the International Labor Organization (ILO) told migration analysts and stakeholders at a recent forum here.
Mangahas, ILO senior migration specialist, said the advancement of labor migration to such level occurred independent of the recent global financial crisis, natural disasters, and political strife that hit Asia in the past three years.
“Migration is no longer ad hoc.”
Hence, Mangahas challenged policy forum participants to face migration squarely, something that an Asian Development Bank paper says is the correct attitude.
This is important since the ADB paper authors noted an “Asian advantage” when migration for work is liberalized —whether within Asia or to other regions of the world by 2012.
But the authors of the 2008 paper “Asian Migration Prospects: 2007-2010” warned officials must be clear of what they want.
“What do labor-sending countries want —higher growth in real GDP [gross domestic product] or higher real incomes for their citizenry?” authors Terrie Walmsley and S. Amer Ahmed posited.
If higher growth in real GDP, then the economic gains from liberalizing migration “are not guaranteed and, if they do occur, only do so in the long run once businesses have had a chance to respond by building more factories.”
But if higher real incomes for the citizenry through remittances, Walmsley and Ahmed think that the gains are greatest “when more migrants are sent overseas and more remittances are received”.
Walmsley and Ahmed performed econometric simulations using what they call a general equilibrium model and provided five scenarios of how liberalizing migration benefits both to sending and receiving Asian countries of migrant workers come the year 2012.
The computations show that both sending and receiving countries can benefit from liberalizing migration in terms of real GDP.
If developed Asian economies such as Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore have more skilled and low-skilled migrant workers by 2012, these economies gain in terms of real GDP.
If the migration of Asian migration is headed towards North America, Europe and the Oceania regions, countries such as India, the Philippines and the rest of East Asia would rather send labor to these regions than to within Asia given higher real income gains.
When the scenario is global liberalization of migrant labor, Asian economies lose less unlike the situation when Asian countries send migrant labor to Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Singapore only, the paper said.
If migrant workers from Asia are sent to the Middle East, Walmsley’s and Ahmed’s migrant-sending economies experience declines in real GDP —especially for India and the rest of South Asia which were computed to have the sharpest declines.
And if the liberalization of migration is within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), “the countries that benefit most from these gains are those that currently have the largest number of citizens resident in other countries, most notably Malaysia, which is the home of 67 percent of migrants in Asean.”
Walmsley’s and Ahmed‘s paper shows that Malaysia “gains by far the most in terms of real GDP and income, followed by Singapore, the Philippines, and Indonesia.”
If working conditions of migrant workers within Asean improve, coupled with legalizing irregular migrant workers, such migration-related efforts by Asean countries “could offer a beneficial alternative.”
In all five scenarios presented by Walmsley and Ahmed, both India and the Philippines benefitted in terms of seeing many people having increased real incomes due to their remittances.
As well, skilled migrant workers are more productive in these five scenarios compared to low-skilled migrant workers.

Permanence
IN view of such scenarios, Mangahas noted that Asian countries that have endured various economic impacts of either a natural or a man-made crisis reflect their “need” for labor migration.
Thus, this phenomenon is “no longer temporary.”
“If the situation is going to be [such], we [Asian countries] must make a decision to like this temporary migration program or not.”
Yet Mangahas thinks it will take time for receiving Asian countries to totally eliminate their need for foreign labor.
Thus, it pays that Asian countries address problems usually associated with migration, Mangahas said, such as: irregular migration, the cycle of debt facing migrant workers, the overseas contracts that migrant workers sign prior to departure and are dishonoured in host countries, and the sentiment of the public in receiving countries towards migrants.
“We must go back then to the fundamentals: Do Asian countries take migration seriously? Is it [recognized as] a labor market issue, as well as a human rights issue?”
While Walmsley and Ahmed have proven the benefits of migration to Filipino migrant workers and their Indian counterparts, labor migration for origin countries like the Philippines remains temporary even as the government achieved increasing numbers in the deployment of overseas workers in 2009.
The rising deployment was spurred in part by administrative orders by outgoing President Gloria Arroyo pressuring the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to accelerate finding new job markets for overseas Filipino workers given the crisis.
One is AO 247 ordering the POEA to go full blast in finding more overseas job opportunities.
But Dr. Maruja Asis of the Quezon City-headquartered Scalabrini Migration Center thinks AO 247 “violates” a provision of Republic Act 8042, where the state does not promote overseas employment as a strategy for economic development.
But Mangahas, noticing how the global economic crisis staved off a negative impact unto overseas Filipinos and their billion-dollar remittances, thinks that market promotion by origin countries for overseas jobs is “worth evaluating”.
Market promotion is also sending countries “good, strong political statements in filling up employment,” Mangahas added.
“The reality is that if theory thinks that labor migration will go away, it does not happen that way. Thus, Asian countries [sending and receiving migrant workers] should face and confront the problem.”
Malaysia appears to have been doing so, according to analyst Vijayakumari Kanapathy.
She said that Malaysia plans to lessen its dependency on foreign labor in the next three years.
The ADB paper thinks that policies by Asian countries related to liberalizing labor migration “offer potential gains in terms of real income and long-run economic growth, particularly for those countries in East and Southeast Asia”. OFW Journalism Consortium

OFW groups land in middle and lower party-list rankings

by RUBEN JEFFREY G. ASUNCION
OFW Journalism Consortium


QUEZON CITY—NINE groups claiming to represent overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the House of Representatives failed again in the recently held party-list elections, initial results show.
Analysts say this is expected as voters were overwhelmed by the number of groups with the apparent lack of viable political platforms.
“(Running for the party-list elections) seems to be an exercise in futility for these groups. This has been happening in past elections before,” Francisco Aguilar Jr. of the Partidong Pandaigdigang Pilipino said.
The OFW Journalism Consortium spoke to Aguilar four days after an estimated 45 million voters trooped to polling precincts to elect groups under the party-list system aside from other candidates for the presidential, vice-presidential, senatorial, and local seats of government.
The groups that ran include the Alyansa ng OFW, Ahon Pinoy, Action Brotherhood for Active Dreamers (ABROAD), Akbay Pinoy National Organization (APOI), Adhikaing Alay ng Marino sa Sambayanan (ALON), KALAHI Sectoral Party (KALAHI), Pamilyang OFW-SME Network (OPO), Ang Kapisanan ng mga Seaman (AKSI) and United Filipino Seafarers (UFS).
Despite the fact that the migrant worker sector is one of the groups specifically mentioned by the 1995 Party-List Law to be given sectoral representation, no party representing them was able to win in the past four party-list elections (1998, 2001, 2004, and 2007).
Aquilar said in a telephone interview the results of this year’s elections show that the migrant workers’ sector remains fragmented just like before.
With many groups advocating for specific OFW issues, the potential for having a single platform for all Filipino migrant workers has missed us, Aguilar said.
This had been the problem in migrant worker representation even in past party elections, he added.
“It’s difficult to unify these groups since many of them wanted to lead (and push for their respective agenda).”
To note, Aguilar’s group endorsed senatorial candidates Susan Ople and Danilo Lim, and 1Ganap partylist.
The group said its founding chapter did so as they believed “both candidates are seen to be supportive of the cause of OFWs.”
On the other hand, political science professor Jorge Tigno of the University of the Philippines in Diliman believes voters had difficulty in choosing among the 187 sectoral groups contending for representation because of their sheer number.




“Nearly all of them are forgettable since they are numerous, relative to the single choice that has to be made.” Tigno said in reply to questions sent by email.
At the same time, the migrants’ group’s diversity is not correlated with their “perceived political potential,” says Tigno, who had written about the role of Filipino migrants in shaping the country’s political scenery.

Results
FIGURES from the Commission on Elections (Comelec) National Canvass Report as of May 12 show that Ahon Pinoy got the most among the nine with 22,975 votes.
Comelec data also revealed ABROAD received 24,302 votes; Alyansa ng OFW 18,877; ALON, 8.885; APOI, 9,763; and, KALAHI, 6,272 votes. Likewise, data showed OPO garnered 7.915 votes while AKSI and and UFS received 5,500 and 1,000 votes, respectively.
The results contrasts with a March survey by the Pulse Asia group that showed Ahon Pinoy, Alyansa ng OFW, ABROAD, and OPO having greater chances of winning at least one seat in the House. These groups managed to garner at most 1% of votes.
Comments from the OFW group’s nominees and heads were unavailable as of press time.
As provided for by the 1995 Party-list Law or RA 7941, any organization can run for party list representation provided if it can represent a specific national, regional or sector- based constituency. Twenty percent of the total seats in the House will be allocated to these groups.
The law also provides that each party provides a list of five nominees out of which a maximum of three representatives can sit in Congress. The number of seats a winning party can get is based on a proportional system, the formula of which had changed many times since 1998.
In 2009, the Supreme Court ruled the validity of a two-step process for a party to gain a sectoral seat.
The High Tribunal’s ruling said an organization should win at least two percent of the total votes cast to gain a seat. However, it may gain another seat if there will be remaining seats left after the first step.
Based on Comelec estimates, a party must win around 900,000 out of 45 million votes in order to get a seat in the party-list representation.
Aguilar said that the limited number of slots provided for by the Party-List law has also “drove a wedge among the members of the OFW sector.” Because party list groups are only allotted up to three seats in Congress, they are forced to compete with each other so that each can win in the elections.
“This prevents coordination among OFW groups (fighting for the migrant workers’ sector),” Aguilar explains.
With migrant workers having no representation again in Congress, Aguilar believes they can only influence policy making through lobbying. However, they should be careful in engaging lest they “are at the mercy of those being lobbied.”

Platforms
THE nine organizations had been running on various platforms and pushing for diverse programs.
Ahon Pinoy said it encourages OFWs to enter into small business and also plans to “introduce bills that will create jobs and other opportunities here for returning OFWs and for their families and dependents in the Philippines.”
During the campaign period, the Malabon city-based ABROAD organization proposed a “Work Abroad Pay Later” scheme.
The Alyansa ng OFW group primarily planned to “formulate better and more effective plans” in the reintegration of OFW. It also claims to seek strengthening Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers Act of 1995 while proposing an OFW Investment Incentives Law. The group also conceptualized a Filipino Community Resource Center.
For its part, APOI primarily aimed to amend several laws, claiming to make them “more responsive to the needs of the current situation. To push this “legislative advocacy” for migrants, APOI wanted to strategically align itself with groups engaged with the Philippine government.
The Pamilyang OFW-SME (OPO) group advocates a thrust on entrepreneurship. It pushed for providing “information, opportunities and benefits” services to OFW and entrepreneur families. The Mandaluyong-City based OPO trains and subsidizes OFWs on home-based, aquaculture and agricultural businesses. This is aside from offering counseling services to OFWs.
AKSI proposed to institute a retirement plan, health care and accident insurance system for seafarers.
In addition, it also planned centralizing the processing of documents in a one-stop shop center, and encourage seafarer to save part of their earnings by establishing a “seafarers’ thrift bank and loan center.”
In terms of maritime education, AKSI also pushed the government to provide study grants for maritime instructors, and set up livelihood program. Formed in 1994, the UFS does not explicitly explain its platform for the elections.
Instead, one of its members pointed out in the website the group will monitor maritime issues. One of these is Executive Order 566, regulating review centers and similar institutions including those catering to marine officer candidates, making walk-in exams for cadets more convenient to apply for, streamlining the cadetship system among all vessels registered at POEA, systematizing internal promotion and regulating use of disability benefits.
UFS also pushes for the following: computerization of TESDA’s Assessment and Certification Ratings; the adoption of the International Maritime Organization’s Code of Practice for the Investigation of Maritime Casualties; and, the disclosure of the European Maritime Safety Agency’s report on the state of Philippine maritime education.
As posted in its Facebook account, KALAHI vows to review the RA8042, consolidate all efforts of government in training, certifying, deploying and reintegrating Filipino seafarer, pass laws “mobilizing” OFW remittances for economic use, and “supporting all progressive legislation toward the attainment of a strong republic.”
According to its website, ALON is also pushing for changes in laws governing the country’s maritime sector. It also said it wants young people to appreciate Filipinos’ navigating skills.

Criticism
DESPITE the OFW groups’ claims they will push and fight for OFW welfare, some analysts still think these proposals and plans lack depth given the many issues needing detailed and achievable responses.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple observes that the platforms of the OFW sectoral groups are “motherhood” statements which groups like them normally make during elections. He notes that some of these organizations, such as ABROAD, take on the role of job recruiters and not as legislators.
“The groups should be crafting laws, and not providing jobs to OFWs,” Casiple told the OFW Journalism Consortium in an interview weeks before the elections.
Other critics such as the Kontra Daya consortium had pointed out that three of the groups representing Filipino migrant workers have ties with the Arroyo administration. Ahon Pinoy’s first nominee is Dante Francis Ang II, son of Dante Ang who is chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas.
Two other nominees of Ahon, Emerito Remulla and Pedro Cuerpo, have links with political clans, the election monitoring group also showed.
The group also claimed the KALAHI party was among those mentioned in a 2006 Malacanang memorandum eliciting support for “pro-government” parties in time for the 2007 party list polls.
In addition, it had two former government officials as nominees: former acting environment secretary Eleazar Quinto and Apostol Poe Gratela, who had served in the POEA governing board.
The election watchdog added APOI’s first nominee for the party-list elections is former Department of Interior and Local Government undersecretary and civil defense administrator Melchor Rosales
Casiple suggests the COMELEC should have taken a hard look at the nominees’ qualifications, since they would be the key to a party’s ability to represent migrant workers in Congress.
“The nominees should be assessed on their track record and if they have connections with the government,” the director of IPER added. OFW Journalism Consortium

Saturday, May 15, 2010

US visa application goes paperless starting May 24

05/15/2010 | 02:25 PM

Starting May 24, the United States Embassy in Manila will shift to an environment-friendly way of handling non-immigrant visa applications using an electronic online form.

The Embassy said the online form, known as DS-160, replaces three paper forms to make the completion of applications easier and faster.

"With demand for US visas continuing to increase worldwide, the US State Department is committed to using new technologies to improve the efficiency and accuracy of the visa application process. The web-based nonimmigrant visa application uses new technologies and replaces existing forms to better serve our visa applicants," it said.

"The new form has two key changes. The DS-160 form is submitted electronically, through the Internet, replacing paper forms. Also, the on-line form requires applicants to upload a digital photograph from the computers they use to complete the application," it added.

It added the new form is a “greener," user-friendly application.

Applicants may save the data in the form to complete an application later, and saved data may be reused for future applications.

"The form reduces use of paper, making it a greener method to apply for a US visa," it said.

It added the rest of the application process remains the same.

On the other hand, it said visa applicants, after completing the on-line application, must schedule an interview appointment, either on-line at this link, or by calling 1-909-101-7878.

Applicants must then pay the visa fee at an approved fee collection point. The final step is the appointment at the Embassy.

If using the form for the first time, applicants should read a step-by-step instructional guide, which may be found at US Embassy in Manila online site. — LBG, GMANews.TV

Pinoys, Indians dominate nursing force in UAE

05/13/2010 | 01:06 PM

Filipinos and Indian nationals dominate the nursing workforce in the United Arab Emirates, according to a study conducted by the association of nurses in the Emirates.

The association intends to use results of the study to seek higher wages for nurses and to encourage Emiratis, particularly men, to enter the profession.

Emirati nurses constitute only a small percentage of the total nursing workforce in the UAE, the Emirates Nursing Association said.

"According to the study, of the total 23,433 nurses from different nationalities working in the country, only 759 were Emiratis. Of this total, only 12 were male [Emiratis]. Indians and Filipinos continued to dominate the workforce," UAE news site Khaleej Times said, citing excerpts from the report.

“The salary issues are also preventing Emiratis from working in the private sector and that’s why we don’t have a single local nurse in this sector," said Obaid Al Jenaidi, president of the association.

Al Jenaidi said the current ratio of UAE nurses to the total nursing workforce is still a far cry from the 25-percent target to address a critical shortage of nurses in the Emirates.

It is urgent for the UAE to open more universities for nurses, especially catering to male students, he said.

The study, entitled Encourage Emirati students to join the Nursing Profession, was presented during the International Nurses Day in Sharjah on Tuesday.

Other factors such as verbal and physical harassment by physicians were cited by experts in the event as reasons why nurses worldwide are dissatisfied with their jobs, according to the Khaleej Times.

The December 2009 study, which assessed the strength of the nursing workforce in the country, discovered no Emirati nurse was employed by private sector institutions in the Emirates.

Emirati nurses were employed by the police and military hospitals, the Ministry of Health, the Health Authority of Abu Dhabi, and the Health Authority of Dubai. “This is of course due to a better salary structure and work environment," Al Jenaidi said.

“Though the average Emirati workforce has increased from the previous figure that stood at 2 percent in 2007, we still have to meet a target of up to 25 percent," Al Jenaidi said.

“It will take time but it will eventually happen," he said. —VS, GMANews.TV

2 Pinoys charged in UAE court for 'cheating' in blood test

05/12/2010 | 08:05 AM

A Filipino plumber and his friend were charged before a court in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) earlier this month over an attempt to “cheat" in a blood test at a health center last November.

UAE-based news site Khaleej Times reported the plumber tried to take the place of his friend in taking the medical test required by the Dubai Health Department.

While the report did not name the two Filipinos, it said one of them was a plumber and the other was a clerk. The two were aged 25 and 32, the report added.

The plumber was charged with forgery last Sunday before the Court of First Instance, while the clerk was charged with abetting to a bid to commit forgery.

Court records showed the clerk, who was suffering from a disease, asked the plumber to take the blood test for him. The report did not specify the disease.

Investigation showed the clerk, accompanied by the plumber, visited a health center in Muhaisna 2 last Nov. 2.

“After receiving his documents, I told him to go to the test room to take his blood sample," the director, an Indian, told prosecutors.

But when the technician, also an Indian national, called out the clerk, it was the plumber who stepped forward.

The staff became suspicions on checking the photo on the application form the clerk had filed.

The technician said during the investigation that the plumber proceeded to the room where they collect blood samples.

He said the plumber entered after the staff called out the name of his friend.

“I asked his name and he gave me his friend’s name. He extended his arm so I could take a blood sample," claimed the technician who reported the incident to the director.

The technician and the director informed the security guards, who arrested the two Filipinos. — LBG, GMANews.TV

Benigno Aquino also leads OAV results in HK, Singapore

Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno Aqunio III kept his lead in the presidential race, according to unofficial results of the overseas absentee voting (OAV) in Hong Kong and Singapore.

The results of the OAV came in Monday night, showing a voter turnout of 40 percent for the Chinese territory and 30 percent for the island nation.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday only 39,833, out of 95,355 registered overseas Filipinos, voted in 96 clustered precincts in the former British colony. Its numbers were based on a report relayed by the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.

In Singapore, 9,588 out of 31,851 Filipinos cast their ballots in 32 clustered precincts, the DFA said.

The DFA expected to receive all OAV results by May 15. DFA-OAVS Vice Chairperson Nestor Padalhin said the results are still unofficial, as the official canvassing results would come from the Commission on Elections and the National Board of Canvassers. (See: 24% of OAV ballots cast as election day closes)

Unofficial results

Unofficial results of voting in the two diplomatic posts also showed Liberal Party standard bearer Benigno Aquino III, leading the presidential race.

In Hong Kong, Aquino led with 19,606 votes, followed by Bro. Eddie Villanueva with 8,327, and Manuel Villar Jr. with 5,622, according to the report relayed by the DFA-OAV Secretariat. They are followed by Gilberto Teodoro Jr. with 2,556 and Joseph Estrada with 1,980.

In the vice presidential race, however, Aquino’s running mate Manuel Roxas II came out on top with 19,837 votes, followed by Loren Legarda with 6,885 and Perfecto Yasay with 6, 353. In fourth place was Jejomar Binay with 4,083.

In the senatorial race, Bong Revilla Jr. garnered 22,020 votes. Franklin Drilon got 19,982, Jinggoy Estrada ended with 19,946, Miriam Defensor-Santiago obtained 19,739, and Ferdinand Marcos Jr. scored 18,555.

The unofficial results from Singapore also showed Aquino leading the presidential race with 4,949 votes, followed by Villar with 1,314, and Gordon with 1,105.

Roxas also led the vice presidential race in Singapore, garnering 5,017 votes, followed by Loren Legarda with 1,617, Bayani Fernando with 1,060, and Binay with 1,056. —Jerrie Abella/VS, GMANews.TV
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