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
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