Monday, November 28, 2011

OWWA officers on AWOL fail to remit P8M

abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is still tracking down its officers who have gone AWOL (absence without official leave) without remitting collections amounting to about P8 million.
“Unfortunately, there were collecting officers who went on AWOL and we've been trying our best to locate them using their last known addresses,” OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon told ABS-CBN News Channel.

Dimzon said the collecting officers just left without securing any clearance from OWWA.

“The addresses that were left with OWWA are no longer their present addresses. But we have asked help from some quarters to help us locate them,” said Dimzon.

The estimated P8 million amount is part of the P21 million in dollar and euro collections that OWWA officers from foreign posts have failed to remit, according to the Commission on Audit (COA) report.

“We are looking at a 10-year period. Itong pinaguusapan na ito ay magmula 2000 hanggang 2010,” explained Dimzon.

Nevertheless, Dimzon is still confident that OWWA will still be able to recover the entire amount and will do everything to find the erring officers.

“We are very strict now and I've instructed our finance people not to release any monetary benefits, their salaries and even with the provident fund shares I will add, we are also not releasing any,” Dimzon said.

“But for those who are still with us, we continue to collect from them. We have withheld their salaries and other monetary benefits so that they can pay whatever they have not been able to remit."

She added cases have been filed against some of the officers with the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment) legal service and with the Ombudsman.

COA Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan said OWWA had been given the opportunity to explain its side.

Tan, who has been in office for only 7 months, will look at the previous COA reports on OWWA.

“Alam na ng mga taga-OWWA na may ganitong problema. Dapat hindi na umabot ng ganito if they were implementing our audit recommendations,” Tan said.

Likewise, Tan said she too will try to see if there are lapses in the part of COA.

“Kung nai-request na nga namin in the past ito dapat may constant follow up with management and OWWA para ma-implement nila yung paniningil at para ma stop na sana nila yung practice,” said Tan.

Tan said it may be possible OWWA was not very careful in hiring people who would be in charge of its collections.

“According to the findings of our team, medyo nagkulang din ata ang OWWA sa pagpili ng mga taong pangongolektahin,” she said.

But Tan was quick to admit that the process is also a little difficult.

“Remember, these are foreign posts and di naman ganun kadami ang tao natin in the foreign posts. Minsan nago-overlap din ang kanilang functions. Maski hindi talaga koleksiyon yung trabaho nila kung minsan ikaw na lang gumawa nito kasi nga kulang din tayo ng mga tao. Maraming factors,” she said.

Tan assured the public that COA will hold accountable those officials, who failed to remit the money.

“Maliit yung P21 million kung maihahambing sa iba pang nawawalang pera, pero these are hard-earned money of OFWs. Wag po kayong magalala tinitingnan po natin ito kung sino ang dapat managot, papanagutin po natin,” she said. ANC

OFWs start returning for holidays

MANILA, Philippines - The exodus of expatriate Filipinos wanting to spend the holidays in their homeland in the longest Christmas season in the world had apparently started on Sunday following the arrival of six planeloads of mostly overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from the Middle East.
Separate flights from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia also flew in, adding to the flood of passengers that suddenly filled the airport arrival area.
The addition of some 30 personnel from the Immigration Bureau helped facilitate the processing of documents of an estimated 3,000 passengers taking only one hour.
The first plane was an Etihad Airways Flight EY 424 which landed at 3:30 p.m., followed in succession by Emirates, EK-332; Saudia, SB-870; Gulf Air, GF-156; Kuwait, KU-411; and Qatar, QR-646.
All of the airplanes that came from the Middle East are wide-body type, such as EY-424, a B777 that has a capacity of 300 passengers. The other aircraft were A330 and A340, while Cathay Pacific CX-919 from Hong Kong is a B-747 with a capacity of some 350 passengers.
Damila Jamali, who is from Zamboanga, came in from Dubai with her two children. “Magbakasyon kami ng pamilya ko ng isang buwan kasi malungkot sa abroad ang Pasko [We will vacation here for a month because Christmas is lonely abroad],” she said, adding that she had been working abroad the last two years.
Another OFW, Ben Castro, 35, of Quezon City said he also applied for a one-month vacation, the first since leaving the country in 2009. “I miss my family very much,” he said.
Immigration Supervisor Julius Cortes said they expect the flood of arrivals until shortly before Christmas, when close to 1 million workers, balikbayan and Filipino-Amercian tourists, will come home and enjoy the company of family and friends.
He said last year’s record from December 1 to December 7 was more than 200,000 passengers, comprising mostly of workers and balikbayan.
The actual figure of arrivals from January to December 2010 was more than 6 million passengers, Cortes said, hoping that it will reach the same number this year, or maybe even more.
Dante Basanta, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1 manager said it is at this time of the year when the arrival area practically runs out of trolleys.
However, he said the Manila International Airport Authority is prepared to deal with the expected problem, fielding more porters to speed up the recycling of trolleys that are sometime left at the parking areas.
More Naia employees are also assigned during peak arrival hours to assist those who are in need, he said.

Pinoy nurses, dentists form groups to help distressed OFWs

Filipino nurses and dentists in Saudi Arabia have organized themselves to help distressed overseas Filipino workers in the kingdom.

According to a news release of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the new chapters of nurses and dentists associations that were formed were:
• the Philippine Nurses Association-Eastern Region, Saudi Arabia (PNA-ERSA) Chapter, and
• the Filipino Dentists in KSA (FDK).

Citing a letter of PNA-ERSA founding president Mary Jane Tupas, the embassy said the nurses association intends to:
• establish links with government institutions to assist distressed Filipinos;
• promote continuing education among its members, and
• promote health and wellness among Filipinos in the Kingdom.

Earlier, the Philippine Nurses Association chapter in Jeddah was also organized with Zeny Concepcion as the founding president.

On the other hand, according to FDK president Dr. Lourdres Madayag, their group’s objectives include:
• promoting fellowship and camaraderie among its members;
• organizing community dental service and dental awareness;
• enhancing relationship between Philippine Dental Association and Saudi Dental Society, and
• providing continuing dental education among its members.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh renewed its support for Filipino professional organizations in the Kingdom, which include chapters of:
• Philippine Society of Mechanical Engineers (PSME)
• Institute of Integrated Electrical Engineers (IIEE)
• Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (PICPA)
• Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE), and
• Institute of Electronics Engineers of the Philippines.
- VVP, GMA News

Senador, nadismaya sa mababang budget na inilaan sa OFWs sa 2012

MANILA – Ikinalungkot ni Sen Manny Villar na hindi dinagdagan ng pamahalaan ang pondong inilaan para sa mga magigipit na overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sa susunod na taon.

Sa pagbubukas ng unang OFW and Family Summit sa World Trade Center nitong Huwebes, sinabi ni Villar na hindi patas ang pondong inilaan para “Distressed National Fund ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), kung ikukumpara ang malaking remittances na ipinapadala sa Pilipinas ng mga OFW bawat taon.

“Nakakadismaya na malaman natin na kakarampot lamang ang pondong inilaan ng ating gobyerno upang tulungan ating mga kababayan na nagigipit sa abroad. Paano na lamang iyong mga nakukulong, pinagmamalupitan ng kanilang amo, o hindi makauwi dahil minalas sa kanilang trabaho,” pahayag ni Villar patungkol sa 2012 budget na inaprubahan ng Senado noong Martes.

Ang OFW and Family Summit na isasagawa na taun-taon ay naisakatuparan sa pagtutulungan ng Villar Foundation at GoNegosyo. Pangunahing layunin nito na bigyan pagkilala ang pamilyang OFWs at mabigyan sila ng pagkakataon na makapagtayo ng sarili nilang kabuhayan.

Sa ganitong paraan ay hindi umano lubos na aasa ang maiiwang pamilya sa kita ng mahal nila sa buhay na nagtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Bukod dito, matiyak na may patutunguhan ang pinaghirapan nila sa ibayong-dagat.

Bukod sa maliit na pondong inilaan sa DNF ng DFA, pinuna rin ni Sen Villar ang hindi pag-usad ng panukalang batas na magtatag ng sangay ng pamahalaan na tututok sa kapakanan ng mga migranteng manggagawa.

“Maraming tumutol kasi marami na dapat departamento ang ating pamahalaan. Eh anuman ang pakialam natin sa maraming departamento sa ating pamahalaan, isa itong tanggapan para sa mga OFW na malaki ang naitulong sa ating ekonomiya,” giit ni Villar.

Binigyan-diin niya na walang saysay ang pagtawag sa mga OFW bilang “bagong bayani” kung kulang naman ang naibibigay na tulong sa kanila ng pamahalaan.

Sa pagtatapos ng kanyang termino bilang senador sa 2013, ipinangako ni Villar na ipagpapatuloy niya ang personal na pagtulong sa mga OFW bilang sukli sa tagumpay na nakamit ng kanyang negosyo sa pabahay.

Nauna nang sinabi ni Villar ang pagtigil sa pulitika pagkatapos ng kanyang termino sa 2013. Ito ay sa kabila ng mga mungkahi na tumakbo siyang muli bilang kongresista ng Las Pinas, at asintahin ang posisyon ng Speaker – ang ika-apat na pinakamataas na puwesto sa bansa na minsan niyang hinawakan. (Basahin: Villar, iiwan na raw ang pulitika)

Taunang OFW and Family Summit

Sa isinagawang pagtitipon nitong Huwebes, kabilang sa mga aktibidad ay ang pagtuturo sa mga OFW at miyembro ng kanilang pamilya ng iba’t ibang uri ng negosyo na maaari nilang pasukin sa pakikipagtulungan ng GoNegosyo Foundation.

"This summit was really conceptualized for our OFWs and their families. So we really ensured that every aspect of the event--from the program to the exhibitors, is focused on them. We want the summit to be really worthwhile, educational and inspirational for all of them," pahayag ni Sen Villar.

"This yearly OFW summit is our way of giving importance to OFWs who continue to prop up the country's economy with their remittances. It is not enough to repatriate them when they get into trouble, which we have been continuously doing. We also need to equip them with know-how and skills so they can use or invest their hard-earned money wisely," dagdag ni Cynthia Villar, asawa ni Sen Villar, na nagsisilbing managing director ng Villar foundation.

Nagbahagi ng kanilang kuwento ang mga OFW na naging matagumpay na negosyante. Gaya ni Prudencio Garcia na dating nakabase sa Saudi Arabia. Mula sa abroad, umuwi siya sa Pilipinas para tutukan ang meat business ng kanilang pamilya.

Nagsalita rin ang iba’t ibang opisyal ng mga malalaking kumpanya at mga kinatawan mula sa Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). May mga inilaan ding information booth ang Department of Labor & Employment (DOLE), Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), Department of Trade & Industry, and Commission on Filipino Overseas.

Namahagi rin regalo at pa-premyo ang GoNegosyo at Villar Foundation sa mga dumalo sa summit. Pero ang pinaka-inabangan ay ang ipina-raffle na bahay at lupa. -- GMA News

Parole extended for Pinoy parents of US citizens in CNMI

GARAPAN, Saipan -- Non-US citizen Filipinos in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) might be able to extend their stay until December 2012, after the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced on Thursday (Manila time) that it will consider granting parole to immediate relatives of US citizens and certain "stateless" individuals in the area.

The parole will allow eligible individuals lawfully present in the CNMI by November 27 to maintain legal status until December 31, 2012.

However, the DHS -- through its US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) -- clarified on Thursday that it will be granted on a case-to-case basis.

USCIS also asked people not to apply for this parole "until [it] announces more specific details on how to" do so.

The federal agency said it is providing this initial information in order to address concerns of this group of CNMI residents in light of the pending expiration of umbrella permits on November 27, to assist them in making appropriate plans for the future.

The public is asked to continue checking www.uscis.gov/cnmi for updates on the latest USCIS guidance.

'Best Thanksgiving gift'

In an interview with GMA News Online, Filipinos affected by this immigration issue said the parole is one of the best gifts that they have ever received for Thanksgiving.

For his part, Delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan (Ind-MP) said the parole will give House Resolution (HR) 1466 -- which he authored -- more time to be passed and signed into law.

"It's welcome news on Thanksgiving Day. These are families that we are trying to help here. And I know the stress that they've been feeling these past two years," Sablan told GMA News Online, adding that the resolution is moving "inch-by-inch."

HR 1466 seeks to grant CNMI-only resident status to:
* immediate relatives of US citizens as of May 8, 2008, and are still in the islands;
* CNMI permanent residents;
* persons born in the CNMI between Jan. 1, 1974 to Jan. 9, 1978; and
* spouses, parents, and children of US citizens under the Immigration and Nationality Act.

According to Sablan, about 4, 000 individuals will benefit from the resolution, most of them immediate relatives of US citizens who cannot or who have not petitioned for their immediate relatives.

While he had previously said that he didn't expect the measure to become law by Nov. 27, the delegate said he hopes it will pass at least the US House of Representatives before the year ends.

Humanitarian parole

Most of those eligible for the parole are jobless Filipino parents with US citizen children born in the CNMI, a US territory about three hours away from Manila.

With their immigration statuses in limbo, many of them have applied for and obtained "parole-in-place for humanitarian consideration" from the USCIS, which allows them to legally remain in the territory until Jan. 31, 2012, while securing a change of status.

To avoid deportation, these foreigners have to either secure a federal immigration status or find a legitimate employer that will petition them for a transitional worker rule by Nov. 27.

However, many of them have yet to find work, and even those with humanitarian parole think that the remaining time may not be enough to do so.

Marilou Ancheta, 52, said it's difficult to find a job in the CNMI given its weakened local economy. She lost her job as a cook in October, after 18 years of legal stay.

Ancheta, who came to the capital of Saipan in 1993 to be a house worker, said she does not want to be apart from her family, especially her two children -- aged 15 and 10.

If given an extension via the newest parole, she said she will work harder to find an employer.

But according to CNMI governor Benigno Fitial, a person eligible for this parole "cannot" work or apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) until he is authorized.

"A grant of parole will provide continuing lawful presence after November 27, 2011 and authorize you to apply for an EAD," the USCIS said.

Fitial also raised concerns over the economic and social consequences that this development might cause.

The cost of letting these unemployed -- and unemployable -- foreigners remain the a very small economy like the CNMI is very high, he said. - RJMD/VVP, GMA News

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Women's support group in PHL cited in New York

A support group for abused Filipino women was recognized at the Avon Foundation for Women Global Voices for Change Awards in New York in the United States early this month.

The Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) in Quezon City received this year’s Global Community Advocacy Champion award for its advocacy work in supporting victims of domestic violence.

Serving as secretariat for the National Network of Family Violence Prevention Programs, the group aids abused women through:
crisis intervention;
counseling;
temporary shelter;
education, and
training services.

WCC Executive Officer Theresa Balayon accepted the award at the Avon’s gala event in New York last Nov. 2, where other organizations from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Poland, and the United States were also hailed for their respective advocacy works.

Pinay finalist

Meanwhile, Joy Loria—the lone Filipino at the finals of the Avon Voices online singing competition—performed together with her fellow contenders.

Loria, who joined the competition as an Avon representative, advanced to the finals last September.

Evelina Anusauskaite of Lithuania and Avon representative Selena Gittens of Canada were named winners.

Among the contest’s celebrity jurors was Filipino Broadway star Lea Salonga, who was also at the gala to present the award to the WCC.

Joining Salonga were:
Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas;
renowned songwriter Diane Warren;
Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield;
Russian singer Valeriya;
Australian Artist of the Decade Delta Goodrem;
female percussionist Shiela E.;
music producer and Grammy winner David Pack;
Brazil pop star Ivete Sangalo;
Colombian singer Maia; and
Grammy nominated singer-composer Diego Torres.

The event—which gathered more than 800 guests and performers from 39 countries—raised more than $2.3 million for the Avon Foundation for Women. - VVP, GMA News


A support group for abused Filipino women was recognized at the Avon Foundation for Women Global Voices for Change Awards in New York in the United States early this month.

The Women’s Crisis Center (WCC) in Quezon City received this year’s Global Community Advocacy Champion award for its advocacy work in supporting victims of domestic violence.

Serving as secretariat for the National Network of Family Violence Prevention Programs, the group aids abused women through:
crisis intervention;
counseling;
temporary shelter;
education, and
training services.

WCC Executive Officer Theresa Balayon accepted the award at the Avon’s gala event in New York last Nov. 2, where other organizations from the United Kingdom, Brazil, Poland, and the United States were also hailed for their respective advocacy works.

Pinay finalist

Meanwhile, Joy Loria—the lone Filipino at the finals of the Avon Voices online singing competition—performed together with her fellow contenders.

Loria, who joined the competition as an Avon representative, advanced to the finals last September.

Evelina Anusauskaite of Lithuania and Avon representative Selena Gittens of Canada were named winners.

Among the contest’s celebrity jurors was Filipino Broadway star Lea Salonga, who was also at the gala to present the award to the WCC.

Joining Salonga were:
Fergie of the Black Eyed Peas;
renowned songwriter Diane Warren;
Grammy nominated singer-songwriter Natasha Bedingfield;
Russian singer Valeriya;
Australian Artist of the Decade Delta Goodrem;
female percussionist Shiela E.;
music producer and Grammy winner David Pack;
Brazil pop star Ivete Sangalo;
Colombian singer Maia; and
Grammy nominated singer-composer Diego Torres.

The event—which gathered more than 800 guests and performers from 39 countries—raised more than $2.3 million for the Avon Foundation for Women. - VVP, GMA News

24/7 Card Offers Powerful New Prepaid Visa® Debit + Remit Card 11/23/2011 | 11:23 AM Special Advertising Feature Los Angeles, CA, — 24/7 Card,

24/7 Card Offers Powerful New Prepaid Visa® Debit + Remit Card


Special Advertising Feature

Los Angeles, CA, — 24/7 Card, a financial services company supported by world boxing champion and Philippine congressman Manny Pacquiao, today announced its powerful new 24/7 Visa® Prepaid Debit + Remit Card (“24/7 Card”). Consumers can now sign-up for 24/7 Card at www.247Card.com or by calling (888) 247-7400.

24/7 Card is a prepaid debit and remittance card designed for Filipinos and other immigrants living in the United States. The Smarter Way to Bank and Send Money™, 24/7 Card features a unique one-two combo “Debit + Remit” benefits in one card, offering the convenience of shopping, paying bills and sending money overseas directly from the card account – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Recipients can either pick up funds at any of 24/7 Card’s remittance partners throughout the Philippines; have the money deposited directly into a bank account; or have the money hand delivered to their home (where home delivery is available).

Adding cash to 24/7 Card is just as easy:
by using free Direct Deposit;
through 24/7 Card’s thousands of retailer partners throughout the United States; and
by transferring from a bank account.
“We are proud to empower Filipino-Americans and other immigrants with a safer, more cost-effective way to send money to their loved ones in the Philippines and more than 20 other countries,” said 24/7 Card CEO, Lance Rosenzweig. “24/7 Cardholders will enjoy the convenience of shopping, paying bills and withdrawing from ATMs using one powerful card. This is a product that Filipinos and other immigrant communities have been waiting for. The wait is over: 24/7 Card is here.”

“I am honored to be the face and voice of 24/7 Card, which has the same mission as I do of enhancing the lives of Filipinos around the world,” Pacquiao said. “24/7 Card makes it easier and more affordable for global Filipinos to stay connected with – and financially support – their families back home, and that’s a great thing for our community. I’m very excited that Filipinos can now sign up and enjoy the benefits of their very own 24/7 Card.”

Enrolling in 24/7 Card is free and available online at www.247card.com or by calling 1-888-247-7400.


About 24/7 Card
24/7 Card (www.247card.com) is a financial services company headquartered in Los Angeles, with operations in Manila, Philippines. The company’s new 24/7 Visa Prepaid Debit + Remit Card was created to meet the personal financial needs of Filipinos and other immigrants in the United States. 24/7 Cardholders can safely and securely pay bills, remit money overseas and shop everywhere Visa Debit Cards are accepted – at home or on the road. 24/7 Card is supported by world boxing champion and Philippine congressman Manny Pacquiao. 24/7 Visa Card will be issued by Central National Bank & Trust Company of Enid, Oklahoma, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

About Manny Pacquiao
Born and raised in the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao is a professional boxer and Filipino politician. The first eight-division world champion, Pacquiao has won six world titles, including championship titles in eight weight classes. The current WBO Welterweight World Champion, Pacquiao was also named the “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Pacquiao is deeply committed to improving quality of life for Filipinos around the world — a commitment he upholds as an elected representative in the House of Representatives in the Philippines.

About Central National Bank
Central National Bank, an FDIC-insured institution, is headquartered in Oklahoma, and is held by Central Services Corporation. There are eight locations throughout the state. The bank reported assets of over $514 million in 2011. Since 2000, CNB has been issuing and processing prepaid cards, and provides standard and custom card programs for employers, universities, financial institutions and other organizations. For more information about any of the Bank’s products, contact Erik Herrera at eherrera@cnbenid.com or by phone at 580-213-4406.

Contact: Gordon Ho, Chief Marketing Officer
310-698-7425 • gordon.ho@247card.com



Special Advertising Feature

Los Angeles, CA, — 24/7 Card, a financial services company supported by world boxing champion and Philippine congressman Manny Pacquiao, today announced its powerful new 24/7 Visa® Prepaid Debit + Remit Card (“24/7 Card”). Consumers can now sign-up for 24/7 Card at www.247Card.com or by calling (888) 247-7400.

24/7 Card is a prepaid debit and remittance card designed for Filipinos and other immigrants living in the United States. The Smarter Way to Bank and Send Money™, 24/7 Card features a unique one-two combo “Debit + Remit” benefits in one card, offering the convenience of shopping, paying bills and sending money overseas directly from the card account – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Recipients can either pick up funds at any of 24/7 Card’s remittance partners throughout the Philippines; have the money deposited directly into a bank account; or have the money hand delivered to their home (where home delivery is available).

Adding cash to 24/7 Card is just as easy:
by using free Direct Deposit;
through 24/7 Card’s thousands of retailer partners throughout the United States; and
by transferring from a bank account.
“We are proud to empower Filipino-Americans and other immigrants with a safer, more cost-effective way to send money to their loved ones in the Philippines and more than 20 other countries,” said 24/7 Card CEO, Lance Rosenzweig. “24/7 Cardholders will enjoy the convenience of shopping, paying bills and withdrawing from ATMs using one powerful card. This is a product that Filipinos and other immigrant communities have been waiting for. The wait is over: 24/7 Card is here.”

“I am honored to be the face and voice of 24/7 Card, which has the same mission as I do of enhancing the lives of Filipinos around the world,” Pacquiao said. “24/7 Card makes it easier and more affordable for global Filipinos to stay connected with – and financially support – their families back home, and that’s a great thing for our community. I’m very excited that Filipinos can now sign up and enjoy the benefits of their very own 24/7 Card.”

Enrolling in 24/7 Card is free and available online at www.247card.com or by calling 1-888-247-7400.


About 24/7 Card
24/7 Card (www.247card.com) is a financial services company headquartered in Los Angeles, with operations in Manila, Philippines. The company’s new 24/7 Visa Prepaid Debit + Remit Card was created to meet the personal financial needs of Filipinos and other immigrants in the United States. 24/7 Cardholders can safely and securely pay bills, remit money overseas and shop everywhere Visa Debit Cards are accepted – at home or on the road. 24/7 Card is supported by world boxing champion and Philippine congressman Manny Pacquiao. 24/7 Visa Card will be issued by Central National Bank & Trust Company of Enid, Oklahoma, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc.

About Manny Pacquiao
Born and raised in the Philippines, Manny Pacquiao is a professional boxer and Filipino politician. The first eight-division world champion, Pacquiao has won six world titles, including championship titles in eight weight classes. The current WBO Welterweight World Champion, Pacquiao was also named the “Fighter of the Decade” for the 2000s by the Boxing Writers Association of America. Pacquiao is deeply committed to improving quality of life for Filipinos around the world — a commitment he upholds as an elected representative in the House of Representatives in the Philippines.

About Central National Bank
Central National Bank, an FDIC-insured institution, is headquartered in Oklahoma, and is held by Central Services Corporation. There are eight locations throughout the state. The bank reported assets of over $514 million in 2011. Since 2000, CNB has been issuing and processing prepaid cards, and provides standard and custom card programs for employers, universities, financial institutions and other organizations. For more information about any of the Bank’s products, contact Erik Herrera at eherrera@cnbenid.com or by phone at 580-213-4406.

Contact: Gordon Ho, Chief Marketing Officer
310-698-7425 • gordon.ho@247card.com

Four Pinay activists face criminal charges in Indonesia

UPDATED 2:20 p.m. - The activist group Sanlakas is calling on the Indonesian government to release seven protesters—including four Filipino women— who were arrested for participating in a demonstration that coincided with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit last week.

In a statement issued last Saturday, Sanlakas said the Indonesian government should “swiftly release” the detainees “without charges, threats, or harassment,” because they “were merely protesting.”

Releasing them would be part of the host country’s obligation as “a state-signatory to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights,” it added.

The group identified one of the Filipino detainees, Manjette Lopez, is its secretary general.

Lopez is also the vice president of the Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC), the statement read.

Meanwhile, the other three—all members of the Jubilee South-Asia Pacific Movement for Debt and Development (JS-APMDD)—were identified as:
* Lidy Nacpil (regional coordinator),
* Malou Tabios (staff member), and
* Rhoda Viajar (staff member).

In a separate statement, the FDC said the four women were arrested together with three Indonesian rallyists, after they joined a rally that passed through “several foreign Consulate offices in Bali, including those of the US and Japan.”

Sanlakas also said the seven “were initially detained for 12 hours under questioning by the police,” but authorities “decided to keep them in detention for an indefinite period of time.”

The Filipino women are reportedly facing criminal charges and possible deportation.

To express opposition of the rallyists’ detention, Sanlakas also disclosed that they will “organize mass actions” early this week in front of the Indonesian Embassy in Makati City and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) building in Pasay City. - VVP, GMA News

PHL execs promoting 1343 hotline vs. human trafficking

Philippine officials are promoting in the provinces the hotline number 1343 for victims of human trafficking also called as “modern-day slavery."

A news release of the Philippine Information Agency (PIA) said the "1343 Actionline Against Human Trafficking" is a project of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).

Human trafficking is the illegal trade in human beings for forced labor or commercial sexual exploitation.

The program aims to assist human trafficking victims who seek help at these hotline numbers:
(02) 1343, if calling from the Philippines, and
(632) 1343, if calling from abroad.

Education program on migration

Meanwhile, the CFO also has a Community Education Program on Migration to prevent people from becoming victims of human trafficking.

In a recent symposium in Butuan City in southern Philippines, Ariel Cruz of the CFO’s Migrant Integration and Education Division said “some foreigners do human trafficking in a guise of marriage."

“We do not prevent the Filipino women to marry a foreigner. It is their right to marry. Nevertheless, we warn them to know very well their future husband", Cruz said.

In the PIA report, Paul Vincent Avencilla said the CFO has solved 54 cases of human trafficking since March 15 this year.

Avencilla said CFO officials also coordinated with the Butuan City Police to train them in dealing with human trafficking cases and educate the public about the Republic Act No. 9208 otherwise known as “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003."

Under the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report of the US State Department, the Philippines is included in the Tier 2 category.

For having several convictions of human traffickers in the past year, the Philippines moved up from the "Tier 2 watch list" category to "Tier 2."

The report noted that although the Philippines "still does not fully comply with minimum standards to eliminate trafficking, Manila is making significant efforts to do so."

Those under the "Tier 2 Watch List" are countries whose governments do not fully comply with the Trafficking Victims Protection Act’s (TVPA) minimum standards but are making significant efforts to comply with those standards.

On the other hand, those under the Tier 2 category are "countries whose governments do not fully comply with the TVPA’s minimum standards but are making significant efforts to bring themselves into compliance with those standards." - VVP, GMA News

PHL ready to assist helpers abused by Taiwanese exec in US

The Philippine government can provide legal assistance to two household service workers (HSW) who were abused by a Taiwanese official in the United States (US).

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Carmelita Dimzon on Tuesday said the two helpers may approach either the Philippine embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the US for assistance.

Dimzon said they are trying to identify the two HSWs because US authorities withheld their identities.

“The names had been withheld by the US authorities for confidentiality. The embassy and the POLO don’t have them," Dimzon said.

“We are prepared to extend all possible assistance within the mandate given to us," she said.

Director Liu Hsien-hsien of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) based in Missouri was recently arrested after being charged by a federal court of committing labor violations against the two Filipino HSWs.

The TECO told the court that Liu illegally hired, underpaid, and forced the Filipinos to work for excessive hours.

Liu is currently detained and may face deportation.

The TECO serves as one of Taiwan’s de facto embassies in the US. - VVP, GMA News

PHL ready to assist helpers abused by Taiwanese exec in US

The Philippine government can provide legal assistance to two household service workers (HSW) who were abused by a Taiwanese official in the United States (US).

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) administrator Carmelita Dimzon on Tuesday said the two helpers may approach either the Philippine embassy or the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the US for assistance.

Dimzon said they are trying to identify the two HSWs because US authorities withheld their identities.

“The names had been withheld by the US authorities for confidentiality. The embassy and the POLO don’t have them," Dimzon said.

“We are prepared to extend all possible assistance within the mandate given to us," she said.

Director Liu Hsien-hsien of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) based in Missouri was recently arrested after being charged by a federal court of committing labor violations against the two Filipino HSWs.

The TECO told the court that Liu illegally hired, underpaid, and forced the Filipinos to work for excessive hours.

Liu is currently detained and may face deportation.

The TECO serves as one of Taiwan’s de facto embassies in the US. - VVP, GMA News

Pinoys in Egypt safe despite clashes, envoy says

Filipinos in Egypt are safe amid the clashes that erupted between the military government and protesters calling for its downfall, an official from the Philippine Embassy in Cairo said on Tuesday.

In a phone interview in GMA News TV’s “On Call," Vice Consul Querubine Lacay assured the families of Filipinos in Egypt that they should not worry because the chaos is “localized."

Lacay also noted that no Filipino has been reported dead or injured in the clashes, where 33 people have been killed and 1, 700 others were hurt.

“Ito ay isyu sa pagitan ng lipunan ng Egypt at ng gobyerno nila. Ang atin naman pong mga kababayan ay naka-focus sa mga obligasyon nila sa kanilang pamilya at sa trabaho nila, kaya marami po sa kanila [ay] hindi sumasama sa ganitong kaguluhan," she told “On Call" host Connie Sison.
For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

There are about 2, 600 Filipinos registered in Embassy records, 95 percent of them based in the capital, Cairo, Lacay said.

Meanwhile, Alex Amparo, a restaurant manager there, said the situation is still “normal" for Filipinos.

“Ang nagiging epekto lang naman [ay doon sa] ibang nagta-travel, nade-delay lang sila," Amparo said.

He expressed no interest in coming home to the Philippines, and told his family not to worry about him and his wife.

During the interview, Lacay also disclosed that they have received instructions from the attaché to update the list of Filipino community leaders, with whom they will communicate if the clashes get worse.

She also assured that the Embassy has an updated contingency plan regarding the unrest in the area.

The vice consul likewise asked Filipinos based in Egypt to personally monitor the events.

“Kung maaari, makipag-ugnayan na rin sa Embassy para i-inform kami kung saan ang lokasyon nila at paano sila mako-contact kung sakaling may mangyari pang gulo," Lacay said. - VVP, GMA News

Pinoy found dead in Malaysia shipyard

A 30-year-old Filipino was found bloodied and dead inside his living quarters at a shipyard in Malaysia over the weekend.

A report of Malaysia's "The Star" said the Filipino is suspected of having committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife.

The report said there was nothing at the scene to indicate that a fight ensued.

GMA News Online tried to confirm this report with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

However, DFA spokesman said they have not yet received a report about this incident.

"The Star" said the Filipino may have stabbed himself at about 2:30 p.m. last Saturday.

He was rushed to Miri Hospital but later died due to massive internal bleeding from multiple stab wounds, the report said. - VVP, GMA News
A 30-year-old Filipino was found bloodied and dead inside his living quarters at a shipyard in Malaysia over the weekend.

A report of Malaysia's "The Star" said the Filipino is suspected of having committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife.

The report said there was nothing at the scene to indicate that a fight ensued.

GMA News Online tried to confirm this report with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

However, DFA spokesman said they have not yet received a report about this incident.

"The Star" said the Filipino may have stabbed himself at about 2:30 p.m. last Saturday.

He was rushed to Miri Hospital but later died due to massive internal bleeding from multiple stab wounds, the report said. - VVP, GMA News

Pinoy film 'Halaw' wins screen award in Australia

Filipino filmmaker Sheron Dayoc's movie "Halaw" won the 2011 Asia Pacific Screen Awards' (APSA) Network for the Promotion of Asian Cinema (NETPAC) award in Australia last November 17.

A news release of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the film represents the multi-cultural groupings of Mindanao, bound by an opportunity to earn a living.

"Written, produced and directed by Dayoc, 'Halaw' follows the journey of a kaleidoscope of characters hoping for a better life in Sabah, Malaysia, despite the dangers of illegal immigration and the uncertainty of a true job in Malaysia," the DFA said.

Dayoc said the award inspires him to do more films which distinctly capture not only the Filipino spirit but also represent the Asian value of resilience.

Dayoc is a Mindanao independent filmmaker, editor, videographer and writer. His documentaries focus on untold stories of people from the grassroots level.

The 2011 APSA NETPAC Jury included APSA Nominations Council-NETPAC members, Philip Cheah (Chair), Jeannette Paulson Hereniko and Peggy Chiao.

It chose "Halaw" for its seamless storytelling and documentary quality which evokes the uncertainty and desperation in a little-known story of a modern-day boat people, the DFA said.

The APSA is an international cultural initiative of the Queensland State Government, which aims to promote and acclaim the cinematic excellence and cultural diversity of the Asia-Pacific region.

It brings together in a collaboration Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and FIAPF-International Federation of Film Producers Associations. - RJMD/VVP, GMA News

Immigration exec: PHL offloading policy to continue

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) appealed for the public’s understanding as it vowed to continue its “offloading" policy in combating illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

The policy bars passengers from flying to certain countries on suspicion that they could be victims of human trafficking.

According to a news release on the BI website, Associate Commissioner Abdullah Mangotara urged travelers to give specific information when filing complaints “for alleged extortion or arrogance" against immigration officers.

“While the BI recognizes [every Filipino’s] right to travel, human trafficking poses a threat to the people’s right to life and liberty. [These] can be [confusing, but] the preservation of life and liberty is a higher calling, a higher duty that we must discharge—and discharge without hesitation," Mangotara said.

Human trafficking and illegal recruitment is expected to continue, he added, because many Filipinos still see overseas work as the solution to poverty.

“Their [Filipinos] vulnerability and ambitions of going abroad will continue to open up chances for organized crime syndicates to operate," Mangotara said.

Last Nov. 9, Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said an inter-agency body is reviewing the guidelines that immigration officers follow in processing passengers going abroad, after receiving complaints from Filipino travelers.

Aside from the BI, David said the review body includes representatives from the:
Department of Justice (DOJ),
Department of Tourism (DOT),
National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and
Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

“The group was tasked to undertake a thorough study and review of our existing practices at the airports so that these complaints from the traveling public can be addressed," he said.

He also appealed to the recruitment sector to understand the plight of immigration officers “who are in the forefront of the campaign against human trafficking." - Rose-An Jessica Dioquino, VVP, GMA News

Friday, November 18, 2011

Hillary Clinton lauds PHL for fight vs. human trafficking

United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton lauded the “real commitment" the Philippines has shown in fighting against human trafficking, also called as “modern-day slavery."

At a forum dubbed “A Conversation in Manila" at the National Museum on Wednesday, Clinton cited the improvement in the country’s enforcement of laws against human trafficking, the illegal trade in human beings for forced labor or sexual exploitation.

“Now you’re prosecuting — that sends a very strong message to the traffickers that you have to beware, that you’re not gonna get away with this," Clinton said.




“I can’t speak for what the evidence will accumulate. We have this whole process that I’m not a part of, I [just] get the final recommendation. But I think it’s fair to say that we’re very proud of the progress that the Philippines is making," she added.

‘Sea change of difference’

In an interview with CNN in June this year, Clinton praised the Philippines for the progress in the fight against human trafficking since President Benigno Simeon Aquino III assumed office.

“The Philippines probably export more people of their citizenry than nearly any other country in the world. They go all over the world to work in many different settings," Clinton said.

“Until the new administration of President Aquino, we didn’t really have the level of commitment we were seeking. We do now, and we see a sea change of difference," she added.

Clinton issued the comment after the 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report of the US State Department was released.

In the report, the Philippines' rank moved up from the "Tier 2 Watch List" to "Tier 2."

Being under the Tier 2 category — a level higher than Tier 2 Watch List — implies that the Philippines “is making significant efforts to do so" although it “still does not fully comply with minimum standards."

In his second State of the Nation last July, Aquino said the government has convicted 31 human traffickers in a year.

The figure was a little higher than the number of human traffickers (29) convicted by the administration of former President Gloria Arroyo in 2010, seven years since the signing of the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act in 2003.

In June this year, Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. — who called the removal from the watch list “a vindication"— said more than 54,000 suspected human trafficking victims were prevented from leaving the country because of government's intensified drive against human trafficking at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and other ports.

Most of them were bound for Hong Kong, Singapore and the Middle East and were suspected of being “tourist workers" or undocumented overseas Filipino workers disguised as tourists, David said.

‘Sexual tourism’

Meanwhile, US Ambassador Harry Thomas Jr. had hit the headlines late in September for saying that about 40 percent of male foreign tourists in the Philippines come for sex.

“That is not something I’m proud of. That's not something you should be proud of. I told [Justice] Secretary Leila de Lima that any American caught engaged in any of these crimes or cybersex should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law and we will assist," Thomas said during a round-table discussion among Court of Appeals magistrates last Sept. 22.

The Department of Tourism (DOT) disputed the ambassador’s claim, saying that “shopping and sight-seeing are the dominant activities for both male and female tourists."

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also said foreign tourists who “are coming for darker reasons" are unwelcome.

“The Philippines is a beautiful country. Although we would like to see the number of tourist arrivals increase, we would want that our tourists, that our friends come here for the right reasons," she said. — MRT/VS/VVP, GMA News

PHL urges ASEAN to protect migrant workers

BALI – The Philippines on Thursday urged the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to adopt a legally-binding agreement on the protection of migrant workers.

Communications and Planning Secretary Ricky Carandang, delivered the Philippine statements at the plenary session of the ASEAN summit, said the regional bloc should consider a rules-based accord that will protect the rights of migrant workers.

The Philippines wants to see "more binding set of rules" on the treatment of migrant workers, Carandang said.

“There should be certain standards between the receiving country and the deploying country," he said.

“There is a need for greater protection for migrant workers and we want something that is more binding with regard to how we treat and assist migrant workers," Carandang added. “We want action on it sooner rather than later."

However, getting the consensus of all ASEAN states may be a tough task.

Carandang noted that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono was the only one who supported the Philippine initiative.

The Philippines and Indonesia are the largest contributors of workers in the ASEAN region, mainly in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.

Aside from the Philippines, other members of the ASEAN include: Brunei, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar.

In the Philippines, about 1.5 million of its more that eight million Filipino workers abroad are deployed in the ASEAN region.

Non-binding agreement

ASEAN signed a similar but non-binding agreement on the protection of migrant workers in 2007.

The document was seen as an important accord to prevent labor abuses.

However, its non-compelling nature and lack of provision to sanction misbehaving members, renders it useless against violations.

Carandang said the Philippines hopes members would soon find merit and importance in adopting a more forceful agreement.

“We want it as soon as possible," he said. - VVP, GMA News

Abu Dhabi issues motorist guidelines for UAE National Day

The Abu Dhabi police issued a set of guidelines for vehicle owners for the National Day celebrations of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Dec. 2.

According to a Gulf News report, the police warned motorists on Monday “about the excessive use of decorations on their cars" and behavior on the road during the event.

The guidelines—released by the Abu Dhabi police and published in the Gulf News—are as follows:
Motorists should not change the color of their vehicles and post inappropriate and/or obscene words and phrases on their car’s body.

Windscreens should be free from posters.

License plates should not be removed or covered with stickers or any decoration.

Vehicle owners are prohibited from attaching any noise-making accessory or device.
Abu Dhabi Traffic and Patrol Department head Hussai Al Harthi also warned motorists against stopping their vehicles in the middle of the road to spray paint on other cars.

Passengers must not stick any part of their body out of the vehicle, especially in an attempt to perform stunts that could block traffic or create disturbance.

Violators will face a Dh2,000 fine (roughly P20,000) and 12 “black points," the Gulf News said.

The UAE is a federation of seven states founded in 1971, after getting its independence back from Britain. It celebrates its National Day and founding anniversary on Dec. 2. — Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/KG, GMA News

Group offers free legal advice for Asian immigrant workers in US

With Asian immigrant workers subject to “widespread wage violations" in the United States, an organization advocating the rights of Asian Americans is offering free legal advice in line with the National Days of Action Against Wage Theft on Nov. 17 to 20.
What is wage theft?
Some of the most common examples of wage theft occur because workers do not know the laws that most employers in New York and New Jersey must follow.

How well do you know your rights?

1. Minimum wage

Did you know that most workers in New York and New Jersey must be paid at least $7.25 an hour for the first 40 hours they work in one week?

2. Overtime

Did you know that most workers in New York and New Jersey must be paid 1.5 times their regular rate of pay for every hour they work over 40 hours?

3. Delayed paycheck

Did you know that all workers have a right to be paid regularly and on time, regardless of economic conditions at their workplace?

4. Meal breaks

Did you know that many workers in New York who work more than six consecutive hours must be given at least one meal break?

5. Paycheck deductions.

Did you know that employers are generally not allowed to deduct damage, loss, or the cost of tools or transportation from workers’ paychecks? Read more

In a statement, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) cited a 2008 study, which said Asian immigrant workers suffered the highest rate of overtime violations of any racial group with 85 percent.

“Undocumented workers and workers with limited English proficiency are disproportionately affected by wage theft. Many do not know that US minimum wage, overtime, and other basic protections apply to all workers, regardless of their immigration status," said Shirley Lin, a staff lawyer at AALDEF.

Established in 1974, AALDEF provides free legal advice to Asian immigrant workers and represents them in lawsuits for unpaid wages and other wage theft violations.

For assistance and information, contact Lin at (212) 966-5932 ext. 220 or slin@aaldef.org, or AALDEF program associate Elizabeth Koo at (212) 966-5932 ext. 215 or ekoo@aaldef.org. — Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/KG, GMA News

Pinoys in UAE warned vs three forwarding firms

Overseas Filipino workers in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) were warned this week against patronizing three cargo firms when sending Christmas goodies to their families back home.

The warning from the Trade Department's Philippine Shippers’ Bureau stemmed from complaints of hundreds of UAE-based OFWs that their BB (Balikbayan) boxes remain undelivered for over a year now.

News site Khaleej Times cited an advisory released through the Philippine Consulate General in Dubai indicating two of the three cargo firms are based in Dubai and one in Sharjah.

The freight-forwarding firms are Smooth Express and Express Link Cargo Services in Dubai and Dagupan Cargo Packaging Services in Sharjah.

These companies allegedly send the cargo through Urgent Cargo Express International Forwarder and Brokerage Inc. in Sucat, Parañaque [in southern Metro Manila], the Khaleej Times report said.

According to the report, OFWs in the Middle East send a large number of BB boxes containing valuables for their loved ones during the Christmas season.

Philippine Consulate General in Dubai Vice-Consul Gerry Suliguin urged victims of freight-forwarding companies, which have failed to deliver their parcels to their families, to come forward and submit their affidavits.

He said the affidavits would be forwarded to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for lodging complaints formally.

“They have to bring with them the proof of transactions when they come to the consulate to file their complaints," Suliguin said.

For its part, the DTI said shippers can contact it for assistance at 751-3330.

The Philippine Shipper's Bureau (PSB) is now coordinating with the Legal Department of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and the Philippine agents for the release of the undelivered BB boxes on humanitarian consideration.

On the other hand, it noted the largest number of complaints came from OFWs in the Middle East, specifically from Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar, followed by those in 
the USA, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Italy, the UK and Korea.

The common complaints received by the DTI-PSB included non-delivery or failure to deliver Balikbayan Boxes, pilferage of the boxes, overcharging and damaged cargo.

Investigation by the DTI-PSB showed the companies stopped remitting funds to their Philippine agents resulting in the abandonment of cargo at the BOC. — LBG, GMA News

Clinton: Undocumented immigrants should be given a chance in the US

Undocumented students who were brought to the United States as children should be given a chance to stay there, visiting US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Manila on Wednesday.

Responding to a question via Skype by Filipino Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas, Clinton said it is “important" for undocumented immigrants to “be treated with a humane approach," especially if they are young.

"If you were brought to the US as a child, that's not a decision you made," she said. "If you're a student and you want to remain in the US, I believe you have to be given the opportunity to do so."

Vargas—who confessed in a New York Times article last July that he was an undocumented immigrant—asked the US Secretary of State: "Given the important role that documented and undocumented Filipino immigrants play in society, how would you define American?"

Speaking before the audience of the forum "A Conversation in Manila" at the National Museum, Clinton also said she disagrees "with a lot of people in the other side of the spectrum," referring to those who are pushing for the deportation of illegal immigrants, including students and young professionals.

Last year, the US Senate thumbed down the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act, a 10-year-old piece of legislation that can secure citizenship for undocumented students brought to the US as children.

Clinton admitted that the US government has "to make some changes" in the immigration system, which she said, echoing Vargas, is "badly broken."

"That's something that I have said and advocated for many years," said Clinton, a former New York senator. "I'm confident that we will eventually work it through."

But the US Secretary of State said there is a difference between documented and undocumented immigrants because the former went through the legal process, enabling them to "enjoy certain rights."

She added that illegal immigration is "true in every country," but many flock to the US, which she referred to as "a nation of immigrants."

"I think of America as an idea as much as a place — a place of freedom [where people can] pursue their own God-given talents in a system that rewards hard work and effort," she said.

‘Low-priority’

According to the US-based National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), there are over one million undocumented Filipinos in the US.

The organization recently staged a series of activities to stop the deportation of dental assistant Jose Isabelo Librojo, who received a stay of his deportation when he was about to be sent back to the Philippines last Saturday.

A few days before Librojo received a deportation notice in June, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) head John Morton released a memorandum—dated June 17—providing a set of guidelines on how to deal with what the Obama administration called “low-priority deportations."

The new policy “allows DHS to review deportations on a case-by-case basis," giving leeway to young immigrants who do not have any criminal record and those that do not pose risk to national security. - KBK/HS, GMA News

OFWs in HK told: Be 'careful' with your Xmas packages

Overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong should be "vigilant" on sending packages to their relatives for Christmas, the Philippine Consulate General there said.

In an advisory posted on its website on Monday, the Consulate General warned OFWs to be careful especially in sending boxes through Ford Cargo International, which "has already victimized several Filipinos in Hong Kong."

"This company… has a pending criminal case here," the Consulate General said.

Ford Cargo International is among the sea freight forwarders earlier listed as "delinquent" by the Philippine Shippers’ Bureau (PSB), an agency under the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The companies that made the PSB list last May had been noted for delivery delay and non-delivery of Balikbayan boxes and pilferage, over-charging, and lost and damaged cargoes.

Aside from Ford Cargo International, the list included:

Associated Consolidations Express (ACE) Cargo of Northern and Southern California and its local counterpart in Parañaque;
Smooth Express of Dubai;
Express Link Cargo Services of the United Arab Emirates (UAE);
SCRL Cargo of Ireland;
NACA Logistics of California and Illinois;
Shipping Express of Chicago; and
Dagupan Cargo Packaging Services of UAE.

The Consulate General also told Filipinos in Hong Kong that their Balikbayan boxes should not bear items like:

currencies, checks, money orders, and traveler’s checks;
jewelry;
firearms, ammunitions, explosives, and toy guns;
gambling cards; and
pirated products (i.e. DVDs, CDs, tapes).

— with Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/RSJ/LBG, GMA News

Filipino tourists warned of stiff fines for overstayers in Macau

Visitors to Macau, be forewarned — a new rule is now in place that imposes stiff fines for those who overstay for more than 30 days after their permit expires.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) on Friday said offenders will be made to pay a fine of US$26 or more than P1,200 for every day that they overstay in Macau.

Moreover, the agency said offenders who commit the same violation within 180 days will not be able to “legalize" their overstaying by paying fines and will have to leave the special administrative region immediately.

Illegal immigrants will likewise be deported and prohibited from entering Macau for a certain period as indicated in the deportation order.

With these new rules, the POEA advised Filipino tourists, especially those who intend to overstay in Macau to look for a job, to use the “legal channel" in seeking overseas employment. - Kimberly Jane T. Tan, GMANews.TV

10 Pinoys win awards in int'l hair and makeup contest in Macau

Ten Filipino hairdressers and makeup artists reaped awards in an international hair and makeup competition last November 8 to 10, the Philippine Consulate General in Macau said.

According to a news release issued on Tuesday, Stefanie Ilagan led the Philippine delegation with a first runner-up finish in the Bridal Makeup category of this year's Asia-Pacific Hair and Makeup Cosmetologists Association (APHCA) Hair and Makeup Competition held at the Venetian-Macau Hotel and Resort.


Pinoy hair and make-up artists bagged 1 first runner-up finish and 9 honorable mentions in an int'l tilt in Macau. DFA.gov.ph


More than 40 major hairstyling and makeup experts from the Asia-Pacific region competed for 60 awards in the competition, which is also known as the “Asia-Pacific Hair and Makeup Olympics."

Aside from Ilagan, nine other Filipinos received honorable mentions in several categories, including Evening Hairstyle, Evening Makeup, Party Makeup, and Ladies’ Cut and Creative Color:

Nitz Clidoro
Giovanni Luage
Ester Garcia
Peping de Guzman
Antonio Agustin
Ronald Tuaño
Daniel Lois Buddy Congson
Vicente Hisola, and
Raquel Pangilaga.

The competition started in 1996 during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Summit in Manila, through the efforts of Filipino hairdresser and businessman Ricky Reyes, who founded the APHCA.

The association now has 18 member-countries, including six from Europe. — Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/KG/RSJ, GMA News

Friday, September 16, 2011

Saudi needs 1,000 nurses

ROY C. MABASA

September 5, 2011, 6:50pm

MANILA, Philippines — About 1,000 nurses are needed to fill vacant positions in at least 12 military hospitals in the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), recruitment agencies based in Manila announced.

Representatives from the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation (MODA), Al Hada Hospital, and King Khalid Military City Hospital-Hafr Al Batin are also slated to visit the country by mid-September to interview some 300 Filipinos for work as nurses, medical technologists, dental surgery assistants, phlebotomists, CSSD and other allied medical positions.

The deployment of Filipino nurses to Saudi Arabia has risen from 5,926 in 2004 to 9,956 in 2009. It declined slightly in 2010 with 8,771 nurses. This year, salaries of nurses in military hospitals in Saudi are projected to increase by 15 to 20 percent.

The LBS Recruitment Solutions Inc. announced that hospitals in Jeddah need experienced nurses in specialty and clinical wards with at least two years of experience in intensive care unit, operating room, Pediatric, Orthopedic, Hemodialysis/Renal Center, Emergency, OR/RR, Oncology, Endoscopy, Neuro, Hematology, Ob-Gyne, Rehabilitation, Infectious Control, Medical Surgical, Cardiac Cath Laboratory, and other areas.

Also needed are dental assistants, dental technologists, pharmacists, laboratory technicians,, medical transcriptionists, medical secretaries, and medical record clerks.

These jobs are needed in such institutions as the Specialist Hospitals, International Medical Center and King Fahad Armed Forces Hospital; King Faisal Research, Security Forces Hospital in Riyadh; Al Hada Military Hospital Program in Taif; and King Khaled Military City Hospitals in Hafr Al Batin.

Meanwhile, using the popular online social networking and micro-blogging Twitter website, Saudi nationals have launched a "Be kind to foreign workers" campaign, eliciting praises from the Filipino community there.

According to Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator John Leonard Monterona, the tweet campaign has been initiated by Turki Al-Dakhel, a Saudi journalist, writer and TV program presenter.

Dakhel is also an influential figure on Twitter with more than 123,000 people following him. He lauched the campaign on the occasion of Eid el-Fitr celebration that started last Aug. 30.

“This is the least we can do toward this group of people during Eid. The foreign workers need moral support which is more important to them than earning money,” Al-Dakhel was quoted as saying.

One Saudi blogger asked Saudis to respect their housemaids who were living with them and were sharing their joy during Eid.

He asked people to stop referring to their housemaids as “servants,” saying better words should be used instead. “We can use better titles or call the housemaids by their names,” he said.

Fadeelah said housemaids should be considered as natural members of the family. “They live with us for a long time. We should not humiliate or disrespect them. They have left their homes in a quest of a better living. We should respect and treat them humanely,” he said.

A number of Saudis participating in the campaign also told stories about results of good and bad treatment of housemaids, citing in this connection the cases of murder and vindictive actions that resulted from maltreatment.

Monterona and his group welcomed the campaign as they expressed their appreciation to the Saudis for raising the social awareness of respecting migrant workers rights and well-being.

He said expatriate workers such as Indians, Pakistanis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Indonesians, and Nepalese have also expressed positive feedback and reaction on the tweet campaign.

“It is a call grounded on humanitarian concerns, recognizing the indubitable contribution of foreign workers on the socio-economic progress of the Saudi society, thus it gains widespread support among the Saudis,” the OFW leader said..

Monterona said he is hoping that the campaign will lead to the reduction of abuses, maltreatment and labor malpractices, often cited as grounds why migrant workers, mostly housemaids, run away from their employers.

“We are also hoping that the campaign will get the attention of the host government and eventually lead to the implementation of foreign workers-friendly labor policies such as the adoption of the recently passed International Labor Organization (ILO) Convention on domestic workers rights and inclusion of domestic workers on its labor laws,” he pointed out.

.

The Return to the Dark Ages

(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times,
in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
http://www.preda.org/main/archives/2011/r11091401.html
It’s back to the dark ages for the hysterical tabloid press in Metro Manila where the bellowing newscasters and commentators are condemning street children and children in conflict with the law as criminals. The most strident commentators call for the children to be charged and jailed and reduce the age of criminal liability to 12 years old or younger. They demand that the Juvenile Justice Welfare Act be changed.

This act, Republic Act 9344 is a landmark legislation of compassion that seeks to restore the deprived life of children in conflict with the law. It says that children younger than 15 have an alternative to harsh, cruel prison life where enough of them have been raped, abused, beaten and starved in sub-human conditions. They can be helped, given a chance of an education and rehabilitation through meeting their basic human rights, nutritional needs and education. However, up to a million children and minors from the teeming slums frequent the streets and join gangs to survive. Many hundreds of youth are still jailed in conditions not even fit for animals.

Those who advocate the repeal of the law don't know the reality. They are branding the street children as the tools of the criminal syndicates which the police are either too scared to oppose or are in cahoots with. Instead of exposing the criminal syndicates and their wealthy masterminds, the irresponsible commentators are setting up the street kids as targets for the death squads.

Not only that, a few commentators, after giving a tirade condemning the street kids over the radio or TV and arousing fear and hatred against them, they launch their own text-in surveys, then use this survey result to justify their continued condemnation of the children. The one straight forward solution is to feed and educate the young and give jobs with a living wage to the older teenage youth.

The death squads too are busy killing hundreds of street youth in recent years and doing their bloody butchering work with a nods and winks from their political backers and incompetent police. The latest, most gruesome, has been the killing of three youths, 13 and 14, tied, gagged, tortured and stabbed a hundred times and thrown as garbage in a ditch in Zamboanga City to the eternal shame of the politicians, police and citizens. Their muffled screams still cry out for justice and mercy. But there is none.

Cebu and Davao cities are the most notorious for the extermination of street youth. Ten years ago, I called on the former Mayor of Davao City to defend human rights and stop the killings of street youth. Instead, he charged me with libel and had me hailed to court.

It was a proud moment indeed to be able to take a stand for the kids in court but what¹s even more amazing was the crowd of street children that came to Davao City airport to surround me with their malnourished bodies to protect me from the assassins’ guns and escort me to a van away from danger. In the end, the Mayor was persuaded to drop the baseless charge. The death squads rule by fear but the politicians call it democracy. If the majority of the people approve by their silence, then I suppose it is. It is the democracy of death and the death of democracy.

There will be no end to the thousands homeless urchins that challenge our conscience and religious beliefs until the root cause is dealt with. That is the corrupt system of government and the insurmountable inequality of society. There is the unbridgeable gap between the tiny group of luxurious living rich and the masses of struggling poor. It’s a society where 2% of the population own about 70% of the natural wealth and the millions of hungry slum dwelling people are barely surviving from day to day.

Poverty, mass unemployment and hunger drive the children from these slums on to the streets to a miserable life of hunger and hopelessness. They go begging, and cannot resist stealing when they are hungry and smell the delicious foods that waft out from the fast food restaurants. The hungry children are driven crazy with the desire for a decent meal. Most of the time they live on left over from the garbage cans. The government has no homes that cares for them and delivers their basic human rights. They are the abandoned and forgotten until they are forced to steal in order to eat. Then they are condemned to prison.

This is the fundamental failure of the Church, politicians, society and humanity - to remain indifferent to the hungry needy children and allow them to be condemned as criminals. We have to come to their defense and give them a life of dignity and decency. END

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Damascus, Aleppo eyed as possible repatriation areas for Pinoys in Syria

The Philippine government is considering Damascus and Aleppo in Syria as relatively secure areas where Filipinos seeking repatriation can be picked up and brought to Manila.

In a radio interview on Wednesday, Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez said there are places in Syria that are relatively secure from violence, at least for now.

"Ang mga protest and violence, karahasan, ito hindi naman sa... buong Syria, may pockets lang. So may safe places like for example Damascus at Aleppo, there have been (reports) that these are still very secure places for our OFWs.

"So sa mga ganoong lugar pwede magtipon-tipon at later on kung maari sila dalhin sa place where they can be repatriated," Hernandez said over radio dzRH.

(Protests and violence are not everywhere, at least for now. There are still safe places for our OFWs, including Damascus and Aleppo. Those who wish to avail of voluntary repatriation may want to gather there for now.)

In the same interview, Hernandez said no Filipino has so far been reported injured in the violence there.

"Wala pa ho. At so far wala ring mga report na meron ng taong handa nang mai-repatriate from Syria to the Philippines (So far there has been no report of Filipinos being among the injured in the violence there. There has also been no report so far of Filipinos wishing to be repatriated)," he said.

On Tuesday, the DFA raised the alert level in Syria to “3" amid the escalating violence in several parts of the country.

In an interview on dzBB, Philippine ambassador to Syria Wilfredo Cuyugan said "even if alert level 4 is not yet declared, we encourage our nationals to go home... habang wala pang gulo at habang may commercial flights pang available."

He said alert level 3 only means "voluntary assisted" repatriation, while level 4 means mass evacuation.

Kaya tinaas ang alert level sa 3 to make sure 'di maiipit ang mga Pilipino just in case. Pero sa tingin po naming di naman po puputok yan ng ganun ka-grabe but still we would err on the side of caution.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, in a statement, enjoined all Filipinos working and residing in Syria to leave, with the Philippine government shouldering the repatriation cost.

"I have directed our Philippine Embassy in Damascus to intensify its efforts to reach out to Filipinos and convince them that now is the time to consider leaving Syria," he said in a statement posted on the government portal.

DFA records showed that there are 17,000 Filipinos living and working in Syria.

Situation on the ground

When asked what form of transportation will be used to repatriate Filipinos, Hernandez said a DFA team is still assessing the situation.

He said they do not expect many Filipinos to avail of voluntary repatriation at this time.

"Depende sa situation on the ground kasi sa ngayon mapalad na tayo kung maraming takers para sa voluntary repatriation. So kung halimbawa marami, meron tayong contingency plan kung saan sila dadalhin.

Sa ngayon we are expecting itong mga kababayan natin ay hindi pa dadagsa o dadaming pupunta sa ating embahada para mag-request ng repatriation," he said.

(It will depend on the situation on the ground. For now we do not expect many to seek voluntary repatriation.)

"This will come in trickles most likely but even then we are already prepared kung dumami man meron tayong contingency plan (These will come in trickles most likely but we are already prepared with contingency plans)," he added.

Hotline

Hernandez said families of Filipinos working in Syria can call the DFA hotline at 8343333, which he said will be open 24 hours. — RSJ/LBG, GMA News

POEA: OFW deployment to Syria banned

The Philippines imposed a deployment ban to Syria as hostilities there continue to escalate, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said Tuesday.

POEA administrator Carlos Cao said they will temporarily stop the deployment of overseas Filipino workers there until the situation there improves.

“Kapag ang level three is confirmed all over the country, banned ang deployment — both ng balik-manggagawa at new hires," he said in an interview with reporters.

Violence in Syria continues as anti-government protesters are demanding for the country’s president, Bashar al-Assad, to step down. — JE, GMA News

Pinoy dentist in London in hot water over work permits

A Filipino dentist practicing on Harley Street in London’s high-end medical district is being haled to court for allegedly duping her fellow Filipinos to land a job in the United Kingdom.

Dr. Ressie Reyes Macaraeg, who runs Ocean Implants & Cosmetic Dentistry and Ocean Care Recruitment, is at the center of a brewing scandal after at least three Filipinos complained of her alleged dishonest operations.

Every applicant paid £4,000 (P277,171) to Macaraeg to process their papers, but they never got the certificates of sponsorship (COS) they were promised, according to Balita Pinoy.

A COS is needed for work permit applications, which, in turn, are needed to apply for a visa to either enter or remain in the UK.

Balita Pinoy said many of her supposed clients are facing the prospect of being illegal immigrants as their original visas are about to lapse.

Macaraeg disputes fault

While Macaraeg admitted she owed the money claimed, she disputed being at fault. She said she is already arranging for the repayment of the monies owed.

Macaraeg, who maintained she was both a dentist and a recruiter, has also submitted to the court that she intends to defend the claims.

She added she is not an immigration advisor, although she concedes she submitted applications on behalf of clients to the UK Home Office and Border Agency for visas.

But Balita Pinoy said a search of the records of the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner shows no record of either Macaraeg or either of her companies registered with them.

Registration is a requirement under UK law unless the adviser is also a lawyer. — JE, GMA News

Manila hostage crisis survivors to seek compensation from PHL govt

Almost a year after the Manila hostage tragedy, two survivors and a relative of a fatality are seeking compensation from the Philippine government.

Survivors Chan Kwok-chu and Yik Siu-ling applied for legal aid to pursue their claim, Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK) reported on Thursday.

The two survivors, together with Tse Che-kin — brother of slain tour guide Masa Tse — are planning to go to the Philippines later this month to meet with some government officials, the RTHK report said.

A separate report on Hong Kong’s "The Standard" on Friday said the three are planning to go to Manila August 21, two days before the first anniversary of the tragedy on August 23.

On Wednesday, the group sent a letter to Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen seeking the help of the Hong Kong government to settle the incident through diplomatic channels, the report said.

However, a spokesman said the Chief Executive's Office is not in a position to intervene because it is a civil case, the report added.

Eight Hong Kong visitors were killed in the bus siege, along with their hostage taker dismissed police Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza.

Mendoza had taken a tourist bus hostage on August 23 last year to demand his reinstatement into the police force.

After an 11-hour standoff, eight tourists, and Mendoza himself, were killed in the incident.

The Philippine government’s handling of the crisis has been heavily criticized.

Up to now, Hong Kong has yet to lift the “black" travel alert discouraging travel to the Philippines. - VVP, GMA News

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Report ‘premature’ termination cases to embassy, Saudi OFWs advised

Amid persistent reports of "premature" terminations in Saudi Arabia, Philippine officials there advised overseas Filipino workers in the Kingdom to report terminations "without valid cause" to the Philippine Embassy.

The Embassy particularly urged OFWs who receive questionable termination notices to get in touch with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) nearest their place of work (Riyadh, Jeddah and al-Khobar).

"Amid persistent reports on the termination of Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia, Filipino workers who receive termination notices from their employers or who have been terminated without valid cause are advised to get in touch with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) nearest their place of work (Riyadh, Jeddah and al-Khobar). POLO officers will provide the necessary assistance to the complainants," the Embassy said in an advisory posted on its website.

The embassy also urged the Filipino community to regularly visit the Philippine Embassy website for updates on the implementation of the Nitaqat or the Saudization system.

Militant migrant advocacy group Migrante Middle East welcomed the move by the embassy but reiterated its call to the government to ready safety nets for OFWs.

“Outlining what constitute illegal termination is good, but there is a gray area here since the host govt. is now in the process of categorizing companies into coded colors that lead these companies to adopt a self-imposed reduction of their labors and/or staff in their bid to attain the ‘Green’ code to be exempted and not penalized under the Nitaqat scheme," group coordinator John Monterona said.

The embassy noted the Nitaqat system honors existing work contracts, with the sanction for non-complying companies being the non-renewal of work permits of foreign workers, and not their illegal termination.

It said this is why the work permits of foreign workers in red-coded companies will not be renewed, and that the work permits of foreign workers in yellow-coded companies will be limited to six years.

Even then, it said companies that fail to comply with the Saudization targets (red-coded or yellow-coded companies) are given grace periods of six and nine months respectively from June 11, to improve their situation.

On the other hand, the Embassy cited reports identifying the Nitaqat system as the reason for the recent incidents of termination of Filipino workers.

Saudi labor law

The Embassy said the Saudi Labor Law allows an employer to terminate the work contract in the following cases:

1. The worker assaults the employer or any of his superiors
2. The worker fails to perform his essential obligations or obey legitimate orders from his superiors
3. It is established that the worker committed a misconduct or act of dishonesty
4. If the worker deliberately commits any act or default with the intent to cause material loss to the employer
5. If the worker resorts to forgery to obtain his job
6. If the worker is under probationary period
7. If the worker is absent without valid reason
8. If the worker unlawfully takes advantage of his position for personal gain
9. If the worker divulges work-related industrial or commercial secrets of the employer.

"Affected workers are given the chance to refute the ground(s) for their termination. They can also file a complaint with the Saudi Labor Office for illegal termination," the embassy said. – KBK, GMA News

PHL Embassy: Pinoys not affected by Iraq's deportation of illegals

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO, OFW Journalism Consortium


An OFW Journalism Consortium news flash exclusive

MANILA—THE Philippine embassy in Baghdad said Filipino workers are not affected by the plan of the Iraqi government to deport illegal foreign workers.

This is even if 2009 stock estimates on overseas Filipinos by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas show that there an estimated 2,800 irregular Filipino workers in Iraq.

Filipino volunteers in Baghdad told the embassy that the ruling to deport illegal foreign workers does not include Filipino workers in American military facilities there.

Attache Donnie Fetalino told the OFW Journalism Consortium that the overseas Filipino workers in Iraq are “in their duty stations carry badges with them which is respected by Iraqi authorities".

“This is the reason why OFWs were not included in the news," Fetalino said.

News about the deportation of illegal foreign workers in Iraq was reported in the Himalayan Times newspaper of Nepal, which said the Iraqi parliament passed a law banning the hiring of foreign workers.

“We are developing deporting mechanisms for illegal foreign workers," Iraqi director general of labour office at Labour and Social Welfare Ministry Aziz Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Iraqi newspapers.

According to Aziz, thousands of illegal workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and African countries will be forcefully deported after the mechanism is developed.

On the part of the Philippines, labor migration government agencies have issued a ban to deploy migrant workers in Iraq since 2004 (the last year that records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed numbers of Filipinos deployed to Iraq).

But even previous years of reports by the OFW Journalism Consortium have documented reports of Filipinos going to Iraq through nearby Middle East countries, or are hired through labor brokers in those countries.

There are also 45 permanent migrants and 3,370 temporary migrant workers in Iraq apart from the 2,800 estimated irregular Filipino workers, according to CFO’s stock estimates as of 2009.

Reuters reported that thousands of foreign workers came to Iraq after the 2003 US invasion, hired as employees for foreign companies contracted by US forces. They are mostly working inside US military bases.

After the year 2007, private Iraqi employment agencies imported thousands more foreign workers.

But Iraqi officials are concerned over the 15 percent unemployment rate and 28 percent underemployment rate, and are now prioritizing giving employment to Iraqi citizens.

An initial response at the start of the year 2011 was Iraq’s halting of issuing visas for foreign workers.

Fetalino also shared a Feb. 20 communication between the Philippine and the US embassies in Baghdad showing that Iraq’s Ministry of Interior directed “a complete halt to all visa and residency visa issuances for an indeterminate period".

“This applies to all foreigners, not just those involved in US government contracts Exit visas are still available," Michael Dunkley Sr. of the US Embassy told Fetalino in an email correspondence. - OFW Journalism Consortium

DFA asks Saudi OFWs to report unjust terminations

Filipino migrant workers in Saudi Arabia who get terminated from their jobs without a valid cause should get in touch with the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Monday.

In a statement amid “persistent" reports on the termination of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia, the DFA said OFWs may ask for the embassy’s assistance through the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) that is closest to their place of work.

Located in Riyadh, Jeddah, and al-Khobar, POLO offices will assist affected OFWs, the DFA said.

The agency also advised OFWs in the Kingdom to regularly visit the Philippine Embassy website for updates on the Nitaqat or “Saudization" system, which prioritizes the employment of Saudi nationals over foreign workers in Saudi-owned firms.

The Saudi government is scheduled to begin implementing the Nitaqat system next Sept. 11, and companies that fail to comply with the Saudization targets will get a grace period of six to nine months.

“It is noted that the Nitaqat system honors existing work contracts. The sanction for non-complying companies will be the non-renewal of work permits of foreign workers, and not their illegal termination," the DFA said.

Last week, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) administrator Carlos Cao said Saudization is making no impact yet on the deployment of OFWs to Saudi.

Earlier, a recruitment expert projected a downsizing of jobs for Filipinos in Saudi due to the new labor policy. — With Paterno Esmaquel II/VS, GMA News

Monday, July 18, 2011

Pinoys in Europe can send money via Ericsson mobile phones

WILLIAM ALZONA, OFW Journalism Consortium


Technology giant Ericsson is testing its money service facility after it included the Philippines in the countries that can receive funds from seven countries in Europe.

Adam Kerr, Ericsson Mobile Money representative, said the company has partnered with Globe Telecom Inc. and Smart Communications Inc. to allow overseas Filipinos in seven European countries to send money back home.

Globe will use its GCash service, while Smart will utilize its Smart Money platform.
The said launch was made late last week in time for the Barrio Fiesta sa London event over the weekend.

“It will be a person to person money service," Kerr said in a telephone interview.
Since the service was relatively new, Kerr said that it only allows Filipinos in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Poland and Sweden to send money to the Philippines. The service, however, does not allow sending money from the Philippines to these seven countries, Kerr said.

United Kingdom has visible numbers of Filipino nurses, while Italy and Spain are major European destination countries for domestic workers. Germany has many Filipinos who have married Germans, while France is the number one European destination country for irregular Filipino workers.

There are an estimated 722,427 overseas Filipinos in the entire Europe as of 2009, says data from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas. Of the figure, 312,361 were permanent migrants, 309,914 were temporary migrants, and 100,152 were irregular migrants.

Ericsson plans to add more countries before the year ends.
As well, Ericsson will target overseas workers, those consumers who are used to transacting only with cash, and those with limited access to the formal banking system.

Senders from the seven countries will need to register with the Ericsson money website, which can also be accessed using a Smart phone. Using the service requires a mobile phone number from the sending countries but most of its transactions can be done over the Internet.

Ericsson’s system has a limit of sending 1,600 pounds a year (or about P110,960) for restricted account, but GCash can only hold up to P40,000. To upgrade an account, Ericsson will ask the sender for additional financial documents, which is part of the global anti-money laundering initiatives.

The company has yet to publish details for the Smart Money receiving limits.
For those countries in Europe, only those who have an Ericsson Money account can accept funds.

The company did not provide details on fees as it differs from country to country.
There is no fee to set up an Ericsson Money Services wallet, but there is an application fee of €5, or equivalent local currency, for the Ericsson Money Card.

At launch for a limited period of time, there will be no commission fee for sending money to other recipients or its partners, but the company will eventually charge its customers for sending money.

Paolo Baltao, president of GXchange Inc. (the mobile commerce subsidiary of Globe), said the new service could bring down the cost of sending money by about 40 percent compared with those remittance centers or through banks.

“Mobile payments and person-to-person money transfers are forecasted to become some of the most-used mobile applications in many countries in the next two or three years," Ericsson said in its previous statement. - OFW Journalism Consortium

ILO on track to pass treaty on social insurance by 2012

The International Labor Organization (ILO) is on track to pass next year a treaty that will allow nearly 100 million workers around the world to enjoy social insurance programs, Social Watch Philippines said Friday.

In a statement, Social Watch quoted the United Nations’ ILO as saying 80 percent of workers all over the world have no access to social security — a social insurance program that provides protection against poverty, old age, disability, and unemployment, among others.

“I believe [social insurance programs] are building blocks for social justice… I invite you all to mobilize around. Your support is invaluable," ILO director-general Juan Somavia told participants of the ongoing 5th Social Watch Global Assembly in Manila.

Social Watch is a network of citizens’ organizations struggling to eradicate poverty and causes of poverty, and to ensure an equitable distribution of wealth and realization of human rights.

Decent work for domestic workers

Somavia also lauded Social Watch for its “outstanding" job of reminding governments to help ensure the ratification and implementation of Convention 189, a landmark measure concerning decent work for domestic workers.

“You have persistently reminded governments as well as international organizations, business groups, and non-governmental organizations of the need to act on their commitments," Somavia told Social Watch.

He said domestic workers have long wanted to get the protection and the respect that they are entitled to have. “Now we must ensure that Convention 189 is ratified and implemented."

According to Social Watch, the passage of Convention 189 last June 16 was celebrated by workers around the world as they expect the landmark measure to change the lives of at least 100 million workers globally.

According to Convention 189, domestic workers who care for families and households must have the same basic labor rights as those available to other workers:


•reasonable hours of work,


•weekly rest of at least 24 consecutive hours,


•limit on in-kind payment,


•clear information on terms and conditions of employment, and


•respect for fundamental principles and rights at work (freedom of association and right to collective bargaining).

— JE, GMA News

PHL Embassy: Pinoys not affected by Iraq's deportation of illegals

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO, OFW Journalism Consortium


An OFW Journalism Consortium news flash exclusive

MANILA—THE Philippine embassy in Baghdad said Filipino workers are not affected by the plan of the Iraqi government to deport illegal foreign workers.

This is even if 2009 stock estimates on overseas Filipinos by the Commission on Filipinos Overseas show that there an estimated 2,800 irregular Filipino workers in Iraq.

Filipino volunteers in Baghdad told the embassy that the ruling to deport illegal foreign workers does not include Filipino workers in American military facilities there.

Attache Donnie Fetalino told the OFW Journalism Consortium that the overseas Filipino workers in Iraq are “in their duty stations carry badges with them which is respected by Iraqi authorities".

“This is the reason why OFWs were not included in the news," Fetalino said.

News about the deportation of illegal foreign workers in Iraq was reported in the Himalayan Times newspaper of Nepal, which said the Iraqi parliament passed a law banning the hiring of foreign workers.

“We are developing deporting mechanisms for illegal foreign workers," Iraqi director general of labour office at Labour and Social Welfare Ministry Aziz Ibrahim was quoted as saying by Iraqi newspapers.

According to Aziz, thousands of illegal workers from Nepal, Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka and African countries will be forcefully deported after the mechanism is developed.

On the part of the Philippines, labor migration government agencies have issued a ban to deploy migrant workers in Iraq since 2004 (the last year that records of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed numbers of Filipinos deployed to Iraq).

But even previous years of reports by the OFW Journalism Consortium have documented reports of Filipinos going to Iraq through nearby Middle East countries, or are hired through labor brokers in those countries.

There are also 45 permanent migrants and 3,370 temporary migrant workers in Iraq apart from the 2,800 estimated irregular Filipino workers, according to CFO’s stock estimates as of 2009.

Reuters reported that thousands of foreign workers came to Iraq after the 2003 US invasion, hired as employees for foreign companies contracted by US forces. They are mostly working inside US military bases.

After the year 2007, private Iraqi employment agencies imported thousands more foreign workers.

But Iraqi officials are concerned over the 15 percent unemployment rate and 28 percent underemployment rate, and are now prioritizing giving employment to Iraqi citizens.

An initial response at the start of the year 2011 was Iraq’s halting of issuing visas for foreign workers.

Fetalino also shared a Feb. 20 communication between the Philippine and the US embassies in Baghdad showing that Iraq’s Ministry of Interior directed “a complete halt to all visa and residency visa issuances for an indeterminate period".

“This applies to all foreigners, not just those involved in US government contracts Exit visas are still available," Michael Dunkley Sr. of the US Embassy told Fetalino in an email correspondence. - OFW Journalism Consortium

PHL Embassy assists Pinay 'raped' by 3 men in Dammam

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh is assisting and providing legal assistance to the pregnant Filipina who was allegedly raped by three Saudi men in Dammam.

In a report to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the Embassy said its representatives went to the Genobiya Police to assist the Filipina and check on her condition.

The Filipina, who hails from Bulacan, was reportedly walking on her way back to her residence from a check-up at the General Case Hospital in Dammam on July 7 when a car stopped and the driver asked if she works for a certain company.

Thinking that it was her car service, she rode the car but was surprised to see that there was another man seated at the back.

The driver reportedly brought her to an isolated area where she was raped. The Filipina was also robbed of her mobile phone and money, the embassy reported.

After being raped, the Filipina was dropped near the Carrefour Mall where she asked other Filipinos for help.

The Embassy received a report that the perpetrators were all arrested.

The Filipina, who delivered her baby on Wednesday, decided to pursue the case against her attackers.

As soon as she is "medically" ready, she will identify the suspects in a police line-up and the prosecution of the case will then start, the DFA said.

“The Department is pleased to know that the three suspects were already arrested and remains to be in police custody," DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Esteban Conejos said.

“The Department, through our Embassy in Riyadh, is providing all appropriate legal and consular assistance to the Filipina as she has decided to pursue the case. A lawyer has been hired to assist her and the Department will not stop in assisting her until justice is served," he added. - VVP, GMA News
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