Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Voluntary repatriation for OFWs willing to leave Egypt
By Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 02/01/2011 10:34 PM | Updated as of 02/01/2011 10:35 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday that it has directed the Philippine embassy in Cairo to make immediate arrangements for the repatriation of Filipinos who wish to come home from Egypt in the light of protest actions there.

DFA spokesman Atty. Eduardo Malaya said they are ready to move if a voluntary evacuation is requested by an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) on either relocation to safer grounds within Egypt or repatriation back to the Philippines.

"Wala po kaming naririnig na request sa mga Pilipino sa Egypt na sila ay maipa-repatriate, ngunit kung ‘yon ang kagustuhan ng ilan, ‘yong voluntary repetriation, may arrangement na tayong na-identify diyan," said Malaya.

The evacuation plan, according to Malaya, includes moving the OFWs by land from Cairo, Egypt to international airports in Tel Aviv, Israel or Amman, Jordan, where they will take a flight back to Manila. The DFA has made arrangements with other countries to allow the transit of Filipinos through their borders.

In Manila, DFA officials met with the ambassadors of countries near Egypt to request the assistance of their governments to allow the safe passage of Filipinos. The DFA also directed the Philippine embassies in these countries to make the same request with their host governments.

Malaya said they cannot enforce a mandatory evacuation for all 6,500 Filipinos working in Egypt since violent protests were limited only to certain areas of Egypt's major cities such as Cairo and Alexandria.
Malaya likened the situation to that of the 1986 EDSA People Power revolution, wherein the concentration of threats was limited to some parts of EDSA.

“Ang security situation ng mga Pilipino doon ay hindi nagbabago, ang mga protesters naman po ay hindi tinatarget ang mga Pilipino o mga foreigner," said the DFA spokesman.

Nevertheless, he said the DFA reiterated its advise to the Filipino community to stay indoors, stay clear of public places such as sites of mass protests, and avoid involvement in political actions.

The DFA has received 55 calls at its hotline number at the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) from Filipinos who have relatives in Egypt.

All the Filipinos in Egypt that the DFA has contacted are all safe.

They also said that there is no need to repatriate them back to the Philippines as of yet, but are ready to be moved to a safe area in Egypt if needed.

The embassy was also able to reach members of the Filipino community. Most of them said that they are also safe and did not express any need to be repatriated out of Egypt.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) public information director Nicon Fameronag admitted they were not surprised to know that the DFA has not received any request for either relocation or repatriation from thousands of OFWs in Egypt.

Fameronag cited the economic benefits a Filipino gets while working in Egypt, which is being gripped by massive protests against the government.

He said each professional and skilled Filipino worker earns approximately $750 to $1,200 a month, something that Fameronag believe is not easy to leave behind.

Nonetheless, he said they are ready to support and help each OFW who will be repatriated in terms of livelihood, additional trainings, and even employment in another country.

DOLE, meanwhile, issued today a travel advisory to all OFWs who are about to travel for work in Egypt to defer their departure.

Fameronag said it would be wise to wait and observe the situation in Egypt before making any plans of leaving for the country.

"Ipagpaliban na muna, hintayin na ma-clear up ang situation, mag normalize muna," said Fameronag.

The DFA has set up a 24-hour hotline number, 834-4580, for relatives of Filipinos in Egypt who want to inquire about their relatives.

Lebanon helps mass repatriation of OFWs

By Rhyse Furio, ABS–CBN Middle East News Bureau


BEIRUT, Lebanon – The past three months have witnessed a wave of mass repatriations of distressed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Philippine embassy stated.

According to embassy officials, this is due to closer collaboration between the embassy and the Lebanese General Security.

“Mass repatriations normally occur twice a year—mid–year and in December,” said Salome Mendoza, assistant labor attaché of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office. “It’s only as we approached 2011 that they’ve happened successively.”

The quick succession of mass repatriations resulted in the temporary emptying of the embassy’s Filipino Resource Center (FRC) on January 15, when the remaining 15 wards were sent home, followed by 8 from detention centers who were repatriated on January 17.

Accompanying the January 15 batch were two General Security officials: Mjr. Nader Abi Nader and Lt. Fadi Malak. Since then, the 2 officials have been meeting with their counterparts from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), especially to discuss the quick repatriation of OFWs.

“We invited the two General Security officials to look into the deployment program in the Philippines,” said Ambassador Gilberto Asuque. “So it is an opportunity for them to see how we ensure that Filipinos who work abroad are protected.”

Abi Nader and Malak are expected to return to Lebanon this week.

The mass repatriations began in June 2010, with the biggest batch of 162 distressed OFWs being repatriated on November 14 and 15: 127 from the FRC, 17 from detention centers, 2 from Caritas Lebanon Migrants’ Center and 16 who overstayed their visas.

This was followed on January 11 by the repatriation of 59 distressed OFWs: 53 from the FRC, and 6 from detention centers.

In all, 449 distressed OFWs have been repatriated within this 7–month period, according to Asuque.

“That means 449 experienced physical and verbal abuse, and we don’t want that to happen to Filipinos when they work in Lebanon,” said Asuque. “That’s why we have announced that the embassy is continuing negotiations with the Lebanese government for a memorandum of understanding.”

According to Mendoza, Lebanon has submitted a new draft of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) that is based on the MOU with Jordan. Alternatively, the Philippine embassy is hoping that the Lebanese labor minister will introduce to the Lebanese parliament a law that specifically protects migrant workers. The MOU and law on migrant workers’ protection are two conditions stipulated in Section 4 of Republic Act 10022, or the Amended Migrant Workers’ Act.

“Any one of those two conditions will enable us to review the current policy on deployment to Lebanon, but at the moment, as things stand, the ban stays,” stated Asuque.

The ban has been in place since June 18, 2007, after the war in Lebanon in 2006.

Recently, Lebanon entered into another period of conflict with the toppling of former prime minister Saad Hariri’s government and the appointment of Najib Mikati to the position. Asked how the current volatile political situation in Lebanon affects negotiations on the MOU, Asuque declined to comment, saying he submitted his analysis to the DFA.

The embassy does hope that potential OFWs would be warned against coming to work in Lebanon.

“I hope that through the arrival of the mass repatriation batches, prospective OFWs will pick up that they should defer coming here, because we are still working on agreements to protect them and improve their working conditions,” said Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Officer Edwin Batallones.

The ATN office is responsible for disbursing repatriation funds by dipping into a yearly budget provided by the DFA. According to Asuque, ATN funds paid the airfare for 405 of the 449 repatriates.

The embassy has also been able to seek the help of immigration authorities in waiving violation-of-contract costs incurred by runaway OFWs. These include, per person, about $3,000 in employer’s deployment cost and approximately $200 per year in penalties due to terminated work papers. Through close cooperative efforts between the embassy and General Security, the Philippine government ended up paying only the repatriates’ Beirut–Manila airfare.

The embassy hopes that, through talks with the DFA, Abi Nader and Malak can convey information that could help solve some of the challenges faced by OFWs in Lebanon. In the meantime, the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment are reviewing the current MOU draft based on the Jordanian model. If the MOU is signed, said Mendoza, the lifting of the deployment ban to Lebanon may not be far off.

DFA: No need for mandatory evacuation of Pinoys in Egypt

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – An official of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday said that a mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in Egypt would not be necessary.

“In as much as their lives, their safety were not in imminent danger, then at least, from the assessment of our embassy, there is no need for mandatory evacuation,” DFA spokesman Ed Malaya told ABS-CBN News Channel.

Malaya clarified that although mandatory evacuation is not an immediate need, the DFA is still “honoring the requests of those who have indicated the wish to be repatriated”.

Malaya said the situation in Egypt is “brightening up” and they are noticing some very good developments.

Air, land evacuation

Despite the positive developments, the Philippine government has still laid out plans for evacuation should the need arise.

“We are looking at 2 scenarios. One is to bring those wishing to be repatriated, to bring them home by air. We may be having that in the next few days or until the weekend. Or, as an alternative, bring them by land transport to either the Israeli or Jordanian borders,” Malaya said.

He added that arrangements have been made in those governments for the safe transit of Filipinos.

Malaya said the Philippine government has responded to similar incidents that called for a mandatory evacuation of Filipinos in the past.

“We dealt with this in southern Lebanon. We dealt with this in Kuwait previously and we have a mandatory evacuation there because the situation was that of an armed conflict or war. What we have here is a civil disturbance. It is practically a struggle for political power among Egyptians,” he said.

He further explained that in the past, only a small percentage of Filipinos, whom the government asked to evacuate, actually consented to be evacuated.

“We need to respect the general sentiment of our community. But if anyone feels that his life is at risk, all they need to do is to communicate with the Philippine Embassy and arrangements will be made for them to be relocated to a safer place in Egypt itself or for them to be repatriated to the Philippines,” said the spokesman.

Appropriate response

The more than 6,500 Filipinos in Egypt are mostly based in the country’s capital, Cairo, and in Alexandria.

“What we need to have is not an over-reaction, also not be an under-reaction, but just the appropriate response. We need to be guided as always, by experience and by history," he said.

He added that the DFA has been monitoring the crisis for almost a week now. They also empathize with the anxiety felt by relatives in the Philippines.

“To us, what we need to check upon, how are Filipinos in Egypt feeling about the situation whether to them there is a need for them to be relocated to a safer place in Egypt or for them to be repatriated to the Philippines,” he said.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

POEA projects 6% drop in OFW deployment

By Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star


MANILA, Philippines – Fewer Filipino workers are expected to get employed abroad this year, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported on Jan. 28.

POEA chief Carlos Cao Jr. said the government foresee as much as a 6% drop in overseas deployment for 2011 with the strict implementation of a new law protecting migrant workers.

“Based on initial estimate, we are looking at 5% to 6% reduction in deployment because of our current direction to give emphasis in protection although we are not abandoning effort to deploy workers abroad,” Cao disclosed.

“As we give emphasis on protection it is natural for us to be selective and opt for better jobs,” Cao added.

Cao noted that under the Aquino administration, the government would promote the deployment of highly skilled workers and discourage employment of household service workers (HSWs) who comprise the bulk of OFWs abroad, but are more vulnerable to abuses.

Last year, Cao said the POEA recorded a 3% decline in the number of Filipinos hired abroad mainly due to the implementation of the newly amended Migrant Workers Act.

The new law mandates, among others, insurance coverage for every Filipino worker to be deployed abroad and foreign countries to have certificate of “safe destination” from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

To prevent a possible decline in hiring of overseas workers this year, Cao said the government is intensifying programs to provide for free skills training for aspiring OFWs.

“We are already coordinating with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority so we could provide skills training that could make our workers more qualified for better employment abroad,” Cao pointed out.

Cao said the POEA is also working with the country’s maritime industry to enable the country to fill the high global demand for seafarers.

Ericson Marquez, an official of the Filipino Association for Mariners Employment Inc. (FAME), said there are at least 43,000 vacancies available for Filipino seafarers for the next three years.

“For the next three years, about 4,700 new foreign vessels would be built that would require crewmen. Based on this we are projecting at least 43,000 new jobs for Filipino seafarers,” Marquez explained.

At this time, Marquez said Filipino seafarers comprise 30% of the total number of global seafarers.

Marquez said private maritime industry would be coordinating with the government, including the POEA so that the country could capture up to 50% of the jobs for maritime officers and crew worldwide.

As this developed, POEA belied reports that the government has imposed a deployment ban in countries without the necessary certification from the DFA.

Migrante International claimed that they have been getting numerous inquiries regarding reports that the government banned the deployment of workers in several countries.

Cao said the government cannot just impose a deployment ban just because a country employing OFWs failed to secure the mandated certification from the DFA.

“We also need to consider diplomatic repercussions as well as the need for employment of our workers before we could impose a ban,” Cao explained.

'Nurse hiring in UK stable despite budget cuts'

LONDON - Filipino nurse recruitment in Britain should remain stable amid cuts on immigration and public spending in the UK, said the Philippine embassy in London.

Speaking from an event at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex, embassy officials welcomed newly recruited nurses and reassured other nurses from the Philippines that job opportunities in the UK should continue to become available.

“So far, the UK is not shutting its doors to foreign workers,” said Atty. Jainal Rasul, Labor Attache at the Philippine embassy in London, in an interview with The Filipino Channel.

He continued: “It has not declared any ban in the hiring of foreign workers, especially nurses. There will be reductions, of course, due to some changes, but in the long term, there will be more nurses coming in due to shortages of nurses right within the UK.”

He added that recent changes in British immigration policies should not alarm Filipino migrants who are already in the UK.

“As announced by the UK Border Agency, for those already in the UK - nurses, senior carers, and other professionals - they will not be affected by the proposed interim or permanent limit of the UK government,” he explained.

In 2011, the British government will implement changes over immigration and public spending, both of which could affect overseas recruitment in the UK, including nurses and other skilled workers from the Philippines.

Media reports suggest that an immigration cap will be implemented in the UK from April 2011, which means that only 21,700 skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area will be allowed entry into its borders, a cut of approximately 6,300 compared to 2009.

The government will also dramatically reduce its public spending budget, including a cut of £2.3 billion from the National Health Service, which funds most of the hospitals in the UK.

The cuts are fueled by financial problems caused by the recent global recession.

World-Class Nurses

Despite the cuts, the Philippine embassy is optimistic in the stability of nurse recruitment from the Philippines due to the quality of work delivered by Filipino nurses.

“The feedback has been very positive. We’ve heard officials of the UK government commending us on the hard work, dedication and competence of our Filipino nurses, and we’re very happy about those comments,” revealed Reynaldo Catapang, Charges d’Affaires at the Philippine embassy in London.

There are currently 50,000 Filipino nurses working in hospitals all over Britain, including 100 nurses at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH).

“We’ve successfully recruited a whole batch of Filipino nurses 10 years ago. A lot of those nurses are still with us, and enjoying their period with us,” said Gerald Coteman, Chairman of PAH.

He added: “They’ve learnt a great deal and they’re contributing significantly to services that we provide here. We’ve gone out a second time to recruit from that source, and we’re very pleased with the Filipino nurses that joined us 10 years ago that we felt we’d have more of the same. We really welcome these additional nurses, and hopefully they’ll be fitting in and enjoying their time with us.”

Terry Lopez-Bishop from Bataan is one of the success stories at PAH. Trained at Saint Louis University in Baguio City, she has consistently impressed her employers and colleagues since her recruitment in 2000. She has been promoted consistently and is now a ward manager at the hospital.

“At first, it was a shock, because it’s totally different from back home,” she revealed. “The important thing to remember is we have to learn from each other - what you can give and what you can learn from another culture - and put it all together to whatever will be helpful to the patients and the hospital as well.”

She added: “Filipino nurses are able to adapt well, I believe, with the culture in here, and integrate well into the hospital and how it works in meeting standards and the needs of the patients and of the country.”

Opportunities

Thousands of Filipino nurses continue to aspire to work in the UK and other Western countries for the life-changing opportunities it affords.

“I would like to adapt here, have career progression, and inspire others, especially my colleagues back in the Philippines,” explained Sheila Dalubar, one of the newly recruited nurses at PAH.

She continued: “I wanted to come in here and explore the job opportunities that the UK is offering, and to some day bring my family here as well to enjoy the life that I’m enjoying right now. It’s been good so far because most of the people in here are really supportive and approachable, especially in the ward that I’m working in.”

According to Lopez-Bishop, the key to success as a nurse is an "open mind" and a helpful attitude.

“My advice is just be open. Do not unlearn what you have learned before. Meet halfway, and see what you can contribute, what you could do to help, and learn more as well. Have an open mind, because nursing itself is dynamic, it evolves. You just have to accept that the changes will be for the better of delivering services to the patients,” she concludes.

Nursing continues to be a popular career choice for young Filipinos who wish to work overseas, and despite the recent changes in UK policies, nurse recruitment from the Philippines should remain stable in the foreseeable future.

Oversupply of nurses blamed for illegal recruitment

By Jing Castañeda, ABS-CBN News


MANILA, Philippines – An oversupply of nurses in the country is resulting in nurses becoming victims of illegal recruitment, healthcare groups said Tuesday.

According to the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) and the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates, there are 80,000 nursing board passers each year, while there are just a handful of job openings.

Hospitals also allegedly don't follow the international standard on nurse-to-patient ratio.

Instead of the 1:12 ratio, hospitals currently have between a 1:30 to 1:45 ratio, the groups said.

A lot of plantilla positions in hospitals are also not filled up.

To decrease the oversupply of nurses, either non or low-performing nursing schools should be closed.

There are more than 400 nursing schools in the country and around 112 were identified by the Commission on Higher Education as non-performing, which means the schools only have between 1% to 20% nursing board passing rate.

'Nurse hiring in UK stable despite budget cuts'

By Patrick Camara Ropeta, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau


LONDON - Filipino nurse recruitment in Britain should remain stable amid cuts on immigration and public spending in the UK, said the Philippine embassy in London.

Speaking from an event at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Essex, embassy officials welcomed newly recruited nurses and reassured other nurses from the Philippines that job opportunities in the UK should continue to become available.

“So far, the UK is not shutting its doors to foreign workers,” said Atty. Jainal Rasul, Labor Attache at the Philippine embassy in London, in an interview with The Filipino Channel.

He continued: “It has not declared any ban in the hiring of foreign workers, especially nurses. There will be reductions, of course, due to some changes, but in the long term, there will be more nurses coming in due to shortages of nurses right within the UK.”

He added that recent changes in British immigration policies should not alarm Filipino migrants who are already in the UK.

“As announced by the UK Border Agency, for those already in the UK - nurses, senior carers, and other professionals - they will not be affected by the proposed interim or permanent limit of the UK government,” he explained.

In 2011, the British government will implement changes over immigration and public spending, both of which could affect overseas recruitment in the UK, including nurses and other skilled workers from the Philippines.

Media reports suggest that an immigration cap will be implemented in the UK from April 2011, which means that only 21,700 skilled workers from outside the European Economic Area will be allowed entry into its borders, a cut of approximately 6,300 compared to 2009.

The government will also dramatically reduce its public spending budget, including a cut of £2.3 billion from the National Health Service, which funds most of the hospitals in the UK.

The cuts are fueled by financial problems caused by the recent global recession.

World-Class Nurses

Despite the cuts, the Philippine embassy is optimistic in the stability of nurse recruitment from the Philippines due to the quality of work delivered by Filipino nurses.

“The feedback has been very positive. We’ve heard officials of the UK government commending us on the hard work, dedication and competence of our Filipino nurses, and we’re very happy about those comments,” revealed Reynaldo Catapang, Charges d’Affaires at the Philippine embassy in London.

There are currently 50,000 Filipino nurses working in hospitals all over Britain, including 100 nurses at the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH).

“We’ve successfully recruited a whole batch of Filipino nurses 10 years ago. A lot of those nurses are still with us, and enjoying their period with us,” said Gerald Coteman, Chairman of PAH.

He added: “They’ve learnt a great deal and they’re contributing significantly to services that we provide here. We’ve gone out a second time to recruit from that source, and we’re very pleased with the Filipino nurses that joined us 10 years ago that we felt we’d have more of the same. We really welcome these additional nurses, and hopefully they’ll be fitting in and enjoying their time with us.”

Terry Lopez-Bishop from Bataan is one of the success stories at PAH. Trained at Saint Louis University in Baguio City, she has consistently impressed her employers and colleagues since her recruitment in 2000. She has been promoted consistently and is now a ward manager at the hospital.

“At first, it was a shock, because it’s totally different from back home,” she revealed. “The important thing to remember is we have to learn from each other - what you can give and what you can learn from another culture - and put it all together to whatever will be helpful to the patients and the hospital as well.”

She added: “Filipino nurses are able to adapt well, I believe, with the culture in here, and integrate well into the hospital and how it works in meeting standards and the needs of the patients and of the country.”

Opportunities

Thousands of Filipino nurses continue to aspire to work in the UK and other Western countries for the life-changing opportunities it affords.

“I would like to adapt here, have career progression, and inspire others, especially my colleagues back in the Philippines,” explained Sheila Dalubar, one of the newly recruited nurses at PAH.

She continued: “I wanted to come in here and explore the job opportunities that the UK is offering, and to some day bring my family here as well to enjoy the life that I’m enjoying right now. It’s been good so far because most of the people in here are really supportive and approachable, especially in the ward that I’m working in.”

According to Lopez-Bishop, the key to success as a nurse is an "open mind" and a helpful attitude.

“My advice is just be open. Do not unlearn what you have learned before. Meet halfway, and see what you can contribute, what you could do to help, and learn more as well. Have an open mind, because nursing itself is dynamic, it evolves. You just have to accept that the changes will be for the better of delivering services to the patients,” she concludes.

Nursing continues to be a popular career choice for young Filipinos who wish to work overseas, and despite the recent changes in UK policies, nurse recruitment from the Philippines should remain stable in the foreseeable future.
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