Thursday, April 28, 2011

PHL Embassy launches online registration for KSA-based Pinoys

An online registration was launched for Filipinos in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as part of the Philippine government’s contingency plans for them.

The link to the online registration is available on the websites of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah.

“The Embassy encourages all Filipinos to register with the Embassy, and assures that the information on the database shall not be shared with the public," the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh said.

It said Saudi-based Filipinos can access the form at the Embassy and the Consulate General in Jeddah.

According to the Embassy, the online registration system was done with the help of Global Pinoy Solutions (GPS), a Filipino community organization in the Eastern Region led by president Rodrigo Madrid Jr.

The online registration form will help Philippine officials build a database of Filipinos in the Kingdom and contact them in times of emergency.

The information requested in the registration forms include:

•Region, province/city

•Name

•Passport number, place of issue and date of issue

•Iqama number and validity

•Complete address in Saudi Arabia

•Phone, mobile and email contact information

•Names, addresses, and contact information of employers

•Names, addresses, and contact information of relatives in Saudi and in the Philippines. – VVP, GMA News

DOLE tells students to take courses that are in demand

High school graduates going to college next school year should break away from the herd mentality and instead consider taking courses in line with the needs of the market, Labor Sectretary Rosalinda Baldoz said in a briefing Monday.

“Decide on career choices on the basis of what the labor market needs – and not on what is popular – to enable you to land jobs after graduation," Baldoz said during the launch of her department’s website on jobs.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has launched a career guide website – www.JobsFit.com – to help high school graduates decide on specific courses to take in college or in technical and vocational schools.

"My advice to them is to decide on a course or study that will land them jobs after graduation. They should go for careers that the labor market needs, and not because a career is in vogue or popular," Baldoz further said.

On top of DOLE’s list of recommended courses are those in connected to the agriculture, industry and service sectors. It believes that experts in agriculture, hunting, forestry, and fishing will be in demand in the coming years.

Baldoz also advised students to take up courses related to the mining, quarrying and manufacturing industries, especially electricity, gas and water supply, and construction.

The department noted that the service sector will need more manpower in the coming years, including hotels and restaurants; transport, storage and communications; financial intermediation; real estate; wholesale and retail trade; motor vehicle and motorcycle repair; and personal and household goods.

Courses that emphasize literature, humanities and the arts are not a priority on the department’s list.

College students should also delved into the fields of public administration, defense, compulsory social security education, health and social work, as well as other community, social and personal service activities. — AY/VS, GMA News

DOLE says undocumented OFWs a tough challenge

Despite intensive repatriation efforts in recent months, the government will be facing a tough challenge protecting those in conflict-torn countries of Libya, Syria and Bahrain since many of the migrant workers there go undocumented, a Cabinet official said Wednesday.

In Syria, for instance, only 837 OFWs are registered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), according to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

The stock estimate of OFWs in Syria, however, is around 20,000, many of which are female household service workers according to a DOLE report.

"This is a country where we have so many undocumented workers but our OWWA members are only 837," Baldoz said during a press briefing at the First National Labor and Employment Summit.

Under the law, only OWWA documented migrant workers are entitled to repatriation and other benefits during job displacements abroad.

But DOLE's Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (PLEP), set to take effect in the next five years, seeks to protect even the undocumented workers, Baldoz said.

She said the plan outlines a strategy for the protection of OFWs, “expanding social protection for Filipino migrant workers and reviewing the continued deployment of workers to countries that are high- and medium-risk and also deployment in high-risk occupations."

“This strategy is expected to produce the outcomes of ‘universal coverage, expanded benefits, accessibility of social protection, and safe work for all,’ which is laid down in the PLEP," Baldoz added.

The plan highlights a 22-point policy strategy on labor and employment with the goal of investing in human resource to make them more competitive and employable while promoting industrial peace based on social justice.

Currently, the Philippines is among the top sources of migrant workers worldwide, next to China and India. The remittances of these OFWs amounted to nearly $19 million last year, boosting the local economy.

But the Philippines has an existing employment ban on workers to Syria as well as other conflict-ridden nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has raised alert level 2 in Syria, which requires voluntary repatriation of Filipino workers. — JMT/VS, GMA News

DOLE to use ‘digital resumes’ at Labor Day job fair

Jobseekers and overseas Filipino workers who will register with the government’s job portal will be using "digital resumes" during the Labor Day job fair in Manila on May 1, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the jobseekers who will register online will receive at the job fair in Luneta, Manila Phil-JobNet cards containing their digital resumes.

Workers may register and encode their profile online at www.phil-job.net.

They will get a confirmation slip, which they will present to the Processing/Verification Booth at the May 1 Job Fair in Luneta. After that, they will be issued the Phil-JobNet cards.

Those who cannot print the confirmation slip have to present an ID card to the Processing/Verification Booth for them to be issued the Phil-JobNet card.

During the fair, the jobseekers will present these cards to the companies they want to apply in.

The participating firms and recruitment agencies will then download the applicants' resumes into their computers using the cards.

“The Phil-JobNet card will serve as a digital resume containing a jobseeker’s profile. Jobseekers will simply present the card for any job they are interested in to any local firms or overseas recruitment agencies which will participate at the Labor Day Job and Livelihood Fair in Luneta," Baldoz said in a news release posted on the DOLE website.

"The participating firms and recruitment agencies will, in turn, copy the digital resume in their laptops," Baldoz said.

“With the card, jobseekers can apply for as many jobs as they can at the fair, which would increase their chances of landing a job they want," she said.

Unfortunately, she said Phil-JobNet cards will be available on a limited basis due to budget constraints.

Still, she said jobseekers may avail of the Phil-JobNet cards for free at the Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs) in Manila, Quezon City, Makati, San Juan, Taguig, Caloocan, Mandaluyong, and Muntinlupa cities.

“Workers who intend to look for jobs at the Job and Livelihood Fair in Luneta on May 1, whether they are residents in Metro Manila or any province, may drop by at the designated PESOs and fill up bio-data forms for their profile that PESO staff would encode into the Phil-JobNet, after which the workers will be issued their Phil-JobNet cards for free," Baldoz said.

Jobseekers in the regions

Meanwhile, Baldoz urged jobseekers in all the other regions to register online with the Phil-JobNet for the Job and Livelihood Fair in their respective regions.

She said employers who will participate in the regional fair can immediately view their profile at the Phil-JobNet, which will facilitate their search for qualified applicants.

Baldoz added jobseekers in other regions may be provided Phil-JobNet cards next year.

The DOLE is exploring measures, which may include partnership with the private sector, for the nationwide distribution of Phil-JobNet cards to jobseekers by 2012, she said. – VVP, GMA News

Police secure DOLE for Labor Day protests

Police in Manila secured the Department of Labor and Employment in Intramuros Thursday in anticipation of Labor Day protests by militant groups.

The Manila Police District said the security stemmed from information that some of the protesters may hurl paint at the DOLE building, radio dzBB's Manny Vargas reported.

A group of militant laborers arrived at the DOLE past 10 a.m. but no violent confrontation was initially reported.

Earlier, militant workers bared a wish list for Labor Day after Malacañang hinted at "good news" for the labor sector on May 1.

The Kilusang Mayo Uno said it will not settle for anything less than a "significant" wage hike, and the junking of the 12-percent value-added tax on oil products.

"This is the good news that the Filipino workers and people want: a significant wage hike and the junking of the 12% Expanded Value-Added Tax on petroleum products. Anything less won’t quell our protests," KMU chairman Elmer Labog said in an article posted on the KMU website.




On Tuesday, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda hinted President Benigno Aquino III will have "good news" to announce for this year’s Labor Day.

At a press briefing that day, Lacierda said some of the Cabinet officials "are firming up recommendations" to curb the gradual ascent of some of the commodity prices. He cited Aquino's fuel subsidy program — "Pantawid Pasada" —as one of the means to cushion the impact of rising prices of fuel products.

Lacierda, however, kept his lips sealed when asked if Aquino would announce a wage hike on May 1. He only said Malacañang will wait for the decision of the wage board before announcing anything regarding wages. — RSJ, GMA News

DOLE says undocumented OFWs a tough challenge

Despite intensive repatriation efforts in recent months, the government will be facing a tough challenge protecting those in conflict-torn countries of Libya, Syria and Bahrain since many of the migrant workers there go undocumented, a Cabinet official said Wednesday.

In Syria, for instance, only 837 OFWs are registered with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), according to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

The stock estimate of OFWs in Syria, however, is around 20,000, many of which are female household service workers according to a DOLE report.

"This is a country where we have so many undocumented workers but our OWWA members are only 837," Baldoz said during a press briefing at the First National Labor and Employment Summit.

Under the law, only OWWA documented migrant workers are entitled to repatriation and other benefits during job displacements abroad.

But DOLE's Philippine Labor and Employment Plan (PLEP), set to take effect in the next five years, seeks to protect even the undocumented workers, Baldoz said.

She said the plan outlines a strategy for the protection of OFWs, “expanding social protection for Filipino migrant workers and reviewing the continued deployment of workers to countries that are high- and medium-risk and also deployment in high-risk occupations."

“This strategy is expected to produce the outcomes of ‘universal coverage, expanded benefits, accessibility of social protection, and safe work for all,’ which is laid down in the PLEP," Baldoz added.

The plan highlights a 22-point policy strategy on labor and employment with the goal of investing in human resource to make them more competitive and employable while promoting industrial peace based on social justice.

Currently, the Philippines is among the top sources of migrant workers worldwide, next to China and India. The remittances of these OFWs amounted to nearly $19 million last year, boosting the local economy.

But the Philippines has an existing employment ban on workers to Syria as well as other conflict-ridden nations in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has raised alert level 2 in Syria, which requires voluntary repatriation of Filipino workers. — JMT/VS, GMA News

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

PHL Embassy warns vs job scam in Italy

Philippine officials in Rome warned overseas Filipino workers in Italy on Wednesday against bogus email offers for jobs in L'Aquila in Italy.

The Philippine Embassy in Rome said that the bogus email uses the address projecto_laquila@rome.com and the office address "Via Sicilia 162/C."

"There is no Committee for the Reconstruction of L'Aquila at the Ministry's official address in Via Sicilia 162/C cited in the email, and the Italian Ministry of Development Public Works and Housing does not correspond to any Italian office," the Embassy said in a news release posted on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website.

L'Aquila, a mountainous city in Central Italy, had been hit by a 6.2-magnitude earthquake in April 2009, killing over 260 residents, injuring over 1,000 and leaving 28,000 homeless.

No such project

Citing information reaching it, the Embassy said that the supposed project proponent in the email claimed to be the "Ministry of Development, Public Works and Housing Reconstruction of Earthquake Affected Cities Program."

It was allegedly under the Auspices of World Rehabilitation Program (WRP) and Italian Freedom Corps (IFC).

Among the jobs being offered were truck drivers, machinery operators, plumbers, carpenters, electrically engineers/electricians, metal workers, nurses/dispensers/clinic staff, helpers, brick layers, technical experts, data entry clerk, first aid attendant, quantity surveyor, mechanical engineers, cooks/chefs/stewards, interpreters, and legal advisers.

The DFA said the Philippine Embassy inquired with the Italian Department of Development and Economic Cohesion under Italy's Ministry of Economic Development, which stated that there is no such project.

"Also, there is no registered project involving an alleged Housing Reconstruction of Earthquake Affected Cities Program, either in L'Aquila or Rome, and there is no WRP or IFC accredited with the Ministry, nor operating or registered in Italy," it added.

It said the Ministry has since referred the case to the Italian Police for further investigation. — JMT/TJD, GMA News

OFW group starts online petition vs deployment ban to Bahrain

A militant advocacy group for migrant workers started over the weekend an online petition asking the government to lift a deployment ban on overseas Filipino workers to Bahrain.

Migrante-Middle East said its petition stemmed from numerous requests for assistance from OFWs in Bahrain, especially the returning workers or "Balik Manggagawa."

"There are several new hires as well requesting us to make representation to the concerned Philippine authorities to allow them to travel in Bahrain so that they could report to their respective work amid high rate of unemployment in the Philippines and spiraling prices of goods and services," the group said in its blog Saturday.

As of 11:24 a.m. Saturday, at least 32 have signed the online petition, which can be accessed by clicking on this link.

Meanwhile, Migrante-Middle East asked Philippine ambassador to Bahrain Corazon Bahjin to consider scrapping the waiver requirement imposed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration by issuing a new travel advisory and lowering its alert level, thus allowing returning OFWs and new hire to be deployed without further delay.

"I have visited your PH embassy’s website and we found that indeed the PH embassy is requiring returning OFWs to submit a waiver. This is in effect will absolve the government from its accountability to returning OFWs who insist on returning to Bahrain. We could not think any other purpose for imposing such requirement," the group said in a letter to Bahjin.

Bahjin had removed the waiver form from the Embassy website last week, claiming it is the POEA's requirement.

Still, Migrante said the government cannot relinquish its primary responsibility of protecting its own Filipino workers abroad.

"We understand that the peace and order situation in Bahrain, like in Yemen, Syria, and Libya, is still fragile; but requiring our fellow OFWs to sign a waiver so that they’ll be allowed to go back to Bahrain smacks the government primary duty and sincerity of protecting its own working people," it said.

"Returning OFWs to Bahrain are not naïve enough not to see what’s is happening there, but on the other hand, they are much worried of their families’ daily survival, amid the price increases of basic commodities and services, and grinding poverty in the Philippines," it added.

The group suggested that the Philippine embassy in Bahrain arrange with the host government to escort arriving OFWs from the airport to their respective accommodations upon their arrival in Bahrain, just to secure their safety.

It also suggested that the embassy even talk to the OFWs employers that they’ll be escorted, back and forth, going to their job site and to their accommodations, again to ensure that our working OFWs will be safeguarded. — LBG, GMA News

PHL embassy in Saudi warns vs new email scam

Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia have issued a warning against an email scam using the Philippine Embassy's name to victimize overseas Filipino workers.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh said the latest scam used the name of the embassy in Muscat (Oman), asking for the target OFW's personal data.

"All Filipinos under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh are therefore cautioned and reminded not to give out personal information or follow instructions as stated in such kind of emails, especially those that are purportedly promising cash prizes and using Philippine government offices as channels, without verifying their authenticity with the help of the proper authorities," it said.

It said that in the Oman incident, an OFW approached the Philippine Consulate General in Saipan after receiving an email allegedly from the Philippine Embassy in Muscat.

The supposed email claimed the OFW won a bonanza of 500,000 pounds (P35.596 million) and asking him to send his personal details in reply to receive the prize money.

“Let us try to raise our awareness and be on guard against unscrupulous and insidious cyber criminals who will try all sorts of trickery to steal other people’s identities or swindle their hard earned money," Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Antonio Villamor warned.

He said any email scam or incident of similar nature can be brought to the attention of the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh at its official contact details:
Telephone: 01-482-3559
Fax: 01-488-3945
Email: filembry@sbm.net.sa
Villamor noted scammers may be exploiting the "credibility and high approval ratings" of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Foreign Service. — LBG, GMA

DOLE chief: ‘Brain gain’ program in the works

To respond to the brain drain from the exodus of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the government is planning a “brain-gain" program for returning OFWs, enhancing their skills and providing them with entrepreneurship opportunities.

Tentatively dubbed “Balik-Trabaho sa Pilipinas," the project will provide OFW returnees with the option to stay in the Philippines to work for better-paying jobs or to set up a lucrative business at home, according to Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz.

“The DOLE will also link up with labor, business, and other partners in providing an enabling and conducive environment that will encourage the return of our OFWs," said Baldoz.

She added that the program will also provide OFWs with real-time information on available jobs and labor market developments, accreditation, and permits for reemployment.

Baldoz said the measure belongs to the strategies outlined in the Philippine Labor and Employment Plan — which seeks to attain the goal of inclusive growth in the next six years, along with the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016. — PE/VS, GMA News

DFA: 110 Pinoys in Syria's conflict area; repatriation fund ready

At least 110 Filipinos are living in the conflict-affected area in troubled Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

But DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya said there has been no report of any of Filipinos being hurt there so far because they are not being targeted by the warring parties.

“Yung sentro ng kaguluhan ay nasa Daraa, ito ay southern part ng Syria ... Hindi naman karamihan ang mga Filipino doon mismo sa Daraa, ang nasa ating talaan mga 110," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.

He also maintained the government has enough funds to repatriate them if the need arises, noting the DFA’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund has been recently replenished.

The DFA estimated some 17,000 Filipinos are living in Syria.

“Walang Pilipinong nasugatan, nasawi at hindi naman tina-target ang mga Pilipino (So far there has been no report of any Filipino being killed or injured. They are not being targeted)," he said.

Last Tuesday, the DFA raised the crisis alert level in Syria to “2" amid the continued political tension there.

With the raised alert level, the DFA discouraged nonessential travel to Syria and has asked Filipinos there to actively monitor developments and keep communication lines open, and restrict their movements.

Also the DFA advised Filipinos there to avoid large crowds and areas of protest, and encouraged them to voluntarily relocate or leave the country at their own cost if there is no pressing need for them to stay.

Also, the DFA asked them to also stockpile on basic necessities such as food, water, and prescribed medicines, as well as mobile phones, flashlights, and radios that are in good condition.

In a separate interview on dwIZ radio, Malaya said most Filipinos in Syria are female household service workers.

He said the Philippine Embassy in Syria continues to coordinate with Filipino community leaders there.

Meanwhile, he said the Philippine embassy in Syria has “fine-tuned and updated" its contingency plans.

“May pondo sa DFA, kare-replenish ang ATN funds. Ang pagkakaalam ko P200 million uli ang ating pondo (We have funds for that in the DFA," he said in the dwIZ interview. — LBG, GMA News

DFA: 110 Pinoys in Syria's conflict area; repatriation fund ready

At least 110 Filipinos are living in the conflict-affected area in troubled Syria, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Wednesday.

But DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya said there has been no report of any of Filipinos being hurt there so far because they are not being targeted by the warring parties.

“Yung sentro ng kaguluhan ay nasa Daraa, ito ay southern part ng Syria ... Hindi naman karamihan ang mga Filipino doon mismo sa Daraa, ang nasa ating talaan mga 110," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.

He also maintained the government has enough funds to repatriate them if the need arises, noting the DFA’s Assistance to Nationals (ATN) fund has been recently replenished.

The DFA estimated some 17,000 Filipinos are living in Syria.

“Walang Pilipinong nasugatan, nasawi at hindi naman tina-target ang mga Pilipino (So far there has been no report of any Filipino being killed or injured. They are not being targeted)," he said.

Last Tuesday, the DFA raised the crisis alert level in Syria to “2" amid the continued political tension there.

With the raised alert level, the DFA discouraged nonessential travel to Syria and has asked Filipinos there to actively monitor developments and keep communication lines open, and restrict their movements.

Also the DFA advised Filipinos there to avoid large crowds and areas of protest, and encouraged them to voluntarily relocate or leave the country at their own cost if there is no pressing need for them to stay.

Also, the DFA asked them to also stockpile on basic necessities such as food, water, and prescribed medicines, as well as mobile phones, flashlights, and radios that are in good condition.

In a separate interview on dwIZ radio, Malaya said most Filipinos in Syria are female household service workers.

He said the Philippine Embassy in Syria continues to coordinate with Filipino community leaders there.

Meanwhile, he said the Philippine embassy in Syria has “fine-tuned and updated" its contingency plans.

“May pondo sa DFA, kare-replenish ang ATN funds. Ang pagkakaalam ko P200 million uli ang ating pondo (We have funds for that in the DFA," he said in the dwIZ interview. — LBG, GMA News

Bill seeks immigration status for US territory OFWs

GARAPAN, Saipan — A United States lawmaker has introduced a bill seeking to grant a new immigration status to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other foreigners with US citizen children in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) as of May 8, 2008.

These OFW parents and other immediate relatives of US citizens are among the four specific groups of individuals who will qualify for a proposed “CNMI-only resident status."

Non-voting CNMI delegate Gregorio Kilili Sablan’s HR 1466, once signed into law by President Barack Obama, will allow these groups of individuals to lawfully remain in the CNMI even after their so-called umbrella permits expire on Nov. 28, 2011.

The bill is now under review by the US House Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, Oceans, and Insular Affairs that has oversight on US territories such as the CNMI and Guam.

It has yet to pass the US House and Senate, and be signed into law by Obama.

Hailing the bill

OFWs with US citizen children in the CNMI hailed the bill’s introduction.

But they also recognize that the bill is “unfair" to hundreds or even thousands of OFWs and other foreigners who have been legally working in the CNMI for more than five, 10, or 20 years but without US citizen children.

Any child born in the CNMI, as a US territory, is automatically a US citizen regardless of the nationality of their parents.

Thousands of Filipino contract workers in the CNMI have children born here.

Anna Alcazar, an OFW who is a mother of two US citizen children, said the proposal will “really benefit" a lot of parents and families like hers.

The bill’s author said his main intent is not to break apart families as a result of a US law placing under the CNMI’s immigration under federal control.

If nothing is done to address the immigration status of foreigners in the CNMI, parents would be forced to exit the CNMI and leave behind their US citizen children.

In Alcazar’s case, if no regulation is issued or law passed to address the immigration status of foreign workers like her, she would have to choose between leaving her son and daughter in the CNMI who are only 15 and 12 years old or bring them to the Philippines with her.

Like most Filipino parents in the CNMI, they believe their US citizen children would have better chances in life if they stay in this US territory where public education, among other things, is free.

‘Unfair to many others’

Alcazar came to the CNMI’s capital island of Saipan to work as an administrative assistant at a restaurant in 1990. Today, she is an accountant at a travel and car rental agency.

She and her boyfriend — also an OFW — have children born in 1996 and 1999, qualifying them for the proposed new immigration status.

“But like I said, the bill is unfair to many others who have been working here for 20 years or so but do not have US citizen children," Alcazar told GMA News Online on Tuesday night.

Ronnie Doca, board chairman of the United Workers Movement-NMI, a major group of foreign workers in the CNMI, said that while he lauds the bill’s intent the group considers it “discriminatory."

Doca himself has six US citizen children and this makes him eligible for the proposed immigration status.

“As a leader of a workers’ group, I also have to think about the thousand other foreign workers who have also invested years helping to build the CNMI economy but do not have US citizen children. It’s discriminatory and unfair to them," he said.

The CNMI is home to some 10,000 OFWs and their families.

Doca said the United Workers Movement-NMI continues to demand the US Congress to grant a status to long-term foreign workers that will provide a pathway to US citizenship. His group has long been asking for improved immigration status for foreign workers who have been legally working in the CNMI for at least five years.

Besides the parents or immediate relatives of US citizens, the other groups of individuals covered by the proposed “CNMI-only resident status" are immediate relatives of US citizens as defined in US law, CNMI permanent residents, and 91 or 92 individuals born in the CNMI between January 1, 1974, and January 9, 1978 but were not granted US citizenship.

Under the bill, these individuals will be treated as CNMI permanent residents only, including permitting entry to and exit from the CNMI.

They are, however, not permitted to travel to, or reside in, any part of the United States or its territories, other than the CNMI.

Separate recommendations

This bill is entirely separate from the CNMI Senate's recommendation to the US Congress to grant foreign workers who have been in the CNMI for at least 10 years as of May 2008 a status similar to those granted to Freely Associated States.

The US Department of the Interior also recommended to Congress to grant foreigners who have been legally working in the CNMI with improved status under at least five options that include conferring outright citizenship or a FAS citizen-like status.

The US Congress, however, has yet to act on either of the two recommendations. — PE/VS, GMA News

DFA raises crisis alert level in Syria

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) raised to "2" the alert level in Syria, discouraging unnecessary travel in the conflict-torn Middle East country.

With Alert Level 2, the DFA called for a restriction of movements around Syria, and avoiding large crowds and areas of protest.

It also encouraged Filipinos to voluntarily relocate or leave the country at their own cost if they have no pressing need to remain.

"Non-essential and non-urgent travel is discouraged, including travel for tourism purposes, and only returning workers will be allowed to go back," the DFA said.

“We have asked our nationals in Syria to actively monitor developments, keep
their communication lines open with the Embassy and their community
coordinators and inform them of their whereabouts, as well as restrict their
movements only to those which are necessary," Philippine Ambassador to Syria
Wilfredo Cuyugan said in a news release posted on the DFA website.

“We also asked them to also stock up on basic necessities such as food,
water, and prescribed medicines, as well as have flashlights, mobile
phones and radios available and in good condition. They should also have
important documents such as passports and money handy," Cuyugan added.

The DFA said it has also briefed the members of the 17,000-strong Filipino
community on the Embassy’s contingency plans.

Only last weekend, Cuyugan downplayed the situation in Syria, assuring in a television interview that Filipinos in Syria were safe amid the tension there.

The Philippine Embassy said it has updated contingency plans for community members. These plans can be readily activated during times of crisis.

On Monday, the United States and the United Kingdom issued advisories on
travel to Syria in light of the escalating violence there. - VVP, GMA News

After quake, Pinoys in Japan find comfort in churchPIA FAUSTINO

Five months before a devastating magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan in March this year, GMA News Online visited the city of Sakai, a low-key metropolis near Osaka.

GMA featured the everyday lives of Filipinos and Japanese in Sakai, one of the country's oldest cities which has 800,000 residents but around one million bicycles, making it the unofficial biking capital of Japan.

On Tuesday, GMA News Online reconnected with Filipinos in Sakai to ask how the tight-knit community of Filipinos is coping after the earthquake.

The community gathers every Sunday for mass at Sakai City's only Catholic church, St. Joseph's.


GMA News Online producer Pia Faustino and photo editor Joe Galvez attended Sunday mass with Sakai City's Filipino community last October 2010. This video provides a glimpse into how church life helps some OFWs feel more at home in Japan.



Video produced by Pia Faustino

Cecilia Yamauchi, one of the group's most active members, was happy to report that Sakai was spared any major damage, being located far from the quake epicenter.

Still, the quake did "shake" Sakai's Filipino residents, literally and figuratively.

Yamauchi recalls how the group gathered for an emotional mass on the Sunday after the quake on March 11.

"Nag-iyakan kaming lahat. Kasi nakita namin ang isa't isa na buhay. Pasalamat kami. Hindi mo mapigil ang iyak," Yamauchi says.

Helping other Pinoys

Even if they were spared from the disaster, the group realized that many others were not.

After the quake, the community held an emergency prayer meeting during which they collected cash donations for their fellow kababayans who had lost their homes and livelihoods to the disaster.

Their group managed to raise at least 60,000 Yen, which they coursed through the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo.

"Financial lang talaga ang tulong na maibigay namin kasi di kami makapunta doon. O kaya personal prayers, Talagang nagpe-prayer meeting kami every time," says Yamauchi.

The Pinoys in Sakai even offered temporary shelter for Filipinos families from Yokohama and Tokyo who found it difficult to bear the numerous aftershocks after March 11 earthquake.

"Through the church ang connection namin. Talagang kung anong maitulong namin, in-offer namin -- prayers, financially, pabahay, at kung ano pa. Lahat kami nagoffer ng bahay," says Yamauchi.

The evacuee families stayed in Sakai for around two weeks.



Photo Essay by Joe Galvez

Click to view in full screen.


Source of comfort

After the March 11 earthquake, the church has once again proven its role in pulling the Filipino community together.

For many overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the church has become a source of comfort.

Going to church is an activity that helps many OFWs cope with the loneliness that sometimes comes with living in a foreign land.

In Japan, a society where the majority of citizens aren't particularly religious, many Filipinos yearn for the familiarity, regularity, and sense of community of Christian worship.

Churches like those in Sakai may just be one of the most valuable crisis-response weapons that Japan's Filipino community has. - VVP, GMA News

Thursday, April 14, 2011

DOLE: 882 more OFWs from Libya being processed for redeployment

At least 882 more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the fighting in Libya are being processed for redeployment abroad, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said this brings to 1,671 the number of OFWs who have expressed interest in working in countries other than Libya.

"Majority (of the) OFWs in Libya are skilled technical people and professionals whose expertise is highly in demand abroad," Baldoz said in a news release posted on the DOLE website.

She added the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and concerned local recruitment agencies (LRAs) are prepared to assist in the redeployment process.

Citing a report from the DOLE’s Task Force Middle East, Baldoz said the 882 OFWs are preparing for re-deployment to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Algeria, and Papua New Guinea.

Last week, the task force reported at least 789 OFWs from Libya have been lined up for work in Kuwait, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Algeria.

According to the Task Force, the latest batch of OFWs to be re-deployed includes 146 OFWs hired by Oasia Global Resources, 16 of whom are being processed for transfer to Papua New Guinea.

The biggest number of workers is 662 who are to be re-deployed by Asia Construction and Development Corporation to Angola (600), Madagascar (28), and South Africa (34).

Baldoz said the foreign principals are retaining the OFWs, an indication that foreign employers continue to prefer OFWs who are noted for their skills, industry, dependability, flexibility, resourcefulness, and positive disposition.

One the foreign principals will come to the Philippines in the third week of April to re-assign to its job sites in other countries OFWs it hired in Libya through the Omanfil International.

Most of the OFWs to be re-assigned are engineers engaged in construction work.

Also, Baldoz said other OFWs who were repatriated from Libya will receive job search assistance from the National Reintegration Center for OFWs.

"In fact, we have submitted their profiles to local companies such as AG&P, Jardine Engineering Corporation, and to the Federated Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FFCCII) whose members have expressed desire to help the OFWs find local employment," she said.

"The DOLE has also partnered with the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FFCCCI, Philippine Retailers Association, and the EDSA People Power Commission which are mounting a job and livelihood fair for OFWs repatriated from Libya," she added.

OFWs in Libya consist of skilled workers and professionals in the construction industry. Others are engaged in IT services, hotels and restaurant business, and teaching. – GMA News

DOLE: 882 more OFWs from Libya being processed for redeployment

At least 882 more overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) displaced by the fighting in Libya are being processed for redeployment abroad, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said this brings to 1,671 the number of OFWs who have expressed interest in working in countries other than Libya.

"Majority (of the) OFWs in Libya are skilled technical people and professionals whose expertise is highly in demand abroad," Baldoz said in a news release posted on the DOLE website.

She added the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and concerned local recruitment agencies (LRAs) are prepared to assist in the redeployment process.

Citing a report from the DOLE’s Task Force Middle East, Baldoz said the 882 OFWs are preparing for re-deployment to the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Qatar, Algeria, and Papua New Guinea.

Last week, the task force reported at least 789 OFWs from Libya have been lined up for work in Kuwait, Qatar, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Arab Emirates and Algeria.

According to the Task Force, the latest batch of OFWs to be re-deployed includes 146 OFWs hired by Oasia Global Resources, 16 of whom are being processed for transfer to Papua New Guinea.

The biggest number of workers is 662 who are to be re-deployed by Asia Construction and Development Corporation to Angola (600), Madagascar (28), and South Africa (34).

Baldoz said the foreign principals are retaining the OFWs, an indication that foreign employers continue to prefer OFWs who are noted for their skills, industry, dependability, flexibility, resourcefulness, and positive disposition.

One the foreign principals will come to the Philippines in the third week of April to re-assign to its job sites in other countries OFWs it hired in Libya through the Omanfil International.

Most of the OFWs to be re-assigned are engineers engaged in construction work.

Also, Baldoz said other OFWs who were repatriated from Libya will receive job search assistance from the National Reintegration Center for OFWs.

"In fact, we have submitted their profiles to local companies such as AG&P, Jardine Engineering Corporation, and to the Federated Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FFCCII) whose members have expressed desire to help the OFWs find local employment," she said.

"The DOLE has also partnered with the Employers’ Confederation of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, FFCCCI, Philippine Retailers Association, and the EDSA People Power Commission which are mounting a job and livelihood fair for OFWs repatriated from Libya," she added.

OFWs in Libya consist of skilled workers and professionals in the construction industry. Others are engaged in IT services, hotels and restaurant business, and teaching. – GMA News

112 repatriated OFWs from Kuwait arrive home

At least 112 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who availed of amnesty from the Kuwaiti government arrived home on Wednesday afternoon.

Vice President Jejomar Binay welcomed the OFWs upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, radio dzBB's Nimfa Ravelo reported.

Binay had facilitated the repatriation of the Filipinos, who stayed at the Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in Kuwait.

He helped secure amnesty for the OFWs from Kuwaiti Amir Sheik Sabah Al-Ahmed A-Jaber Al Sabah.

Binay said he expects the repatriation of other OFWs to commence once the required travel documentation is completed, and the concerned OFWs acquire plane tickets.

Earlier, Binay hand-carried an appeal from President Benigno Aquino III seeking amnesty for the OFWs, who were charged with minor offenses.

The appeal, which also sought pardon for those detained, was made when Binay attended Kuwait’s celebration of its 50th year of Independence, the 20th anniversary of its Liberation from Saddam’s occupation forces, and the fifth anniversary of the ascension to power of its present Amir. – VVP, GMA News

DFA: Funds sufficient for repatriating Pinoys from Japan

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) assured the public that the government has enough funds to repatriate Filipinos from areas in Japan threatened by radiation from a quake-crippled nuclear plant there.

DFA spokesman Eduardo Malaya said the funds will come from the DFA’s Assistance To Nationals (ATN) unit, and may be replenished by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

“Yung cost ng isang chartered flight ay nasa $200,000. At may pera pa naman tayo sa DFA para sa halagang ito. At occasionally nagkakaroon tayo ng replenishment galing sa DBM," Malaya said in an interview on dwIZ radio.

(The cost of a chartered flight is $200,000. We in the DFA have the funds for it. Occasionally, the DBM will replenish our ATN fund.)

Mandatory repatriation

After the Japanese government raised the crisis or severity level in the Fukushima area from "5" to the highest level of "7," DFA on Tuesday announced that it will implement a mandatory repatriation for Filipinos within 50 kilometers (km) of the crippled nuclear power plant.

On the other hand, the DFA will implement voluntary repatriation policy for Filipinos living between 50 and 100 km from the plant.

Malaya said there are some 1,989 Filipinos within 100 km of the Fukushima nuclear plant.

He said the DFA’s initial plan is to relocate the Filipinos who want to be repatriated to Tokyo, or to an area near Niigata Airport.

“Generally ginagawa sa krisis na ito una ire-relocate ang ating kababayan to a safer place so maari yang Tokyo o kaya binanggit kahapon ni Secretary, pwede i-relocate to Niigata Airport area dahil may kalayuan yan sa Fukushima. From Niigata pwede sila iuwi rito sa Pilipinas," he said.

(Generally we will relocate Filipinos to a safer place either in Tokyo, or as the secretary said, to an area near Niigata Airport where they can take a flight home.)

So far, the government has relocated 157 Filipinos from Fukushima and Miyagi to two relocation centers in Tokyo. They have since gone home or sought out relatives, he said.

“Wala na tayong kababayan sa relocation centers nguni’t para sa panibagong initiative natin ang ating embahada ay nagsasagawa ngayon ng arrangement para sa bago na mga relocation centers para sa bagong lilikas," he said.

(We now have no more Filipinos in relocation centers but for this new initiative we are making arrangements for the next batch of Filipinos to be evacuated from the danger zone.)

Authorities are now coordinating with these Filipinos to determine if they want to be relocated or repatriated, Malaya said.

“Sa kasalukuyan kinakausap ng ating mga kawani sa embahada ang mga kababayan natin sa affected areas at gumagawa ng listahan (Our embassy personnel are contacting them to see who among them want to be repatriated and who want to be relocated. We are drawing up the list now)," he said.

Chartered flights

Malaya said the DFA is not keen on using the government’s lone working C-130 plane to repatriate Filipinos from the affected areas.

He said the government is more keen on using chartered private planes – either a 747 or Airbus 320 – which can accommodate at least 200 Filipinos.

“Hindi C-130 ang tinitingnan ngayon. Ito ang pag-charter ng private airplanes. Ang target natin magpadala ng chartered flight sa Linggo (We are not looking to use a C-130. We plan to charter a private plane. We are aiming to have the first chartered flight take off this Sunday)," he said.

Fukushima nuclear plant

The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is located on a 3.5-square-km site in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

The nuclear plant became "disabled" nuclear power plant after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11.

The plant's nuclear reactor cooling systems were disabled, triggering radiation leaks and forcing the evacuation of people residing near the nuclear power plant.

Japanese authorities have raised the severity level in the nuclear plant area to "7," the highest level on an international scale overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The severity level of the crisis at the stricken nuclear plant now ranks at par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster based on the amount of radiation released in Fukushima plant in Japan. – VVP, GMA News

Filipinos in Bahrain urged to vote for Palawan underground river

Despite the continuing political tension in their host country, Filipinos in Bahrain received a presidential request to send text or online votes in favor of including the Palawan underground river as one of the new seven wonders of the world.

Philippine Ambassador to Bahrain Corazon Bahjin said President Benigno Aquino III is seeking the help of Bahrain-based Filipinos for the Philippines’ international bid.

“I need your help. I need text votes so that the Palawan underground river will be proclaimed as one of the new seven wonders of nature," she quoted Aquino as saying in a letter addressed to Filipinos in the Middle East country.

Aquino had issued the call for help to Filipinos during a speech at the St. Paul University in Manila earlier this week. The text of the letter was posted on the website of the Philippine Embassy in Bahrain.

Bahjin said text votes for the underground river can be made through typing “PPUR" and sending the message to 2861.

Filipinos in Bahrain can also vote online through the New 7 Wonders website, she said.—JE/JV, GMA News

PHL to repatriate Pinoys in Japan as radiation leak spreads

The Philippine government will repatriate Filipinos in Japan as the radiation leak in that country has become widespread.

During a press briefing on Tuesday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said upon the instruction of President Benigno Aquino III "we are repatriating on mandatory basis Filipinos within the 50-km radius of the Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant."

"As a precautionary measure the Philippines would be additionally be declaring a voluntary repatriation for those in 50 km to 100 km radius," he added.

Some 2,000 Filipinos are being targeted for repatriation, not counting children, Del Rosario said.

"In both cases, the Philippine government will absorb full cost of the repatriation to the Philippines," Del Rosario said. Each flight with a capacity of 400 passengers would cost the government $200,000 per trip.

The Philippine government intends to charter an aircraft that will originate from the Nigata airport in northwest Japan, he said.

"We are targeting the first repatriation flight to be scheduled on Sunday, April 17," Del Rosario said.

He cited a report of the Philippine Ambassador to Japan Manuel Lopez indicating that the Japanese government has adjusted the crisis level of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant accident from 5 to 7 because of the widespread accumulation of radiation leaks.

"The DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) is coordinating with the concerned agencies to ascertain that those repatriated will undergo proper health screening," Del Rosario said.

The Filipinos who will be arriving in Manila from Fukushima would undergo radiation screening at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Hesitant to leave Japan

Del Rosario admitted that repatriating all 2,000 Filipinos in the danger zone would pose a great challenge to the Philippine government as many of them might be hesitant to leave.

"There's no way we can force them to leave if they want to stay. We can't compel people to go," Del Rosario said.

Most of these Filipinos are married to Japanese nationals and have already considered Japan their home, he added.

"We don't think the close to 2,000 will consent to be repatriated. We are thinking of Libya wherein Filipinos opted to stay," he said.

Del Rosario said the government’s priority is to repatriate only Filipino nationals and their children.

However, if their spouses want to join them, they would have to shoulder their transportation expenses or execute a promissory note as a guarantee they would reimburse the airfare to the government.

He said the Philippines has already deployed teams to affected areas in Fuskushima to prepare the repatriation of Filipinos.

Fukushima nuclear plant

The Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant is located on a 3.5-square-km site in the towns of Okuma and Futaba in the Futaba District of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan.

The nuclear plant became "disabled" nuclear power plant after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan on March 11.

The plant's nuclear reactor cooling systems were disabled, triggering radiation leaks and forcing the evacuation of people residing near the nuclear power plant. — JE/VVP, GMA News

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ex-drug mule condoles with Ordinario family

abs-cbnNEWS.com

MANILA, Philippines – A former drug mule was among those who sympathized with the Ordinario family for the death of their kin in China.

“Abigail” went to the Ordinario home in Batasan, Quezon City to condole with the family of Sally Ordinario-Villanueva who was found guilty and executed for drug trafficking charges in Xiamen, China last March 30.

Abigail does not personally know Villanueva but they have the same experience of becoming drug couriers.

She said she became a drug courier in 2009 and was sent to many countries to smuggle the illegal drugs.

However, like many Filipinos victimized by drug syndicates, she was initially offered a different job, but ended up as a drug mule.

“Ang sabi po magbabantay lang daw po kami ng isang shop which is a garments shop. At saka 'yung isang shop nila sa sapatos. Kapag naubos po 'yun, ibabagsak po namin dito sa parteng Asia,” said Abigail.

She said it was too late when she found out that the products she was delivering were not actually clothes, but illegal drugs.


Sibling jailed in China

Her sibling too, who also became a drug mule, suddenly vanished and she later found out was in jail in China.

“Umaapela din po 'yung kapatid ko. For 13 years na po siya ngayon, baka mababawasan pa at mapauwi na siya sa lalong madaling panahon,” she said.

Abigail said the drugs, which came from South America, have to be taken to other routes first as these cannot be directly transported to China.

“Marami na din nakakalusot na droga dito sa atin sa Pilipinas. From Pilipinas, ilalabas ulit nila ang drugs papuntang China,” she said.

She added that the drugs can easily slip through the airports without being detected by x-ray machines.

“Hindi mo talaga makikita kung 'di mo talaga sasadyain. Parang sa maleta, doon sa pinakalikod na portion doon po nila itinatago 'yun,” she said.

She appealed to the government to exert all efforts to put a stop to the operation of international drug syndicates victimizing Filipinos. -- Report from Jeck Batallones, ABS-CBN News

Some OFWs back from Japan, recount ordeal

abs-cbnNEWS.com


MANILA, Philippines – Some overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Japan have begun arriving here, carrying with them the horrors they saw and experienced when a major earthquake and tsunami hit the country.

Yolanda Ouchi, Loida Dabue and Ricardo Pesino were among the OFWs from Japan who arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport early Sunday.

They told ABS-CBN News that they were glad to be home unscathed after Friday's 8.9 magnitude quake, one of the largest ever recorded, unleashed a terrifying tsunami that engulfed towns and cities on Japan's northeastern coast.

Ouchi was teary eyed as she narrated their experience in Japan. She said their house was located 4 hours away from Honshu island, one of hard hit areas, but they were still traumatized.

She said when the major earthquake and tsunami struck, she thought they were going to die.

"Iba na siya, biglang lumindol tapos ang lakas… Sabi ko, ‘Huli na yata namin ito,’" Ouchi said.

Dabue said she was shocked when she saw on television the massive destruction.

"Awa… noong napanood ko sa TV siyempre na-shock kami. Parang na-recall ko ‘yong napanood ko sa movie. I just stopped watching kasi hindi ko kaya," Dabue said.

She said she was grateful that she and her family were unharmed.

After the earthquake, a traumatized Pesino said he has no plans of returning to Japan after 25 years of staying there.

“’Yong lindol sa Japan araw-araw. Talagang normal na ‘yon. Pero hindi ganoon kalakas at katindi. Super earthquake talaga," he said.

More Filipinos from Japan are expected to come home as some flights to and from the battered country have normalized.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said there are a total of 305,972 Filipinos in Japan. -Report from Jerome Lantin, ABS-CBN News. With Agence France-Presse
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