Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ten tips on getting a passport

The Department of Foreign Affairs has issued the following tips to facilitate applications for passports:
1. Applicants should contact the DFA for the latest passport information. They could visit the DFA website (www.dfa.gov.ph) or call 834-4000.
2. They should apply for passports way ahead of their scheduled trip. Applicants should check the validity of their passports and update their documents accordingly.

A passport is valid for five years, but airlines and countries require passports with validity of six months prior to the expiry date.
3. Applicants should prepare their requirements before their appointment date. These include the completely filled-out application form, the old passport and photocopies of its pages for renewals, the National Statistics Office-certified birth certificate, and IDs and their photocopies for new applicants.

They do not need to bring ID photos, as their photographs and thumbprints will be taken on the site.
4. Non-OFW and Metro Manila-based applicants should secure an appointment when applying for a passport. They can log on to www.passports.com.ph or call 737-1000, free of charge. Applicants are also advised to come on time for their appointments.
5. Those in the provinces can apply at the nearest Regional Consular Office or check if there is a scheduled Mobile Passport Service (MPS) in their areas. The DFA RCOs are located in 19 cities and municipalities around the country, and MPS are being arranged in Metro Manila and in the provinces on a weekly basis.
6. Prospective Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) can apply at the Passport Extension Office located at the ground floor of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) in Ortigas. The facility operates on a first-come-first-served basis and is exclusive for OFWs.

Shortened passport processing and releasing time for emergency cases is also being implemented.
7. The DFA advises applicants against dealing with fixers. They are also urged to report any passport fixing activities to the Passport Director's office at 836-7759.
8. The Philippine ePassport costs P950 for regular processing (20 working days) and P1,200 for expedited processing (10 working days).
9. Applicants may have their passports delivered. This is to avoid the hassle of coming back to the DFA. Passport delivery charges a nominal fee of P120.
10. Take good care of their passports. They should avoid getting it wet and torn. This is to protect the electronic chip and the other security features of the passport.

DFA launches passport online tracking system

Passport applicants can now know the status of their applications with the Department of Foreign Affairs Officer of Consular Affairs' Passport Tracking Service (PTS).

The DFA said the PTS is an initiative of its consular affairs' office to enable applicants to check on the status of their passport applications, notably the schedule of release.

In a news release on its website, the DFA said applicants may visit www.dfa.gov.ph and click the PTS icon found there.

Clicking the icon will lead to an online form that requires the following basic information:
• Full name (First, Middle, Last)
• Date of birth
• Cellular phone number and e-mail address
• Date of filing
• Date of release
• Amount paid
• For pick-up or courier service (name of courier)
"After typing and encoding the information required, applicants will receive a response to their PTS queries through text message or SMS (short messaging system), or an e-mail within two working days upon receipt of such online request," the DFA said. — LBG, GMA News

Ambassador lauds PHL community in UK

United Kingdom (UK) Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie praised Filipinos in the UK for their significant contributions to their host country.

Lillie told a recent roundtable discussion in London that Filipinos have had "a varied and diverse contribution to British society and the British way of life."

"(The Filipino community has been) an important part of the bilateral relations, which has been strong and very good," he said, according to a news release on the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) website.

There are some 250,000 Filipinos living and working in the United Kingdom, with a great majority located in the Greater London Area.

Most Filipinos are employed in the health sector, with around 30,000 working as nurses in public and private hospitals and clinics.

Meanwhile, some 10,000 Britons live in the Philippines, mostly as expatriates, spouses and retirees.

Emerging power

Lillie said the new British government recognizes the potential of the Philippines as an "emerging power" and looks to developing an "even stronger and dynamic" bilateral partnership.

He noted the Philippines has been "growing in economic and political significance, and will play an increasingly big and important role in the world."

Lillie made the statement at a roundtable dialogue arranged by the Embassy and the Philippine Desk of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on May 11.

Represented in the roundtable was a cross-section of the Filipino community, with around 30 community leaders from sectors such as nurses, postal workers, household workers, students, second-generation Filipinos and businesses.

They exchanged views with Lillie on bilateral economic relations, the UK's assistance in the Mindanao peace process, labor migration matters, and the need to improve educational linkages between the two countries.

Embassy Chargé d'Affaires (CDA) Reynaldo Catapang indicated that the activity was worth repeating.

"We think this is a good and constructive initiative as it could forge closer relationship between our two countries. We have been fortunate to have such good, committed and responsible community leaders who have become our indispensable partners in community building in the UK," Catapang said.

He recalled that similar activities had been done with previous British Ambassadors to the Philippines, but noted that the "intimate, small-group discussion yielded a more robust exchange."

"Perhaps it would be good for community leaders to have similar dialogues with other top British officials, starting with Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne who is visiting the Philippines for the second time this coming June," he said.

Catapang also said the activity was "a positive prelude" to the second Philippines-United Kingdom High-Level Meeting to be held in Manila on May 23.

The High-Level Meeting is the main institutional mechanism for coordinating bilateral activities between the two countries.

It will be co-chaired by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda Basilio and Foreign Office Asia Pacific Director Peter Wilson. - VVP, GMA News

54 repatriated OFWs return from Jeddah

At least 54 overseas Filipino workers said to be "overstaying" at the Hajj Terminal in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia arrived home shortly after midnight on Thursday.

The 54 OFWs, including four children, arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport aboard a Brunei Airways flight 689 at 12:20 a.m., radio dzBB reported.

Before their arrival, at least 110 Filipinos staying at the Hajj Terminal had been brought home.

Vice President Jejomar Binay helped facilitate the repatriation of the overstaying OFWs.

During his visit to Saudi Arabia earlier this year, Binay asked King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud to repatriate 4,500 Filipinos, including 1,084 who are staying at the Hajj Terminal.

However, Binay learned that the Philippine government would need at least P143 million to pay for the plane fare of all the overstaying OFWs.

The Philippine Embassy had been paying SR 15 (P172) daily for every OFW housed at the terminal, creating a “serious drain" on the limited resources of the Philippine Embassy in Saudi.

Malacañang gave at least P205 million to the Department of Foreign Affairs to replenish its Assistance to Nationals unit, which is used to fund the repatriations.

The DFA and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration shouldered the plane fares of the 168 repatriates from Jeddah, the Office of the Vice President said. - VVP, GMA News

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Pinay acquitted of drug charges in Italy — DFA

A Filipino woman was acquitted of drug charges in Italy, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Wednesday.

The woman, who was not identified by the DFA, was placed under house arrest during her seven-month trial, the DFA said, citing a report from the Philippine Embassy in Rome.

The DFA said the Tribunale di Civitavecchia judge ruled in her favor, saying her statements made in courts were consistent.

The Filipino woman was arrested on October 4 last year upon her arrival at the Fiumicino Airport in Italy.

She was allegedly found to be carrying 49.50 grams of shabu hidden inside a portable DVD player.

She alleged that her fellow overseas Filipino worker (OFW) asked her to carry the appliance with her.

The DFA said the Filipino woman jailed at the Civitavecchia prison from the day of her arrest until her trial on October 18, 2010.

She was later granted house arrest for medical reasons.

The DFA said that when the Philippine Embassy in Rome learned of the woman’s case, it immediately made representations to attend hearings and provided her lawyer.

The Filipino community also provided assistance to the woman, it added.

The DFA said the Filipino Chaplaincy even launched a signature campaign attesting to her good moral character. More than 500 signatures were collected in this campaign, which were also presented to the court. - Jesse Edep, VVP, GMA News

Minimum wage for maids on workers’ hands

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO, OFW Journalism Consortium
05/18/2011 | 06:07 PM

Domestic workers may need to work harder to secure a $400-minimum salary as a Filipino community leader in Kuala Lumpur cites the Philippine government’s impotence in enforcing such wage policy.

Make Kuala Lumpur a test case, says Pilar Sangaran, adviser of the Samahang Impok Bayan (SIB) in Malaysia, reacting to a clamor for government to review the Philippines’ household service workers (HSWs) reform package.

The suggestion to review the package comes from the Scalabrini Migration Center (SMC) and the government’s Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS).

Both research institutes think the HSW reform package’s minimum pay policy “is not working" after five years since the Philippine government unilaterally imposed it on labor-hosting countries in 2006.

The SMC and PIDS found that 47 percent of 224 departing domestic workers the groups surveyed expected to earn less than $400.

Nearly half of the respondents or 49 percent (109.76) said they even expect their employers to deduct something from their salary. In addition but without specifying the percentage, most were not aware of the provisions of the HSW reforms.

No amount of Philippine government pressure or diplomatic mumbo-jumbo will make foreign employers comply with the mandated minimum pay; that they will comply with the policy that Filipino domestic workers be given a starting salary of at least $400, Sangaran said.

The leader of some 400 Filipino domestic workers said the responsibility is on the shoulder of the OFW.

Ample work experience and trust with private employers overseas will give Filipino domestic workers the chance to earn minimum salaries of US$400, she added.

Sangaran refers to her experience working in Kuala Lumpur for more than five years.

Filipino domestic workers there, she says, receive $245.37, or about 750 Malaysian ringgits.

Sangaran said Filipino maids can earn as much as RM2,000 ($654.31).

She claims some earn more if the Filipino maid performs extra work like driving their employer’s children to school.

“The employer’s trust unto the Filipina is deep already".

But even if Malaysian employers do not follow the mandated minimum pay, “lower pay is better than nothing," Sangaran told the OFW Journalism Consortium, in reference to the 80,000-plus domestic workers there.

Or else Malaysians will prefer other nationals and give them lower pay, like Indonesians who are given RM500 ($163.58), which is lower than Malaysia’s minimum wage of RM800 ($261.73).


Domestic workers were the most deployed overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in 2009 with 71,557, according to government’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

Majority (69,669) of these HSWs are women. The top ten destination countries of HSWs are Hong Kong, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Italy, Cyprus, Singapore, Oman and Bahrain.

They were re-named as HSWs in 2006 as ordered by then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. President Arroyo also ordered the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to also develop a reform package as a way to “professionalize" overseas domestic work.

Domestic workers hired must be at least 23 years old, get a minimum of $400, and not pay any placement fee.

In return, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) will train departing domestic workers and issue a training certificate called “National Certificate Level II" (NC2). As well, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will subject the departing domestic workers to a language and culture orientation seminar.

According to SMC research director Maruja M. B. Asis, Filipino domestic workers receiving $400 or more “have been working [abroad] for some time, usually with the same employer."

Their survey revealed that some respondents said they chose domestic work because there’s no placement fee. About half of survey respondents said the contract had been explained to the departing Filipino domestic workers.

Sangaran thinks if Malaysians choose domestic workers from other nationalities, the question is the quality of work and English proficiency — in which the Filipinos have an edge on both compared to other nationalities from Asian labor-exporting countries.

But if the Filipina domestic worker cannot endure both the pay and the treatment of the Malaysian employer, Sangaran offers an alternative: “Go find another employer."

But Asis said the Philippine government must tread lightly if it moves to “reform" the HSW reform package.

“Should the Philippines open up the market, do away with the $400, and allow the foreign employer and the Filipino domestic worker to privately negotiate their salaries and allow for disclosure? Or, should the Philippines continue to press for the $400 as a tool for the workers’ protection overseas?"

If the latter option is chosen, the Philippines must “be very careful" of the policy’s implementation because the situation might make Filipinos go overseas through irregular channels, Asis said. — OFW Journalism Consortium

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

DFA to accommodate June 20 passport appointments in advance

Applicants scheduled for a passport appointment on June 20 will be accommodated from June 13 to 17, the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Consular Affairs said Saturday.

The DFA said this is in compliance with Proclamation 154 declaring June 20 as a special non-working holiday.

It was referring to President Benigno Aquino III’s declaration that June 20 is a non-working day to mark the 150th birth anniversary of national hero Dr. Jose Rizal.

Rizal’s birth anniversary this year, June 19, falls on a Sunday.

The DFA said those with questions can contact (632) 556-0000, (632) 737-1000 or e-mail epassport@dfa.gov.ph or passport.oca@yahoo.com. — JE, GMA News

151 repatriated Pinoys to return from KSA in 5 batches

At least 151 Filipinos repatriated from Saudi Arabia are due to arrive home in five batches within this week, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Tuesday.

The DFA cited a report from the Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah that the 151 Filipinos were cleared for repatriation by the Jawazat (Saudi Directorate General for Passports).

“The consulate arranged for the flight bookings of these Filipinos, consisting of 93 men, 32 women, and 26 children," the DFA said in a news release on the government portal.

It also reported that Filipinos who had camped out next to the consulate have voluntarily returned to the Seaport Hajj Terminal facility last May 12.

Earlier, the consulate said it has assisted in the repatriation of 972 Filipinos out of the 1,160 staying at the consulate-operated Hajj Terminal facility since Jan. 24.

The consulate has also readied the next batch of women and children for admission into the deportation center.

Meanwhile, Philippine Embassy in Riyadh Charge d’Affaires Ezzedin Tago met with Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Makkah Al-Mukarramah Branch Director General Mohammad Ahmad Al-Taib at the Ministry headquarters regarding the issue of overstayers.

With Tago was Labor Attaché Vicente Cabe.

“Director General Al-Taib stated that the Saudi government ensures the rights of all expatriate workers, including Filipinos, and asked the consulate to advise anyone experiencing difficulties or has complaints against their employers to file their complaints with the concerned Saudi authorities whether the Saudi Labor Office or the Police [Civil Rights Office]," the DFA said.

Tago also pointed out the Jawazat only accepts a limited number of Filipinos each time, citing the big number of deportees inside the deportation center from different nationalities.

On representations by Tago, Al-Taib replied that the Ministry would communicate with the Jawazat to facilitate the speedy admission and processing of around 600 Filipinos who are in the Hajj Terminal into the Jeddah deportation center.

However, Al-Taib stressed that the Filipinos should have travel documents in their real identities, as well as confirmed bookings and tickets.

Al-Taib also conveyed the Saudi government’s concern regarding the Filipinos who camp out next to the consulate.

“He stressed that any public demonstrations or gatherings of such nature are strictly prohibited under Saudi laws," the DFA said.

He also requested the consulate to convey to all Filipinos staying next to the consulate to proceed to the Seaport Hajj Terminal where the consulate could process them for repatriation.

The consulate has constantly urged the Filipinos to camp out at the vacant lot beside the consulate to return to the Hajj Terminal, so as not to hamper the terminal operation. — JE, GMA News

Pinoys find happiness in world's 'happiest country'

Pinoys find happiness in world's 'happiest country'

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO, OFW Journalism Consortium
05/17/2011 | 05:30 PM

CHIA, Colombia — She found happiness in a region clutched in a drug trade.

But Filipino Maricel Piniero discovered it not in acid-laden joys but in finding Filipinos, a rarity in this Latin American country.

She blurted into Tagalog “dahil sa tuwa" (out of joy) when she saw the Filipinos who traveled 19,000 miles from Manila for a global conference at the posh Universidad de los Andes in Bogota, Colombia’s capital.

They were the first Filipinos who Piniero met after leaving the Philippine capital ten months ago. They were also the first she traded dance steps with at the lively Andres Carne de Res bar.

Piniero’s disposition proves studies on overseas migration and happiness that says people from “unhappy" countries may be motivated to migrate to a “happier" country. Vice versa, people from happy countries are said to be less motivated to move elsewhere.
A 2009 study by United States academics Linnea Polgreen and Nicole Simpson noticed a unique result: the happiest countries had increasing emigration rates, as net migration rates increase in the happiness of the destination country.

Optimism has something to do with people’s willingness to take advantage of better opportunities overseas, the two theorized, using 24-year data from the World Values Survey.

“One explanation is that migrants from happy countries are more optimistic than people in less happy countries, and people in happier countries are more optimistic about life in general and the possibilities that exist outside of their country," pharmacist Polgreen and economist Simpson wrote.

Even while insurgency prevails in Colombia and policemen are found in every street corner of the capital, surveys by the WVS Association, the Happy Planet Index by the new economics foundation, and the happiness index by the Gallup World Poll, consistently showed that Colombia is the happier country than the Philippines.

In contrast, data by the World Bank on international migration showed that the Philippines had more migrants and migrant remittances than Colombia.

Piniero’s pining

Frying pans and old wine bottles hanging on the ceiling swayed andante (moderately slow) as Latin music filled the Andres Carne de Res bar.

It was the first time Piniero went to this place, which is 30 kilometers north of Bogota.

She partied all night.

“Some of my friends here and in the Philippines love to dance, which I do, too," said Piniero, assistant professor at the Universidad de los Andes. The school, she said, is the equivalent of the Philippines’ Ateneo de Manila University.

But the happiness Piniero enjoys in Latin America’s coffee hub is not entirely because of her overseas migration, even if Polgreen and Simpson’s paper thinks that “it might be the happiest citizens who move abroad," given overseas movers’ optimism.

Human experiences in general give glee to foreigners like Piniero here: dancing, singing, watching television, eating Colombian food, and being with a person one cares about.

“I am a happy person and I make it a point that I see and experience it in every little things that I do."

Still, on her seventh month in Colombia and her sixth time to be in a Latin American country, Piniero said she can’t find any compatriot — even in Catholic churches here.

According to recent Philippine government data, less than a hundred Filipinos are scattered in Colombia.

Government estimates 24,407 Filipinos, mostly contract workers, are scattered in the total 48 countries in Latin America, which includes Central America and the Caribbean.

“The region offers a lot of things that can make a [Filipino] happy: food recipes, different fruits, Latin music and dance," said Piniero, a Philippine-trained anthropologist.


Another reason for the optimism from overseas migrant may have to do with a person’s aim for self-improvement.

Migration decisions, say Polgreen and Simpson, may see people compare their utility — i.e. talent, skills and income possibilities — “of living in the home country with the utility of living abroad".

Happiness then follows.

“If the utility of living abroad exceeds the utility of staying home net of migration costs such as distance, language, or the family left home, the [person] will move abroad. Happiness ... captures something meaningful about utility."

Not that Piniero is lonelier in the Philippines.

She admits to being homesick at times. But she has been accustomed to traveling.

Professional advancement brought her first to the United States and then to Ecuador, her first Latin American country sojourn.

After acquiring a doctorate from the University of Georgia in Atlanta, research projects in Nicaragua, Guatemala, and El Salvador followed.

Tuckered out, Piniero went home to the Philippines and rested for a year until she secured a financially- and professionally-rewarding job as dissertation advisee of hers forwarded a job as assistant professor under the Centro Interdisciplinario de Estudios sobre Desarrollo.

CIDER is Universidad de los Andes’s research arm for interdisciplinary studies in development.

Piniero’s earnings alone reveal her utility as she occasionally sends money to her parents and siblings in the Philippines.

Latin America is an interesting region to be in, she told the OFW Journalism Consortium. As an anthropologist, “it is more satisfying for [me] to work in a country or culture different from our own," Piniero said.

Still, on the day that she was with compatriots who endured an over 30-hour plane ride to Colombia, Piniero and the Filipinos were more than satisfied.

And they partied all night in one of the happiest countries in the world, drug-free. — OFW Journalism Consortium

Fewer Pinoy nursing grads seeking jobs in the US

The number of Filipino nursing graduates aspiring to practice their profession in the United States plummeted by almost 52% in the first quarter of 2011, according to a lawmaker.

Only 1,454 Filipino nursing graduates took the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) from January-March this year compared to 3,024 graduates in the same period last year, said Rep. Arnel Ty of party-list Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers Association (LPGMA).

According to Ty, the number of Filipino nursing graduates taking the NCLEX for the first time indicates how many are trying to enter the profession in the US.

NCLEX is a licensure exams administered by the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing (USNCSBN).

Citing USNCSBN statistics, Ty said that in 2010, the number of Filipino nursing graduates who took the NCLEX for the first time dropped by 37 percent to 9,789 compared to 15,382 in 2009.

The statistics has prompted Ty to file a bill seeking to establish a special jobs plan for the country’s growing number of unemployed and underemployed nurses.

The jobs plan would be an expanded version of Nurses Assigned in Rural Service (NARS), the short-lived Philippine government’s project that enlisted 10,000 nurses to improve healthcare services in the country’s 1,000 poorest municipalities, according to House Bill 4582.

Ty said nurses now comprise the country’s second-largest group of professionals following teachers. Nurses are also the nation’s biggest group of unemployed skilled workers.

“The country now has tens of thousands of nurses who are either totally jobless or performing work that has nothing to do with their specialization," Ty said.

He said the problem has been “aggravated by America’s lingering economic difficulties," which has lessened both the demand for Filipino nurses as well as their desire to seek employment in the US.

NURSE program

Last week, Health Secretary Enrique Ona urged incoming college students to avoid taking up nursing.

Ty’s bill proposes to establish the Special Program for the Employment of Nurses in Urban and Rural Services or NURSE.

The program is aimed at delivering additional public healthcare services to depressed areas of the country.

With the program, a total of 10,000 nurses would be mobilized annually to poor municipalities in the Philippines.

Each practitioner will receive a monthly stipend not lower than the amount commensurate to Salary Grade 15.

Nurses engaged under the program must not be over 35 years old and must have a valid PRC-issued registered nurse license. - VVP, GMA News

POEA: Deployment of household workers to KSA still suspended

The deployment of household service workers (HSW) to Saudi Arabia will remain suspended as the Philippines still refuses to give in to the request of the Middle Eastern country to slash workers' salaries by nearly half.

Carlos Cao Jr., Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief, said both countries have failed to come up with an agreement that will lead to the possible lifting of the deployment suspension.

“The suspension stays because they wanted the $400 salary requirement that we set [to be] reduced to $210. Of course, we did not find that acceptable. We will not agree to anything lower than $400," he said.

Cao also said Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz is set to meet with the Saudi labor minister on the sidelines of the upcoming International Labor Organization meeting in June, to talk about the lifting of deployment suspension.

Last March, Saudi Arabia started banning the Philippines from deploying HSW there.

The ban stemmed from the fact that the Department of Labor and Employment had imposed so many requirements for employers in Saudi Arabia to comply with. - VVP, GMA News

PHL embassy seeks clarification on KSA amnesty extension

Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia have sought a clarification from Saudi officials on the six-month extension of a royal pardon to expatriates who violated residency rules there.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh referred to the Saudi Interior Ministry’s announcement last April 27 that the royal pardon was extended up to September 14, 2011.

“The Philippine Embassy immediately sent on 02 May 2011 a Note to the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs to clarify the parameters of the Royal Pardon as news reports regarding the extension differed on the coverage," the embassy said in a news release posted Monday on its website.

It cited a report from news site Arab News last April 27 that the royal pardon “includes visa overstayers and people who are currently residing in the Kingdom in violation of the terms of their iqamas (work/residency permits), such as those who have absconded from their legal employment."

But an Alriyadh newspaper report on April 28 said the royal pardon will cover “overstayers who came to the Kingdom on Hajj, Umrah, or Visit Visas, whose visas expired before September 25, 2010."

The report said the Saudi Ministry of Interior called on overstayers included in the royal pardon to capitalize this opportunity by reporting to the nearest foreigner offices.

This would avoid “subjecting themselves and those persons who transport, harbor, deal with and facilitate their overstay to the maximum penalties including fines, imprisonment, vehicle confiscation, and slander by local newspapers," the ministry said. - JE, GMA News

Kin of Pinoy sailors stranded in UAE seek govt help

The relatives of Filipino sailors of a South Korean ship released recently by pirates but stranded off the United Arab Emirates have sought assistance from Philippine labor officials.

The relatives brought the sailors’ plight to the attention of the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration, news site Khaleej Times reported Tuesday.

“We are still waiting for the result of their meeting since our local agency [in the Philippines] was given an ultimatum to take action to end our plight or our government will step in, in order for them to take us home. We are now hoping that we will have the result in a day or two," the relatives said in a statement.

Earlier this month, a Khaleej Times report said at least one Filipino sailor of the “Samho Dream" is suffering from severe stomach pain.

The “Samho Dream" lies stricken off the Dubai coast with 26 crewmembers on board as its owners, Samho Shipping, reportedly filed for court protection to help tide over its sinking financial condition.

“He has severe stomach pain… may be due to kidney stone. We have requested through the captain for his hospitalization. But it doesn’t seem to be happening. His mother is also hospitalized in the Philippines. They are struggling to pay her hospital bills," one of the ship’s sailors said in an earlier interview.

Nineteen of some 26 sailors aboard the troubled South Korean ship are Filipinos.

The “Samho Dream" was struck by pirates in 2010 and its owners had to shell out $9 million as ransom for its release.

The Khaleej Times report said the men are braving impending hunger and failing health. The 19 Filipinos and seven Koreans are also struggling to contact their families. - JE, GMA News

HK officials allow Pinay to live with jobless Chinese husband

Authorities have allowed a Filipina entry to Hong Kong to live with her jobless Chinese husband.

Hong Kong immigration officials earlier denied entry to the Filipina, Elvira Fung, saying her husband Fung Chi-man was jobless and could not support her.

Fung had been living on social assistance, according to a report on Radio-Television Hong Kong.

However, Fung filed a judicial review against the immigration department.

He argued that the refusal was discriminatory and the reason given by the immigration department did not apply to family reunifications involving mainland brides.

Fung eventually withdrew the judicial review after the immigration department agreed to grant his wife Elvira residency. - JE/VVP, GMA News

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Binay: OFW deployment to pick up soon

Vice president Jejomar C. Binay believes that the decline in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in conflict-stricken countries in the Middle East and North African (MENA) will soon pick up, adding that outbound OFWs can likewise seek more stable countries in the region like Qatar.

Citing Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reports, Binay said Filipino migrant workers to the MENA region declined by 15,000 in the first three months of 2011 (380,188) as compared to the same period last year (395,189)

“Patapos na ang kaguluhan sa Middle East at sa North Africa kaya naman sa tingin ko, hindi na magtatagal ang pagbaba ng deployment ng ating mga OFW," said Binay, who is also the presidential adviser on OFWs.

The series of unrest in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Syria, Yemen, and Bahrain spurred the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment to temporarily suspend the deployment of OFWs to these countries.

Qatar to hire thousands

Binay said OFWs from the troubled MENA region are now being re-deployed to other countries, such as Qatar which will be hosting the 2022 World Cup football event and thus needs thousands of workers in its preparations.

“Bilang paghahanda sa World Cup, mangangailangan ang Qatar ng libo-libong manggagawa at ito ay isang mahalagang oportunidad para sa ating mga kababayang OFW," he said.

In his recent visit to Qatar, Binay met with that country’s Minister of Social Affairs and Acting Labor Minister Nasser bin Abdulla Al Hamaidi, who expressed his eagerness to see a greater Filipino labor presence in his country.

Binay also learned that Qatari officials regard Filipino workers as “hardworking, disciplined, highly skilled and very professional."

“Our OFWs are well-respected and they have become excellent ambassadors of goodwill," he said. — MRT, GMA News

50 more Pinoy overstayers cleared to leave Saudi Arabia

Authorities have cleared at least 150 Filipino overstayers and runaway workers to leave the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Philippine officials said.

Philippine Ambassador-designate Ezzedin Tago, the consul general in Jeddah, said around 100 Filipinos have been booked for a flight to Manila on Monday.

In an interview posted on Saudi news site Arab News on Monday, Tago said another batch of 50 men and women will leave on May 19.

Those who were cleared to leave were among those who were transferred last week to the deportation center at the King Abdulaziz International Airport from the Haj Terminal at the Jeddah Islamic Seaport, the Arab News report said.

Under a special arrangement between the Philippine Consulate and the Saudi government, Filipino overstayers may seek admission at the Haj Terminal while waiting for their exit papers to be processed.

Hundreds of Filipinos have also listed up with the consulate to avail themselves of the amnesty for overstayers and runaway workers, which the Kingdom has extended until Sept. 14.

An earlier statement from the consulate said 470 of 1,160 Filipino overstayers, runaway workers and their children who were admitted to the Haj Terminal since January have already been repatriated to the Philippines.

Around 500 more overstayers are still at the Haj Terminal, including those who had earlier set up a camp outside the consulate.

Those who have a place to stay are advised not to seek admission to the Haj Terminal to avoid overcrowding.

Use of the facilities at the terminal also costs SR15 per person per day and the Philippine Consulate shouldering the amount.

On Sunday, Tago said the consulate has been billed SR421,463 (P4.850 million) for shelter rentals at the Haj Terminal as of May 30. - VVP, GMA News

Pinoys camping outside consulate in KSA agree to return to shelter

Some 300 Filipinos camping outside the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) for the last three weeks have agreed to return the Haj Terminal, following appeals by Philippine authorities.

Most had already returned but around 50 stayed on as of Friday, news site Arab News reported Saturday.

“The consulate and the government's unfulfilled promises led us to decide to set up a camp outside the consulate building as a manifestation of our disgust and peaceful collective action," some of the stranded Filipinos said, according to a report on news site Arab News.

Figures from the Philippine consulate showed there are 1,160 stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the Haj Terminal admitted since January 2011.

In 2009, 815 OFWs were repatriated through the Haj Terminal operations, while 1,429 in 2010, according to a statement issued by the consulate.

The Filipinos camped outside the consulate had hoped to force Philippine officials into speeding up procedures to get them home.

But militant OFW advocacy group Migrante Middle East said some of the Filipinos want to see their travel documents and tickets first before going back to the shelter.

“I have asked Migrante officials in Jeddah to meet the leaders of the stranded along with consulate officials this Saturday or Sunday to end their repatriation concerns once and for all," Migrante Middle East coordinator John Monterona said.

Monterona said his group estimates some 4,000 stranded and undocumented Filipinos are staying at the Haj Terminal, Bahay Kalinga and Filipino Workers Resource centers in Alkhobar and Dammam since January.

He said these do not include those who are seeking refuge from their friends and fellow OFWs who managed to get work despite their being undocumented.

“Counting the number of stranded people seeking repatriation will be a never-ending process unless the... government gets serious enough to address the root cause which is forced migration and the push to the intensified labor export program," he said.

Monterona said many of the Filipinos who ran away from their jobs did so because of inadequate protection against labor abuses, most notably delayed or nonpayment of salaries.

“If something isn't done by the Philippine government to provide better protection against labor abuses, physical and sexual, the problem with the stranded and undocumented will continue," he said. — LBG, GMA News

Spanish language diploma key to Pinoys' legal stay

JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO, OFW Journalism Consortium

BARCELONA, Spain — Paperless Filipino workers here each got pieces of paper hoping that these help them regularize their immigration status in Spain and in the country’s Catalan region.

“Good thing the passport number [in my diploma] is correct," said irregular migrant Julia (not her real name) after shaking hands with her teachers and with officials of the Church-run Centro Filipino Tuluyan San Benito that has been running thrice-a-year idioma (language) classes for 20 years.

Her diploma, printed in a white, ordinary A4 bond paper, certified that Julia finished a certain level of Spanish language instruction.

There had been increasing demands for slots in Centro Filipino’s idioma classes, says Centro president Paulita Astillero, given new regulations that a migrant cannot renew one’s residency permit without knowledge of Spanish — and, in the case of the Calatunya region where Barcelona is, Catalan.

Filipino workers receiving their diplomas in idioma (language). OFW Journalism Consortium
This diploma is one of the required documents Filipino workers submit to a nearby Oficina de Extranjeros (Foreigners Office) when irregular migrants apply for regularization, and when legal migrants renew their residence permits or seek Spanish nationality, explains Astillero.

Legal Filipino workers apply for an arraigo social by submitting:

— the language diploma;
— a criminal record certificate (certificado de antecedents penale) from either the origin country or country of work five years prior to arriving in Spain;
— the Philippine passport;
— the empadronamiento which proves they’ve lived in Spain for at least three years;
— a work contract signed by an employer and with at least one year’s work;
— the padron (residence certificate) and some papers attesting family ties with other resident foreigners.

Irregular workers who worked in Spain for at least a year, on the other hand, try to undergo a process called arraigo laboral (individual amnesty).

Apart from the language diploma, arraigo laboral applicants are also required the empadronamiento, the certificado de antecedents penale, and a proof they were not barred from entering any European Union-member country.

Since the Philippines is a former colony of Spain, they are required at least two years of legally residing in Spain should they wish to apply for Spanish nationality “by residence".

The Commission on Filipinos Overseas estimates Filipinos in Spain to number 51,268, including 4,055 irregular migrants. However, the Spain census doesn’t offer a breakdown of the number of Filipinos in Barcelona and other provinces in Spain.

Not the original intention

But handing out diplomas for Filipino workers’ documentary needs wasn’t the original intention of Centro Filipino’s language program.

Astillero said when she and Centro founder Fr. Avelino Sapida started this program in 1991, the aim was to make Filipinos feel they are at the same level as the Spanish people, especially through integration in Spanish society.

In the book titled Brick by Brick: Building Cooperation between the Philippines and Migrants’ Associations in Italy and Spain, Dr. Edelia Soler wrote that the first Filipino settlement developed after politicians, businessmen and students arrived in Madrid and Barcelona.

Later on, Filipinos working as servicemen for United States military bases in Spain added to the community.

Some of them, Soler wrote, were hired for domestic work.

Since many Filipino workers here work in restaurants and hotels as waiters and as domestic workers, learning Spanish is a means for them to defend themselves and their rights, she adds.

“We don’t want to be called a ghetto community," Astillero told the OFW Journalism Consortium, referring to the instance that Filipinos always like to be with themselves only.

The influx of many Filipino workers here, including those who passed through irregular and regular migration channels from other areas, as well as recent documentary requirements by the Spanish government, simply swelled enrolment in the idioma classes.

Classes are held at Colegio Escola Pia in Ronda San Antoni, the Church of San Agustin in Plaza San Agustin, and at Centro Filipino’s office in Carrer Reira Baja.

Over 200 of these Filipino workers, many of whom have expired documents, recently got these diplomas in graduation rites last April 9 at Colegio Escola Pia.

But while many of them have finished nivel (level) 0, Astillero notices the majority still cannot speak fluent Spanish and got stuck at basic words and phrases like me llamo (call on somebody), yo soy (I am), and como estas (how are you?).

Which is why Centro, in recent years, got Spanish teachers for the other classes so that Filipinos are “forced" to speak Spanish.

Filipino and Spanish teachers of these 40-hour, twice-a-week classes are all volunteers: eight Filipinos taught nivel 0 Spanish, three Spanish volunteers for basico 1, one Spaniard for basico 2, and one Spaniard for Catalan (a mix of Spanish, French and Italian that’s spoken in Spain’s Catalan region) for the January to April 2011 batch.

For his part, Fr. Sapida said tongue-tied Filipino workers are like “dead people" given their inability to speak Spanish and then Catalan.

If you learn the language," Sapida adds, “then you can assert yourself and employers won’t bully you anymore." — OFW Journalism Consortium

Internet image of Pinays hooks Japanese


The image of Filipino women over the Internet as “good wives" may have inspired many Japanese to marry Filipinas and caused the further spike in the number of interracial marriages despite restrictive visa rules in Japan.

“There are no concrete [pieces of] evidence pointing to why there are more Filipinas marrying foreigners than Filipino males. However, we believe at CFO that the way Filipinas are portrayed as ‘good wives’ over the internet also encourage foreigners to look for Filipinas as brides," Regina Galias of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas told the OFW Journalism Consortium in an email.

This may also explain the counter-cyclical trend of Filipino-Japanese marriages as government data shows a dip in foreign marriages involving Philippine citizens: about 0.8 percent less from the 8,365 official records in 2006.

Figures from the document titled Foreign Marriages of Filipinos: 2007 and released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) also support earlier data in 2004 on the predominance of interracial marriage in foreign matrimonies.

The NSO said that interracial marriages, which are contracted between a Filipino and a foreigner, make up most of the foreign marriages involving Filipinos abroad.

Defined as matrimonies “solemnized abroad," foreign marriages have declined for the two years appraised by the NSO.

The NSO document, nonetheless, showed that about four out of every ten interracial marriages were between Filipino women and Japanese grooms.

This meant that 2,916 of the total 5,689 interracial marriages recorded in 2007 were contracted between Filipina brides and Japanese men.

While very small figures were recorded for Filipino grooms married to female foreigners, with 152 marriages recorded for 2007, the NSO reported that more than half of these marriages were contracted with Japanese brides.

A similar trend was also observed in 2004, when the NSO revealed that 2,433 marriages had involved Filipinas and Japanese grooms.

They represent 38.1 percent of the 4,652 interracial marriages recorded for that year, the 35th anniversary of the Internet.

Webbed links

Born in 1969 at the Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science of the University of California, Los Angeles, the Internet ushered a new form of communication that changed human interaction, among others.

Set in the context of mail-order brides, an inherent feature of the migration phenomenon, the Internet has become “the most common means of matching people for marriage and companionship," Federico V. Magdalena of the University of Hawaii at Manoa said in his seminal paper.

“There is reason to believe that the Internet has been conveniently used as a medium to pander Filipino ladies to foreign men. On the Internet, these Filipinas are ‘exoticized’ and ‘commodified’ beyond wildest imagination, making them among the most popular mail-order brides in the world today who line up by the thousands," Magdalena said in a roundtable discussion on “Issues in the Filipino Diaspora," in Cebu City in 2005.

Magdalena, who was also a lecturer at the Institute for Peace at the time of his paper presentation, added that there’s also a twist since “most of these ladies are willing participants in the globalized exchange of warm bodies that have now become a popular source of the Filipino diaspora."

CFO’s Galias also thinks along the line, saying that Filipinos marry foreign partners also because of the latter’s attractive physical attributes.

The ability of the foreign partner to provide for the needs of their future families is also a factor in the matrimony, she added.

“The Filipinos were referred to these partners by their friends and family. Maybe the Filipinos simply love their partners."

According to Galias, who is CFO’s division chief for Migrant Integration and Education, the commission made these observations based from the counseling sessions it had with the spouses of the foreigners.

While admitting that there are no specific details explaining why more Filipinas marry foreigners than Filipinos, Galias hypothesized that online communication and Internet advertisements may help account for this situation.

Numbers game

The NSO also found out that couples who are involved in foreign marriages usually prefer to marry in June, a trend which was observed both in 2004 and 2007.

The census office also noted that 2004 and 2007 data consistently show that most of the grooms and brides were single when they got married through foreign marriages. However, the number of single groom and brides engaged in foreign marriages decline beyond the age of 30, the office added.

In addition, the median age for both bride and groom foreign marriage remain older than those in local matrimonies.

In 2007, the median age for grooms was 36.4 years old while those of brides was 29.8 years old. In terms of modal groups, the NSO said that foreign marriages usually occur between the ages of 25-29 for Filipina brides and for foreign grooms.

In contrast, the modal group for local marriages was at 25-29 for grooms in local and foreign marriages even as the modal group for brides in local marriages stands at 20-24 years old, the office added.

In 2004, the NSO recorded that the median age of brides in foreign marriages was 31 years old while 37 years old was the median age for grooms who are engaged in foreign marriages. In terms of modal age groups, the NSO noted that in 2004, three out of every ten brides tend to marry during the 25-29 age bracket, while 20% of grooms tend to marry during the 30-34 age bracket.

While these figures were true for 2005-2008, these were not necessarily true for all countries.

For instance, in South Korea, the average ages of Filipinas marrying Korean men were between 22 and 25, Galias said.

According to the NSO, the data gathered for foreign and interracial marriages were recorded between January 2007 and March 2008 based from marriages registered in Philippine Foreign Services Establishments-such as embassies and consulates.

Fall-out fails

To note, the document was released by the NSO on March 11, the same day a magnitude-8.9 earthquake hit northern Japan.

News reports cited Japanese spouses of Filipino women decided to stay in their country despite the threat of a nuclear fall-out as the earthquake triggered weak safeguards of nuclear plants in Fukushima.

The NSO data showed that Japan remained the leading place where foreign marriages occur.

Four out of seven matrimonies were held there in 2007. Smaller figures and percentages were recorded for the United States, United Arab Emirates, Northern Ireland (United Kingdom) and Italy.

Government estimates that in 2007, Japan hosted around 38,000 temporary migrants, more than 133,000 permanent migrants and 30,0000 undocumented migrant Filipinos.

CFO data showed that the 108,245 Filipino spouses either engaged or married to Japanese nationals are almost 30 percent of the total for the category “Number of Filipino Spouses and Other Partners of Foreign Nationals by Major Country."

For this category, the number of Filipinos who are either spouses or couples of Americans, registered from 1989 until 2009, account for four-tenths of the total.

But the document also showed that, apart from Japanese and Americans, Filipinos also tend to become spouses or partners of Australians, Canadians and Germans.

Galias added that the number of Filipina-Japanese marriages increased since 2005 after the Japanese government became more strict in the issuance of entertainer visas.

Filipino women, many of whom were overseas performing artists, decided to wed their Japanese partners once the visa limitations were in place, Galias added.

In addition, Galias explained that the decrease in foreign marriages in 2007 “can be attributed" to visa retrogression, although there is no specific factor which clearly account for such decline.

In 2007, interracial marriages made up almost seven out of ten (68.5 percent) of the 8,300 foreign marriages contracted by Filipinos. — with reports from Isagani de la Paz, OFW Journalism Consortium

Pinoy on China death row hopes for commutation of sentence


KIDAPAWAN CITY — An overseas Filipino worker jailed in China for drug trafficking has expressed the hope that his death sentence would be commuted to a 15-year jail term.

In a letter to Cotabato Rep. Nancy Catamco, Richard Bianan — who has been incarcerated since 2008 — said the Chinese court might commute his death sentence and lower his years in detention for “showing good behavior."

Bianan also said he was glad upon learning that the Cotabato government is making inquiries into his case. “Upon hearing the news, I and other Filipinos [here] rejoiced, for we see a glittering hope to our hopeless situation here."

Bianan’s letter reached the congresswoman’s office on May 12.

Attached in Bianan’s letter were some documents from Pu Tian City Men’s Prison Administration Foreign Group Unit, including the criminal order from the Higher Peoples’ Court of Fujian Province of the Peoples’ Republic of China.

The Fujian Province court found Bianan guilty of drug smuggling.

Heroin capsules

In July 2008, authorities extracted from Bianan’s body 91 oval capsules filled with heroin. The amount of the prohibited drug found on Bianan weighed 1,009.3 grams.

The court said the quantity of drug smuggled to China was “so large" that a death penalty had to be imposed. However, Bianan showed good behavior inside his prison cell, allowing the court to grant him a two-year reprieve.

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr., in a letter to Catamco dated May 5, said the death sentence with two-year reprieve imposed on Bianan means that his sentence has been suspended for two years.

Bianan’s sentence could then be commuted to life imprisonment should he continue showing good behavior inside the prison cell.

Conejos said the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has already made necessary representations with Chinese authorities regarding Bianan’s request to lower his sentence to fixed-term imprisonment, instead of life imprisonment.

“The DFA is still awaiting the feedback of the Chinese authorities on the matter. The Philippine Consulate opined that since the two-year suspension period of his sentence has yet to expire, the Chinese authorities might not be able to give concrete responses to the representations," Conejos said.

“Mr. Bianan is reminded to do his part in making the government’s representations feasible by showing good behavior, avoiding committing another offense in prison, and getting along well with jail guards and inmates while serving his sentence," he added. — AY/JE/VS, GMA News

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The Workers Creates the Wealth of the Society!

We Deserve Better!

The Regional Wage Board’s decision of giving NCR workers a 22 pesos non-wage benefit is unacceptable and considered an insult to all non-agricultural workers. The additional Php 22 was too little to make any economic impact for the workers because it was given way too late when prices of basic commodities and transportation fares were already increased. We can say that the adjustment is really not an adjustment to help but a mere pampalubag loob (consolation). Pnoy made an announcement before May 1, International Labor Day, that he has good news for the workers. But instead of making good of his promise to help alleviate a little the economic condition of the workers, he failed the expectations of the Filipino working class for the nth time. This decision and the inability of Pnoy to act in favor of the majority, made it clear that Pnoy’s bosses are not the ordinary people but the elites.

The Php 22 is not a wage increase which the workers are asking. It is way below the Php 125 or the Php 75 that the workers are asking, and is too little for a Living Wage needed by a worker to live a decent life. The Php 22 that will be added to the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) will not be subject to over time and night differential and 13th month pay computations, making the Board’s decision more favorable to employers than the workers who badly need a salary increase.

This decision is a manifestation that the ruling elite of this country is highly favored by this government. The Private Partnership Program (PPP) of Pnoy is in full motion to the detriment of the working class. All those who will benefit from this shenanigan are the capitalists who are cashing in on the government’s inability to protect the interest of the working class who produces the wealth of the society.

The Partido Lakas ng Masa (Party of the Laboring Masses) calls on Pnoy to do something for a change, to do something to benefit the ordinary Filipino, especially the Working Class. What he needs is a political will to put forward policies that will benefit the poor majority of the society. What the workers are asking is a Php 125 salary increase, the scrapping of the Oil Deregulation Law, and the cancellation of EVAT for basic commodities! And we will not settle for anything less!

Sonny Melencio
Chairman - Partido Lakas ng Masa
11 May 2011

Desperate efforts to sneak out of Philippines

by Mynardo Macaraig, Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines - Six women dressed as nuns stood anxiously in a queue at Manila's chaotic international airport, unaware their shoes were about to end their dreams of an illegal job abroad.

At the immigration counter, an official looked up after stamping a genuine traveller's passport and surveyed the women.

"People were wondering, if they were nuns then why was one nun in rubber shoes and another in red shoes," said airport immigration chief Lina Andaman Pelia.

"And all six just had one bag. You could tell they weren't real."

Under questioning, the "nuns" admitted they were not heading to a religious seminar in Hong Kong as claimed, rather to Lebanon to work illegally as maids.

And so -- just like thousands of desperate Filipinos before them who have tried to use a dizzying array of tricks in an effort to head overseas for a higher paying job -- their journey was over before it had begun.

Deep poverty in the Philippines has for decades driven Filipinos abroad and about nine million -- or 10 percent of the population -- currently work legally and illegally in a wide range of jobs overseas, according to government data.

While the Philippine government allows its citizens to work overseas, it requires them to have guaranteed labor contracts and to register with state-approved recruiters.

The government says these measures are needed because Filipinos who go abroad can easily be exploited in many ways and, at worst, be forced into crime or prostitution.

Sometimes the country they want to work in has been blacklisted completely, such as was the case with the fake nuns, with the Philippines banning people from working in Lebanon in 2007 due to security and labor concerns there.

But many Filipinos seek to circumvent these rules, with illegal recruiters often setting up the scams.

"We have economic problems in this country and sad to say, they become willing victims," Pelia said, referring to the Filipinos who sneak overseas to work illegally.

Pelia said many prospective illegal workers simply presented themselves at airports as tourists, and it was up to the immigration officials to determine their real motive for travelling overseas.

At the immigration desk, staff look for signs to distinguish the illegal workers from legitimate tourists.

Pelia said the give-away could be a bare passport indicating the person had not travelled abroad before, or a plan to "holiday" in areas of the Middle East not normally known to attract Filipino tourists.

She said illegal workers were sometimes caught out by being unable to answer the simplest of questions, such as: "Where are you going?" or: "Who is providing for your tour?".

But on other occasions, they put more thought into their ruse.

Pelia said the government now coordinated with sports bodies to verify which athletes were heading overseas, after some workers made it to Japan by claiming to be volleyballers bound for an Asian Games there in the 1990s.

Immigration officials are also constantly on the lookout for Filipinas seeking to head abroad for work as prostitutes who travel with fake boyfriends, Pelia said.

"Carlos", a 35-year-old laborer, said he beat the system three years ago when he entered Japan to escort his mother on a vacation there.

When his mother returned home two months later, Carlos did not come back.

Instead, under a plan hatched by his family, he was sheltered by his sister, who already had permanent residency in Japan.

"We were always terrified that Japanese immigration would track me down to her house and burst in at any time. But they never came," said Carlos, who spoke to AFP by telephone on condition his real name was not used.

Carlos said his sister helped him find a job as a construction worker in Japan, and he now earns the equivalent of about 26,000 Philippine pesos ($600) a month, three times what he could earn at home.

The problem of Filipinos being exploited saw the US State Department place the Philippines on its "tier 2 watchlist" for human trafficking in 2009.

This meant the US government believed the Philippines was failing to comply with "minimum standards" on stopping human traffickers.

The government says it has since sought to tackle the problem more seriously.

About 25,000 would-be illegal workers have been stopped from leaving the Philippines since a crackdown began in August last year, according to Chrissy Avila, a lawyer with the government's anti-trafficking task force.

And 28 traffickers have been convicted since the start of last year, with some of them being sentenced to life in jail, according to the task force.

But Avila said the prospective workers, who are not punished if caught, often remain determined to try again because of the deep social problems and poverty at home.

"What they have in mind is that they are going abroad to have a better future, to earn dollars. They don't mind the fact that they might be victims of illegal trafficking," she said.

DFA: Repatriation of overstaying OFWs in Jeddah 'endangered'

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the repatriation of overstaying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is in "full swing" but is "endangered" because of the Filipinos camping out at a lot near the Philippine Consulate.

In a statement, the DFA said the special arrangement for the repatriation of OFWs may be endangered because of the Filipinos camping out near the consulate.

About 200 Filipinos had camped in the vacant lot beside the Consulate on April 25 but the number eventually decreased to about 50 as of May 5.

"The presence of this group is delaying the transfer of the Filipinos at the Hajj Terminal to the Deportation Center, and may lead to the rebooking or cancellation of their flight and the expiry of their travel documents," the DFA said.

The Consulate has urged the Filipinos camped at the vacant lot to return to the Hajj Terminal to avoid hampering the terminal operations.

Special arrangement

The DFA said the Hajj Terminal operations is a special arrangement made by the Philippine government with Saudi authorities for the repatriation of overstaying Filipinos in Saudi Arabia.

"(It) started in September 2009 after representations by the Consulate with the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the approval of the Office of the Emir of Makkah to address the cases of Filipinos staying under the Sitteen Khandara overpass in hope of an expedited deportation proceeding," the DFA said.

Under the arrangement, the Filipinos to be repatriated are brought to and are sheltered at the Hajj Terminal while waiting for their tickets and the processing of their exit papers.

The use of the facilities at the Hajj Terminal are paid by the Consulate at SR15 (P171) a day per person.

The arrangement with the Saudi authorities for the Hajj Terminal is as follows:

•Filipinos who overstayed in Saudi and who would like to go home are asked to register at the Consulate. Individuals who are out of status are violating local laws and face deportation proceedings before they can return home.

•Filipinos at the Terminal who have a confirmed ticket and a valid travel document provided by the Consulate are taken by the Saudi Jawazat (immigration authorities) to the Deportation Center where they will undergo investigation, have their exit visas processed and stamped and wait for their flight to the Philippines. The Consulate makes representations with the Jawazat for their admission, but it is the Jawazat authorities that decide how many and when to fetch them.

•Filipinos seeking deportation and can provide their own tickets are assisted by the Consulate and Saudi immigration authorities, but there are no guarantee that they will be the given priority in the deportation proceeding.

Arrangement may be stopped

However, the DFA said the special arrangement may be stopped because of Filipinos who camped out in a lot adjacent to the Consulate.

“Unfortunately, this special arrangement may be stopped as the Saudi authorities stated that they would only resume admission of overstayers once Filipinos who have camped out in a lot adjacent to the Consulate return to the Hajj Terminal," the Consulate said in a news release.

Last February, Saudi immigration authorities stated they no longer make any pick-up at any point other than the Hajj Terminal.

As of May 8, the DFA said the Consulate had helped repatriate 972 of the 1,160 Filipinos camped out at the Consulate-operated Hajj Terminal facility since January 24.

The DFA said the last persons to be fetched by the authorities from the facility included 100 females and 47 minors on May 6, and 67 males on May 8.

"The Consulate has made flight bookings for the next 200 Filipino overstayers to be repatriated in the coming weeks. The remaining 300 will follow anytime soon," the DFA said in a news release on the government portal.

100 Filipino deportees

According to the DFA, on the average, Saudi immigration authorities take in to their Deportation Center and process only 100 Filipino deportees at a time because there are also other nationalities who are seeking deportation.

There are also constraints in securing airline flights. Most airlines accept only 50 deportees per flight during the peak season but this number is increased during the non-peak season.

Most airlines also allow only a maximum of five infants per flight, whether peak or non-peak season.


The DFA said the last persons to be fetched by the authorities from the facility included:

•100 females and 47 minors on May 6, and

•67 males on May 8.

"The Consulate has made flight bookings for the next 200 Filipino overstayers to be repatriated in the coming weeks. The remaining 300 will follow anytime soon," the DFA said in a news release on the government portal .

As of May 8, the DFA said the Consulate had helped repatriate 972 of 1,160 Filipinos camped out at the Consulate-operated Hajj Terminal facility since Jan. 24.

Some 815 Filipinos were repatriated in 2009, and 1,429 in 2010.

These do not include other Filipinos who were assisted by the Consulate through the regular Saudi deportation and repatriation procedures. - VVP, GMA News

DFA: PHL govt assisting 3 Pinoys with drug cases in Dubai


The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Philippine government is assisting the
three Filipinos who were detained in Dubai in the United Arba Emirates (UAE) last year for possession of illegal drugs.

In a statement released by the DFA, Philippine Consul General Benito Valeriano said they hired a competent Bahraini lawyer to represent Rhoda Guisinga, Jackie Lou Jabate and Crizelda Empleo in their second court hearing on Tuesday.

Dubai police arrested Guisinga in a mall on November last year after she was found holding a plastic bag that allegedly contained illegal drugs.

Guisinga claimed that the drugs came from an Egyptian whom she met.

Jabate and Empleo, who were then waiting for Guisinga, were also apprehended by the police.

The consulate said they are providing all the help they can give to the three Filipinos, who are holding only visitor visas. - VVP, GMA News

Monday, May 9, 2011

New Japanese envoy vows to continue boosting peace process

Saying his arrival has an air of "destiny," Japan's new ambassador to the Philippines reassured Filipinos of his commitment to boost the peace process in Mindanao.

In his arrival statement last Wednesday, new Japanese envoy Toshinao Urabe said it is both his duty and his joy to further develop closer ties between the Philippines and Japan.

"My mission is to develop this strategic partnership. Indeed, I consider myself extremely lucky to be the Japanese ambassador to the Philippines because it is a joy as well as my duty to develop this win-win relationship between my two home countries," he said.

The new envoy said Japan's commitment to assist economic and social development of the Philippines is constant.

Japan and the Philippines are geographically close island countries and share similar values such as democracy and free market principles, he said.

Apart from being the largest donor of official development assistance to the Philippines, Japan is now observing the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement to enhance closer trade and investment relations.

"Our political dialogue is also intensifying and Japan is trying hard to facilitate the peace process in Mindanao," he added.

Forever grateful

In 1954, Urabe attended kindergarten at the Jose Abad Santos Memorial School in Manila at age 4.

At the time, he said anti-Japan sentiments were still quite raw but the Filipinos received him warmly. "My parents were forever grateful," he added.

According to Urabe, his late father went to the Philippines in 1969 and served as Japanese Ambassador until 1974.

"Mahal ko ang Pilipinas! In fact, today is his birthday. I cannot help myself sensing destiny being here," he said.

Meanwhile, Urabe expressed his heartfelt gratitude to the warm sympathies and support extended by the government and the people of the Philippines.

"For the people of Japan facing the aftermath of the [March 11] disaster, such heartwarming encouragement is very much appreciated. A friend in need is a friend indeed," he said. — JE, GMA News

Intl group: Over 100 Filipinos 'stranded' in Libya awaiting repatriation05/05/2011

Over 100 Filipinos who are stranded in Misrata, Libya are awaiting repatriation, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said.

The IOM, in a news release posted on its website on Thursday (Manila time), said the batch stuck in Misrata includes women and children.

"IOM has been made aware of 109 Filipinos in Misrata, including women and children who also need to be evacuated but the Organization has not been able to establish contact with the group," it said.

No other details on the Filipinos were mentioned.

Stranded migrants

According to IOM, it transferred some 800 people, including stranded migrants and up to 50 wounded civilians, from Misrata despite shelling and shooting in the port vicinity.

IOM chartered a boat, the "Red Star One," to transport the people, over 20 journalists and some doctors, out of Misrata.

"Heavy shelling of Misrata in addition to mines having been laid had prevented the IOM boat from docking for five days. The fighting had forced at least 1,000 migrants who had been waiting at the port to be evacuated to flee the area," the IOM said.

The IOM said some 180 tons of humanitarian aid — food, non-food and medical supplies — had been offloaded before the boat departed for Benghazi.

"This is the sixth life-saving rescue mission to Misrata successfully carried out by IOM since early April. In that time, the Organization has delivered almost 2,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the besieged city and safely brought back to Benghazi about 6,000 stranded migrants, wounded civilians and their families," the IOM said.

IOM’s humanitarian evacuation program out of Misrata is funded by the European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civilian Protection Office (ECHO), Britain's Department for International Development (DFID), Germany, Ireland and Australia. - VVP, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Tokyo to process only online ePassport requests starting June

Applicants will get a confirmation email with the application number and date and time of their personal appearance, the Embassy said.

"Only those with Application Numbers and confirmed schedules for Personal Appearance will be processed ... Applicants who fail to appear on their appointed schedules will have to file a new application," it said in an announcement on its website.

It also said the online ePassport request and appointment system is not applicable to lost and mutilated passport applications.

A separate information page said the service is offered only to Filipinos living in Japan whose area of domicile falls under the jurisdiction of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo, "seeking to apply a passport for the first time (i.e. babies born in Japan), or intending to renew a regular passport with no discrepancies."


Applicants will need a working computer with Internet access, with Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 or higher; or Mozilla Firefox 3.5 or higher; and a PDF reader such as Adobe Reader or FoxIt Reader to view and print the application form.

They will also need a valid and working email address to receive system-generated messages with file attachments; and a printer with A4-size paper to print the application forms.

On the appointment date, applicants are to bring the necessary documents for passport processing and a self-addressed LetterPack 500 envelope.

"There is no need to submit a passport photo as your photo will be captured live, along with your digital signature and fingerprints when you are called in the processing room," it said.

All passports are produced and printed only in Manila. The approximate turnover time from date of payment to arrival of passport is about six weeks or 45 days.

"The Passport Unit of the Philippine Embassy in Tokyo will send you your new passport via postal mail using your self-addressed LetterPack 500 envelope as soon as your passport arrives from Manila," the embassy said. — LBG, GMA News

Pinoy jailed in Iran for drugs gets embassy help


MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino convicted by an Iranian court for drug possession is getting assistance from the Philippine embassy in Tehran, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said on Monday.

The DFA said contrary to reports, the embassy has been helping Aquino before and during his trial.

Aquino was represented by a legal counsel, while embassy officials attended the court proceedings, the department added.

“The embassy also made representations and coordination with Iranian authorities in assisting Mr. Aquino in his case,” the DFA said in a press statement.

Aquino, 26, was arrested in September 2009 at the Shiraz Airport on his way out of Iran and was found to have in his possession 5 kilos of compressed heroin, which is punishable by the death penalty.

He denied having knowledge of the content of the bag and claimed that a Nigerian friend of his asked him to pick up the bag at Toos Hotel in Mashad to be brought to the Philippines.

Aquino was convicted by the court of Shiraz in Iran in December of the same year. The court imposed on him a reduced penalty of 15 years in jail rather than life imprisonment.

The court said Aquino did not distribute the drugs, he was a mere visitor in Iran, and he may have been deceived.

“The embassy will continue to make representations for the further commutation of Mr. Aquino’s jail sentence,” the DFA said

Drug syndicates eye foreign exchange students as mules


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) said syndicates are now grooming foreign exchange students to become their drug mules.

In a statement, PDEA Director General Undersecretary Jose Gutierrez Jr. said this indicates a shifting trend in the recruitment process for drug couriers.

He said syndicates are luring more Asians, notably exchange students coming from Korea, as prospective drug couriers. He added that these syndicates prey on young people, because they are inexperienced and naive.

This came on the back of the arrest of 2 members of the African Drug Syndicate last week.

Samuel Egbo y Chukwueloka, a Nigerian, and his Korean girlfriend named Yunji Choi were arrested after selling half a kilogram of cocaine worth P2.5 million to an undercover PDEA agent.

Choi said she met Egbo at a university in Manila last year. She said she has since traveled frequently in and out of the country.

Three Filipinos were executed in China last March, after being convicted of drug trafficking charges.

DFA: No Filipino caught in crossfire in Syria


MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Embassy in Damascus said there are no Filipinos caught in the crossfire during protest actions there.

“The Embassy contacted its area coordinators, its volunteers from the Filipino community and other sources in Syria to verify the report. These sources all informed the Embassy that no such incident happened,” Philippine Ambassador to Syria Wifredo Cuyugan said.

He is referring to news reports that 2 Filipino household service workers supposedly died during a protest action last April 29. The 2 were supposedly hit by a stray bullet.

“In addition, there are inconsistencies in the alleged report. There were no demonstrations in Damascus on April 29. Damascus and its neighboring governorates suffered its worst hailstorms that day—therefore, no significant protests took place in the capital or anywhere near it,” he stated.

He also said employers immediately inform embassies in case of any untoward incidents.

Last April 26, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) declared a crisis alert level 2 in Syria in light of the continuing political tensions.

There are around 17,000 Filipinos in Syria.
Other Headlines
•Damascus suburb is new centre of defiance to Assad
•Demos across Syria after foiled Damascus rally
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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Pinoy workers in Taiwan want labor rights

Three months after a deportation row posed a threat to their jobs, Filipino workers in Taiwan joined rallies on Labor Day to air their woes against the Taiwanese government, a news report said Monday night.

In a report by Taiwan’s Central News Agency, Filipino and Filipino-Taiwanese workers lamented that Taipei’s labor laws do not protect them at all.

“Despite some improvements, those who work as home caretakers, many of whom are from the Philippines, are still being exploited and receive unfair treatment," said Migrante-Taiwan chairperson David Chang in the news report.

Earlier this year, Taiwan created stricter application rules for migrant workers after the Philippines deported 14 of their nationals to mainland China.

The issue had since been resolved after the Philippine government replaced key immigration officials who were deemed responsible for mishandling the deportation.

Chang said migrant caretakers in Taiwan have to go through a broker system that collects most of their monthly earnings, demands long work hours without overtime pay, and offers no days off. He added that some caretakers have to work for 24 hours a day.

The chairperson said that both Taiwanese political parties — the ruling Kuomintang (KMT) and the opposition Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) — have yet to address the issue. “[KMT] at least has been more willing to have dialogue with us," he added.

Not covered by labor law

Home caretakers typically receive monthly salaries much lower than the standard set by the government because they are not covered by Taiwan's Labor Standards Act, he said. The minimum wage in Taiwan is NT$17,880 (P26, 675) but most caretakers only receive NT$15,840 (P23,632).

In addition, Chang said that 99 percent of workers' passports are seized by their employers or brokerage agencies so they would not be able to leave Taiwan.

Another Filipino group that voiced out their concerns was that of overseas Taiwanese who grew up in other countries and are not considered full-fledged citizens.

The group members possess Republic of China (ROC) passports but do not carry the identification cards that most Taiwanese are issued — the prerequisite to registering for national labor and health insurance.

Members of the Concern Alliance for Filipino Chinese (CAFC) showed up on Sunday with signs bearing slogans such as “stateless," to display their dissatisfaction. The same report said the Taiwan government has denied this group the identification cards since 1991 when it issued tighter border controls.

Upon moving to Taiwan, they are required to stay for six years even before they are allowed to apply for permanent residency and given access to public insurance programs. They are considered "ROC nationals without citizenship."

"I don't think you can legitimately explain what a 'national without citizenship' is. It is ridiculous," said Scalabrini International Migration Network Taiwan chief executive officer and CAFC Consultant Lorna Kung.

A January report by Control Yuan, the agency which "has the powers of impeachment, censure and audit" in Taipei indicated that of 60,000 ROC nationals without citizenship, more than 2,000 are Filipino-Taiwanese. Of the 2,000, 800 Filipino-Taiwanese are part of CAFC.

A national panel on human rights was recommended by the report to tackle the issue. — With Bea Cupin/PE/VS, GMA News

Undocumented OFWs face tighter screening in UAE

Filipinos who leave the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to come home to the Philippines may be barred from taking their flights back to UAE if they lack the proper employment documents.

The Filipino workers who went to UAE using a visit visa and later found employment have the burden to show employment papers, Gulf News XPress reported.

The report quoted a Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) official in Dubai as saying “It is the (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) that requires the documents to those applicants/OFWs who left the Philippines with undocumented status - meaning departed the Philippines on visit visa and after sometime found employment in the UAE."

The POLO official said the stricter rules will apply to those who went home without obtaining an overseas employment certificate (OEC) in Dubai.

An OEC costs Dh10 (P116.83) and exempts Filipino overseas workers from paying travel tax of Dh160 (P1,869).

It is also used by Manila to ensure their workers abroad are documented and insured.

The OEC can be obtained by personally appearing before the POLO office and presenting a proof of employment and a valid residence visa.

The nannies applying for an OEC must present a contract stating their monthly salary as $400 (about P17,174).

OEC applicants in Dubai must pay membership and insurance cover with the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and must sign up with Pag-IBIG.

Filipino workers who go home on vacation but failed to obtain an OEC from Dubai are asked to produce an employment letter from their human resource department and an original labor contract.

They may also be asked to produce copies of passport, UAE residence, UAE Labor Card and the company’s commercial license.

These must be authenticated by the Polo against a Dh40 (P467) fee, the official said. - VVP GMA News

Pinay 'drug mule' in Thailand ineligible for pardon

A Filipina sentenced to life imprisonment in Thailand is not eligible to seek royal pardon from the King of Thailand, as she has appealed her case before the Thai appellate court.

The Philippine Embassy in Thailand relayed this to the Bacolod City council, adding Filipina Flory May Talaban, 28, cannot avail of a Philippine-Thailand agreement allowing the transfer of prisoners at this time.

Talaban, 28, of Bacolod City, is now imprisoned in the Ngam Wong Wan Central Women's Institution for alleged illegal drug possession, news site Visayan Daily Star reported Friday.

Edgar Badajos, Consul General of the Philippine Embassy in Thailand, said Talaban is ineligible to apply for royal pardon because the guidelines issued by the Thai Department of Corrections states that “a prisoner may submit a petition for royal pardon only after he or she finished all court proceedings [including appeal]."

Bajados addressed the letter to City Council secretary Nilo Alejandrino, in response to a resolution by Councilor Caesar Distrito seeking assistance for Talaban.

Prison transfer to PHL

Also, Bajados said Talaban is barred from applying for prison transfer under the Transfer of Sentence Agreement between the Philippines and Thailand.

He said one of the criteria for applying for transfer is that the judgment must be final and no other legal proceedings related to the offense or any other offense is pending in any court in Thailand.

If Talaban wishes to apply for transfer, she has to either drop her appeal or wait until after the court process has been completely exhausted and the decision becomes final and executory, Bajados said.

Meanwhile, Badajos said the Philippine Embassy in Thailand will consult with Talaban's parents on what legal option they wish to take for their daughter.

He also assured they will support whatever decision the family will make. — JE/LBG, GMA News

DOJ outlines advisory points on drug mules

A month after three Filipinos were executed in China for drug trafficking, the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the Philippines has issued an advisory opinion on illegal drug couriers.

In a six-page advisory opinion issued last Friday, April 29, Justice Sec. Leila de Lima said the advisory opinion “seeks to explain to the public the issues surrounding the recruitment, arrest, detention and conviction in foreign countries of Filipinos who are caught transporting illegal drugs."

The opinion outlined 10 advisory points:

•Carry at your own risk.

•Knowledge is immaterial and intent is not a requirement in drug trafficking.

•Be vigilant of the modus operandi of drug courier syndicates.

•In the unfortunate event of arrest or detention for drug trafficking, have presence of mind and do not resist arrest.

•Assert your legal rights, inquire on the legal remedies and request for consular assistance.

•Presumption of innocence will always apply.

•The laws of country of arrest apply.

•If sentenced, the government can only be of limited assistance.

•"Blood money" cannot be paid to erase the liability of a person convicted of a crime involving illegal drugs.

•Take full responsibility of your actions.
Last March 30, China implemented the death sentences meted out on Sally Ordinario-Villanueva, Elizabeth Batain, and Ramon Credo, who were convicted of drug trafficking there. The three served as illegal drug couriers and were separately arrested and detained in China in 2008.

Villanueva's family has filed a complaint with the DOJ against Tita Cacayan, the alleged recruiter who gave Villanueva the suitcase containing heroin. Villanueva’s family said Sally was unaware that she was bringing illegal drugs to China.

But in her opinion, De Lima said in drug trafficking, mere possession is punishable and that lack of knowledge and intent does not exonerate one from being punished for drug trafficking.

“It is not a valid legal defense that the possessor or carrier of a package did not know that it contains illegal drugs or that he had no intention to commit a crime," said De Lima.

She also advised Filipinos who plan to work overseas to be wary of recruiters who require them to bring something to their destination.

“Always be on-guard when dealing with strangers even at last minute check-in who request help for overweight check-in luggage for payment of the charges and a premium," she said.

“The best course of action is to refuse to carry any package that you have not personally packed or checked. This is the only way to save your life," she added.

In the event that a Filipino is nabbed for drug trafficking, De Lima underscored that the suspect must invoke his legal rights and remedies “to ensure that you are adequately protected."

“The right to counsel is available to detained persons in many jurisdictions. If you are not allowed to have a lawyer at that stage, firmly but respectfully ask at what point during the process can you be assisted by counsel. Abuse during detention can be prevented if your interrogators realize that you are aware of your rights," she said.

De Lima likewise said that the Philippine government can only offer limited assistance to arrested persons.

“The government cannot interfere in the internal affairs of other countries like the trial of criminals in their jurisdiction. The best the government can do for you is to assist in protecting your rights and arranging your legal defense. Outside of this, the government cannot insist that you be given a different treatment than that which the laws of other countries provide," she said. - KBK, GMA News

Two Pinay maids hurt in deadly UAE road accident

Two Filipino helpers were injured in a car accident over the weekend in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) where two Emirate children were killed, the news site Gulf News reported.

Those injured were two Filipina housemaids aged 23 and 26, a five-year-old girl, a six-year-old boy, and a 29-year-old Emirati mother whose son, 1, and daughter, 4, were killed.

Gulf News said the incident that occurred at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday when a 29-year-old Emirati mother lost control of her vehicle and rammed into another car.

The investigation showed the mother lost control of the vehicle she was driving and hit a sports utility vehicle driven by a 60-year-old Emirati man.

The woman's vehicle overturned twice and landed on the roadside, Gulf News said.

Traffic prosecutors have recorded 44 deaths, including nine Emiratis, in the first four months of this year, Gulf News reported. - VVP, GMA News

Pinoy sailor aboard ship stranded in UAE has severe stomach pain

One of the Filipino sailors of a South Korean ship released recently by pirates is suffering from severe stomach pain as their vessel remains stranded off the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

“He has severe stomach pain… may be due to kidney stone. We have requested through the captain for his hospitalization. But it doesn’t seem to be happening. His mother is also hospitalized in the Philippines. They are struggling to pay her hospital bills," one of the ship's sailors said in an interview posted on the news site Khaleej Times.

The ship "Samho Dream" lies stricken off the Dubai coast with 26 crew members on board.

Its owner, Samho Shipping, reportedly filed for court protection to help them tide over their financial situation.

Nineteen of some 26 sailors aboard the ship are Filipinos.

The "Samho Dream" was attacked by pirates in 2010 and its owners had to put up $9 million as ransom. - VVP, GMA News

DFA consular affairs unit announces fax numbers for inquiries

The Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) Office of Consular Affairs (DFA-OCA) released to the public its fax numbers for passport- and consular-related inquiries.

In an announcement on its website on Wednesday, the DFA said inquiries can be sent via fax to 836-7746, 836-7749, and 836-7759, attention to Passport Division.

"A return call from the DFA-OCA is expected within 24 hours of receipt of the faxed inquiry," the DFA said (http://dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/newsroom/dfa-releases/2934-office-of-consular-affairs-announces-fax-numbers-for-consular-inquiries).

Earlier, the DFA announced its new trunkline number 556-0000 for all passport and consular-related inquiries.

It said this trunkline number is open 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. from Monday to Friday. - VVP, GMA News

DFA chief orders repatriation of Pinoys in three Syrian areas

After visiting the strife-torn country, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario ordered that the voluntary repatriation efforts in Syria be focused on three areas: Daraa, Latakia, and Homs.

A news article posted on the DFA website said Alberto "ordered the Philippine Embassy in Damascus to further check on and ask some 110 Filipinos in Daraa, 2,400 Filipinos in Latakia, and 1,600 Filipinos in Homs if they wish to be repatriated."

On Friday, when Del Rosario visited Syria, protests in certain areas in Syria ended in violence, particularly in Daraa, Latakia and Homs.

However, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al Muallem told Del Rosario that the Syrian government will do its best to restore political security and stability in the country.

On the other hand, Del Rosario thanked the Syrian government for assuring the safety of some 17,000 Filipinos there.

Muallem also told Del Rosario that the current political realities in Syria is "different from the one being painted by Western media."

Both foreign ministers likewise discussed aspects of bilateral cooperation between the Philippines and Syria.

The DFA said del Rosario left for Syria early on Friday morning with Undersecretary Rafael Seguis.

Upon his arrival, del Rosario was met by Philippine Ambassador to Syria Wilfredo Cuyugan and officers and staff of the Philippine Embassy.

The secretary also checked the condition of the 43 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Embassy's shelter who are due for repatriation.

He likewise met with the leaders of the Filipino community in Syria. - VVP, GMA News

Wala nang mabili sa dolyar ko!

Saan ko na kukunin ang panghulog ko sa nautang no’ng magkasakit ang isang anak ko. Paano ko pa matitiyak na matutuloy ang pag-aaral ng tatlo ko pang anak? Nagtitiyaga na nga lang ako sa mababang pasahod dito sa Libya, tapos nanganganib pa ang buhay namin ngayon…

Ito ang ilang hinanakit ni Mirriam, isang domestic worker sa Libya na napilitang umuwi ng Pilipinas laban man sa kanyang kalooban. Marami pang kakilala si Mirriam na matagal nang nagtatrabaho sa Libya, at katulad niya, napilitan na rin na umuwi ng Pilipinas dahil na rin sa kaguluhang nangyayari sa naturang bansa.

At kahit noon pa mang regular pang nakakapagpadala ng pera si Mirriam sa kanyang naiwang pamilya dito sa Pilipinas, matagal nang kapos ang kanyang ipinapadala dahil sa walang puknat na pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin sa Pilipinas. Malaganap ang paniniwalang nakakariwasa ag pamumuhay ng pamilya ng OFWs dito sa Pilipinas. Ngunit hindi ito totoo sa kaso ni Mirriam, at sa marami pang katulad niya.

Katulad din ng marami pang ibang overseas Filipino workers na nagtatrabaho sa mga bansa na kasalukuyang dumaranas ng kaguluhang politikal, biktima ang mga mangagawang migranteng ito ng overseas employment program na opisyal na sinimulan ng gobyerno ng Pilipinas noong 1974. Noon at ngayon, iisa ang papel ng migranteng manggawa—ang magpasok ng kailangang dolyar sa ekonomiya ng bansa, at iresolba ang kawalang kakayahan ng gobyerno na lumikha ng sapat na trabaho para sa kanyang mamamayan.

Bukod sa kagukuhang politikal sa mga bansang Arabo, marami na sa mga OFWs ang nagiging biktima ng mga sindikato sa iligal na gamot. Kamakailan lamang, may lumapit sa Kanlungan Center Foundation na OFW na nagtrabaho sa Peru, isang bayan sa South America.

May ilang kaso na alam ng ilan nating kababayang nagtatrabaho sa ibang bansa ang hinggil sa paggamit sa kanila bilang “drug mule”, subalit kahit alam nila ang posibilidad na mapahamak, napipilitan silang gawin ito dahil na rin sa kawalang mapagpipilian. At hindi natin maiwasang magsimpatya sa mga ganitong pangyayari.

Walang ipinapakita ang kasalukuyang administrasyon ni P-Noy na alternatibong solusyon sa kalagayan ng OFWs, maging sa nagyayaring walang habas na pagtaas ng presyo ng mga bilihin. Hindi ito nakakapagtaka, dahil minsang ipinangako ng kanyang yumaong ina na si Corazon Aquino ang pagbaba ng presyo ng galung-gong noong dekada 80, subalit hindi natupad. Ang overseas employment na pangunahing programa ng itinuturing na kalaban sa politika noon ng mga Aquino na si Ferdinand Marcos ay ipinagpatuloy lamang ni Ginang Aquino.

Ngayong Mayo 1, sumama tayo sa iba pang manggagawa at magmartsa sa lansangan.

Sama-sama nating isigaw:

Itigil ang paggamit sa OFWs upang resolbahin ang kawalang trabaho sa bansa!

Itigil ang pagtaas sa presyo ng mga bilihin!

Itigil ang walang puknat na overpricing sa langis!
Isulong ang pagpapaunlad ng ekonomiya at pagsusulong ng tunay na reporma sa lupa!

Kanlungan Center Foundation, Inc. (KCFI)

May 1, 2011
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