Wednesday, August 17, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Situation on the ground

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotline

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

POEA: OFW deployment to Syria banned

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

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

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

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

Pinoy dentist in London in hot water over work permits

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

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

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

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

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

Macaraeg disputes fault

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

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

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

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

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

Manila hostage crisis survivors to seek compensation from PHL govt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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