Thursday, June 28, 2012


By Kristine Alave Philippine Daily Inquirer MANILA, Philippines – More Filipino mothers are dying during childbirth, underscoring their “unmet need” for modern family planning services, the Department of Health said Monday. Health Secretary Enrique Ona said the mortality rate for Filipino mothers has increased to 221 in 2011 from 162 in 2009. Ona lamented that poor delivery of health services for the poor was one of the main causes of death. He noted that maternal deaths were highly preventable through effective family planning services, antenatal care, and access to health facilities. “Reducing maternal deaths and meeting our MDG requires critical legislation to address structural barriers to universal health care,” Ona said. “Hence we need to pass the Reproductive Health Bill now, amend the midwifery and other health professions law, as well as consolidate local health systems at provincial level,” he added. -- MINA TENORIO Likhaan Center for Women's Health, Inc. 88 Times Street, West Triangle Homes, Quezon City 1104 Philippines Tel: (63 2) 926-6230 Fax: (63 2) 411-3151 Email:

Media Advisory

The Social Security System (SSS) invites members of media and stakeholders to the ffth raffe of winners of the SSS Member-Get-Member (MGM) for OFWs promo on June 29, at the Executive Lounge, 2nd foor SSS Building, East Avenue Diliman, Quezon City, 9:30 am. The SSS identifed last month the fourth batch of winners who were Merlinda Damaso, Aileen Barbosa and Diana Aniban (Hong Kong); Estela Ala (Oman); Aminola Kadil (Kuwait); Jennylyn Misa (Abu Dhabi); Roberto Mendoza, Maria Michaela Tan and Ma. Arvic Quisaot (London). Overseas Filipino workers have until June 30, 2012 to participate in the MGM promo. The last raffe of monthly winners of P10,000 each will be in July 2012. Nominators and nominees who complete six monthly contributions for January to June 2012 automatically qualify for the Grand Draw in September 2012

Pinoys in Israel seek overseas voting registration in Haifa area

Filipinos in Northern Israel have asked Philippine officials to hold a registration for overseas absentee voting (OAV) in the Haifa area for the May 2013 elections. During the Philippine Embassy’s first field activity there last February 25, leaders of the Filipino community suggested that registration must be conducted in the area “in order to cater to those Filipinos who have difficulties in accessing the services provided by the Embassy in view of their work schedules and distance of travel,” the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a news release. Some 1,651 overseas Filipinos in Israel have registered since the opening of the OAV registration three months ago, the DFA noted, with around 90 to 100 new registrants per week. Philippine officials have launched a number of activities to encourage more Israel-based Filipinos to register. The campaign program includes field registration, which—according to Vice Consul and OAV focal person Ferdinand Flores—“will be implemented as soon as logistical and technical arrangements have been finalized by the Commission on Elections.” The Embassy also teamed up with Orange, a mobile phone service provider in Israel, for an information campaign through short messaging service (SMS) that Filipino Orange subscribers will receive for free. It also received a separate line “solely dedicated to OAV registration inquiri

DOH: Maternal deaths up

By Mayen Jaymalin, The Philippine Star MANILA, Philippines - Health Secretary Enrique Ona disclosed that the latest survey of the National Statistics Office (NSO) showed an alarming increase in the number of deaths caused by pregnancy or childbirth complications. Based on the 2011 Family Health Survey, maternal mortality rate in the country went up to 221 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2010, from 162 deaths in 2006. Ona said that in 1993, the NSO recorded 209 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births. “This is now a challenge for us in the government because we are working to reduce maternal mortality rate in the country to 54 by year 2016,” Ona noted. He stressed the need for the passage of critical legislation and implementation of other appropriate measures to reduce maternal mortality in the country. “Reducing maternal mortality to 54 and meeting our Millennium Development Goal requires critical legislation to address structural barriers to universal health care. Hence, we need to pass the Reproductive Health bill now,” Ona stressed. He said there is also the need to amend the midwifery and other health professional laws as well as consolidate local health systems at the provincial level. Ona said the reduction in maternal mortality is essential, for it serves as a gauge of the country’s health system. “If you have a high maternal mortality rate it means that your health system is not good enough,” Ona explained. NSO director Socorro Abejo, however, stressed that the results of the survey set to be released today may not be entirely accurate. “The survey was based on a seven-year estimate and involves 53,000 women of reproductive age. Thus there is a high confidence interval, so for us the report may still be insufficient to state that mortality rate has increased,” she said. Abejo said there was also an overlapping of the survey reference period, which could have also affected results of the survey. “For us the figure merely indicates that the situation did not really change from a rough estimate of 200 maternal mortality rate in 1993 up to the present,” Abejo added. Even if the statistical data would indicate “no change,” Ona said the results still indicate no improvement as far as maternal health is concerned. “No change in the statistical data which means it did not get worse, but it also means that the situation for pregnant women did not get any better,” he pointed out. He said the programs being undertaken by the DOH for the past two years should be slowly showing impact in reducing maternal deaths. Maternal death, Ona said, is highly preventable through effective family planning health services, ante-natal care and access to health facilities. Ona said the DOH has started upgrading health facilities and intends to distribute some P500-million worth of family planning commodities this year in an effort to reduce maternal deaths. The DOH, however, admitted that family planning program has been very limited for the past 10 years, with an estimated six million women reported to having unmet need for modern family planning services. ---------------------------------------------------- Likhaan Center for Women's Health Inc. 88 Times St., West Triangle Homes Quezon City 1104 Philippines Tel: (63 2) 926-6230 Fax: (63 2) 411-3151 E-mail:

Mosque doubles as work haven for Bedouin women

ORI LEWIS AND NAAMA SHILONY, REUTERS JERUSALEM - Attired in traditional dress, Bedouin women gather in a desert mosque in Israel. They find their seats in a room near the prayer hall and then, speaking confidently in Hebrew, take calls from customers seeking help with phone problems. The mosque also doubles as a call centre and is a joint venture between Israel's largest telecoms group Bezeq Israel Telecom and Rayan, an organization working to promote employment among the Bedouin community. It is an indicator of the slow changes taking place in staunchly traditional Bedouin society in the Middle East, as women begin to venture to work outside the home. For years, most Bedouin women who do work have been limited to child care and teaching, close to home and out of contact with strangers. The impetus comes also from government, seeking to combat high poverty and low education levels in the Bedouin community. "Most Bedouin women would like to work in order to contribute income to their household alongside their husbands, but because there are no workplaces in the villages and they won't venture outside, many can't find a job," said Rayan director Mahmud Alamour. Bezeq originally considered placing the call centre in an industrial area in Hura, one of seven Bedouin townships in Israel's Negev desert. But Rayan officials knew this would make it difficult to persuade community leaders to allow women to work there, and so sought their views. "We knew the families would not agree, so the head of the local council and Rayan came up with the idea of the mosque," said Naifa al-Nabari, Rayan's women's vocational coordinator. Bezeq now employs 75 Bedouin women in the call centre and plans to expand the scheme, the success of which has prompted more women to apply for places. Poor minority Of Israel's population of 7.8 million, its workforce totals 3.3 million people, about half of them women. Of those some 70 percent are Jewish and about 20 percent Israeli Muslims, according to official figures. Of the Muslim women working, only 15 percent are Bedouin. The drive to help Bedouin women find employment is part of a broader plan to raise the standard of living in Israel's under-developed south, particularly the Negev desert which is dotted with heavy industry plants and military bases. Many of Israel's 170,000 Bedouin - once nomads who pitched their large tents in the arid wilderness - now live here in towns and villages. Helping these families to increase their income would ease pressure on Israel's social welfare system, strained also by payouts to poor Jewish ultra-Orthodox families with many children, where men are often full-time seminary students and women are the breadwinners. Poverty and unemployment levels are higher among the Arabs than in the Jewish community and education standards are also generally lower. Among Bedouin, which make up about a tenth of Israel's Arab community, the trend is even worse. "The worrying statistic that 81 percent of Bedouin women of working age are unemployed is set to change (through the opening of employment centres)...which will undoubtedly be a significant instrument to advance Bedouin employment in the Negev," the Trade and Industry Ministry said in a report. Itamar Harel, vice president of Bezeq's private marketing division, said the company benefited from employing Bedouin women because they were likely to stay for a long time, given the good pay and conditions at a place of work close to home, reducing the cost of re-training and staff turnover. "We think there is potential to retain these employees for an extended period...and this will reduce our costs on training new employees at a higher frequency," Harel explained. Rayan, which is sponsored by the Israeli government and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a humanitarian NGO, is now talking to other companies, aiming to persuade them to follow Bezeq's lead. Alamour is confident that further deals will be secured for investment in the community. "We have had many contacts with other companies to open workplaces in Hura or other locations...I am sure that in the end there will be many other work places similar to Bezeq's in Hura," he said. "We are very happy to welcome anybody who is willing to invest in the area but are open to any suggestions for workplaces, such as software development or assembly lines." Breaking taboos In neighboring Jordan, which has a large Bedouin community, women say approaches to work have been shifting for a while. Bedouin shop owner Sheikha Khalaf al-Shobasi, in the village of Zamlat al-Amir Ghazi, said attitudes within the community toward the idea of women working had changed in the last decade. She used a $3,000 government grant to open a store for confectionary and household items. "Bedouin women have for long been unfairly treated but it's much better now and men have become far more accepting of their wish to get a job," Shobasi said. "A Bedouin woman who does not work is a less desirable bride but if she has a job she will find it much more easy to get married." Abdul Wahed Al-Rasheed, a tribal elder in charge of several Jordanian projects to empower women, said social taboos about female employment were being shattered in Jordan's Bedouin heartland. He said male elders were now more accepting "as long as they are assured that the place of work is safe and preserves women's dignity and social traditions." Naifa al-Nabari, Rayan's women's vocational coordinator, said there were plenty of educated women in Hura and other towns in Israel's desert south but that until now almost all had become teachers. Working in customer service is a new departure. "We have many educated girls in the village, most of them are teachers and it was hard to convince them to consider a job other than in education. But now that they have seen the environment is secure, parents are bringing their daughters to offer them for work," Nabari said. "Girls are making a special effort to learn Hebrew so that they can come to work with us. Now women are earning a wage, it gives them a stronger position in the home and in the community," she said. Dalal Abu Kaf, 21, one of an initial group of recruits who is now a team leader at the call centre, said the opportunity to work had opened new horizons for her and the women she oversees. She said she hoped to fund her medical studies through her job. "I started from zero but I have risen to be a manager. I think my example can inspire other Bedouin women to go out and work," she said. "This is a big opportunity for all Arab women, especially Bedouin, and it makes us proud." - Reuters


The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) received a report from the Welfare Officers assigned in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) regarding two (2) Filipino seafarers hurt in the sea vessel explosion incident involving a gas tanker on 18 June 2012. The explosion incident happened when the Filipinos’ sea vessel was sailing the waters within the territorial jurisdiction of Fujairah, UAE. One of the two Filipino seafarers, Marianito Aguilon, 41 years old, from Pallocan, Batangas suffered a 44% burn while his colleague, Guillermo Enriquez, Jr., 29 years old, from Mabini, Batangas sustained 38% burn. They were immediately rushed to Fujairah Hospital to undergo treatment. According to the victims who were conscious at the time of the visit of the OWWA Welfare Officers in the UAE, their families have already been informed of the unfortunate incident. “We will continue to monitor the progress of the two Filipino seafarers through our officials assigned in the Post and extend necessary assistance to them. We will also ensure that proper assistance are provided to our unfortunate seafarers,” OWWA Officer-in-Charge Josefino I. Torres said. Families of the victims, according to OIC Torres will also be provided with psychosocial counseling under the “Kalinga sa Marino Project” of the OWWA, the AMOSUP, the JSU, the PJMCC and the IMMAJ.


MARIIN naming tinutuligsa ang kahibangan ng pamahalaang Aquino na magpautang ng isang bilyong dolyar sa International Monetary Fund samantalang kinukuripot ang serbisyo para sa mga overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Nararapat na sa mga OFWs ibuhos ang serbisyong katumbas ng US$1 bilyon dahil malaking bahagi rin ng dollar reserves ng bansa ay galing sa remittances ng milyon-milyong Pilipino na nagtatrabaho sa 190 bansa. Malaking tulong ang ganitong halaga upang maipagpatuloy ang pagpapatakbo ng sampung embahada at konsulado na balak ipasara ng pamahalaang Aquino. Malaking tulong ang pagkakaroon ng mga tanggapang ito upang kahit paano’y may matatakbuhan ang mga kababayan nating nangangailangan ng tulong. Malaki rin ang katumbas na halagang ito sa pagpapauwi ng mga OFWs na stranded sa Bahrain, Kuwait, Malaysia, at Saudi Arabia, dahil wala silang pamasahe pabalik sa Pilipinas. Malaking katumbas na halaga rin ang US$1 bilyon upang matugunan ang reintegration ng mga OFWs na naging biktima ng pag-aabuso, digmaan, human trafficking, at iba pang human rights violation. Malaki ring katumbas ang US$1 bilyon upang mapaunlad ang kabuhayan sa Pilipinas at hindi mapilitang mangibang-bayan ang ating mga guro at propesyunal. Marahil kung matugunan ang ganitong pangangailangan, na higit na marami pa kung tatanungin ang mga batayang sektor ng lipunan, maaari nang magpautang ang Pilipinas sa usurerong IMF. Subali’t hindi ngayon ang panahon. Kung nakakaipon na ang Pilipinas, bakit hindi pa higit na palakihin ang reserve fund? At bakit IMF ang magtatakda kung sino ang pauutangin ng Pilipinas at hindi? Gagamitin lamang ng IMF ang salaping ito upang lunurin sa utang ang mga bayang tulad ng Greece, Turkey, at Spain. Sa gitna ng pagtaas ng bilang ng mga kabataang nagtatrabaho, nakakasuka ang kayabangan at pagiging arogante ng pamahalaang Aquino. Sabagay, ganito naman yata ang mga hasyendero: inuunang suportahan ang mga usura at kapwa-hasyendero. At papatunayan muli ng kasaysayan na hindi nagtatagal ang kayabangan ng mga hasyendero: itinutumba sila mula sa kanilang napakataas na pedestal. Tutulan ang pagpapautang sa IMF! Ibuhos ang salaping-yaman ng bansa sa batayang sektor!

Coal and Mining - The Killing Industries

(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.) Death came swiftly suddenly but not it was not unexpected. One day in October 2011the motor bike pulled into the open entrance in front of the church rectory of Italian missionary, environmentalist and human rights defender Father Fausto Tentorio. When he came out of the rectory the killer pulled out his gun and shot the priest dead and drove away. Another shocking murder of a man who gave his life defending the ancestral lands of the indigenous people wanted by the mining company. Crime solved, the trigger was most likely pulled by a unknown mining tycoon. Hundreds of environmentalists defending the rights of the people to their ancestral homelands forests and agricultural lands that are being stolen by the rich and the powerful, have been killed according to Global Witness, a non-government agency. In the Philippines, as many as fifty Filipino environmental defenders have been killed in recent years allegedly by the money moguls behind the logging, mining and power plant industries. The UN environmental summit in Rio De Janeiro in Brazil has been declared a failure fizzling out like a damp squib with an insignificant document that failed to reach a clear binding agreement to curb global warming and end fossil fuel for energy production. It has achieved practically nothing to curb CO2 gasses and other harmful human activity that is causing global warming. It was supposed to get national leaders to agree to a sustainable green energy agenda for the future. The super rich industrialists and multinational oil and fossil fuel corporations have played a sinister role behind the scenes to stymie any progress towards a cleaner safer and happier world. Most come from a financial culture where "Greed is Good" and the only green they want to see is on a thousand dollar bill. In the Philippines, the voices of the many people demanding an end to the construction of coal powered plants are being ignored and even protesters are receiving threats. In Subic Bay, the entire bay and its towns are threatened by the proposed 600 MW coal plant project of R.P. Energy a consortium with powerful political connections in the cabinet of President Aquino. I pray that his energy policy will favor renewable energy and not coal and fossil fuel. His great legacy of anti-corruption might be sullied by these influential industrialists. He must serve the best interests of the people not the profit-making plans of the plutocracy. Industrialists and financing corporations lobby heavily to influence governments to continue the fossil fuel fiasco like power plants that poison the people in many countries. In the Philippines, the Secretary of Energy is pushing President Aquino into the furnace of coal fired power plants like fury. The honorable secretary has denied he is influenced in anyway by his past position in the private power generation sector. I pray for him to continue being good and faithful to the people and resist the pressures and temptations to give into the ploys of former associates, employers in the power generation industry to whom he may have an debt of honor (utang na Loob). His greater debt of honor is to the President and the people who elected him and who want a clean healthy environment. The Secretary of Energy is reported to want eleven coal fired power plants all over the country. Lower cost renewable sustainable electricity can be generated from volcanic heat through Geothermal plants and get lithium as a side product to make powerful batteries that can run clean electric cars. However mysteriously heavy import taxes are imposed on geothermal equipment. Almost none on mining and coal burning equipment. The Lopez group of companies First Gen Corporation is offering to construct two 300 megawatt hydro-plants on the Angat and Norzagaray rivers respectively. Other companies offer clean renewable and solar and wind power to make electricity. The Philippines should end the black and dirty coal policy. The proposed Subic Bay coal plant is mired in allegedly corrupt deals with the former government. They will only pay one million pesos a year in rent. These plants that are belching daily poison gasses and ash into the air we breath are killing people. There is no long term solution to dispose of the millions of tons of deadly semi-toxic ash and the deadly mercury and uranium pollutants will remain forever. The Lord of the Cosmos has given us a beautiful planet, we are morally bound to protect and cherish it and all living creatures.

Dear sisters....

In solidarity with the Paraguayan women and people, the World March of Women joins the international condemnation of the latest attack on their country’s democratic construction process. On the 22nd June Fernando Lugo – legitimately elected President in 2008 – was impeached following a political trial recognised as a parliamentary coup d’├ętat, a process widely supported by the press linked to the local oligarchy. In the Americas continent, we experienced a very similar situation in Honduras, exactly three years ago. We call on the WMW National Coordinating Bodies to express our solidarity and support towards the pacific resistance of the Paraguayan people, especially our sisters. We invite you to organise street actions in front of our parliaments, national governments, and the Paraguayan diplomatic representations in our countries, in order to demand: The NON recognition of Federico Franco as President of the Republic, due to his seizure of power through the manipulation of the Paraguayan National Constitution and the resulting violation of the institutional democracy installed in the country since 2008; The immediate return of Fernando Lugo to his presidential functions; The adoption of political and commercial sanctions until the legitimately elected government is reinstated; The guarantee of the Paraguayan people’s right to demonstrate against the coup, a right that is under constant threat from the authorities, such as the Ministry of Home Affairs, the police and the public prosecutors. We demand explanations for the deaths that took place in the Curuguaty district on the 15th June, a tragedy that has been manipulated in order to legitimise the trial against Lugo. We call for a transparent, effective and impartial investigation – with the support of international human rights missions – that allows all the weight of the law to fall on those responsible. We condemn and denounce the actions of Paraguayan press, in their concerted effort to un- inform, intoxicate the minds and silence the voices of the people. Their aim is to instil fear within, and thus demobilise, the population, as it was during the Stroessner dictatorship and the successive conservative, Colorado party, governments that followed it. We invite you all to demonstrate against this violation of the Paraguayan people’s rights, and to disseminate this call to action. Please also share information produced by the Paraguayan People’s Resistance Front: (in Spanish) and grassroots media channels such as Radio Mundo Real (, TV ALBA (, and “Minga Informativa de los movimientos sociales” ( (all in Spanish). Women on the march until we are all free! 27th June 2012 Please, send news on actions in your country to the email: Click to read this text at the WMW website.

Two Pinoy seamen suffer burns after ship catches fire

Two Filipino seafarers are now in a hospital after suffering burns aboard a ship in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on June 18, the news site Khaleej Times reported on Thursday. The report said the two Filipinoos are are now confined at Fujairah Hospital with burns but are expected to arrive in Batangas in the Philippines this month to be with their families. Marianito Aguilon, 41, suffered burns on 44 percent of his body while Guillermo Enriquez Jr., 29, suffered burns on 38 percent of his body, the report said. Both suffered burns in the face, hand, back and lower limbs, after a spark in the electrical blower caused a fire in their Motor Tanker Aris (M/T Aris) anchored a few miles off Fujairah. Both men were brought to the hospital by Oil Marketing Trading Industry (OMTI), the UAE agent of the Greek company, Coral Shipping, which owns M/T Aris. The Khaleej Times report said Vice President Jejomar Binay visited them at the hospital on June 23 before departing for Manila the next day. Guillermo said they were cleaning the engine room on June 18, when a spark in the blower caused a fire. - VVP, GMA News

Lost baggage, other airport gripes take thrill out of traveling

Most airport experiences don't end up as traumatic as Claudine Barretto's, but they're getting worse nearly everywhere in this age of security paranoia and traffic-snarled skies. According to the BBC, airports were once an "exciting window to the world," but now entire blogs are "dedicated to a whole array of airport gripes." BBC asked: "Has going through an airport really become so terrible it has taken the thrill out of travelling - and if so how did it happen?" "Common complaints include confusing signs, chaotic carousel crowding, rampant profiteering, having to remove shoes at security, lack of free wi-fi and lack of information on delays and cancellations," BBC said. In January this year, the travel site Frommer's cited the Philippines' Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 as one of the world's 10 worst airports. Recently, the newest and biggest NAIA complex — Terminal 3 — became the arena for a celebrity brawl featuring showbiz couple Claudine Barretto and Raymart Santiado, and tough-guy columnist Ramon Tulfo. The scuffle started when Barretto noticed Tulfo taking a photo of her as she was berating a ground crew member after their luggage was offloaded from their plane trip from Boracay. On Wednesday, Barretto and Santiago filed criminal charges against Tulfo over the scuffle. Security line woes Aside from issues about lost or offloaded baggage, BBC said security checks have become an inconvenience to many passengers. "Standing in the line at a security queue reminds me of a slaughterhouse line," said Mark Biwwa, 25, an online marketing professional from Malta, on his blog site. The Frommer's complete list of world's worst airports this year include: (1) New York JFK Airport Terminal 3 (2) Manila, Philippines Airport (Ninoy Aquino International Airport) Terminal 1 (3) Moscow Sheremetyevo Airport Terminal B/C (4) Nairobi, Kenya Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (5) Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport, Terminal 3 (6) Amman, Jordan Queen Alia Airport (7) New York LaGuardia Airport Terminal 5 (8) Terminal B at Newark Liberty International Airport (9) Paris' Beauvais Airport (10) Chicago Midway Airport In contrast, these are the 10 best airports, according to Frommer's: (1) Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) Hajj Terminal (2) Leifur Eriksson Air Terminal, Keflavik, Iceland (3) Seoul (South Korea) Incheon Airport 4. Wellington (New Zealand) “Rock” Terminal 5. New York JFK Airport Terminal 5 6. Singapore Changi International Airport Terminal 3 7. Marrakech (Morocco) Menara Airport Terminal 1 8. Madrid (Spain) Barajas Terminal 4 9. Carrasco International Airport, Montevideo, Uruguay 10. Bilbao (Spain) Airport Main Terminal NAIA-1's only redeeming quality According to the website Sleeping in Airports, NAIA Terminal 1 was the world’s worst airport terminal last in 2011 for being old and outdated. It has been criticized for being “congested, run-down and filthy, with toilets that do no work.” Passengers are also complaining of profiteering staff. "Forget about sleeping in this airport! You will not want to even close your eyes here! Bribery and theft exists. Airport taxes are collected, but the money does not seem to go towards the betterment of the airport. Document holders have been told their papers are not correct, but a fee of x amount should clear up the matter," a commenter on the Sleeping in Airports website said. Its only redeeming quality, according to Sleeping in Airports, was the free wi-fi. Meanwhile, according to the US Federal Bureau of Transportation Statistics, Chicago Midway is America’s worst airport for on-time departures. The “least-worst” on the list, Midway is redeemed by its new food court and a reliable subway connection to downtown Chicago. Frommer’s adds that its “curse may come more from Chicago's notoriously difficult weather than from any problem the airport itself can fix.” In France, passengers could be irked right at another airport’s misleading name—“Paris Beauvais" as it is hardly in Paris but is in the region of Picardy. Sleeping in Airports ranked it the world’s second worst airport in the world in 2011, largely because the airport closes from 11:30 p.m. to 6:30 am, and passengers looking to spend the night will be forced to camp out in the surrounding areas. Also in France is the Charles de Gaulle Airport Terminal 3, the country's largest airport and the world’s sixth busiest in terms of passenger traffic. Sleeping in Airports said Charles de Gaulle faces some serious problems about the homeless population constantly straying into the airport premises. Ranked the world’s worst airport for two consecutive years by Sleeping in Airports, Charles de Gaulle does not make an ideal place for transit passengers, as its “scattered” terminal buildings make changing planes in the airport “tiring, irritating and sometimes a little terrifying.” - with Ralph Angelo Ty/ VVP/HS, GMA News

MIAA: Repair work sa NAIA runway, 'di pa nagdudulot ng traffic congestion

AMANDA FERNANDEZ, GMA NEWS Pinabulaanan ng Manila International Airport Authority ang balitang nagdudulot umano ng traffic congestion ang pagsasara ng maikling bahagi ng runway ng Ninoy Aquino International Airport para sa repair work na isinasagawa doon. Ayon kay MIAA Control Tower Acting Supervisor Carlos Mundo, wala pang apektado na flight sa pagsasara ng pinakadulong bahagi ng NAIA Runway 06 sapagkat ang Runway 24 ang kadalasang ginagamit ngayon ng mga eroplano para sa landing at takeoff mula pa noong Mayo 25. "From May 25, we have been using Runway 24 dahil na rin sa kasalukuyang direksyon ng hangin," ayon sa kanya. Protocol na ng paliparan na gamitin lamang ang runway kung saan salungat ang hangin sa direksyon na pinupuntahan ng eroplano, paliwanag niya. Simula nitong Sabado, isinara ang dulong bahagi ng NAIA Runway 06 para sa kanilang isinasagawang rehabilitasyon ng lightning system ng runway. Magtatagal ang repairs ng isang buwan. Napaulat na may ilang pasahero umanong nagreklamo sa pagkaantala nitong weekend ng kanilang flights ng dalawang oras, kasama na ang paghihintay sa loob ng eroplano bago ang take-off. Runway 06 Samantala, maaari pa rin umanong gamitin ang Runway 06 maliban na lamang sa mga "heavier aircraft tulad ng Boeing 747 at iba pang international airliners," ayon kay Mundo. Ayon naman kay MIAA operations department chief Alvin Candelaria, napaiksi lamang umano ng 3,110 metro ang runway mula sa aktwal na 3,410-metrong haba nito. Iginiit ni Candelaria na kaunting flights lamang ang maapektuhan, aniya, may mga nakatalagang Pushback Tractors upang tumulong na maitulak ang mga eroplano. Dagdag pa niya, kaunti lamang na flights ang apektado sapagkat karamihan sa mga eroplano ay ginagamit ang Runway 24 para sa kanilang landing at takeoff. Maaari din umanong magsagawa ng “intersection takeoff” ang mga piloto simula sa Echo 5 junction ng paliparan, na katabi ng tarmac sa NAIA-1. — LBG, GMA News

Indonesian national nabbed at NAIA-3 with 3.7 kilos of shabu worth P15M — PNP

Now in the custody of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency are a suspected illegal drugs courier and 3.7 kilograms of white powdery substance suspected to be methamphetamine hydrochloride or shabu, the Philippine National Police said Sunday. PNP spokesperson Senior Supt. Generoso Cerbo, Jr. said routine inspection at the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport led to the discovery and seizure of the white substance from the suspect, Indonesian national Jovian Francisca. The suspected shabu has an estimated value of P15 million, Cerbo said. He said Francisca entered the country via a Cebu Pacific flight from Hongkong at around 1:15 p.m. — ELR, GMA News

NEDA okays NAIA expressway project

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Arsenio Balisacan said Thursday that President Benigno Aquino III has approved the second phase of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Project. “It has been approved by the NEDA Board so they (the Department of Public Works and Highways or DPWH) can now proceed with the bidding,” Balisacan told reporters on the sidelines of the National Income Accounts press briefing. Balisacan said the NEDA Board, chaired by President Aquino, approved the project in a meeting late Wednesday. According to the DPWH website, the NAIA road project “is a 4-lane elevated expressway with a total length of 5.2 kms. Starting from Sales St. going to Andrews Ave., Domestic Road, MIA Rd., and ends at Roxas Blvd. It includes the construction of a toll plaza and five on and off ramps.” Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the expressway would provide connectivity from Metro Manila's main arteries to airport terminals 1, 2, and 3. According to the DPWH, the project will cost P13.575 billion. The project, from the submission of a detailed design to construction, will run from 2012 to 2015. — DVM/YA, GMA News

Human rights group questions labor rights of migrant workers in Qatar

DOHA - On the outskirts of Doha, capital of one of the world's richest countries, migrant workers who have helped build the city's glittering skyscrapers and luxury shopping malls live in conditions akin to a shantytown. Clothes hang along a wall at a camp for migrant workers in the Doha Industrial Area next to piles of garbage and abandoned car parts, while petrol from an overflowing tank drips onto the ground and the air reeks of the stench from an open sewer. Indoors, a single rusty hob covered in grime suffices as kitchen equipment. Bhanu, a Nepalese worker living in the camp, says he puts up with such conditions because he can earn more than he ever could in his own country. "I'm here so that I can send money home," he said. But as Qatar prepares to host the 2022 World Cup soccer tournament, and is pouring billions of dollars into an infrastructure program that will require vast numbers of foreign workers, its treatment of migrant labour is coming under the international spotlight. There is no minimum wage in this tiny Gulf Arab state, so while workers like Bhanu might be glad to have a job when there are few back home and pay is higher, their wages typically range from $8 to $11 a day, and are sometimes as low as $6.75 a day - paltry for a country that boasts a per capita income of around $100,000, one of the highest in the world. New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report this month condemning abuses it found in Qatar, calling for an overhaul of labor practices well ahead of the 2022 tournament. "We met a group of seven Nepali workers at (Qatar's flagship sports complex) Aspire Zone, who said that their employer had not paid them for nearly four months, and that they wanted to return home to Nepal but their employer refused to give their passports back," Human Rights Watch Middle East researcher Priyanka Motaparthy told Reuters in the Qatari capital. "We interviewed workers on Doha's new airport who said they had illegal wage deductions - employers who had taken money out of their monthly paychecks." Foreign laborers' plight contrasts with the rising wealth of Qatar's own nationals - who account for just 250,000 of the country's 1.7 million population - which has helped the state, the world's biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, avoid the unrest seen in other parts of the Middle East in the past year. Last September, the government raised basic salaries and social benefits for Qatari public sector employees by 60 percent, while military staff received 50-120 percent increases. There were no such pay rises for migrant workers. Many of those workers, predominantly from India, Nepal and Bangladesh, accumulate significant debts to finance their move to the Gulf, Motaparthy said. Often they arrive without accurate information about the jobs that await them and become trapped in jobs they never agreed to, or receive salaries far below what they counted upon earning. "Employers are supposed to be responsible for recruitment fees, but nearly every worker we spoke to in Qatar paid their own," she said. While foreign contractors are often to blame for worker abuse, human rights groups criticise the Qatari government for not ensuring companies abide by local laws. Other Gulf states have also been criticised for their treatment of migrant workers, including the United Arab Emirates, where HRW has highlighted hidden charges and other abuses imposed on labourers on a $27 billion cultural project in Abu Dhabi that will host branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums. However, international human rights organisations say Qatar lags other Gulf states in terms of worker protection, with a sponsorship law seen as one of the most restrictive in the Gulf. Kuwait and Bahrain have amended their sponsorship rules so workers can change employers after working under a sponsor for three years in Kuwait and for one year in Bahrain. In Qatar, workers need their sponsor's permission to change jobs no matter how long they have worked, leaving employers with the power to register workers who quit as "absconders" subject to detention and deportation or deny them exit visas, HRW says. Qatar's Ministry of Labour did not respond to requests by Reuters for an interview with officials on employment issues. Ministry of Labour Undersecretary Hussein al-Mulla was quoted as saying by local newspaper al-Arab in May that Qatar intended to abolish the sponsorship system and replace it with a contract-based system. He did not give a timeframe. Human rights and labour activists say the fact that HRW was allowed to hold a news conference in Qatar this month may be a sign that the government, keen to boost its international image ahead of the World Cup, will address problems. Qatar's current labour law, passed in 2004, sets a limit on working hours for local and foreign labourers, apart from domestic workers such as housemaids, and makes provisions for workers' health and safety. It requires employers to pay wages on time each month and bans recruitment agents licensed in Qatar from charging workers fees. It also prohibits employers from confiscating passports, sets strict requirements for workers' accommodation and bans midday work during summer months. But inadequate enforcement of the law means employers can pick and choose what protections to give with relative impunity, HRW said. The law also stipulates that no more than four workers share a room in workers' accommodation, prohibits the use of bunk beds, and requires employers to provide drinking water, air conditioning and proper ventilation at all worker accommodation. Yet at three labour camps visited by Reuters there were eight workers per small room, all of whom slept in bunk beds. "The laws are there. They're quite detailed and good. And there are significant penalties for breaking these provisions. But there's no implementation," said Motaparthy, who met officials at Qatar's Foreign Affairs Ministry this month. "The line over and over again from Qatari officials is that this is illegal in Qatar, so it must not be happening." Inadequate monitoring As construction on most of the World Cup-specific projects has not yet begun, the number of migrant workers heading to Qatar is likely to rise sharply in the next few years. The Qatar government, which forecasts a budget surplus of 8 percent of GDP for 2012/13 and revenues of 206 billion riyals ($56.6 bln) thanks to booming revenues from liquefied natural gas, has outlined lavish public investment plans worth $95 billion over five years to 2016. That will include building roads, public transport facilities, an $11 billion airport, nine state-of-the-art stadiums equipped with cooling technology, and 54 team camps in preparation for the soccer tournament. Hassan Al Thawadi, secretary general of the government-run committee overseeing World Cup preparations, acknowledged earlier this year that there were labour issues but said Qatar was committed to reform, and contractors would be required to ensure that international labour standards were met. HRW has asked the committee to introduce independent monitoring of all its projects. "They do understand that they are out of step with the global community. They profess to care, but I have very little confidence that we are looking at a government that is really prepared to remedy the situation," Sharan Burrow, General Secretary of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), who met with officials from Qatar's Labour Ministry this month, told Reuters by telephone. The ITUC has asked to provide a list of companies that it recommends should work on infrastructure projects in Qatar and the government has agreed. U.S. construction and engineering firm CH2M Hill Inc, which will oversee the construction of World Cup stadiums in Qatar, has said it is working with the government-led committee to develop standards for foreign workers, who are not allowed to join unions in the Gulf state. For impoverished nations like Nepal and Bangladesh, remittances sent back home from the Gulf by labourers like Bhanu provide a key source of foreign exchange. But unlike in the UAE, which introduced an electronic wage payment system in 2009, most workers in Qatar are paid in cash rather than via bank accounts, making it difficult to monitor whether they have been paid. Previous World Cups have provided an opportunity to advance workers' rights in host countries. Workers in South Africa, host of the 2010 World Cup, and Brazil, due to stage the event in 2014, secured wage rises and health and safety provisions. Pressure on Qatar to follow suit will only intensify. "We said to the Foreign Affairs ministry, Qatar has been a leader in calling for human rights in Libya, in calling for the protection of people in Syria. You can be a leader here, too. This is an opportunity," Motaparthy of HRW said. - Reuters

Businessman's vehicle catches fire, snarls traffic near NAIA

Traffic near the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was snarled on Monday noon after a business's sport utility vehicle caught fire while leaving the NAIA Terminal 1 area in Pasay City. No one was reported hurt in the incident, which caused traffic along a major part of the road near NAIA, radio dzBB's Sam Nielsen reported. A fire truck from the Manila International Airport Authority spread foam over the affected area to keep the fire from spreading. The vehicle, a Serena-type sport utility vehicle (XEA-383) belonging to businessman Alberto Sta. Ana, was gutted in the fire. A separate dzBB report quoted Sta. Ana as saying the vehicle's battery may have shorted and sparked the fire. Sta. Ana said seven people were aboard the vehicle when it caught fire. He said he bought the vehicle secondhand. - VVP, GMA News

Malaysia Airports mulls bidding for China, Indonesia, Philippine projects

BEIJING—Malaysia Airports Holdings is looking to bid for new airport projects in Indonesia, China, and the Philippines, its chief executive said on Monday. "We are in initial discussion with them... (to bid for) maybe one airport in each country," Tan Sri Bashir Ahmad told Reuters on the sidelines of an IATA airline conference. Ahmad said the company was not looking to exit a consortium led by India's GMR Infrastructure that operates New Delhi airport, even after Germany's Fraport, another partner in the group, said last week it was shutting down its Indian operations as a result of a lack of opportunities. —Reuters

19 Pinoy suspected tourist-workers intercepted at NAIA

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) on Thursday reported that 19 Filipino suspected "tourist-workers," who had insufficient travel documents were intercepted at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as they were about to leave for Italy and South Korea last month. The Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT) is now investigating the case of the 19 Filipinos who were barred from leaving the country on two separate occasions (May 16 and May 28). Benito Se, BI-Airport Operations Division head supervisor, said the Filipinos, who were not identified, pretended to be tourists but actually intended to work abroad. “It was evident from the results of secondary inspection conducted by our immigration officers that the passengers were victims of human trafficking. We had no choice but to disallow their departure,” BI Commissioner Ricardo David Jr. said in a statement. The May 16 incident involved 13 passengers disguised as members of a religious group. They claimed that they were invited to attend the 7th World Families Meeting in Milan, Italy, a triennial international event hosted by the Vatican. A certain “archbishop” from the Orthodox Catholic Church in the Philippines (OCCP), whom the passengers claimed to be the one who facilitated their travel to Italy, accompanied them. When immigration officials sought the archbishop for questioning, he could not be found and apparently left the airport to evade investigation. He is now the subject of investigation by the IACAT. It also turned out during questioning that the passengers are actually Roman Catholics and not members of the OCCP. Korea-bound 'tourist workers' Meanwhile, David said the IACAT is also probing the case of six Filipino women bound for South Korea who were intercepted at the NAIA Terminal 1 last May 28. The women initially claimed they would be vacationing in Hong Kong but were prompted to admit during questioning that they were going to South Korea. They then presented their E-6 visas from the South Korean embassy and admitted that they were going there to work as nightclub entertainers. They did not have valid Philippine Overseas Employment Administration certificates. — B.L. Vergara /LBG/VVP, GMA News

Monday, June 25, 2012

OWWA:Notice to the Public on Maksim Power International

From Announcements - 8 June 2011 06:02 AM Please be informed that the Philippine Embassy in Berlin, Germany received several queries regarding job offers from Maksim Power International reportedly based in Dortmund, Germany. The public is hereby warned that “Maksim Power International” with address in Dortmunder Str. 417, 58743 Schwetzingen is NOT registered with the Chamber of Commerce in Dortmund (IHK Dortmund) nor with the Dortmund’s Amstgericht Registry. Also, the postal code (58743) used by Maksim Power International is not the postal code for Dortmund or Schwetzingen. Those who received job offers to work in Germany for the said company are hereby advised to disregard the invitation, and not to communicate nor transact with the said firm. Furthermore, prospective applicants are also advised not to deal nor transact with Barkev Network Inc. with address in Garmischer Str. 135, 51477 Munich which has been tasked by Maksim Power International to facilitate all the documentary requirements for job applications.

OWWA advisory

ADVISORY: Italy Passes Law Against Illegal Migration All Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are advised of the passage of the Italian Parliament of Law No. 92 (Law 92) titled Security Package’, and sub-titled ‘Measures for a More Secure Life for the Citizens’. The new law aims to stem illegal migration by making it more difficult for foreigners to enter Italy if they do not have the proper documentation. Law 92, which effectively makes illegal entry a crime in Italian jurisdiction, has the following provisions/features, among others: a) Imprisonment from six (6) months to four (4) years and the obligatory arrest of the illegal entrant who will be subjected to a quick trial; b) Phenomenon of the so-called ‘marriage for convenience’ with the sole purpose of acquiring Italian citizenship; c) Establishment of a national data bank to ascertain paternity of a person and blood relationships of foreign citizens; d) Easier expulsions/deportations; e) Arrest and confiscation of properties transferred through illegal titles to foreigners who are irregularly staying in Italian jurisdiction; and f) Extension up to eighteen (18) months the period of stay in centers of temporary welcome. As Italy is a favored destination for OFWs, the circulation of this latest information hopes to prevent or minimize problems arising from illegal migration.

POEA news Advisory

POEA warns recruiters and workers on restricted OFW destinations POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac yesterday warned placement agencies to stop recruiting workers, and job applicants not to accept job offers, for Syria and other countries declared by the government as dangerous to OFWs. Cacdac said the POEA is filing charges motu propio against licensed recruitment agencies found to have deployed workers to countries with existing restrictions. “These recruiters are heartless, sending their recruits to actual war zones and other destinations with hostile and hazardous working conditions,” he added. Cacdac said the deployment of OFWs to prohibited destinations cannot proceed without those illegal recruiters who continue to circumvent the ban by sending Filipino workers to their destinations through a third country. The POEA has already filed charges against nine recruitment agencies for deploying household service workers to Syria early this year. The government issued a total deployment ban to Syria in August 2011 because of continued political unrest in that country. Hundreds of illegally deployed Filipino workers have already been repatriated from Syria as of date. Cacdac further identified other countries with varied restrictions, as follows: 1. Afghanistan - Only rehires working inside American military camps and facilities with existing employment contracts are allowed. (Governing Board Resolution No. 5, Series of 2011) 2. Iraq – All skills are banned except in Kurdistan Region. (Governing Board Resolution No. 3, Series of 2012) 3. Lebanon - Returning workers who were processed prior to June 18, 2007 and returning to the same employer are allowed (Governing Board Resolution No. 1, Series of 2011) 4. Jordan – Newly hired household service workers are not allowed (POEA Advisory No. 1, 13 January 2011) 5. Yemen – Only workers returning to existing employers are allowed (Governing Board Resolution No. 2, Series of 2012)


Two US employment agencies in POEA blacklist POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac yesterday ordered the exclusion of two US-based companies from participating in the government’s overseas employment program for contractual violation under the POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers. Cacdac said the order resolved with finality the recruitment violation case filed against US Opportunities and Royal Hospitality Services, LLC, both employment services company, for their failure to provide several OFWs the jobs specified in their contracts. The POEA initiated the complaint motu propio after the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Washington reported to Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz in 2010 regarding the plight of 24 OFWs who were alleged victims of human trafficking for forced labor. To prevent them from recruiting other OFWs, the POEA immediately suspended the license of ZDrive, Inc, the U.S. companies’ accredited recruitment agency in the Philippines on August 20, 2010. Its license was eventually cancelled by the POEA on May 31, 2011. Awaiting the resolution of the case, the POEA also put US Opportunities and Royal Hospitality Services, LLC under preventive suspension and were not allowed to recruit additional Filipino workers for their client companies. The victims said they paid up to P350,000 in fees to get jobs in hotels in Florida under US H2B visa, but were instead brought to Mississippi and were made to work in farms planting seeds and have to live in trailers, trapped in the woods for a month without water and electricity. They were allegedly subjected to threats and intimidation, made to work raking and bailing pine leaves in the dead of winter, and forced to plant 1,800 pine tree seedlings a day for a measly wage of US$40.00 a week. Eventually, they found the courage to escape and got in touch with ZDrive, Inc.However, instead of helping the victims, ZDrive, Inc. referred them to Royal Hospitality Services, which placed them in various hotels and entertainment facilities where they were paid below the minimum wage and their wages subjected to illegal deductions. Cacdac said separate human trafficking cases were already filed against the recruiters in the US Department of Home Security and the Department of Justice in the Philippines. The owner of US Opportunities, a certain Mike Lombardi had recently pleaded guilty to charges of visa fraud, and is now in detention, awaiting judgment on August 6, 2012.

POEA News: Recruitment agency suspended for evading deployment ban

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has suspended the license of FMJ International Manpower and Allied Services Inc. for using visas issued to sales and restaurant workers to deploy domestic workers to other employers in Jordan. Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said the POEA has stopped processing of contracts of newly-hired Filipino household service workers for Jordan since January 2008. Cacdac said the POEA, on its own, initiated a complaint against FMJ International for violation of the POEA Rules and Regulations Governing the Recruitment and Employment of Land-based Overseas Workers based on a letter-complaint of Mr. Semean Dahdal, human resource manager of Aqaba Grand Stores in Amman, Jordan. Mr. Dahdal alleged that “FMJ International, Aqaba’s recruitment agent in the Philippines, has abused the job orders issued to it”. “Upon verification through Aseza of Aqaba and the Ministry of Labor in Amman, the names on the list are all entered as housemaids in Jordan with different sponsors and different local housemaid agencies”, Mr. Dahdal said in his letter. Cacdac said misrepresentation in connection with recruitment and placement of workers, and falsifying or altering travel document of an applicant worker in relation to overseas recruitment activities are acts prohibited under Section 2 , Rule I, Part VI of the POEA rules and regulation. In his order, Cacdac said “… we find strong prima facie evidence of violations of the aforementioned provisions against respondent FMJ International Manpower and Allied Services Inc. and that exists a reasonable ground to believe that the continued recruitment and deployment of OFWs by the said respondent agency will result in further violation and exploitation of migrant workers.” Cacdac said the suspension order will remain pending investigation of the case and determination of other possible charges against FMJ International. ###

Dubai warns citizens, expats vs. fake jobs

Authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) warned citizens and expatriates against fake job advertisements circulating on smart devices. UAE police said many of the messages spread via direct BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) messages, Khaleej Times reported on Sunday night. "The Police Al Ameen Service warns that mischievous people use personal e-mail to receive applications and CVs from applicants, but the main purpose behind this conduct is to identify the girls and exploit their needs for any job or humanitarian aid," the report said. One way to tell the ads are fake is that they do not refer to the official source of the ads, Khaleej Times said. The Al Ameen service advised the public not to disclose their personal files and CVs to phony advertisers. It urged them instead to apply directly to the public institutions or private companies or head directly to the office of charity organization. - VVP, GMA News

Some Pinoys, Vietnamese in US boycott Chinese products

ELTON LUGAY, THE FILAM June 25, 2012 9:30am Dozens of Filipinos and Vietnamese Americans joined forces as they called for a boycott of Chinese products and urged Beijing to stop its creeping aggression toward countries around the South China Sea. “Boycott Made-in-China,” said Eric Lachica of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, which organized the rally held June 22 in front of the United Nations headquarters. China’s claims over the West Philippines’ Sea in the Panatag Shoal (or Scarborough) and over Vietnam’s Sea are a recurring dispute. Both countries maintain China has been violating international laws of the sea. Dr. Hoi Van Do, president of the Vietnamese community in Florida said his country and the Philippines are on the same side of the issue. “Communist China dominates and takes over our islands and Scarborough Shoal of the Philippines,” he told The FilAm. “We are against them and we support you against them.” Filipinos and Vietnamese leaders are slated to meet with the CEOs of major retailers like Wal-Mart, Costco, K-mart, Home Depot and others, urging them to stop selling Chinese-made merchandise. They said they would warn retail chains about communist China’s “imperialistic policies and undemocratic rule and widespread human and labor rights violations.” Dr. Do and many rally organizers, such as Rene Ballenas and Bambi Lorica, pledged they were even willing to stay away from Chinese restaurants. “We are global citizens scattered throughout the world who can mobilize and galvanize public opinion against China,” said rally speaker Joe Ramos said. “China’s export economy is very vulnerable.” Lachica said the Boycott-China campaign will “change history,” harnessing the support of millions of Asian Americans. He said People Power in America could start with the 1.5 million Vietnamese in the U.S. and the approximately four million Filipino Americans. “If only one million of us, Filipinos, out of the four million will not buy Chinese products or goods just once a month, we will create a huge financial penalty on China. China will lose almost a quarter of a billion dollars per year,” Lachica projected. He stressed Filipinos are not against Chinese people or Chinese American friends, but “if we value our economy and our freedom of labor, we should boycott and not buy Chinese communist products.” He said further that the global community should close ranks against Beijing’s bullying and be made aware that the communist government is using its might to encroach on smaller countries like the Philippines and Vietnam. “This is treachery, an invasion of Philippine territory,” Loida Nicolas Lewis, chair of the U.S. Pinoys for Good Governance, said in a statement. “Their (China) ships are still in the Panatag Shoal and continue to violate international laws. We want this issue brought to the United Nations International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea. China has refused to agree. China’s government is belligerent.” - The FilAm

Plenary Meeting of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development 2012

20-22 June 2012 Riocentro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Honorable Arsenio M. Balisacan Minister of Socioeconomic Planning Republic of the Philippines Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen: a pleasant good morning. The Philippines believes that the Outcome Document is the minimum that can be agreed upon by consensus among all the world’s stakeholders. The document serves as a framework for individual actions and collective efforts to achieve sustainable development toward the creation of a better future for the next generations. The country aligns itself with G77 and China, as well as other member states in striving for inclusive growth to reduce poverty and create a world that is just and equitable. Along this line, the Philippines reaffirms its commitment to sustainable development and recognizes that people are at the center of development. Twenty years since the adoption of Agenda 21, the country has initiated efforts to mainstream sustainable development in planning, policy formulation and project implementation at the national and local levels. In its effort to provide an institutional structure for the implementation and monitoring of sustainable development initiatives, the country has formulated its Philippine Agenda 21 and established a Philippine Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and its local counterparts. However, much more needs to be done, especially in enhancing and sustaining the integrity of ecosystems that support the country’s platform for economic growth and social development. The country’s geological location and ecological characteristics make it vulnerable to natural hazards and impacts of climate change. For these reasons, the Philippines puts importance on strengthening institutional capacities for climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction and management to improve the resiliency of its ecosystems, communities and people. The Philippines’ experience further provides evidence that successful integration of the three pillars of sustainable development -- social, economic and environmental - can be realized both at the local and national levels. The Philippines believes that sustainable communities create a sustainable nation and the consolidation of these sustainable nations creates a sustainable world. Recognizing the progress made, albeit modest, to achieve a sustainable future and the many challenges ahead, the Philippines considers green economy as a positive option to achieve sustainable development. To facilitate the transition to green economy, the global community must consider the need for common but differentiated responsibilities between developed and developing countries that reflects national development goals, priorities and capacities. While majority of the country’s development priorities have been included in the Outcome Document of the Conference, the following concerns on the Means of Implementation, especially pertaining to developing countries, should be addressed: 1. Access, technology transfer, knowledge sharing and cooperation, on green and economically viable production technologies, especially for energy and industries, thereby closing the technology gaps between developed and developing countries; 2. Long-term financial and green investment, including the establishment of green development fund, that will assist developing countries in rehabilitating and sustaining their natural capital; 3. Capacity building that institutionalizes environmental and resource accounting, developing green cities, and implementing environmentally sustainable transport systems; 4. Avoidance of trade protectionism and tying conditionalities to official development assistance (ODA) and uphold instead trade policies that prevent unfair competition that arises when countries protect their own production sectors through trade-distorting subsidies and non-tariff barriers, including unwarranted sanitary and phytosanitary measures; and 5. Strong consideration of social dimensions, including gender equality and women empowerment, with respect to reproductive rights, universal health coverage, bio-cultural diversity, and heritage. The Philippines believes that the attainment of sustainable development can be best ensured by the participation of all stakeholders in decision-making and implementation and monitoring while strengthening the capacities of communities and local chief executives. Developing countries like the Philippines will benefit from heightened support of international and regional institutions in the effective localization of sustainable development. Hence, the Philippines reaffirms its support for the strengthening of the UN Economic and Social Council to achieve a balanced integration of the three pillars of sustainable development, and of the United Nations Environmental Programme to ensure that the environmental pillar of sustainable development will be continuously integrated in the international, regional and national development processes. To attain sustainable development, the Philippines supports the establishment of clear, measurable, and verifiable sustainable development goals. The country believes that sustainable development goals can help ensure actions that will significantly contribute to the realization of the development vision. The Philippines believes that this Rio+20 Conference is an opportunity for all nations to work together to achieve sustainable development. As we go back to our capitals, we will start to concretize and take action on the agreements reached and sustain the partnerships that have been established. I wish to extend our gratitude to the Government of Brazil for hosting the Rio+20 Conference and ensuring its success. I also commend the Conference Secretariat, Secretary-General Sha Zukang and the Bureau, co-chaired by Ambassador John Ashe of Antigua and Barbuda and Ambassador Sook Kim of the Republic of Korea, for its leadership and tireless effort in helping Brazil come up with the Outcome Document: The Future that We Want, a document that will shape the present and next generations’ development. Thank you.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Asian Movements’ Statement on the Green Economy

Fight for Our Future! No Price on Nature! We are movements and organizations from Asia, waging struggles on various fronts and arenas to defend our rights, resist policies and projects that cause harm and destruction, and to fight for immediate priorities and demands, as well as profound transformation of our societies. We envision a social and economic system: • that is aimed at providing for the needs of people and aspirations for a humane, empowering and liberating life in a manner that respects the earth’s capacity to regenerate, and to sustain life based on the integrity of natural systems; • that is based on and promotes equity, parity, solidarity and mutual respect among people and nations regardless of gender, race and ethnicity, culture, capabilities and class; • that promotes sharing of land, water, forests, atmosphere, eco-systems and territories based on the principles of stewardship and not private ownership, and the rights of all people to equitable and responsible access to, and use of the commons; • where there is equitable and democratic control of economic resources; • where there is peace is based on justice and not the overcoming of conflict through the use of deception and military might; Our sufferings and struggles have been compounded by multiple, recurring global crises of food, energy, finance and climate. These crises are symptoms and results of the fundamental flaws and injustices of the global capitalist system. The recurring crises of the global capitalist system have spawned various efforts to save the system and keep generating profits, most recent of which is the “Green Economy” being proposed by global institutions and now the subject of debate in the Rio+20 process. We reject the “Green Economy” as proposed and envisioned for the following reasons: • The Green Economy is not characterized by a redistribution of the ownership and control of economic resources. It is premised on a highly inequitable and undemocratic structure where a few control a vast portion of resources – natural, economic, financial. • The Green Economy is not oriented towards providing for peoples’ needs in a manner that is in harmony with the environment and within the earth’s carrying capacity. Instead it upholds profit generation as the main motivation for economic undertakings, aggregate growth as the main measure of success, and markets as main determinants of what goods and services are sold and who can buy them. • A strong and sustainable global economy can only be founded on strong, vibrant and sustainable national and local economies. The Green Economy is premised on continued integration of national and local economies of South countries with global markets, resulting in the net outflow of resources and wealth from the South to the North, a race to the bottom in terms of wages and prices of our materials, and weak economies. Only Asian elites are benefiting from these kinds of national and local economies. • The Green economy does not recognize and account for discrimination and disparities based on gender, class, race and ethnicity, nor does it recognize social reproduction and activities outside of the public sphere such as the invisible work of women. Economies that are blind to these conditions will only serve to reinforce injustices arising from these. • The Green Economy will not green agriculture, feed the hungry, generate decent jobs or eliminate poverty. Instead it will distort entitlements in favor of those who can pay, cut subsidies in areas crucial to the poor and lead to the disintegration of local, diverse food systems. • The Green Economy does not recognize the principle that land, water, forests, atmosphere, eco-systems and territories should not be subjected to private ownership and control, nor does it recognize the rights of all to fair and sustainable access to and use of the commons. • In fact, the Green Economy is being defined on quite the opposite principle – to treat nature and the functions of nature as capital. This “natural capital” and accompanying low carbon technologies will supposedly be the new drivers of what will now be “green growth.” These propositions are supposedly what primarily differentiate the green economy from the “brown economy”. Capital by definition is owned, can be bought, sold, traded, on the basis of which financial instruments can be derived several times over. The proposal to treat nature and the capacities and functions of nature as capital is clearly intended to subject them to private ownership, and to package them as commodities for trading in global markets and for profit generation. • This Green Economy will definitely not result in “improved human well-being and social equity while significantly reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.” • Instead, the Green Economy will raise the commodification, privatization and financialization of nature and concentration of control over nature by elites to new heights. o Commodification, privatization and financialization of natural resources have been happening for some time. The Green Economy will deepen these processes expand them to include all resources that are crucial to life, e.g., water, biodiversity, atmosphere, forests, lands, seeds, etc. ; the Green Economy will intensify the globalization of the right to own and monopolize these resources , globalization of such markets, and globalization of impacts. o Commodification, privatization and financialization of whole eco-systems and specific functions of nature has just began, as exemplified by REDD. The Green Economy will complete, consolidate and globalize this process.

The Greatest Freedom

(Fr. Shay's columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.) Independence Day celebrates political and economic freedom from the domination and exploitation of foreign powers and the establishment of a sovereign nation. It ought to be the freedom to build a country filled with patriotic fervor that cherishes its independence and sovereignty. A most exciting and joyous day of the year but in the Philippines it is not greatly so. Filipinos openly acknowledge the political realities. They are free from the tyranny of a dictator yet true independence is an illusion. The greatest freedom eludes them. They are not free from poverty, hardship, injustice and the fear of hunger and even assassination when they speak out for justice and against the corrupt politicians. Retaliation with an assassin's bullet to the brain is swift and deadly. Priests, pastors, social and political activists are all victims of such a sudden death. As many as 72 journalists have been killed in the Philippines since 1992. The nation is captive, held by the shackles of poverty forged by the powerful ruling oligarchy of the rich elite that masquerades behind the mask of democracy and with the well funded military, their faithful protector. The people stoically endure it with satirical humor and resignation since there is no viable alternative other than violent revolution and people power. That has been tried and failed. The well funded political clique manipulates the elections so that the dynastic families stay indefinitely in power and increase their riches to stay in power. Sons and daughters follow their fathers and mothers, uncles and cousins into political office and appoint their extended family members to positions of power and influence. The same families shamelessly rule towns and cities and hold congressional seats for generations. They feud among themselves and some commit mass murders and violent massacres like the Maguindanao massacre of November 2009. The suspect Ampatuan dynastic families are accused of being behind it. Murdered were 57 members of a rival political family and 32 journalists. The brave man Esmail Enog, who testified in court against the suspects, was recently found dead, chain-sawed to pieces. The only sure freedom from hardship and suffering is death. Even so the congress, dominated by the wealthy families will not pass a law banning dynasties as the constitution demands, careful not to hasten their own demise. So the 93.3 million Filipinos are ruled by a few hundred wealthy families in cahoots with foreign industrial interests. They allegedly control or own 70% of the national wealth and live luxurious lives while millions live in slums and dire endless poverty. Hundreds of thousands of young girls and children are forced to work; many are trafficked to the slavery of brothels and bars. The congress, with the inspiring exception of the progressive social democrats, is filled with millionaires who serve the interests of their corrupt class and exploitative industry. This includes the foreign industrial powers who covet the mineral wealth and raw materials of the nation. They are politicians who voted recently to change the child protection law and imprison 12-year-old children. This, in violation of international law and the convention on the rights of the child. They really need an education on human and children's rights. They punish children for being homeless, poor, emotionally disturbed, unschooled and hopeless. This is a national situation the politicians themselves have made. Children are branded criminals and made to suffer jail for the greed and the crimes of adults. The flash points of discontent and protest all over the nation is rooted in the fact that the rich political families still own the prime land and resist land reform. Last week hundreds of marching protesting farmers called for the implementation of land reform law. The indigenous people demand their rights to their ancestral lands and to ban mining and environmental destruction. The mining companies extracting minerals on their lands are the cause of great unrest and injustice. They too, yearn for real freedom from the encroaching land grabbers and logging families that are ripping apart the last remaining forests. Millions of Filipinos want a quality education, a secure job near their homes and family, and prosperous healthy respectful life. Exile in a foreign land is the only justly paid employment for millions of Filipinos The hope of the people is for President Nonoy Aquino, popularly and cleanly elected, to eradicate corruption and restore the dignity of the Filipino people. If he can lessen the concentrated political and monitory power in a few hands he would fulfill the dream of the great national hero Jose Rizal. If only he could do that, what an independence hero he would be himself.

3 OFWs irate over cargo firm for packages delay SHARJA, UAE – The owner of a cargo company has apologized to three Filipina overseas workers for the delay in the shipment of their packages to the Philippines. “Humihingi po ako sa kanila ng pasensya sa delay ng kargamento namin pero ang ma-assure ko sa kanila na yung bagahe nila is intact, 100 percent mare-receive nila yun,” said Al Rodah Marine Cargo owner Rodah Bugante. Earlier, Catherine Infante, Daisy Balili and Ruby Sunga brought their concerns to Balitang Middle East. “Sila pa nga yung matapang. Sabi ‘Sige, walang problema magreklamo kayo’. So, heto ako ngayon,” said Infante. Balili said she sent her package way ahead of the scheduled graduation of her sibling. “Dapat March 10. Anong petsa na? Graduate na yung kapatid ko hindi nagamit yung gamit dapat ng nanay ko saka kapatid ko. Hindi nila natanggap. Nasaan na?” she said. Like Balili, Infante’s package was her gift to her child who graduated with honors. “Ang pinaka-importante lang sa akin yung regalo ko sa anak ko dahil graduation niya, may honor siya. Kaya ko siya pinadalhan ng maaga dahil nangako ako sa anak ko," Infante said. In the case of Sunga, she sent her package in advance through the cargo firm hoping that it would arrive in the Philippines before she did. But up until she returned to Sharjah, the package has not been delivered to her family. “Nakauwi ako March 28. Pero sabi nila before March 28 mare-receive na yun. Nakauwi na ako, doon na ako nagtatanong sabi next week ng next week,” Sunga said. Bugante called up Infante to explain to her the reason for the delay. The three decided to visit the firm’s office to personally get some explanation from the owner. “Nagkaroon din lang kami ng delay. Ang last na aayusin ko na lang ngayon ay yung penalty ko for payment and then release na siya," Bugante said. Bugante signed a promissory note, giving her word that the packages will be delivered to the OFWs’ families in the Philippines before the end of May. “At least nagkaroon kami ng assurance na mare-receive ng pamliya namin yung cargo naming,” said Infante. Majah Moralde, ABS-CBN Middle East News Bureau

DFA to bare new rules on travel agency accreditation MANILA, Philippines – New guidelines on travel agency accreditation will be released next week as the Department of Foreign Affairs seeks to improve the delivery of passport and other consular services to the public. “We in the Department of Foreign Affairs have been working hard to fulfill our commitment to deliver fast and efficient services to as many of our people as possible,” Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said. Seguis said the new guidelines will complement the steps that have been undertaken by the DFA to improve its services such as the transfer of its consular offices to shopping malls in Metro Manila and in other parts of the country. “Our people can look forward to better services once we transfer our consular offices to their new locations inside shopping malls in the next several months,” Seguis said. According to Seguis, the new guidelines are the result of a review of the directive on the accreditation of travel agencies in the regions that the DFA issued on May 2. He said the guidelines also took into account the appeals for reconsideration of the directive made by the Philippine Travel Agency Association, the Philippine IATA Agents Travel Association, the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies and other stakeholders. The DFA, in its May 2 directive, instructed its consular offices nationwide to no longer accredit travel agencies offering passport services effective June 30, 2012 and to remove the special privileges enjoyed by accredited agencies such as guaranteed slots and express processing for their clients. “The directive was issued simply to ensure that all passport applicants, regardless of their social status, get to experience the same privileges but at no additional cost to them,” said Seguis. He added that the DFA has no plans of increasing passport processing fees which remain at P950 for regular processing and P1,200 for expedited processing.

Why OFWs have a hard time saving Posted at 05/19/2012 9:25 AM | Updated as of 05/19/2012 9:25 AM This is the first of a two-part feature by Pru Life UK on the challenges overseas Filipino workers face when it comes to saving, and tips on how they can become more prudent with their finances. MANILA, Philippines - The overseas Filipinos worker (OFW) has long been heralded as the country’s new breed of heroes, and with good reason to do so. It takes strength, determination and a drive to have a better life for your families in order to survive working long hours in a foreign land – away from your family, friends and basically everything that you work for. OFWs have also been cited as being major contributors to the Philippine economy for 2012. According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), remittances from OFWs will grow further this year, and the government does not expect a drop in the demand for workers abroad real soon. For 2011, the Philippines was the fourth-largest remittance receiving country, with only India, China and Mexico topping the country in that category. But on a more personal level, what should be ensured is that the sacrifices of these OFWs do not go to waste? Ideally, these overseas workers are working in order to give their families better lives – that implies having enough money to send their children to school, pay for their household expenses back at home while also having enough in their pockets to sustain their daily living in the foreign land they are in. In the end, OFWs should have enough savings to invest and start a new life with when they go home. "OFWs leave the country for the promise of financial stability in the short and long term. The financial goal should be that: stability for the future," said Pru Life UK Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Belle Tiongco. "Stability is possible if you have enough funds for both aspirations (education, your own house or business) and unknowns (illnesses, accidents and other catastrophic events)." The challenge of saving The Philippines is not a savings-oriented country, according to Pru Life UK President and CEO Antonio de Rosas, and this financial behavior is something that most OFWs will have to combat. "Our country's savings rate is one of the lowest in Asian region, and this is mostly due to a lack of financial literacy," he said. There are three main reasons why OFWs have a hard time saving: Debt A big number of the OFWs are already in debt even before they leave the country. Most manpower agencies would require the OFW to pay for their placement fees which will usually take them about two years to settle. Overspending Since they live away from their families, OFWs tend to compensate for lost time by buying things for their family they don’t really need. De Rosas said: "since the breadwinner is not at home to manage the expenses, their families tend to just spend the allowance being given to them on a monthly basis without proper budgeting." Cost of living abroad What the OFW needs on a daily basis in the country where he or she is domiciled may cost more. This could also be a big hindrance to what they can save if they are not careful. --- Pru Life UK is a subsidiary of Prudential plc, a United Kingdom-registered company. Pru Life UK and Prudential plc are not affiliated with Prudential Financial, Inc. (a US-registered company), Philippine Prudential Life Insurance Company, Prudentialife Plans, Inc. or Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. (all Philippine-registered companies). Pru Life UK is a life insurance company and is not engaged in the business of selling pre-need plans.

How OFWs can avoid the money trap This is the second of a two-part feature by Pru Life UK on the challenges overseas Filipino workers face when it comes to saving, and tips on how they can become more prudent with their finances. Part 1: Why OFWs have a hard time saving MANILA, Philippines - It's not how much you earn, but how much you save. Pru Life UK Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Belle Tiongco recognizes the difficulties of saving. "Saving is difficult for everyone except for those who are very disciplined. There are people who have big incomes/salaries, and yet do not have substantial savings. It's not the size of the earnings, I think it's the extent of discipline that one has that determines his capacity to save," Tiongco said. There is no universal mathematical formula to determine how much you can save, says Tiongco but there is an adage that OFWs can always rely on: needs vs. wants. "For everything that costs money, you ask yourself: is this a need, or is it a want? Needs have to be funded - food, clothing, and shelter, tuition, home rent, etc. But vacations abroad, the upgrade on the iPhone, the new model of the laptop, the new camera, etc. - these are wants," she said. "Everyone can study their cash flows and see where they can make changes so that they can ‘set aside’ something for savings." Financial antidotes So given the main reasons why OFWs have a hard time saving, what must they do in order to not fall in the money trap? Control expenses back at home Pru Life UK President and CEO Antonio de Rosas said family members of the OFW have a major role to play. “Family members must itemize expenses before the remits. Just sending them an allowance will rarely work unless your spouse who is left at home has proven to have managed household expenses well.” He stressed: “tell your family to delay gratification and just because you are abroad, it does not mean they can now afford things they want but which they don't need.” Control expenses abroad OFWs should spend way below their means while away from their families. This may be hard, but it has to be done. De Rosas explained: “You are abroad for a short time to save. Most OFWs dream to build a home for their families and quite a few would purchase businesses but less would think of delaying gratification for both the OFW abroad and their family at home to prioritize savings.” Government intervention Manpower agencies should shoulder the placement fees of the workers they will be sending abroad. “The government should pass a law prohibiting OFW employees from paying placement fees. They are shelling out precious money for something they shouldn’t be paying for in the first place,” he said. "Financial education should also be stepped up before OFWs are deployed which would teach them how to allocate their financial resources to savings and expenses while working abroad. Basic financial products of financial institutions which would help them achieve their financial goals should also be introduced to them.” Be conservative financially At the end of the day, both Pru Life UK officials agree that being prudent in their financial decisions is what will spell the difference for the OFWs. It is hard to live abroad, away from the people that you sacrifice and work for and it is also up to the OFW to make sure that all their hardships will be worth it. “Save first before spending. In the long run, your stint abroad might not have been worth it if you end up with nothing, or even worse, debt in the end," Tiongco said. Tiongco also gives the OFW a perspective to which to look at their current financial standing. “I don't believe there is a 'time limit' or a prescribed number of years for OFWs to work abroad. There are so many opportunities, so many types of work, so many dreams to fulfill, that it's difficult to say when one's ‘tour of duty’ is over.” "But one thing I would prescribe is that if you're an OFW, you ask yourself whether your family is more secure today, than they were in the past. If you can answer this confidently, and positively, then the sacrifice will all be worth it." --- Pru Life UK is a subsidiary of Prudential plc, a United Kingdom-registered company. Pru Life UK and Prudential plc are not affiliated with Prudential Financial, Inc. (a US-registered company), Philippine Prudential Life Insurance Company, Prudentialife Plans, Inc. or Prudential Guarantee and Assurance, Inc. (all Philippine-registered companies). Pru Life UK is a life insurance company and is not engaged in the business of selling pre-need plans.

OFWs face additional costs with K+12 program

by Jomel Anthony Gutierrez, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau LONDON - Filipino parents in the United Kingdom, who are sending their children to school in the Philippines, are not all keen on the Department of Education’s (DepEd) new K+12 education program. Some of them are criticizing the additional costs that they need to pay for their children’s extended years in school. The government will implement the K+12 education program starting in June. The High School level will now consist of Grades 11 to 12 for 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 academic school years. And 2 years will be added to Kindergarten before a child can be qualified to start Grade I. Jailie Enguio, a care assistant in London with a daughter who is now a grade 5 pupil in Manila, asserted that it is not necessary to add years in the country’s educational system to improve the quality of education. “We really don’t need to change the length of study in our schools,” she said. "What we need to upgrade is the qualifications of the teachers and the quality of education in the Philippines,” she added. She also emphasized that this new education program will add more costs for people like herself who send money back home to finance their children’s education. “It’s a disadvantage for us parents who are OFWs because it’s additional tuition fee,” she said. She is instead calling the Department of Education to focus more on adding rooms in the public schools and limit the number of students per class. “The ratio of students to teachers should be minimized. For example, for one teacher, there should only be 30 students so everyone will be given attention,” she suggested. For Elaine Bautista who has children in Grade 2 and Grade 5 in Iligan City, the additional years would result in widening the scope of study of Filipino students. “More years in the school could provide a more comprehensive type of education in the country,” she said. “Additional years could also make our students more competitive, “ she added. But she also did not discount the fact that as an OFW in the UK, this is another financial burden for parents like her who are working abroad. “As a parent who is working so hard here, money-wise, this new program has a disadvantage for us because we need to spend more than the usual,” she said. Tom Valencia, a care home cook based in London, who has two school children in Cavite, approves of the timing of the government in implementing the K-12 education program. “I’m in favor of the new program because now it’s the right time to upgrade the quality of education in our country,” he said. “Additional years will help our children on deciding properly what profession they really want to pursue in the future,” he added. Despite the varying opinions of UK-based Filipino parents on K-12, they all shared the same sentiments on what the government should focus on in improving the quality of education in the country. Many of them are asking the government to organize more training for teachers and increase their salaries too. Others are also requesting to provide more facilities and up-to-date materials in the classroom that will surely help every Filipino student in acquiring knowledge and proper education.

OFW advocates urge lawmaker to withdraw HB 6195

MANILA, Philippines – An advocate of overseas Filipino workers on Thursday urged a congresswoman to withdraw a bill she filed that seeks to require departing overseas Filipino workers to pay US$50 as contribution to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration fund (OWWA). “Madam Congresswoman, your bill has caused an uproar in OFW communities across the globe. This is not an exaggeration. It touches a sensitive nerve because of its gross insensitivity to the heavily burdened life of an OFW,” Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center said in her open letter to Manila 4th District Congresswoman Maria Theresa Bonoan-David. Ople was referring to House Bill 6195 which the lawmaker authored. The bill, according to the press release of Bonoan-David, seeks to amend the Republic Act 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995. The bill “provides that for every worker recruited or deployed overseas, recruitment agency or its employer, in addition to the obligation to repatriate its workers shall contribute $50 to OWWA’s Emergency Repatriation Fund”. Bonoan-David said the bill “intends to provide the necessary measures for the government to carry out its responsibility to assist distressed OFWs in cases of war, epidemic, disaster or calamities, natural or man-made, and other similar events, and promote their general welfare”. “Withdraw your bill because clearly it is not in the interest of the OFWs you wish to help. If you wish to stand your ground, then at least come out in the open and let our OFW brothers and sisters understand the intellectual process that led you to formulate this measure, word for word. I, for one, would like to hear your side,” Ople said. Sick and tired of fees Ople said OFWs are sick and tired of being charged with all kinds of mandatory fees and contributions prior to leaving. She also pointed out that all fees are often shouldered by the worker and not by their agencies or employers. “Everyone in a position of power assumes that it is the foreign employer that pays for the OWWA membership dues and other fees of newly-hired OFWs. This isn’t the case anymore, and whenever an OFW needs to acquire an OEC (Overseas Employment Contract) either as a balik-manggagawa or to transfer to a new job, more often than not all these government-mandated payments come from the worker’s pocket,” said Ople. The former labor undersecretary also stressed that OWWA is a trust fund composed of workers’ contributions. “One does not legislate any increase for whatever reason without consulting the workers. Otherwise, that is tantamount to a financial ambush via legislation. Lagi na lang ganoon. Para lumago ang pera ng PhilHealth at Pag-IBIG gawin mandatory ang membership ng OFWs. Nagugulat na lang sila. Di kasi tinatanong at kinokonsulta ng maayos. Charge more, explain later,” she said. Another point raised by Ople is that the bill contradicts an existing law. Section 4 of RA 10022 states: “All fees for services being charged by any government agency on migrant workers prevailing at the time of the effectivity of this Rule shall not be increased.” “Why pass a law that violates an existing law?” she said. Ople added, “US$50 may seem small to you. But it is a big deal to our OFWs especially those who are supposed to be paid more than they get based on approved contracts honored in breach once they step outside our shores. If we can’t impose our model contracts on foreign employers to protect our workers, why charge them more? Why charge them twice as much each time they leave for emergencies that are confined to one or two countries at best?” “You filed the bill. So please tell us, do you really have the intention of pursuing its approval? If yes, then for whom? Because frankly, no one seems to be cheering you on. Based on the number of online petitions against HB 6195, I think it’s safe to say that the OFWs hate your bill – to the max, and beyond”. OFWs air protest in social media Meanwhile, the Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA), strongly denounced the bill. The group vowed that it will continue to use social media to protect Filipino working abroad “from this thoughtless proposition”. “We implore Hon. Bonoan-David to retract this bill or we will continue to raise our blogs and walls to protect the OFWs from this thoughtless proposition. You will then be held accountable before millions of Filipinos who have a member of their families working abroad. A Facebook page called Global OFW Voices was also created to air its opposition to House Bill 6195. So far, the page generated more than 3,000 “likes”. “Madam Congresswoman, with this BILL, you may have good intention, but you are fighting against people, the OFWs, who are already tired of politicians milking their very hard earned dollar. We are OFWs. We are not heroes. We are Filipino citizens who only wanted a better life. Don't make it hard for us,” the page administrator wrote. For its part, Migrante International suggested that the lawmaker reconsider the bill after conducting consultation with OFWs and other stakeholders. "We do not know who Rep. Bonoan-David has been consulting but while her intentions may be noble, the bill is definitely unwelcome to OFWs. We will be more than willing to sit down with her and explain to her our basis for strong opposition to the bill," said Garry Martinez, chairperson of Migrante International.

Peace situation in PH improving according to national and international studies

Manila, June 20 – First was the 2012 Global Peace Index by the Institute for Economics and Peace that ranked the Philippines among the top five nations that registered "improvements in peacefulness." The Pulse Asia's Ulat ng Bayan survey results came next that showed high approval ratings on the Aquino Administration's efforts in "increasing peace in the country." "Similar to other governance reforms being implemented under this administration, President Aquino's continuing efforts on peace and security are already being felt and recognized not just by our people, but also by the international community." said Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Secretary Teresita Quintos Deles, who welcomed the results of both studies. "These will further raise the public’s hopes for a just and lasting peace" she added. The 2012 Global Peace Index report stated that the Philippines’ high score was a result of improvements in the indicators which are homicide rate; number of deaths from internal conflict; likelihood of violent demonstrations; and incidence of terrorist acts. Moreover, it said that the country previously rated at moderate or high levels in the four indicators. Among the incidents which affected the ratings in the past years include the conflict between the national government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in mid-2007; the Maguindanao massacre in 2008; and violence perpetrated by the Abu Sayyaf in Sulu in 2011. The other countries in the Top Five ranking are Sri Lanka, Zimbabwe, Bhutan and Guyana. Enhanced public perception On the other hand, Pulse Asia’s Ulat ng Bayan National Survey conducted on May 20 to 26, 2012 pointed out that 50 percent of respondents approve of the P-Noy administration’s efforts on “increasing peace in the country.” Efforts to fight corruption in the government garnered the highest approval score of 58 percent, while fighting criminality and enforcing the law equally on all citizens got 56 percent and 52 percent, respectively. Gov’t efforts paying off “These positive developments show that the government’s efforts have been paying off,” Deles said. “We will continue to be patient and persistent in our work in the peace process. We also hope that more and more of our people will come to accompany us in these processes." The government through OPAPP has been pursuing a negotiated political settlement with the MILF and the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA-NDFP). Also, it has been eyeing the closure of signed peace agreements with armed groups, such as the Moro National Liberation Front, Cordillera Bodong Administration-Cordillera People’s Liberation Army, and Rebolusyonaryong Partido ng Manggagawa-Pilipinas/Revolutionary Proletarian Army/Alex Boncayao Brigade. Negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF are now on its final stages with both sides exploring their positions on wealth-sharing, power-sharing, governance and transition roadmap, among others. The parties have likewise identified and signed the 10 Decision Points on Principles which serve as the framework for the final peace agreement. At present, the GPH panel has been engaging various sectors to gain their insights on the government’s position. Peace talks between the GPH and the CPP-NPA-NDFP, on the other hand, are hoped to restart soon as the two parties agreed to meet informally on June 13-14 in Oslo, Norway to tackle issues and concerns that caused the delay in the negotiations since February 2011. The panels are scheduled to meet again informally to continue "meaningful discussions" toward the resumption of formal talks. To complement the peace negotiations, the government has likewise been implementing development programs through PAMANA or Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan (Peaceful and Resilient Communities) program. PAMANA is the government’s program and framework for peace and development in areas affected by conflict and communities covered by peace pacts. # -- Connect with us Know more on -- Karen N. Tanada Executive Director Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute 2/f Hoffner Building Ateneo de Manila University Loyola Heights, Q.C. 1108 Philippines Tel/ Fax (632)4266064
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