Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pinoys in Rome to get free legal aid organized by PHL embassy

Filipinos in Rome may now avail of legal counseling services from the Philippine Embassy there, the Department of Foreign Affairs said Tuesday.
 
The DFA said the embassy formalized agreements with two Italian law offices that will provide the free legal aid on the embassy premises that started Monday, Oct. 28.
 
"The services will be made available every Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., and every Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. and from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.," the DFA said.
 
Signing the agreements were Consul-General Leila Santos on behalf of the Embassy, the DFA said.
 
Witnesses were Ambassador Virgilio Reyes Jr. and Labor Attaché Atty. Viveca Catalig.  — ELR, GMA News

More Filipino-Americans are obese compared to other Asian-Americans

Among all Asian-Americans, Filipinos are the fattest.

According to a study by the US Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Minority Health,Filipino-Americans are 70 percent more likely to be obese compared to the overall Asian-American population.

The study also showed that 14.1 percent of Fil-Ams are obese, the highest percentage among Asian-Americans.

Filipinos in the US also account for the second highest percentage of overweight, adult Asian-Americans, but not obese, at 33 percent. Asian Indians outweighed Filipinos by just one point at 34 percent.

The overall numbers of the study also dispelled the notion that Asian-Americans can't get fat - a trait from the “model minority” racial stereotype.

The stereotype complicates the problems Asian-Americans face in terms of health, University of Chicago professor of medicine Dr. Karen Kim told NBC News.

Kim explained that diseases associated with being overweight or obesity can appear in normal-weight Asians.

This is because Asians tend to have fat hidden between internal organs, such as the liver and kidneys. This makes them look less overweight, but their fat content is actually higher, Dr. George King of the Joslin Diabetes Center told Southern California Public Radio.

King and other physicians are campaigning to lower the Body Mass Index (BMI) cutoffs for Asian-Americans in medical studies.

In the same article, Dr. Jane Chiang of the American Diabetes Association said the new BMI cutoff must be adjusted per ethnicity, and suggested that factors beyond someone's weight must be considered in evaluating health.

BMI is used to calculate the weight of individuals involved in these studies, but the Daily Mail reported that the use of BMI has been discredited for being overly-simplistic.

An earlier report from the Reuters wire service quoted several physicians who concluded that BMI was not enough to evaluate body fat content, and agreed that people with healthy weight may still carry excessive fat.  Rie Takumi/DVM, GMA News

US politics Push for immigration action targets US House Republicans

WASHINGTON  - US businesses, religious leaders and other supporters of overhauling the nation's immigration laws mounted a massive lobbying push on Tuesday to urge a reluctant House of Representatives to tackle the issue before the end of the year.
 
More than 600 people from 40 states planned to meet one-on-one with lawmakers to encourage the House to act soon on a top priority of labor groups, Latinos and businesses ranging from apple growers to software companies.
 
Measures aimed at dealing with the estimated 11 million people who are in the United States illegally have broad support among Democrats and many Republicans in Congress. But Republicans who control the House face resistance from some grassroots conservatives who object to giving millions of undocumented immigrants a potential pathway to US citizenship, which those critics see as "amnesty."
 
The divisions between conservatives in the Tea Party movement and more pragmatic Republicans have been at the fore in recent weeks during a government shutdown that tarnished the party's public support.
 
As part of the new lobbying push on immigration, labor advocates planned to draw attention to their cause next month with a hunger strike by several activists on the National Mall.
 
"The time is now. We need to deliver a message of urgency," Margaret Mimms, the sheriff in Fresno County, California, told a crowd at the US Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday.
 
The issue has attracted a broad coalition that stretches across the usual US political fault lines.
 
Farmers and high-tech firms say they can't find enough qualified workers under the existing quota system for immigrants, while Latinos and liberal groups are pressing for legal status for millions who are in the United States without authorization. Business groups such as the US Chamber and labor unions such as the AFL-CIO have set aside their usual differences to push for a broad overhaul of immigration laws.
 
"There's no way you can get 11 million people, drop them off, and have them come back. We feel strongly that there is an economy here in our country with no voice," said Fuad Reveiz, a former National Football League kicker who owns an insurance agency in Knoxville, Tennessee.
 
Reveiz, president of the East Tennessee Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said he planned to meet with his congressman, Republican John Duncan. Duncan has said he is reluctant to support a bill that would provide a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, a central element of a bill passed the Democratic-led Senate.
 
Advocates for new laws have seen 2013 as their best chance for change in more than a decade because Democratic President Barack Obama has made immigration a top priority and business and labor groups resolved differences that undercut an attempt in 2006.
 
The Senate passed its comprehensive immigration bill in June. The House had been widely expected to take up the issue this fall, but a budget dispute that led to a 16-day government shutdown early in October and the troubled rollout of Obama's signature health law have preoccupied Congress.
 
Time is running short for Congress to act this year. The House will be in session for only 18 more days in 2013, and many analysts say progress will be more difficult as the November 2014 congressional elections approach.
 
The ill will generated by the shutdown also has made action more difficult, many say.
 
"Immigration reform is ultimately a question of when, not if, but prior to the 2014 midterms now seems out of reach," Guggenheim Partners analyst Chris Krueger wrote recently.
 
The Republican divide
 
Democrats have united behind the effort, but Republicans face conflicting demands on the issue.
 
Party officials say that with an influx of Hispanics changing the nation's demographics in favor of Democratic-leaning voters, Republicans need to reach out to the Hispanic community to stay competitive in future elections. Republicans' business allies, meanwhile, say the current immigration system is holding back economic growth.
 
But many of the aging, overwhelmingly white voters who make up the Republican Party's base worry that a legalization plan for undocumented immigrants will drive down wages and make it more difficult for American workers to get jobs.
 
For many Republican lawmakers who represent solidly conservative districts, fears of a backlash may outweigh concerns about the party's national competitiveness.
 
To that end, advocates for new laws have amassed a coalition of local law enforcement, evangelical leaders and smaller companies - what they call "Bibles, Badges and Business" - to press their case. Some conservative interest groups, such as Americans for Tax Reform, have taken up the issue as well.
 
"This has become personal for us," said Barrett Duke, an official with the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant church in the United States. "We do need some hearts to be changed, and we do need God involved."
 
'Keep pushing it'
 
House Republican leaders have said they will not take up the plan that passed the Senate, which would provide millions of undocumented immigrants an opportunity to become citizens.
 
Instead, the House is likely to vote on a series of smaller bills. Advocates for new laws say they would be happy if the House could pass one or two of them before the end of the year.
 
That could allow the House and the Senate to resolve their differences and send a final bill to Obama to sign into law. Some key Republicans in the Senate, including Florida's Marco Rubio, now say they prefer that approach.
 
Fiscal issues could knock immigration off the agenda in January and February, as Congress will have to renew agreements to keep the government operating and extend its borrowing authority. Advocates worry that momentum for immigration changes will die if the House does not act by April.
 
"Part of our job is to keep pressing that timetable and keep pushing it up as much as you can," Randy Johnson, a top official with the U.S. Chamber, said in a conference call on Monday.
 
The upcoming 2014 election may make action more difficult, but some groups hope to use the election as a pressure point.
 
The Service Employees International Union plans to run television ads designed to pressure about 30 House Republicans who could be vulnerable in next year's elections because of the high number of immigrants in their district. They include California Representative Kevin McCarthy, the No. 3 Republican in the House, who represents the Bakersfield area.
 
"I've seen as much heat as I've ever seen placed on somebody being turned on him," SEIU president Mary Kay Henry told the Reuters Washington Summit last week.   Reuters

Saudi police to help catch visa violators after Nov 3

Tags: Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia's police force will help enforce the Kingdom's new visa laws, violators of which will be arrested after the grace period for illegal aliens lapses on Nov. 3.

This will be the first time public security officials will be assigned to detect visa violations, Arab News reported on Tuesday.

Arab News reported that while the Labor Ministry and Passport Department had previously conducted random checks, they could not carry out full-scale inspections as the ministry was still suffering from "staff shortages and other logistical kinks."

Under the arrangement, the security forces will determine if the professions stated on residency permits and the place of work match up.

Brig. Jaman Al-Ghamdi, assistant director-general of public security, will  oversee arrangements on the implementation of the rules.

Al-Ghamdi also visited prominent provinces and met with ranking police officials in the provinces to discuss strategies to arrest violators.

Foreign workers had been given until Nov. 3 to correct their status or leave the Kingdom. The government initially gave illegals until July to correct their visa status but extended the deadline amid a clamor from employers and embassies. — DVM, GMA News

Tags: Saudi Arabia

PHL embassy in KSA makes last call to Pinays with children to beat Nov 3 deadline

Philippine officials in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on Wednesday made a last call to Filipinas with children to undergo the procedures that will allow them to correct their status or return home before the grace period lapses Nov. 3.
 
In an advisory, the embassy particularly urged the Filipinas who passed DNA tests to go to the Al-Wafideen Office in Sumeisi Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 to 11 a.m. for fingerprinting or basamat.
 
It said this will allow them to get the appropriate visas to return home along with their children. 
 
"Kaya pinapayuhan po kayo ng inyong Embahada na huwag mag-atubili na pumunta sa Al-Wafideen sa nasabing petsa at handa po kayong tulungan ng Philippine Embassy Team sa pangunguna ni Ebrahim Zailon," the embassy said.
 
Saudi authorities are giving illegal foreign workers until Nov. 3 to correct their status or return home. Those who fail to do so may face sanctions.
 
The embassy said a special committee of Saudi Arabia's interior ministry had gone to the Al-Wafideen office and sought consideration for mothers who could not immediately go home or whose employers are correcting their status.
 
"Nguni't hanggang ngayon ay wala paring linaw o katibayan na sila'y mabibigyan ng Iqamah kasama ang kanilang mga anak," it said.
 
Meanwhile, the embassy said mothers who have not taken DNA test can go to the embassy and register until Wednesday.
 
They can also call 011-4801918 for added information, it added. — LBG, GMA News
 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

PHL Embassy identifies missing Pinoy in Gulf of Mexico accident

The Philippine Embassy in Washington on Tuesday noon (Manila time) made public the name of a Filipino welder reported missing following an accident in the Gulf of Mexico.


In posts on its Twitter account, the embassy identified the Filipino as Peter Jorge Voces, whose kin it said had been notified of the accident.

"Next of kin of Filipino welder Peter Jorge E. Voces (were) already notified he is (the) subject of search and rescue operation in Gulf of Mexico," it said.

Voces, 38, fell off an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday evening, and is the subject of search operations by the US Coast Guard.

Philippine Ambassador to Washington Jose Cuisia Jr., in a news release, described Voces as a registered overseas worker hired by Offshore Specialty Fabricators based in Houma, Louisiana.

For now, Cuisia said the US Coast Guard had assured the embassy that they are "searching aggressively" for Voces.

“We have been assured by the US Coast Guard that they are searching aggressively for our missing kababayan. We hope and pray that they will find him tomorrow,” he said.

The embassy quoted Lt. Steve Arguelles of the US Coast Guard Sector New Orleans as saying Voces "accidentally fell into the Gulf of Mexico while working at the oil platform at around 7:30 p.m."

Arguelles said the accident site is at Vermillion Block 200, some 55 miles south of Freshwater Bayou between Lake Charles and Baton Rouge and is 154 miles from last year’s accident site.

Cuisia said the Embassy and the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago will continue to coordinate with authorities.

Also, Cuisia said the accident occurred almost a year after three Filipino oil workers died and three others were injured in an explosion at another offshore oil platform also off the coast of Louisiana. — KBK, GMA News

SSS widens reach of Bohol satellite offices


As part of ongoing efforts to help members affected by the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that hit Central Visayas, the Social Security System (SSS) opened temporary satellite offices at the towns of Tubigon and Carmen, two of the hardest-hit areas in Bohol province.
SSS Officer-in-Charge Edgar Solilapsi said the new temporary satellite offices are vital additions to the agency's network of offices in the province, which at present also includes the SSS Tagbilaran Branch and SSS Service Offices at the municipal halls of Ubay and Talibon.
“These temporary satellite offices shall operate until April 30, 2014, or until such time that their services are no longer needed as Bohol fully recovers from the disaster,” Solilapsi said. “In the meantime, we will continue to identify other locations for similar offices to make SSS services more accessible to members, especially during this time of need.”
The pension fund is anticipating the surge in applications for the SSS Calamity Relief Package for the earthquake-hit provinces of Bohol and Cebu. To further assist its affected members and pensioners, the SSS extended the initial November 29, 2013 deadline of the relief package's special salary loan terms and the three-month advance pensions to April 30, 2014.
“The homes of Bohol and Cebu residents are among the valuable structures damaged by the recent earthquake, which was why the SSS eased down the terms of our House Repair and Improvement Loan Program as part of the Calamity Relief Package,” Solilapsi noted.
Under the relief package, the maximum annual interest rate of nine percent was fixed at six percent for home repairs of members residing in the declared calamity areas. The SSS also waived the regular processing fee of up to P3,000, and gave members one year to apply for the special home repair loan facility.
Solilapsi said the SSS has resumed full branch operations at SSS Tagbilaran and SSS Cebu last Monday, October 21, after both offices were assessed as “structurally safe” by building engineers. These two branches will also remain open every Saturday starting October 26, similar to the new schedule to be observed by all SSS branches nationwide.
“With the SSS Tagibilaran branch now fully operational, we closed down the temporary satellite offices at the Governor's Mansion and at the Agricultural Promotional Center, which are also in the same city, to prioritize the setting up of satellite offices in remote areas in Bohol,” he added.
The SSS has also ceased operations of its satellite offices in Gaisano Fiesta Mall in Tabunok, Talisay City; Gaisano Island Mall in Lapu-Lapu City; Talisay City Hall and the DTI-National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center that were opened last week on a temporary basis to ensure members' uninterrupted access to SSS services.
Apart from the SSS Cebu branch, members in the area can also transact with the SSS Service Office at the Robinsons Fuente Mall, which is open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Bohol-based SSS Service Offices in Ubay and Talibon accept members' queries and transactions on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

POEA cancels recruiter's license for contract substitution

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration over the weekend canceled the license of a labor recruiter deploying overseas Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia, after seven OFWs accused it of contract substitution.

 
POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the POEA found Allskills Manpower Services Inc. to have substituted POEA-approved contracts with those disadvantageous to the OFWs.
 
“Obviously, there is misrepresentation not only to the complainants but also to the Administration when the agency deployed the workers to an employer and position different from that indicated in the employment contracts submitted to the POEA,” Cacdac said.
 
He said the POEA also found Allskills Manpower collected excessive placement fees from the workers and did not issue the proper receipts.
 
Cacdac ordered the agency and its surety agency to refund to the complainants the excess amounts collected from them.
 
The action against the firm stemmed from letter complaints of seven OFWs forwarded by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh.
 
In their complaints, the seven said Allskills Manpower gave them two contracts, the first for processing of their exit clearance at the POEA.
 
But upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, the contracts were switched to those given by the employer.
 
Investigation showed the second contract contained terms "inferior" to the first contract.
 
Cacdac said that while the original contract states the complainants are to be employed as nurses or midwives in hospitals, the second contract had them work in a dental clinic as clinic nurse or dental technician.
 
The POEA also found the workers signed up for hospitals like Qasseem National Hospital, Mayiez Medical Center, Medical 2000 Polyclinic, Al Fereh Hospital, and Al Ahmadi Hospital.
 
Instead, they were sent to a common employer, Onaiza Dental Clinic owned by a certain Dr. Sulaiman Hammad Al-Atiya.
 
Also, the second contract changed the effectivity of the contract from upon the workers’ arrival to “after passing the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties Exam.”
 
The second contract also "reduced or totally omitted" items in the first contract such as salary, transportation allowance, food allowance, and lodging.
 
Cacdac said the agency was liable for six counts of charging excessive placement fees and seven counts of non-issuance of receipt, misrepresentation, and contract substitution.  — ELR, GMA News

PhilHealth Executive is Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awardee

“The selection of Dr. Dennis S. Mas as a Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awardee is PhilHealth’s testimony of excellent service and stellar performance.”


This statement was made by Alexander A. Padilla, PhilHealth President and CEO as he welcomed the good news that one of the executives of the State Insurance Agency, was chosen as a Presidential Lingkod Bayan Awardee for the year 2013.

Dennis S. Mas, the youngest among the Regional Vice Presidents of PhilHealth, was chosen among the 16 semi-finalists for the Lingkod Bayan (Individual) Category for his outstanding contributions that had nationwide impact on public interest, security and patrimony.

Through his able leadership, PhilHealth Regional Office VI was able to reduce the turnaround time of members’ benefit claims processing from an average of 133 days in 2011 to five (5) to seven (7) days by December 2012. There was also a significant reduction in refiled claims which saved the Corporation more than Php3 Million in 2012.

“This kind of dedication is shared by the more than 5,800 strong PhilHealth workers. PhilHealth is continually raising the bar of its performance and this has benefitted our more than 80 million beneficiaries. In fact, in a survey conducted by the Social Weather Station (SWS), PhilHealth, as an institution, has a net satisfaction rating of +82,” added the PhilHealth Chief.

The Awards Rites is slated October 24, 2013 at the Malacanang Palace. RVP Dennis Mas will receive a gold-gilded medallion, Presidential Plaque with Citation and Signature of the President of the Philippines, and cash award of two (2) hundred thousand pesos. He is also entitled to other forms of rewards and incentives provided under Section 5 of Executive Order No. 508.

PhilHealth: "Incentives Not Excessive, Irregular and Anomalous"

The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has acknowledged the findings of the Commission on Audit on its various allowances given its officers and employees amounting to P1.5 billion in 2012, but said it has strong legal basis in doing so.


In a press conference held in its head office in Pasig City, the state-run health insurance agency assured its 81 million members that it has been prudent in the use of their hard earned contributions.

"The bonuses and incentives are above board, not irregular, not extravagant and most of all, well deserved by the hardworking employees of PhilHealth", PhilHealth Vice President for Corporate Affairs Dr. Israel Francis A. Pargas said in a statement, adding that the incentives were made possible due to good performance as well as the good relations between Management and the employees.

PhilHealth has 5,806-strong workforce in 2012, the subject year of the COA report.
Pargas clarified that the P1.5 billion in question is “not all worker bonuses as it includes maintenance and other operating expenses such as representation and committee expenses are regular expenses used in the discharge of regular functions” and therefore not considered allowances.

He reiterated that PhilHealth has been given the proper authority to fix the compensation of its personnel even without prior approval of the Office of the President of the Philippines pursuant to Section 16.n of Republic Act 7875 as amended.

The said law explicitly authorizes us "to fix the compensation of our personnel as may be deemed necessary and upon the recommendation of the president of the Corporation", he emphasized, adding that "this is strong legal basis which does not need prior approval of the President of the Republic".
Pargas said that PhilHealth is given until mid-November this year to respond point-by-point to the COA findings.
Shortfall on reserves, delayed claim payments
PhilHealth also clarified COA’s claim of shortfall in its reserves, saying that the expanded membership and enhanced benefits have positively impacted in the sense that the monies are now being put to good use for the benefit of contributors themselves. PhilHealth expects to pay some P64 billion in benefit claims for this year.

"The two years reserve is more of a limitation or a ceiling than a minimum or floor. The law says that we should not have more than two years of reserves and we need to reconcile this with COA", Pargas explained.
Disputing the old-age issue of delays in paying hospitals, the state-run agency reiterated that the matter has already been addressed in the past. To date, its average turnaround time for claims processing across all regions is already below the 60 days sanctioned by the law. "We know that there is a need to do more that is why we are shifting to case-based payments and investing heavily on information technology to electronically process claims and put this issue to rest", he assured.

Pargas also reacted to the alleged inaction on some P250 million which remained unclaimed since 2007, saying that contrary to reports, PhilHealth has been exerting efforts to inform members of their refunds through radio announcements, publication even in its social media platforms, and direct notifications. 

"Premium adjustment for OFWs appropriate and called for" – PhilHealth

Reacting to criticisms for the premium adjustment for its members working abroad, the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) maintained that the move is appropriate and has been decided upon with the best interest of overseas workers and their families in mind.


The move, which is contained in its Circular 25, s-2013, adjusts the contribution rate from P1,200 to 2,400 annually starting January 1, 2014 to rationalize its contribution structure with the rest of members from different categories.

"There is a need to adjust given that the annual premium for every indigent family is already pegged at P2,400. With such gainful employment status, it is but proper that their contribution rate should at least approximate the rate for indigents", said Chona S. Yap, PhilHealth Manager for Overseas Filipino Program.
The state-run health insurance agency has also pegged the contribution for its informal sector members at P2,400 for those earning below P25,000 per month. For those with monthly income of above P25,000, the rate is at P3,600.

"The new rate for OFWs translates to just P6.70 per day, which clearly shows that they are still paying a very minimal amount and is comparable to indigents and informal sector members such as vendors, public transport workers, and the like", Yap explained.

PhilHealth further explained that the move has been openly discussed for years now with key stakeholders, especially migrant worker groups. "We have actively brought the issue with all players and affected sectors and even decided to phase-in its implementation starting this year in response to their calls for deferment", she further clarified.

In addition, PhilHealth said that premium adjustments are called for to be able to sustain and continuously improve the level of financial protection being afforded its members. In the last three years alone, it enhanced its benefits and introduced substantial payments for medically catastrophic and economically draining procedures under its Z Package which include childhood leukemia, heart surgeries, kidney transplants, lower limb prosthesis, among others, without increasing its premium rates.

The agency is also moving towards shifting its payment mechanism from the traditional fee-for-service (payment per unit of service rendered) to case-based in order to contain costs, rationalize services, and ensure adequate care.

In a separate statement, PhilHealth President and CEO Alexander A. Padilla announced that they are expecting benefit payouts for 2013 to reach P62 B, citing the increase in benefits as well as the expanding population coverage. 

PHL Embassy in Saudi Arabia to hold passport renewal for male OFWs Nov 2

Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia will hold a passport renewal outreach for male overseas Filipino workers in the Second Riyadh Industrial City on Nov. 2.

In an advisory, the embassy said the outreach mission will process male applicants only, at the Daawa Islamic Center.

The mission will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will process only up to 250 male applicants only.

It said service will be on a "first come first served" basis.

The embassy advised applicants to bring their original passports and a photocopy of the data page of their passport "as there are no photocopying machines at the venue." — LBG, GMA News

Pinoy-oriented radio station in UAE tops best station search

Less than a year after its launch, a Filipino-oriented radio station in the United Arab Emirates bagged the Best Radio Station in Dubai Award in a competition organized by a Dubai magazine, according to a report on UAE-based news site Khaleej Times.

Tag 91.1 topped the one-month voting by readers of Ahlan, UAE’s leading celebrity magazine,  edging competitors like Virgin Radio Dubai, Dubai 92, City 101.6 and Radio 1, the report added.

Launched just last March, Tag 91.1 is the first multi-platform and dedicated Filipino radio station in the UAE. It got over 50,000 votes in the competition.

Farida Parekh, public relations manager of Arabian Radio Network (ARN) that runs the radio station, said the Filipino community had their say by voting for TAG 91.1.

The radio station, which has a website Tag911.ae, also has iOS, Android, Nokia and Blackberry apps, and a built-in player on all Samsung smart TVs.

It targets some 645,000 Filipinos living in the UAE, and has gained more than 50,000 Facebook likes.

ARN has nine radio channels, including Tag 91.1. Its other channels represent major communities in the UAE. — KBK, GMA News

POEA cancels recruiter's license for contract substitution

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration over the weekend canceled the license of a labor recruiter deploying overseas Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia, after seven OFWs accused it of contract substitution.
 
POEA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the POEA found Allskills Manpower Services Inc. to have substituted POEA-approved contracts with those disadvantageous to the OFWs.
 
“Obviously, there is misrepresentation not only to the complainants but also to the Administration when the agency deployed the workers to an employer and position different from that indicated in the employment contracts submitted to the POEA,” Cacdac said.
 
He said the POEA also found Allskills Manpower collected excessive placement fees from the workers and did not issue the proper receipts.
 
Cacdac ordered the agency and its surety agency to refund to the complainants the excess amounts collected from them.
 
The action against the firm stemmed from letter complaints of seven OFWs forwarded by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh.
 
In their complaints, the seven said Allskills Manpower gave them two contracts, the first for processing of their exit clearance at the POEA.
 
But upon arrival in Saudi Arabia, the contracts were switched to those given by the employer.
 
Investigation showed the second contract contained terms "inferior" to the first contract.
 
Cacdac said that while the original contract states the complainants are to be employed as nurses or midwives in hospitals, the second contract had them work in a dental clinic as clinic nurse or dental technician.
 
The POEA also found the workers signed up for hospitals like Qasseem National Hospital, Mayiez Medical Center, Medical 2000 Polyclinic, Al Fereh Hospital, and Al Ahmadi Hospital.
 
Instead, they were sent to a common employer, Onaiza Dental Clinic owned by a certain Dr. Sulaiman Hammad Al-Atiya.
 
Also, the second contract changed the effectivity of the contract from upon the workers’ arrival to “after passing the Saudi Commission for Health Specialties Exam.”
 
The second contract also "reduced or totally omitted" items in the first contract such as salary, transportation allowance, food allowance, and lodging.
 
Cacdac said the agency was liable for six counts of charging excessive placement fees and seven counts of non-issuance of receipt, misrepresentation, and contract substitution.  — ELR, GMA News

6-year-old Pinoy killed in UAE after being hit by taxi – report

A six-year-old Filipino boy was killed after being hit by a taxi in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates Monday evening, a UAE news site reported early Tuesday.

Gulf News reported the child died immediately after the accident that occurred along the King Faisal Road.

UAE police said the boy was crossing the road on his own when the taxi hit him.

Authorities did not immediately name the child.

The boy's remains were brought to a hospital.

Meanwhile, authorities are holding the taxi driver who is being interrogated at the Al Buhairah police station. — DVM, GMA News

Search on for Pinoy worker missing after oil rig accident off Louisiana

Search efforts are ongoing for a Filipino welder who was reported missing after being knocked off an oil rig near the Louisiana coast late Sunday, the Philippine embassy in Washington said Tuesday.
 
In posts on its Twitter account, the embassy said the US Coast Guard was still searching for the Filipino as of Tuesday morning, Manila time.
 
"US Coast Guard tells Embassy Welfare Officer Saul de Vries that search and rescue operations for (the) 38-year-old Filipino worker (are) still ongoing," it said.
 
However, the embassy did not immediately name the missing Filipino welder.
 
Citing initial information, the embassy said the accident occurred Sunday evening US time, some 55 miles off the coast of Louisiana.
 
It quoted the US Coast Guard as saying the Filipino fell off the platform in Vermillion Block 200 south of Freshwater Bayou, between Lake Charles and Baton Rouge.
 
The US Coast Guard has dispatched two cutters, two airplanes and two helicopters, it said. 
 
 
The embassy also said the incident came nearly a year after an oil rig fire in Gulf of Mexico wherethree Filipino oil workers were killed and three others were seriously hurt.
 
For now, the embassy said it is coordinating with US authorities on the matter.
 
It added the Philippine Consulate General in Chicago is trying to reach authorities to get more information on the missing Filipino worker. —KG, GMA News

Pinay tourist, kabilang sa 5 nasawi sa 'aksidente' sa Beijing; 3 iba pa, kasama sa 38 nasugatan

Kabilang ang isang turistang Pinay sa lima kataong nasawi sa pagsalpok ng isang sasakyan sa mataong pasyalan na Tiananmen Square sa Beijing, China. Samantala, tatlo pang Pilipino ang kabilang sa mga nasaktan sa naturang insidente.

Hindi pa matiyak ng mga awtoridad sa China kung "terrorist act" ang nangyaring insidente matapos mapunta sa mataong bahagi ng pasyalan ang kotse at nagliyab. Patay din umano ang tatlong tao na lulan ng sasakyan.

Sa ipinalabas na pahayag ng Department of Foreign Affairs, sinabing kinumpirma sa paunang ulat na galing sa Embassy ng China, na kabilang isang Pilipina sa mga nasawi sa insidente.
 
"Beijing's Public Security Bureau informed our Embassy that a Filipina was one of those killed in the car crash in Tiananmen Square earlier today. Three other Filipinos, a male and two females, were also injured and  brought to the hospital," ayon sa ipinalabas na pahayag ni Raul Hernandez, tagapagsalita ng DFA.

"Our  information is that the Filipino fatality and the three injured are tourists. Our Embassy is working to gather more details about this incident and to extend the necessary and appropriate assistance to  the victims. We will keep you informed of developments," dagdag sa pahayag.

Tinatayang nasa 38 katao umano ang nasaktan sa insidente na kinabibilangan ng tatlong Pinoy at isang Japanese, ayon sa ulat ng Reuters news.

Dahil hindi pa batid ang buong detalye sa nangyaring insidente, tumanggi umano si Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, na magsalita kung itinuturing ng pamahalaan ng China na isang terror attack ang nangyari.

Sa official microblog ng pulisya ng China, sinabi sa ulat na lumihis ng daan ang sasakyan patungo sa pasyalan at nagliyab.

Matapos ang insidente, kaagad umanong nagpulong ang mga opisyal ng pamahalaang sentral at Beijing para imbestigahan ang nangyari at tiyakin ang seguridad sa kapitolyo, dagdag pa sa ulat.

Sikat na pasyalan ng mga turista ang Tiananmen Square, at sentro rin ng mga demonstrasyon katulad ng madugong protesta na naganap noong 1989. -- FRJ, GMA News

Monday, October 28, 2013

Israel to free more Palestinian prisoners for peace talks

JERUSALEM - Israel is to release 26 Palestinian prisoners in a second stage of a deal brokered by the United States in July that brought a resumption of peace talks.

Israel said in August it would free 104 inmates in four stages as negotiations resumed after a near three-year hiatus following a dispute over Jewish settlement construction in land Palestinians seek for a state.

The issue of thousands of prisoners held by Israel is highly emotive for Palestinians who welcome the inmates home as heroes after being jailed for more than 20 years for attacks on Israelis, and highly divisive inside Israel.

Far-right allies of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were deeply critical of the move after the cabinet rejected their proposal earlier on Sunday to approve legislation that would prevent further such prisoner releases from taking place.

Housing Minister Uri Ariel, of the pro-settler Jewish Home party that sponsored the thwarted bill, said in several television interviews that freeing prisoners charged with having attacked or killed Israelis "doesn't contribute to peace, and only leads to more terrorism".

Israel's chief negotiator, Justice Minister Tzipi Livni, responded in an interview with Israel's Channel 2 television that Ariel's party "doesn't want negotiations", adding: "If they have another solution, let them tell us what it is."

A statement from Netanyahu's office on Sunday said 26 prisoners, jailed for violence committed before a 1993 interim accord, would be freed. Twenty-six prisoners have already been freed.

The inmates due to be freed spent 19 to 28 years behind bars, 21 are from the occupied West Bank and five are from the Gaza Strip.

The statement suggested the latest releases would not happen before Tuesday, saying Israelis would have 48 hours to appeal the names on the list being published later on Sunday.

Peace talks have showed few overt signs of progress since they resumed in August, with a goal set by Washington to achieve a deal by the middle of next year.

A senior Palestinian official described the talks on Thursday as very difficult.

Livni said "the situation is sensitive, vulnerable. We could have conflict even tomorrow morning in the negotiations room and it all can explode."

The talks could be headed for a crisis over an Israeli plan published on Thursday to further expand it settlements in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, in an apparent effort to override far-right objections to the prisoner releases.

Jerusalem is another of the divisive issues in the talks on creating a Palestinian state in land Israel captured in a 1967 war.

The sides are also divided over where the borders should run and Palestinian demands for a "right of return" for refugees and their descendants.  Reuters

PHL Embassy in Saudi Arabia to hold passport renewal for male OFWs Nov 2

Philippine officials in Saudi Arabia will hold a passport renewal outreach for male overseas Filipino workers in the Second Riyadh Industrial City on Nov. 2.

In an advisory, the embassy said the outreach mission will process male applicants only, at the Daawa Islamic Center.

The mission will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and will process only up to 250 male applicants only.

It said service will be on a "first come first served" basis.

The embassy advised applicants to bring their original passports and a photocopy of the data page of their passport "as there are no photocopying machines at the venue." — LBG, GMA News

Friday, October 25, 2013

Fil-Am charged for death of pregnant sis-in-law

Elinor Indico. Photo: Handout
LAS VEGAS – A 30-year-old Filipino-American woman is charged with two counts of voluntary manslaughter and open murder for the death of a pregnant woman and her unborn child.
The Las Vegas Metro Police Department Homicide Detective Unit said suspect Elinor Indico is the victim's sister-in-law.
Prior to the homicide, a verbal argument had taken place between Indico and the victim.
Police said that upon entering a back bedroom, officers located the pregnant victim dead from apparent stab wounds.
The victim was nine months pregnant. Later, the unborn child died as a result of the attack.
The incident occurred on October 16 in a North Las Vegas apartment.
The suspect herself is suffering from apparent non-life threatening stab wounds.
Indico was transported to the UMC Trauma Center by arriving medical personnel.
She is due for a preliminary hearing on November 8th. Indico's bail is set for $120,000.

Home › Global Filipino › Kin of OFW on death row appeals for prayers, help

MANILA – The family of Joselito Zapanta, the overseas Filipino worker in death row in Saudi Arabia, is appealing for more prayers as the deadline for the blood money to spare his life is about to end next month.
Zapanta's mother Mona earlier urged relatives, neighbors and friends to join the family in a small gathering in honor of their son.

She said the small gathering with simple snacks was the only thing she could give her son whom she has not seen for six years.
His mother admitted that they have yet to raise the P45 million as payment for the blood money to the family of the Sudanese national that his son allegedly killed.
The deadline for the blood money is due on November 3.
Vice President Jejomar Binay said that although the deadline was extended for three times, the blood money they have collected is still short by P27 million.
Despite this, the family remains hopeful. They hope that donations will continue to pour to help save the life of their son. Report from Trisha Mostoles, ABS-CBN News

Philippines launches survey on migrant workers

ANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has launched a survey on the number of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), a major contributor of the country's foreign exchange, a state agency said Thursday.
The National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) said that the Survey on Overseas Filipinos (SOF) aims to gather information on the number of Filipino citizens who leave the country to seek work abroad, their remittances (cash and in-kind), mode of remittances, their occupation and place of work abroad.
"In light of this, the public is encouraged to participate in the survey," said the NSCB, adding that the government has earmarked P10 million ($232,558) to cover around 50,000 households nationwide.
It noted that in the 2012 SOF, there were about 2.2 million OFWs in the country, 95 percent of whom were overseas contract workers or those with existing contracts abroad. More than half of them were male OFWs and one in every three OFWs was a laborer or an unskilled worker.
OFW remittances are the largest source of foreign exchange income in the Philippines. The government estimates the number of OFWs at 10 million, accounting for one tenth of the country's population.
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