Tuesday, September 30, 2014

OFWs, CSOs form united front vs MIAA’s new policy on terminal fees

  

Various Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) groups and advocates have formed a united front against the implementation of the integration of airport terminal fees in all 
airline tickets
 by November 1, 2014.
“OFWs have already sacrificed so much for their families and their country. It is unjust and unfair to ask them to sacrifice even more as a result of this new policy that deprives them of one of the few benefits granted by law,” the #noto550 coalition wrote in their position paper which they recently presented to Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.
Among the members of the #noto550 Coalition are Kenji Solis and Gemma Comiso of PinoyExpats/OFW Blog Awards, Engrs. Nelson Ramirez and Bienvenido Lorque of United Filipino Seafarers, Carmelita Nuqui of Philippine Migrants’ Rights Watch, Ellene Sana of Center for Migrant Advocacy, Loreto Soriano of the LBS Recruitment, Elso Cabangon and Rashid Fabricante of Filipino Migrant Workers Group, Sis. Teresa Evasco of Daughters of Charity Migrants Desk, Luther Calderon of KAMPI, Ma. Fe Nicodemus of KAKAMMPI, Lizabeth Platero of the Office of Senator Cynthia A. Villar, Hannah Seneres of the OFW Family Partylist, and OFW advocate Susan “Toots” Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute.
The Ople Center hopes that legislators can conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the plan of MIAA considering that there is an existing law exempting OFWs from paying terminal fees.
The #noto550 Coalition also supports the plan of OFW Party-List Representative Roy Seneres to file a case in court to stop MIAA from implementing the IPSC unless the legal exemptions for OFWs are upheld.
According to the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), the new policy aims to decongest the airports. Though originally scheduled for implementation on October 1, MIAA and DOTC decided to defer its policy on terminal fees or the Integrated Passenger Service Charge (IPSC) due to the intervention of Rep. Seneres during the budget deliberations of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC) and its attached agencies.
The integration of the IPSC or terminal fee will be implemented simultaneously by all airlines worldwide and shall also cover passengers transiting Manila to any destination point. The entire process will go through a transition period and is expected to be fully implemented by October 2015, when all tickets purchased/issued prior to November 1, 2014 shall have been used. Under the scheme, the 
services
 of the air carriers will be engaged in the collection of the IPSC through its inclusion in the airline ticket.
However, OFW advocate Susan Ople of the Blas F. Ople Policy Center, a non-profit organization that specializes in labor and migration issues, said that overseas workers’ groups in different countries are dismayed over the MIAA’s decision to push through with the implementation of the terminal fee integration in airline tickets by November 1, 2014.
“We urge the MIAA and DOTC to respect the provisions of the Migrant Workers’ Act of 1995, as amended by Republic Act No. 1022 that clearly grant to all overseas workers an exemption from paying the airport terminal fee,” she said.
“Obtaining a refund is already an admission that such fees were paid thus negating a specific benefit granted to our OFWs by law,” she added.
The OFW sector is objecting to MIAA’s inclusion of terminal fees in airline tickets on the following grounds:
1. Air tickets bought by foreign employers for OFWs, and air tickets paid for by the OFWs, will also include the terminal fee by November 1, 2014. However, MIAA itself admitted that airline offices and travel agencies based abroad do not recognize and are not bound by Philippine law exempting OFWs from paying terminal fees. Hence, you have a situation wherein OFWs are able to enjoy their exemptions from terminal fees only when tickets are bought locally because airline companies and travel agencies in the Philippines recognize the POEA-issued OECs as basis for exemptions for OFWs. This discriminates against OFWs abroad, who through no fault of their own, are now being asked to pay the terminal fees in contravention of an existing law granting them an exemption.
2. Foreign employers are bound to react negatively upon learning of the new MIAA policy, and nothing stops them from charging to its Filipino workers the cost of the terminal fee. This once again contravenes the provisions of the Migrant Workers’ Act, exempting our workers from paying such fee.
3. MIAA assures OFWs that they can obtain refunds at the airport, but the process they have outlined is cumbersome, especially for OFWs that have limited time to spend with their families (i.e. those on 
vacation
 or emergency leaves).
4. The OFW sector also questions the wisdom and legality behind the creation of a Trust Fund by MIAA to hold on to non-refunded terminal fees due to the inability of OFWs to claim such refunds. What is the legal basis for such funds? What will this fund be called? Lito Soriano, a recruitment industry leader and a former OFW, said that this fund could easily reach millions because most OFWs would not be able to find the time to claim the refund during their brief stay in the country.
5. While OFWs like all Filipinos dream of a world-class airport, they question the move of MIAA to implement a new system with little or no direct consultations with OFWs across the globe through Philippine embassies and consulates. An OFW who sought an explanation from the Philippine Embassy in Singapore was surprised by the lack of awareness about the new policy among embassy personnel.
The #NoTo550 Coalition vowed to sustain their campaign in the news media, including social media and other social networking sites, until the integrated terminal fee is finally rescinded.  (30)

SSS lauds top companies in Balikat ng Bayan Awards


The Social Security System (SSS) has recognized 12 companies as national winners of the 2014 SSS Balikat ng Bayan Awards for their significant contribution to the attainment of SSS' goals and mission.
The “Balikat ng Bayan” plaques, specially made by renowned Filipino sculptor Dr. Antonino Raymundo,were presented to the winners by Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando V. Tetangco, Jr, who was the guest of honor and speaker, together with Social Security Commission Chairman Juan B. Santos and SSS President and Chief Executive Offcer Emilio S. de Quiros, Jr. during the awarding ceremonies held at the SSS corporate headquarters on September 25.
SSS Balikat ng Bayan Awards Committee Chairman and Chief Legal Counsel Voltaire P. Agas said the 2014 Balikat ng Bayan awardees consisted of two top employers, four best collection partners, three best paying partners and three best media partners.
“Every year, we mark our anniversary by honoring institutions that have helped us outstandingly in advancing the social security protection of Filipino workers. The term “Balikat ng Bayan” aptly represents the kind of partnership that we have between them, which benefits millions of SSS members and their beneficiaries,” Agas said.
This year's SSS Top Employer distinction went to Cebu Mitsumi Inc., an electronic parts manufacturing company with over 13,000 employees, and PYP Agro Industries Inc., a Tarlac-based company engaged in ice and cold storage and water refilling and bottling station with 70 employees, the two emerged as winners in the large and small/medium accounts categories, respectively.
“Both companies exercised strict compliance with the SSS law, which requires for the compulsory coverage of employees, remittance of SSS contributions and loan payments, and accurate and timely submission of collection reports, among others.” Agas said.
For SSS's collection partners for members' contributions and loan payments, the winners were Bank of the Philippines Islands as Best Commercial Bank, RCBC Savings Bank as Best Thrift Bank, and One Network Bank Inc. as Best Rural Bank. The Best Collecting Partner for OFW remittances was awarded to Ventaja International Corporation.
Three depository banks were named as SSS Best Paying Partners for servicing the accounts of SSS pensioners through their wide network of local branches. The winners under the category were the Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company as Best Commercial Bank, BPI Family Savings Bank as Best Thrift Bank, and One Network Bank, Inc. as Best Rural Bank.
“Aside from partner employers and banks, we also deemed it worthy to recognize the efforts of those media organizations that have significantly elevated the discourse about the importance of social security coverage, particularly the SSS program,” Agas said.
Manila Bulletin was selected as the SSS' Best Media Partner for Print for the third time in a row. UNTV's Good Morning Kuya emerged as the winner in the television category, while Imbestigador of GMA Super Radyo DYSS Cebu won in the radio category.
The SSS for the first time presented special citations to Balikat ng Bayan Hall of Famers, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Company, and iRemit, Inc. Radio program Usapang de Campanilla of DZMM was also cited for its consistent display of efforts in putting forward the objectives and messages of the SSS.
The SSS Balikat ng Bayan Awards was one of the highlights of the 57th anniversary celebrations of the SSS. To date, a total of 159 companies have been given the distinction since it was first endowed in 1995. 

SSS unveils provident fund for members


The Social Security System (SSS) has opened a voluntary provident fund program that offers its members an additional way of saving for their retirement.
SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. de Quiros, Jr said the new retirement savings scheme called the SSS Personal Equity and Savings Option (SSS PESO) fund is an alternative and tax-free investment that would help members accumulate adequate income in retirement and earn a reasonable rate of return.
SSS PESO savings can be used to supplement the benefits available under the regular SSS program. It offers guaranteed earnings based on rates higher than those at brick-and-mortar banks.” De Quiros said.
The SSS PESO fund is open to all members below 55 years old with six consecutive SSS contributions within the last 12 months prior to enrollment and have not yet filed final claims with the SSS.
Qualified members can participate for a minimum contribution of P1,000 up to a maximum of P100,000 per year.
One's membership will start upon receipt of first contribution. Succeeding SSS PESO Fund contributions can be made anytime as long as there is a corresponding SSS contribution on the month of contribution,” De Quiros said.
De Quiros said self-employed, voluntary and OFW members should be paying the maximum SSS contribution to qualify. “They will also need to pay the maximum SSS contribution for the month they are to save in the SSS PESO Fund,” he added.
Savings in the SSS PESO Fund are invested in sovereign guaranteed investments, where 65 percent of the total fund is allocated for retirement, and 35 percent is for medical and general purposes. SSS PESO accounts will be charged a one-percent administration fee annually.
The portion for retirement is guaranteed to earn income based on interest rates of five-year Treasury yields, while earnings of the fund allotted for medical and general purposes will be based on 364-day Treasury bill rates,” De Quiros said.
Aside from the guaranteed earnings, De Quiros said SSS PESO Fund members may also get excess earnings, which will be credited automatically to their accounts, depending on the actual year-end performance of the SSS PESO Fund.
Savings in SSS PESO fund can be withdrawn upon the member’s effective date of retirement or total disability with the SSS either in monthly pensions over a minimum period of 12 months and P1,000 payment per month, in lumpsum, or combination of both.
In case they incur a need to withdraw funds early, they may only touch the portion of their equity allocated for medical and general purposes, and it will be subject to penalties and service fees if withdrawn earlier than five years,” De Quiros said, adding that if a member died before the maturity of his SSS PESO savings or expiration of the pension period, the member’s beneficiaries will receive the savings in the form of death benefit to be paid in lumpsum.
Launched on September 25, the SSS PESO Fund was created in accordance to Sec.4(a)(2) of the Social Security Law.

Terminal fee integration in airline ticket deferred to Nov. 1

Authorities are moving back by one month the integration of the terminal fee to the price of 
airline tickets
, as a consideration to passengers who may be adversely affected by the move.

This means the integration will be implemented not this Wednesday but on November 1, according to a report on Unang Balita.
Transportation authorities expect the one-month period will particularly benefit those who had been exempted from paying the terminal fee.
Exempted from paying the terminal fee are overseas Filipino workers, pilgrims endorsed by the
National
 Commission on Muslim Filipinos, athletes endorsed by the Philippine Sports Commission, and those authorized by the Office of the President.
Also exempted are children two years old and younger.
Earlier, the Manila International Airport Authority said the integration would mean passengers going through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport can expect less queuing.
MIAA general manager Jose Angel Honrado said the setup will immediately benefit at least seven million passengers who do not have to line up just to pay the terminal fee.
All airlines worldwide are to implement the integration simultaneously. The exemption will cover passengers transiting Manila to any destination point.
However, the process will go through a transition period and is to be fully implemented by October 2015, when all tickets purchased/issued before October 1, 2014 shall have been flown.
Integration will be upon booking or ticket purchase. If no exemption certificate is presented at the time of purchase, the P550 terminal fee will be included in the cost of ticket. Joel Locsin/KG, GMA News

Airport Terminal Fee

MANILA, Philippines–The integration of the airport terminal fee into the cost of an international airline ticket will be implemented effective Nov. 1 and not Oct. 1 as earlier announced to give passengers more time to learn its mechanics, the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) said on Monday.

To avoid long queues of international passengers paying the terminal fee, the Miaa announced last week that the P550 international passenger service charge or terminal fee was to be included in the AIRLINE TICKET cost starting Wednesday.

The start of the one-year transition program, however, had to be delayed another month “to give more time for affected passengers, especially those exempted from the terminal fee,” the Miaa said.

Vicente Guerzon Jr., Miaa officer in charge, said the postponement of the fee implementation was decided after consultation with OFW party-list Rep. Roy Señeres on Friday.

“Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya agreed to the deferment, to adequately inform passengers about the mechanics of the implementation,” Guerzon said, adding that they expected no further deferments on Nov. 1.

The integration will be implemented simultaneously by ALL AIRLINES nationwide covering passengers who are flying from Manila to any destination. The Miaa said the process would be fully implemented by October next year.

Exempted from payment of the terminal fee are overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Muslim pilgrims endorsed by the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos, athletes endorsed by the Philippine Sports Commission, and those authorized by the Office of the President.–Maricar B. Brizuela

Monday, September 29, 2014

PHL Consul General: Pinoys in HK safe as pro-democracy protest goes on

The Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong assured on Monday that Filipinos in the former British colony are safe as pro-democracy advocates surround the city's government headquarters in a bid to shut down what a news service tagged as "the heart of the global financial hub."
 
In an interview with GMA News' "News To Go," Consul General Bernardita Catalla said the situation was "normal" despite the presence of protesters and barricades on the streets, adding that they were still able to walk to the consulate for work.
 
She added that they are not really worried about the Filipinos there, most of whom are household workers, since it's rare for them to take a day-off during weekdays.
 
"Hindi naman ho kami nag-wo-worry dahil ang mga Filipino po dito, nakakalabas kapag Sunday lang. Weekday ho kaunti lang talaga ang mga Filipino na nag-de-day off. Ang day-off nila ay Sunday at statutory holidays, so wala sila sa labas," she said.
 
While the Consulate in the Admiralty area is still open and offering all their services, Catalla discouraged Filipinos as precaution from heading down there unless there is urgent business.
 
"Kung puwede pong iwasan ngayon ang lugar na 'to, kung wala naman silang emergency transaction sa atin, 'wag na ho silang pumunta dahil malayo ang lalakarin at baka mapagkamalang kasama sila sa mga nag-po-protesta," she said.
 
The Philippine official said the protests may continue until October 1, the National Day of the People's Republic of China, but added that they trust it will not lead to martial law.
 
"Ang tingin ko po hindi naman aabot sa ganu'n dahil marami pong naniniwala na ito po ay expression lamang ng kanilang nais tungkol doon sa pagpili ng kanilang magiging chief executive in 2017," she said. "Ngayon nga po, nakikita ko 'yung mga taong nag-po-protesta, nakaupo sa kalye, at hindi pa naman ho sila ganoong karami sa ngayon."
 
A Reuters report Sunday noted the Hong Kong police barricaded city streets and eventually fired tear gas to disperse the protesters, who had earlier launched a "new era" of civil disobedience to pressure Beijing into granting full democracy. http://www.gmanetwork.com/news/story/381260/news/world/hong-kong-pro-democracy-protesters-defiant-as-police-use-tear-gas
 
According to Philippine Overseas Employment Administration data, Hong Kong is the fourth top destination for landbased Filipino workers, with some 130,686 new hires and rehires employed there as of 2013. – Rose-An Jessica Dioquino/VS, GMA News

No Filipino injured in HK protests so far, some OFWs unfazed by tension

No overseas Filipino worker has so far been reported injured in the protest rallies in Hong Kong as of Monday morning.
 
Some OFWs spent their day off Sunday near some of the protest venues without incident, GMA News stringer Azon Cañete reported on GMA News TV's News TV Live early Monday.
 
The report cited initial information from the Philippine Consulate General indicating there was no report of Filipinos affected or injured due to the protests.
 
In some cases, some even pushed through with their usual day-off activities such as eating out and singing, though some of the OFWs decided to go home early.
 
On Sunday, Hong Kong police fired volleys of tear gas to disperse pro-democracy protests and baton-charged a crowd blocking a key road in the government district in defiance of official warnings against illegal demonstrations, Reuters reported. 
 
Hong Kong's The Standard said on Monday at least 10 men and four women were taken to Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital, Queen Mary Hospital and Ruttonjee Hospital for treatment.
 
Meanwhile, Radio Television Hong Kong on Monday said Hong Kong's Education Bureau announced that schools in Wan Chai and Central and Western District were closed Monday due to the disturbances.
 
The class suspensions apply to primary and secondary schools, kindergartens and special needs schools.
 
It also said officials expect traffic disruption to continue in those areas due to "Occupy Central."Joel Locsin/KG, GMA News

Filipino dies in 9-story fall from Singapore hospital

A Filipino patient fell to his death from the ninth floor of Singapore's Tan Tock Seng hospital, a Singapore news site reported Sunday.

The Straits Times report did not identify the Filipino, but described him as in his 40's, and that paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene.

According to a hospital spokesman the patient broke through a fire escape-stairwell window at a general in-patient ward.

Though foul play is not suspected, the investigation into the Filipinos's death would continue.  Joel Locsin/DVM, GMA News

Palace: PNoy didn’t snub Fil-Ams in California during US trip

Malacañang on Sunday dismissed as “baseless” claims that President Benigno Aquino III snubbed members of the Filipino-American community in California on the final leg of his five-day working visit to the United States last week.

According to Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., the President did not have a scheduled appointment with Filipinos living in San Francisco.

“During the short period of time that his plane stopped at San Francisco, the President met with the leaders of two multinational entertainment and banking companies that have expressed interest in investing or expanding their current participation in our country’s economy, “ Coloma said in an interview over the state-run dzRB radio station.

Members of the Filipino-American community in California have expressed disappointment over failing to meet with Aquino during his short stay in San Francisco, with some leaders remarking to the Asian Journal that the President appeared to have “chose[n] guns, burgers and jazz” instead of having a dialogue with them.

But when asked if the allegations about Aquino’s supposed snub of Filipino-Americans were just part of the intrigues about the President, Coloma said the reports were “baseless” and “are not truthful.”

According to the Asian Journal, Aquino concluded his US trip with a visit to McDonald’s, the Amoeba music shop and the Peninsula Gun Store in San Bruno. He returned to the Philippines on Sept 25.

Aquino said his 12-day-long trip to Europe and the US yielded investment pledges amounting to $2.35 billion, which in turn would create at least 33,850 jobs.  Xianne Arcangel/BM, GMA News

Australia-based Pinoy writer talks about changing sensibilities in migration

In a clear voice, Filipino writer Merlinda Bobis read sections of her new book to a select audience inside the Plaridel Hall at the University of the Philippines Diliman last week.

Her new book, "Dream Stories," is a re-issue of "White Turtle," first published in Australia in 1999 and Philippines and the US in 2000, and contains some of her "younger" stories.

The University of Wollongong professor said these stories shuttle between the Philippines and Australia, and chronicle her writing before it was influenced by her geography change.

"Geography influences your sensibilities. When I was still here, I was writing based on this geography, Bicol especially... but when I went there, it's a different geography and different culture," she said.

Staying in Australia even changed her mode of language and sentence construction. While Bobis wrote in English before coming to Australia, she wrote epic poetry in Filipino and even in Bicolano.

Long years in Australia changed her language so much that she couldn't properly write in Filipino, noting that her earlier works read like it was written by another person.

"I lost a language... Ngayon, kahit magsusulat ako ng konting Filipino, hindi na ganun katatas. [That's] the sadness, na nawala yung lengwahe. I know that language [and] I can play with that language very well, [pero] hindi na ganun," Bobis said.

Despite this, Bobis is happy with the change, as it allowed her to grow as a writer.

"I'm happy with the change. I've grown up—I've grown. Pati yung vision ko, lumawak," she explained.

Her migratory experiences also made it clear that, while the imagination certainly helps in writing stories in foreign lands, living in or traveling to these areas help create an authentic story.

"A lot of writing is about the senses. Kung ano yung apprehension ng senses mo before... You feel a place with all your senses so you are able to write, with some credibility, [a story] that is believable on the page," Bobis shared.

Loneliness and the difficulty of publishing abroad

While she's come to terms with her migration, Bobis vividly remembers being sad and homesick during the first few months of moving to Australia.

"But the greatest difficulty was publishing. Kasi iba yung sensibilidad mo. Ngayon okay na, but the beginning was so hard," she said.

Part of the difficulties lie in her different race, as she was an "other." Even if she wrote about Australia, her writing identity made it hard for her to get published.

Tough as it was, the royalties and recognition that came with publishing deals encouraged Bobis to continue submitting her work.

"I've written about [rejection]. But it made me become a better writer because I just worked harder and worked harder. Sasakyan mo rin yung gusto nila, but you cannot give up on who you are," she explained.

Pop culture and 'high-brow' fiction both have places in PHL

Finalists for the 2014 Filipino ReaderCon Reader's Choice Awards were mostly comprised of self-published pop fiction, reflecting Filipinos' taste in casual literature.

According to Bobis, this isn't necessarily bad, saying there is a place for everything in literature as long as they tell a story. Tastes, she said, naturally vary.

"It's not my genre, but I have respect for people who do that, especially since they're able to get their story out there. It's just not a genre that I will write. It's not me. But good on them for doing that," she said.

Helping others rise from tragedy through poetics

Bobis contributed to "Agam," a photobook containing stories from 24 writers, highlighting the effects of climate change through unique narratives.

For the collection, she wrote a story called "Ten Fingers," which she also wrote in Bikolano.

Bobis said it was dedicated to the mothers and fathers who worked despite constant storms ravaging their farms, and how the increasing magnitude of storms would eventually be too much for them to bear.

"[Because] of climate change, we will have storms of ever-growing strength. Hindi na kaya. Kahit 20 fingers—even if you have 100 million fingers holding back the storm, if you have a Yolanda, you can't hold it back," she said. — BM, GMA News

PHL Consulate General in HK closed Oct 1, 2

The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong will be closed on October 1 and 2, in observance of two holidays there.

In an announcement, the consulate general said October 1, a Wednesday, is the national day of the People's Republic of China.

Hong Kong is a special administrative region of China.

On October 2, the consulate general will remain closed for the Chung Yeung festival, which falls on the ninth day of the ninth lunar month.

It is an occasion where families congregate at cemeteries to engage in ancestor worship.

In case of emergency, Filipinos may contact:

Consular assistance: 9155-4023
Labor: 6080-8323
OWWA: 6345-9324
Facebook: Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong
Email: hongkongpc@philcongen-hk.com
Fax: 2866-9885

 Joel Locsin /LBG, GMA News

Fil-Aussie handball star continues winning ways with new club

After five seasons with German club TSV Altenholz, Filipino-Australian handball star Bevan Calvert switched to a new club for the 2014-2015 season, news site The Filipino Australian reported.

The change in club, however, changed nothing in Calvert's game, as the 28-year-old scored nine goals in his latest match with his new club, SV Mecklenburger Schwerin.

The Handball Australia team captain said he appreciated his time with Altheholz Wolf, but looked forward to a new experience with the Mecklenburger Bulls.

Calvert added that he would "never forget" his time with the fans, the management, and his "fantastic team mates", and hoped to see them soon.

Deemed an "absolute gain" by Bulls President Friedrich Diestel, Calvert told fans that his new team had “much potential,” and despite the opposition, they could still achieve their goals.

From his Filipino mother Violi, Calvert picked up a bit of Filipino. He also enjoys spending time with his other relatives in Australia.

At the age of 17, he was the youngest Fil-Aussie to join the Australian national handball team. During his captaincy, he led it to win the 2012 Oceania Region World Championship Qualifier.  Rie Takumi/DVM, GMA News

Friday, September 19, 2014

Malta turns away ship with Filipino possibly sick with Ebola on board


VALLETTA - Malta has turned away a ship travelling from Guinea with a Filipino passenger with suspected Ebola and seeking medical assistance, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Thursday.

The sick Filipino passenger was taken in by Italy, and an initial medical assessment suggested he has hepatitis, port authorities in Sicily told Agence France-Presse.
 
Muscat said it was "morally and legally correct" to have prevented the Hong Kong-flagged ship from entering Maltese waters late Wednesday, despite a request from the captain for assistance.
 
The MV Western Copenhagen, with 21 people on board, was on its way from Guinea -- one of the three countries worst hit by west Africa's Ebola epidemic -- to Ukraine.
 
An army patrol boat was dispatched to make sure the ship did not enter Maltese waters.
 
"We had no way of ascertaining whether the captain was understating or overstating the situation. We do not even know if there is more than one suspected case," Muscat said.
 
He argued that while international conventions state that countries are obliged to help individuals at sea in need of assistance, exceptions can be made if the country's health system or 
national
 security could be at risk.
 
"We do not know the magnitude of the situation and it could be a false alarm. But we will not compromise our health system," he said.
 
Valletta said the ship was 40 nautical miles (74 kilometres) from Sicily and 83 nautical miles off Malta when it asked for medical assistance.
 
After being turned away from Malta, it turned towards Sicily and a coast guard patrol boat was dispatched from Pozzallo to meet it.
 
An initial medical assessment by radio while he was still on board suggested the man may be suffering from hepatitis, authorities at the port said. The passenger was met by an ambulance on the portside and taken to hospital.
 
The Western Copenhagen then continued on its way to Ukraine.
 
The deadliest Ebola outbreak on record began at the start of the year in Guinea before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
 
The epidemic has claimed more than 2,600 lives, according to the UN's World Health Organization. — Agence France-Presse

Sta. Rosa City job order and casual workers to get SSS coverage


PHL to repatriate troops in Golan Heights earlier than expected

(Updated 1:14 p.m.) Filipino peacekeepers in Golan Heights will be repatriated sooner after they were repositioned to territory controlled by Israel, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said Friday.
 
In a statement, AFP spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala cited the "volatile operational environment" in Golan Heights and "logistical constraints" following the repositioning as reasons for the earlier repatriation of Filipino troops.
 
"Because of this repositioning of all peacekeepers to the Israeli side of Golan Heights and its attendant logistical constraints on UNDOF [United Nations Disengagement Observer Force], it was deemed practical that PH contingent be repatriated earlier than expected," Zagala said.
 
The Philippines was supposed to pull out all 331 of its troops serving in the UNDOF after their tour of duty in October.

Last week, the head of the Philippine peacekeeping force in Golan Heights, Col. James Ezra Enriquez, already returned to the Philippines. He offered to resign in the wake of the controversy triggered by the Filipino peacekeepers' escape, but this was rejected by his superiors.
 
On Monday, the United Nations announced that it withdrew all peacekeepers from the Syrian-controlled side of Golan Heights due to the deteriorating security situation in the area.
 
 
At the time the Fijians were abducted, 75 Filipino peacekeepers figured in a standoff with the Syrian militants, which ended with them escaping after a seven-hour clash.
 
But the AFP and UNDOF officials gave conflicting takes of the Filipino peacekeepers' escape. The Philippine military said the Filipino troops defied the order as there was no guarantee that the rebels would release the Fijian hostages. 
 
On the other hand, Lt. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha, UNDOF commander, described the Filipino troops' action as an act of cowardice
 
Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in a 1967 war, and the countries technically remain at war. Syrian troops are not allowed in an area of separation under a 1973 ceasefire formalized in 1974.
 
UNDOF monitors the area of separation, a narrow strip of land running 70 km from Mount Hermon on the Lebanese border to the Yarmouk River frontier with Jordan. There are 1,223 UNDOF peacekeepers from six countries. — RSJ, GMA News

DFA suspends passport, authentication services in NCR due to bad weather

The Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday suspended passport and authentication services at its offices in Metro Manila due to heavy rain from Tropical Storm Mario (Fung-Wong).
 
In a statement, the DFA also said other consular services at DFA-Aseana (Macapagal Boulevard) and all mall-based DFA Satellite Offices in Metro Manila are suspended.

"Operations at DFA-Aseana will resume on 22 September 2014  (Monday). Operations at mall-based DFA Satellite Offices will resume tomorrow, 20 September 2014 (Saturday) if weather conditions improve," it said.

Also, it said it will post an advisory if it needs to suspend consular operations at DFA satellite offices on Saturday.

For passport applicants who have a scheduled appointment on Friday, they will be accommodated from September 22 to 26, but will have to present proof of their appointment.

Those who have questions may contact the DFA via phone at:

- DFA Aseana
651-9429, 651-9430
passportconcerns@dfa.gov.ph

- DFA NCR Central
631-0806
dfancrcentral@dfa.gov.ph

- DFA NCR Northeast
709-0199, 293-0748
dfancrnortheast@dfa.gov.ph

- DFA NCR East
570-3230
dfancreast@dfa.gov.ph

- DFA NCR West
536-9994
dfancrwest@dfa.gov.ph

- DFA NCR South
551-1051
dfancrsouth@dfa.gov.ph

The DFA can also be reached at (02) 536-0000. Messages can be sent to the Passport Division’s Facebook page, Philippine Passport.  Joel Locsin /LBG, GMA News

PHL Consulate General seen to open in Chengdu, China in 3 years

CHENGDU CITY, China - The Philippine government is expected to open a Consulate General in the capital city of Sichuan province in China within the next three years, an official of the Embassy of People's Republic of China in the Philippines said.

"Last year, the Philippine government decided to build a Consulate General here in Chengdu because more and more Chengdu people wants to visit the Philippines," said Charlie Liu, Third Secretary of the embassy's political division, in an interview with reporters on Thursday.
 
Earlier this month, China issued an advisory cautioning against travel to the Philippines.
 
The documents needed to make the consulate project happen have been finished and the search for a site in underway. "We hope to finish in three years," Liu said.
 
Liu noted that the Philippine government may have noticed the increase of chartered flights from Sichuan province to and from the country "so they may have decided to build a Consulate General here."
 
"It depends if we can find a piece of land, and also the speed of the Philippine government in undergoing the procedure," he said, when asked for an exact date on the opening of the Consulate General.
 
Consulate General in Davao
 
The Chinese government has also decided to have a Consulate General in Davao City.
 
"Davao people who will apply for visa to China have to go to Cebu City," Liu said. "It's difficult for them, for the local people in Mindanao, they have to go to Cebu to apply for their visas."
 
He added that the new Consulate General would help Filipinos in the southern part of the country get access to their services, including visa application.
 
Liu said the Chinese government is still looking for a location, a search that may take about three years to conclude.  — ELR, GMA News

Malta turns away ship with Filipino possibly sick with Ebola on board

VALLETTA - Malta has turned away a ship travelling from Guinea with a Filipino passenger with suspected Ebola and seeking medical assistance, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said Thursday.

The sick Filipino passenger was taken in by Italy, and an initial medical assessment suggested he has hepatitis, port authorities in Sicily told Agence France-Presse.
 
Muscat said it was "morally and legally correct" to have prevented the Hong Kong-flagged ship from entering Maltese waters late Wednesday, despite a request from the captain for assistance.
 
The MV Western Copenhagen, with 21 people on board, was on its way from Guinea -- one of the three countries worst hit by west Africa's Ebola epidemic -- to Ukraine.
 
An army patrol boat was dispatched to make sure the ship did not enter Maltese waters.
 
"We had no way of ascertaining whether the captain was understating or overstating the situation. We do not even know if there is more than one suspected case," Muscat said.
 
He argued that while international conventions state that countries are obliged to help individuals at sea in need of assistance, exceptions can be made if the country's health system or national security could be at risk.
 
"We do not know the magnitude of the situation and it could be a false alarm. But we will not compromise our health system," he said.
 
Valletta said the ship was 40 nautical miles (74 kilometres) from Sicily and 83 nautical miles off Malta when it asked for medical assistance.
 
After being turned away from Malta, it turned towards Sicily and a coast guard patrol boat was dispatched from Pozzallo to meet it.
 
An initial medical assessment by radio while he was still on board suggested the man may be suffering from hepatitis, authorities at the port said. The passenger was met by an ambulance on the portside and taken to hospital.
 
The Western Copenhagen then continued on its way to Ukraine.
 
The deadliest Ebola outbreak on record began at the start of the year in Guinea before spreading to Liberia and Sierra Leone.
 
The epidemic has claimed more than 2,600 lives, according to the UN's World Health Organization. — Agence France-Presse

Fund misuse allegation hounds Fil-Canadian scenester

A Filipino fashion personality in Canada is now in the center of controversy after volunteers for the fashion events he organized accused him of mishandling funds.

A report on the news and entertainment website Now Toronto said Jeff Rustia,  executive director of Toronto Men's Fashion Week (TOMFW), allegedly donated only proceeds of one show to Kol Hope Foundation when in fact it was supposed to receive all of TOMFW's earnings.
 
Jeff Rustia, founder of Canada Philippine Fashion Week, is not a stranger to controversy. 'At any large event,' he said, 'circumstances occur beyond one's control.'
It said materials printed for the event stated that the foundation donated $85,000 to Sickkids in 2013, but in truth that was the amount it has donated since 2001, the year it was established.

The report said Rustia had explained the discrepancy as “a typo missed in the hectic days leading up to the event” in late August.

He also said promotional materials for TOMFW had been fixed, adding that Kol Hope, which he owns, had donated $5,000 and $2,000 to various charities in 2011.

Other issue

But money was not the only issue being thrown at Rustia. According to the same report, volunteers from the Rustia-founded Canada Philippine Fashion Week (CPFW) had complained of working long hours with cramped accommodations, exhaustion, and hunger.

Some designers also said their collections, due for other shows, were held up at Philippine Customs and received no support from Rustia, who could not be contacted through emails or his cellphone.

Now Toronto said it got the information from the CPFW volunteers themselves, who it said requested anonymity due to a waiver they had to sign before the event.

The waiver allegedly stipulated that volunteers must “refrain from making any disparaging, critical or other comments respecting TOM* or its representatives.”

Sought for comment, Rustia reportedly said that in any large event, “circumstances occur that are beyond one’s control.” He noted that CPFW secured 16 rooms at the Shangri-La Hotel for designers and their staff.

Legal battle

Rustia, as it turned out, is not a newbie to controversy. In fact, he and his mother Merlinda are also involved in a feud with Balita, a newspaper covering Filipino events in Canada, after it allegedly described them as “fraudsters” who “harvested money for their own personal benefit.”

Rustia and his mother filed a lawsuit against the paper in May, seeking claims totaling $2.5 million in damages.

Homophobia

TOMFW faced another controversy before it even started, with a menswear designer accusing the organizers of homophobia after his collection was called “too feminine” and “too embarrassing” to be included in the event.

Mic Carter told The Star, a news site based in Toronto, that the show's representatives said they were concerned about media toting his collection as “womenswear” at the men's fashion week.

Rustia was quick to deny the accusation, saying Carter's removal was due to his collection's workmanship and called the accusation of homophobia “absolutely ridiculous.”

Carter's "Printemps" collection was eventually reinstated, starting the third and final day of TOMFW,according to The Star. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

There was an error in this gadget
There was an error in this gadget