Friday, February 27, 2015

2 runaway OFWs forced to work as animal caretakers rescued in Saudi

Philippine labor officials in Saudi Arabia have rescued two runaway Filipino workers who said they were recruited as maids but were forced to work as animal caretakers, a Saudi news site reported Friday.

Citing information from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Riyadh, Arab News said the two workers had worked for seven months in Hail and had not eaten for five days when they were rescued.

According to the two workers, they had been recruited as maids but were forced to care for animals. They added they only received SR800 instead of SR1,500 a month as specified in a labor pact signed between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia.

POLO had asked community leaders' help to aid the workers, who hid in a mountainous area. The two have been found and turned over to the POLO.

When found, the two appeared to have not eaten for five days and had only bottles of water with them.

Also, the two said they were recruited illegally as they flew from Manila to Iloilo, then to Mumbai and then to Saudi Arabia, instead of flying directly from the Philippines to the Kingdom.

Earlier, the POLO handled the case of two Filipinos who claimed they were recruited in Manila as dressmakers but rented out to work as housemaids for SR5,000 each.

The two in the earlier case also said they were paid SR1,200 to SR1,300 a month instead of the SR1,875 plus SR300 food allowance in their signed contracts. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

Visa woes driving Pinoy dairy farmers out of NZ –report

Filipino dairy workers in New Zealand may have to leave the country in droves after their applications for residency visas were rejected by the country's immigration bureau.

Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment spokeswoman Rachel Purdom said that 57 percent of applications for residency from Filipinos were declined in 2014, according to a report on The Timaru Herald, as posted on on Friday.

Purdom said that some employees only made partial matches in the required duties of dairy cattle farmers, meaning they did not meet the threshold to have their residency visas approved by Immigration New Zealand.

Maiden Saba, who chairs the Filipino Dairy Workers in New Zealand, said the affected Filipino workers, including herself, are considering leaving the country for Australia and Canada.

Saba and Migrante Aotearoa national coordinator Dennis Maga speculate that employers downplayed the management roles of Filipino workers in order to prevent their applications from being approved.

Saba said the employers fear that the workers will transfer jobs once their residency is approved.

In New Zealand, children of non-residents must either work low-wage jobs or leave the island country because of the expensive international student fees.

report on the New Zealand Herald in May 2014 said a nationwide review of dairy farms was conducted amid allegations of farmers exploiting the migrant labor force.

It said initial visits found out that 31 out of 44 farms broke New Zealand labor laws, which mandates employment contracts, minimum wage, and wet weather gear for dairy workers.

A majority of the labor breaches include improper time recording and contracts, while some Filipino migrants were made to buy their own gumboots and raincoats for work.

Sharemilker Christina Tawatao said that workers also kept mum about alleged pay ripoffs and poor conditions to avoid risking their jobs or immigration status.

Filipinos made up the majority of the 11,636 migrant dairy worker arrivals between July 2008 and April 2014, the report said. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

HK woman jailed for six years for abusing Indonesian maid

HONG KONG - A Hong Kong mother of two who punched her maids, beat them with mops and threatened to kill their relatives was jailed for six years on Friday in a case that triggered outrage and exposed the plight of millions of domestic helpers across Asia.

Former beautician Law Wan-tung, 44, looked stunned as the sentence was passed after being found guilty of 18 of 20 abuse charges. She was also ordered to pay a fine of HK$15,000 ($1,934).

The charges included inflicting grievous bodily harm and criminal intimidation against Erwiana Sulistyaningsih and another maid, also from Indonesia.

Law looked emotionless as she was led out of court. She had pleaded not guilty to the 20 charges but had admitted one of not buying insurance cover for her maid.

Judge Amanda Woodcock read out her verdict saying "damning evidence" revealed "how little care and kindness the defendant showed" for Erwiana, who had told media she would forgive her former boss and her family.

The brutality meted out to Erwiana has sparked calls for Hong Kong to revise its policies on migrant workers. Around 30 supporters of Erwiana protested outside the court.

Erwiana, who arrived in Hong Kong in 2013, returned to Indonesia in January last year where doctors said burns on her body were caused by boiling water.

Photographs of a battered Erwiana posted online sparked outrage and Indonesia's then president, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, described her treatment as torture.

Hong Kong has about 330,000 foreign domestic helpers, most of them from the Philippines and Indonesia and nearly all women, who can earn more in Hong Kong to send back to their families than they can at home.

They earn a small fraction of the minimum wage and are forced to live with their employers, often in tiny apartments. Human rights groups say they often suffer physical and emotional abuse, including sexual assault. —Reuters

43 Pinoy fishermen jailed in Indonesia seek payment from employer

At a media briefing in Manila on Monday, 43 Filipino fishermen released from Indonesian jail demand compensation from a giant General Santos City-based fishing firm, which allegedly abandoned them during their six-month detention in Ternate Island, Indonesia. The 'abandonados' arrived in the country on Monday on board a Cebu Pacific flight from Jakarta. 

Illegal recruiter arrested in Ilocos sting operation

A suspected illegal recruiter was arrested in an entrapment operation inside a mall in San Nicolas town in Ilocos Norte Wednesday.

Police targeted Almie Rose Calipco in their sting operation after receiving complaints from at least three victims, GMA Ilocos reported Thursday.

An investigation showed Calipco is not registered with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

"Initially nagkaroon ng payment at nag-training pa sila. Habang tumatagal hindi naman nila alam kung paano sila makakaalis sa bansa," said Chief Inspector Larry Buansi, head of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group for Ilocos Norte.

Following the suspect's arrest, at least nine people went to the police precinct to claim she victimized them.

"Marami siyang pinangako sa amin pero wala namang natupad," said one of the victims.

Calipco faces charges of violating the Migrant Act of 1995.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

POEA investigates death of OFW in Saudi Arabia; raps vs. recruiter eyed

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is looking into the reported death of an overseas Filipino worker in Saudi Arabia, even as it eyes charges against the OFW's recruitment firm for possible violation of regulations.

POEA administrator Hans Leo Cacdac on Thursday night said, "Wala pong whitewash sa imbestigasyon sa pagkamatay ng kasambahay sa Saudi na si Rochelle Lechido Masubay noong 2014."

In a post on his Twitter account, Cacdac also said, "Tahasan po nating aalamin kung ano ang nangyari... at kung bakit hindi nagbigay ng report ang recruiter ni Rochelle patungkol dito, at kung bakit tila hindi nagpakatotoo ang recruiter sa mga kaanak [ng biktima]."

"Inatasan ko na po ang POEA Adjudication Office na magsampa ng kaso laban sa Fors International at Asas for Recruitment, at magpataw ng preventive suspension alinsunod sa POEA Rules and Regulations," he added.

He said the matter was brought to his attention by militant migrant workers' group Migrante International.

Cacdac said that while Masubay's kin and her recruiter Fors International had signed a compromise agreement with quit claim and release, such an agreement cannot be used to deny Masubay of her rights or her benefits.

Also, he said Fors International and its Saudi partner Asas may have much to explain, particularly how she died and why details of her death remain hazy.

"Paano nabawian ng buhay si Rochelle? Bakit tila inilihim ang kanyang pagkamatay? Bakit hindi nagsumite ng report patungkol dito sa POEA? May ginawa ba ang Fors International at Asas for Recruitment para masabing binantayan nila ang kalagayan ni Rochelle, mula nang nakarating siya sa Saudi noong Mayo 2014?" Cacdac said.

"At bakit tila walang hayag na pagbibigay-alam na may mga benepisyo ang mga tagapagmana ni Rochelle, katulad ng compulsory insurance indemnity na sang-ayon sa Republic Act No. 10022?" he added.

Migrante International said Masubay died under "mysterious circumstances," saying the death was declared a suspected suicide but her family suspects foul play.

It questioned the “quit-claim” and “compromise agreement” the OFW's kin were supposedly made to sign as requirement for the repatriation of her remains.

Migrante said Masubay is a native of Tacloban City and a mother of two. She was deployed to Saudi Arabia by Fors Recruitment Agency on May 25, 2014.

"Her common-law husband Rodolfo Malinao was able to talk to her for the last time on June 26, 2014. Despite multiple efforts, he was not able to contact or talk to her since," it said.

Last January, Malinao went to the office of Fors Recruitment Agency to report her missing wife, and was told she died on October 16, 2014, and that she committed suicide.

But Migrante said the death certificate indicates her date of death on July 1, 2014.

Last February 3, Malinao went to the POEA to arrange for the repatriation of her remains and secured her death certificate from the Saudi Ministry of Interior Civil Affairs and a certification from the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah ruling “suicide” as the cause of her death.

He was also asked to sign a "quit claim" in exchange for P119,240 from a certain Pioneer Insurance Agency.

"In the document, Malinao was asked to state that he would not file any criminal or civil complaint against Fors Recruitment Agency, the POEA or 'any administrative agency,'" the group said.

Migrante added Malinao claimed that he was forced to sign the document because they told him that it was the only way to expedite the repatriation of his wife’s remains.

Masubay’s remains arrived in Tacloban last February 14. Her neighbors and friends in Bagong Barrio, Caloocan City in Metro Manila held a candle-lighting activity calling for justice for her.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

77 Pinoys repatriated from Libya Friday, Sunday – DFA

Some 77 Filipinos repatriated from strife-torn Libya are to arrive home in two batches on Friday and Sunday, the Department of Foreign Affairs said late Thursday.
The DFA said the first batch of 46 Filipinos will arrive at 4 p.m. aboard Emirates EK332, while a second batch of 31 will arrive 3:10 p.m. March 1 via flight QR926.
Representatives from the DFA and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will meet the OFWs at NAIA to brief and assist them.
"These repatriates departed from Tripoli to Tunis via the Ras Jedier border on February 25. The Philippine Embassy in Tripoli, led by Chargé d'affaires Adel Cruz, provided for their lodging and basic necessities, coordinated their flight details, and personally accompanied them out of the Libyan border into the Tunisian border," the DFA said.
An Embassy team based in Tunisia extended airport and consular assistance, and facilitated their smooth departure at the International Airport in Tunis.
With the arrivals, the DFA said an estimated 4,233 Filipinos would have been repatriated from Libya.
Meanwhile, the DFA and the Philippine Embassy in Tripoli reiterated their appeal to Filipinos still there to register for repatriation and return home.
It said the security situation in Libya has rapidly deteriorated in the past few weeks due to the ongoing civil strife and recent air strikes.
Presently, the DFA estimates about 4,000 Filipinos remain in Libya, with repatriation efforts becoming more dangerous and difficult.
The next repatriation operation is scheduled on March 8. Filipinos in Libya are urged to contact the Embassy Team in Tripoli at +218927471949, +2189161555264, and +218916656134.   Joel Locsin/ELR, GMA News

Pinoy dance group wins grand prize in Italy folk festival

Famed Filipino folk dance group Bayanihan won the Tempio d'Oro or the Gold Temple Award for the third time during the 60th International Folklore Festival at Agrigento, Italy, last February 22.

The Philippine National Folk Dance Company's last win at the festival was in 2005, while it first triumphed at the event in 2002, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Bayanihan competed against groups from Bulgaria, Holland, Spain, Thailand, Ukraine, Hungary, Slovakia, and Croatia in the festival, held as part of the 70th Sagra del Mandorlo in fiore.

Executive Director Suzie Benitez received the award for the group with Dance Director and Choreographer Ferdinand Jose and Music Director Melito Vale Cruz.

Originally founded as the Bayanihan Folk Dance Group of the Philippine Women's University, the Bayanihan Dance Company has mounted 14 major tours and over 100 short tours in six continents, 66 countries, and 700 cities worldwide, according to its profile on the Cultural Center of the Philippines website

Since Congress declared the group as the Philippine National Folk Dance Company, Bayanihan has won six grand prizes in world dance competitions.

The Sagra del Mandorlo is a week-long festival held annually at Agrigento, Sicily in February and is considered as one of the oldest festivals in Italy. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Illegal recruiter victimizing would-be OFWs falls in CDO

An illegal recruiter victimizing would-be overseas Filipino workers was arrested following a police sting operation in Cagayan de Oro City on Wednesday night.

Leila Mae Tolentino was arrested in the entrapment operation in Zone 1 in Barangay Kauswagan, GMA Northern Mindanao reported on Thursday.

"Modus niya mag-recruit siya, hihingi ng advance payment na any amount. Matapos niyang matanggap ang pera, ipapaasa niyang makakalipad na sa ibang bansa sa loob ng isang lingo tapos hindi na siya mahanap ng biktima," said Senior Inspector Joepet Paglinawan, Carmen police station commander.

But police said they will investigate Tolentino further, after receiving information she had used other names to fool her victims.

Investigation showed most of her victims included residents of Barangay Bulua, Bonbon, Bayabas, and Kauswagan in Cagayan de Oro City.

She also had victims in Opol town in Misamis Oriental province.

However, Tolentino denied being an illegal recruiter, saying she came from Davao City and was about to leave for abroad.

Tolentino also claimed the complainants may have a grudge against her.

"Inaresto nila ako na wala namang warrant of arrest, na-detain ako na hindi ko alam kung anong kaso, nag-complain lang sila," she said.

Police are preparing charges of illegal recruitment and swindling against Tolentino. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

Pinoy store in California raided by police –report

A Filipino store in San Jose, California, was raided Tuesday (US time) and several people were arrested over alleged illegal activities, a report on ABC 7 said.

Citing San Jose Department Lt. Jason Dwyer, the report said the Merrieneth Filipino Store hosted an "on-going criminal enterprise" involving gambling, stolen vehicles, prostitution, and narcotics.

Dwyer said a SWAT team was utilized as they believed that "the suspects that were involved in this case may have been armed."

Officials confiscated at least 10 digital gaming machines that were found inside the store, which is located on Capitol Expressway, near Andrew Hill High School.

Four people were arrested, including the store's owner, the report said without mentioning names and nationalities.

Neighbors filed numerous noise complaints against the owner of the house, who allegedly held numerous noisy gatherings and let animals loose.

Store owners said Merrieneth sold music, phone cards, and groceries. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Germany paves way for more Pinoy dual citizens

Filipinos and other foreigners born in Germany after January 1, 2000 can now retain their parents' citizenship and still opt for a German citizenship following Germany's the abolition of the exclusivity rule in its Nationality Act.

Covered by this are children born in Germany to parents who, upon the child's birth, were either both foreigners or one has stayed in Germany legally for eight years, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) in a statement.

Children born after January 1, 2000 who grew up in Germany will also benefit from the amendment, the DFA said.

“This means they have been in Germany for eight years or attended a school in Germany for six years, or graduated from school or occupational training in Germany,” the DFA said.

The DFA said before the abolition of the exclusivity rule, children born to foreign parents in Germany had to choose only one citizenship upon reaching 21.

“For those who were born of Filipino parents, this meant choosing German citizenship over Filipino citizenship,” it said.

Dual citizenships

The DFA said the same exemption from the obligation to choose is applicable to children of foreign parents who were born in Germany between January 1, 1990 and December 31, 1999, and were naturalized, becoming German citizens in the year 2000.  

“For them, they are likewise no longer obliged to choose one from both citizenships and can therefore retain their dual citizenships provided they grew up in Germany,” it said.
These changes to Germany's citizenship law, however, will not affect the current rule in the Philippines that children born of mixed marriages are entitled to both citizenships.
“Thus, aside from the usual dual Filipino-German citizens, born of mixed Filipino and German parents and who are therefore both Filipinos and German by birth, there is now a newer group of dual Filipino-German citizens. They are those born of Filipino parents, or of a Filipino parent and a non-German parent,” the DFA said.

Philippine Ambassador to Germany Melita Sta. Maria-Thomeczek said the amendment was especially important to “Filipino-German youth, many of whom continue to closely identify themselves with the Philippines, are able to stake their claim to their parent’s homeland.”

On July 4 last year, Germany's lower house of parliament passed new citizenship laws allowing children of immigrants from most non-EU countries to hold two passports.

The move originally benefited the country's Turkish community. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

DFA: Authentication certificates can be verified online starting March 9

Starting March 9, authentication certificates issued in the Philippines can be verified online through the Department of Foreign Affairs' (DFA) website.

This is one of the benefits of the DFA's expected improvement of authentication services, following the rollout of new information technology equipment this week.

"Currently, one out of ten Filipinos are overseas as migrant workers and immigrants. At some point, they will need their documents to be used abroad to be legalized through our Department,” DFA Undersecretary for Civilian Security and Consular Concerns Rafael Seguis said in a statement.

Seguis also said this will allow further decentralization of authentication services in the regions.

“Consular service is not limited to the issuance of passports and visas but also includes authentication service. With the rollout of the two Authentication IT systems ... authentication service, more commonly known as 'red ribbon,' takes a big leap forward from the medieval age and joins the information age," he said.

The DFA acquired 21 computers, 11 scanners, two servers and one storage device for operating the two systems.

Such equipment will help in the printing of highly secure and tamper-deterrent authentication certificates, the DFA said.

Document management system

The DFA said the Document Management System co-developed by the DFA and APO Production Unit seeks to streamline repetitive backend operations processes to cut down turn-around time and optimize manpower resources.

It said the system will also be the platform for the standardization of authentication services in Philippine Embassies and Consulates General abroad.

e-Registry system

Meanwhile, the DFA said the e-Registry System will make available a database of specimen signatures which can be accessed by DFA satellite and regional consular offices as well as Philippine foreign service posts abroad.

The e-Registry System also makes online verification of authentication certificates issuance by interested parties possible.

“This will also make possible further decentralization of authentication services to our regional consular offices, which is in line with our mantra to make consular services more convenient, closer and accessible to the public,” Seguis said.

He added this is beneficial in light of the growing number of overseas Filipinos.

Meanwhile, the DFA said the e-Registry system will also allow the Philippines to join and implement the Apostille Convention, which streamlines into a single formality the legalization procedure of public documents to be used abroad. Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

Pinoy in UAE loses equivalent of P92,676 to suspected bank fraud

A Filipino engineer in Dubai, United Arab Emirates lost Dh7,737 (P92,676) in minutes, in what authorities suspect could be a case of bank fraud.

Leo Mamaclay, 32, a systems engineer at a metal and mining company, said he learned of the incident last Thursday, Gulf News XPRESS reported.

“I was at work when the texts from my bank came. The first SMS really confused me, but when my phone buzzed five times in a row I knew something was wrong. I got in touch with the bank immediately,” he said.

“They cleaned up my account in less than two minutes and cared to leave behind Dh61.40 (P731). The most intriguing thing for me however is the fact that the withdrawals, according to my bank, took place in Mexico. It’s literally another end of the world for me,” he added.

He said the notifications indicated he may have made five successive ATM withdrawals within two minutes.

Records showed the withdrawals were made in Mexico Feb. 19, including two transactions worth Dh2,985.09, two worth Dh752.49 and a one involving Dh256.33.

The report said the bank did not immediately comment on the incident.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

Thursday, February 26, 2015

OFWs sa Canada 3 araw nang apektado ng snow storm; pasok sa trabaho pahirapan

By  Bombo Vigandecrease font size increase font size
VIGAN CITY - Tatlong araw nang umuulan ng grabeng yelo at umabot na rin sa -4 degrees celcius ang temperatura sa Toronto, Canada.

Ayon kay Marc Pinol na tubo ng Vigan City at nakatira na ngayon sa Toronto, nahihirapan sila sa paglabas dahil sa sobrang kapal ng yelong nakatambak sa kanilang paligid na umabot na ng mahigit 20 pulgada ang taas.

Aniya, dahil sa kapal ng yelo sa mga daan, naghulog na naman ang mga otoridad ng truckload na asin upang matunaw ito at hindi maging sagabal sa mga kalsada.

Pati sila ay tatlong araw na ring obligadong magpala ng yelo sa paligid at harapan ng kani-kanilang mga tahanan dahil pati ang kanilang mga nakaparadang sasakyan ay natambakan na rin ng yelo.

Idinagdag pa niya na mas lalong nahihirapan ang mga pumapasok ng eskuwelahan at sa trabaho dahil may mga daanan na madulas na sanhi ng mga aksidente maliban pa sa dinadanas na sobrang lamig.

Sa ngayon ay wala pang forecast sa kanila kung kailan titigil ang pag- ulan ng yelo sa nasabing lugar.

OFW na kagagaling sa Dubai, arestado dahil sa 'di pagsustento sa pamilya

By  Bombo Laoag
LAOAG CITY – Inaresto ng mga kasapi ng Philippine National Police (PNP) sa Dingras, Ilocos Norte ang isang overseas Filipino worker (OFW) na kagagaling lamang mula sa Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

Kinilala ni C/Insp Teddy Rosqueta, chief of police ng PNP Dingras ang suspek na si Joel Lorenzo, 26, isang OFW, at residente ng Brgy Foz sa nasabing bayan.

Ayon kay Rosqueta, bago nagtungo sa Dubai si Lorenzo ay may dating live-in partner at meron silang dalawang anak.

Ngunit nang nasa ibang bansa na ay hindi na niya binibigyan ng sustento ang kanyang mga anak at umano’y nag-asawa na ng iba na naging dahilan upang magsampa ng kaso ang kanyang dating ka-live-in.

Sinabi ni Rosqueta na nang mabatid na dumating na ang naturang OFW ay isang warrant of arrest ang ipinalabas ni Judge Perla Querubin ng RTC Branch 11 sa lungsod ng Laoag at agad inaresto si Lorenzo upang panagutan ang kanyang pagpapabaya ng responsibilidad sa kanyang mga anak na parehong menor de edad.

Sa ngayon nakatakda nang i-turn-over si Lorenzo sa korte para sa kaukulang disposisyon.

Inirekomenda naman ang P12,000 na piyansa para sa pansamantala nitong kalayaan.

PHL Consulate General in L.A. moving to new location March 2

The Philippine Consulate General in Los Angeles will be closed from Feb. 27 to March 1 to move to its new location.

In a post on its website, the consulate general said it will reopen March 2 at its new location at 3435 Wilshire Blvd, Suite 550, Los Angeles, CA 90010.

"The change of location, that is four blocks from its present address, is part of a wider effort of the Consulate to deliver better client experience and to enhance the image and representation of the Philippines in Southern California," it said.

Also, it said parking with validation is available at the Equitable Bank Building.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

Fil-Am chef Dale Talde expands resto business to New Jersey and Florida

Noted Filipino-American chef Dale Talde has expanded his pop restaurant business to New Jersey on February and will bring his Filipino creations to Florida later this year.

An article on the New York Eater said the Park Slope, Jersey City branch of Talde will serve the chef's signature items such as pretzel pork and chive dumplings as well as Korean fried chicken with spicy kimchi yogurt sauce.

Dim sum items such as the McBao, a roasted pork bun with sweet pickles, and robatayaki samples like charred lobster tails will make their debut in the branch, along with over 100 types of wine and unique cocktails, the report added.

The Jersey branch opened next to Carrino Provisions, an Italian market opened by Talde and partners Anthony Carrino and John Colenari in January.

It also allows diners who couldn't get a table at the popular restaurant to have their wontons delivered at their homes.

Culinary site The Daily Meal, meanwhile, reported that the Talde branch that will be opened at Thompson Miami Beach will serve the same food as its Brooklyn counterpart, along with new dishes influenced by local Miami flavors.

Talde first pinged on Filipino foodies' radars in 2012 when he became one of the top contenders for the ninth season of "Top Chef."

According to his biography on Bravo, the chef's passion for food first emerged when his immigrant parents taught him the basics of the kitchen while growing up in Chicago.

He graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in 1998 before going on to staff and consult at famous eateries such as Naha, Morimoto, and Buddakan. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Filipino newcomers to Canada diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age –study

Filipinos who move to Canada are more prone to having breast cancer at a younger age than women from other parts of East Asia or Caucasians, according to a recent study.

They are also more likely to be diagnosed with a more aggressive form of cancer and are more likely to undergo a mastectomy, according to the paper titled “Breast Cancer Amongst Filipino Migrants: A Review of the Literature and Ten-Year Institutional Analysis.”

Of the 782 patients studied at St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, which has a sizeable Filipino patient population, Filipino newcomers to Canada were diagnosed with breast cancer at a younger age (53), compared to other East Asians (55) and Caucasians (58), the study showed.

“The Canadian Filipino community is a growing community and this new research raises the question of whether our current Canadian guidelines calling for mammograms starting at age 50 are meeting specific cultural needs of different ethnicities when it is known that it takes years for a breast cancer to develop,” said Dr. Jory Simpson, a surgical oncologist in the CIBC Breast Centre of St. Michael’s and one of the three authors of the study.

Moreover, the study also showed that 22.6 percent of Filipinos tested positive for human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, a protein which promotes the growth of cancer cells.

In a statement, Simpson said this was “disproportionately high” compared to those of East Asians (14.4 percent) and Caucasians (15.1 percent).

At least 35 percent of Filipino women with the same sized tumors as other groups underwent mastectomies, higher than Caucasians at 22.5 percent and East Asians at 28.3 percent, the study further said.

“Migrant Studies have consistently shown that when a woman moves from a region of low incidence to a region of higher incidence her risk of developing breast cancer increases,” said Simpson and his co-authors, Kaleigh Briggs and Ralph George, in their abstract.

“Many questions remain such as: how do we increase awareness about the benefits of screening mammography in the Filipino community? Should screening start at an earlier age? And finally, how do we ensure that the Filipino women are getting the adequate treatment given the aggressive nature of their breast cancer? Addressing these disparities should be viewed as a priority in breast cancer research,” they added.

According to the Canadian government, more than 450,000 individuals had identified the Philippines as their birth place as of 2011Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

US extends eligibility for employment to certain dependent spouses

The United States government will extend the eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident status.

The extension will be effective starting May 26, 2015, according to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) director León Rodríguez.

He said the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) amended the regulations to allow H-4 dependent spouses to gain employment in the US.

An H-4 visa is a visa issued by the USCIS to immediate family members of the H-1B visa holders. An H-1B, meanwhile, is a non-immigrant visa in the US

Under the rule, H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders must file an Application for Employment Authorization or Form I-765 with supporting evidence and pay $380 in order to receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or Form I-766.

H-4 dependent spouses must be the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker or have been granted H-1B status to become eligible for EADs, the USCIS said in a statement.

Eligible individuals must submit their applications on or before May 26.

USCIS estimated that 179,600 individuals may apply for employment authorization this year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years.

The US announced changes in visa rules in May 2014 to encourage highly-skilled workers to remain in the country and "support US businesses" and its economy.

Nurses with specialized skills in particular were seen to benefit the most as such workers are needed to help in the implementation of the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, among other health concerns in the US.

The US Department of State estimates that there are 4 million Filipinos living in the US. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Fishing firm: 43 ‘abandoned’ fishermen not our employees

Fishing company Citra Mina on Wednesday denied that the 43 Filipino fishermen who were supposedly abandoned in Indonesia for six months were its employees

“To set the record straight: the 43 fishermen hereto alleged are not fishermen workers nor employees of Citra Mina,” the firm's spokesman Fred Lumba said in an email to GMA News Online.

He added that the fishermen, who were arrested off Ternate, North Maluku, in August last year for alleged illegal fishing, were employed by one Felisa Abe, owner of the fishing boat Love Merben.

At the time of their arrest, the fishermen, who arrived home last Monday after six months in detention, did not possess any travel documents.

Liaison work

Lumba also denied that the company did nothing to repatriate the fishermen, saying they served as liaison between Abe and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

“We assisted her (Abe) by doing liaison work with the DFA since September last year,” he said.

Workers' groups Sentro ng mga Nagkakaisa at Progresibong Maggagawa (SENTRO) and the International Union of Food, Agricultural, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco and Allied Workers' Associations (IUF) had accused Citra Mina of abandoning the fishermen following their arrests.

The two groups said it was them who worked for the repatriation of the 43 after the fishermen were abandoned by the General Santos City-based Citra Mina.

But according to Lumba, IUF and SENTRO “did not spend a single centavo for the repatriation process,” citing DFA Consul General in Manado Jose dela Rosa Burgos.

“I told them that if they wanted to help, they can give food or clothing. You can quote me on this,” Lumba quoted Burgos as saying during their meeting last Monday.

He said it was the DFA which shouldered the airfare of the 43 fishermen.

Retrenched workers

Meanwhile, Lumba also clarified that they did not illegally terminate the 237 workers SENTRO and IUF accused them of dismissing due to involvement in unions.

He said the Citra Mina Seafood Corporation (CMSC) closed in September 2013 after changing operations from processing fresh frozen tuna to cooked loin and canned tuna.

“We retrenched the entire 180-employee workforce with prior approval from the DOLE (Department of Labor and Employment), giving each employee all benefits accruing them under the law, including separation pay checks before signing quitclaims witnessed by DOLE officials," Lumba said.

He added that only 12 CMSC workers refused to accept their separation pay and Citra Mina's Return-To-Work Order, issued last Aug 12, 2014, offering them to return to the canning company.

The House committee on labor and employment will hold a hearing on the fishing industry and Citra Mina on March 18.

Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello told GMA News Online last February 20 that subpoenas may be issued to the company should it refuse to attend the hearing. —KBK, GMA News
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