Tuesday, June 30, 2015

US visa processing back to speed after computer glitch




WASHINGTON, United States - US visa processing has returned to full strength after hardware problems, the State Department said Monday, noting that 410,000 visas were issued in a week as officials scrambled to clear a huge backlog.

Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the State Department does "regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas as well as their families and US businesses that have been affected by this problem."

He complimented the Consular Affairs Bureau's "exemplary work" in addressing the computer problems and whittling down the visa backlog.

A team of about 100 computer experts had been working to resolve the hardware failure, which emerged at a State Department facility in the United States on June 9.

The hardware failure had been preventing processing and transmitting the mandatory security-related biometric data checks.

About 50,000 applications for visas are received daily by US embassies and consulates around the world.

Toner said that the US issued more than 410,000 non-immigrant visas from June 23 through June 29.

"Consular staff around the world worked throughout the weekend to diminish our backlog, the bulk of which has now been cleared," he added.

While the summer vacation time is busy, the system cranks up into overload toward August, when tens of thousands of students begin to flood to US shores.

According to the US Department of Commerce, close to 75 million tourists entered the United States in 2014.
 — Agence France-Presse


Licensure exam for Pinoy teachers in HK set for Sept. 27





Filipinos in Hong Kong who want to take the licensure examinations for teachers will get their chance on September 27, the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said.

But the consulate general said the venue is not yet determnied at this time, and will be announced later.

It advised applicants to register online with the
 Professional Regulation Commission.

Applicants may submit the following to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office at Room 1101, 11th floor, Admiralty Centre, Tower 1 at 18 Harcourt Road:

- photocopy of transcript of records
- photocopy of valid passport
- four passport-size photos with complete name tag in white background

Deadline of submission of applications is Aug. 7.
Applicants were advised to bring the original copies of the documents for counter-checking. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

Malaysia reduces Pinay’s death sentence to life imprisonment





The State Pardons Board in Selangor, Malaysia has commuted the death penalty imposed on a Filipina to life imprisonment, the Philippine Embassy in Kuala Lumpur said Tuesday.

A statement from the embassy said Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah Al-Haj, chairman of the State of Selangor Pardons Board, revised the sentence meted on Jacqueline Quiamno on June 15, following a request for clemency from the Philippine Embassy and her family.    

Malaysian authorities arrested Quiamno in June 2005 for attempting to smuggle five kilograms of cocaine at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, on the bidding of an African drug syndicate based in Hong Kong.

In November 2010, the Shah Alam High Court found Quiamno guilty of the charge. The Federal Court then affirmed the verdict in July 2013. 

The Philippine Embassy said the commutation of Quiamno's sentence should bring relief for three other Filipinos on Malaysian death row — Gerry Saavedra Quijano and couple Timhar and Nurie Ong — who were also arrested for drug smuggling in 2008 and 2005, respectively. 

"Although the death penalty remains in the statute books of Malaysia, and local courts continue to impose it in grave offenses, there has been a reluctance to carry out the death penalty, or undertake execution, in recent years," the Philippine Embasy said.

In February, Sabah Governor Tun Datuk Seri Panglima Haji Juhar Haji Mahiruddin also granted pardon to eight Filipinos after remaining behind bars for 21 to 26 years for trafficking drugs.

In October 2012, the Malaysian Prime Minister's Department vowed to look at staying death sentences for drug offenders pending the government's final decision on the abolition of the mandatory death penalty.

The last execution of a Filipino in Malaysia happened 22 years ago, for the crime of murder in Sabah, according to the Philippine Embassy.  Keith Richard D. Mariano/RSJ, GMA News


SSS opens Tanay, Rizal branch



Social Security System (SSS) formally opened a new branch in Tanay, Rizal on June 10, 2015. Located at Km. 54, Manila East Road, Barangay Tandang Kutyo, Tanay Rizal, SSS-Tanay Branch will serve members from seven municipalities of Rizal namely; Tanay, Morong, Cardona, Teresa, Pililia, Baras and Jala-Jala.

Known for its diverse agricultural and farmland businesses, SSS-Tanay will cover 1,679 voluntary members, 763 self-employed professionals, 6,001 employees and 1,175 employers.
The branch offers various services such as issuance of SS numbers, employer registration, acceptance of loans and benefit applications and UMID Data Capture.
Photo shows SSS President & Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. de Quiros Jr., and Tanay Mayor Rafael A. Tanjuatco during the ribbon-cutting ceremonies. Behind them are (L-R) SSS- Tanay Branch Head Amalia M. Catral, AVP for NCR-East/ West Division Nelson P. Ibarra, VP for General Services Division Nestor R. Sacayan, SVP for NCR-Operations Division Jose B. Bautista and AVP for NCR-South Division Cynthia O. Barcelon.
Inset photo shows the facade of SSS-Tanay Branch.

No planned hike in monthly contributions


The Social Security System (SSS) clarified that it has no plan to increase the current contribution rate in the immediate future, contrary to recent reports.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. De Quiros, Jr. said that currently circulating stories of a planned increase could have stemmed from the results of an SSS study, which looked into the impact of a P2,000 across-the-board pension increase as provided in House Bill 5842.
The SSS study revealed that adding P2,000 to existing pension payments would require corresponding adjustments in the contribution rate or a government subsidy, otherwise it will shorten the SSS’ fund life by 13 years or until 2029. The SSS' fund life today is projected to last for 27 years or until 2042.
“Although a contribution hike is much needed to improve the actuarial soundness of SSS funds, we would like to assure the public, especially our members that we are not seeking for another increase in their contributions at this time,” De Quiros said.
Clarification on performance-based bonus.
Likewise, SSS said that inquiries about the grant of performance-based bonus to its officials and employees must be directed to the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG), the oversight body which religiously monitors performance of GOCCs and grants authority to give performance-based bonus.
“Our financial statements and accomplishment reports are open to public scrutiny in our website as confirmed by the Governance Commission for GOCCs. These reports validate our continuous efforts to improve the benefits of our members and pensioners while ensuring financial viability of the pension fund,” De Quiros said.

SSS cites structural reforms to improve fund life


The Social Security System (SSS) will require structural reforms such as a contribution rate hike or an increase in the statutory cap for SSS contributions to improve its Fund life.

Based on latest actuarial valuation, SSS funds regained a life of four years from the previous valuation of 2039 as a result of the increase in contribution rate and monthly salary credit ceiling that took effect in January 2014.
Shortly after the new contribution rate was adopted, SSS pensions were raised by five percent in June that same year causing a one year decrease in the Fund life, which is now projected to last until 2042.
“What has to be done immediately are structural reforms. Our investments have been performing remarkably well despite the low interest rate environment, but we can only invest and earn so much. If the contribution rate remains unchanged while benefit payments continue to swell, the SSS’ reserve fund will be exhausted by 2042,” SSS Chief Actuary George Ongkeko, Jr. said.
Meanwhile, SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. De Quiros, Jr. dismissed earlier reports that SSS will deploy a portion of its investment reserve funds abroad, although cites its possibility if it is line with the SSS law’s basic principles of “safety, good yield, and liquidity.”
“We are evaluating all available investments options allowed by the SSS Charter that can generate the highest yielding returns on our investments. At the moment, we are strengthening our position in the local market. While investing abroad is an option, it is still under study.” De Quiros said.
The SSS law sets the prescribed ceilings for select instruments, institutions or industries where the agency can only invest. Section 26 of Republic Act 8282 prescribes cumulative ceilings for the SSS reserve fund as follows: 40% in private securities, 35% in housing, 30% on government financial institutions and corporations, 30% in real estate related investments, 10% in short- and medium-term member loans, 30% in infrastructure projects, 15% in any particular industry, and 7.5% in foreign-currency denominated investments.
SSS has over P428 billion in investment reserve funds as of April 2015, allocated in government securities at P155.3 billion; corporate notes and bonds, P29 billion; member loans, P76.8 billion; bank deposits, P44.6 billion; equities, P103.9 billion; and real estate properties, P18.6 billion.

SSS covers more informal sector groups in Western Visayas


Nearly 11,000 members of 109 informal sector groups (ISGs) and associations in Western Visayas will now have social security coverage under the Social Security System's (SSS) AlkanSSSya program.

SSS Senior Vice President for Visayas and Mindanao Operations Group Eddie A. Jara disclosed that the increasing number of ISGs availing the AlkanSSSya reflects its appeal to the needs of informal sector workers such as affordability and convenience, noting that many among them have busy work schedules and tight budgets.
Jara noted that the ISGs enrolled in AlkanSSSya are composed of farmers; fisherfolks; ambulant vendors; tricycle drivers; caddies and umbrella girls; inmates; and members of multi-purpose cooperatives, pumpboat associations, barangay community groups, livelihood associations, and rural women associations.
He explained that large metal boxes with secure individual mini-compartments are installed in accessible locations to store daily AlkanSSSya savings of members. The savings are accounted for and picked up by an SSS collecting agent at the end of every month.
According to Jara, the AlkanSSSya program which enables informal sector workers to save part of their daily income for monthly contributions has consistently complemented payments from self-employed and voluntary members in Western Visayas, which climbed 7.2 percent from P332.95 million in January to April of 2014 to P357.01 million in January to April of 2015.
As of April 2015, informal workers, who are covered as self-employed members, paid more than P14 million in contributions.
Meanwhile, SSS also continues to cater the job order (JO) and contractual workers in state-run institutions who are excluded from the mandatory coverage of the Government Service Insurance System.
Under the e-AlkanSSSya, government offices automatically deduct the contributions of job order and contractual workers from their salaries and wages, which the government offices will then remit to the SSS.
Jara said that SSS has recently inked a Memoranda of Agreement with 11 local government units and Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Area 6 to collect and remit the monthly contributions and loan amortizations of its workers. They will facilitate the collection through payroll deduction and remittance of the monthly contributions to SSS.
As of April 2015, 898 job order and contractual workers from 11 local government units and CAAP Area 6 are enrolled in the e-AlkanSSSya scheme. A total of P389,320 contributions were collected.
Jara said the minimum monthly contribution under the program is P330 or based on the actual monthly income compensation that the employees receive from the state institutions but not exceeding the maximum salary credit under the contribution schedule of the SSS.
“More agreements with local government units, government agencies and ISGs are in development to cover more job orders, contract and informal workers, extending our services across every economically vulnerable sector of the society,” Jara added.
SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio de Quiros, Jr. will visit areas in Visayas in the coming days. During the regional visit, de Quiros will discuss updates on SSS products and services.

Health insurance coverage at 60? Definitely!



ORP Barlex Garments: 2 Billion OFW Reintegration Program Story: Succeeding with Clothing




(Left to right) OFW Reintegration Fund Beneficiary Ms. Nancy R. Santos together with  Raymund Leonor of RWO-NCR holding up a finished product of her  factory, Ms. Nancy checking the work of one of her workers, Ms. Nancy R. Santos   showing another product made by her workers (inset)
            OFW Benjamin R. Santos Jr. 38, has been an OFW for 10 years in United Kingdom. Due to his children’s schooling, Benjamin and his wife Nancy decided to expand their        business to help them earn more for their     family needs.
            The couple first heard about the OFW  Reintegration Fund Program (ORP) through  Benjamin’s co-workers who tried to avail of the loan. After applying in October 2012, and   submitting all the requirements, the couple  received their loan which amounts to  Php 300,000.00 from the Land Bank of the  Philippines.
            “Applying for the loan was actually very  simple. Once you have completed the requirements you will be able to receive the cash you  loaned for.” Nancy remarked.
            Aside from making school uniforms, the  Santos's are also sub-contractors for   well-known local brands like Hammerhead, Paddocks and BNY Jeans.
            “The garments industry is very  demanding especially with so many clothes that costs much cheaper,                 but since my husband who works as a  tailor in United Kingdom is passionate about tailoring, we have managed to make sure that every product coming from us is of good  quality.”
            Barlex Garments started with two   sewing machines and Php 20,000.00 as initial capital. After seven years in the business they now have a total of 18 workers and earns at least Php 20,000-30,000 a month.
             “Napakalaki ng naitulong ng OWWA sa amin, dahil sa loan nakapag-expand kami ng business, dumami ang aming kliyente, lumaki ang kita ng negosyo at higit sa lahat nakapagtapos na kami ng dalawang anak namin ng Kolehiyo.” Mrs. Nancy Santos happily remarked.
            The 2 Billion Reintegration Fund for business enterprise development is a loan facility in partnership with Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines, where a member or their legal dependent can avail of a loan  between Php 300,000.00 to Php 2 million. 

OWWA gives livelihood skills training to Bayugan City OFC


OWWA gives livelihood skills training to Bayugan City OFC
BUTUAN CITY, June 29 – In its endeavor to capacitate its member OFWs with essential skills for livelihood augmentation, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Regional Welfare Office Caraga in partnership with the Philippine Coconut Authority recently afforded the members of Bayugan City United OFWs and Family Association (BCUOFA) a two day skills training on Virgin Coconut Oil and Coco Products Processing held in Bayugan City.
 
Coconut Production and Regulation Officer III Ernalyn Colon and Coconut Development Officer Ronald S. Musico of PCA Caraga, facilitated the training to some twenty five (25) participants.
 
Among the finished products presented during the culmination activity include: Virgin Coconut Oil, Bucarillo, Bukayo, Macaroons, Buko pie and vinegar sauce, which is still on the process phase.
 
Henry Villamor, President of Bayugan City OFC expressed his gratitude to OWWA for providing them their first organizational development training.
 
“Thank you OWWA for all your efforts, we are very proud that you really came here for us,” Villamor said in local dialect.
 
Villamor also conveyed his gratefulness to the resource speakers for sharing their learning to them. “The training imparted to us that there are many simple means to make use of the coconut in order to increase our daily household income,” he added.
 
In his message, regional director Samuel Madrid of OWWA Caraga congratulated all the participants for satisfactorily completing the two day training. He also appreciated the support extended by the City Government of Bayugan City through its Public Service Employment Office headed by Vice Mayor Charles Anggayong, as well as the efforts of the resource speakers for the realization of the said activity.
 
Madrid disclosed that in the Province of Agusan del Sur, it was first time for OWWA together with PCA to conduct the said techno transfer in Bayugan City. Further, Madrid bared that this endeavor of the government primarily aims to alleviate poverty.
 
Sana ito ay hindi katapusan ng inyong mga enhancement trainings or skills trainings, kundi sana ito ay maging panimula ng inyong continuing educational process,” Madrid told the members of Bayugan City United OFWs and Family Association.

Filipinos in South Korea Reminded vs. MERS-CoV

Filipinos in South Korea Reminded vs. MERS-CoV With the recently diagnosed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus in South Korea, POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac has reiterated an earlier advisory for all Filipino workers to take the necessary precaution against the spread of MERS-CoV.

 According to Administrator Cacdac, OFWs in South Korea should strictly observe the following guidelines issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Philippine Department of Health (DoH) in order to avoid getting infected with this new strain of corona virus: a) Practice proper hand hygiene always, by washing your hands with soap or hand rubs with alcohol before and after eating; before and after handling, cooking and preparing food; after coughing, sneezing and using the toilets; and before and after touching animals. b) Practice proper cough etiquette by covering your mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing.

Use a facial tissue when coughing or sneezing and cover your mouth and nose with it. Dispose the tissue in a waste basket. c) Avoid contact with farm and domesticated animals, including camels. d) Avoid contact with sick or infected with MERS - CoV. If you have respiratory illness, stay home and wear a surgical mask to protect your family members. e) If you are a health worker, strictly follow infection control protocols in your work. f) Visit your doctor, a hospital or health facility immediately if symptoms of MERS - CoV manifest itself, including, persistent coughing, and other symptoms.

OFWs returning to the Philippines, especially those from MERS - CoV affected country or countries are advised to do the following: a) Monitor your health for at least fourteen (14) days. b) Should you develop signs and symptoms (fever, headache, sore throat, body weakness, cough, difficulty of breathing, unexplained bruising or bleeding, severe diarrhea), cover your mouth and nose with a piece of cloth, handkerchief or surgical mask to prevent spread of infection. c) Call any of the following numbers: Bureau of Quarantine: (632) 320-9101, (632) 320-9107 @poeaNews /myPOEA OPCEN-HEMS: +63 922-884-1564, +63 920-949-8419, +63 915-772-5621 National Epidemiology Center (NEC)/ Department of Health (DOH): (632) 743-1937

The Human Resources Development Service of Korea, through its EPS Center DirectorGeneral Eunhee Jeong informed Cacdac that the situation is under control by the health authorities of Korea. Nevertheless, it is still important to be on the side of caution by observing the measures indicated versus MERS-CoV.

US visa processing back to speed after computer glitch

WASHINGTON, United States - US visa processing has returned to full strength after hardware problems, the State Department said Monday, noting that 410,000 visas were issued in a week as officials scrambled to clear a huge backlog.

Deputy spokesman Mark Toner said the State Department does "regret the inconvenience to travelers who are waiting for visas as well as their families and US businesses that have been affected by this problem."

He complimented the Consular Affairs Bureau's "exemplary work" in addressing the computer problems and whittling down the visa backlog.

A team of about 100 computer experts had been working to resolve the hardware failure, which emerged at a State Department facility in the United States on June 9.

The hardware failure had been preventing processing and transmitting the mandatory security-related biometric data checks.

About 50,000 applications for visas are received daily by US embassies and consulates around the world.

Toner said that the US issued more than 410,000 non-immigrant visas from June 23 through June 29.

"Consular staff around the world worked throughout the weekend to diminish our backlog, the bulk of which has now been cleared," he added.

While the summer vacation time is busy, the system cranks up into overload toward August, when tens of thousands of students begin to flood to US shores.

According to the US Department of Commerce, close to 75 million tourists entered the United States in 2014. — Agence France-Presse

Amnesty offered to overstaying Filipinos in Bahrain —DFA

Filipinos who have overstayed or are considered runaway cases in Bahrain may avail of the general amnesty offered by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) for illegal foreign workers starting July 1, Wednesday.
 
According to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), the amnesty period will run for six months until December 31. 
 
The DFA, however, clarified that illegal or undocumented foreign workers in Bahrain who face criminal cases or travel ban cases are not eligible under the program. 
 
Under the Amnesty Program, illegal/undocumented foreign workers in Bahrain may avail of the following options:
  • Leave Bahrain without paying any immigration penalties/fines and with the possibility of return at any time regardless of legal status (no blacklisting); or
  • Legalize their employment status in Bahrain with a new employer without the consent of the previous employer, and subject to certain conditions.
 
Qualified Filipinos wishing to avail of the amnesty program are advised to be ready with copies of their passports and Central Population Registry (CPR) cards, which are necessary for purposes of immigration status check.
 
There are no fees involved in availing of the Amnesty Program, DFA said. 
 
Filipinos qualified and wishing to avail of the amnesty program may come to the Philippines Embassy or call the Assistance to Nationals (ATN) at (+973) 3995-3235 or POLO at (+973) 1774-0951, for information or assistance.
 
They may also visit the LMRA website at www.lmra.bh or call the LMRA at (973) 1750-6055. Kathrina Charmaine Alvarez/KG, GMA News

Monday, June 29, 2015

Pinay falls to death from UAE building —report

A Filipina fell to her death from the sixth floor of a building in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday, a UAE news site reported.

Sharjah police have started an investigation into the death of the woman described as 43 years old, Gulf News reported.

Citing initial police information, the report said the woman fell from the balcony of an apartment on the sixth floor of the building at Al Nabaa area.

The woman was killed on the spot, police said.

Her body was taken to the Al Kuwaiti Hospital for autopsy.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

Lawmaker: Obamacare to create bigger demand for Pinoy healthcare professionals

Obamacare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of the US, will stimulate the demand for more nurses and in America that would possibly benefit Filipinos, a Philippine lawmaker said on Saturday.

In a statement, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo said that the US Supreme Court's ruling allowing the government to give tax subsidies for the healthcare of poor and middle-class Americans will create new demands for healthcare services.

He said that providing US citizens with greater access to healthcare could also mean new demands for "Filipino nurses, physical and occupational therapists, pharmacists, speech pathologists, and other health care workers."

“A greater number of Americans will now have access to health care, especially hospitalization... Simply put, the US hospital industry is bound to boom, and so will their demand for foreign staff,” he said.

Moreover, he said US health insurance companies may also expand their business process outsourcing (BPO) in the Philippines due to higher operating costs in their homeland.

“They will be compelled to transfer more contact center, insurance claims processing, clinical support analysis, medical coding, and other non-core, business support jobs to the Philippines,” he said.

37.5% more US NCLEX-takers in 2015

In a separate statement on Friday, Cebu Rep. Gerald Anthony Gullas Jr. said there were 37.5 percent more first-time US National Licensure Examination (NCLEX) takers in the first half of 2015 compared to the same period in 2014.

Gullas considers the number of first-time NCLEX-takers a reliable indicator for the number of nurses who are trying to find employment in the US, but said they may look for employment in other countries.

"There’s still sizeable foreign demand for Filipino nurses in Northern Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere,” he said.

Gullas' statement indicated that a total of 158,551 Filipino nurses have taken the NCLEX for the first time since 1995. This number is expected to increase in 2015.

On the other hand, the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) has issued licenses to 15,292 new nurses in 2015, excluding the 9,707 May licensure exam passers.

A total of 22,202 nurses received their licenses from the PRC in 2014 alone.  Rie Takumi/LBG, GMA News

Palace: No reports yet of Pinoy casualties in terror attacks on Tunisia, Kuwait, France

As of Saturday morning, the Philippine government has not received reports of any Filipino casualty from terrorist attacks in Kuwait, Tunisia, and France, MalacaƱang said.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also relayed the Philippines' condolences to the people of the three countries.

"So far we have not received any reports of any Filipino casualty in those unfortunate incidents," she said on state-run dzRB radio.

The Department of Foreign Affairs went overtime Friday night to check if Filipinos were among the casualties, she said.

Meanwhile, Valte relayed the Philippines' condolences to the victims in the countries being hit terror attacks.

"Nakikiramay tayo sa ... kaibigang bansa na nawalan ng mamamayan dahil sa pag-atakeng yan," she said.

An earlier report on CNN said ISIS had claimed responsibility for the attack on a seaside resort hotel in Tunisia that killed at least 37 people and wounded at least 36 others.

Also, ISIS claimed responsibility for a reported bomb blast at a mosque in Kuwait's capital. At least 25 were reported dead.

In France, a man reportedly caused an explosion at a chemical plant near Lyon after beheading his boss.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Madrid issuing machine-readable passports starting June 29

Starting June 29, the Philippine Embassy in Madrid will be issuing machine-readable passports instead of the newer ePassports.

In an announcement, the embassy cited "technical difficulty" with passport production in Manila for the development.

"The Philippine Embassy in Madrid wishes to inform applicants for Philippine passports that due to technical difficulty with passport production in Manila, Machine-Readable Passports (MRPs) will be issued starting 29 June 2015 and will continue until further notice," it said.

According to the embassy, the MRP is valid for five years and "meets the minimum requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."

But it added applicants will still be required to fill up an application form, make a personal appearance, and submit to electronic data capturing.

"Processing time will take 8 to 10 weeks and the cost will be 45 euros," it said.

"All applicants are advised to make their travel plans accordingly," it added. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

PHL Embassy in Madrid issuing machine-readable passports starting June 29

Starting June 29, the Philippine Embassy in Madrid will be issuing machine-readable passports instead of the newer ePassports.

In an announcement, the embassy cited "technical difficulty" with passport production in Manila for the development.

"The Philippine Embassy in Madrid wishes to inform applicants for Philippine passports that due to technical difficulty with passport production in Manila, Machine-Readable Passports (MRPs) will be issued starting 29 June 2015 and will continue until further notice," it said.

According to the embassy, the MRP is valid for five years and "meets the minimum requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)."

But it added applicants will still be required to fill up an application form, make a personal appearance, and submit to electronic data capturing.

"Processing time will take 8 to 10 weeks and the cost will be 45 euros," it said.

"All applicants are advised to make their travel plans accordingly," it added. —Joel Locsin/KBK, GMA News

Pyongyang to foreigners: Don’t bring subversive media, porn

SEOUL - North Korea has warned foreigners living in Pyongyang not to share outside media on memory sticks with its citizens, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a note, cracking down on what the isolated country called "undesirable content." 
 
The vast majority of North Koreans have no access to outside Internet or foreign media, but people regularly share films, music and literature on easily-concealed USB sticks that are passed from person to person.
 
The note, a copy of which was seen by Reuters, said foreigners in Pyongyang would not be allowed to import "all kinds of data media, including printed matter, mobile phones, and memory sticks" which contain "false propaganda" and "photos, movies, and literature regarding sexual relations."
 
Some foreigners entering the country had left printed materials and memory sticks containing "undesirable content" at tourist sites, or passed them to North Koreans, the note added.
 
"We regard these practices as a serious problem directly related to the security of the State," said the note, which was dated Thursday and addressed to diplomatic and international missions in Pyongyang.
 
"Accordingly concerned authorities of the DPRK are taking such measures as strict censorship over printed matters and memory media at every port of entry to the DPRK, including the airport."
 
DPRK is short for the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, North Korea's official title.
 
The note warned that although those holding diplomatic passports were exempt from direct censorship, anyone found with offending material "must bear all the blame to themselves, entailing appropriate measures here."
 
In recent months, North Korean security services have stepped up scrutiny of Pyongyang's foreign residents.
 
During a fire in early June at the popular Koryo Hotel, a source in Pyongyang told Reuters that several foreigners had been apprehended by security services for taking photos of the scene.
 
Later, foreigners were briefly unable to access the country's 3G mobile internet network.
 
In April, North Korea expelled the country director of German NGO Welthungerhilfe, without warning or saying why.  Reuters

NY-based Pinoy businessman says he’s ‘fully prepared’ to face bribery charges

The New York-based Filipino businessman who was recently arrested for allegedly resorting to bribes to ensure that his electrical-design company gets lucrative contracts is ready to face the charges against him.

In a statement sent to the Filipino Reporter, Rodolfo Quiambao said he posted bail on the same day he was arrested earlier this month.

“I acknowledge the courtesy extended to me by the prosecution for allowing me to voluntarily submit myself to the jurisdiction of the court. I was asked to go to a government office from which I was then brought to the court where I posted my bail on the same day," he said.

“My lawyers and I are fully prepared to address the allegations against me,” the 71-year-old businessman added.

In a report citing a statement from Kelly Currie, acting U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Forbes said Quiambao paid more than $6.9 million in bribes and kickbacks to Con Edison managers over the past decade in exchange for contracts.

The report said the illegal scheme continued even after the 2009 arrest of 10 Con Edison supervisors for allegedly receiving about $1 million in kickbacks from contractors in exchange for approving padded invoices.

It said from 2009 to 2011, Quiambao’s company, Rudell & Associates, received $30 million from Con Edison.

The cover was blown for Quiambao in 2011 when Con Edison section manager Sassine Razzouk was arrested and pleaded guilty to taking bribes from him, the report said.

In an exclusive statement to the Filipino Reporter, Quiambao’s lawyer Raymond R. Granger said: “There is more to this case than meets the eye. Mr. Quiambao looks forward to the full story being told. He also is very grateful for the many expressions of support that he has received from members of the Filipino community.”

Quiambao, meanwhile, expressed his "deepest appreciation to the members and leaders of the Filipino-American community who have expressed their support to me in facing the charges recently filed."

Quiambao graduated from the Mapua Institute of Technology in the Philippines, and is a licensed professional engineer. He was named one of non-profit Asian American Business Development Center’s Outstanding 50 Asian Americans in Business in 2007. —KBK, GMA News


Singapore’s search for talent spurs wages even as jobs fall

SINGAPORE - For a tiny island-nation known for importing labor to help sustain its $300 billion economy, any surprise drop in Singapore's job creation would have implications for wages, inflation and even monetary policy.
 
Employment unexpectedly fell by 6,100 in January-to-March, the first contraction since the second quarter of 2009, with jobs growth in the services sector down sharply and manufacturers cutting jobs against a backdrop of tepid economic growth. But wages are not falling. In fact, other data showed that the labor market remained tight, pointing to wage growth in a low inflation environment and supporting the case for steady monetary policy.
 
The drop in employment is probably more a reflection of the difficulties that companies face in hiring workers due to supply-side constraints such as government restrictions on the hiring of foreign workers, rather than a decline in demand for labor, said Hayato Nakamura, senior economist for Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ in Singapore.
 
The ratio of job vacancies to unemployed persons rose to a 17-year high of 143 openings per 100 job seekers in the first quarter. Official data also shows average monthly nominal earnings per worker in the period climbed 3.0 percent from a year earlier, compared with a 2.2 percent drop in the second quarter of 2009, the last time employment fell in a quarter. Second-quarter jobs data will be released next month.
 
"Our clients continue to tell us that they struggle to find the talent that they need to drive their business to the next phase of growth," said Michael Smith, country manager Singapore for recruitment agency Randstad. "Which is another reason why they are prepared to pay a little bit more typically to attract the right people, and another reason why I'm a strong believer that we'll see wage growth on average between 3 and 5 percent." Reuters

Friday, June 26, 2015

UAE court sentences cop to 5-year jail term for raping Pinay

A United Arab Emirates court on Thursday sentenced a policeman to five years in jail after finding him guilty of raping a Filipina in September 2014, a UAE news site reported.

The Dubai Court of First Instance convicted the policeman of rape even after he pleaded not guilty, Gulf News reported.

However, the ruling is subject to appeal within 15 days, the report added.

Earlier, the policeman denied before presiding judge Ezzat Abdul Lat the accusations that he abused the Filipina then had forced sex with her.

Court records showed the policeman, 28, stopped the Filipina along a street and asked her for personal identification.

He then had her ride with him in his car, and drove to a villa where he beat her and forced her to have sex with him.

Prosecutors said the policeman exploited the fact that the woman was alone with him at the villa. They also said he carried out some law enforcement procedures when he was not authorized to do so, as he was off duty at the time.

The policeman had been arrested in October in connection with a separate case.

A forensic examination report by Dubai Police found traces of DNA and semen on the woman’s body and clothes. These matched those of the defendant.

Meanwhile, the Dubai Misdemeanors Court sentenced the policeman to three months in jail for threatening, cursing and causing offense to another woman and disrespecting her in public.

But his lawyer argued the defendant had an excellent behavior certificate during his training.  Joel Locsin/LBG, GMA News

US Supreme Court upholds broad discrimination claims under housing law

WASHINGTON - A divided U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday embraced a broad interpretation of the type of civil rights allegations that can be made under the landmark Fair Housing Act by ruling that the law allows for discrimination claims based on seemingly neutral practices that may have a discriminatory effect.
 
On a 5-4 vote in a major civil rights case, the court handed a victory to civil rights groups and the administration of President Barack Obama, which had backed Inclusive Communities Project Inc, a nonprofit in Texas that claimed the state violated the law by disproportionately awarding low-income housing tax credits to developers who own properties in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods.
 
Although a broad win for civil rights advocates on the legal theory, Justice Anthony Kennedy indicated in the ruling that the Texas plaintiffs could ultimately lose when the case returns to lower courts.
 
Kennedy, a conservative who often casts the deciding vote in close cases, joined the court's four liberals in the majority.
 
The court was considering whether the 1968 law allows for so-called disparate impact claims in which plaintiffs only need to show the discriminatory effect of a particular practice and not evidence of discriminatory intent. There is no dispute over the law's prohibition on openly discriminatory acts in the sale and rental of housing.
 
Kennedy wrote that Congress indicated in 1988 when it amended the law that it intended disparate impact claims to be available.
 
"It permits plaintiffs to counteract unconscious prejudices and disguised animus that escape easy classification," Kennedy added.
 
Kennedy also made clear there are limits to the types of claims that can be brought, saying that "statistical disparity" alone is not enough. Plaintiffs must "point to a defendant's policy or policies causing that disparity," Kennedy added.
 
Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissenting opinion that the ruling will "have unfortunately consequences for local government, private enterprise, and those living in poverty."
 
Alito cited an earlier case in which what he called a city's good faith attempt to fix "deplorable housing conditions" for renters was subjected to a legal challenge under the theory.
 
The case was closely watched by lenders and insurance companies, which say they are unfairly targeted. Industry groups say that companies use neutral criteria when assessing risk. The existing law allows challenges to legitimate business practices, they argue.
 
National civil rights groups had tried to keep the issue away from the conservative-leaning high court. In the past three years, two other cases that raised the same question about the scope of fair-housing law were taken up by the high court but settled with the help of the rights groups before the justices could rule.
 
DISPARATE IMPACT THEORY
 
For decades, disparate impact claims have been a way for lawyers representing blacks and other minorities to target policies that do not directly discriminate yet have the effect of putting certain groups at a disadvantage.
 
The disparate impact theory is opposed by business interests because it allows for a broad range of business decisions related to housing to be subject to civil rights litigation.
 
The case concerned whether Texas violated the Fair Housing Act by disproportionately awarding low-income housing tax credits to developers who own properties in poor, minority-dominated neighborhoods.
 
The Texas nonprofit works to place low-income tenants in the more wealthy, majority white suburbs of Dallas, sued the state of Texas.
 
The group’s lawyers said the state broke the law through its process for allocating the credits made available under the federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit Program. The program gives credits to developers who provide housing for people with low incomes.
 
Under Chief Justice John Roberts’ leadership, a five-justice conservative majority previously had curtailed remedies for race discrimination over a series of actions.
 
In a 2007 case, the majority rejected integration plans designed to balance out whites and blacks throughout a school district and offset segregated housing. "The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race," Roberts wrote.
 
Two years later, the same five-justice conservative majority sided with a group of white firefighters from New Haven, Connecticut who challenged the city's decision to throw out the results of tests to be used for promotions because minorities scored poorly. The decision narrowed the chances for minorities to challenge practices that disproportionately affect them.
 
In 2013, the court curtailed the scope of federal voting rights law by striking down the formula for a provision that targeted mostly southern states with a history of discrimination.
 
The case is Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. Inclusive Communities Project, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 13-1371.   Reuters

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