Monday, March 28, 2016

DOH STRENGTHENS MONITORING AGAINST ZIKA VIRUS

The Department of Health (DOH) today calls on all pregnant women to be more careful against mosquito bites especially during daytime and it also encourages those with fever, rashes and conjunctivitis to immediately consult doctors to ease apprehensions over catching the Zika virus.
“Pregnant women should be wary about mosquito bites because although the Zika infection is asymptomatic in 80% of cases and most of the time self-limiting, the effect on the result of pregnancy should not be discounted as the virus has been linked to congenital central nervous system malformation like microcephaly,” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin disclosed.
The health chief, however, clarifies the allegations on microcephaly cases in the Philippines.
“Let it be clear that Zika virus is not the only cause of microcephaly. There are many potential causes of microcephaly, but often the cause remains unknown. The most common causes include: infections in the womb: toxoplasmosis (caused by a parasite found in undercooked meat), rubella, herpes, syphilis, cytomegalovirus and HIV; maternal exposure to heavy metals like arsenic and mercury, alcohol, radiation, and smoking; genetic abnormalities such as Down syndrome; and severe malnutrition during fetal life.” Garin stressed.
Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), she also said that microcephaly is a neonatal malformation defined as a head size much smaller compared with other babies of the same age and sex. If this combines with poor brain growth, babies with microcephaly can develop developmental disabilities. The severity of microcephaly ranges from mild to severe.
Meanwhile, the DOH through the Epidemiology Bureau (EB) disseminates strengthened guidelines on surveillance of Zika Virus Disease. DOH will now include Zika Virus under Category 1 Classification on the Philippine Integrated Disease Surveillance and Response (PIDSR) system. This means that all suspected cases of Zika virus diseases shall be reported within 24 hours to the Epidemiology Bureau through the Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Units (RESU) in the country.
 
“We want to emphasize that this procedure is not new in DOH. These surveillance guidelines already exist and are continuously implemented in other infectious diseases. What we want to establish is a uniform case definition of Zika suspected cases, and guidelines to improve the monitoring of Zika infections and its possible complications.” Garin explained.
 
DOH included specific definition for a suspected case for Zika virus disease: patients with fever equal to or higher than 38 degrees centigrade for more than two days, conjunctivitis, skin rash, headache, muscle pain, joint pain, body weakness and pain behind the eyes. In addition, patients who experienced above symptoms within two weeks after traveling from countries with confirmed reported cases of Zika virus and patients who have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome are also accounted as a suspected case for Zika virus.
 
In the wake of the current Zika outbreak in some parts of the world, fetus, newborn or infant with a head circumference less than the WHO standard growth charts or disproportionately small head as compared to the infant’s length are considered a suspected case of Zika virus. However, not all pregnant women afflicted with Zika will give birth to babies with microcephaly. In addition, a fetus, newborn, or infant whose mother had confirmed or presumed infection of Zika virus during pregnancy is included as a suspected case of Zika virus.
 
All suspected cases will be tested for Zika virus using Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). Currently, the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM) is capable of testing suspected cases of Zika virus through RT PCR. The test is also available in Visayas and Mindanao.
“We continuously remind everyone that cleanliness is still the key against mosquito-borne diseases. The public is reminded to be vigilant and responsible in eliminating mosquito breeding places through the ‘4S campaign’. The 4S means Search & destroy mosquito breeding places, use Self-protection measures, Seek early consultation for fever lasting more than 2 days, and Say yes to fogging when there is an impending outbreak.” Garin concluded.
 

DOH AND IOM RENEW COMMITMENT TO ADVANCE MIGRANT HEALTH

Last March 9, 2016, the Department of Health (DOH) in collaboration with the International Organization for Migration (IOM) strengthened their commitment to work in addressing the health and well-being, vulnerabilities and challenges faced by Filipino migrants through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by DOH Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin, represented by DOH Undersecretary Lilibeth C. David, and the IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Mr. Marco Boasso. 
 
The agreement which aims to facilitate cooperation in migration health-related activities at the national, regional and international level started in 2013 when the first MOA was signed. This partnership enabled collaboration on key actions including policy development, capacity building, research and advocacy. 
 
“International migration has become an important feature of globalized labor markets in health care and policies that address migration-related health vulnerabilities, non-communicable diseases, mental health, occupational health, environmental health and access to migrant-friendly health care services must be promoted in order to achieve global sustainable development goals and equitable health for all,” Health Secretary Janette P. Loreto-Garin stated.
 
The DOH-IOM collaboration seeks to map the status of migration and health in the Philippines. This project will continue to lay down the foundation for the development of policies, programs and activities in migration and health. Migration has increasingly moved up in the government agenda with approximately 10 million Filipino migrants overseas and the reports on the conditions in which migrants travel, work and live carry significant risk to their physical and mental well-being.
 
The signing of the MOA was witnessed by the Philippine Migrant Health Network members. The renewal of the MOA is a welcome development as the DOH officially takes on migrant health as a priority agenda with the issuance of the Administrative Order (AO) No. 2016-0007 on the National Policy on the Health of Migrants and Overseas Filipinos. This sets the national policy direction on addressing the health of migrants and Overseas Filipino and the establishment of a Migrant Health Unit at the Department.
 
Meanwhile, IOM Philippines Chief of Mission Marco Boasso commended the timely renewal of the partnership and extended his appreciation to the DOH for all its achievements. He recognized the Philippines’ potential to be a champion for migration health at the regional and international level.
 
“Our main goal is to collectively look into the issue of migrants and their health and well-being, essentially putting the migrants at the center of the discourse, reminding ourselves to work hard so that universal health care will be achieved and no migrant will be left behind.” Garin concluded.
 

Fil-Am Caila Quinn fails to make cut for The Bachelorette

Despite rumors, half-Filipina fan favorite Caila Quinn will not be part of ABC's reality TV show The Bachelorette.
Instead of Quinn, her fellow The Bachelor alumni JoJo Fletcher will be the new face of the popular reality show, according to a report on Hollywood Reporter.
Quinn's exclusion from The Bachelorette cast came as a disappointment to those hoping that the reality dating series would finally tap a diverse woman to lead the show.
Quinn, who is half-Filipina and half-Caucasian, would have been The Bachelorette's first non-white lead had she been included in the cast.
US-based Chinese site Yibada, in an article, has noted that the reality show has long suffered from criticisms for its supposed lack of diversity in casting.
Meanwhile Quinn, who has moved to New York after her Bachelor stint, is rumored to be part of the cast of yet another spin-off, Bachelor In Paradise-- Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

NZ may restrict dairy work to Pinoy permanent residents only

Work in New Zealand dairy farms will be restricted to Filipinos with permanent residence status only in two to three years' time as a result of cooling labor market situation in the industry for Filipino workers, according to Labor Attaché Rodolfo Sabulao.
"This is because their replacements are now being sourced out from India, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka," Sabulao said in a report to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) main office in Manila following his dialogue with officers and members of the Filipino Dairy Farm Workers Association of Ashburton (FDFWAA).
He said New Zealand's preference for workers from other Asian countries "poses a greater concern to the Filipino workers because New Zealand do not spend a single dollar in bringing workers, especially those who come from India and Sri Lanka since the costs are passed on to the workers without the government's stamping for it."
Sabulao said during the dialogue, FDFWAA also asked the government to revisit regulations in the processing of direct hire OFWs -- a call Sabulao said he fully supports.
"This is to shorten the process and to make the procedure more convenient for employers... that wants a simple way of hiring and recruitment," he said.
In his report to Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Sabulao recommended that hire name processing "be allowed to serve as mode of deployment for professional, skilled and dairy farm Filipino workers to New Zealand without the need of verification" by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Australia.

He also recommended coordination with the National Dairy Authority (NDA) to adopt an accreditation system for dairy farms, and for the Technical Skills and Development Authority (TESDA) to include "dairy milking" or "dairy operation" on its list of skills for assessment and certification.

"This is being put forward for the purpose of applying for work visa overseas, instead of dairy farms certifying Filipino applicants' skills," Sabulao said.
According to a February 2015 report on Stuff.co.nz, Filipinos constituted the largest group of workers issued work visas in the dairy industry in New Zealand. -- Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Monday, March 14, 2016

SSS benefit releases and collections record double-digit growths in Luzon


The Social Security System (SSS) has attained double-digit growths in total benefit releases and contribution collections in Luzon, with both reflecting an increase of 11 percent for the first 11 months of 2015.

SSS Senior Vice President for Luzon Operations Group Josie G. Magana said that benefit releases for Luzon-based members from January to November 2015 grew by P2.13 billion, for a total of P21.58 billion which was 11 percent higher than P19.45 billion disbursed for the same period in 2014.
“Pension payments of P19.06 billion for 484,137 pensioners comprised 88 percent of total benefit disbursements in Luzon. We also disbursed benefits of P1.81 billion for 226,745 covered employees, P458.46 million for 74,125 voluntary members, P205.54 million for 27,275 self-employed members, and P52.26 million for 6,428 overseas Filipino workers,” Magana noted.
Apart from the P19.06 billion disbursed for SSS pensions for retirement, disability and death, lump sum payments for these same contingencies amounted to P78.70 million, P128.49 million and P557.45 million, respectively. The SSS also paid out P674.39 million for maternity claims; P150.18 million for sickness benefits, medical services and rehabilitation; and P932.87 million in funeral grants.
Meanwhile, contribution collections in Luzon from January to November 2015 reached P25.20 billion, which was P2.54 billion higher than the P22.66 billion total for the same 11-month period in 2014.
“Contributions for employees under large accounts, which refer to employers with at least 100 workers, amounted to P12.91 billion. It was eight percent more than our P11.98 billion total for the same 11-month period in 2014. Over half of total Luzon collections also came from large accounts,” Magana said.
Branch account collections -- which covers contributions from individually-paying workers such as self-employed and voluntary members as well as payments from employers with less than 100 employees -- rose to P12.29 billion, or 15 percent more than the P10.68 billion total during the first 11 months of 2014.
Magana said SSS collection initiatives such as partnerships with local governments, cooperatives and microfinance institutions (MFIs) aim to facilitate easier and more convenient remittance of contributions, especially for self-employed and informal sector workers in hard-to-reach areas and industries.
“For example, parts of Luzon have limited access to banks and payment facilities. Hence, we have started accreditation of cooperatives and MFIs, which have established networks and designated personnel to collect payments from their own members and clients, to become SSS collecting agents,” she explained.
The state-run pension fund has 6.81 million registered members in Luzon, which accounted for about one-fifth of the total 33.62-million SSS membership. A total of 121 local SSS offices are located in Luzon, including 61 branches, 33 Service Offices and 27 representative offices.
Magana, along with SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Emilio S. de Quiros and other senior SSS officials, visited Meycauayan and Malolos in Bulacan for a series of consultations and forums with SSS stakeholders including members and employers, branch employees, and the local press.
“The SSS visit to Bulacan also featured the blessing of the relocated SSS Meycauayan Branch, which we moved to a more accessible site with better office amenities for the comfort and convenience of transacting members, beneficiaries and employers in the area,” Magana said.
SSS Meycauayan, now located at the Esperanza Mall along MacArthur Highway, serves over 5,000 employers and about 149,000 members from 89 barangays in the city. The branch has a monthly average collection of P27.73 million, while it handles a daily average of 3,927 in transactions.

SSS shares experience on calamity assistance with Bangladesh officials




The Social Security System (SSS) shared the highlights of its 58-year experience in pension fund management, grant of various benefits and calamity assistance during the SSS Study Tour for officials of the Bangladesh Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief (MDMR) at the SSS Main Office in Diliman, Quezon City on January 5. It was the first study tour conducted by SSS for Bangladesh nationals, and featured the kinds of assistance the SSS gives its members during times of calamities and disasters. The study tour was granted at the request of the Center for Disaster Preparedness, which is the MDMR?s counterpart agency in the Philippines.

SSS Senior Vice President for Administration Group Ms. May Catherine C. Ciriaco (7th from left) delivered a lecture for the Bangladeshi delegates, namely (starting 2nd from left) Mr. Dilip Kumar Sen, Mr. A.B.M Akram Hossain, Mr. Md. Aowlad Hossain Khan, Mrs. Ishrat Jahan Taslim, Mr. Md. Siddiqur Rahman, Mr. Satyendra Kumar Sarkar, Mrs. Sultana Sayeeda, Mr. Gias Uddin Ahmed, Mr. ASM Shahidul Islam, Mr. Mohammed Asaduzzaman, Mr. Md. Shafiqul Islam. Also present were SSS Corporate Communications Department Officer-in-Charge Ms. Sonia P. Guinto (right) and Special Events and Promotions Team Head Ms. Evelyn R. Binarao (left).
In 2015, the SSS conducted study tours for four universities, including the Technological Institute of the Philippines from Quezon City; St. Anthony's College - Department of Engineering from Antique; University of Southeastern Philippines from Davao City; and Filamer Christian University - College of Computer Studies from Roxas City. Visitors from two foreign government agencies -- the Employees Trust Fund from Brunei Darussalam and Employees Provident Fund from Nepal -- also benefited from SSS study tours and lectures on SSS coverage, collections, benefits, actuarial fund life and self-service facilities, among others.

SSS salary loan releases reach P4.94-B in Luzon, helps over 287,000 borrowers

More than 287,000 members of the Social Security System (SSS) in Luzon availed themselves of SSS salary loans from January to November 2015, with total loan disbursements reaching P4.94 billion during the 11-month period.

SSS Senior Vice President for Luzon Operations Group Josie G. Magana noted that about eight of out every 10 borrowers were members covered as regular employees who received a combined P4.33 billion in salary loan releases, which was 88 percent of the total disbursements in Luzon.
Magana shared that SSS branches in Luzon also disbursed a total of P476.59 million for 36,315 voluntary members; P66.90 million for 4,073 overseas Filipino workers; and P64.17 million for 7,997 self-employed individuals within the first 11 months of 2015.
“The salary loan is one of the privileges extended to members who actively pay their SSS contributions. Depending on their total number of contributions and monthly salary credit (MSC), members can borrow up to P32,000. The salary loan is paid over a spread of two years, with the payment of monthly amortizations starting on the second month following the date of the granting of the loan,” Magana said.
Members with at least 36 monthly contributions, of which six are paid within the last 12 months prior to the month of application, are eligible for the one-month salary loan that ranges from P1,000 to P16,000, depending on the borrower’s MSC or reported monthly income to the SSS.
Meanwhile, members with a minimum of 72 monthly contributions, including the required six monthly contributions posted within the 12-month period preceding the application date, are eligible for the two-month salary loan, which is twice as much as their applicable MSC capped at P32,000.
Magana noted that disbursements under the regular Salary Loan Program comprised more than 99 percent of loan releases during the 11-month period, which amounted to P4.89 billion granted to 284,946 loan borrowers.
The remaining P41.75 million, or less than one percent of the total, consisted of loan funds released under the Salary Loan Early Renewal Program (SLERP), which benefited a total of 2,168 loan borrowers from Luzon who were affected by natural calamities that hit the country last year.
The SLERP is offered as part of the SSS calamity relief packages launched by the agency to assist members affected by natural disasters. The program allows salary loan borrowers to renew their existing loans even if they have not yet paid the required 50 percent of their overall loan amortizations, which is a condition under the regular implementation of the Salary Loan Program.
SSS members in Luzon benefited from the calamity relief packages launched in October last year for Typhoon “Lando,” which covered the declared calamity areas such as the provinces of Isabela and Aurora, and the municipalities of Arayat, Pampanga; Supon, Ilocos Sur; Calumpit, Bulacan; Infanta and General Nakar, Quezon; and Camiling and Ramos, Tarlac.

More Pag-IBIG members upgrade their savings

 Pag-IBIG Fund Chairman of the Board of Trustees Atty. Chito M. Cruz said recently that the amount collected from Pag-IBIG members who opted to save more than that which is mandated by law is increasing.

 Cruz reported that Pag-IBIG in 2015 collected a total of P4.2 billion from the upgraded savings program of Pag-IBIG members, up by 8% from the P3.9 billion collected in 2014. In 2013, the Fund collected P3.5 billion from the same program. "Upgraded savings" refers to the voluntary contribution by Pag-IBIG members over and above the mandatory monthly contribution of P100.

"Pag-IBIG offered this upgraded savings option to encourage more Pag-IBIG members to save for their future. Aside from bigger savings upon retirement, Pag-IBIG members who opt to increase their savings also get the benefit of higher dividend earnings – which are tax-free, and bigger loanable amounts in case they need to borrow," Pag-IBIG President & CEO Darlene Berberabe said.

She pointed out that Pag-IBIG's yearly dividend is significantly higher than the interest rates offered by other savings instrument, adding that in the last five years, Pag-IBIG's dividend rate has not gone down below the 4% level. "For 2015, we declared a total of P14.2 billion in dividends, with a rate of 4.8%, which will be proportionately distributed and credited to the accounts of Pag-IBIG members,"

Atty. Berberabe said. She added that the upgraded savings program is beneficial to both the Fund and the PagIBIG members. "Campaigning for upgraded savings has been our strategy to generate more funds. Instead of increasing the mandatory monthly contribution, we decided that we will instead campaign for members to voluntarily upgrade their contributions.

 We had hoped that if members knew that Pag-IBIG is managing their money well, and they feel the benefits of their membership, members will see the value of increasing their contributions, which are actually their savings, and then they will actually save more," Beberabe said. Pag-IBIG has the twin mandates of savings generation and provision of affordable housing for its members.

PhilHealth Garners 2nd Highest Excellent Rating in 2015 ARTA RCS



PhilHealth Reforms to Ensure Fund Sustainability

THE President and Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) Alexander A. Padilla today assured the public that the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) fund remains stable and that it is able to fully pay for the benefit claims of its members.

Baldoz sends top deputy, OWWA official to Saudi to help negotiate for OFWs in companies in dire straits

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday ordered DOLE Undersecretary Ciriaco A. Lagunzad III and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Director Albert Valenciano to leave immediately for Saudi Arabia and assist POLO officials in Riyadh and Jeddah in negotiating for the salaries and benefits, as well as for the release and exit, if necessary, of OFWs working in companies experiencing financial troubles. She also directed them to meet with executives of the companies and with their Filipino workers.

 “There are two companies that we have specifically in mind with a large concentration of OFWs and who have been reported to be in financial dire straits—Saudi Oger Ltd. and Saudi Bin Ladin Group. Both have been experiencing difficulties in paying for the salaries and benefits of some OFWs,” said Baldoz. “I don’t want their inability to meet their financial obligation affect our OFWs longer than they already had, so I have directed Undersecretary Lagunzad and Director Valenciano to visit Saudi Arabia to press this point to the employers,” she explained. Last week, Labor Attaches Restituto dela Fuente and Jainal Rasul Jr. reported that construction conglomerate Saudi Oger Ltd., which employs 8,757 OFWs all over Saudi Arabia—1,407 alone in its construction division in Jeddah and Western Saudi Arabia, and 1,667 in its maintenance division—is facing cases before the Saudi Labor Court for unpaid salaries of some of its workers.

“Some of these cases have been recurring since last year, even before the global oil price downturn. Some Saudi Oger Ltd. workers, specifically those in its construction division, have been experiencing delays in their salaries that are not oil price declinerelated, although the company has had lesser difficulty paying workers with salaries of 5,000 Saudi Riyals and below,” said the labor attaches in their report to Secretary Baldoz. They said this is one of the reasons why some OFWs working in Saudi Oger Ltd. are not renewing their contracts; why some have decided to transfer to other companies; and why others still have decided to come home.

 At present, the POLO officials reported there are a number of OFWs who have decided to stop working while waiting for their exit visas and end-of-service benefits, but they have since resumed work. They also said 300 more OFWs have opted to be repatriated, or to transfer employment; and the POLOs in Riyadh and Jeddah are assisting 113 more OFWs who have filed complaints against their employer with the Saudi Labor Court. Informed that Saudi Oger Ltd. has yet to repatriate 43 OFWs whose contracts have ended, Baldoz said she had instructed Undersecretary Lagunzad to assist the POLOs in fast tracking the repatriation of the 43 as well as the other OFWs who would like to already leave Saudi Arabia. POEA records bear that total deployment to Saudi Oger Ltd. between 2014 and 2015 was only 4,837. Of this number, 96 percent were deployed in 2014.

 The deployment in 2015 was less, reaching only 176 OFWs. Because of this, Baldoz has directed the POLO in Jeddah and Riyadh and the POEA to already stop the deployment of OFWs to Saudi Oger Ltd., as well as to the Saudi Bin Ladin Group, if the two companies could not quickly settle their problems with their workers. This, even if the POLOs reported that Saudi Oger Ltd. management announced through a letter to all its employees that starting March, all salaries will be paid before the end of the month and all outstanding unpaid salaries will be paid progressively.

It also said it is not terminating its employees, but merely plans to transfer them in certain divisions as part of its three-fold strategy. Baldoz noted this development, and said Lagunzad and Valenciano should see to it that this commitment is delivered. “Saudi law imposes heavy fines against companies not paying their workers’ salaries,” she said. She further directed Lagunzad and Valenciano to already tap the government’s repatriation fund and the existing repatriation insurance to bring the OFW workers of the two companies safely home.

 In a related development, Labor Attache dela Fuente yesterday reported to the Secretary an apparent suicide incident involving an OFW at the Saudi Oger Ltd. in Riyadh. In his incident report, dela Fuente said the OFW was a welder employed at the company’s Building Materials Trading Company. “He was reportedly found dead at 5:30 A.M. on 29 February at a BMTC workshop, about a kilometer from the deceased OFW’s accommodation at Oger's Al Qadisiya Camp in Riyadh, KSA. His co-workers said the deceased appeared to have committed suicide, but the Riyadh Police is yet to release the results of its investigation.

The deceased’s brother, also an OFW working at one of Saudi Oger’s contractors, is with him at present,” said the labor official. Baldoz instructed Labatt dela Fuente to coordinate with the Philippine Embassy and Saudi authorities to fast track the repatriation of the remains of the OFW and the payment by Saudi Oger Ltd. of all his benefits as an employee. She also directed Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Rebecca Calzado to facilitate the payment of all the benefits due the OFW and his family. The deceased is an active OWWA member.

 As such, his family shall be entitled to a P200,000 death insurance and P20,000 burial assistance. His dependents can also avail of OWWA scholarships and family members may also avail of OWWA livelihood assistance. “We express sympathy to the family of the OFW and join them in their prayers,” said Baldo

PHILHEALTH Official Statement

We would like to clarify some news reports that came out today that might have caused panic among our members, especially where the stability of the health insurance funds is concerned.PhilHealth’s finances are as robust, healthy and substantial as ever. Proof of this is our ability to pay for the benefit claims of our members at an amount that has been steadily growing over the last five years. In 2011, we paid about P34B; about P44B in 2012; up to P55B in 2013, P77B in 2014 and about P97B in 2015.While we paid P1B more than what we collected in premium contributions in 2015, we gained about P7B from investment income, resulting in positive numbers still. Thus, there is no reason for our members and other stakeholders to worry about our capacity to meet our obligations.At the same time, our reserve funds have been growing steadily too, from about P112B in 2012 to P128B in 2015. We are mandated to maintain a reserve fund level equivalent to two years so that we can readily address our members’ needs should any eventuality happen. While other social protection programs maintain probably higher levels of reserve funds, we operate on a pay-as-you-go system where we immediately translate what we collect into benefit payments for our members.We appeal to our media partners to carefully understand how the National Health Insurance Program (NHIP) works so that our members are constantly assured of PhilHealth’s capability to keep up with its commitment to the 93 million-strong Filipinos who rely on the NHIP for their health coverage.(Sgd.) ALEXANDER A. PADILLAPresident and CEO

Pinay employee seeks fair compensation from Walmart after injury

A Filipina Walmart employee in California is demanding fair compensation from the company after she suffered an injury while performing her job last year.
Maria Umali, 63, joined other Walmart employees and their supporters at a press conference held outside the Union City Walmart on March 10 to call on the management of Walmart, one of the largest private employers in the United States.
A Walmart employee for 16 years, Umali  is asking the company to fairly compensate her for expenses, including medical equipment and home health care, following her injury that left her unable to work.
"I was a dedicated Walmart employee for 16 years," said Umali, who is now wheelchair-bound after she broke her hip on the job last year. "I liked my job but I don't think I will ever be able to work again after my injury."
Umali said with her partner already deceased, she could barely afford her medical bills, let alone pay for a home nurse.
"I just want Walmart to do the right thing," she said.
Umali found an ally in California Assemblymember Bill Quirk, who urged the retail giant to "step up and take responsibility for workers injured on the job."
"A responsible company provides safe working conditions for its employees," Quirk said in a statement. "A responsible company provides fair compensation for its employees in those unfortunate conditions where accidents do occur."
Joining Umali at the press conference were supportive Walmart workers, District Two Supervisor Richard Valle, a representative from Quirk's office, and a representative from California Senator Bob Wieckowski's office.
GMA News Online has reached Union City Walmart for its comment via Facebook, but it has yet to issue a statement as of posting time. -- KBK, GMA News
Photo courtesy of Making Change at Walmart

Gov't urged to help distressed OFWs in Saudi

Distressed overseas workers who have returned home from Saudi Arabia appealed to the government to help their fellow OFWs who were left behind.
In a report by GMA News' Marisol Abdurahman on 24 Oras Weekend, they described their experience as a nightmare.
"Yung mga kasama namin doon hindi na makakain, ang ginagawa ng iba...magbebenta na lang ng chicharon, manok, ganun," said Johnny Lozarita.
Another said that they have resorted to sleeping on cardboards in a make-shift camp.
"Sa karton na lang kami natutulog, sama-sama po kami. Wala rin pong lutuan. Ang style kasi sa Saudi maglatag ka ng plastic sama-sama na kayo kakain," Nathan Manlapaz said.
They added that they were lucky to have left Saudi Arabia, where many companies are downsizing due to the oil crisis.
Elvira Abrio, wife of an OFW, said that she is now the one sending money over to her husband, who has not been paid his salary for three months.
Abrio said that her husband did not even have enough money to buy food for himself.
According to the group ACTS OFW, 180 OFWs lost their jobs in Saudi Arabia.
This is due to the losses that companies incurred due to the decline of oil prices in the world market. — APG, GMA News

Filthy camps, food sharing and money from PHL: How OFWs survive Saudi oil crisis

Some OFWs in dire straits in Saudi Arabia have started receiving money from their families in the Philippines -- a reversal of fortune resulting from companies trimming down their workforces due to the oil crisis.
Elvira Abrio said she and wives of other OFWs have began sending money to Saudi Arabia to be able to send their now-jobless husbands home.
"Nahihirapan ako na may mga anak ako na nag-aaral," Abrio said Friday during a press briefing arranged by pro-migrants group Migrante in Quezon City. "Binenta ko po 'yung isa kong gamit para may ipadala ko lang po siya."
She said she has sent her husband Joel P20,000 to buy a plane ticket home, as his two-year contract as a mechanic in a contracting company in Al-Khobar has expired.
However, Joel was unable to obtain an exit visa, which Abrio said could be related to his former employer's cost-cutting measures.
"Hindi nga po maintindihan. Sabi lubog na 'yung kumpanya kaya wala silang mai-produce na exit visa. Nagpadala po ako sa kanya ng P20,000. Nanghingi po siya sa 'kin ng pambili niya ng ticket. 'Yung exit visa naman 'yung problema," Abrio, a supermarket vendor, said.
"Ngayon, sa paglalakad namin ng ilang buwan na, pahinto-hinto na 'ko sa pagtitinda. Hanggang sa ngayon, wala na talaga akong pantinda," she added.
Some OFWs said the situation there has gotten worse that they have no proper accommodation anymore, staying instead in filthy camps with no electricity.
"Dun sa palikuran nila, talaga pong napakarumi na," said Nathan Manlapaz, an OFW who was able to flee Saudi Arabia just as when the situation there was moving from bad to worse. "Wala silang kuryente. Siguro po, bago kami umalis wala pa rin silang kuryente."
He said some OFWs were forced to renew their contracts despite delayed salaries and delayed renewal of their iqamas or work permits, which could make them prone to arrest by Saudi immigration authorities.
"Yung ibang tauhan po, napilitan na mag-extend na lang po ng contract dahil pinangakuan na itataas ang sweldo pero 'yung sweldo naman po na 'yun e 'di naman po nila natatanggap agad-agad," Manlapaz said.
Thea Reyes, wife of an OFW, said workers had to choose among staying in a camp, voluntarily leaving it, or extending their contracts.
"Yung iba, 'yung ginagawa dahil natatakot na baka mawala, pumipirma sila ng isang papel na in Arabic 'yun, so sasabihin na lang ng kumpanya, o ito yung pipirmahan mo, uuwi ka na or babalik ka sa trabaho," she said in the same briefing.
Johnny Lozarita, another former OFW in Saudi Arabia, said workers had to share meager food allowances with others as some recruitment agencies failed to give workers their own allowances.
"Nakakain naman ibang kasamaan namin. Pero 'yung iba, wala talaga. Bale nagshare-share na lang po kami para makabigay ng pagkain din sa ibang kasamahan namin." Lozarita said.
Migrante rights and welfare coordinator Laorence Castillo said with these developments, the prospect of a mass repatriation of affected OFWs is being floated around in meetings between government representatives and families of the OFWs.
"Upon hearing dun sa mga prinesent na situationer nung mga pamilya, they raised the idea of ano na pushing for or gearing for mass repatriation kasi hindi na uubra na iasa sa mga companies ang pagpapauwi sa kanila dahil may recognition na nga na bankrupt na at wala na talagang capacity yung ibang companies na pauwiin pa ang mga OFW," he said.
However, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Charles Jose said the situation in Saudi Arabia still doesn't warrant for an emergency mass repatriation. "Nobody in DFA shares the opinion that there should be mass repatriation," he told GMA News Online via text.
The Department of Labor and Employment has already sent a team to Saudi Arabia to assess the situation of Filipino workers there. -- KBK, GMA News

No final details yet on PHL overseas voting in Saipan

No final information is available yet if there will be a field voting on Saipan for the 2016 Philippine Presidential Elections, exactly one month before the overseas voting period begins.
According to Consul Gary Auxilian of the Philippine Consulate General in Guam, who also chairs their Special Board of Election Inspectors committee, they are in discussion with the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs with regards to conducting field voting for the overseas election period which will begin next month.
"We were requested by DFA home office if we can suggest possible schedule to conduct field voting in our areas of jurisdiction. We recommended that we want to conduct field voting in Saipan and another one in Palau later on, but we are still waiting for the approval of [the Philippine] Commission on Elections on that," Auxilian said.
Auxilian said they recommended the third or fourth week of April and four days of field voting for Saipan.
"That’s what we’re hoping for," he said. "Most likely, there will be a [field voting]. Given the number of overseas voters here, I think Comelec will grant it. We are really hoping and we have strongly recommended to conduct field voting here in Saipan."
There are about 11,900 registered Filipino voters in the PCG-Guam’s jurisdiction, which includes Guam, the CNMI, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, and the Republic of Marshall Islands
In the CNMI alone, there are more or less 5,000 registered voters, even more than Guam which has about 3,000 voters.
"We still don’t know what Comelec’s instruction is but we do have a one-month period of voting abroad," Auxilian said.
The entire overseas voting period for the Philippine elections will start on April 9 and will last until May 9—the actual Election Day in the Philippines.
Auxilian said PCG-Guam has received the automated vote-counting machine, which will be stationed in Guam, just last week.
"We don’t know also if we’re bringing in the automated vote counting machine here but most likely we won’t be allowed because it might get damaged," Auxilian said.
He added that it is most likely that they will be bringing the accomplished ballots from Saipan to Guam, and feed them later on to the machine.
Meanwhile, Auxilian reminded Filipinos in the CNMI to check if they are included on the official list of voters.
"The voter’s ID is not an assurance that they can vote. Registered voters should check if they are included in the certified list of overseas voters that can be found in the Comelec’s website, comelec.gov.ph," Auxilian said.
He added that anyone included on the list, even without their voter’s ID, can vote.
"There are others were deleted because they were not able to vote during the last two consecutive elections," Auxilian said. —Saipan Tribune

Monday, March 7, 2016

Women Challenge Candidates

Further aggravating gender-based inequality and oppression are the denial of reproductive and sexual rights of women, violence against women, including against lesbian, bisexual and transgender sisters. One of the latest of these killings was that of Jennifer Laude by a US soldier. The perpetrator, while convicted, was given a sentence lower than murder and remains virtually in US custody with their own men guarding him in Camp Aguinaldo, instead of in the New Bilibid Prison.

With stepped-up militarism resulting from the PNoy government’s signing of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) with the United States, an agreement which serves as the latter’s instrument for its so-called Asia-Pacific pivot, prostitution and other forms of violence against women are expected to rise.  One of the greatest costs of this surrender of sovereignty is the surrender of women’s safety and that of the environment.

As Filipino women march on with their struggles to overcome inequality, exploitation, marginalization, will we find allies in the present and future leaders of our country? Will the coming elections bring solutions to our current conditions?

Women have learned for a long time now that we have to fight for and persistently defend our bodies, our land, our gains in struggle. We know that we will not get what we need and want on a silver platter. We have to push for the women’s agenda before our presidential, legislative, and local candidates, and refuse to be sidelined. We will march and fight for a more economically and politically secure life and future for ourselves and our children.

Women, let us defend our bodies, our lives, our land and territories from corporatism, patriarchy and militarism!

Signatories:

Action against Violence and Exploitation, Inc. (ACTVE) •
Bagong Kamalayan • Buklod • CATW-AP • Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA) • 
Focus on the Global South • Foundation for Media Alternatives (FMA) •
Freedom from Debt Coalition – Women’s Committee • KAISA-KA • KAMP
• LILAK (Purple Action for Indigenous Women’s Rights) • Partido Lakas ng Masa (PLM)
• Partido ng Manggagawa • PAHRA • Piglas Kababaihan •
Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK) •
SARILAYA • SENTRO - Women • Stop the War Coalition • Transform Asia • WomanHealth Phils. •
Women’s Legal and Human Rights Bureau (WLB) • Women’s Crisis Center •
Youth and Students Advancing Gender Equality (YSAGE) •
World March of Women – Pilipinas • numerous courageous individuals



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