Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Gov't, airlines agree to free OFWs from paying airport fee

Returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), whose tickets were purchased abroad, will be exempted from paying the terminal fee starting March 2017, according to the Department of Transportation (DOTr).

In a statement on Tuesday, the DOTr, citing Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Ed Monreal, noted that airlines have agreed in principle to automatically relieve OFWs who purchased abroad their return tickets to the Philippines from paying the terminal fee.
“Airlines have already agreed in principle, so, hopefully by March 2017, mawala na ang pangamba ng ating mga OFWs sa pagbabayad ng terminal fee,” Monreal said.

The P550 terminal fee is currently integrated with the ticket fee and is given back through MIAA refund counters at airports, which causes inconvenience to OFWs.

The exemption will be fully implemented by March 2017 to "give airlines time to update their programs and systems for this policy."
The Transportation Department noted the agreement has yet to be made official between the airlines and the airport authority. — Ted Cordero/VDS, GMA News

US lawmakers set to vote on bill giving highest honor to Pinoy WWII vets

The US House of Representatives is set to vote on a bill that seeks to award Filipino World War II veterans the Congressional Gold Medal on November 30, two American lawmakers said Tuesday.
"This week, Congress will take the next step to recognize the brave and courageous service of Filipino World War II veterans like Domingo Los Banos from Kaua?i," Senator Mazie Hirono said in a statement.
The bill unanimously passed the Senate in July.
The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor the US Congress gives to civilians.
"The unanimous support this bill earned in the Senate and the overwhelming backing it has in the House honors the sacrifice so many of these veterans made for our country," Hirono, a Democrat, said.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, for his part, urged his colleagues  "to join me in voting to pass this timely legislation, and to honor our veterans with this long-overdue recognition."
"These loyal and courageous soldiers suffered, fought, and gave up their lives alongside their American counterparts throughout the war, and have waited decades for their service to be recognized," she added.
"They cannot afford to wait any longer.”
Hirono and Gabbard introduced the Filipino Veterans of WWII Congressional Gold Medal Act in 2015, and have worked together toward the bill's final passage.
The legislation acknowledges the more than 200,000 Filipino and Filipino-American soldiers who responded to President Franklin Roosevelt's call-to-duty and fought under the American flag against the Imperial Forces of Japan during World War II.  —KBK, GMA News

Jersey City, Newark pledge to remain 'sanctuary' cities

Amid mass demonstrations across the country protesting the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency and his plan to deport up to 3 million undocumented immigrants, two cities in New Jersey have reaffirmed their “commitment to remain welcoming and inclusive.”
In Jersey City, where Filipinos comprise one of the biggest ethnic communities, the City Council unanimously passed a resolution on November 22 reaffirming the city’s “commitment to ensuring that Jersey City remains a welcoming and inclusive city for all of our residents, irrespective of background or immigration status, and will take all appropriate steps to protect our residents from hate, injustice, and hostility.”
A parent-led unity gathering at the Newark Avenue Pedestrian Plaza came out to support the city’s adherence to inclusivity and diversity.
The Municipal Council first passed a resolution in 1996, declaring the City of Jersey City a safe haven or sanctuary for its non-citizen residents. The current resolution offered by the council reaffirms that “City resources are not to be used to identify, persecute, apprehend, or deport any non-citizen resident.”
According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 American Community Survey, Jersey City’s estimated population of 264,277 is approximately 41 percent foreign-born (109,186).
Furthermore, Council President Rolando Lavarro will spearhead filling Jersey City’s nine-member Immigrant Affairs Commission , which would advise Jersey City government on issues affecting immigrants, including civil and human rights, social services, education, and business development. The commission shall serve without compensation, its members to be appointed by the Mayor.
Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro
“At this time when anti-immigrant sentiment appears to be at its height, we want the people of Jersey City to know that we will protect all its residents from hate and prejudice, and will continue to promote and institute policies that value diversity and everyone’s dignity,” said Lavarro in a statement.
Jersey City maintains an Office of Welcoming Communities that will continue to connect immigrant residents with resources to learn their rights and responsibilities, obtain legal assistance, and derive the full benefit of living in Jersey City and United States.
Meanwhile in Newark, New Jersey’s most populous city, Mayor Ras Baraka announced on November 21 the city’s plans to continue to comply with federal agencies in handling undocumented immigrants.
He said: “In Newark, we comply with federal immigration agencies, but insist that detainer requests be handled constitutionally. I hope that no president would violate those principles, the very foundation of our nation, by taking punitive action against cities that are simply protecting the well-being of residents.”
Baraka continued, “We do not hold undocumented inmates in jail at the request of the U.S. Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement unless the detainer request is accompanied by a judge’s order.”
“Despite the election of Donald Trump, we see no reason to change that policy.”
With their mayors’ separate statements, Newark and Jersey City join other ‘sanctuary’ cities — New York, Seattle, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles Oakland in Calif., Providence in R.I., Santa Fe in N.M., Denver, and Washington, D.C. – in opposing President-Elect Trump’s plan to go after undocumented immigrants. Sanctuary cities are known to provide services and legal protection to all its residents regardless of immigration status.
Trump has threatened to cut or withhold federal funding for defiant cities. —The FilAm

California-based 'manong' honors legacy of pioneer immigrants

SAN JOSE, California — Before night fades into dawn, a truck ends its trek at a residence in this southern tip called the "Peninsula" of the San Francisco Bay Area, where a cluster of vans have been waiting for its precious cargo.  Crews of two or four males — all related by blood or marriage — hoist up crates of previous hours' haul into their vehicles for their weekly destinations across the fertile landscape.
In the darkness, the truck's contents are imperceptible.  But the air — cool and dry in earliest autumn — conveys a complex fragrance born of the earth and the sun, promising beauty and purity. 
Roger Cruz revels in the voluptuous aroma of the season's last heirloom, Early Girl and grape tomatoes mingling with the tangy whiff of young bell peppers.  He likes the feel of soil caking the roots of the multicolored carrots, rainbow chard, red and white onions and bottoms of the kale and lettuce.  The scents and sensations remind him of his fortune — this earthly bounty from Reedley in Fresno County here in California — that he shares with his family and helped fund the education of his daughter Leah and son Ron.
Roger and Leonora Cruz with their organic harvest. Photo by MZ Moreno
Daylight caresses Cruz as his drive winds down to a halt in Daly City, where his J&M Ibarra Organic Farm stall draws regulars and newbies seeking farm-to-table alternatives to fruit and vegetables from "factory farms" — pejorative for corporate enterprises that tend to favor appearance and size over taste, whose high volume production allows low prices.
National Public Radio in 2014 counted 8,268 farmers' markets in this country.  Ibarra is one of 2,805 organic farms in California cited in a US Dept. of Agriculture survey.  But it is one of maybe a couple of organic farms at the Saturday Farmers' Market at Serramonte Center.
Crowds at the Daly City market and elsewhere across the country show a growing  appreciation for family farms and local produce — that originating within 100 miles of home.  University of California Berkeley journalism professor-turned-responsible food advocate Michael Pollan furthered the cause of organic farming and socially conscious provenance.  Once associated with the hippie culture, organic food has penetrated the mainstream.  And much to the joy of Cruz and his wife Leonora, who immigrated from the Philippines in the middle 1980s.
"Roger's sister was married to a clan that owned 200 acres of agricultural land," Leonora Cruz, a real estate broker, shared her clan's roots.  "Every weekend seven vans of relatives gather and divide the produce to take to their respective markets."
The Cruzes beam with pride as shoppers throng over their crates minutes before 1 p.m. closing.  Fellow Filipinos seek out "Manong," as they call Roger, engaging him in their common Ilocano or Tagalog. 
Ron Cruz's charm compensates for his inability to speak his parents' native language, making the recent honors grad from high school a hit among the diverse patrons.  Already a licensed insurance agent working to earn his real estate license, he assists his dad every Saturday, explaining to non-Asians that tough-skinned cabocha is as delicious as pumpkin, or suggesting mint to spike a hot or iced tea. In the summer, his sister Leah helps out while on break as a music therapist. 
Roger Cruz vows that nothing touches his crops but water and human hands.  In his family's case, at least three generations that honor the legacy of pioneer Filipino immigrants hired to tend the fields of Hawaii and the farms in California. —Philippine News

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Malate recruitment firm ordered closed for operating without proper license

A recruitment firm in Malate, Manila has been ordered closed for allegedly recruiting Filipino workers for overseas employment without proper license from the government. 

In a statement Wednesday,  the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said it has ordered the closure of KBR International Agency Switzerland/AVA Documentation Services.An illegal recruitment case will also be filed against the firm's officers and staff, the POEA said.The POEA said it issued the closure order following a surveillance operation conducted by an operative who posed as an applicant.The POEA said its operative found out that although the firm does not collect placement fees, requires applicants to pay for medical examination and training fees.Employees had denied they were recruiting workers by presenting a business permit issued by the City of Manila in the name of AVA Documentation Services. The POEA said the agency recruits waiters, construction workers, factory workers, and hotel workers for deployment to Switzerland, Brunei, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, New Zealand and Canada. —KBK, GMA News

Prophetic words of priest blocked in the Philippine Senat

By The Advocate

28 November 2016

*In response to the false accusations of Senator Richard Gordon
*Father Shay Cullen a Judas Escariot -Senator Gordon.
*Senator Gordon blocks freedom of speech of Senator Hontiveros
*Father Cullen refutes allegations of Senator Gordon
*Prophetic words of priest blocked in the Senate.

During a Senate deliberation on the 2017 budget of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) last November 16th Senator Risa Hontiveros was stopped from reading a newspaper column written by Father Shay Cullen depicting the awful conditions in detention centers in the Philippines and how the children must be helped. When Senator Richard Gordon heard the name of Father Cullen he reacted and angrily he interrupted Senator Hontiveros and ordered her to stop reading the column. It should not be heard on the Senate floor, he said, otherwise if she insisted on reading it, he, Gordon, would filibuster her presentation.

The highly respected Senator Hontiveros was quoting a column of Father Shay Cullen, writer, journalist and founder of the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974.

The Preda (People’s Recovery Empowerment Development Assistance Foundation) is an organization protecting vulnerable and abused children and victims of human trafficking. 

His widely read column is published every Sunday in The Manila Times and other international newspapers and online where an average of 1,500 people visit daily.

The particular column from which Senator Hontiveros quoted listed the terrible conditions suffered by the children in the local government detention centers in Metro Manila and elsewhere.

“I don’t normally intervene when somebody is questioning here, but I will, because we’ve all had enough of this man who pretends to be a priest, but in reality he is like Judas Escariot. I am taken aback. If you’re gonna use him, I don’t think we should even listen to this,” Gordon, the former mayor of Olongapo City said to Hontiveros.

Gordon, using his privileged speech, effectively denied Senator Hontiveros her constitutional right of freedom of speech by using his position as a senator and refused to have his remarks against Father Shay Cullen stricken from the Senate record.

Father Cullen, a human rights advocate, described in his column some of the local government detention centers that are sub-human where the children are crowded into cells behind steel bars like criminals. Children as young as eight years old are mixed in with boys as old as 17. Sexual and physical abuse abounds and the children are underfed and suffer scabies and other health conditions. They are deprived of their rights to education, exercise, sunlight, humane living conditions and other human needs. Their parents are not found and many are abandoned.

The concern of Senator Hontiveros for the children was apparent but Senator Richard Gordon, the former mayor of Olongapo City, did not share it. He interrupted to tell Senator Hontiveros to stop reading and citing the column of Father Shay Cullen. He actually censored Senator Hontiveros.

Senator Gordon sees Father Shay Cullen, a Missionary of the Society of Saint Columban, as a long time critic from the days when the Gordon family dynasty ruled Olongapo City. Father Cullen came to Olongapo City in 1969, served in the parishes and established the Preda Foundation in 1974. Its goal was and is to save youth from death squads in the city at that time and to meet the needs of the youth and sexually exploited and trafficked children in the rampant sex industry.

The Olongapo City sex industry, comprising of hundreds of sex bars and clubs was the only economy provided under the Gordon dynasty that ruled the city for almost fifty years. Olongapo City hosted the US Naval Base on Subic Bay until 1992.

Thousands of people have been helped by the Preda Foundation but Gordon and Father Cullen clashed in 1982 when Preda social workers and Father Cullen uncovered and exposed a secret cover up of a rampant child prostitution ring that preyed on poor vulnerable Filipino children, some as young as nine years old, abused by American servicemen. Father Cullen spoke out and publicized the child abuse and demanded an investigation. The then Mayor Gordon was furious that the sordid sex ring involving young children was brought to light by Father Cullen.

The American serviceman Daniel Dougherty was identified as one of the many pedophiles abusing the Filipino children. Following the expose by Fr Cullen, he was brought to trial in Guam, a US territory. This did not sit well with Gordon who was called to testify and was held responsible for the abuse for hosting and protecting the US military bases and the sex industry. He provided “entertainment with sex” and gave a mayor’s operating permit to the sex bars and clubs where thousands of women and children were abused and exploited daily.
Mayor Gordon denounced Father Cullen and tried to have him deported and the Preda children’s home closed down and taken over by the city. But he failed and considered Father Shay Cullen his critic and enemy. Father Cullen said he forgave Gordon long ago and prays for the senator to see the light of truth.

Father Cullen was asked to comment on the efforts of Senator Richard Gordon to blacken his name and had this to say:

“Our mission is to stand for the poor and the exploited children and women and be prophetic in announcing the truth of human rights violations and working to heal and help the victims. Whatever Senator Gordon says, it cannot be believed. He is a politician and will reject criticism of wrongdoing. For me, this work is the duty and mission of every one- to speak the truth, oppose evil and fight for justice.”

However Senator Gordon apparently has not forgotten Father Cullen especially when the latter called for the removal and replacement of the US bases with economic zones to provide jobs with dignity and replace the sex business for sailors despite vitriolic opposition by the then Mayor Gordon.
After the fall of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the anti-bases coalition of which Preda Foundation is an active member, won out and the Philippine Senate voted to remove the bases.
The economic zones campaigned for by the coalition became a reality. This is a big historic victory for the anti-bases coalition and Preda Foundation and a success today as Olongapo is a boom city without the US bases and the Gordon dynasty. Faced with an ignominious defeat, the then Mayor Gordon changed his position and claimed credit for the removal of the US Naval Base and told the media that the establishment of the economic zone was his idea all along.
This is the background as to why Senator Gordon spoke to stop Senator Hontiveros from citing the weekly column of Father Cullen last November. Gordon said in the Senate hearing that Father Cullen has a dubious reputation and spread lies all over Europe.

The record shows that Father Shay Cullen is a well-known and well-received public human rights campaigner and international speaker and media commentator. He has been awarded numerous human rights awards and nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. He has been invited twice to give testimony before the US Congressional Committee on Human Rights and in the German Bundestag.

During the Senate deliberation in November, Senator Hontiveros motioned that Gordon’s attacks against Father Cullen be removed from the record. Gordon then warned Hontiveros that if she insists on doing so, he would delay the proceedings.
"If you want to take it out for the record, I'm willing to filibuster here if you continue to do this," Gordon said.

The committee allowed Gordon’s remarks against Father Cullen to remain on the record much to Gordon’s shame.

Gordon has long been outspoken against Father Cullen and his mission. On his official Facebook page, Senator Gordon describes Father Cullen as “a Caucasian who believed he had his own white man’s burden of saving the poor Filipinos. . .” He accused Father Cullen of combating child abuse and drug trafficking but ignoring the plight of the victims.

However, to be fair, Father Cullen and the Preda workers campaign daily for the rights of the victims and the Preda Foundation has established two beautiful therapeutic homes in Zambales for their protection, safety and recovery.

He also accused Father Cullen of exposing the plight of Rosario Baluyot and "nearly jeopardized” the case against her abuser. Rosario Baluyot was a street child sexually abused by a sex tourist and died in Olongapo City. Father Cullen campaigned for justice for Rosario and prevented a citywide cover up of the crime. The case against the Austrian suspect was held in Olongapo City and he was convicted. Later, on appeal, it was dismissed. Father Cullen did important work to win a conviction.

According to Father Cullen, Senator Gordon has made false and libelous allegations against him. He explained that there never was any investigation by the DSWD or church authorities of Gordon’s accusations of abuse at the Preda Center.

“The allegations have been dismissed totally as baseless and manufactured and they were designed to harass and persecute me in retaliation for my work in defending children’s rights and exposing crimes against children,” he said.

“Mayor Gordon has tried and failed to destroy my reputation. I tried to stand for the child victims who were raped in the city that sponsored the sex business and I opposed the US military bases because they were the root cause of it and I promoted conversion of the facilities to a Filipino economic zone to give alternative jobs, what’s wrong in that?”

The charge of libel against Father Cullen in 1999 by then Davao City Mayor Benjamin de Guzman cited by Gordon on his official Facebook page was the campaign of Father Cullen against the Davao death squads. He risked his life to protect the street children.

 The Davao court dismissed the charges of libel when the mayor withdrew his baseless complaint.

“It is fair to say that the abuse of the Senator’s privilege speech to damage and destroy the reputation of those who question the social and economic problems of the country is deplorable,” Father Cullen said. “It diminishes the senators themselves and causes the people to loose faith in the institutions that are supposed to uphold the highest standards of human behavior and respect for the rights and dignity of everyone. This is what Senator Gordon has failed to do.”


24,000 OFWs to benefit from South Korea's minimum wage hike

At least 24,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) working in small and medium-sized manufacturing companies in South Korea will benefit from the new minimum wage hike that will be implemented on 2017, a Philippine labor official said Thursday.
South Korea's Ministry of Employment and Labor (MOEL) announced that the 7.3 percent increase in minimum wage rate will raise the basic salary from KRW 6,030 or P250.46 per hour, to KRW 6,470 or P268.73 per hour, Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) Officer In-Charge Manuela Peña said.
"The new minimum wage translates to KRW 51,760 or P2,149.87 per day on an 8-hour working day. This is equivalent to KRW 1,352,230 or P56,165.28 per month," Peña said.
Based on South Korea's labor laws, wage increase covers "all employees, regardless of their employment status, whether temporary, daily or part-time employees, including foreign workers."
The South Korean government said it will closely monitor the implementation of the wage hike along with employment conditions in different work sites.

2,000 Pinoy 'illegals' to benefit from Qatar's amnesty

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Around 2,000 undocumented Filipino residents in Qatar can be repatriated without legal consequences under a three-month amnesty which ends on December 1, the Philippine Embassy in Doha said.
Consul General Roussel Reyes told radio DZMM the amnesty covers "overstaying" foreigners, those with expired passports and workers who ran away from employers.
Under normal rules, these "illegals" could be facing a huge fine or imprisonment for absconding. But until the grace period ends, they may return to their own countries just by presenting their passport, ID card or entry visa into Qatar and a plane ticket home at the Search and Follow Up Department.
Reyes said it is important for those availing of the amnesty to present their plane ticket or at least enough cash to buy one because Doha officials typically release exit visas within the same day of application.
"Ang requirement po sa pag-avail ng amnesty, dapat po pagpunta sa Immigration, may confirmed ticket na po sila. Kasi within the same day po, issue na po nila ang exit visa. Hinihingi po nilang may ticket na para makaalis kaagad iyung worker," he said.
So far, the Embassy has helped 238 Filipinos secure travel documents necessary for repatriation, Reyes added.
There is no official figure for how many "illegals" live among Qatar's 1.8 million migrant workforce.
People approached by Agence France-Presse prior to visiting the department said they had been told not to speak to the international media.
Officials are wary as Qatar has faced constant criticism of its treatment of workers since winning the right to host the 2022 football World Cup.
The authorities point to labor reforms including the impending end of the sponsorship rules and the Wage Protection System which ensures workers get paid.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Qatar's ‘illegals’ scramble to leave under amnesty

DOHA, Qatar - Kalawani has spent the past six years hiding from the Qatari authorities, but finally she is going home to Sri Lanka for the first time since 2010.
The former housemaid is one of 9,000 undocumented residents expected to leave Qatar before December 1 after Doha introduced a three-month amnesty for those living in the country illegally to leave without "legal consequences".
Kalawani ran away after her employer refused to pay her monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275, 260 euros), a common problem.
"I didn't get any salary from my sponsor," she says while waiting for her papers to be approved.
Under Qatar's strict sponsorship laws, anyone wishing to change their job must get permission from their employer, so Kalawani became an "illegal" after fleeing.
She has existed by relying on her family for help and working in a cafe, though that was also illegal as her entry visa to Qatar allowed her to work only as a housemaid.
"This amnesty is good for me. I want to go home," she says quietly.
Under normal rules, she could be facing a huge fine or imprisonment for absconding.
Today, all she has to provide is her passport, ID card or entry visa into Qatar and a plane ticket home -- or at least enough cash to buy one.
Once approved, she will have seven days to leave.
300 people every day
Like all those leaving during the grace period, Kalawani's case is being processed by the Search and Follow Up Department.
Located on the southwestern fringes of Doha, the department is surrounded by a dusty car park, a few palm trees and the hum of one of Qatar's busiest highways.
But the crowds of people outside, and a few packed suitcases propped up against a wall, hint at something happening inside the unremarkable looking building.
Through a small door marked "Reception", about two dozen people wait patiently to register.
From there they will pass to the much grander "Initial Proceedings Hall", a large tent complete with chandeliers and separate queuing spaces for men and women.
The tent buzzes with activity.
Ministry of Interior officers carry out background checks and take all applicants' fingerprints "for the records".
"When we first started (the amnesty), it was like 100 people a day. Now we are coming to the end, it's about 300 each day," one officer says.
‘I can't go home’
There is no official figure for how many "illegals" live among Qatar's 1.8 million migrant workforce.
It is though a highly sensitive subject.
People approached by AFP prior to visiting the department said they had been told not to speak to the international media.
Officials are wary as Qatar has faced constant criticism of its treatment of workers since winning the right to host the 2022 football World Cup.
The authorities point to labor reforms including the impending end of the sponsorship rules and the Wage Protection System which ensures workers get paid.
Officials say most of those who will take advantage of the amnesty come from Asia, including Bangladesh, Nepal and the Philippines.
In the "Exit Hall", where "illegals" receive final approval to leave, is Sajad, from Kerala, India.
"I had some problems with my sponsor, salary and security issues," he says about his eight months outside the law.
He found out about the amnesty on Facebook -- the Ministry of Interior's initial announcement was made on social media and translated into 14 different languages.
"I am going to go home, inshallah (God willing). I am going to go straight from here," he says with a smile.
He can buy his plane ticket in the Qatar Airways office on site.
Less happy is a nearby Nigerian electrical technician.
He declines to give his name but says he was marked as "absconded" after going home on holiday. 
While back in Africa, a close relative died and he attended the funeral, informed his bosses he would be late back to Doha -- but says his company told the authorities he had fled.
When he returned to Qatar, he was arrested and placed in prison.
"This is bad, very, very bad," he says angrily. "This is an embarrassment, the way they treat people."
"My company should not have taken any action against me. I cannot cope with this environment anymore."
Ahmed Faram, a 42-year-old Nepalese driver, has spent more than two years outside the law and is resigned to leaving -- but wants to return for work.
"If it's possible to come back, I will come back, inshallah."
Others though have little hope of ending their illegal status.
A Pakistani construction worker waiting outside the department says his sponsor stole his passport and is demanding 10,000 riyals to return it.
"I cannot go home," he says. — Agence France-Presse

OFWs reaping benefits of weak peso

The peso's losing streak against the dollar has made many OFWs eager to send remittances to the Philippines to take advantage of the current exchange rate.
In Hong Kong, some OFWs wished the current exchange rate —  P49.980:$1 as of November 25 — would extend until the new year to maintain the high value of their remittances.
"Masaya po kaming mga OFWs na maganda ang rate ngayon," one OFW said in Maki Pulido's report on "24 Oras" on Friday. "Sana tataas pa until next year."
For his part, Abner Gagal Gacias, 23, a cashier-waiter in Saudi Arabia, told GMA News Online, "As an OFW, [with] every cent increase, I’m happy because it will increase the total amount received by my family [in the Philippines]."
"May additional feeling na masaya kasi alam mo mataas din value ng sweldo mo abroad pag mataas palitan," said Grace Guei, 49, a medical secretary in the United Arab Emirates.
The OFWs, however, are aware that this good news does not extend to Filipino consumers, who may have to shell out more for their needs.
"Malungkot na malaki ang palitan in a way. Mas maraming maghihirap sa 'Pinas kasi ibig sabihin niyan tataas ang presyo ng bilihin,” said Melanie Tiu, 57, a senior respiratory therapist in the UAE.
Ateneo de Manila professor Alvin Tan said the dollar strengthened due to American businesses slowly returning the US in line with President-elect Donald Trump's "America-first" policy.
"Nagkaroon siya (Trump) ng statement na America First Policy. So sabi niya, he will invite back US companies, give them subsidies and support," Tan said.
Employers' Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Donald Dee, meanwhile, warned of possible inflation if the value of peso against the dollar hit the P55:$1 mark, although he said this is unlikely.
Yet others share the fears of economists and business owners like Ateneo de Manila professor Alvin Tan and Employers' Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) President Donald Dee.
"Yung impact sa kanila yung devaluation, and therefore they have to increase the price because the peso cost is higher," Dee said.
Dee, however, said the peso is unlikely to hit that level.
"[But] the demand for exiting of dollar due to hot money has already happened. The fear that interest rates will go up in America has happened. Yung fear nila nag fold-in na, lumabas na yung pera," he said.
Despite the possible downturns, Tan said the $85 billion reserves of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will be enough to weather the upset.
"Yung reserves ng central bank ng buong Pilipinas is about 85 billion dollars. Hindi naman 'yun basta-bastang mauubos lahat sa supply," Tan said.
Still, some OFWs can't help but take advantage of the current exchange rate.
"[Ngayong mataas ang exchange rate], kailangan malaki na ipadala kasi sayang... Baka malay natin, bumaba ulit," Gacias said. Rie Takumi and Lucky Mae F. Quilao/KBK, GMA News

Undocumented Pinoys in US 'have reasons to be alarmed' –lawyers

With less than two months before President-Elect Donald Trump takes over the White House on January 20, 2017, the immigrant community is gripped with fear and worry wondering whether he would really deport 3 million undocumented immigrants – and how.
Regina Domingo, a Maryland-based immigration lawyer laid it out there: “Undocumented immigrants, no matter what foreign country they are from, will be deported. Filipinos are not spared nor excluded.”
Lawyer Arnedo Valera, with offices in Virginia, echoed her view. He said, “If President Trump carries out his immigration policy rhetorics during the campaign trail as new adopted immigration policies, then the more than 500,000 undocumented Filipinos across the nation have reason to be alarmed.”
He said Filipinos should “expect disruptions and strict regulation on immigrant visa allocated for the Philippines whether it be family-based or employment-sponsored visas.”
Valera shared that after the election his law office immediately received “unprecedented” number of inquiries via email, Facebook messages and phone calls asking about the anticipated impact of Trump’s likely immigration policies. He said as president, Trump has complete power to make huge changes in immigration policies.
“We are going to see a seismic shift and major changes in priorities as to enforcement of immigration laws by the Department of Homeland Security and the agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement,” Valera said in a phone interview with The FilAm Metro DC.
He continued, “This means that the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants will be exposed to potential sudden removal from this country. We are talking here of those who cross the border (entry without inspection) and those who overstayed their visas (which) includes the Filipinos. And the focus of the Department of Homeland Security in enforcement will obviously lead to heightened deportation.”
Valera who has 23 years of experience, called Trump’s immigration plans “inhumane, unrealistic and expensive.”
A massive deportation will be “unprecedented in our history and it will cost our government billions of dollars to remove undocumented immigrants from the country while securing our borders with the promised ‘building of a wall,’” he said.
Domingo said, “It will require a huge amount of government resources to enforce removal of undocumented immigrants. That is why the Trump government is prioritizing deportation. Those who are convicted of aggravated felonies are top priorities.”
In an interview with 60 Minutes, Trump said he intends to make good on a campaign promise to get rid of undocumented immigrants with criminal records, like gang members or drug dealers “probably 2 million — and possibly 3 million.” The reduced number has prompted analysts to note how the reality show star has adopted a softer tone than when he vowed to order the removal of 11 million undocumented immigrants during the presidential campaign. He has stopped the use of the word “rapists” and instead calls them “terrific people.”
Valera who specializes in International Law and Human Rights, is optimistic that Trump will “come to his senses” and be a realistic. He hopes that Trump modifies his plans so as not “destroy family unity.”
Certain procedures have to be followed, said Domingo. “The process of removal should not violate the fundamental principles of fairness and due process. If one is undocumented and he is taken into immigration custody, you cannot simply be deported without providing you a chance to be heard and be given the opportunity to present his relief from deportation before the immigration court. This is called Removal Proceedings.”
However, Valera warned, “Defenses in Immigration courts are very limited.”
“Removals and deportations can be done administratively. But there are certain groups of immigrants that can be administratively removed without going to the Immigration Courts especially those who have committed crimes classified as aggravated felonies.”
Also at risk are some 700,000 young immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as children. Trump has said he plans to repeal the 2012 DACA Executive Memorandum.
Domingo said, “DACA recipients will run the risk of enforcement action and their employment authorization would be revoked.”
Valera likewise said, “(Just when they are) getting out of the shadows as undocumented and are starting to build their future with their temporary work permits and securing their own Social Security numbers. Now they will be facing to be returned once again to an ‘immigration legal limbo.’ With a heightened policy of deporting undocumented immigrants, the DACA recipients whose personal information have been submitted will potentially face danger because of the cancellation of DACA. It becomes not only a serious concern but a real probable threat.” —The FilAm Metro DC

Friday, November 25, 2016

Central bank to keep peso 'in check' after hitting P50 vs dollar


MANILA - The central bank said Friday it was guarding against "excessive movements" in the foreign exchange market after the peso weakened to the key P50 per dollar level.
The peso held at P49.99 after slipping to a level not seen since the 2008 global financial crisis in the previous day, as investors braced for an interest rate adjustment by the Federal Reserve and US president-elect Donald Trump's assumption into office.
"We will continue to monitor market action to ensure excessive movements are in check," Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco said in a text message to reporters.
An expected pick-up in remittances as the Christmas season nears is affected to strengthen the peso, Tetangco said.
The peso's weakness is in line with other currencies in the region with robust economic data in the US adding fuel to the dollar's charge.

The observed peso weakness is in line with the movements in regional currencies, which in turn reflect usd strength. The latest eco numbers that have come out of the US were upbeat. Together w increased bets on a U.S. Interest rate hike, the strength of the usd has continued. This may however be dampened by the long thanksgiving holiday. Peso weakness may also be trimmed as remittances are expected to rise ahead of the Christmas holidays. We will continue to monitor market action to ensure excessive movements are in check.

Pinoy nurses working as housekeepers in HK receive elderly care training

A group of Filipino nurses working as household helpers in Hong Kong received free training on

dementia care from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) there.

The seminar, offered by POLO and the Jockey Club Centre for Positive Ageing, trained 17 Filipina nurses on how to care for elderly patients to diversify their skill sets and allow them to find alternative work from housekeeping, according to a news release fro the Department of Labor and Employment on Thursday.
The nurses were trained in supporting the physical, psychological, emotional, social, spiritual and even intellectual needs of their elderly charges, as well as creating a secure, loving environment for them, the DOLE said.
Participants were also taught how to identify and resolve problems and to communicate effectively with their charges without losing their patience.
Labor Attaché Jalilo O. Dela Torre of POLO-Hong Kong said the seminar was crucial in teaching nurses new skills and "understanding the conditions associated with old age."
“Elderlies still need to feel recognized and appreciated for their ideas, abilities and talents, thus caregivers must make them feel that their choices are followed and that they are given the chance to make their own decisions,” Dela Torre said. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

US demand for OFWs seen to decline under Trump

MANILA - US demand for Filipino workers could slow down due to US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionist stand, according to an executive of overseas jobs website 
"There might be an effect on demand for OFWs, but let's hope for the best," said business unit head Rhea Suiza in a press conference on Wednesday. 
The impact on job opportunities for Filipinos, however, may not be that significant, given the limited number of openings in the US. 
There were only 1,225 job postings in the US for Filipinos from January to September 2016, based on a study by 
Middle East countries were still the top destinations for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the first 9 months of 2016.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, had the most number of job postings for Filipinos, said.
Of the 117,696 overseas jobs offered from January to September 2016, 46,026 or 39 percent were in Saudi Arabia, the study said.
Demand for Filipino workers from private companies in Saudi Arabia remains high despite the drop in oil prices, Suiza said.
Qatar had the second highest number of jobs for OFWs with 11,991 postings, followed by United Arab Emirates with 6,670 and Kuwait with 3,456.
Bahrain had 2,433 jobs for Filipinos overseas while Oman had 1,950.
Suiza said, aside from Middle East countries and the US, other countries that need services of Filipinos include New Zealand and Germany.
Two Middle East countries also topped the list of highest paying countries for OFWs deployed, the job portal said.
Those working in the healthcare industry were paid an average of P253,826 a month in the United Arab Emirates while those in the aviation industry were paid an average of P209,700 a month.
Nurses and medical assistants in Canada and New Zealand were paid an average monthly salary of P172,500.
Filipinos working in public relations and communications were paid P138,000 while architects and interior designers in Bahrain were paid P113,030. 
Last year's highest-paying country, the United States, was bumped off this year's list because of a decline in the number of job postings, said.

Middle East still top OFW destination: job portal

Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

MANILA - Middle East countries are still the top destinations for overseas Filipino workers, a study released Wednesday showed.
Six countries in the Middle East: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, and Oman, have the most number of job postings for Filipinos abroad, overseas jobs website said.
Of the 117,696 OFW jobs offered from January to September 2016, 46,026 or 39 percent are in Saudi Arabia, the study said.
Demand for Filipino workers from private companies in Saudi Arabia remains high despite the drop in oil prices, business unit head Rhea Suiza said.
Qatar has the second highest number of jobs for OFWs with 11,991 postings, followed by United Arab Emirates with 6,670 and Kuwait with 3,456.
Bahrain has 2,433 jobs for Filipinos overseas while Oman has 1,950.
There are 1,225 job postings in the US. Demand for Filipino workers could slow down over US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionist stand, according
"There might be an effect on demand for OFWs, but let's hope for the best," said Suiza.
Suiza said aside from Middle East countries and the US, other countries that need services of Filipinos include New Zealand and Germany.

Trump policies could hurt OFWs in US: job portal

MANILA - US President-elect Donald Trump's protectionist stand could slow demand for Filipino workers, according to an overseas job portal.
Trump, who will assume office in January, has promised to grow the US economy by creating more jobs, a move that could also affect the country's business process outsourcing industry. 
"There might be an effect on demand for OFWs, but let's hope for the best," said Rhea Suiza, business unit head of
Suiza said Filipino workers who could be displaced in the US could look for opportunities in emerging destinations like New Zealand, Qatar and Germany.
The government is looking into the impact of Trump's policies on overseas Filipinos, said Robert Larga, licensing and regulation director at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency.
"Deployment is still ongoing. We are on wait and see mode if policies are going to take place as promised during his campaign," he said.
Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

Doctors highest paid, engineers most in-demand among OFWs

MANILA - (UPDATE) Filipinos looking for work overseas should consider the health care sector if they want lucrative pay, or engineering for the most opportunities, a study released Wednesday showed.
Filipino doctors abroad earn an average P111,620 a month and in the United Arab Emirates, the rate can double to P253,000, jobs website said.

Engineering jobs are the most in demand, with 30,972 opening posted recently, according to the study.
Other top specializations, with monthly pay of P50,000 to P90,000, include process design and control, public relations, aviation or aircraft maintenance, legal services, education, quality control, information technology and architecture or interior design, the study said.

Aside from engineering, general works, hospitality, healthcare, sales, administrative support, and creatives are also in high demand.

Saudi Arabia is still top OFW destination with 46,026 posted jobs, followed by Qatar with 11,991, and UAE with 6,670.

Demand for Filipino workers from private companies in Saudi Arabia remains high despite the drop in oil prices, business unit head Rhea Suiza said.

Close to 2,500 Filipino workers have been repatriated from Saudi Arabia, said Robert Larga, licensing and regulation director at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency. Around 8,000 more are scheduled to return home, he said.

The Philippines is one of the world's top labor exporters, and OFW remittances are credited with boosting domestic consumption, a key driver of economic growth.

Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBN News

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