Friday, December 29, 2017

Putin: Supermarket bombing was terrorism

Andrew Osborn and Denis Pinchuk, Reuters
Posted at Dec 28 2017 09:16 PM
An interior view of a supermarket is seen after an explosion in St. Petersburg, Russia, in this photo released by Russia’s National Anti-Terrorism Committee on December 28, 2017. National Anti-Terrorism Committee/Handout via Reuters
MOSCOW - Russian President Vladimir Putin said a bomb blast in a St. Petersburg supermarket on Wednesday was an act of terrorism, and that security forces whose lives were threatened by terrorist suspects should shoot to kill if necessary.
Putin, who is running for re-election in March, was speaking on Thursday at an awards ceremony in the Kremlin for Russian personnel who served in Russia's Syria campaign, which Moscow has framed as an anti-terrorism operation.
"You know that yesterday in St. Petersburg a terrorist act was carried out," Putin told the audience, referring to the explosion that injured 13 shoppers in a branch of the Perekrestok supermarket chain.
Investigators have opened a criminal case into Wednesday evening's blast, which they say was caused by a homemade bomb packed with pieces of metal.
Russian media reports said the bomb was hidden inside a rucksack in a locker where shoppers leave their belongings and said the person who left the bomb, described as being of "non-Slavic appearance", had been caught on CCTV.
No group has claimed responsibility.
Russia has repeatedly been the target of attacks by Islamist militant groups, including an attack in April that killed 14 people when an explosion tore through a train carriage in a metro tunnel in St. Petersburg.
That attack was claimed by a militant group which said the suicide bomber was acting on the orders of al Qaeda. Russian police detained several suspects in that attack from mainly Muslim states in ex-Soviet central Asia.
Putin told the ceremony the FSB security service, which he used to run before he became president, had also prevented "another attempted terrorist act".
A Kremlin spokesman said Putin was referring to a foiled attack on Kazansky Cathedral, in St. Petersburg, Russia's second city.
The Kremlin said earlier this month that a U.S. tip-off had helped thwart the attack in a rare public show of cooperation despite deep strains between the two countries.
Russian media reported earlier this month that the Federal Security Service had detained seven members of an Islamic State cell who had been planning the attack.
Putin told the same awards ceremony that the security situation in Russia would be much worse if thousands of Russian citizens who fought with Islamic State in Syria had been allowed to return home.
"What would have happened if those thousands of people ... returned to us (from Syria). If they returned with good weapons training ...," he said.
Russian security officials have said that thousands of citizens from ex-Soviet Central Asia or from the Muslim-majority North Caucasus region of Russia, which includes Chechnya, traveled to Syria or Iraq to fight with Islamic State.
Putin said security forces should take no chances with their own lives if confronted by terrorist suspects.
"I yesterday ordered the FSB director to act within the framework of the law when detaining these bandits of course, but if there is a threat to the life and well-being of our employees ... to act decisively, not take any prisoners, and liquidate the bandits on the spot."

First Pinay councilor in NZ wants more recognition for migrants

The first Filipina to be elected councilor in New Zealand has promised to push for policies geared toward cultural integration of migrants, including Filipinos.
"I would like more recognition for migrants and more migrants to actively be involved in the community," said Thelma Bell of Ashburton Ward on GMA News TV's "Investigative Documentaries" that aired on Thursday.
"It doesn't have to be Filipinos. It would be lovely to have another Filipino to come and join, but any migrants: Come and participate."

Thelma Bell (middle) in action. Photo courtesy of Investigative Documentaries
Bell had been a resident of Ashburton Ward for 23 years before she was elected councilor in 2016 on a platform of representing the migrant community and cultural diversity. Her advocacy is rooted in her own experiences of being a migrant.
Then a fresh graduate of BS Nutrition and Dietetics at the Western State University in Zamboanga City, Bell moved to New Zealand in 1987 and got married to her husband, Brian, in 1989.
As she adjusted to her new life, she decided to move on from being a stay-at-home mother to her two children to teach early childhood education or kindergarten at various schools.
She then decided to run for councilor as she believes Filipinos and migrants in general should be more visible in the community and inject new life into the local government.
Her children, Natasha and Liam, remain supportive of her career as is her husband, who Bell credited for his encouragement and support despite her position putting her on-call at all times.
"Brian has got the personality that gives you freedom to let you decide, to choose, which is really appreciated. I've done so many things because he would just [say], 'You can do it, it doesn't matter to me'," Bell said.
Bell is one of 12 Ashburton councilors under Mayor Donna Favel, who was impressed with the Filipina's standing in the local Filipino community.
"I was talking to a Filipino person yesterday who said that everyone was so proud of Ate Thelma and the way that she is representing the Filipino community at council," Favel said. —KBK, GMA News

Tearful goodbyes as some OFWs head back to work before New Year

Though with heavy hearts, OFWs are beginning to troop back to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) to return to their overseas jobs to continue supporting their loved ones in the Philippines.
Mark Anthony Jacolbe is one of these OFWs. Though sad, he said he is doing it for his family.
"Para sa kanila 'tong gagawin nating sakripisyo," Jacolbe said in a report by GMA News' Ian Cruz on Balitanghali on Thursday.
Another OFW, Miraflor Esnardo, told her baby that she loved her minutes before her flight to Saudi Arabia, while Leah Cayog bid her new lover goodbye as he accompanied her to the airport for her return to Italy.
"Mabigat, mahirap. Akala sa una madali, pero pag nandito na, talagang mabigat," Cayog said.
Yet some OFWs are only beginning their vacations, as is the case with Lorna, who came home from Saudi Arabia to ring in 2018 with her family.
"Masayang-masaya kasi makakasama ko na po sila. Maipagluluto ko po sila ng mga paborito nilang pagkain," she said.
About 1.6 million passengers used the national airport in 2017, marking a 8.7 percent increase from the 1.4 million passengers from 2016, and more are expected to use NAIA past the holiday rush.
The 2016 Commission on Audit report on the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency also showed an increase of OFW requests for repatriation, showing a 62.73 percent increase from 2015 (5,629) to 2016 (9,160). —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Thursday, December 28, 2017

The Man from Nazareth

 Fr. Shay Cullen
 28 December 2017
A great blessing came into the world over two thousand years ago. Jesus was born in Bethlehem and grew up in Nazareth. He was a humble leader, prophetic, articulate and a prodigy with a profound compassionate understanding of the sick, the poor and oppressed. He sought equality and a society, or kingdom, with no super rich, no dire poor and with fairness, social justice, love, and compassion for all. That is what he taught, lived for and was killed for.  He was a friend to all.
He was loved greatly by the poor, the fisher folks, the farmers and craftspeople, women and children. But the rich, the elite rulers, religious and civil leaders were not pleased with him or his message. He was not silent about the injustice and hypocrisy that surrounded him. He spoke out against the oppressors with sharp words of rebuke. He was challenged, spied upon, reported to the authorities, threatened, criticized, wrongly accused, and then tortured and executed. He forgave them all. He left behind a Meal of Friendship for us to remember him by.
What an extraordinary life he lived. He lifted up the spirits of the poor with encouragement and hope and gave them their true value and dignity as people of all races and religions and those without and for us in the whole world. He taught that we have inalienable rights, deserving of profound respect and equality. He stood in solidarity with the poor, and with us, a poor man himself, rejected by the innkeepers and then born in an outhouse with the burden of poverty, stale food, the smell of animals and unwashed clothes. His parents were threatened by the tyrant and became refugees, fled Bethlehem, became migrants and travelled on foot to Egypt, a feat that is impossible today.
When he became a man, he had an exhilarating message of Good News, that the poor had rights to a better, more just life where there was fairness and equality for all, where women were honored and respected and would overcome evil, where children were the most important of all, where the poor would, with justice, inherit what was rightfully theirs. The wrong-doers and abusers would be held accountable, called to confess and admit their crimes, repent and accept their penance and let justice be done.
 The workers would have fair wages and benefits and the elite rich and powerful would be invited to change their ways and attitudes and would be challenged to ask forgiveness, to pay restitution, like Zacharias, four times what he had stolen by his corrupt ways. They could help bring social justice or continue in their corrupt ways and be held accountable and sent away empty.
In the society where justice prevailed, the people would have their voice and vote and rule themselves through just leaders. That is the Good News that everyone had a right to dignity, justice, equality, the truth, and a happy life and a right to work and struggle for it without discrimination, racism, or exclusion.
This is the message of Jesus of Nazareth, his vision. His mission of two thousand years ago is still a message calling us to friendship and inviting us to live the values that have the power to change each of us and society if accepted and practiced. This is the Good News that is to be proclaimed from the housetops and still stands today calling all to embrace and live life in the spirit that he brought into the world. 
That powerful message of love, justice, compassion, non-violence and freedom in community is mostly unheeded, ignored, and forgotten. Most times, the church’s ministers forget the vital message that is lost in a maze of unexplained rites and rituals and secular interests. The true believers are ready to die living and implementing them. Without them, there is dire poverty, chaos, violence, crimes against humanity, war crimes and hundreds of thousands killed. 
In the challenging world of today, that same strong hope and belief among many people that goodness will overcome evil, that justice will prevail and freedom from oppression will come to be. It is hope that burns bright and the struggle for justice goes on all fronts. People are being enlightened by truth against lies and deception. Great good is being done daily. Hundreds of thousands are being saved and helped.
Human rights workers suffer the vindictive brutality of the tyrants as they suffer injustice and struggle against oppression. They stand up and speak out when they are told to kneel down and remain silent. They are strong when they are insulted and diminished, they risk all for others. They serve the poor without seeking a reward. They live lives of integrity and wisdom. The power of compassion and caring will  triumph. 

PHL not moving embassy to Jerusalem –Cayetano

Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday denied that the Philippines is transferring its embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, saying Israel never asked the government to consider such move.
“To be fair to Israel they haven’t told or asked us to transfer our embassy,” Cayetano told GMA News’ JP Soriano in an interview.
“In fact, they clarified reports to their friends that the Philippines did not communicate to them that we will transfer or not.”
An Israeli public radio, according to a wire report, said 10 countries, including the Philippines, Romania and South Sudan, are considering moving their diplomatic missions to Jerusalem after talks with Israel.
Transferring the embassy to Jerusalem will, in effect, recognize the city disputed by Israel and Palestine as Israel’s capital. Presently, all diplomatic missions are located in Tel Aviv.
“We have communicated clearly to all our friends in the Middle East that there hasn’t been any discussion or move to move our embassy from Tel Aviv,” Cayetano said.
The Foreign Affairs chief noted that the Philippines supports a two-state policy, adding that the country is even willing to play a role as a peacemaker.
“We are for peaceful resolution of conflict,” Cayetano said. “In diplomacy, unless there is an urgent situation, you don’t just take a blind giant leap. You study all of these. There’s going to be a balancing act.”
“Plus, there’s so much history and context there.”
The Philippines was among the 35 countries that abstained from a United Nations vote last week on US President Donald Trump’s controversial decision to unilaterally recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. 
A huge majority of UN-member states declared the US decision null and void, among them America’s Arab allies.
Cayetano defended the Philippine decision to abstain on the UN’s Jerusalem vote, saying the country “always believed in sovereignty.”
“We don’t want any country to tell us where we can or can’t put an embassy so we can’t condemn the US for making that decision,” he said.
Moreover, Cayetano stressed that “a big part of our foreign policy is the 10 million Filipinos abroad” – majority of which are based in the Middle East.
“That’s why friends to all and enemies to none is very important,” he said. “Some people will see abstain or not voting not a principled vote. But sometimes that is the principled vote.” —KBK, GMA News

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Pagasa debunks looming ‘supertyphoon’ rumors

 / 07:02 AM December 27, 2017
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has debunked rumors circulating on social media of a “supertyphoon” that will supposedly hit the country in January 2018.
In a statement, Pagasa weather division chief Esperanza Cayanan said that while it was normal for a tropical cyclone to form in or enter the Philippine area of responsibility in January, “predicting the tropical cyclone intensity to reach supertyphoon category for more than one week ahead has a very high uncertainty.”
“The general public is advised to be more careful, verify information and listen only to right authority so as not to cause panic,” Cayanan said.
Since Tropical Storm “Vinta’s” exit last Sunday, there has been no prevailing storm in the Philippine area of responsibility.
In its 4 a.m. forecast on Tuesday, Pagasa said it was the tailend of a cold front affecting the eastern section of southern Luzon, and the northeast monsoon affecting northern and Central Luzon that were bringing scattered rains and thunderstorms. Only localized thunderstorms are expected to bring isolated rainshowers in the Visayas and Mindanao.
On Monday, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said a low pressure area outside the Philippine area of responsibility might enter the country in January. It was quick to point out, however, that it had not determined whether the weather disturbance would cause damage. —JAYMEE T. GAMIL

World condoles with Philippines after Christmas storms

Posted at Dec 26 2017 02:19 PM | Updated as of Dec 26 2017 04:47 PM
Rescuers reach out to residents who sought shelter on rooftops to escape flooding triggered by Tropical Storm Vinta. Froilan Gallardo, ABS-CBN News
MANILA - Several governments and international organizations have extended their condolences to the Philippines after some 200 people were killed in floods and landslides spawned by back-to-back storms during the Christmas holidays.
Representatives of the United States, China, the United Kingdom, European Union, and the United Nations General Assembly expressed in separate statements.
Tropical storm Vinta (Tembin) inundated large parts of Mindanao over the weekend, less than a week after Urduja (Kai-tak) devastated the Visayas.
"Heartfelt sympathies to the loved ones of the victims of Tropical Storm Vinta. My thoughts and prayers are with them in this difficult time," US Ambassador Sung Kim said in a tweet.
Mark Field, UK's minister of state for Asia and the Pacific, said: "Saddened by reports of devastating mudslides in Southern Philippines as a result of Tropical Storm Tembin. My thoughts are with everyone affected and their families at this difficult time."
"I would like to hereby extend my heartfelt sympathy to Your Honorable on the tragic disaster. I am convinced that, under the leadership of the Philippine government, the people of the affected areas are bound to overcome the disaster and restore their normal livelihoods at an earliest date,” Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told Foreign Affairs Chief Alan Peter Cayetano.
"Thinking of the #Philippines, which is being hit hard by brutal Tropical Storm #Tembin. My condolences to the Government and people during this very difficult time," UN General Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák said in a tweet.
The Canadian Embassy said it was closely monitoring reports on the deadly storm's aftermath.
"During this time of year, while families and friends come together and celebrate the holidays, our thoughts are with all #Filipinos affected by #Tembin (Vinta)," it said.
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen offered humanitarian assistance or development funds.
"The EU is [a] longstanding friend of the Philippine people and stands ready to assist during this difficult time: by humanitarian assistance or by use of our development funds, that can help to create an even more resilient country," he said.

"The sadness is felt even more deeply as the tragedies all took place at a time where families were preparing to join each other to celebrate Christmas - a time of traditional peace and joy," he added.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had earlier said Tokyo was ready to assist Manila in attending to the storm victims.
The death toll from Vinta has already climbed to 240 on Monday with scores others still missing.
The storm struck Mindanao on Friday, 2 days before Christmas, forcing thousands of Filipinos to spend their holidays in evacuation centers and makeshift shelters.

Saudi Arabia releases 23 corruption detainees - report

Posted at Dec 26 2017 10:00 PM
Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman attends a Cabinet meeting on December 19, 2017. Saudi Press Agency/handout via Reuters
RIYADH - Saudi Arabia has released 23 of the 200-or-so powerful individuals detained since November on corruption charges after they reached deals with the government, Okaz newspaper reported on Tuesday.
The report did not name those involved in what appeared to be the first large-scale release since the royals, business people and government officials were detained in a crackdown spearheaded by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The suspects have been held at Riyadh's luxurious Ritz Carlton hotel since early November and told to hand over assets and cash in exchange for their freedom.
Okaz said more detainees would be released in the coming days and trial proceedings would begin soon for those who continue to deny the charges against them.
Saudi authorities see the settlements not as blackmail but as an obligation to reimburse money taken illegally from the world's top oil producer over several decades.
Video posted on social media showed a smiling Saoud al-Daweesh, the former chief executive of Saudi Telecom, telling well-wishers he had been treated decently.
"Private Affairs (a unit of the Royal Court) brought us a full lamb dish day and night. They treated us well and did a good job," he said.
Saudi officials did not respond to requests for comment. 

Tearful reunions as OFWs arrive to spend New Year in PHL

After months or even years of working abroad, some Filipino workers will be home to greet 2018 with their loved ones.
A report by GMA News' Bernadette Reyes on Balitanghali on Tuesday said OFWs have been arriving at the are Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in droves to welcome 2018 in the Philippines.
Two of these were Michelle Lazada and her boyfriend who will finally spend some time together after missing each other for two years due to conflicting schedules.
"Fifteen days lang po. Sulitin na lang 'yung 15 days. Sobrang happy kasi sa two years, ngayon lang kami nagkita," Lazada said.
Unlike the couple, Riza Vidanes will be unable to spend January 1 with her three children but vowed to make the best of her three-day break with them.
"Kahit saglit lang, makauwi lang talaga, makita 'yung mga bata. Kahit hindi na talagang eksaktong Pasko. Basta lang makapag-spend ng Christmas dito sa Pilipinas kahit papano. Kasi iba talaga ang Pilipinas," she said.
But with every arrival is a departure, and Rose Arzadon hopes that her leaving before the New Yea will be one of the last trips she'll have to make.
"After five years, maybe hindi na ako aalis," Arzadon said.
For Dina Chan, getting to spend one Christmas with her children after 10 years of being an OFW may not be enough, but will have to do for now.
"May anak ako, pero hindi ko gaano nakakasama. Mabigat. Ganun talaga. Alam naman niya yun. Mahal na mahal ko siya kahit hindi kami laging nagkakasama, kahit na iniwan ko siya ng matagal," Chan said. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

OFWs share tips to Pinoy would-be tourists


OFWs share tips to Pinoy would-be tourists

From November 1, 2017 to July 31 next year, Filipino tourists can enjoy visa-free entry to Taiwan for up to 14 days, and Filipinos there are encouraging their kababayans to take advantage and visit the country.
Filipinos who are living/working in Taiwan contacted by GMA News Online for this article all agreed that Taiwan has a lot to offer for the Filipino tourist.
"Maraming pwedeng pasyalan dito kagaya ng Fo Guang Shan Buddha Museum sa Kaoshiung, National Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall sa Taipei, at Formosa 101 sa Taipei," shared Kenny Asierto, 30, factory worker in Chipbond Technology Corporation.
For those who crave adventure, Asierto, administrator of Taiwan OFW Group, suggested the "extreme rides" like the Liphao Land in Taichung or the Jenfusan Theme Park.
"Divisoria" of Taiwan
Asierto said Filipinos should also give Chungli City a try. "Para itong Divisoria. Marami kang mabibiling mura," he said.
Other tourist spots in Taiwan that Filipinos should check out are the Taipei Zoo, Sun Moon Lake, Formosa Aboriginal Culture Village, and the Yehliu Geopark.
"Kung chocolates na pasalubong naman hanap mo, I would recommend RT-Mart and RJ-Mart," Asierto said.
Safe place, pasalubong
Jo Ann Tembreza, who has worked as a factory worker in Taiwan from 2010 to 2015, said security is not a problem in Taiwan as the country is a safe place.
Asierto echoed this, stressing that malls there do not even hire security guards.
"Napaka-safe ng Taiwan. Wala kang masyadong marinig na crime. Pinaka-example dito is ang mga mall, walang security guard," he said.

Tembreza's recommended spots are Fo Guang Shan, Maokong Gondola, Taipei Zoo, Taipei 101, Anping Beach, Chigu Salt Mountain, Shoushan Zoo, Black Building, Costco, and Napoli.
"For cheap pasalubong, I recommend mag-night market sila. The more, the mura. There are stores na nagpapatawad, huwag lang sobra, like the Shilin Night Market and the Raohe Street Night Market. Sa Ximending din, ikutin lang nila yung lugar," she said. —KBK, GMA News

PHL ‘strongly concerned’ over missile attacks vs. Saudi Arabia

The Philippines on Saturday expressed strong concern over the spate of ballistic missile attacks targeting Saudi Arabia as it endangers the lives of almost a million Filipino workers in the Kingdom.
“The Philippines is strongly concerned over the series of ballistic missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, including the recent launches targeting populated areas of Riyadh, as this puts innocent civilians, including many of our kababayans there, at serious risk,” Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a statement.
Last Wednesday, Saudi Arabia air defenses intercepted a ballistic missile fired by a Yemeni group. The Saudi-led coalition said the ballistic missile was directed at a populated area in the capital Riyadh.
The Yemeni group's most recent attack came a month after the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia shot down another missile over Riyadh's King Khaled Airport last November 4.
As no casualties or damages were reported in the latest chapter of the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Cayetano thanked the Saudi Arabian government for keeping Filipino workers safe despite the two ballistic missile attacks.
“The Philippines is thankful to Saudi Arabia for continuing to ensure the safety and security not only of its citizens but also of our kababayans there,” Cayetano said.
According to the DFA, Ambassador to Riyadh Adnan Alonto has already assured Filipino workers in Saudi Arabia and their families in the Philippines that "contingency plans are in place to ensure that the Embassy would be able to lead Filipinos to safety in case the situation escalates."
Despite the attacks, Alonto reported that the situation in Riyadh "remains normal" and it was “business as usual” in the Kingdom.
The Foreign Affairs chief also expressed the Philippine government's high hopes for the conflict in Yemen to be resolved soon "for the sake of regional peace and stability."
“It is our fervent hope and prayer that a solution be found to the conflict in Yemen so that we could help bring about peace and stability in the Arabian Peninsula,” Cayetano said. — MDM, GMA News

Going abroad to work? Here are some practical tips for first-time OFWs


Going abroad to work? Here are some practical tips for first-time OFWs

There are an estimated 2.2 million overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) around the world, as of September 2016. Most become an OFW to earn higher pay, to fulfill a lifelong dream, to gain new experiences, to advance their career, or to secure their family’s future.

If you’re getting ready to work abroad, it’s important to be prepared for the challenges ahead. Let this essential to-do list be your guide before leaving the country.

Arrange your paperwork. Make sure that all needed documents for your travel and new work are in order. These include, among other things, your valid passport and IDs, training certificates, and work papers. Having the necessary paperwork on hand reduces the hassle of unexpected problems.

Pack smart. While it is tempting to bring most of your belongings to save on shopping expenses, be sure to prioritize appropriate clothing and basic essentials. This way, you avoid having to pay extra charges for going over your luggage allowance.

Have reserve funds. It’s important to research the cost of living in the country that you plan to work in. Remember that your first salary will come only after a month of working, so a reserve fund worth two to three months would be ideal for expenses and emergencies.

Learn the culture. Try to read a bit more about the culture of your destination, as it will be different from the Philippines. Keep in mind the cultural norms and memorize basic phrases to make interacting with locals easier.

Look for a good remittance service. It’s every OFW’s dream to help their families back home financially. As an OFW, you want a reliable remittance service with a name that you know and trust.

When it comes to remittance, look no further than Metrobank’s MetroRemit service. MetroRemit makes sending money back home easier and more convenient, and it’s by one of the country’s most respected financial institutions, so you can be confident that your money will reach your loved ones.

Remit through Metrobank’s foreign branches, subsidiaries, and partners in over 28 countries, and your beneficiaries can receive the money through credit to account, door-to-door delivery, or cash pick-up in over 8,000 locations nationwide.

What's more, MetroRemit also offers additional cash incentives for the OFW's beneficiaries through the “Premyo Sa Padala” promo. Recipients get a one-time P100 bonus and a monthly P55 cash gift for 6 months upon opening an OFW savings account for receiving remittance.

There are plenty of reasons why OFWs choose to leave their families in search of employment. Most of them, though, may agree on one reason: they all want to provide a better future for themselves and the families they left behind. Metrobank shares this commitment with the millions of OFWs around the world.

With MetroRemit, OFWs can send love back home with no worries.
MetroRemit. Sigurado ka rito.

Luggage of OFWs left in Dubai

Several overseas Filipino Workers were left without their pasalubong and other essential items upon their arrival at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) when it was discovered that their luggage were left behind in Dubai.
According to a report by GMA News' Marisol Abdurahman on GMA News TV's Balitanghali on Friday, a Cebu Pacific official told passengers two hours after landing in Manila that the OFWs' luggage were left in Dubai to avoid flight delays.
Crew members put the luggage aside for later transport after the crew ran out of containers to place the cases in.
The airline did not deny their negligence in informing their passengers immediately of the complication.
Apologies were offered by Charo Logarta Lagamon, Cebu Pacific Corporate Communications director, who said they will deliver the luggage of the OFWs  at a later date.
"Humihingi kami ng paumanhin sa mga pasaherong hindi naisakay 'yung bagahe. Sana nakapag-iwan sila ng kanilang contact details para maihatid sa kanila 'yung bagahe," Lagamon said.
Meanwhile, the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) insisted that airports were not congested despite a 10 percent increase in air travelers compared to 2016.
MIAA General Manaher Ed Monreal added that several flights, especially domestic flights, were displaced due to adverse weather. — Rie Takumi/RSJ, GMA News

Assault on Pinay maid in Iraq captured on Facebook Live

A Filipina domestic helper in Iraq is now receiving assistance from Philippine officials after she was assaulted and threatened by a relative of her employer.
The OFW, Alice Aguilan, was able to broadcast the assault through Facebook Live, GMA News' JP Soriano reported on 24 Oras on Tuesday.
The report said Aguilan started the livestream after she was beaten by her employer's relative, who also works as a houseboy, for failing to perform a task he asked her to do.
During the livestream, Aguilan pointed to the suspect who was then performing a salat or ritual prayer and asked her viewers to take a screenshot of the man.
"'Yang hayop na 'yan o, wala amo ko kaya binugbog ako. Pinagsasakal ako tsaka sinuntok ako at hinampas ako nang hinampas ng step-in," an emotional Aguilan said in the video.
The suspect then stopped praying and attacked her by pulling her hair. He only stopped when Aguilan's fellow housekeeper pulled him aside. He then threatened her by making a slashing motion at his throat.
Aguilan decided to seek assistance from the Philippine Embassy after her employers, whom she described as kindly, made no indications that they will protect her after she reported the incident.
Because of her status as an undocumented and overstaying OFW, Aguilan accepted a settlement instead of filing a case against her attacker.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was able to speak with Aguilan some time after she received medical attention at the Embassy.
Data from the Philippine Embassy showed that there are 4,000 registered OFWs currently in Iraq.—Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Pinay owner of HK travel agency in flight booking mess arrested

Hong Kong police have arrested the Filipina co-owner of Peya Travel, the agency that allegedly failed to book flights for hundreds of OFWs returning home to the Philippines for the holidays.
Rhea Donna Boyce was brought to a police station while several computers from her firm's main office were seized by the authorities, GMA News stringer Corazon Cañete reported on Balitanghali on Tuesday.
Police suspect more individuals are connected to Peya Travel, but only Boyce and her husband, Peter Bryan Boyce, were listed as the agency's official owners.
Boyce's husband as well as other officers of the agency may also face arrest if proven they were involved in the incident.
South China Morning Post reported that Boyce was arrested on Monday for conspiracy to defraud. Police hauled Boyce in earlier for questioning but failed to receive any answers from the Filipina.
A total of 645 OFWs filed complaints against Peya for failing to book flights with an estimated total worth of HK$2 million.
OFWs who have yet to give their statements regarding the case were encouraged to do so with the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.
The report Filipinos have been experiencing difficulties with Peya Travel since May. These issues were only exposed to the public after the agency stopped issuing refunds starting December 17.
Boyce, a known figure in the Filipino community in Hong Kong, also allegedly failed to pay HK$3 million to an unknown man who owned another company. She refused to speak with the media and, through her lawyer, refused dialogue with the Philippine Embassy. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Friday, December 22, 2017

Cebu Pacific offers free flights for stranded OFWs in Hong Kong


Budget carrier Cebu Pacific has offered to provide free air travel seats to accommodate some of the Manila-bound overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) stranded  in Hong Kong after their travel agency failed to confirm their flight bookings on time.
"Cebu Pacific stands behind our migrant Filipinos who encountered problems with Peya Travel and will provide assistance so that our kababayans can have a chance to spend Christmas with their loved-ones in the Philippines," the airline said in a statement.
Cebu Pacific said it has found 50 seats on 5J 110 on December 25, 2017 to accommodate the stranded migrant Filipinos in Hong Kong back to the country despite its flights being fully booked or nearing full capacity.
The flight departs from Hong Kong at 7:25 p.m. and will arrive in Manila at 9:40 p.m.
"Cebu Pacific will shoulder the cost of the round-trip flight of the 50 OFWs who will be flying with us," the airline said.
"We are working with the Department of Labor and Employment and the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong for the travel arrangements," it added.
The affected OFWs have stormed the Peya Travel office in Central Hong Kong to demand refunds, rebookings, and answers after they were told by airlines that the seats supposedly booked for them could not be confirmed.

DFA advisory on closure of consular offices during the holidays

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday reminded the public that there would be no consular services on several dates this holiday season.
In an advisory, the DFA's Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) said consular offices will be closed on the following days:
  • December 25, 2017 (Monday) - Christmas Day
  • December 26, 2017 (Tuesday) - Non-working Day
  • December 30, 2017 (Saturday) - Rizal Day
  • January 1, 2018 (Monday) - New Year's Day
  • January 2, 2018 (Tuesday) - Non-working Day
Additional closures of specific consular offices in National Capital Region (NCR) and some provinces are as follows:
  • December 23, 2017 (Saturday) - Official activity (year-end assessment or training in Butuan and Iloilo)
  • December 20 to 31, 2017 - Transfer of consular office Tacloban to Robinsons Tacloban North
The DFA said there will be no passport online appointment slots scheduled on the above dates.
It also said walk-in applicants may proceed to the DFA Consular Office 

Stranded OFWs in Hong Kong Filtered By: News NEWS PAL, DND TAPPED TO HELP will be home for Christmas —Bello

The government is now working toward helping the Philippine-bound OFWs who were stuck in Hong Kong after their travel agency failed to confirm their flight bookings on time.
Interviewed on Balitanghali on Thursday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said his department is now coordinating with the Philippine Airlines and the Department of National Defense (DND) to arrange flights for the affected OFWs, reportedly numbering between 200 to 1,000.
Bello said he got confirmation from PAL that it will update their flight from Hong Kong to Manila to have "extra seats" to accommodate the OFWs.
"They committed na 'yung mga stranded diyan makakauwi in two to three days so makakarating kayo before Christmas," Bello said.
Apart from arranging flights with the flag carrier, Bello said he and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano have requested Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for a C-130 plane to bring the OFWs home.
"I'm just waiting for the head of office in charge of the C-130 for us to be able to give the details kung ilan at kung sinu-sino 'yung mga isasakay nila," Bello said.
He added, "'Wag po kayong mag-alala, alam po namin ang inconvenience tsaka discomfort na nangyari sa inyo. We are doing our best upon instruction of President [Rodrigo] Duterte na kailangan maiuwi namin kayo bago mag-Christmas."
Bello said the DOLE is also coordinating with the National Bureau of Investigation for possible large-scale estafa case to be filed against Peya Travel, the travel agency blamed for the incident.
"Large-scale estafa, non-bailable 'yan," he said.

New Filipino community center to open in Bahrain

A new community center for Filipinos will rise in Bahrain as part of initiatives that will be unveiled by the Philippine Embassy to improve bilateral relations, according to a report on DT News Bahrain.
Philippines Ambassador to Bahrain Alfonso Ver said the community center will be opened at the embassy to promote the Philippines to Bahrainis and to celebrate the embassy's 40th anniversary.
Ver added that more high-level missions are planned in 2018 to improve trade between the Philippines and Bahrain.
President Rodrigo Duterte signed a $250-million investment agreement during his visit to the Gulf country in April that will expand a Bahraini company's agricultural operations to the Philippines.
Ver himself accompanied a delegation from the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Bahrain Arabic Club, and the ASEAN-Bahrain Business Council to the Philippines on a trade visit to the country. —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News
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