Thursday, June 22, 2017

Human Trafficking a Crime Against Children

Fr. Shay Cullen
16 June 2017
Human trafficking is a horrific crime against millions of people, fisher-folks, agricultural workers and especially against women and children and it is increasing in the Philippines. There are 4.5 million people victimized by human traffickers annually around the world. But it could be much more since it is a hidden crime. It is the modern slavery and a crime against humanity. The legal age of a child is 18 years old and below.
The most vulnerable are young women and minors who are lured or forced into the sex trade by human traffickers and sex bar owners and pimps. It is a dehumanizing experience for all victims especially the child victims most of whom are 15 to 17 years of age. It is estimated that 33 percent of the 4.5 million victims are minors. Once they fall into the hands and the control of the traffickers, they are powerless. They become captives. They are taken from villages and cash loans given to their parents to be repaid from the earning of the child in promised jobs.
However the jobs turns out to be sex work in sex bars where they are raped and abused and made into sex workers with many customers a night. It’s a living nightmare, a cruel existence with no escape. The young women and children are forever in debt. They are bonded labor, never able to leave and living in fear of being jailed for non-payment of debt. They pay for food and lodging and then for drugs when they are addicted.   
Almost 70 percent of trafficked and sexually abused children and young girls begin their vulnerability as victims of domestic sexual abuse from as young as 13 and 14 years of age. Their abusers are relatives or neighbors, live-in partners of the mothers, their biological fathers, uncles or grandfathers. The children cannot endure the abuse. They are threatened with harm if they tell anyone and are frightened to report the sexual abuse to anyone. Then some run away unable to endure the abuse and live on the street and are taken by human traffickers.
 Eventually some do tell their trusted teacher or a friend or relative. They tell someone they trust usually a teacher, a school friend or their older sister or mother. However not all mothers will believe the child or choose not to as the man, a live-in partner, or her husband, is providing her with money. Then the child victims run away from home. They are vulnerable wandering alone on the streets or in public parks. They are picked up by pimps and traffickers who offer them food and shelter. It is estimated that one hundred thousand children under 18 of age are trafficked into the sex business yearly in the Philippines, according to UNICEF. Many more are sexually abused on live-cam on the internet.
The sex industry thrives also on young girls recruited by human traffickers who take them from their villages and sell them into the thriving and ever increasing sex bars and brothels. This goes on right before the eyes of the authorities and every sex bar operates with a mayor’s permit wherever it is. It might be said the state approves the industry even though prostitution itself is illegal and it’s a crime under Republic Act  7610 to have a minor in a sex bar. Proving the child is underage is the challenge for those who would save them. The government authorities don’t screen the sex workers except for infectious diseases. They are forced to go to a social hygiene clinic and at times forced to have abortions. This is illegal but the authorities turn a blind eye to these crimes as it is in their interest to have a thriving sex industry from which some benefit.  
The victims of human trafficking are traumatized, abused, and trapped.  After months of abuse and enslavement she is dependent on drugs for which she has to pay. This adds to her debts and she comes to accept her fate as it is. The drugs keep her submissive, cooperative and docile when being abused by customers. She is forever in debt. The minors are trained to have a “loyalty” to their pimp or “master.” Contrary to what one might expect, not all the girls trafficked want to be “rescued’ or saved from the sex bars. The bar owners convince them that it is their life job and the only thing they are fit for and if they get saved they have to pay back their debts. They have been conditioned and coerced and threatened. It is common that they have a low self-esteem and accept their fate as inevitable.
The root causes of human trafficking that allow it to thrive is that it is not seen as a serious issue or as a “real” crime even though the Philippine law says it is. The law in the Philippines is usually what the authorities choose it to be.
People in general give little value to children that are not their own. The street children are seen as petty criminals and expendable. The minors are not considered victims by the police if found in sex bars but are considered guilty of a crime and fall into police power are then sexually exploited by the corrupt police. They are threatened with criminal charges into giving sexual favors in some cases.
The Philippine Anti-Child Pornography Law of 2009 mandates Internet service providers (ISPs) to block child porn online. The Philippine National Telecommunications Commission has to implement the law. Foreign governments must ban convicted pedophiles from travelling abroad where they can abuse women and children- girls and boys- with impunity. This is something we can do. Write your government today.

DFA Statement on U.K. Mosque Attack

The Department of Foreign Affairs condemns the attack carried out near the Finsbury Park mosque in London, which killed one and injured ten people. The appalling attack stands against the shared values of the Philippines and the UK as peace-loving and tolerant societies that respect all religions.
The Philippines expresses its condolences and sympathy with the victim, the injured, and their families, and reaffirms its solidarity with the United Kingdom in the fight against terrorism and all its forms.
The Philippine Embassy in London is monitoring the incident. So far there are no known Filipino victims. The Embassy stands ready to offer assistance and calls on the Filipino community to reach out with any information on kababayans possibly affected by this attack. END

The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia Forge Collective Effort Against Terrorism, Extremism

 The Philippines, Indonesia, and Malaysia are intensifying defense and intelligence collaboration in the wake of the recent attack of the IS-affiliated Maute group in Marawi City.
Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alan Peter S. Cayetano announced today that foreign ministers, top security and intelligence officials will meet tomorrow, June 22, in Manila to discuss plans for intense trilateral cooperation aimed at preventing extremists from establishing operational bases in the Southeast Asian region.
“The aim is to make a team effort, rather than each country fending off extremism by themselves,” Senator Cayetano said.
Joint maritime operations by Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines to fight transnational crimes and terrorism in the Sulu Sea were launched Monday, 19 June in Tarakan, North Kalimantan, Indonesia.  The Trilateral Maritime Patrol was inaugurated in the Tarakan Naval Base in a ceremony attended by Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and Malaysian Defense Minister Hishammuddin Hussein.
As security concerns threaten the robust economic growth of the region, countries are forging a collective effort against terrorism and extremism.  END


• Government-issued picture IDs such as the following:
• Digitized SSS ID
• Driver’s License
• GSIS E-card
• Digitized BIR ID
• Senior Citizen’s ID
• Unified Multi-Purpose ID
• Voter’s ID
• Other acceptable picture IDs such as the following:
• Old College ID
• Alumni ID
• Old Employment IDs 
• Improved/Premium Postal ID
LIST OF SUPPORTING DOCUMENTS (Old documents issued at least one year prior to date of application that show correct name, date and place of birth, picture and signature of applicant, at least 2 of the following):
• PSA Marriage Contract
• Land Title
• Seaman’s Book
• Elementary or High School Form 137 or Transcript of Records with readable dry seal • Government Service Record
• NBI Clearance
• Police Clearance
• Barangay Clearance
• Digitized Postal ID
• Readable SSS-E1 Form or Microfilmed Copy of SSS-E1 Form 
• Voter’s Certification, List of Voters and Voter’s Registration Record (please attach receipt)
• School Yearbook

Important Reminders
Passport Processing Fees and Lead Times
For New Passport Applications and Renewals:
Type of Processing
Processing Time
Passport Processing Fee
Metro Manila
(Satellite Consular Offices)
Regular Processing
10-15 working days
Php 950.00
Expedited Processing
5-7 working days
Php 1,200.00
Outside Metro Manila (Regional Consular Offices)
Regular Processing
30 working days
Php 950.00
Expedited Processing
20 working days
Php 1,200.00
*Processing days may vary depending on the location of the Regional Consular Office where the application was filed
For e-Passport Extension
• Php 200.00
For Replacement of Lost e-Passport
• Php 1,300.00
o Please note that this includes a 15-day clearing period
Passport Filing and Releasing Schedule
Filing of Passport Application    08:00 a.m. to 04:00 p.m. only
Passport Releasing                     03:00 p.m. to 05:00 p.m. only (Monday to Friday)
General Reminders
• Personal appearance is required for all applicants.
• A confirmed appointments is required for all applicants except for senior citizens, infants and minors below one (1) year old, visibly pregnant women, and overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). OFWs must present sufficient proof such as a valid employment contract or OEC.
• Earrings and contact lenses must be removed during data capturing. 
• Smiling with visible teeth is not allowed during data capturing.
• Data such as suffixes, special characters, and spellings of names must be consistent in all documents such as Birth Certificate, IDs, and supporting documents.
• Make sure that all fields in the Birth Certificate are fill-out correctly.
• Before affixing your signature to certify that the encoded information is accurate and correct, make sure to check the data in the computer monitor and the Enrolment Certificate.
• The passport of a minor applicants shall be released only to the minor’s parents or to an authorized representative with Special Power of Attorney and Affidavit Support of Consent.
• Passports unclaimed after six (6) months will be cancelled per Department Order No. 37-03.
• Additional supporting documents may be required as necessary, especially for applicants with dual citizenship and with foreign-sounding family names to prove citizenship.
Note Verbale Requirements
1. Issuance of Note Verbale Application Form.
2. Photocopy of valid Passport.
3. Signed Travel Authority/Indorsement Letter.
4. Photocopy of Confirmed Flight Itinerary (for In-Transit)

31 Year Old Royal Will Be The Next Ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

A new day has come for Saudis. This 3rd Generation royal from the kingdom of Saud will bring new things, being progressive and forward thinking and the generation of the 25-something, the majority of the populace of Saudi is excited and celebratory for this young next-in-line ruler.
He admire and try to emulate Steve Jobs and is trained by Harvard trained consultants. He is workaholic, and doesn't have problem with women driving in Saudi Arabia. Surely, more positive changes will come.
Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been appointed as the country's crown prince, replacing the Prince Mohammed bin Naif, a royal decree…


An employer does not have the right to retain the passport of his expat employee without the employee’s consent, Khalid Aba Al-Khail, spokesman for the Ministry of Labor and Social Development, said.
However, if the expat worker wishes the employer to keep his passport, he has to sign a written statement in both Arabic and his native language stating that the employer has received his passport and the date of receipt, he said.
He called on employers not to keep the passports of their employees unless they agree on that to avoid any penalty stipulated by the executive by-laws of the labor law. The penalty includes imposition of a fine of SR2,000 for each case, but can carry multiple fines in case he retains the passports of 
additional workers.

Duterte to ask Widodo about Indonesian fighters in Mindanao

President Rodrigo Duterte said on Wednesday that he expected to talk over the phone to Indonesian President Joko Widodo to discuss the reported presence of Indonesian Islamic fighters in Mindanao.
“He will ask questions and I have so many questions for him. Because probably most of the foreigners are Indonesians,” the President told reporters in an interview in Cagayan de Oro City.
Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu has estimated about 1,200 Islamic fighters in the Philippines, including 40 Indonesians.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana earlier confirmed that foreign fighters, including Indonesians, had been killed in the Marawi siege.
Mr. Duterte said the Islamic State (IS) group may launch “retaliatory” attacks after many of its members were killed in the military offensive in Marawi City.
“And the retaliatory moves of IS, better keep watch. I’m not saying that it’s happening, but it will happen in the near future because of the inroads of IS into Mindanao,” he said.
But the President said government troops were capable of dealing with the IS problem in the country.
“Let the Armed Forces and the police deal with the problem. I know that they’re capable of doing it,” he said.

Bello calls for sustained effort on employment challenges

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III yesterday expressed optimism on the employment situation after survey showed a decline in the unemployment and underemployment rates in the country.

“The President’s Development Plan aims to lower the unemployment rate between 3 and 5 percent by 2022. The latest results of the Labor Force Survey calls for sustained and bolder efforts to further ease unemployment, particularly for the youth sector,” Bello said.

The latest survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that the unemployment rate is recorded at 5.7 percent compared to last year’s 6.1 percent.

Although the unemployment rate has declined, the Labor Force Survey showed that unemployment rate is high for young people, or those who are between 15 and 24 years old. This age group comprises half of the unemployed, with 49.5 percent share or 1.209 million.

Bello said that DOLE is optimistic that youth unemployment will be strongly addressed, considering that several programs have been enacted into law to increase the employability of the youth sector.

One of which is the JobStart Program (R.A. 10869) which is designed to enhance the employability of the youth by giving them career guidance, free technical and life skills trainings, placement in internships, and job referrals.

There is also the SPES or Special Program for Employment of Students which is an employment-bridging program that provides income to poor but deserving students and out of school youth who intend to finish their education.

The amended Public Employment Service Office (PESO) Law is also expected to better serve jobseekers.

To fast track the jobseeker's search for jobs and the employer's search for workforce, there is the enhanced PhilJobNet, an internet-based job and applicant matching system, and the yearlong job and business fairs conducted throughout the country under the banner of Trabaho, Negosyo, at Kabuhayan (TNK) in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

Another positive indicator in the April 2017 round of the Labor Force Survey is the decline in underemployment rate, from 18.3 percent to 16.1 percent.

This means improvement in the quality of employment as the number of underemployed persons has decreased from 7.431 million in April 2016 to 6.468 million in April 2017.

The April 2017 round of the Labor Force Survey also reported a labor force participation rate of 61.4 percent out of the 69.6 million population of 15 years and over.

Compared to the same period last year, the labor force participation has decreased from 43.289 million (63.5 percent) in April 2016 to 42.714 million (61.4 percent) in April 2017.

Out of those who are in the labor force, 40.271 million or 94.3 percent are employed. This is a slight decrease compared to the 40.664 million employed persons in April 2016.

Although the unemployment and underemployment rates decreased, Bello emphasized the need to sustain DOLE’s efforts to strengthen decent work gains and address the remaining challenges.

He said that one strategy is to ensure an increase in the country’s investments which would hopefully translate in generation of more quality and decent employment for the Filipinos.

He cited the recently concluded job and business fairs during the Labor Day and Independence Day celebrations which proved that there are thousands of job opportunities which need to be filled up.

The ongoing infrastructure projects will also provide hundreds of thousand jobs each year, including tourism, information technology and business process outsourcing management, transportation and logistics, and retail trade.

DOLE to OFWs: Verify legitimacy of recruiter

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reminded yesterday overseas Filipino workers and job seekers to verify the status, license, and the legitimacy of placement agencies before applying for overseas employment.

This is to prevent migrant workers from being victimized by illegal recruitment and human trafficking, DOLE said.

DOLE enumerated various ways in checking the legitimacy of a recruitment agency before pursuing a job application.

First log onto the website of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). Then check all the status of licensed recruitment agencies listed at Job seekers can fill-in the name of the agency and choose the category of the recruitment agency whether land-based or manning agency.

OFWs are also urged to call POEA hotline numbers (02) 722-1144 and (02) 722-1155 to check the legitimacy of the jobs being offered and the license status of their recruitment agencies.

On the other hand, the POEA has released a public advisory which reprimands OFWs and job hunters who plan to seek employment abroad to avoid accepting job offers coming from Chuuk State Hospital in the Federated States of Micronesia.

POEA officer-in-charge Aristodes R. Ruaro said Chuuk State Hospital was ordered to cease recruiting Filipino workers following reports of maltreatment, contract violations, harassment, discrimination and abuse to their Filipino migrant workers.

In a separate report, the Philippine Consulate in Agana, Guam elaborated that the Micronesian government has made no effort to improve the working conditions and failed to assist Filipino workers in receiving timely and proper salaries and benefits from their employers.

Upon checking its records, Ruaro also found that the said the hospital was reported to have been recruiting health workers from the Philippines without the proper approval from POEA.

The POEA senior official meantime encourages OFWs to report unscrupulous individuals or recruitment agencies who offer jobs from the said Micronesian hospital.

Beware of cruise ship recruitment scam

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration advises jobseekers to ignore emails offering supposed jobs in international cruise ships. In an email forwarded to the POEA , the sender email informs the recipient of being “shortlisted to become a Cruise group crew here in Ontario Toronto, Canada”. Princess Cruise Ship Company, the purported employer, offers a monthly salary of US$3,500 and US$300 allowance, with free food and accommodation and medical insurance. It also offers free visa and work permit.

The catch, however, is that the applicant is required to send US$350 to the company’s account officer through a remittance company. The recipient was told to send payment to a certain Kelvin Jacob Sloan of Maple Grove, Minnesota, USA. The sender used the email addresses and, a telling sign that the job offer is a scam.

The following are other signs that the job offer is a scam:
 1. The offer seems too good to be true. You are offered a job that you probably never applied for, with high salaries and a lot of benefits.
2. Grammatical errors. An email from a large company should be free of grammatical errors and spelling mistakes.
3. Requests for fees. Scammers always ask for advance payments supposedly for documentation or processing fees.
4. Free email domains. Scammers will not spend on paid email address and use free email services like hotmail, aim, yahoo or gmail.
5. Suspicious or no addresses. If there is no physical address, you are being scammed. If there is a physical address, check it out using google and see if it’s a real address.
6. Untraceable payment method. The scammer’s most preferred payment method is through remittance companies such as Western Union. Don’t pay anyone advance fees by any means if you have the slightest suspicion it is a scam. 7. Pressure. Scammers will often put pressure on their victims and urge them to pay immediately or lose the opportunity.

The POEA advises jobseekers to be aware of the warning signs and heed them to avoid being the victim of a scam. /END

POEA backlists Micronesia hospital

 The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration advises job applicants to avoid job offers coming from Chuuk State Hospital in the Federated States of Micronesia. POEA officer-in-charge Aristodes R. Ruaro said Chuuk State Hospital was restricted from recruiting Filipino workers following reports of continuing maltreatment, contract violations, harassment, discrimination and abuse of OFWs. 

The Philippine Consulate in Agana, Guam reported that the Government of the Federated States of Micronesia has made no effort in improving the working conditions and guaranteeing the timely payment of salaries and benefits of workers. Deputy Administrator Ruaro said the hospital was also reported to have been recruiting health workers from the Philippines without the approval of the POEA. Ruaro advises applicants to verify first with the POEA before accepting job offers through its website or telephone hotlines 7221144 and 7221155.

Saudi foreign minister says working on list of Qatar 'grievances'


LONDON - Saudi Arabia's foreign minister said on Friday the four Arab states that broke ties with Doha were drawing up a list of "grievances," and would present them soon, warning that Qatar could not fund extremism and remain on good terms with neighbouring states.
The minister, Adel al-Jubeir, told journalists in London that Qatar should respond to demands to halt its support for "extremism and terrorism" which, he said, were being made by the whole world and not just Gulf states.
Four Arab states - Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt - severed diplomatic relations with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting Islamist militants and Iran - charges that Doha has denied. The UAE has also decided to blacklist Qatari individuals and entities.
The political crisis in the Gulf prompted U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to announce on Friday that he was cancelling his planned trip next week to attend an Organization of American States meeting in Mexico to instead remain in Washington to work on reducing diplomatic strains.
Tillerson "will continue his efforts to de-escalate tensions in the Middle East region through in-person meetings and phone conversations with Gulf and regional leaders," the U.S. State Department said in a statement. It also said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan would attend the OAS meeting.
Jubeir said the list being compiled by the four Arab countries were not "demands," but "a list of grievances that need to be addressed and that the Qataris need to fix."
"We are working on those with our Bahraini, Emirati and Egyptian partners in order to compile this list and present it to the Qataris, and I think it will be done fairly soon."
Calling Doha an "ally" in the six-country Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), Jubeir said there was no intention of harming the Qatari people.
"Enough is enough, and our Qatari brothers cannot continue to fund extremism and terrorise and incite and use hostile media and interfere with the affairs of other countries and still remain in good standing," he said, adding he expected a positive response that would move the region to a "better place."
Jubeir did not detail what demands could be made.
But his comments echoed those of the UAE's ambassador to the United States, who said on Tuesday the list would broadly address three areas of support for terrorism, meddling in the internal affairs of the four Arab states and attacks through Qatari-owned media platforms.

Bahrain detains Qatar sympathizer

Agence France-Presse

Bahraini authorities have detained a citizen for sympathizing with Qatar on social media, the attorney general said Wednesday, after authorities warned that sympathizing with Doha was tantamount to a criminal offense.
The department of cyber crime referred a case to the public prosecutor's office in which "a person of interest had posted comments to social networks that constitute a violation" of a ban against sympathizing with boycott-hit Qatar, said attorney general Ahmed al-Hammadi, head of Bahrain's Terrorist Crimes Commission.
"The prosecution has begun investigating the matter, and the suspect has been interrogated and is being held in custody," Hammadi said. 
Bahrain's strict cyber crime law prohibits the expression of dissent online, including via social media.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt last week cut diplomatic ties with Qatar over accusations that the emirate was a champion of extremist groups in the region as well as over its ties to Shiite Iran. 
Qatar firmly denies the allegations.
Manama, which has had territorial disputes in the past with Doha, has announced it would jail Qatar sympathizers, following a similar decision by the UAE.
"Any expression of sympathy with the government of Qatar or opposition to the measures taken by the government of Bahrain, whether through social media, Twitter or any other form of communication, is a criminal offense punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine," the interior ministry said last week. 
Sunni-ruled Bahrain, home to the US Navy's Fifth Fleet, has been rocked by unrest since security forces crushed Shiite-led protests in 2011 demanding a constitutional monarchy and an elected prime minister.
Authorities accuse Iran of backing the protesters and aiming to incite unrest in Shiite-majority Bahrain, a charge Tehran denies.

Saudis, allies have list of demands for Qatar: US

Agence France-Presse

WASHINGTON - Saudi Arabia and its allies have drawn up a list of demands to be presented to Qatar, the United States said Wednesday, as President Donald Trump discussed the regional crisis with new Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The latest moves came as Washington stepped up its efforts to resolve the thorny row between Qatar -- home to the biggest US air base in the Middle East -- and its neighbors, led by Riyadh.
"We hope the list of demands will soon be presented to Qatar and will be reasonable and actionable," US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, in a statement.
Later, addressing reporters after a meeting with senior Chinese officials, Tillerson said Washington had been pushing for a clear list of grievances.
"Our role has been to encourage the parties to get their issues on the table, clearly articulated, so that those issues can be addressed and some resolution process can get underway to bring this to a conclusion," he said.
"Our desire is for unity within the Gulf and unity within the GCC and that we direct all of our efforts onto the war against terror," he said, referring to the Gulf Cooperation Council, a fractious regional alliance.
Two weeks ago, Riyadh and several of its allies including Egypt, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates, cut ties with Qatar over accusations that Doha supports extremist groups, including some linked to Saudi foe Iran -- a claim Qatar denies.
In addition to diplomatic isolation, other measures taken included closing Qatar's only land border, banning its planes from using their airspace and barring Qatari nationals from transiting through their airports.
Trump's administration has sent contradictory signals on the crisis. While the US president has made statements siding with Saudi Arabia, Washington has shown mounting frustration over the kingdom's role in the crisis.
Tillerson's spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday that the US was "mystified" that Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies have failed to present details justifying their embargo on Qatar.
"The more that time goes by, the more doubt is raised about the actions taken by Saudi Arabia and the UAE," Nauert said.
On Wednesday, Trump discussed the Qatar row with Saudi Arabia's newly-appointed crown prince, on a call during which he also offered his congratulations to the new heir to the throne.
"The president and the crown prince committed to close cooperation to advance our shared goals of security, stability, and prosperity across the Middle East and beyond," the White House said in a statement.
"The two leaders discussed the priority of cutting off all support for terrorists and extremists, as well as how to resolve the ongoing dispute with Qatar," the statement added.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia's King Salman ousted his nephew as crown prince and installed Mohammed, his son, as heir to the throne.
Trump, 71, and Mohammed, 31, have met twice -- once in Riyadh during the US leader's recent trip to Saudi Arabia and once in mid-March at the White House.

Saudi Arabia revokes Qatar Airways license

Agence France-Presse

A Qatar Airways aircraft is seen at a runway of the Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport in Athens, Greece, May 16, 2016. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis/File Photo
Saudi Arabia on Tuesday revoked the operating license of Qatar Airways and ordered the airline's offices to close within 48 hours, state media reported, as a regional diplomatic crisis escalated.
"The General Authority of Civil Aviation has decided to cancel all licences granted to Qatar Airways and to close all of its offices in the kingdom within 48 hours," a statement carried by the official SPA news agency said. 
"We urge all passengers who purchased tickets to or from Qatar to check the airline website or contact their travel agent online for a refund," the statement added.
Saudi Arabia has also closed its border with Qatar, effectively blocking food imports and a segment of the country's exports over what Riyadh says is Doha's support for extremism. 
Qatari share prices closed down 7.58 percent on Monday after five Arab countries -- Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt, Bahrain and Yemen -- announced they were cutting diplomatic ties with the gas-rich emirate. 
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt announced the suspension of all flights to and from Qatar as of Tuesday morning.
Hours later, Qatar Airways, which flies to nine cities in Saudi Arabia alone, announced it had suspended all flights to Saudi, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt in the wake of the diplomatic boycott. 
The Gulf states have also ordered Qataris to leave within 14 days and banned their own citizens from travelling to the emirate.

Gov't strengthens medical repatriation efforts for OFWs

Various government agencies have signed a Joint Memorandum Circular strengthening the process of medical repatriation for documented and undocumented Filipinos overseas.
The circular aims to put into place an "integrated system and process flow on medical repatriation" to ensure a timely and well-coordinated delivery of assistance to OFWs in need, according to Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III.
In a statement Wednesday, Bello said the joint agreement will allow the concerned government agencies to define their "roles and responsibilities in medical repatriation."
It will also allow them to harmonize their processes with other government agencies and their branches in addition to creating a "standard reporting and monitoring system."
Under the circular, DOLE, through Philippine Overseas Labor Offices and other partner agencies, will facilitate and coordinate medical repatriations.
Medical repatriations entail coordination with the OFW's next-of-kin regarding their medical condition; securing of medical clearances,  certificate of fitness to travel, and medical reports; and providing transport assistance from host country to the Philippines.
“With our one country approach as our guidepost, we can now better address the issue of medical repatriation, which has demanded due attention from the government in the last few years,” Bello said.
Government agencies that signed to the circular include the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Health, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Manila International Airport Authority, and the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office. Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

Pinoy couple in UAE fights conviction over premarital sex

A Filipino couple is appealing a three-month prison sentence and deportation order slapped on them by the Dubai Misdemeanors Court for supposedly having sex out of wedlock in Dubai, a report on Gulf News said.
The couple were convicted in April, or months after the woman was rushed to a hospital in December for pregnancy-related pains.
According to the report, the 28-year-old woman told medical staff that she and her 27-year-old partner were engaged and not married when asked on the whereabouts of her baby's father following checkups.
Her partner was arrested after the hospital -  which declared the couple's child dead on arrival -  notified police of their situation.
Sex and pregnancy outside marriage are illegal in the UAE.
The couple told judge Adnan Al Farra of the Dubai Court of Appeals that they were married at the time of the incident and were backed by their lawyer Eisa Bin Haider.
In her testimony, the Filipina said she and her husband came from the same province in the Philippines, knew each other for eight years, and lived in her partner's residence at Dubai Gardens.
She added that she did not know of her pregnancy until a few days before her medical emergency.
Bin Haider handed a photocopy of the couple's marriage contract to Al Farra and asked the court for an adjournment until the couple can have their Philippine marriage contract notarized and submitted to the court.
Their couple's trial will continue at a later date, the report said. —Rie Takumi/KBK/KVD, GMA News

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