Friday, October 20, 2017

Why Duterte stays quiet on OFWs facing illegal drug raps

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 18 2017 11:14 PM
MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday said he has stayed quiet on the situation of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who face illegal drug charges.
"Yung mga drug cases even in Indonesia right now, you have not heard me talk about it because I hate drugs. True or not, I simply find it almost incongruous to me to be talking about these things because I really do not...I am the unforgiving, especially against drugs and slavery," Duterte said in a speech at the 7th anniversary of a public service show for OFWs in Pasay City.
In April, the mother of Filipino death row convict Mary Jane Veloso and relatives of other OFWs set for execution abroad asked President Duterte to save their loved ones.
Duterte, however, advised OFWs on Wednesday, to just follow the laws of the countries where they are employed because he cannot help them.
"So ngayon sabihin ko sa mga kababayan natin, sumunod kayo. Because pag nasabit kayo ng mga ganun, di talaga ako makatulong. If at all, it would take time," he said.
He also claimed that said families of OFWs are targets of drug suppliers due to their steady income.
"When both father and mother go out to work, the family is left to the care of the sister or brother, or to the aunts, then My God. Remember the Philippines, we have a large number of dysfunctional families," he said.
"Who are the targets? The sons and daughters of the poor family. Lalo na yung alam nila na may nagtatrabaho sa labas and there is a sure income. And every month, money is sent from whatever country by the father or mother to support his schooling in and his baon and everything," he added.

Why many Filipino applicants for nurse jobs in UK find IELTS exam hard

Rose Eclarinal, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 17 2017 06:51 PM
Filipino nurses in the United Kingdom are known for their excellent clinical skills and very high standard of spoken and written English.
So when a recent news came out about nurses recruited for a hospital failing the language test, many Pinoys were baffled. 
According to the report, 52 of the 59 candidates at the Medway Maritime Hospital in Kent failed their International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exams.
All non-EU trained nurses are required by the Nursing and Midwifery Council or NMC to have a band score of 7 in each of the category of the IELTS. NMC is the regulator for nursing and midwifery professions in the UK.
Many who have already taken the IELTS exam admit it wasn’t easy to pass the language proficiency exam. 
“Sa akin kasi, nahirapan ako sa writing. So, ang advise ko lang, for example, sa reading, they should not stick to the question for a long time. They should be aware of the time allotted each module,” said Marben Orfiano, biomedical scientist at the Royal London Hospital. 
“Sa atin kasi, we are not really focused on writing essays, doing the reading all the time. More on practical things tayo sa nursing and physio. Filipino nurses are one of the best nurses in the whole world. They can speak and understand. It’s just the way they express it through writing, so yun dapat ng focus nila,” said health care assistant Ela Hidalgo.
An agency recruiting nurses to work in the UK says most of its applicants fail in the writing exam.
“According to client feedback, the most common problem that Filipino nurses are experiencing is actually not achieving the required band score which is 7 in each category,” said recruitment manager Geophel Valmoted Cajulis. 
“We strongly believe that Filipino nurses have more than enough capacity to be able to achieve a band score of 7 sa IELTS. It’s just a matter of doing the preparation,” said Smart Heart Recruitment Agency co-founder Darrel Cajulis.
Nurses in the UK are also known to be caring and compassionate, which is why many British employers prefer them. 
Myra Arines, a hematologist at the Royal London Hospital, said Pinoys have leverage but they need to pass the NMC requirements. 
“Kasi 'di ba, sanay tayo sa American English. Iba yung UK English at American English. Sa tingin ko, 'di tayo dapat ma-discourage. Yun unang dating namin dito nag-adjust din ako kasi yung mga ginagamit na term, hindi yun ang nakasanayan natin kasi sanay tayo sa American English,” she said. 
According to information-data services provider NHS Digital, there is a shortage of health care professionals in the UK with nurses and midwives accounting for the highest shortages, around 11,400 vacant posts in March 2017. 
When the UK leaves the European Union, the vacancies are expected to increase.
Filipino nurses are likely candidates to fill up the vacancies. They just need to meet the steep requirements of the Nursing and Midwifery Council. With Marco Pajo, ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Stay alert, Pinoys advised








THE Philippine Embassy in Baghdad yesterday reiterated its advisory for Filipinos in the Kurdistan Region to remain calm but alert and to stay away from Kirkuk and nearby areas due to news reports of some exchanges of fire between Iraqi Security Forces and Kurdish Peshmerga in Kirkuk Province during the past several hours.
At the same time, the Embassy requested Filipinos in Kurdistan to limit non-essential movement and to continue to monitor the Embassy’s Facebook Pages for updates.

Pinoys in Kurdistan urged to postpone travel plans amid tensions


The Philippine Embassy in Iraq has advised Filipinos in the Kurdistan region to postpone travel plans and to remain calm amid tensions between the central government and local Kurd authorities.
According to the embassy, those who will travel out of Kurdistan may have trouble returning to Iraq if they don't have valid Iraqi visas, as the Iraqi government has decided to suspend all international flights to and from the region.
"Filipinos going on vacation would have to take Iraqi Airways to Baghdad to board their connecting flights to the Philippines or elsewhere outside the country," the embassy said.
"Filipinos who entered Kurdistan directly and without valid Iraqi visas will only be allowed to board their connecting flights out of Baghdad after paying a fine of $420.00 to immigration authorities," it added.
Majority of the estimated 4,000 Filipinos working in Iraq are in the Kurdistan region.
The embassy said it has yet to receive any guidelines from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Baghdad on whether it would be possible for Filipino nationals already in the Philippines to secure their visas at the Iraqi Embassy in Manila.
"In view of this, the Embassy believes that it would be better for our kababayans to put on hold their travel plans until this matter is clarified," it said.
It added that it would not be in a position to assist Filipinos who may not be able to return to their jobs in Kurdistan in the event that they would not be able to secure their visas.
On Monday, Iraq’s central government forces launched an advance into territory held by Kurds, seizing a swathe of countryside surrounding the oil city of Kirkuk in bold military response to a Kurdish vote last month on independence, according to Reuters.
The military action was the most decisive step Baghdad has taken yet to rein in the independence aspirations of the Kurds, who have governed themselves as an autonomous part of Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003 and voted on Sept. 25 to secede.
The Philippine Embassy in Iraq is advising the Filipino communities there to remain calm.
"At present, the Embassy does not see any immediate threat to the safety and security of our kababayans in the region arising from the reported tensions in Kirkuk Province," it said. —KBK, GMA News

Taiwan grants visa-free entry to Filipinos starting Nov. 1

Starting November 1, Filipino visitors can now enjoy visa-free entry to Taiwan, Taipei’s representative office in Manila announced on Monday.
“Philippine nationals who intend to visit the Republic of China (Taiwan) for the purpose of tourism, business, visiting relatives, attending functions or events can enjoy visa-free entry to Taiwan, ROC, for a duration of stay up to 14 days,” the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) said in a statement.
The visa-free initiative, aimed at “building closer people-to-people exchange between the Philippines and Taiwan,” will have a nine-month trial period until July 31, 2018, according to TECO .
“The Philippines is not only Taiwan’s closest neighbor but also Taiwan’s important partner of ‘new southbound policy,’” said Gary Song-Huann Lin, Taiwan’s representative to the Philippines.
The granting of visa-free privilege to all Filipinos, he said, will build “strong bilateral relations and a closer living economic community between the Philippines and Taiwan.”
Manila and Taipei have no formal diplomatic ties in deference to the One-China Policy. Taiwan is represented by TECO, which acts as its de-facto embassy in the country.
Taiwan is a self-ruling democratic island which separated from mainland China in 1949.
To qualify, a Filipino visa-free visitor must meet the following requirements:
1.    An ordinary/regular passport with remaining validity of at least six months from the date of entry ( Diplomatic & official passport holders are not eligible for visa-free treatment) ;
2.  A return ticket or a ticket for the traveler's next destination and a visa for that destination if it is required;
3.  No criminal record in Taiwan
4.  A proof of accommodation, such as booking or host/sponsor’s contact information /or arrangements of tour, travel, visit, events and meeting
Those who intend to stay in Taiwan for more than 14 days or for the purpose of study, work, missionary, employment and other gainful activities are still required to obtain appropriate visas before entering Taiwan.
With its new policy, Lin urged the Philippines side to reciprocate Taiwan’s “goodwill and friendship”  by also granting visa-free treatment to Taiwan nationals.
“Through these significant efforts, we will surely enhance our bilateral tourism, economic, cultural, educational and other areas of cooperation and exchanges which will eventually bring mutual benefits to the peoples of Taiwan and the Philippines” Lin said.
Such visa-free policy, he said, “enhances the mutually beneficial bilateral tourism, trade, investment, technology, agriculture, economic, cultural, educational and people-to-people cooperation and exchanges between Taiwan and the Philippines.”
Since 2016, Taiwan has relaxed its visa policy for Philippine nationals through its free “Travel Authorization Certificate” (TAC), wherein eligible applicants are issued multiple-entry visas valid for three months and allows single stays of up to 30 days if they hold permanent resident certificates issued by Australia, Canada, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, Schengen Agreement signatories, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
With the new visa-free entry system in place, TECO said the TAC will be suspended starting Nov. 1, but passengers who enter Taiwan before this date with valid TACs may continue to stay for up to 30 days.
Those who have already obtained long-term and multiple Taiwan visas which have been stamped on their passports can still use their visas to enter Taiwan. — RSJ, GMA News

One Pinoy dead in Northern California wildfire; DFA expresses condolences


A Filipino died in the wildfire in Northern California, the Philippine Consulate General in San Francisco said.
In its report to the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Consulate General said the Filipino's remains were recovered on Saturday in Napa County. 
The remains have yet to be identified.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano condoled with the family of the victim, the Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement issued Tuesday.
“We offer our sincere sympathies and prayers to the family of our kababayan who perished in this horrific fire.  I have instructed our Consulate General in San Francisco to offer all possible assistance to the family and to continue to closely monitor the welfare of other Filipinos in the affected areas,” he said.
The Consulate General in San Francisco has offered assistance to the family of the victim, including coordinating arrangements for the repatriation of the remains, said Deputy Consul General Jaime Ramon Ascalon.
"We also continue to communicate with the Filipino community through our social media advisories, and have offered consular assistance to Filipinos affected by the wildfires," Ascalon added.
Sixteen wildfires have caused the deaths of at least 40 people, and burned over 214,000 acres or more than 86,600 hectares, the DFA said.
About 100,000 people have been evacuated and more than 10,000 firefighters are continuing efforts to put the fires out.
Some 5,700 structures have been destroyed.
The DFA said about 13,500 Filipinos live in the counties of Napa, Sonoma, and Yuba, which have been largely affected by the wildfires.
Some 4,200 Filipinos, meanwhile, live in Lake, Marin, and Mendocino counties which were likewise affected by the wildfires.
Authorities have raised red flag warnings across Northern California, since strong north winds have increased the fire activity. —With a report from Michaela del Callar/KG, GMA News

Thursday, October 12, 2017

How Spain could impose direct rule over Catalonia


Guillaume Decamme, Agence France-Presse
Posted at Oct 12 2017 03:11 AM
Faced with Catalan separatists' efforts to break away from Spain, Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Wednesday opened the way to imposing direct rule over the region.
He said he had asked Catalan leaders to clarify if they had declared independence, a first step toward triggering Article 155 of Spain's constitution -- a never used provision that could open a Pandora's box.
What has happened so far?
Thanks to its constitution, adopted in 1978 following decades of civil strife then dictatorial rule, Spain is one of the Western world's most decentralised nations. 
It has 17 semi-autonomous regions with varying degrees of control over issues such as education and healthcare.
Catalans voted on October 1 in a referendum outlawed by the courts, which ruled that any vote for self-determination violated the constitution.
Those who voted overwhelmingly backed separating from Spain, though anti-independence voices point to a low turnout and the lack of official electoral standards.
Catalan leaders signed a declaration of independence from Spain on Tuesday but immediately put it on hold and called for talks with Madrid.
What does the law say?
Article 155 says that if a region's government breaches its constitutional obligations or "acts in a way that seriously threatens the general interest of Spain", Madrid can "take necessary measures to oblige it forcibly to comply or to protect said general interest".
What are 'necessary measures'?
Article 155 allows for the state -- in this case the national government in Madrid -- to "take control of political and administrative institutions of the rebel region", Teresa Freixes at the Autonomous University of Barcelona told AFP.
According to Javier Perez Royo of the University of Seville, measures could include "suspending the regional government, placing the (Catalan police force) Mossos d'Esquadra under the orders of the interior ministry" and even "closing the regional parliament".
Regional elections could follow, said Jose Carlos Cano Montejano at Madrid's Complutense University.
But such measures risk inflaming tensions in a region that, though divided over the issue of secession, is proud of its relative autonomy. 
Who invokes it?
Rajoy could not invoke Article 155 unilaterally, however.
He would need to first inform Catalan leader Carles Puigdemont of his intention, allowing him a period of grace to fall in line -- which Rajoy did on Wednesday.
Next, Rajoy would turn to the Senate, Spain's upper house where his conservative Popular Party has an overall majority. 
A committee must back the prime minister's proposal and then the exact legal measures put to a Senate vote.
One senator, who declined to give his name, said the procedure could take a week to complete.
Perez Royo put the timeframe closer to "eight to 10 days".
Any alternatives?
But Article 155 is just one of many options Rajoy has to head off Catalonia's separatists.
The government could declare a state of emergency, which would usher in limits on "the freedom of movement and the freedom of gathering", said Cano Montejano.
And legislation signed in 2015 could allow Madrid to argue that the Catalan crisis amounts to a "situation concerning national security" and take on additional powers. 
This would allow the government to pass laws by decree and, for example, directly control Catalonia's regional police force.
The government can also let the criminal cases which have been opened against Catalan leaders over the referendum run their course.
Puigdemont for example is under investigation for alleged crimes of civil disobedience, abuse of office and misuse of public funds.
If found guilty he would be banned from holding public office. 
Rajoy, in a strident interview on Saturday, said Madrid would use every weapon in its legal arsenal to head off the independence movement. 

Middle East turns to private sector after oil slump


Agence France-Presse
Posted at Oct 12 2017 04:39 AM
Oil-rich governments from Tripoli to Tehran are increasingly relying on the private sector in a key change across the Middle East and North Africa, a report said Wednesday.
The value of public-private partnership (PPP) projects across the region, including those still in the pipeline, has more than doubled to $185 billion (155 billion euros) over the past year, the Dubai-based Middle East Economic Digest wrote.
The sharp increase comes as governments have ramped up efforts to get the private sector involved in financing, building and operating public infrastructure projects in a bid to offset shrinking income from oil since crude prices began to fall in mid-2014.
"The rise of PPP over the past few years is one of the most strategically significant shifts in the business landscape of the Middle East since the nationalisation of the oil industry in the early 1970s," the report said.
Kuwait topped the list with joint projects worth $44.4 billion, followed by Libya with $36 billion, the United Arab Emirates with $27.6 billion and Iran with $14.3 billion worth of projects. 
The figures exclude any investments in the key energy sector.
The report said that nearly two-thirds of the projects, worth around $100 billion, are in the planning stages and are expected to be awarded in the next five to six years.
Countries across the region, especially those in the Gulf, have lost hundreds of billions of dollars in oil income due to the slide of crude prices.

Filipino family loses everything to wildfire

Rommel Conclara, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau


An aerial photo of the devastation left behind from the North Bay wildfires north of San Francisco, California. Reuters
A Filipino family lost everything after wildfires reduced most of their neighborhood to ash in Santa Rosa, California.
“We only had a couple of minutes to get out and we were not able to grab anything with us,” said Rina Pingol.
The Pingol family is leaning on each other for support. They are now staying with their son and daughter-in-law and are trying to figure out their next move.
They said their insurance will help them from the disaster that continues to cause more problems for their neighbors.
“It was just devastating to see it. A beautiful area turned into a massive destruction. It’s unbelievable,” she said.
Meanwhile, the Pingols’ neighbor, Ina D., and her family have received word that their home is safe.
“I was kind of mesmerized for a few minutes because the glow was too much and it was right there in front of me. And my husband had to tell me to just get stuff and leave right away,” she said.
Ina was set to start a new job at the Santa Rosa Hilton on Monday which later burned down.
With buildings ablaze everywhere, thick smoke in the air, Ina stayed focused on getting her family out of Santa Rosa.
“It was actually the only thing saving me from breaking down, the fact that I had to drive to San Francisco. My husband drove our other car and I drove my car with two kids and a dog so I had to stay calm,” she said.
Ina said she continues to stay in contact with her neighbors like the Pingol family for support and updates on the neighborhood.
“It’s like a ghost town. I feel bad for most of my friends and neighbors and we really love and it’s just breaking our hearts that this is happening,” she said.
For the Pingol family, despite this tragedy, they say they are still happy to be alive.
“We know that material things we can replace. Our lives are irreplaceable. Memories will stay in our hearts forever,” she said.

Floods, landslides kill 37 in Vietnam, scores missing


Agence France-Presse

HANOI, Vietnam - At least 37 people have died and another 40 are missing after floods and landslides ravaged northern and central Vietnam, disaster officials said Thursday.
The deaths occurred across six provinces as heavy rains lashed swathes of the country this week, Vietnam's Disaster Management Authority said. Northern Hoa Binh is the hardest hit with 11 dead and 21 missing.
"We are mobilizing all forces to search for the missing," a disaster official in the province told AFP by phone.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

OFW group issues 10 challenges to Duterte


A pro-migrant group on Tuesday gave President-elect Rodrigo Duterte 10 challenges that it said he should try to accomplish within his first 100 days in office.

At a press briefing, Gary Martinez, chair of Migrante International, said these challenges can be implemented through Duterte's proposed Department of Overseas Filipino Workers.
"Yung Department of OFW, sana po ay magsisilbi siya ayun dun sa sampung tinalakay natin. Sana magsisilbi siya at para dumating yung araw siya mismo ay mawawalan na ng silbi," Martinez said.
He said accomplishing these goals may serve as "confidence-building" measures among OFWs and their families until Duterte addresses the causes of forced migration.
"'Pag hindi na kailangan [ng] Department of OFW, dahil masaya na tayo dito sa ating bansa, may siguridad sa trabaho, may libreng edukasyon, may libreng public health, at lahat yung nakabubuhay na sahod na tatamasahin ng ating pang susunod na mga henerasyon," Martinez said.
Incoming Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo said she will do her best to bring the grievances of OFWs to Duterte's attention.
"Wala pang nagsabi sa 'min na magda-Davao kami. Dito pa kami ngayon. [Pero] ipapaabot ko rin ito sa abot ng aking makakaya," she said. —KBK, GMA News

OFW bank reinforces ‘labor export program’ —Migrante


A militant pro-OFW group on Tuesday rejected the OFW bank created by President Rodrigo Duterte, saying it "institutionalizes the decades-long labor export program" and will further exploit OFWs.
In a statement, Migrante International said Executive Order No. 44 furthers the administration's goal of “managing migration” as a “tool for development.”
The group siad this "does not in any way address the root causes of forced migration nor even attempt to curb it in the policy-level."
By converting the Philippine Postal Savings Bank into the Overseas Filipino Bank to manage OFW remittances, the bank allegedly enables "a more fast-tracked" system of profiting from OFWs.
"This in itself further institutionalizes the decades-long labor export program that continues to exploit OFWs’ cheap labor and remittances in accordance to neoliberal policies and dictates," Migrante said.
The group added that the EO's plan to encourage OFWs to embark on "microfinancing" will "only bury them in greater debt to big banks and financial institutions, this time facilitated by the state itself."
Should there be "OFW banks," Migrante said these should ensure investments to rural development and national industrialization that will create domestic jobs to end migration
"To address the problem of forced migration, the government’s economic policies should focus on developing national economy by advancing local industries, agriculture and basic services," it said.
"It should depart from neoliberal policies which focus on increasing dependence on OFW remittances. Only then can OFWs look forward to a future in which they will not have to leave their families behind just to survive." —Rie Takumi/KBK, GMA News

After almost a year, Duterte fulfills OFW bank promise


President Rodrigo Duterte has signed an executive order converting the Philippine Postal Savings Bank into a bank that will deliver microfinance and micro-insurance products and services for the overseas Filipino workers.

Through Executive Order No. 44, the PPSB will be acquired by the Land Bank of the Philippines and will be converted into the Overseas Filipino Bank.

"Overseas-based Filipinos, who contribute to the country's foreign exchange income, currency stability, employment, and overall economic growth through their remittances should be given provision of priority support for their growing financial needs," the EO read.

“There is a need to establish a policy bank dedicated to provide financial products and services tailored to the requirements of overseas Filipinos, and focused on delivering quality and efficient foreign remittance services,” it added.

EO No. 44 was signed on September 28, almost a year after Duterte made the promise in front of OFWs in Tokyo, Japan.
The OFB will be managed by a nine-member Board of Directors composed of the following:
  •  LBP President as chairperson
  • LBP-designated OFB president as vice chairperson
  • four LBP-designated directors or officers as members
  • one representative each from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the private sector representing overseas Filipinos as members
The EO said members representing the DOLE, the OWWA, and overseas Filipinos will be appointed by the President. —Trisha Macas/KBK, GMA News

Abused OFW repatriated from Kuwait, vows never to work abroad again



Last July 2, "Carla" left her hometown of San Nicolas in Pangasinan to work as a domestic helper in Kuwait. After three months, she went back to the Philippines — with a vow never to work abroad again.
Carla was yet another OFW who decided to return home after experiencing abuse at the hands of her employer, according to a report on Balita Pilipinas by GMA News stringer Joan Punsoy on Monday.
"Hindi nila ako pinapakain, sir, tapos binalik ako, sir, sa office. Galit na galit sila, na pagbabayarin nila ako. Sabi ko, sir, wala akong pambayad kasi nagpunta ako sa abroad para maghanapbuhay," she said.
Carla, a mother of two, said she would sometimes hide in the CR to eat. She said the experience left her traumatized.
"Binabatukan dito pag nagluluto ako. Kasi, sir, sabi ko wala akong alam sa pagluluto. Pinipilit niya ako na may alam. Pag mali, sir, binabatukan niya ako," Carla said.
For now, Carla is glad that she is back with her family.
The report said Carla was repatriated through the help of Pangasinan OFW Desk, which, according to its Facebook page, is the "provincial government’s arm to address the needs of OFWs and their families."
"Matutulungan namin yan sa NLRC, maki-claim niya yung mga hindi nya nasahod, at sa OWWA mayroon naman siyang livelihood program," said Elizardo Laureta, migrant desk officer of Pangasinan OFW Desk. —KBK, GMA News

Friday, October 6, 2017

POEA warns OFWs on nursing jobs in Germany

 The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration advises overseas employment applicants to avoid a certain ‘Meine Agentur 24’ which recruits nurses and other healthcare professionals for supposed jobs in Germany without the proper authorization from the government.

Meine Agentur 24, in its website and Facebook page, lists its address in Leipzig, Germany but the Philippine Embassy in Berlin reported that the name of Meine Agentur 24 does not appear in the online registry of businesses in that country. Also, the POEA has no record of Meine Agentur 24 in its database of accredited foreign employers.

In the website and Facebook page, Meine Agentur 24 advertises the need for workers in various disciplines in the field of nursing and other healthcare jobs and its offer of a qualification course for nursing staff to prepare them for employment in Germany. Meine Agentur 24 charges applicants 5425 Euros supposedly for the cost of studying the German language and nursing school training.

In addition, applicants have to acquire their own visa and should have 5360 Euros in a bank account to cover the cost of their 20-month stay in Germany, including expenses for food, accommodation, clothing and transportation.

The POEA reminds applicants that the legal ways of landing a nursing job in Germany are either through the Triple Win Project or licensed Philippine recruitment agencies

Saudi government extends amnesty program anew

Saudi government extends amnesty program anew Saudi Arabia has extended its amnesty program for undocumented migrants for another 30 days according to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The DFA said the second extension was in response to the request of the Philippines and several other countries and is seen to benefit at least 6,000 undocumented Filipinos who were unable to avail of the initial amnesty offer.

In its Bulletin No. 10, the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh said it has received information from the Saudi Immigration (Jawasat) regarding the details of the provisional extension granted by the Saudi Government of the 2017 Amnesty Programme for illegal expatriates in the Kingdom. According to the Jawasat, the extended Amnesty is only for those qualified under the criteria set by the original Amnesty Programme which began on 29 March 2017, specifically as follows:

1. those with expired umrah, hajj and visit visas

2. pilgrims without hajj permits

3. those who have crossed the border into the kingdom without permits

4. residents with expired residence id card (iqama)

5. workers with work permits but with no iqama

6. workers who have been declared absconding (huroob) by their employers/sponsors Only those expatriates who fall under the abovementioned criteria before the official announcement of the Amnesty on 19 March 2017 will be allowed to avail of the provisional extension of the Amnesty.

Undocumented Filipinos staying in the Kingdom who qualify for the provisional extension as mentioned above should do the following:

1. For those who are holders of valid Passports or Travel Documents, you may proceed directly to the Jawasat processing center in your area. The Jawasat Processing Center in Riyadh is located at 7516 Zaid IbnThabit, Al Malaz, Riyadh. The Center is open from 7:30 am to 2 pm only.

2. For those whose Passports or Travel Documents have expired, proceed to the Philippine Embassy to have your Passports and Travel Documents extended.

3. For those who do not have a valid Passport or Travel Document, proceed to the Philippine Embassy to apply for Travel Document.

4. For those with expired final exit visa issued during the Amnesty, proceed to the Jawasat Processing Center to have your visas renewed. Under the extended Amnesty, expired final exit visas issued by the Jawasat may be extended without penalty.

5. For those with expired Umrah, Hajj and Visit visas, proceed to the Jawasat Office at the airport to be stamped for exit.

You should have a valid ticket for leaving the Kingdom before proceeding to the Jawasat Office at the airport. The provisional extension of the Amnesty will end on 25/1/1439 Hijri, corresponding to 15 October 2017.

The Philippine Embassy encourages all Filipinos illegally staying in the Kingdom and who qualify for the Extended Amnesty as mentioned above to immediately avail of the Amnesty to avoid being arrested, detained and made to pay corresponding penalties by the Saudi Government.

The Saudi government first implemented a 90-day amnesty program in March 2017 that was then extended for another 30 days. A total of 8,467 undocumented Filipinos already availed of the initial offer according to the DFA. /END

OFWs in HK back marriage separation


MAJORITY of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong have expressed support for the passage of various 

bills pending consideration by the House of Representatives that will cut short the often costly and
lengthy annulment process to end a rocky marriage.
In a first of a series of dialogues held last Sunday, at the Philippine Consulate General
office, the OFWs warmly received the various proposals for severance of marriage bonds, including House
Bill (HB) No. 6027 of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
  
Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano who led the delegation said that while some spouses eventually
manage to solve their marital woes with the support of friends, family or church, the proposed measures
are intended to help those who were not able to do so.
  
Some 200 OFWs in Hong Kong, mostly women, attended the public consultation with Consul General
Bernardita Catalla presided by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, chairperson of the House committee on
population and family relations.

“Iba ho ngayon ’yung Kongreso natin kung inyo hong mapapansin. Sa liderato ho ni Speaker
Alvarez marami ho kaming ginagawa na alam naming ito ’yung tama’t praktikal, ito ’yung naaayon sa
panahon, ito ’yung realidad. Kahit medyo ayaw ng iba gagawin natin ito dahil ito ’yung kailangan ng
tao,” said Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu.
  
“From the point of view ng OFW, dalawang bagay lang ho: bukod sa mahirap ang mahal-mahal ng
mag-apply for annulment.Dapat pantay-pantay po lahat, hindi lang ’yung mayayaman and pwedeng mag-
divorce,” said Atty. Daisy Mandap, representing  the OFWs publication The SUN.
  
Cynthia Abdon, manager of Mission for Migrant Workers, noted that they regularly accept cases
of women migrants and out of the estimated 2,000 cases there are about 8 to 10 percent involving
marital issues.
  
“We have a case where she was able to single-handedly send their children to school and build a
house in the land of the relatives of her husband. With her responsibility done, she’s now seriously
considering what her future is, considering that her husband is now cohabiting with another woman in
the house she built with her own sweat,” Abdon said.
  
The United Filpinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL) said in their position paper that according to their
data many of the OFWs have marital problems and majority are worried about the effect of termination of
marriage on the properties they acquired through their hard work over the years.
  
Other Filipino groups in Hong Kong that supported the proposals for termination of marriage
include Philippine Association of Hong Kong, Global Alliance Hong Kong, Gabriela (Hong Kong), Filipino
Ministerial Fellowship International, Hong Kong Musician’s Union.
  
However, the Chaplaincy for Filipinos opposed divorce, saying it would lead to abuses
especially on women and it would encourage infidelity among spouses.
  
Jun Concepcion of Radio TV Hong Kong also asked the lawmakers if they have the political will
to pass the bill and resist the expected backlash from the Catholic Church.
  
Earlier, Alvarez said he was prompted to file his bill because during his practice of law many
of his clients were women trapped in broken marriages and asking for help to start their lives anew. He
said that in his travels abroad, many of the OFWs have similar problems and they want a better process
for termination of marriage than annulment.
  
Cayetano said it’s the job of Congress to provide an option for spouses trapped in broken
marriage but the decision remains in their hands whether to avail of this option or not.
  
“Our job is to provide the legal instrument na pwede ninyong gamitin kung sakaling
kakailanganin ninyo,” Cayetano said as she thanked the OFWs who participated in the public
consultation.
  
Aside from Cayetano, Abu and Aragones, other lawmakers who took part in the public consultation
in Hong Kong include Reps. Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Teddy Baguilat, Jr., Emmi De Jesus, and Aniceto Bertiz
III.

Customs loosens guidelines on tax-free balikbayan boxes


Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will no longer have to submit a proof of purchase for items inside balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines, as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Thursday said it suspended such guidelines for the meantime.
In a statement, the BOC said it suspended both Customs Administrative Order (CAO) 05-2016 and Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) 04-2017 until March 31, 2018.
"The BOC has temporarily suspended the guidelines in the implementation of the duty and tax-free privilege of consolidated balikbayan boxes, following the upsurge of criticisms among overseas Filipino workers," it said.
Under both CAO 05-2016 and CMO 04-2017, Filipino citizens who send balikbayan boxes to the Philippines are required to submit a photocopy of their Philippine passport to avail of the government's tax exemption.
They are also required to provide a copy of the invoice, receipt, or proof of payments of the goods contained in the balikbayan box.
"Although it is our duty to facilitate customs clearance of balikbayan boxes, we cannot set aside the sentiments of our fellow Filipinos abroad," Customs Commissioner Isidro S. LapeƱa said.
"With the suspension of the current procedure on balikbayan box, the previous regulation will be enforced," he added. —Jon Viktor D. Cabuenas/KBK, GMA News

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Gov’t urged to enhance protection for OFWs



Senator Cynthia Villar urged the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment to boost welfare protection for overseas Filipino workers especially domestic workers abroad citing the case of OFW Joramie Garcia Torres who was scalded with boiling oil and beaten up by her Malaysian employer.
Villar urged the DFA to extend legal and humanitarian assistance to OFW Joramie Garcia Torres as she attends court hearings and pursues a criminal case against her employer in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
“We all should be proud and supportive of Joramie because she is intent on seeking justice under Malaysian law. While she cooperates with the Malaysian government, I hope that the DFA and DoLE can also assist her indigent family,” Sen. Villar said.
The senator noted that Torres was a grade school teacher prior to applying to work abroad as a domestic worker in Malaysia. The OFW is now under the care of the Malaysian government while charges against her Malaysian employer are pending in court. The Malaysian employer was arrested but was able to post bail.
“I hope that the P1billion in Assistance-to-Nationals Fund of the DFA can be used to better protect and help our OFWs especially hundreds of thousands of domestic workers living and working under vulnerable conditions worldwide,” the senator said.
  
Meanwhile, the senator expressed dismay over the unprecedented increase in the number of Filipinos being deployed overseas as domestic workers.
  
“Why are we sending more domestic workers now than ever before? Last year, the records of the POEA showed that we have almost breached the 300,000-mark in terms of newly hired migrant domestic workers. We should focus our attention more in offering women workers decent local jobs rather than facilitating their deployment to foreign households under slave-like conditions,” Villar stressed.
  
According to POEA data, the Philippines deployed 275,073 first-time domestic workers overseas, compared to 194,835 in 2015 and 183,101 in 2014.
  
“For the first semester of 2017, the POEA has processed the contracts of 124,969 first-time migrant domestic workers. This means we may be sending 300,00 new-hires as overseas domestic workers by the end of the year,” Villar said.

OFWs in HK back marriage separation



  • Written by Ryan Ponce Pacpaco
MAJORITY of overseas Filipino workers in Hong Kong have expressed support for the passage of various
bills pending consideration by the House of Representatives that will cut short the often costly and
lengthy annulment process to end a rocky marriage.
In a first of a series of dialogues held last Sunday, at the Philippine Consulate General
office, the OFWs warmly received the various proposals for severance of marriage bonds, including House
Bill (HB) No. 6027 of Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez.
  
Deputy Speaker Pia Cayetano who led the delegation said that while some spouses eventually
manage to solve their marital woes with the support of friends, family or church, the proposed measures
are intended to help those who were not able to do so.
  
Some 200 OFWs in Hong Kong, mostly women, attended the public consultation with Consul General
Bernardita Catalla presided by Laguna Rep. Sol Aragones, chairperson of the House committee on
population and family relations.

“Iba ho ngayon ’yung Kongreso natin kung inyo hong mapapansin. Sa liderato ho ni Speaker
Alvarez marami ho kaming ginagawa na alam naming ito ’yung tama’t praktikal, ito ’yung naaayon sa
panahon, ito ’yung realidad. Kahit medyo ayaw ng iba gagawin natin ito dahil ito ’yung kailangan ng
tao,” said Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu.
  
“From the point of view ng OFW, dalawang bagay lang ho: bukod sa mahirap ang mahal-mahal ng
mag-apply for annulment.Dapat pantay-pantay po lahat, hindi lang ’yung mayayaman and pwedeng mag-
divorce,” said Atty. Daisy Mandap, representing  the OFWs publication The SUN.
  
Cynthia Abdon, manager of Mission for Migrant Workers, noted that they regularly accept cases
of women migrants and out of the estimated 2,000 cases there are about 8 to 10 percent involving
marital issues.
  
“We have a case where she was able to single-handedly send their children to school and build a
house in the land of the relatives of her husband. With her responsibility done, she’s now seriously
considering what her future is, considering that her husband is now cohabiting with another woman in
the house she built with her own sweat,” Abdon said.
  
The United Filpinos in Hong Kong (UNIFIL) said in their position paper that according to their
data many of the OFWs have marital problems and majority are worried about the effect of termination of
marriage on the properties they acquired through their hard work over the years.
  
Other Filipino groups in Hong Kong that supported the proposals for termination of marriage
include Philippine Association of Hong Kong, Global Alliance Hong Kong, Gabriela (Hong Kong), Filipino
Ministerial Fellowship International, Hong Kong Musician’s Union.
  
However, the Chaplaincy for Filipinos opposed divorce, saying it would lead to abuses
especially on women and it would encourage infidelity among spouses.
  
Jun Concepcion of Radio TV Hong Kong also asked the lawmakers if they have the political will
to pass the bill and resist the expected backlash from the Catholic Church.
  
Earlier, Alvarez said he was prompted to file his bill because during his practice of law many
of his clients were women trapped in broken marriages and asking for help to start their lives anew. He
said that in his travels abroad, many of the OFWs have similar problems and they want a better process
for termination of marriage than annulment.
  
Cayetano said it’s the job of Congress to provide an option for spouses trapped in broken
marriage but the decision remains in their hands whether to avail of this option or not.
  
“Our job is to provide the legal instrument na pwede ninyong gamitin kung sakaling
kakailanganin ninyo,” Cayetano said as she thanked the OFWs who participated in the public
consultation.
  
Aside from Cayetano, Abu and Aragones, other lawmakers who took part in the public consultation
in Hong Kong include Reps. Ma. Lourdes Aggabao, Teddy Baguilat, Jr., Emmi De Jesus, and Aniceto Bertiz
III.
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