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Singapore job seekers warned

Filipino women intending to work as domestic helpers in Singapore were warned Saturday against dubious travel agency operators moonlighting as employment agents.

An advisory issued by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) based on the report of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office in Singapore said 99 percent of Filipino domestic helpers who escaped from their employers had been deployed by travel agents without valid overseas employment documents issued by the POEA.

“Applicants should really be wary of these travel agencies sending domestic helpers to Singapore,’’ said POEA administrator Jennifer Manalili.

“They should use the legal process of overseas employment and not rely on the services of travel agency operators who are moonlighting as employment agents,’’ she added.

Citing Philippine labor attaché to Singapore, Rodolfo Subalao, Manalili said a syndicate composed of certain travel agencies in the Philippines is behind the illegal recruitment scheme in connivance with placement agencies in Singapore that are not accredited by the Philippine embassy.

According to her, the scammers usually ask applicants to initially sign a one-page contract indicating their salaries ranging from $250 to $350 per month with no day off.

Once the papers are processed and workers are already in the jobsite, Manalili said the workers are only paid $20 per month as subsistence allowance since the Singapore agency has to deduct from their salary the placement fee equivalent to seven months salary.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, OFW Scam, Illegal Recruiter, Overseas Jobs,

US citizenship for foreign workers in Northern Marianas

The US Department of Interior submitted to Congress a report recommending, among others, that those long-term alien workers be conferred US citizenship, or permanent residency status leading to citizenship, according to a report filed by Saipan Tribune.

“Consistent with the goals of comprehensive immigration reform, we recommend that the Congress consider permitting alien workers who have lawfully resided in the CNMI for a minimum period of five years to apply for long-term status under the immigration and nationality laws of the United States,” Assistant Interior Secretary for Insular Affairs Tony Babauta said, in the report.

Should US Congress act on the Interior department’s initiative, some 15,816 aliens residing in the CNMI for five years or more would be covered, along with those who have been in the territory for three to five years, the report said.

There were 20,859 foreigners in the CNMI as of January 2010, with 16,304 classified as workers.

‘Welcome news’ for Pinoys

Data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed there were over 14,000 Filipinos in the CNMI as of December 2008, with about 13,000 classified as temporary residents and 500 irregulars. The rest are considered permanent residents.

“This is welcome news for us, and we hope that the CNMI government will respect the decision of the Interior,” Ramon Awit, an OFW in the CNMI’s island capital Saipan for 16 years, told GMANews.TV in an interview.

Unlike the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants now in US mainland, foreign workers in the CNMI came to work and live under legal terms in the islands, Awit, an adviser for the CNMI United Filipino Organization, said.

Most foreign workers in the CNMI are part of the US system, having been issued US Social Security numbers, said Rabby Syed, president of the United Workers Movement-NMI, whose membership consists largely of OFWs.

In 2008, the CNMI Department of Labor issued 23,110 permits to foreign workers, with 13,768 going to Filipinos.

“Ngayong may rekomendasyon na ang Interior, mababawasan na ang pagkalito ng mga tao. Sana huwag nang kontrahin ng CNMI (Now that Interior’s recommendation has come up with a recommendation, people will be less confused. Hopefully the CNMI will no longer oppose it),” said Lito Espina, a Saipan-based OFW for 14 years.

Deputy Labor Secretary Cinta Kaipat and House Vice Speaker Felicidad Ogumoro, however, have expressed disappointment with the recommendation at the onset, as it would make it more difficult for the indigenous residents to compete with foreign workers for private sector jobs, the report stated.—VS, GMANews.TV

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, Pinoy Migration,

Pinoy group in HK hits 20% hike in passport fee

A universal increase of US$10 in the application fee for electronic passports has been implemented by Philippine diplomatic posts across the world, to the dismay of various groups especially in Hong Kong which has a high concentration of Filipino workers.

In an interview with GMANews.TV, Consul Vic Dimagiba of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong confirmed that from US$50 (about P2,225), the new electronic passport now costs US$60 (about P2,670).

The increase was implemented on new applications received since April 28 in the Chinese special administrative region.

Computed in the territory’s local currency, the e-passport now costs HK$510 (about P2,900) from HK$425 (about P2,400)

For passport applications in the Philippines, the rate was likewise increased from P500 to P950.

“The increase was based on the fact that the new electronic passport is more expensive than the old one, as it now has a microchip with data about the passport holder encoded on it, such as biometrics,” Dimagiba explained.

The United Filipinos (UNIFIL) in Hong Kong, however, decried the increase in what they deem as an “already overpriced” passport application rate.

In a statement , UNIFIL chair Dolores Balladares said it was “unnecessary and burdensome on the part of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)” for the Consulate General to charge more than triple the price of the passport in the Philippines.

“If the same passport can be obtained for a much lower price in the Philippines, charging overseas Filipinos three times as much is plain and simple government extortion,” Balladares said.

She added they have not been properly consulted about or informed about the increase, which was announced to Filipinos in Hong Kong just three days before the implementation.

Dimagiba said they are simply following the directive from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“If you compare prices with the US or Australian passports being issued here in Hong Kong, the Philippine e-passport price is way cheaper,” he added.

DFA spokesperson Ed Malaya refused to comment on the matter.

For her part, Balladares said that while they do not see any problem with the new passport’s improved technology, the 20% hike shows that the government ignores what overseas Filipino workers have to go through for their hard-earned money.

“Until the last breath of her presidency, Arroyo cannot seem to wind up from squeezing us dry, this time through the very expensive e-passport. As she sees us as profitable exploits, she will stop at nothing to milk OFWs,” she said.

Balladares said UNIFIL and other OFW organizations in Hong Kong have been campaigning for the lowering of the application fee.

In 2002, they succeeded in lowering the rate from HK$510 to HK$425, she added.

The UNIFIL-Migrante-HK has raised the demand to lower the passport fee for Filipinos abroad to a rate similar with that imposed on Filipinos in the Philippines.

On Sunday May 9, the group is set to launch a signature campaign to oppose the increase.—JV, GMANews.TV

Filed under: Kwentong OFW,

Hard-fought victory for OFWs in new anti-OFW legislation

THE DOCUMENTARY STAMP TAX (DST) on OFW remittances has been scrapped with the passage of Republic Act 10022, which amended RA 8042 (the Migrant workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995). To be sure, this will provide some relief for low-income OFWs, especially for construction workers and domestic helpers who constitute this sector’s majority.

On this, we congratulate ourselves and all our fellow OFWs. Migrante International and its chapters in the Middle East, Asia-Pacific, Europe and America, along with various Filipino organizations and individual OFWs around the world, were in the heart of the intensified campaign and mass actions initiated to scrap the DST. If not for our efforts, the law would not have been passed. Because of our efforts, many members of Congress realized that the DST was an additional burden on OFWs.

However, although it removed the DST, RA 10022 is really anti-OFW. It has many provisions that go against the interests, rights and welfare of OFWs and their dependents.

Like RA 8042, the new law is anchored on government’s bias for exporting cheap Filipino labor. It allows government to further institutionalize and intensify its labor export program without guarantees that the OFWs’ interests, rights and welfare will be protected by the governments of host countries. RA 10022 also allows government to impose additional fees that will bleed OFWs dry of their earnings. It also absolves employers and recruiters from responsibility for the OFWs’ well-being, rights and welfare—a responsibility government had passed on to them through RA 8042. With RA 10022, government has totally abandoned its primary duty to protect the interests, rights and welfare of OFWs from exploitative recruitment agencies.

In short, RA 10022 is essentially not for migrant workers. Anchored on the neo-liberal policies of globalization, liberalization, privatization and deregulation, it prioritizes the interest of private businesses over that of the working people.

President Macapagal-Arroyo played safe by not signing the bill, opting instead to allow it to lapse into law, so that she would not be blamed. But many of the pro-Arroyo lawmakers voted for the passage of RA 10022.

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 23:04:00 05/05/2010


Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

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