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HK OFWs ask Aquino: Cut passport cost

MANILA, Philippines—President Benigno Aquino III should work to lower passport cost for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), organizations of Filipino migrant workers in Hong Kong said.

Almost 10,000 OFWs signed a petition expressing this demand which the United Filipinos in Hong Kong-Migrante and Gabriela-Hong Kong submitted to the Philippine consulate general there.

HK-based OFWs applying for an e-passport have to pay HK$510 (around P3,000), up from the HK$425 (around P2,500) for the machine-readable passport introduced to HK OFWs in April this year, said Dolores Balladares in a news release.

“The price of passports in the Philippines is only P950 or about HK$160 but here, it is more than thrice that amount. There is no justifiable reason why passports for OFWs should be overpriced,” she added.

The group reported that even the previous amount of HK$425 is already very steep. Indonesian migrant workers, Balladares noted, pay only HK$58 (about P350) for their machine-readable passports.

“For years, the Philippine government has already earned millions of dollars from the overpriced passport. The so-called improvements that will result from the use of e-passports should not be used to again extort further from us,” she said.

Since May, the migrant group has been conducting a petition-signing campaign to cut passport cost. The submitted signatures, said Balladares, were only from their first wave of the campaign.

The demand is also part of the 10-point HK OFW agenda for the new administration. Balladares said that the agenda contain the most urgent and concrete issues of OFWs in Hong Kong, among them the scrapping of authentication fee and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s Omnibus Policies.

In a related development, the Department of Foreign Affairs said its extension office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency require that OFWs applying for passports bring a copy of a Contract of Employment (for new OFWs), or Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) issued by POEA (to visiting OFWs), or a valid working visa, as proof of their status.

Applicants are served on a first-come-first-served basis, unlike by appointment at the main facility at the Aseana Business Park in Paranaque City.

The DFA said only eligible OFWs and their immediate family members are prioritized; this is to discourage non-OFWs who are ineligible. Non-OFWs are requested to file their application at the main consular building after getting an appointment.

Shortened passport processing and releasing time for emergency cases are provided to qualified applicants, including OFWs, after an evaluation by the Office of the Passport Director (telephone number 02 836-7759).

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Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Leonardo DiCaprio will visit Albay this coming August

MORE BREAKING NEWS: Leonardo DiCaprio is coming for a visit early next month. This piece of good news was confirmed by DiCaprio himself through his Hollywood agents and publicists.

According to earlier reports, DiCaprio was arriving in early 2011.

“It turned out that he’s arriving earlier than expected,” said Joyce Ramirez, director for International Publicity at PR Asis Worldwide, who invited DiCaprio not to promote his new movie, Inception, but to spearhead an environmental-awareness project in cooperation with a huge conglomerate in Albay. “DiCaprio will be here for one week. He has chosen to stay at the Misibis Bay, an ultra-luxurious resort. It’s not yet sure if he will make a stopover in Manila or fly straight to Legazpi City on a private jet.”

It’s Joyce’s brainchild to bring DiCaprio to the Philippines to help boost our tourism industry especially in Albay, with Legazpi City as a world-class eco-tourism destination.

It’s not DiCaprio’s first trip to Asia. After starring in the all-time hit Titanic, DiCaprio went to Thailand to shoot The Beach, his follow-up starrer. The STAR did an exclusive interview with DiCaprio in L.A. for that movie in late 1999.

In Inception, a sci-fi action adventure distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures in IMAX, Digital 2D and regular format, DiCaprio plays Dom Cobb, a skilled thief who is an expert in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb’s rare ability has made him a coveted player in the treacherous new game of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved.

Inception is showing nationwide soon.

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Filed under: Upcoming Events, What's Happening Here?,

Globe & Mobily launch 1st Kababayan SIM for OFWs in Saudi

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) can expect to pay lower rates for calls and text messages to family and friends in the Philippines on the back of the recently-inked partnership between Globe Telecom and Saudi Arabia-based mobile operator Mobily. The latter is Saudi Arabia ’s second largest mobile operator with a market share of about 40%. It is the brand carried by Saudi elecom firm Etihad Etisalat.

Mobily partnered with Globe to launch the Mabuhay Kababayan Prepaid SIM, a new service that gives Mobily subscribers special rates for calls and text messages to the Philippines . With the Mobily Mabuhay Kababayan Prepaid SIM, calls to Globe, Tattoo and TM in the Philippines will be charged 99 halala (0.99 Saudi Riyal or about P12.01) per minute, and 30 halala (0.30 Saudi Riyal or about P3.66) per text message.

“We value the hard work and sacrifices of our OFWs and we know how important it is for them to stay in touch with the loved-ones back in the Philippines . You can expect a lot more from this major partnership with Mobily,” said Kimmie Moreno, Marketing Head for Overseas Filipino Communities (International) at Globe.

“We have partnered with a reputable telecommunication company like Mobily to allow our kabababayans in Saudi to keep in touch with friends and family at reduced rates, giving them more talk time. This is a key milestone for Globe since this is the first of such partnership in the Middle East,” said Rychie Albert, Globe’s International Business Development Head for Middle East and Europe .

There are an estimated 1.1-Million Filipinos living and working in Saudi Arabia.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, Mobile Technology, OFW Corner,

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