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DFA airs concern on rising OFW drug cases

By MADEL R. SABATER/Manila Bulletin

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed concern on Saturday on Filipinos continuously being used as “drug mules” following the recent arrest of three Filipinas in Hong Kong and Macau.

According to the Philippine Consulate-General (PCG) in Macau, a Filipina was arrested last June 26 for allegedly smuggling almost one kilogram of drugs hidden in three pairs of sports shoes in her luggage.

Consul-General to Macau Renato Villapando said the DFA is concerned with the increasing number of Filipinos serving sentences in Macau for drug trafficking. Currently, 17 Filipinos are detained in Macau.

He stressed that the DFA will help the Filipina who was recently caught in Macau for alleged drug trafficking.

In Hong Kong, two Filipinas were also arrested in separate occasions for alleged drug trafficking.

The first of the two Filipinas was arrested last June 2 at the Hong Kong International Airport after authorities allegedly found 1,040 grams of heroin hidden inside the soles of three pairs of shoes in her suitcase. The estimated street value of the drugs was HK$930,000 or US$119,500.

The second Filipina was arrested last June 24 for taking in 876 grams of heroin with an estimated street value of HK$780,000 (US$100,300). She is currently confined at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and will later be taken for custodial remand to the Tai Lam Center for Women.

“The Consulate-General will ensure that these Filipinas will have legal representation in all their court appearances and will continue to monitor their cases,” Philippine Consul-General to Hong Kong Claro Cristobal said.

It will be recalled that the DFA has been warning Filipinos against becoming drug couriers.

In China, drug trafficking of 50 grams or more of illegal drugs is punishable by 15 years in prison, life imprisonment, or death. In Muslim countries, drug trafficking is punishable by death, according to Shariah law.

via: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/265013/dfa-airs-concern-rising-ofw-drug-cases

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Passport appointment now only 1 month away–DFA

MANILA, Philippines—A week after the Department of Foreign Affairs opened its satellite office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, a recruitment leader on Monday said there is “no improvement” in the passport processing for overseas Filipino workers.

But Assistant Secretary Jaime Victor Ledda of the DFA-Office of Consular Affairs (Oca) said the appointment system has improved by more than 50 percent. He said those who sought appointment online were scheduled for within a month.

Previous online appointments got a September schedule.

Jackson Gan, vice president for marketing of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters Inc. (FAME), said the OFWs his group is sending abroad are required to present their employment contracts, which are only issued after they have their passports.

“It’s a case of the chicken and the egg,” he said.

Ledda, however, pointed out that his office needs to be able to define the OFW. “Otherwise, anybody can just say he is an OFW,” he stressed.

Gan suggested that the DFA-Oca fix the entire system for all passport applicants and not just for OFWs, instead of piecemeal solutions.

“If they need more manpower and equipment, then so be it. The passport (system) is revenue-generating so it should be given priority,” he said.

Gan also suggested that major regional consular offices such as those in Clark, Cebu, and Davao be provided facilities to produce the e-passport in their localities. Right now, RCO’s only capture the data from their computers and send these via e-mail to the Oca office in Paranaque for production of the E-passports.

He said this adds to the delay in the production of the passports and the long waiting time for appointments.

In a related development, mobile passport officials are accepting fake documents like birth certificates from applicants particularly those in Mindanao, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said.

Some licensed agencies pay mobile passport officials a fixed bribe of P3,500 per passport applicant to fast-track the processing and to look the other way when first-time overseas workers submit fake documents.

Mobile passport processing is done by RCOs in case of large numbers of applicants. Data-capturing computers are brought to the area for the convenience of the workers and the agencies requesting the service.

“The Office of Consular Affairs should look in these reports because the integrity of the e-passport is being compromised by such actions which are a source of graft for those officials,” Geslani said.

By Veronica Uy

via: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20100628-278040/Passport-appointment-now-only-1-month-away–DFA

Filed under: DFA-advisory,

DFA asked to get rid of fixers, speed up passport processing

The Department of Foreign Affairs Office of Consular Affairs (DFA-OCA) was urged on Saturday to clean up its premises of fixers to speed up passport processing and appointments.

A local recruitment official made the call, adding that the recruitment sector has received numerous complaints from applicants about the long wait in the processing of their appointments and the presence of fixers who are allegedly arranging early appointments for fees ranging from P5,000 to P10,000.

“The industry is demanding that the Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) rid fixers in their premises who may have connections inside, so that online appointments can be fast-tracked for a considerable amount of money,’’ recruitment firm official Emmanuel Geslani told the Manila Bulletin.

“Agency owners have reported to industry meetings that new applicants for passports who have been selected and have applied for early appointments have been approached by fixers asking for a certain amount of money for early appointments,’’ he added.

Just recently, Geslani disclosed that an applicant paid P6,000 and was given an appointment for July 15, while three others who paid P10,000 each have not yet been given appointment schedules.

While he hailed the opening of a Passport Extension Office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) building in Mandaluyong City for renewal of passports for re-hires, vacationing workers and seamen, Geslani also lamented the small number of daily applicants processed at the POEA.

“The small quota of only 200 applicants daily at the POEA Passport Extension Office is utterly inadequate to cope with the 750,000 re-hires. Divided into five years that is 150,000 returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) each year who have to renew their passports every time they are in town,’’ he said.

The recruitment sector, said Geslani, also bewails the lack of understanding on the part of OCA to give priority to returning OFWs and those due for deployment.

“OCA personnel do not seem to understand that it will be very difficult for prospective workers to present documents that jobs are waiting for them. Passports are the first document that an OFW needs to present to agencies that will hire them, and this is where the problem lies, the intolerable three-month delay in getting appointments,’’ he said.


By SHIANEE MAMANGLU/MANILA BULLETIN

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

DFA to open offices on Saturdays starting July

In a bid to shorten the waiting time for appointments for electronic passports, the Department of Foreign Affairs will open its offices every Saturday starting July.

Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) personnel training for Saturday processing of such appointments is ongoing, according to the DFA.

An article posted on the DFA website said the DFA expects to shorten the waiting time for appointments to three weeks to one month.

OCA is also planning to open more Regional Consular Offices (RCOs) nationwide. The ePassport is already available in 19 RCOs.

It also said a number of Philippine foreign service posts are issuing the ePassport so Filipino workers, or migrants need not come home to have their passports renewed.

These overseas posts include Agana, Brunei Darussalam, Chicago, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Osaka, Ottawa, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto and Washington D.C.

Other foreign service posts are expected to issue the ePassport in due time.

Earlier, the DFA washed its hands off a supposed backlog in its processing of passports, and blamed some applicants’ failure to show up on appointed time for the “delay.”

“It is the waiting time to get an appointment that is longer due to a number of reasons including non-appearance …. Forty percent of individuals who have set appointments do not show up on the designated dates. OCA still accommodates these slots since these were not cancelled by the applicants,” the DFA said.

OCA said passports are released 10 days from application for expedited passports, 20 days for regular processes, and even less than 10 days for emergency cases.

It said the DFA’s processing and releasing time is faster compared to other countries’ passport processes. In the United States, it said passports are released four to six weeks from the date of application.

The OCA urged applicants to appear on their appointment schedules. If unable to show up, they should cancel their appointments earlier so the time slot could be used for other applicants.

Passport extension office

On the other hand, the DFA will re-open the Passport Extension Office (PEO) at the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) to address specific concerns of OFWs who are in Manila to renew their passports immediately to comply with their work contracts’ requirements.

PEO will initially accept 200 applicants daily. Those who cannot be accommodated on a particular day will be given on-the-spot appointment for the succeeding days.

“No prior appointments are required for OFWs applying for passports at the PEO,” the DFA said.

Those who may apply at the PEO include seafarers and sea-based workers and their family members, land-based Balik-Manggagawa (visiting or returning OFWs and their families, and DFA-accredited manning and recruitment agencies.

As a stop-gap measure, OCA is also extending the validity of expiring passports for a maximum period of up to two years.

OCA also attributed the two-month waiting time for appointments to the peak summer season and the huge demand for the Philippine ePassport.

It said that it has been accepting 3,500 applicants daily. The number, however, is expected to go down by July. — LBG, GMANews.TV


via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/194480/dfa-to-open-offices-on-saturdays-starting-july

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Appointments for passport applicants 2 months away

By Veronica Uy/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) If a passport applicant goes online today to set an appointment for when he can go to the new consular office to apply, he will get a September schedule.

The recruitment sector calls this situation “totally unacceptable” and “deplorable” for overseas Filipino workers who cannot afford the delay in the processing of their travel documents. Most go home only for a couple of weeks, renewing their passports, work permits, visas, and other papers during their short stay.

In a news release, recruitment leader Jackson Gan, vice president for marketing of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters (FAME), said OFWs “have to be at their jobsites at the agreed time and any delays in their arrivals are hurting their chances in earning income for their families.”

Passport processing time, he said, “has gone from 20 working days to 40 working days or two months as the backlog continues to pile up at the supposedly state-of-the-passport facility where over half a billion pesos lent by the DBP was spent by the DFA in the latest information and communication technology.”

The delay has spawned fixers who charge P5,000 for three-day processing, Gan said.

He said Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo may be too “busy trying to keep his job with the incoming administration” that he has not paid attention to this problem.

Gan warned that long delays in passport processing will cost some OFWs their jobs.

When asked to comment on the complaints, Assistant Secretary Jaime Victor Ledda of the Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Consular Affairs (OCA) said he has already added more shifts, even during lunch time, to address the problem but there are just too many applicants for the electronic passport.

Ledda said he has already increased his office’s capacity from 2,500 per day in March to 3,500 now, but it is still not enough.

“The number of applicants has been increasing since March and we’ve been trying to adjust to the surge since,” he said.

To further reduce the waiting time, OCA said it is planning to open its offices every Saturday starting next month.

OCA is also planning to open more Regional Consular Offices (RCOs) nationwide. The ePassport is already available in 19 RCOs.

With these measures, OCA is expecting to bring down the waiting time for appointments to between three weeks and one month.

In a news release issued later in the day, OCA said the non-appearance of those who scheduled an appointment exacerbated the situation. It said 40 percent of individuals who have set appointments do not show up on the designated dates. In any case, it said OCA still keeps these slots since these were not cancelled by the applicants.

OCA thus urged the public to appear on their appointed dates. “They may also cancel their appointments if they will not be able to show up so that these could be allocated for other applicants,” it suggested.

OCA also attributed the two-month waiting time for appointments to the peak summer season and the huge demand for the Philippine ePassport. It expects the 3,500 daily applicants to go down by July.

To address the problem of OFWs who have to leave immediately as specified in their contracts, Ledda said a satellite office has been set up at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in Ortigas. It opened today and can handle 200 walk-in applicants a day.

He said an OFW without any appointment can simply walk in and have his passport renewed or processed. “For as long as he has the complete documents, we will be able to process his passport immediately,” he said.

However, this satellite office might not be able to handle more than its 200daily capacity.

“In excess of 200 applicants, applicants will be provided on-the-spot appointment for the succeeding days,” Ledda said.

Those who may apply at the satellite office include seafarers and sea-based workers and members of their families, land-based Balik-Manggagawa (visiting or returning OFWs and their families), and DFA-accredited manning and recruitment agencies.

At the same time, the DFA said a number of Philippine foreign service posts are also now issuing the ePassport so Filipino workers or migrants need not come home to have their passports renewed. These include Agana, Brunei Darussalam, Chicago, Doha, Dubai, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Kuala Lumpur, London, Los Angeles, Milan, New York, Osaka, Ottawa, San Francisco, Seoul, Tokyo, Toronto, and Washington DC. Other posts are expected to issue the ePassport in due course.

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net


Via: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20100621-276808/Appointments-for-passport-applicants-2-months-away

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Pinoys in Portugal to enjoy RP social security benefits

Filipinos in Portugal will soon be able to receive their Philippine social security benefits there after the two countries finalized a social security agreement late last month.

The Philippine Embassy in Lisbon reported the success of the negotiations between the Philippines and Portugal, resulting in the RP-Portugal Social Security Agreement finalized in Lisbon on May 28, according to a release posted on the website of the Department of Foreign Affairs.

The draft agreement, according to the release, provides for the coordination of social security laws between the two countries, particularly those having to do with equal treatment, maintenance of acquired rights, transfer of benefits and cooperation between pertinent institutions in the two countries.

It also covers laws of both countries on social protection relating to sickness and maternity, paternity and adoption, invalidity, old age and death, accidents at work and occupational diseases, among others.

The first round of negotiations was held in October 2009, and the agreement is expected to be signed in Manila in September 2010, the release further stated.

Ambassador Teresita V.G. Barsana headed the Philippine delegation at the second round of negotiations.

Social Security System (SSS) Commissioner Jose Sonny G. Matula, SSS Senior Vice President Judy Frances A. See and Roberto B. Bautista meanwhile provided the technical expertise at the negotiations.

Representatives of the SSS also took the opportunity to brief the Filipino community in Lisbon on the SSS Flexi-fund for overseas workers, as well as the future benefits of the agreement.

The SSS Flexi-fund is a provident fund for overseas Filipino workers with flexible payment terms, an additional service apart from the regular SSS membership of OFWs.

The briefing was held at the Philippine Embassy in Portugal which recently re-opened after 35 years.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show there are over 90 registered OFWs in the western European country as of 2009.

As of December 2008 meanwhile, the Commission on Filipinos Overseas has recorded over 4,300 Filipinos in Portugal, including permanent and irregular residents.

The Philippines has signed social security agreements with other EU countries including Austria, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and the UK, the DFA said.

For Portugal, the agreement with the Philippines will be its first with an Asian country.

By JMA/JV, GMANews.TV

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, POEA-Advisory,

No Consular Services on June 14 – DFA

The consular offices of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) will be closed to the public on June 14, Monday, which was declared a regular holiday to celebrate the 112th Anniversary of the Declaration of Philippine Independence.

Appointments set for June 14 will be accommodated starting the following day, June 15, when the DFA’s consular services will resume operations

Source: http://dfa.gov.ph/main/index.php/public-advisory/1290-no-consular-services-on-june-14–dfa

Filed under: DFA-advisory

DFA warns vs illegal recruitment scam in Spain

Manila (17 February) — THE Philippine Embassy in Spain reported to the Department of Foreign Affairs an illegal recruitment operation that is currently being perpetrated by a syndicate using Spain as a destination for Filipino workers.

The embassy named the company allegedly recruiting Filipino workers under this scheme as Previsto Ferrocariel Guiscoanagin, with address at Calle Placentinos 18B, 32005, Barcelona, Spain.

The syndicate is using the email address espanolconsulate@europe.com to communicate with Filipino workers and lead them to believe that this is the email address of the Philippine Embassy in Madrid.

The Philippine Consulate-General in Barcelona has verified that there is no such address in Barcelona. There is a Calle de los Placentinos in the province of Salamanca, while the zip code 32005 corresponds to the province of Ourense, not Catalonia.

The public is advised to be wary of job offers from this company and to first check the veracity of any job offer and company with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the country concerned, the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA), or the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

 

Courtesy: PIA-BOHOL

 

 

Filed under: DFA-advisory, OFW Corner, OFW Scam, Illegal Recruiter, POEA-Advisory,

DFA ePassport Announcement

ePassport Announcement

January 13, 2010 by DFA Webmaster

NOTICE TO THE PUBLIC

Due to data migration and systems upgrade, we would like to inform the public that there will be no ePassport processing on 15 January up to 22 January, 2010.

Thank you for your cooperation and understanding…

posted by : OCA

Filed under: DFA-advisory,

DFA – PASSPORT ADVISORY

Passport Advisory

Hi Guys, Please take note of the new DFA Passport advisory specially for those who would like to apply/renew..you might find this helpful. Maray na aldaw po sa gabos!

Click here for the Passport Advisories

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Visa Exemption for Filipinos Transiting Through New Zealand

 
Visa Exemption for Filipinos Transiting Through New ZealandPosted: 19 Nov 2009 10:30 PM PST

20 November 2009 – The Embassy of New Zealand in Santiago has informed the Philippine Embassy in Santiago that, effective 30 November 2009, Filipino nationals transiting through New Zealand en route to other destinations will be exempt from securing transit visas.

Up until now, Filipinos transiting New Zealand (for instance changing planes) needed to hold a transit visa. This requirement will not apply from 30 November.

From that date, Filipinos won’t need a visa to transit New Zealand, provided they remain in the airport and their travel bookings show a stopover of no more than 24 hours. If they plan to stop over for more than 24 hours, or plan to leave the airport, they must apply for a visitor visa. END

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Source: Department of Foreign affairs

pi

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Travel Advisory

DFA Closely Monitoring OFWs Involved in Drug-Related Cases in KSA

9 November 2009 – A Filipino jailed in Dammam, Saudi Arabia in 2008 for alleged drug-related crime is currently awaiting the final decision of the Grand Court of Dammam on his case.

 

This was reported by the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) after inquiring with and receiving a note verbale from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on the case of Jason Mallorca Pineda.

 

Mr. Pineda was detained at the Dammam Jail in March 2008 for allegedly receiving 21.2 grams of methamphetamine and selling it his fellow Filipinos in Saudi Arabia. According to Saudi authorities, he allegedly confessed to the commission of the crime.

 

“His case was endorsed by the General Prosecutor to the Grand Court of Dammam. The case has been followed up by the Jail. The presiding Judge informed that the case is still under the Court’s study and review,” the note verbale read.
The Philippine Embassy said Mr. Pineda remains in detention since under local laws, bail is not granted for drug-related cases.

 

Meanwhile, the DFA’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs said final arrangements are being made for the eventual repatriation of Jose Jonathan Botor Bigas who was also imprisoned for a drug-related offense in Saudi Arabia.

 

Funds are being made available for the repatriation of Mr. Bigas who was originally sentenced to one year imprisonment and 250 lashes in August 2007. Mr. Bigas finished serving his term in August 2008 but due to administrative procedures between the Saudi court and the Governor’s Office, he remained in jail for a time.

 

There are 62 Filipinos incarcerated in nine countries in the Middle East on drug-related cases. Of these, 43 are in Riyadh and majority are women.

 

There are approximately 3,000 Filipinos (flow estimate) in detention centers or facing criminal prosecution overseas. Of these, about 70 percent involve immigration-related offenses and these overseas Filipinos, including OFWs, are expected to be deported after serving their brief sentences. The rest are in custody for commission of common crimes, including theft and drug trafficking.

 

Embassy and Consulate officials and personnel conduct monthly jail visits to look after the welfare of Filipinos in jail. Approval of jail visitation in some countries, however, depends on the host government.

 

The DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) submit a semi-annual report to Congress containing the inventory of Filipinos in jail in other countries, among others.

 

Philippine foreign service posts also maintain, in cooperation with DOLE-Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, a Filipino Workers Resource Center (FWRC) in countries where there are large concentration of Filipinos.

 

In Saudi Arabia, DOLE also maintains four Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) located in Riyadh, Jeddah, Al Khobar, and Buraida. END

 

Filed under: DFA-advisory, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, POEA-Advisory, Sorsogon News Updates

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