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‘UEA, Qatar, Oman OFW entry points to Afghanistan, Iraq’

Unscrupulous recruitment agencies in the country have been continuously deploying Filipino workers not only in war-torn Afghanistan but also in Iraq, a migrant rights’ group disclosed.

Migrante-Middle East regional director John Monterona also claimed that overseas Filipino workers are being sent to these countries despite the deployment ban by the Philippine government using the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Oman as entry points.

“We have been receiving reports that Overseas Employment Certificate have been issued even to those who are using tourist visa and visit visa entering the UAE, Qatar and Oman as entry point going to Afghanistan and Iraq; this is highly irregular,” Monterona said.

As this developed, Monterona has reiterated their call to the government to review the country’s labor export program.

“We reiterate our call to the Aquino government to start creating local jobs with decent pay and benefits, initiate a reasonable across-the-board wage increase for the wage-earners to avoid a humanitarian crisis in the deployment of OFWs in war-torn countries,” he added.

By Dennis Carcamo

via: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=590533&publicationSubCategoryId=200

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs,

OFWs have to wait for jobs at home — DOLE

Overseas Filipino workers would have to wait a while before government can generate enough decent jobs for them to come home, the country’s new labor chief said over the weekend.

For now, President Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino III ordered to increase protection for OFWs in their host countries, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said on government-run dzRB radio.

“Bagamat ang layunin mag-create ng bagong jobs sa ating bansa at magkaroon ng maayos na hanapbuhay, maaaring ‘di agad mangyari ‘yan. Sa ating kababayang nasa ibang bansa na nagtatrabaho at magtatrabaho, mas malawak na proteksyon gustong makita ni Pangulong Aquino (While the intention is to create new jobs in the country – to have decent jobs – this may not happen immediately. For our compatriots working abroad and those planning to work overseas, President Aquino wants to see increased protection.),” Baldoz said.

The Labor Department and other government offices still need to lay down the groundwork to generate more jobs at home, she said.

Aquino, in his inaugural speech on Wednesday, promised to generate more jobs at home leveling the playing field to encourage more investments so that Filipinos need not go abroad for jobs that pay better.

“We will cut red tape dramatically and implement stable economic policies. We will level the playing field for investors and make government an enabler, not a hindrance, to business,” the President said.

“Layunin nating paramihin ang trabaho dito sa ating bansa upang hindi na kailangan ang mangibang-bansa para makahanap ng trabaho (Our goal is to generate enough jobs so Filipinos need not go abroad to find work),” he added.

In the meantime, he ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration – previously headed by Baldoz – to address the concerns of OFWs. —VS, GMANews.TV 


By: JERRIE ABELLA, GMANews.TV

via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/195185/ofws-have-to-wait-for-jobs-at-home-dole

Filed under: Government, Jobs, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

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,

OFWs muling pinaalalahanan na igalang ang batas sa KSA

JEDDAH, Saudi Arabia – Sa pagkalat ng electronic mails sa Pinoy communities sa bansang ito na nagbibigay babala tungkol sa ilegal na mga gawain, muling nanawagan ang mga opisyal ng Pilipinas sa mga overseas Filipino worker (OFW) na sundin ang batas at kultura sa KSA.

Kabilang sa nakasaad sa kumakalat na email ay tungkol sa umano’y pagkakahuli kamakailan sa 23 bakla na naaktuhang naka-make-up at kumikilos na parang babae.

Nakasaad din sa email ang babala laban sa pagsasama-sama ng mga babae at lalaki sa isang lugar na hindi naman mag-asawa o magkamag-anak. Tanging magkapamilya lamang ang pinapayagan ng awtoridad sa KSA na magsama sa ibang bahay.

Ayon pa sa babala, nagpakalat ang awtoridad ng mga ahenteng iba ang nasyunalidad upang isumbong ang mga dayuhan sa kanilang bansa na sangkot sa bawal na relasyon at maging ang mga gumagamit o sangkot sa pagkakalat ng ilegal na droga.

Bagamat hindi pa nakukumpirma ng konsulado ang tungkol sa kumakalat na email, pinayuhan ni Philippine Consul General Ezzedin Tago ang mga Pilipino doon na mas makabubuting umiwas sa mga ilegal na gawain upang hindi mapahamak.

Binigyan-diin ng opisyal na dapat isipin ng mga OFW na wala na sila sa Pilipinas kung saan mas malaya ang makipagrelasyon at maituturing mas maluwag ang batas.

Idinagdag ni Tago na dapat alalahanin ng mga Pinoy na nasa Saudi na may parusang kapalit kapag napatunayang sangkot sila gawaing “immoral” na magiging dahilan para mauwiin sila Pilipinas matapos makulong at posibleng malatigo.

“Concerned kami sa mga naririnig naming report tungkol sa dumaraming pag-aresto dahil may mga involve yung usual na inuman o party, party. We just want you all to be safe to enjoy yung pag-stay niyo sa Saudi Arabia para matulungan niyo ang mga pamilya niyo,” ayon sa opisyal.

Ganoon din ang naging pahayag ng Philippine Vice Consul Roussel Reyes na umaasang hindi totoo ang kumakalat na balita kaugnay sa panibagong kaso ng pagdakip sa mga Pinoy.

Sinabi nito na magsasagawa sila ng beripikasyon tungkol sa ulat kasabay din ng paalala niya sa mga Pilipino sa KSA na huwag gumawa ng mga bagay na hindi naaayon sa batas ng bansang kinalalagyan nila.

“Iba pa rin yung nagtatrabaho tayo nang maayos para sa ating mga mahal sa buhay na nasa Pilipinas. Kaya irespeto po natin ang kanilang batas, kultura at alituntunin,” pahayag ni Reyes.

Kinondena naman ni Ernie Apollo, isang OFW, ang mga kababayan na gumagawa ng labag sa batas ng KSA na nagiging dahilan para madamay umano ang mga Pinoy na maayos na nagtatrabaho doon.

“Iwasan na ang ganong klaseng problema para hindi naman nadadamay ang mga lehitimong mag-asawa sa ganoong pangyayari. Kasi ang pagkakamali ng isa, lahat ay hagip na naman pati ang legal na Filipino couples,” aniya.

Samantala, may ilan ding nakakakita ng magandang resulta sa paghihigpit ng awtoridad sa KSA lalo na ang mga Pinoy na natutukso at pumapasok sa bawal na relasyon.

Ayon kay Emma Avelino, tubong Mandaluyong, at anim na taon nang nagtatrabaho sa Saudi, magandang balita ito lalo na sa mga naiwang asawa sa Pilipinas dahil hindi na makakapagloko ang mga asawang nasa abroad.

Nanawagan din ang pinuno ng Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKOR) Riyadh Chapter na si Ronnie Ulip, na ayusin ng mga OFW ang kanilang buhay sa KSA at labanan ang matinding kalungkutan na malayo sa pamilya.

“Marami pong mga OFW ang napapahamak dahil sa kagagawan ng iba nating mga pasaway na kababayan. Kaya iwasan po natin gumawa ng mga bagay na pagsisisihan natin sa huli,” payo ni Ulip. – Ronaldo Concha, GMANews.TV

via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/195166/ofws-muling-pinaalalahanan-na-igalang-ang-batas-sa-ksa?utm_source=GMANews.TV&utm_medium=facebook

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Komite binuo sa Dubai para sa mga karapatan ng OFW

DUBAI – Matagumpay na idinaos kamakailan ng iba’t ibang grupo ng mga migranteng Pilipino ang kauna-unahang Migrants’ Forum sa United Arab Emirates, na nagresulta sa pagbuo ng komiteng magbabantay sa karapatan at kagalingan ng mga Pilipinong manggagawa rito.

Dumalo sa naturang talakayan ang halos 200 delegado mula sa iba’t ibang organisasyo na kasapi ng Filipino Community (FilCom) sa Dubai at Northern Emirates, kabilang ang ilang mga opisyal ng Pilipinas sa UAE.

Ilan sa mga naging tagapagsalita sa talakayan sina Ambassador Grace Relucio Princesa; Vice Consul Edwin Mendoza; Labour Attaché Amilbahar Amilasan ng POLO-Dubai; Labour Attaché Nasser Munder ng Abu Dhabi; Welfare Officer Mary Cyd Simangan ng Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) sa Dubai; Engr. Robert Ramos, tagapangulo ng FilCom; at Yuri Cipriano, pangalawang pangulo ng Migrante-UAE.

Isinagawa ang talakayan bilang pagdiriwang sa Araw ng mga Migranteng Pilipino kaalinsabay ng paggunita sa ika-112 Araw ng Kalayaan ng Pilipinas noong Hunyo 18 sa Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha, Dubai sa pangunguna ng Migrante-UAE.

“Matagumpay ang Migrants’ Forum dahil bukod sa napag-usapan ang iba’t ibang suliranin ng mga migranteng Pilipino sa UAE, nagresulta rin ang talakayan sa pagbuo ng isang ad-hoc committee ng FilCom para pangalagaan at isulong ang kagalingan at karapatan ng mga overseas Filipino worker (OFW) sa UAE,” ani Cipriano.

Sinabi naman ni Ramos na naging inspirasyon at hamon para sa FilCom, na may 84 na kasaping organisasyon, ang inisyatiba ng Migrante-UAE sa pagsusulong ng mga karapatan ng mga Pilipino sa UAE.

Ang bubuing Ad-Hoc Committee for the Protection of the Rights and Welfare of Migrant Filipinos ang katugunan ng FilCom sa mga napag-usapan sa talakayan.

Pakikilusin ng FilCom ang mga kasapi nitong organisasyon para bigyang pansin ang mga problemang kinahaharap ng mga Pilipino sa UAE, ani Ramos.

Samantala, pinuna ni Shayne Ramero, tagapangulo ng Rights and Welfare Committee ng Migrante-UAE, ang kakulangan sa pagtalakay ng ilang opisyales ng Embahada at Konsulado sa mga usapin ng mga migranteng Pilipino.

“Hindi tinalakay ni Simangan ang paksang kanyang dapat talakayin tungkol sa kalagayan ng mga migrante sa UAE. Hindi rin kumpleto ang paliwanag ni Amilasan sa kahalagahan ng Araw ng mga Migrante,” ayon kay Ramero.

“Binanggit lang niya na nilikha ang okasyong ito bilang pasasalamat sa ambag ng mga OFW sa ekonomiya ng Pilipinas. Nakaligtaan niyang banggitin na layunin din ng pagdiriwang ang pagtataguyod sa karapatang pantao ng mga OFW,” dagdag nito. -Angel L. Tesorero, GMANews.TV

Read more via: http://tinyurl.com/2fp8tuv

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

OFW group hits Palace’s DFA, DOLE appointments

An alliance of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and advocates on Thursday expressed opposition over the Aquino administration’s appointment of Rosalinda Baldoz as head of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and its retention of Alberto Romulo as secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Migrante International accused Baldoz, former administrator of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), of incompetence in “addressing labor-related concerns of OFWs.”

“We are worried that the appointments of Baldoz and Romulo as heads of agencies directly affecting the protection, welfare and defense of OFWs could be reflective of the Aquino administration’s policy framework and perspective for the migrant sector,” Migrante chairperson Garry Martinez said.

Martinez disclosed that Baldoz failed to resolve numerous cases of unfair labor practices involving OFWs.

The Migrante official also accused the latter of enforcing anti-migrant policies, particularly the Memorandum Circular 04 banning direct hiring by requiring applying OFWs to undergo trainings only in recruitment agencies accredited by POEA.

“This resulted in loss of jobs and employment opportunities and imposed added exorbitant fees on OFWs,” Martinez said. “It also served as a milking cow for corruption in POEA.”

Martinez also cited the case of 27 Filipino nurses and physical therapists who accused the Sentosa Care of committing unfair labor practices and “involuntary servitude” against them in 2006.

They also filed an administrative case before the POEA against the Sentosa office in Manila and its representatives.

He said this particular incident “exposed how Baldoz treated cases of OFWs brought to the POEA.”

During a dialogue with the families of the OFWs, Martinez related, Baldoz dismissed the case by telling the OFWs’ relatives that “she could not do anything despite the overwhelming evidence against Sentosa.”

He said Baldoz willingly sacrificed the 27 OFWs in exchange for “thousands of jobs at the pipeline.”

“How can we now entrust the welfare of our Filipino workers, both here and abroad, to the kind of incompetence and neglect that Baldoz has so far displayed?” Martinez asked.

He also expressed fears that “no significant change” will occur in DFA in the next six years because of the reappointment of Romulo.

Martinez expressed worry that under Romulo, the DFA will remain unresponsive to “endless cases of repatriation, countless OFWs in jail and in the death row that the Arroyo administration had failed to urgently address.”

“There is also a pressing need for Romulo and the Aquino administration to instill major policy reforms in terms of labor migration and unfair and one-sided treaties that have long endangered the lives and welfare of our OFWs,” he added. — LBG/FONJ, GMANews.TV

via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/195040/ofw-group-hits-malacanangs-dfa-dole-appointments?utm_source=GMANews.TV&utm_medium=facebook

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Sorsogon News Updates,

A Letter to P.Noy from an OFW

Mahal na Bagong Pangulong Noynoy Aquino:

Ako po na isang OFW ay nagpapahayag ng suporta sa inyong layunin sa maibalik ang nawalang dignidad ng ating bansang Pilipinas sa nagdaang mga panahon. Ako po ay naniniwala na ang isang administrasyon na nag-umpisa sa mali ay mananatiling mali hanggang sa kahuli-hulihang segundo ng panunungkulan nito. At ito nga po ang nahayag at naganap sa mahigit na siyam at kalahating taon sa ating Inang Bayan na Pilipinas.

Masasabi ko pong sa wakas ay natamo na nating muli ang kalayaang huli nating natamasa noong ika-12 nang Hunyo 1898 sa pamamahala ni General Emilio Aguinaldo. Ako ay napilitang mangibang bansa noong 2006 dahil sa nakaambang kawalan ng trabaho o hanapbuhay sa pagtatapos ng aking kontrata sa pinapasukan kong kumpanya. At sa aking pananaw na sa pangingibang-bayan ay matutugunan ang mga pangangailangang pinansiyal ng aming pamilya na hindi maaaring matugunan ng anumang trabaho sa ating bansa.

Sa kabila ng magiging kalungkutan, pagtitiis o sakripisyo na mararanasan sa pangingibang bansa ay hindi ito naging balakid sa aking solidong pasya na tumuloy at malayo sa kanila. Sapagkat ito lang ang magiging katugunan sa maaaring paghihirap na mararanasan namin kung mananatili ako sa pakikipagsapalaran sa Pilipinas nang panahong iyon.

Pagkalipas ng mahigit na dalawang taon na malayo sa aking pamilya ay natapos din ang aming pagtitiis. Sapagkat sa maikling panahon na iyon ay muli kaming nagkasama-sama ngunit hindi sa ating bansang Pilipinas na aming sinisinta. Sa halip, kami ay nagkasama-sama sa dayuhang bansa na nagbigay sa amin ng pag-asa upang mabuhay na hindi salat sa anumang pangangailangan namin sa araw-araw.

Napagdesisyunan naming mag-asawa na manatili na at ituloy ang aming pamumuhay kasama ng aming mga anak dito sa bansang aming kinalalagyan ngayon. Pagkatapos ay kami na lamang ang umuuwi taon-taon sa Pilipinas upang magbakasyon at makapiling muli ang aming mga mahal sa buhay na nananatili sa ating pinakamamahal na bansa.

Masakit man sa amin ay wala kaming magagawa na talikuran pansamatala ang bayang aming sinisinta kapalit ng masasabi nating buhay na maginhawa. Sapagkat kung kami ay magtitiyaga lang sa ating bansa e malamang wala rin kaming mapapala habang ang Pilipinas ay lugmok at ‘di pa nakakaahon sa matinding pagkadukha.

Ang aming panawagan sa ating Mahal na Pangulong Noynoy Aquino na sana’y isulong at isakatuparan niya ang layunin ng kanyang administrasyon na “WALANG MAHIRAP” kung “WALANG CORRUPTION.” Sapagkat hindi lingid sa kanyang kaalaman ang nagiging dahilan ng marami nating kababayan — kabilang na ang aming pamilya — na napipilitang mangibang bansa ay para magtrabaho.

Kasunod nito ay piliin na rin na doon na manirahan kaysa manatili sa sariling bayan na laganap ang kahirapan, walang hustisya, mabagal ang proseso ng mga ahensiya, kasama na ang katiwalian. At ang mga kawani ng gobyerno — nasa mababa man o mataas na posisyon — imbes na maglingkod sa mamamayan ay sila pa mismo ang nagiging hadlang at nagpapahirap sa nakararami.

Sa ganitong sistema ng ating bansa ay hindi malayong mas piliin ng maraming propesyunal at mga skilled workers na gamitin ang kanilang husay sa ibang bansa kaysa sa sariling bayan.

Ang mga OFW, kasama ang buo naming pamilya ay muling umaasa na sa ilalim ng panunungkulan ng bagong halal na Pangulo ng Bayan ay matutupad at muling maibabalik ang naglahong pangarap ng sambayanan. Dili’t walang iba kundi ang pag-asang mabago, maiangat ang ating nakalugmok na bansa sa kahirapan at muling kilalanin ang Pilipinas sa buong mundo – hindi lamang sa husay ng mga Pilipino kundi sa kaayusan ng pamumuno ng mga nakaupo sa gobyerno.

Ito na ang oras ng pagbabago. Ang oras upang ibalik ang tiwala ng sambayanan sa gobyerno at ang dangal ng ating Inang Bayang Pilipinas. Mabuhay po kayo mahal na Pangulong Noynoy Aquino at God bless you!

P.S.

Sana naman po ay pagtuunan n’yo ng pansin ang mga kababayan nating may mga suliranin at kaso dito sa Saudi Arabia at kami ay umaasa na kayo ay makabisita. Sana po mga Kapuso ay inyong mailathala ito at maiparating sa Mahal na Pangulong Noynoy Aquino ito. Nais ko rin sanang hilingin kay Ms. Kara David ng OFW Diaries ay mag-cover naman at mag-documentary dito Saudi Arabia.

Solid Kapuso po kami at we always watching GMA Pinoy TV sa Orbit. God bless po sa inyong lahat at more power. – GMANews.TV

Thanks and regards,

Gary Bangit Vasquez


via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/194968/a-letter-to-pnoy-from-an-ofw


Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

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).

Read more via: http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20100701-278576/HK-OFWs-ask-Aquino-Cut-passport-cost

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

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,

Qatar vows to promote OFW rights and welfare

Amid the rising number of problems raised by migrant workers there, officials of Qatar’s human rights body visited the Philippines to assure overseas Filipino workers (OFW) that the Middle East country is stepping up efforts to safeguard their welfare.

In a round-table discussion Friday, an official of Qatar’s National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) said they have been touring countries sending their labor force to Qatar to explain available remedies in cases of labor-related problems of migrant workers.

“Most workers don’t know there are bodies in Qatar that will accept their complaints,” said Fahed Ahmed Al-Muhammad, head of the NHRC’s legal department, saying the committee was created to protect and promote human rights in the country including those of migrant workers.

According to the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), the Philippine Embassy and the labor office in Qatar recorded some 1,800 cases of distressed OFWs, about 460 cases of runaway workers, and over 800 repatriated Filipinos during the first semester of 2008.

Al-Muhammad added they have recorded more than 1,200 complaints from migrant workers of all nationalities in 2009.

Standard contract in Qatar

During the discussion, a former Qatar worker now in the Philippines said he had Filipino friends who complained they were given salaries lower than indicated on their contracts.

A woman likewise complained her husband was deployed as a carpenter but was instead assigned as a steel fixer — a more difficult job — when he got to Qatar.

His salary remained the same, however, the woman added.

Others meanwhile said there were reports of workers being made to work for longer hours, or sent to Qatar only to find out the projects were non-existent.

Al-Muhammad thus scored the need for both Filipino workers and agencies to ensure that they sign and process only the standard contract accepted in Qatar.

“There is a standard employment contract in Qatar, and the embassies are given copies of this,” he explained.

Even those processed by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) are thus sometimes not accepted in Qatar if they are different from the country’s standard contract, he said.

One problem with the Qatari labor code, Al-Muhammad added, is that it does not cover migrant domestic workers as they are not classified as workers in Qatar.

He also expressed hope that the bilateral labor agreement initiated by the Qatari government, which is expected to better protect migrant workers, will soon be signed by the Philippine government.

Protection of migrant workers

Al-Muhammad nevertheless said his country has made gains toward improving the lot of migrant workers there.

One example is that labor courts in Qatar almost always rule in favor of the workers in cases of disputes.

“100 percent of the cases heard in courts are resolved in favor of the workers, especially if the workers’ complaints are well justified,” he said.

He cautioned, however, that Qatari courts have recently noted that some migrant workers use court cases as a means to prolong their stay in the country while looking for another job.

The Qatari labor code provides mechanisms for workers to seek resolution to their concerns even while in the country, added CMA executive director Ellene Sana.

“Workers don’t need to come home immediately if they have complaints, as these can be filed before the Qatari labor office and the NHRC,” she explained.

Qatar-RP labor relations

Participants in the discussion, which included representatives from Solidarity Center, Migrant Forum Asia, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the Commission on Human Rights and recruitment agencies, also gave suggestions to enhance labor relations between Qatar and the Philippines.

One suggestion is to beef up the labor office there, which currently has only four employees serving about 200,000 migrant Filipinos.

Another is to deploy a human rights attaché in all Philippine posts around the world.

The OWWA was also urged to improve the Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar it gives to outbound workers, to include their families as participants and former OFWs as speakers.

Records from the POEA show Qatar ranks fourth among the top destinations of land-based OFW, with almost 90,000 OFWs deployed there in 2009.

Of the figure, over 6,000 work as household service workers.

In 2009, OFWs in Qatar sent home over $180 million in remittances, which is an increase of over 700 percent from just $25 million in 2003.—JV, GMANews.TV

By JERRIE M. ABELLA, GMANews.TV

via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/194539/qatar-vows-to-promote-ofw-rights-and-welfare

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Contract substitution hit

MANILA – A militant migrant workers group accused the Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) for tolerating contract substitution, saying it has connived with recruitment agencies on the unfair practice.

Migrante Middle East Regional Coordinator John Monterona said around 30 to 50 percent of abuse cases on migrant Filipino workers are rooted to contract substitution as it received a daily average of seven to 10 reports of abuse.

Under contract substitution, Filipinos who wish to renew their contracts were usually given much lower salaries and benefits than the first contract, Monterona said.

“The other benefits are either deleted or reduced, for example the health insurance provision had been removed, or the hours of work had been extended,” he pointed out, adding that reluctant workers are forced to sign the contract or face joblessness after.

“Many have told us that they have been forced to sign a new set of contracts before their departure at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while others said upon their arrival on the job site facilitated by the counterpart agency of the deploying agency in the Philippines,” Monterona said.

The group also accused some officials in Dole and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) of conniving with recruitment agencies that allow contract substitution. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

DoLE launches another program for OFWs

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) recently launched a program that ensures the efficient delivery of the social protection services to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Dubbed ‘Kabayanihan,’ the program will be implemented in partnership with the Social Security System
(SSS), Philhealth, Pag-ibig, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said ‘Kabayanihan,’ a one-stop-shop that will be set up at the Philippines Overseas Labor Offices (POLO), uses a ‘bundling approach’ membership and services.

“This means that all government welfare services, social insurance, savings and investment, housing, loans and scholarship benefits to OFWs and their families, among others are unified to make it more accessible, convenient and affordable for the OFWs,’’ said Roque.

“Registration and transaction procedures are also expected to be simplified under the program,’’ said Roque.


By SHIANEE MAMANGLU/Manila Bulletin

via: http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/264057/dole-launches-another-program-ofws

Filed under: Government, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

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,

Humor in OFW film

WI DING HO, A Malaysian living in Taiwan, successfully captures the hilarious plight of Filipino migrant workers in his film, “Pinoy Sunday.” He got noticed with his short film, “Hu Xi (Respire),” which garnered the Kodak Short Film and Young Critics Awards at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival.

About his latest movie, he shares: “The first time I lived in Taiwan, I had no family, friends and connections. I was looking for a job. I was the same as the Pinoy migrant workers. I sorely missed home.”

The image of Filipinos scavenging for used furniture in the streets was vivid in his mind. “The locals in Taipei don’t do that. They have too many resources. I used the image of two guys carrying a discarded couch as my starting point.” He wrote the story with an Indian writer (Ajay Balakrishnan) based in New York.

Loneliness

“Pinoy Sunday” stars Epy Quizon, Bayani Agbayani, Alessandra De Rossi, Meryll Soriano and Nor Domingo as migrant workers trying to endure loneliness and deportation in Taiwan.

It’s a series of misadventures involving the red couch, as well as a test of friendship for Bayani and Epy as they accidentally run into a drunk motorcycle driver, help a suicidal teen, and escape the wrath of an angry dog.

Bayani’s character is the typical Filipino male – he diligently sends money to his family back home. He’s terrified to lose his job, but is more than willing to have an extramarital affair. Epy is the romantic type who’s desperate to have a woman (De Rossi) in his life. They’re both dreamers who soften the blows of ill fate with humor.

During a screening in Taiwan, Wi noticed a phenomenon among the foreign workers. He relates: “The audience laughed hard when Bayani called his family back home after saying goodbye to his girlfriend [Soriano]. It’s sad, but this is common among migrant workers in Taiwan.”

Family man

How did Wi get his actors? “I refused to watch their past films. I want them to be real, I didn’t want any acting. When I met Bayani in person, he looked like a family man – and that was what I was looking for.”

Was there a communication barrier during the shoot? He replies, “On the set, I tell them what to do. The actors improvise with the dialogue. I don’t understand the language, but I know it works, because when the crew watches the monitor, I see them laughing.” Dialogue is mostly in Tagalog, with some Mandarin.

Wi was in Manila early this week to preview his film. He shares, “We’re looking for distributors. We just don’t want to screen this film at festivals – we plan to have a commercial run here.”


By Rica Arevalo/Philippine Daily Inquirer

via: http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20100625-277525/Humor-in-OFW-film

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

DOLE, POEA Failed to Curb Rampant Cases of OFWs Contract Substitution

PRESS RELEASE

An alliance of Filipino migrant workers group in the Middle East today said the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) under the out-going Arroyo administration failed to curb the rampant cases of OFWs contract substitution victimizing thousands of OFWs especially those deployed in the Middle East.

“Cases of contract substitution are still rampant among OFWs deployed in the Middle East; it is about 3 to 5 cases out of the average 7-10 daily cases we have been receiving from troubled OFWs,” John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional director.

Monterona said despite that plenty of the cases lodge by distress and repatriated OFWs in POEA Adjudication unit are mostly cases of contract substitution and labor malpractices committed by their erring employers, the DoLE-POEA failed to curb it or much less to totally solve the prevailing problem of contract substitution.

“It appears that the employment contract signed by the hired OFW facilitated by its recruitment agency is not been honored by most of the foreign employers as many hired OFWs have been asked or even forced to sign a new contract upon arrival at their job site,” Monterona added.

Monterona revealed that based on the accounts of OFWs victims of contract substitution, their recruitment agency will let them sign a new set of contract, different from the one they have signed during processing of their formalities, upon their departure only to find out that the stipulated salary has been reduced, and other terms and conditions such as medical insurance and housing provision have been omitted.

“Many have told us that they have been forced to sign a new set of contracts before their departure at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, while others said upon their arrival on the job site facilitated by the counterpart agency of the deploying agency in the Philippines,” Monterona revealed.

Monterona added in such a situation, if you are the departing OFW, you will be forced to sign the new employment contract that you have not read fully because you are already departing in an hour or sign it because you have already incurred much opting to proceed for your deployment.

“Contract substitution is made possible in collaboration of recruitment agencies and foreign employers, and that the DoLE-POEA doing nothing about it; it is a mockery of the original employment contract signed by the OFWs while they are still in the Philippines,” Monterona averred.

Monterona added the original employment contract is intended to protect OFWs labor rights as set forth in the terms and conditions of employment, but the moment a new contract with different terms and conditions unfavorable to the OFWs has been forged without the knowledge of the OFWs or by force they have been told to sign it, then it is putting OFWs employment at risks even before their deployment.

“Thus, Instead of simply ‘dropping’ the probationary period provision on OFW contracts, the POEA must instead focus on curbing contract substitution and violations committed by foreign employers which we believed would not be possible without the collaboration of the deploying recruitment agencies,” Monterona.

“Recruitment agencies and foreign employers that are party to such labor malpractice must be banned from deploying and recruitment,” he added.

Migrante-Middle East is calling the incoming Aquino government through its soon-to-appoint Labor department Secretary to look at this problem and investigate so that a new system will be developed with the objective of curbing the rampant cases of contract substitution victimizing thousands of OFWs.

Reference:
John Leonard Monterona
Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator

via: http://www.bulatlat.com/main/2010/06/25/dole-poea-failed-to-curb-rampant-cases-of-ofws-contract-substitution/

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

POEA to drop probationary period on OFW contracts, but allow similar setups

The term “probationary period” will be removed, but not really.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) clarified Thursday that while it is disallowing the use of the term “probationary period” in overseas employment contracts, recruitment agencies may still retain the concept “in essence”.

POEA deputy administrator Hans Leo Cacdac told GMANews.TV in a phone interview that agencies will no longer be allowed to include a probationary period in their contracts. He however added that they may still specify a certain period for foreign employers to assess overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

“It’s just the term ‘probationary period’ that we’re disallowing, but in essence, it will still be there,” Cacdac admitted.

Recruitment agencies had earlier slammed the POEA’s plan to remove the probationary period in overseas employment contracts, threatening that they will stop processing papers for new workers unless the implementation of the new policy is put on hold.

In a press release, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said the POEA has not consulted recruitment agencies and foreign employers on the new policy.

“A probationary period of three to six months is standard in most countries of destinations in Asia, Middle East, and Europe which the POEA and recruitment agencies adopted many decades ago since the private sectors took over the recruitment industry in the early 80’s,” Geslani stated.

He added the period differs according to country, and is sometimes part of a country’s labor laws.

New workers are usually placed on probationary status for a definite period, during which companies assess the workers’ performance and decide whether to retain them or discontinue their employment.

If the provision is removed from the contracts, Geslani explained, “almost all agencies will be subject to illegal dismissal cases filed by workers who did not pass the probationary period or qualify.”

Foreign employers will object to the new policy, which may thus lead to a decline in the hiring of new workers, he added.

Cacdac, however, said agencies will still be allowed to indicate a specific period in contracts when employees may be removed, but only under standards agreed upon by the employer and the employee.

“The probationary period gives the employer a free hand in terminating employees. Contracts must ensure that Filipino workers will be terminated only for just causes,” Cacdac explained.

He admitted, though, that employers may still dismiss their employees during the specified period, provided that just causes for termination are enumerated in the contract, to which the employees agreed.

“The situation will be similar to the probationary set-up,” Cacdac added.

The term “probationary period” is misleading, he further explained, because in the context of Philippine labor, the period is immediately followed by either termination or permanent employment.

OFWs are usually on a fixed-term employment contract of one or two years.

Despite the criticism, the POEA will issue a resolution on the new policy on a yet unspecified date, which will take full effect following its publication on major newspapers as required by the law, Cacdac said.

By Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

via: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/194379/poea-to-drop-probationary-period-on-ofw-contracts-but-allow-similar-setups

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs, POEA-Advisory,

4 Pinoys lose US jobs for speaking in Tagalog

BALTIMORE, Maryland – Four Filipina ex-staffers of a Baltimore City hospital haven’t gotten over the shock of being summarily fired from their jobs, allegedly because they spoke Pilipino during their lunch break.

“Hindi ko pa rin matanggap na the basis of the termination was the language,” nurse Hachelle Natano told ABS-CBN News.

Corina Capunitan-Yap, Anna Rowena Rosales, Jazziel Granada and Natano were fired from their jobs at the Bon Secours Hospital last April 16.

“I feel I was harassed and discriminated against because of my national origin,” Natano explained.

“They claimed they heard us speaking in Pilipino and that is the only basis of the termination. It wasn’t because of my functions as a nurse. There were no negative write-ups, no warning before the termination,” she added.

Last November, Bon Secours imposed for the first time an English-only language policy in the Emergency Room, the nurses said.

Many hospitals, especially those with foreign medical staff, implement the rule in trauma facilities because it’s critical everyone understand each other as they respond to life-and-death situations.

They were asked to sign the hospital’s “Emergency Department Expectations” that set the length of their lunch and snack breaks; lays down when they can take a rest; and directs that English should be the only language spoken while the nurses are on ER duty.

Granada was surprised when she too got the boot.

“I was shocked. I’m not even a nurse. I’m a secretary so I’m not involved with patient care. It came as a big shock and I was asking myself, why I was included,” she told ABS-CBN News.

Lawyer Arnedo Valera of the Virginia-based Migrant Heritage Commission has filed a complaint with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).

The nurses, he pointed out, were “arbitrarily terminated from work without due process,” and the English-only rule violated their basic rights.

Fired because of bagoong?

This is not the first time hospital workers have been fired or disciplined for speaking in a language other than English.

In 2005, the EEOC led a federal law suit against the Highland Hospital in Rochester, New York on behalf of five Hispanic housekeepers.

They were sanctioned after they were overheard saying “hasta la vista” or goodbye as they were leaving work.

The EEOC said the English-only rule was unlawful and violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits job discrimination based on a person’s race, sex or national origin.

Valera believes the English-only rule at Bon Secours Hospital was too broad and so lacking in clear guidelines to be fairly and legally implemented.

“If you speak just a single Tagalog word and someone hears you, that can be grounds for termination which is what happened to our nurses,” he explained.

“All it takes is just one word. That can be a greeting, a remark or even the name of a Filipino dish. Based on this rule, you could say ‘bagoong’ (a fermented fish sauce) and lose your job,” Valera said.

Granada, still in the dark what Pilipino word she uttered to get the pink slip, speculates it might have been because she called a Filipino doctor in the hospital “Kuya” – a word of respect akin to the English “Sir.”

The Filipinas’ plight has been aggravated, they say, by the hospital’s inability to show any documentation of when the alleged violations took place.

Their dismissal was so abrupt it took several days for the termination papers to catch up with them.

Nurses’ rights

Valera said this incident goes deeper into the problems Filipino and other foreign nurses face in US hospitals.

“There is no business necessity, there is no rational justification or direct relationship between speaking in Pilipino to the performance of their job,” he said.

Lured by higher pay and wider opportunities for advancement, Filipino professionals – doctors, nurses, engineers – have flocked to the US for the past 50 years.

The Philippines, India and Nigeria are the top suppliers of nurses in the US. In the 1980s, nearly half of all foreign nurses entering the US were Filipinos.

“America is supposed to be land of the free but in our case we were terminated because we spoke in our native language,” Rosales said.

“It is so unfair for Filipino nurses. I am making an appeal to nurses’ associations that with this incident we should let them know that no patient is harmed when we speak in our native language,” she declared.

By Rodney J. Jaleco, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

via: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/global-filipino/06/22/10/4-pinoys-lose-us-jobs-speaking-tagalog

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs,

Filipino domestic workers: the struggle for justice and survival

By Niña Corpuz, ABS-CBN News

(Increase in trafficking and abuse demands stronger labor protection’)

Maria (not her real name) was limping when she arrived at the airport of Manila from Saudi Arabia. She is one of the 80 Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who was repatriated in August 2009 by the
Philippine government from the Middle East. All of them were women who worked as domestic helpers and fell victim to various kinds of abuses from their employer or the agency that recruited them.

Maria’s leg was fractured after her employer’s son pushed her from the stairs for not following his order. She also said she was made to sleep under the stairs and fed only once a day. But the worst part was when her male employer raped her. “He was touching me, kissing me and forced me to have sex with him. I couldn’t fight back” she said.

Her troubles started when she was illegally recruited by an agency in Riyadh last year. She was promised a salary of 400 dollars a month, but ended up getting paid only half of this. She was also forced to work long hours for multiple tasks. “We were treated like animals, we barely got enough sleep” Maria said.

The Visayan Forum Foundation (VFFI) is a non-government organization that promotes the welfare of OFWs. According to VFFI President Cecilia Flores Oebanda, there has been a 20% increase in the incidence of persons trafficked for domestic work: from 539 in 2008 to 697 in 2009. “If we talk about human trafficking, we have to think that it comes in many forms, like forced labour, organ donor trafficking, child trafficking but what alarms us most now is that this year there is an increase in forced labour among domestic workers” she said.

“Many of our domestic workers were promised good salaries but when they arrive at their destination, they only receive half, which means there is contract substitution. Many of them are fooled, the employer confiscates their documents, passports, and they are not allowed to go out. Most of the time they are locked up in the house and they really experience different kinds of abuse” Oebanda added.

In 2003 the Philippines enacted the Republic Act (RA) 9208, also known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act. The law foresees measures aimed at preventing the trafficking of persons including the rehabilitation and integration of the trafficked individuals. Trafficking means recruiting, transporting, transfering and receiving people across national borders by means of threat, coercion, abduction and deception for exploitative aims such as prostitution, forced labour and the removal or sale of organs.

The International Labour Organization (ILO), an agency of the United Nations, has called the attention of the Philippines on forced labor. The ILO’s Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations has made a direct request to the Philippine government to provide information on the application of RA 9208 in practice, such as the information on the prevention and protection measures, including copies of reports, studies and inquiries, as well as available statistics.

To coordinate and monitor the anti-trafficking law, the government created an Inter-Agency Council which has already submitted its report to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). “The report will be submitted to the ILO”, said DOLE Director Jay Julian.

Senior State Prosecutor Deana Perez said there have been 16 convictions since 2005. From 577 anti-trafficking cases that were filed in court since the law was created in 2003, only 242 cases are now pending trial while the rest are dismissed, archived or acquitted. “Many of the cases were dismissed after the victim had decided to settle, because they had been offered money or because they had gone back to work abroad instead of waiting on their cases. It ‘s really sad but it’s a matter of economic necessity. Between justice and survival, they choose survival,” said Perez.

In the Philippines there is also an Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) that holds orientation seminars in partnership with local government units as an effective preventive measure against illegal recruitment. “Human trafficking starts with illegal recruitment, people don’t get trafficked if they are not recruited illegally,” said POEA deputy administrator Hans Cacdac.

During the seminar, trained personnel educate the public on the good and bad aspects of overseas employment, the risks involved and the types of vulnerable jobs and cases encountered by OFWs in these jobs. “We advise them to be careful especially if the job being offered is dirty, dangerous and demeaning like domestic work abroad. They have to check if the recruiter is legal and licensed with the POEA. Likewise the employer abroad should also be registered” said Cacdac.

Domestic work has been a long-standing concern of the ILO. In 1948, it adopted a resolution concerning the conditions of employment of domestic workers. In 1965, it adopted a resolution calling for normative action in the area, and in 1970, the first survey ever published on the status of domestic workers worldwide. In March 2008, the ILO Governing Body agreed to place an item on decent work for domestic workers on the agenda of the 99th session of the International Labour Conference in 2010 with a view to a double discussion procedure to the setting of labour standards.

The ILO supports the Philippine Campaign on Decent Work for Domestic Helpers, which aims to craft a unified position to the Conference, and to continuously lobby for the passage of the domestic workers national law.

Part of the 10-point agenda on decent work for Filipino domestic workers is the immediate passage of the Batas Kasambahay bill, a law with the aim of uplifting and giving decency to the standards that will protect domestic workers’ labour rights. “Kasambahay” means “part of the household” in Filipino and this is how domestic workers are called. The job is not professionalized and workers are often, if not always, underpaid. With a minimum wage of 8,000 pesos a month, maids get only from 2,000 to 3,000 pesos, about 42 to 63 USD. The employers claim that they already provide for workers ‘ food and lodging. Also, maids do not have government insurance cards nor health cards, as required in regular jobs. Most of them also have to multitask. They cook, do the laundry, clean the house and take care of the kids. They also do not have a regular 8-hour working schedule but are on-call any time of the day. There is no minimum age requirement and many of the maids are minors who usually come from rural areas. Instead of going to school, they work as maids and send a bulk of their wages to their families. Maids come cheap and even members of the lower middle class can employ them. If they are lucky enough to work for a good employer, they are treated as part of the family. Some maids or their children are even sent to school by the employer. Sometimes the employer also shoulders their medical expenses or other emergency needs. But the master-servant relationship still exists. Some choose to stay because at least they have food and shelter there.

And yet, overseas domestic workers contribute much to the country ‘s economy. Official statistics show that the total remittances of unskilled labourers in 2008 amounted to 19.8 billion pesos (about 430 million USD) and nearly 80% came from working women.

According to Oebanda, while domestic workers are the Philippines biggest export, the local market is still their biggest employer. Based on the VFFI’s data, there are more than 1 million Filipino domestic workers deployed all over the world and 1.7 million working inside the Philippines. She says the Philippines needs to clean up it’s own backyard if it wants other countries to address the situation of Filipino domestic workers. The VFFI, however, is hopeful once international standards are set, countries like the Philippines will be pressured to comply.

In the meantime, people like Maria, continue to suffer the consequences of human trafficking and forced labor. She said she would never go back to working overseas, “I left with hopes of giving my children a better future, but I came back with nothing. Worse, I have lost my dignity and self-respect. I will carry this for the rest of my life.” Maria hopes that the millions of other OFWs won’t have to go through what she went through.


via: http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/-depth/06/22/10/filipino-domestic-workers-struggle-justice-and-survival

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

RP sailors unsung heroes of industry

By VG Cabuag, Business Mirror

MANILA, Philippines – Without Filipino merchant seamen in most of the world’s commercial shipping, what will become of world trade?

There is no clear answer but a hint may be gleaned from the remarks of International Maritime Organization (IMO) secretary-general Efthimios E. Mitropoulos, who on Monday called Filipino sailors the “unsung heroes” of the industry that carries most of the world trade in goods.

At the opening of the conference to amend some of the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), Mitropoulos said the international community should pay tribute to the Filipino seafarers.

“Here we are, first and foremost, to recognize the contribution of the Philippines to shipping and the international seaborne trade and pay our due tribute. [We] also like to pay due tribute to Filipino seafarers, past and present, wherever in the world they may be at this very moment, facing the elements, unsung heroes of an unsung industry,” he said at the opening.

Hundreds of maritime stakeholders are in the country for the conference, the first time that such a meeting is being held outside of London, where the IMO headquarters is located. Their decisions will affect seafarers working on all types of oceangoing vessels.

Filipino seamen, according to the latest figures from the Department of Labor and Employment, account for more than 25 percent of 1.5 million mariners worldwide, the single biggest nationality bloc.

Mitropoulos said this conference is the first ever to deal with the “human element” of seafaring, after many cases of violations of the human rights of crews as global trade expanded over the decades.

Delegates will discuss, among others, the harmonization of hours of rest to match those of the requirements of the 2006 International Labor Organization Maritime Labor Convention in order to reduce fatigue and ensure fitness for duty.
There will be discussions on the revision of maritime security standards, dangers of piracy and armed robbery on ships, prevention of alcohol and drug abuse onboard, leadership and teamwork training, marine environmental awareness training and innovative training methodologies, including e-learning.

As a result of the surge in piracy, the IMO has declared 2011 as “Piracy: orchestrating the response” as its world maritime theme. At the moment, there are 65 Filipinos from four ships still held hostage by Somali pirates.

“This, unfortunately, is the fate of the sea, as the Philippines, a maritime nation of a thousand islands, knows only too well,” said Mitropoulos.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, in his message read to the delegates, also hailed the Philippines for hosting this year’s maritime event and hopes that many of the country’s youth will join this “most fulfilling profession….With about 90 percent of the world trade being transported by shipping, it is only fair that accolades and praise be placed upon this vital segment.”

‘RP sailors unsung heroes of industry’ | ABS-CBN News | Latest Philippine Headlines, Breaking News, Video, Analysis, Features.

Filed under: 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,

Chopped body parts of OFW found in drum – Migrante

MANILA, Philippines – Severed body parts of an overseas Filipino worker were found stuffed inside a steel drum that was placed in front of an establishment in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, an official of a migrant workers’ rights group reported today.

John Monterona of the Migrante-Middle East said they have received information that the steel casing was purportedly left in front of Skyfreight company in Batha, Riyadh.

As this developed, Monterona is calling the attention of embassy officials in Saudi Arabia and validate such information so that the family of the victim will be informed as soon as possible.

“We are urging the RP post (in Saudi) to conduct its own investigation,” Monterona added.


Via: http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=586396&publicationSubCategoryId=200

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

BSP lifts service fee on banks with OFW money for 6 months

MANILA, Philippines — The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas approved the lifting for six months of the service fee charged on banks that facilitate the sending of remittances from Filipino migrants using the BSP’s Philpass system.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said the move will reduce the cost of sending or receiving remittances, something that is consistent with the goal of encouraging the sending of remittances through formal channels.

Philpass is the electronic clearing system for inter-bank transactions, such as check payments, and transactions between banks and the BSP.

In December 2009, the central bank and industry members signed an agreement allowing the use of the same system to facilitate the sending of remittances starting 2010.

Prior to the decision of the BSP to temporarily waive the service fee, each transaction involving the sending of remittances using Philpass was charged a fixed amount of P50. The decision to waive the fee for six months was made during the meeting of the BSP’s Monetary Board last week.

“The Monetary Board has approved the waiver for six months. This will help enable banks to lower their remittances fees,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said over the weekend.

Under the agreement between the BSP and industry members, a bank that receives a remittance from abroad shall use the central bank’s Philpass system to electronically transfer the money to another bank, which is closer to where the intended beneficiary resides.

Prior to the signing of the agreement, many banks transfer money to another bank through courier service, which Tetangco said has been costlier and has required more time for settlement than electronic means.

The use of the Philpass system has also made the sending or receiving of remittances much less costly. Previously, banks were paying a fee ranging from P100 to P550, depending on the amount of remittance, to facilitate the sending of remittances.

The central bank chief said that with lower cost, even more Filipinos would be encouraged to use the banking system rather than informal channels to send remittances to their families and other intended beneficiaries

The BSP estimates that three to four percent of total remittances annually are sent through informal channels, much lower than the 30 percent estimated at least five years ago.

“With this project, the percentage share of remittances sent through informal channels could go down even further,” Tetangco said.

He said the central bank pushed for this project to help OFW families, who have been burdened by still high remittance cost.

Remittances are considered a big boost to the Philippine economy, helping it avoid a recession last year. BSP estimates said remittances, which stood at $17.3 billion in 2009, were equivalent to 10 percent of the country’s gross domestic product.

By Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Via: http://business.inquirer.net/money/breakingnews/view/20100620-276623/BSP-lifts-service-fee-on-banks-with-OFW-money-for-6-months

Filed under: Bank Services, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

A FATHERS DAY SPECIAL FOR OFWs

What you are about to watch  is the FATHERS role in the family when the Mother works overseas. In this video clip courtesy by MMK/ABS-CBN will show us the continuing exodus of mothers for jobs overseas,  this affects the behavioral development of children they leave behind.

I was so inspired to feature this story  because not  many Dad out there  are ready to take the role as  Mom or even become a good parent in  nurturing their children.

HAPPY FATHERS DAY TO ALL THE DADS OUT THERE!!!!

Filed under: Encouragement, Inspiration, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs, Touching Heart, Touching Lives,

Airline ticket scam dupes Pinoys in US

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau


SAN JOSE – Hundreds of Filipinos wanting to buy cheap airline tickets to the Philippines fell victim to a ticket scam in the United States.

On Wednesday, the group went to the house of Lily Anne Sison-Lee in San Jose, who sells roundtrip tickets to the Philippines. They paid Sison-Lee but never received the tickets. Sison-Lee has disappeared since Thursday and has not returned calls.

Ethel Cavan, a victim of the alleged ticket scam, knocked on Sison-Lee’s home and said, “Hoy! Ibalik mo na sa amin ang pera!”

Cavan paid for 3 roundtrip tickets to the Philippines worth $750 each. She was told that she would get her flight itinerary only 3 days before the flight.

“Normally, when you buy your ticket, you immediately get it online, your e-ticket.  That was a red flag for me,” Cavan said.

Another victim, Charles De La Cruz, said he and his family bought 16 roundtrip tickets to the Philippines for a family wedding.

“Paalis na kami ngayon. Kaya lang kumuha na lang ako ng ibang ticket sa agency,” De La Cruz said.

They had no choice but to buy tickets from another agency worth 3 times more because he said Sison-Lee did not deliver. He said they spent all their pocket money.

“Pinambili ng tickets. Kaya wala nang gagastusin sa Pilipinas. Napasubo na lang yung credit cards,” said De La Cruz.

Chloe Homen acted as Sison-Lee’s middleman and is a ticket agent. She would buy tickets from Sison-Lee and then sell them to others. Homen has been in business with her for 2 years. She says Sison-Lee had always delivered.

This is the first time she failed her and Homen reported her friend to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

“Mayroon na nga client na-ospital dahil sa stress,” said Homen.

About 240 people who bought from Homen have not received their tickets. She owes more than $200,000 because of the scam.

“Gusto ko man ibalik ang pera nila, I don’t have the capacity to pay kasi ako I’m also a victim,” said Homen.

Irene Mayor is Homen’s sub-agent. Mayor claimed that she lost more than $100,000 by buying replacement tickets for her clients.

“It’s just money. But its hard-earned money,” said Mayor.

The group plans to file a police report against Sison-Lee. Balitang America tried to reach Sison-Lee at her home and work but she could not be reached.

Records show there may be more victims. The FBI encouraged all those who have been victimized to band together to make a stronger case against Sison-Lee.

Johnny Francisco, Director of Mango Tours, said Sison-Lee purchased tickets from their travel agency and had occasionally paid cash because she was not an authorized reseller.

“They should have dealt with a legal travel agent. In the state of California, they should be dealing with travel agents who belong to the seller of travel. I strongly advise passengers, when they buy their travel tickets, more so especially in cash, they should also get not only their receipt but their electronic ticket receipt,” Francisco advised future travelers. Balitang America

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, Scam,

My Dad is a Broke OFW (An open letter to all OFW’s)

Kumusta na kabayan!

First, I would like to thank you for being an OFW. My dad used to be an OFW and I know the many sacrifices you are enduring right now just so that you can provide the best for your family. I admire you, I appreciate you and in my book, you are a true Pinoy hero.

Second, I would like to help you. I would like to help you in the same way I helped Bobet, a former OFW. Under my coaching, from being broke and in debt, in just 12 months Bobet became a millionaire. Bobet is in fact back in the Philippines. He no longer needed to work as a nurse here in the U.S. He no longer misses his wife and kids. He can now kiss and hug them everyday. He has achieved in 1 year what most OFWs will never achieve in their lifetime. How did he do it?

I taught Bobet the Secrets of Wealth. And if you want to be like Bobet, read on because I want to teach you the Secrets of Wealth as well. But there’s a catch. You will only understand the Secrets of Wealth by understanding how my dad, an OFW like you became broke.

I’ve experienced as a child what I call a roller coaster of wealth. In Tagalog, we call this “Gulong ng Palad” (Wheel of Fortune) because there are times we’re on top of the world and there are times we’re at the bottom. When my dad comes back from abroad it is like a fiesta. The alcohol is overflowing. The whole town seems to be at our door step and my dad’s pasalubongs never seem to run out. Packets of cigarette. Bottles of whisky. Chocolates for the kids. Jewelry for my mom. It is like we’re millionaires every time my dad goes home.

But we’re millionaires only for a short time.

Two weeks later, the money’s gone. My mom and dad start to argue. And my dad seriously considers going back to the ship. He borrows money from his mom – my grandmother (we call “Nanay”). One time, my mom and dad even asked me to borrow money from Nanay because both of them were already turned down. I guess that tactic worked because Nanay couldn’t say NO to his apo and we ate dinner that night.

Then things turn for the worse. The many friends who cheerfully greeted my dad’s homecoming are no longer around. Instead, creditors start hounding us, pounding at our door. At 8 years old, I am taught to lie and tell the creditor my mom is not around even though she is just there beside me kneeling and praying the creditor goes away.

From feeling like millionaires for a few days to being dead broke 2 weeks later – describing it as a roller coaster or a wheel of fortune is an understatement. My mom and dad managed to squander all their savings and more.

So 2 months later, my dad is back at the airport again. We have tears in our eyes once again as we bid him goodbye. My dad would have to work hard on a ship 10 months in a year mostly to pay off our greedy lenders and creditors.

My dad tried to invest – buying a tricycle but the business became bankrupt as fast as it was started. My dad recalled that tricycle with pride in his voice “It was the first stainless steel tricycle in our town”. He was proud of the product but he did not take the time to understand the business.

There were many days our home is literally dark because we couldn’t pay for the electric bill. Once, as a 9-year old boy, I was devastated when I saw my books have been sold so that we will have food on the table that day. Then the worst happened: we lost our home to foreclosure because there was no money left to pay for the mortgage.

Is the story above familiar to you? I bet most OFWs have the same lifestyle cycle as my dad. Rich one day then broke another.

Have you discovered the Secrets to Wealth in my dad’s story?

At its core, it really is very simple. You will be wealthy if you do the exact opposite of what my dad did.

Don’t waste your money by throwing a lavish home coming party for the whole town – SAVE your money instead. Have a small gathering with your family and loved ones. Your children will appreciate it more because they want your presence more than your presents. Get into the habit of saving at least 10-20% of everything you earn. The earlier you get that habit the wealthier you will become or the faster you will become a millionaire.

Bobet saves 50% of what he earns. No wonder he has become a millionaire in only 12 months.

But you cannot save your way to millions. You have to learn how to invest your savings. My aunt who used to work as a bank clerk, who earned 1/10th of what my dad earned as a seaman is now a multi-millionaire because she learned to invest her money. Your savings must go to “work” for you. They must produce good returns or profit. But you cannot stop there. You have to reinvest your profits so that your wealth can grow exponentially.

My aunt started a business butchering chickens in the wet market (palengke). She saved half of her profits and lived off the other half. She then put her savings to buy a store. The profits from the store and the chicken business were then invested into a farm. The profits from the farm, the store and the chicken business were then invested into a resort. The profits from the resort, the farm, the store and the chicken business were then invested into apartment buildings.

As a result of saving, investing, and reinvesting her profits, my aunt becomes richer and richer even as she works less and less while my dad because of spending, borrowing, then spending becomes poorer and poorer even as he works harder.

The choice is yours. Bobet chose to become rich and he put in the time to learn and apply the Secrets of Wealth. Bobet is now in the Philippines employing 30 people because of the businesses he started. 30 families now rely on Bobet because he applied the Secrets of Wealth and Bobet is proving you can become wealthy even back home.

I like you to be wealthy my friend. But the choice is up to you.

Dedicated to your success,

Trace

P.S. Please forward this to every OFW you know – in fact, forward it to everyone you know for that matter. Everyone needs to learn and apply the Secrets of Wealth.

Trace Trajano is a real estate investor, author of the best selling book “Think Rich – Quick” and a wealthcoach to students around the world. His vision is to create directly or indirectly 1 Million Pinoy Millionaires worldwide by the year 2020. Trace himself is an OFW living in the Mason Ohio with his wife and 2 kids. For more information go to http://BuyFirstDeal.com

—–

To our financial freedom!

Jay Castillo
Real Estate Investor
Real Estate Broker License #: 20056
Blog: http://www.foreclosurephilippines.com
Social Network: http://foreclosurephilippines.ning.com
Mobile: +639178843882
E-mail: ph.investor [at] gmail [dot] com

Filed under: Business, Business Ideas for OFW Families, Financial Literacy, Kwentong OFW, Motivation, OFW Corner, OFW Livelihood Training, ,

Pinoy nurses in CNMI hit delayed, partial wages

GARAPAN, Saipan – At least 22 Filipino nurses and auxiliary personnel in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) have complained they have not been paid on time for as long as three months now.

Some nurses received partial payments for their salaries, but are still uncertain whether they would get paid in full or if they would get paid after all in the next pay period.

The 22 overseas health workers are employed by a private employment agency, Saipan Employment Agency and Services, for work in the CNMI, a U.S. territory some three hours away from Manila.

These Filipino nurses are assigned to the CNMI government-run Rota Health Center and Tinian Health Center, located in two other major islands of the CNMI.

In the CNMI’s capital island of Saipan, nurses in the government-run hospital are directly employed by the government and do not experience salary delays.

Most of the government nurses in Saipan and in the whole Northern Marianas are Filipinos.

Nagi-stay pa rin kami dito dahil ayaw naman naming iwanan ang mga pasyente namin. Pero sana maayos na itong problema namin. Sana ma-hire na kami directly ng gobyerno. Hindi na namin makakayanan kapag ‘di pa kami makatanggap ng sweldo,” one of the Filipino nurses at the Rota Health Center told GMANews.TV.

(We’re staying here because we don’t want to abandon our patients. But we’re hoping that our problem would be addressed. We hope we’d be hired directly by the government. We can’t stand it any longer if we still don’t receive our wages.)

Filipino nurses in both Tinian and Rota do not want to be identified, fearing retaliation from either the employment agency or the CNMI government.

Since March 2010, nurses in Rota received payments covering only the hourly $4.55 minimum wage of their salaries, and not their complete hourly salary of $8.93 to $9.20 an hour.

These nurses’ employment agency, SEAS, has also been permanently barred and disqualified from hiring, renewing or employing foreign workers in the CNMI because of labor violations.

SEAS appealed the decision, but the CNMI Department of Labor upheld the debarment and disqualification. The agency can still appeal the latest decision.

The employment agency likewise said it has not been receiving payments from the CNMI government and, as a result, could not pay these Filipino nurses for the services they render at the government health centers.

CNMI lawmakers stepped in to identify funds to pay the nurses salary. However, the funding appropriated by lawmakers and approved by the governor could only cover partial payment of the salaries.

The Philippine Consulate General in Saipan could not be reached as of posting time.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration show there are over 3,200 Filipino workers in the US territory as of 2009.—JMA/JV, GMANews.TV

By HAIDEE V. EUGENIO, GMANews.TV

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Former OFW runs a farmers’ co-op

A civil engineer who worked for six years in Saudi Arabia returned to his hometown of Sta. Rita, Pampanga, in 1992 and decided to make farming as his main source of livelihood by planting rice and vegetables in his own three hectares. He is Fidel David who finished his engineering course in 1987 at the Guagua National Colleges.

Knowing the difficulty of some of his barrio mates in Brgy. San Matias in making money from farming, he thought of organizing the Bangon San Matias Multi-Purpose Cooperative that initially engaged in palay and vegetable trading. He believed that by engaging in trading, his fellow farmers will have a better opportunity to sell their produce at a better price.
His cooperative is small compared to other groups. They have only 26 regular members and 15 associate members. But being small has its advantages. It is much more manageable and the members could be served more efficiently.

The members grow high-value vegetables such as different varieties of pepper, hybrid tomato, eggplant, cucumber, squash, upo, sitao and several others. Most of them usually devote 2,000 or a bit bigger to vegetables which is quite profitable. Last September, David planted Django, a hot finger pepper, on 2,000 square meters. He started harvesting 65 days later, and during the peak production month of December and January, he was harvesting 1.5 to 2 tons every five days. The price was as much as P190 per kilo but the price went down later. The plants were still productive during our interview last May 22 but the farmgate price had gone down to P15 to P20 per kilo.

The co-op is helping the members by giving production loans not in cash but in kind. For pepper production, the amount is P10,000 to P15,000 while it is P25,000 to P35,000 for ampalaya. David said that the farmer can net P70,000 to P80,000 from his 2,000 square meter ampalaya plantation.
He confesses that it is not easy to open up markets for their vegetables. He remembers they had really difficulty penetrating many public markets in Pampanga because he suspects that there are syndicates controlling the markets. He says, however, that they are concentrating on the markets in San Fernando and Guagua in Pampanga, and Dinalupihan, Bataan.

David is very thankful that the Department of Agriculture gave them a free space at the Cloverleaf Market in Quezon City last year. With this David is very upbeat about the prospects for growth of his cooperative because their products could now be sold to direct buyers.

By ZAC B. SARIAN

Filed under: Agriculture, Business, Business Ideas for OFW Families, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, ,

OFW households seen to save less, spend more

By Michelle Remo/Philippine Daily Inquirer

 

THE NUMBER of Filipino households that saved a portion of the remittances they received from migrant family members declined in April, according to the latest survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Results of the Consumer Expectations Survey showed that out of 545 households receiving money from abroad, only 38 percent said they had set aside a portion of the remittances for savings.

This was sharply lower than the 50.4 percent registered during the previous survey conducted in January, and slightly down from 38.3 percent recorded the previous year.

According to central bank officials, the drop in the number of households that had set aside cash for savings could signal an even faster rise in consumption in the second quarter, which could support healthy growth of the economy. Money not saved may be used for consumption or investment, they explained.

Rising consumption has its advantages, as demand for goods and services helps increase economic activity, they explained.

But Filipino households are still being encouraged to save a portion of the remittances they get to secure their future, central bank officials said. Savings, especially deposits in banks, form part of funds that are lent out to support investment initiatives.

Meanwhile, the number of OFW households that had earmarked a portion of remittances for investments also dropped year-on-year.

Survey showed that out of the 545 respondent-households nationwide, 7.2 percent said they used a portion of remittances for investments. This was lower than the 8.3 percent recorded in the April 2009 survey, but up from 5.8 percent in the January 2010 survey.

Officials said more Filipinos used portions of their money to save and invest last year, when the global economic turmoil reached its peak. The crisis prompted people to be mindful of their security by saving and investing, and consuming less, they added.

The decline this year in the number of remittance-dependent households that save and invest is consistent with projections of improving economic conditions as the global economy recovers from recession.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

OFWs investing more

by Jun Vallecera / Businessmirror
THEY may still account for a fractional minority, but the number of families of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) that set aside a portion of their monthly allotment as investments is growing, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said.

From only 5.8 percent of OFW families surveyed in January, their number swelled to 7.2 percent in the latest data that measures in general the confidence of Filipino consumers in April.

Deputy BSP Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo noted the growing number following the release of consumer confidence data which showed a slight weakening in the second quarter of the year.

“Those households using remittances for investment purposes increased to 7.2 percent from 5.8 percent,” he told reporters. Total remittances from an estimated 8 million Filipinos abroad reached a total of $17.3 billion in 2010.

Nevertheless, the percentage of households that allocated portions of their remittances to savings went down to 38.0 percent during the survey period from 50.4 percent three months earlier, Guinigundo said.

The great majority of households, or 96.3 percent of total, use the money for food; and 64.2 percent spend the money for the education of their children.

Covered by the latest survey are 5,706 households, a little over half of which (3,104 or 54.4 percent), are from Metro Manila.

Traditionally, the bulk of families receiving foreign-exchange earnings of family members working overseas are neither known much as savers or investors.

However, the number of families that do invest some of the repatriated money in small enterprises or financial tools has steadily grown in small increments, the BSP noted.

Most savings are in the form of bank deposits that earn very little interest over time, as most remittance recipients are not financially sophisticated.

The BSP is confident, however, that the OFW families would in time invest their savings in a wider menu of options as the continuing financial literacy campaign championed by the central bank begins to bear fruit—both in the country and among the migrant workers reached by the seminars in labor-hosting countries.

The campaign has gone to Hong Kong, Dubai and other parts of the Middle East, among many territories where thousands of overseas Filipinos work in various fields of endeavor.

Banks such as the privately-owned Security Bank and HSBC have also conducted financial literacy campaigns of their own to parallel efforts the BSP pioneered in much earlier.

Some sophisticated banks and financial institutions have crafted innovative products aimed at securing part of the monthly flows. For instance, global insurer Axa Life Insurance and Investments is preparing a new product just for OFWs—one that guarantees uninterrupted remittance if something bad-—and hopefully transitory—happens to family members working overseas and cuts off the remittance flow.

Such a product has yet to muster the approval of the Insurance Commission, Axa officials said.

Filed under: Business, Business Ideas for OFW Families, Invest in Sorsogon, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

OFWs forced to get 2 jobs for children’s education

by Jocelyn Ruiz, ABS-CBN Europe News Buerau

ITALY – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) based in Italy are forced to take a second job aside from their regular work to support the education of their children in the Philippines.

They are obliged to double their remittances based on the needs of payment of tuitions, school materials and uniforms of their children.

Carmen Ilagan risked herself to work abroad for her three children who are all going to study in this school year.

Aside from her regular job as domestic helper, she is forced to get an extra job.

“Nag-doble ako ng trabaho at tumatanggap ako ng extra work at nang madagdagan ang aking kita para doble ang padala ko ngayong enrollment at pasukan na,” she said.

Ilagan feels the pain of being separated from her kids but she knows her sacrifices will bring a better life for her family.

She shared that she calls her children to monitor their situation and give them parental advice.

“Sinasabihan ko sila sa pagpasok sa school magdala ng payong o kapote pati na din dun sa katulong na nagdadala sa anak ko na 4 na taon sa kinder,” stated Ilagan.

Quality college education

OFW couple Benjie and Lita Eclarin have a hard time working together to support the college education of their daughter.

They said that they need to tighten their belt to provide for the needs of their daughter to pursue a college education in Manila.

“Kailangan sa panahon na ito ay tipid at higpit ng sinturon kasi hindi katulad ng ginagawa ng aming pamilya dahil may pinag-aaral pa kami na nasa college,” said Benjie. “Napakahirap magpaaral ng college.”

They also added that parents like them have the responsibility when education is concerned.

“Mahal na ang mga bilihin, ang lahat at obligasyon nating magpaaral ng anak dahil iyon lang ang maipapamana naming sa mga bata,” added Lita.

A grandma’s sacrifice

Meanwhile, a 67-year-old OFW grandmother, Linda de Villa, continues to work abroad for her grandchild’s education in the Philippines.

Lola Linda got emotional while sharing her story to the ABS-CBN Europe News Bureau.

Despite the fact that she is supposed to be enjoying her pension in the Philippines, Lola Linda said she needs to sacrifice to help her family back home.

“Handa na akong makapag-aral sila maski na ako ay walang pinag-aralan. Hindi nakaakyat ng hagdan, basta sila makaakyat,” she said.

Even if she feels sadness and homesickness, Lola Linda said she is still hoping that her grandchild will finish his schooling so that she can go home.

Increase in remittances

Based on the studies of remittance centers here in Italy, the estimated remittances of OFWs in the months of May and June will rise compared to last year because of the double remittances of OFWs for the education of their children.

“May palang nag-iipon na sila for enrollment, ito June for school supplies. Ang matindi lang ngayon ay ang pag-we-weaken ng euro sa dollar kaya mas malaking euro ang kanilang ipapadala compared sa last year,” said Elsa Lim, managing director of Land Bank of the Philippines Rome.

Lim added that OFWs are willing to sacrifice their salary for their families back home.

She also said that the OFWs are brave enough to take on the challenges of working abroad.

Filed under: Encouragement, Inspiration, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs,

More RP nurses going to Britain

By Jerome Aning/Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—More Filipino nurses are now leaving for the United Kingdom than those going to the United States over the past three years as immigration policies continue to impede demand for foreign nurses in America.

Emmanuel Geslani, a consultant of several Manila-based recruitment agencies, said Filipino nurses were finding it easier to seek employment in the United Kingdom via the study-and-work program introduced by the British health service four years ago.

“Filipino nurses hoping to work in the United States may have to wait five to seven years for H1-B working visas and two to three years for EB-3 immigrant visas before they can enter the US while those interested in improving their academic qualifications can enter the UK under the study-and-work program,” Geslani said.

He cited statistics released by the UK Borders and Immigration Agency showing that the annual average number of Filipino nurses who went to the United Kingdom reached 7,000 from 2007 to 2009.

By contrast, there was an annual average of less than 300 registered Filipino nurses entering the United States from 2003 to 2009 using H1-B work and EB-3 immigration visas, data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) show.

Among countries, Saudi Arabia has received the biggest number of Filipino nurses, with an average of 8,000 deployed yearly. The POEA figures show a yearly average of 13,000 nurses deployed to various countries including the United States, Geslani said.

Unemployed nurses

“The opening of study programs that include on-the-job training (OJT) for Filipino nurses has been a blessing for the more than 300,000 unemployed licensed nurses in our country, with the glut increasing each year with more than 100,000 graduates each year,” said Geslani, a former vice president of the Federated Association of Manpower Exporters and a recruiter for the past three decades.

The huge number of unemployed licensed nurses in the country has led to a sharp drop in enrollment at nursing schools.

The study-and-work program allows Filipino nursing undergraduates to improve their academic background by studying in a British university for nine months to two years while being deployed to an appropriate work place.

While studying, Filipino nurses are given an opportunity of 15.5 hours OJT with pay. Nursing graduates from overseas are required to work 20 hours a week while taking units to upgrade their skills to British standards.

One international consultancy firm with an office in Manila has a work-and-study program that could send Filipino nurses to the United Kingdom within six months, Geslani said.

Other health workers

The firm offers two-year courses in the United Kingdom for Filipino physical therapists, medical technologists, public health workers and even social workers who would like to enter the British healthcare industry.

A new program allows Filipino nursing graduates an opportunity to study in Britain for an additional year. They will then get a work experience of up to two years and be issued work permits.

Most Filipino nurses in the United Kingdom end up becoming caregivers, as the country is also suffering from a shortage of health workers, according to Geslani.

In demand

Filipino caregivers are in demand in Britain because they are better English speakers than their counterparts from European Union countries such as Poland and Romania, he said.

Many Filipino nurses also try to apply to become registered nurses in Britain and get permanent residence status immediately although the entry requirements are much tougher, he added.

Typically, overseas workers in Britain can apply for permanent residence after working there for five years.

Security issue

Geslani said that while going to the United States was “not entirely hopeless” for aspiring Filipino nurses, getting there was becoming more difficult.

“The US Citizenship and Immigration Service treats the migration of foreign nurses as a border-and-security issue and despite legislation to increase the number of foreign nurses government bureaucratic red tape has failed to find solutions to the lack of nurses in the US healthcare system,” he said.

US hospitals and health institutions are also suffering from funding problems due to the global financial crisis.

US President Barack Obama’s healthcare program augurs well for Filipino nurses because more hospitals and health facilities are to be set up in the following years as the US government implements universal health care, Geslani said.

Call center agents

“The problem is that the implementation just takes too long. Our students and graduates couldn’t wait to work abroad and deployment to the UK seems more promising. We already have many nursing graduates here who are working as call center agents while applying for work in the US,” he told the Inquirer.

Filipino nurses’ interest in going to the US may be actually waning because of the weak demand there. For the first time, there was a drop in Filipino nurses taking the National Council Licensure Examinations (NCLEX).

Only 3,024 took the exam from January to March this year, compared with 4,194 in the same quarter of 2009.

The NCLEX refers to the licensure examination administered by the US National Council of State Boards of Nursing Inc.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs,

2 Pinoy health workers denied UK visa

By SHIANEE MAMANGLU/Manila Bulletin

Two Filipino health workers who allegedly made false claims about their funds have been denied student visas to enter the United Kingdom (UK) and may now have to wait for a decade before applying again, a migration official disclosed Sunday.

Diana Rose Bron and Jezel Camacho were refused permission after the UK consular office-Manila was unable to confirm the authenticity of their bank certifications, said Emmanuel Geslani.

“This should serve as a warning to all health workers who will be submitting false documents because they will not only be refused entry but also barred from going there for a period of 10 years,’’ he said.

Citing records he culled, Geslani said the bank certifications of the two students were issued in a province in Northern Luzon although they are residents of Bicol.

He said the consular office was unable to verify the authenticity of the funds claimed by the students, and, thus was declared outright that their bank documents were “fraudulent.”

Geslani said that bank certifications are needed to show that applicants for student visas have the financial capacity to live in the UK, pay for their tuition fee and living expenses such as accommodation, food and transportation for a period of nine months.

Depending on their UK location, he said the recommended amount for each student ranges from P450, 000 to P650,000. “This amount should be deposited in the accredited bank which issues the certification to the applicant. The certificate is one of the documents that has to be submitted by the student to the UK embassy in Manila,’’ he said.

The students were assisted by the International Student Advisors (ISA), a consultancy office, who admitted to have affirmed the certifications since these were issued by the bank.

According to him, the ISA had expressed belief there was nothing wrong with the students’ applications, except for their funds.

Meanwhile, Geslani bared that Filipino nurses migrating to the UK has now surpassed deployment of nurses to the United States.

The official attributed the decline in deployment of foreign nurses to US to its stringent immigration policies.

“Filipino nurses hoping to work in the US may have to wait 5-7 years for H 1-B working visas and 2-3 years for EB 3 (immigrant visas) before they can enter the US while those interested in improving their academic qualifications can enter the UK under a study and work program introduced fours years ago by a leading international consultancy office within six months,’’ he said.

Citing 2007-2009 data from the UK Borders and Immigration Agency, he said the annual average of Filipino nurses who have left for the UK under a study and work program was pegged at 7,000.

Figures from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), on the other hand, showed that from 2003-2009 there was only an annual average of less than 300 Registered Nurses (RNs)  who were allowed entry to the US using H1-B work and EB-3 immigration visas.

Moreover, Geslani said that nurse deployment to Saudi Arabia continue to be high with an average of 8, 000 yearly.

The annual deployment to the Kingdom is more than half of the yearly average of 13,000 nurse deployment by the POEA to various countries including the US, he said.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs,

POEA warns of fake Net job offers

By SHIANEE MAMANGLU/Manila Bulletin

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) advised Monday desperate job hunters hoping to work abroad to use their judgment and common sense when applying for a job on the Internet to avoid being scammed or fooled.

Hanz Cacdac, POEA deputy administrator, said many fake job offers posted on the Internet, particularly those for overseas employment come from sites in the United Kingdom, specifically London, and Canada and the United States.

“Meron tayong monitoring sa POEA on things posted on the Net. If you noticed doon sa mga violations, nag-i-issue tayo agad ng advisory para mapalinawagan agad ang publiko about these bogus job offers,’’ Cacdac said in an interview.

“Job seekers should really assert their selves before getting duped by scammers on the Net. They have to ask lots of questions or check the agency if it is licensed or accredited with us,’’ he said.

Cacdac said job offers sent via email seeking for addresses, personal numbers and money without any contract should be considered outright as a scam.

Asked if the phenomenon is alarming, the official said the agency will not take lightly the illegal work of recruitment agencies and will instead intensify its campaign against these bogus agencies.

He said this is also the reason why the POEA has partnered with the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to track down violators.

“We have an ongoing briefing with the NBI on how to track sources of Internet post and e-mail. Traceable naman talaga siya and we do plan to have an operation lalo dun sa mga fraudsters na nandirito,’’ according to Cacdac.

As of last year, data received by the POEA from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in London showed than over 200 mails from job applicants and local recruitment agencies were recorded requesting for verification of the legality of the job offers they received through the Net.

Most jobs being offered on the Internet are those for professionals and skilled workers, including engineers, caregivers, hotel staff, store managers and salesperson.

Agencies usually showcase high salary offers and benefits to convince people to grab the opportunity.

Earlier, former labor secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas urged job seekers to always double check the job vacancies being offered and ensure that these are authenticated by the POLO or the embassy.

She reminded the public to be always cautious and to follow the proper process of applying for jobs as mandated in the POEA rules and regulation for overseas employment.

“Dalawa lamang ang tamang paraan ng pag-alis upang magtrabaho sa ibang bansa. Una ay sa pamamagitan ng regular recruitment system dito sa atin na siyang ginagawa ng mga licensed recruitment agencies for their accredited foreign principals o di kaya ay through a government-to-government arrangement,’’ she said.

“Ang ikalawa ay through a direct hiring arrangement kung saan ang foreign employer ay deretsahan hina-hire ang lokal na aplikante dito sa atin subalit ang pag-alis ng prospective OFW ay ayon pa rin sa documentation process ng POEA,’’ said Sto. Tomas.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs, POEA-Advisory,

Think tank probes issues on OFW migration to UAE

By Jun Burgos/INQUIRER.net

MANILA, Philippines—A probing study on Philippine labor migration to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) was recently released by the Migration Policy Institute (MPI), an independent, non-partisan, non-profit think tank based in Washington DC, analyzing the movement of people worldwide.

Entitled “Migration’s Middlemen: Regulating Recruitment Agencies in the Philippines-United Arab Emirates Corridor,” it is authored by Ms. Dovelyn Rannveig Agunias, MPI Policy Analyst focusing on temporary and circular migration and diaspora policy.

The study was informed by 44 in-depth interviews with officials from the UAE and Philippine governments, recruitment agencies, and non-government organizations as well as with employers, and including focus group discussions with 86 Filipino migrant workers themselves.

It examined private recruitment agencies’ practices as well as their regulation by the Philippine and UAE governments, and notes room for significant improvement in this aspect.

The study utilized Philippine government data, which showed, among others, that there were some 600,000 Filipino workers in the UAE as of 2008 consisting of domestic workers, receptionists, and engineers, among others, making up nearly 12 percent of the population there, and with an annual OFW inflow of 200,000.

The author acknowledged that private recruitment agencies manage much of the flow of Filipino workers to the UAE, which is the third largest destination for Filipino migrants after the United States and Saudi Arabia, but noted that the costs of the services of these agencies for migrant labor deployment sometimes outweigh benefits for the workers due to the exorbitant fees they collect and even their violation of the rights of the workers they deploy.

According to the MPI report, “While the recruitment agencies, which are located in the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates, provide critical services such as logistical support and information about visa policies and living and working conditions, some abuse their clients by charging exorbitant fees or violating basic human rights.”

It added, “While the two governments have regulated recruitment agencies’ operations for nearly three decades, there is a policy mismatch between the two regulatory systems that, coupled with difficulties in enforcing regulations, has led to inadequate protections for migrant workers as well as a continuing flow of unauthorized workers.”

The MPI said this resulted in a three-tier labor migration system such as:

* A documented and organized labor migration based on written contracts following strict regulatory guidelines of both countries;

* A labor flow based on shifting arrangements that typically result in a lower wage, a different job, and reduced benefits compared to those originally promised to migrant workers by recruiters; and,

* An unregulated, unauthorized flow of workers who bypass the recruitment system altogether and migrate to the United Arab Emirates with a visitor visa.

The report further said, “While both countries are considering more stringent regulations for recruitment agencies, both governments must first commit to fully funding and creating capable and effective institutions to jointly harmonize, enforce, and closely monitor the impact of current and new regulations. Otherwise, regulatory changes could open the door to unintended effects, including increasing abuse and corruption and making illegal channels more attractive for prospective migrants.”

“The findings of this study are relevant beyond the Philippines-UAE corridor. They serve as a vital point of reference for other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere as they attempt to balance the need to create a flexible and dynamic labor migration system with the obligation to protect workers’ welfare in an increasingly transnational and interconnected global economy,” the report concluded.

Indeed, the recruitment industry is generally credited for its major contribution in matching millions of Filipinos to jobs in the UAE and many other countries. The industry’s feat, undeniably, likewise contributes to the economic stability of our country as well as to that of the OFW destination countries including providing for the latter’s labor demand.

But this recruitment industry, understandably the one principally benefiting from OFW migration, should likewise attend to and ensure, alongside its economic interests, the welfare and development of the workers they deploy. After all, a just and equitable sharing of the economic benefits of the migration industry it services would promote more gains for all stakeholders.

Surely, our government, for its part, would find very relevant insights from this MPI study to enable it to undertake necessary measures to improve the procedures, regulations and the overall policy on OFW migration.

Filed under: Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

Time to Re-think Brand Philippines?

by Robert Allen

“The thing is, we always shoot ourselves in the foot. And we never miss.” — Philippines Brand Owner

The election of Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino as the Philippine’s new President marks both a progression and continuity in the country’s politics. The progression is a successful, democratic transfer of power, undertaken without the violence that has marred previous polls. The continuity is the election of a candidate from one of the Philippine’s ruling families. So will this president-elect represent continuity or change for the country’s brand?
June 12th marks the 112th anniversary of Philippine independence and the founding of nation’s representative democracy. The Philippines brand has historically been dominated by two factors: disappointing politics and the OFW (overseas Filipino worker). The first is the image of instability caused by repressive colonial history; followed by Ferdinand Marcos’ ransacking of the country’s economy (and his wife Imelda’s infamous shoe fetish).

The OFW phenomena is in part a response to the poor economic prospects this legacy bequeathed. Millions of ‘Pinoys’ work overseas as seamen, health workers and domestic helpers across South East Asia and beyond, seeking prospects denied to them at home.

In the Philippines, the image of these expats is mixed. The remittance they send back is a welcome boost for the economy, but many worry that the resultant strains on family life will outweigh the financial benefits. Others grumble that this exodus is a symptom of the failure of the domestic economy to develop sufficient opportunities for ambitious and motivated young people.

The external impact of these factors on the Philippine’s brand is an image of a country unable to develop, and a people worthy of aspiring to no higher than the bottom of the earning food chain. Sniggering tales of prospective Filipino maids asking if their meager wage included ‘headache money’ are a regular feature of expat dinner party chatter.

Attending a brand launch last year, your writer witnessed first hand the hurt this image causes. In the week before the launch the US TV show Desperate Housewives had featured a scene where an American character had refused to be treated by a Filipino doctor. The show had intended to highlight the snobbery and ignorance of the American character, and the situation portrayed had clearly struck a deep chord with the audience at the launch.

Almost quivering with indignation, the speaker had railed against the iniquity of the Philippine’s image abroad: They weren’t just launching a new company brand that day (she asserted) they were building a new Filipino brand of professionalism, technical prowess and customer service.

In fact, the seeds of a new brand image are already taking root. The very things that have made Filipinos employable in the lower paid service industries – welcoming, friendly personalities, attentive service, good English and hard working – are the very things that provide the platform for a new global Philippines brand.

The Philippines is already a strong rival to the (better branded) India in outsourced call centers, where patience and enunciation are vital. The last few years has seen a wave of Filipino companies using brand to develop their image and drive change through their businesses. Brands such as leading bank BDO are blending outstanding customer service with product development.

No doubt the new President will have many issues pressing for his attention. But perhaps now is the time to re-launch Brand Philippines to help both the OFW workers, and local companies carrying the burden of being global standard bearers.
Robert Allen is associate director, brand strategy, in Interbrand’s Singapore office. Rob has worked in branding, marketing, communications and research both client-side and as a consultant, with more than 15 years experience across Europe and Asia.

Filed under: Encouragement, Inspiration, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner, Overseas Jobs, People who inspired Us, ,

Can RP go beyond seeing OFWs mitigating economy’s shortfalls?

By JEREMAIAH M. OPINIANO
University of Santo Tomas

The decade that opened the new millennium may be remembered as the decade for a sector whose acronym-OFW (for overseas Filipino workers)-is a Southeast Asian country’s trump card, or flagship, for economic development.

Five years before the turn of the millennium, in 1995, the country wallowed in despair given the emotional and national stress the execution of Singapore-based domestic worker Flor Contemplacion brought. A new law on migrant workers, Republic Act 8042, was formulated, of which its 15th year is celebrated just recently, June 7.

OFWs then were largely known as the abused, vulnerable, and distressed compatriots. Their numbers then, over four million, were not enough to create a windfall of public consciousness. From the time then President Fidel Ramos declared a national pursuit for “NIChood” (NIC means newly-industrialized country), and the country was hit by the 1997 Asian financial crisis, Filipinos abroad did a Superman to save a flagging economy.

But come the ascendancy into power of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and the global trend where billion-dollar remittances from over-200 million migrants worldwide created a global stir, the landscape changed. Annually there are new record-highs for deployed migrant workers and billion-dollar remittances to the Philippines. Rising also is the abused, vulnerable, and distressed compatriots and the numbers (while small compared to the annual deployment of migrant workers).

Transition

The decade that’s just passed will be known for many things. Outgoing President Arroyo and her officials at the government agencies handling overseas migration have put premium on the role of overseas Filipinos for development. The government tried its best to address the daily issues facing distressed migrant workers, as well as instituted controls to avoid further despairing situations facing overseas migrants. Even the efforts to save former Iraq truck driver Angelo dela Cruz, in exchange for the withdrawal of a small military contingent aligned with the United States, was worth the price of the country’s relations with the US.

New structures and policies were also set up and formed to address the socio-economic needs of migrant workers, such as the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO). Given also the popularity of remittances, and rising demand for private sector participation, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas instituted a set of policies to regulate the remittance market, allow new remittance service providers (including telecom companies) to come in, and encourage Filipinos abroad to handle their money better and save and invest in the Philippines.

The foreign affairs department also had its own paradigm shift, even if the response was late given that RA 8042 (or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act) was enacted in 1995. In 2004, upon winning a national election, President Arroyo ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to include overseas Filipinos as among the pillars of Philippine foreign policy. Thus, all of the country’s 80-plus embassies and consulates abroad are tasked to include serving domestic workers, caregivers, construction workers, undocumented or irregular migrants, among others.

Having a Philippine government that does all these programs and services to Filipinos abroad is something other governments do not have, says former Labor chief and Development Bank of the Philippines chair Patricia Sto. Tomas. “It makes sense to serve overseas Filipinos.”

But it doesn’t mean that the country is efficient in handling the migration phenomenon. As observed, while the government is trying its best to serve and protect Filipino citizens wherever they may be, the numbers and the global dispersion of Filipinos-over 8.1 million scattered in over 220 countries, says latest estimates from the Commission on Filipinos Overseas-may be too much for resources-strapped government agencies to handle. Some even observe that the interventions to distressed migrants are reactive. For example, while many civil society organizations have lobbied in the past to institutionalize a center and a holistic program on reintegration of returning OFWs, it took a Lebanon crisis in 2006 and the repatriation of droves of Filipina domestic workers to set up the NRCO.

Still, isolated impacts of the migration phenomenon to the Philippines prevailed: reduction in the number of poor Filipinos because of remittances, persistence of inequality, brain drain in some mission-critical sectors (e.g. medical, aviation, engineering), the booming of industries such as rural construction, banking, telecommunications, and real estate, and many more. And whenever the country faces an internal or an external crisis, such as the 2004 fiscal crisis and the 2008 global economic crisis (that dragged in until 2009), ask analysts from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank who provided positive things to save the Philippines: overseas Filipinos.

Routine

When talk is about the Philippines, “overseas migration comes into mind,” observes economist David Bloom of Harvard University at an ADB-sponsored conference last April in Manila.

That’s what President Arroyo’s government did this millennium: whether consciously or unconsciously, the Philippine economy is now a “migration economy” even as agriculture and manufacturing continued to slump and services consistently rose. But like previous presidents from 1974, when former strongman Ferdinand Marcos enacted the Labor Code of the Philippines that included some policies related to the export of labor, overseas migration mitigated many shortcomings in the domestic economy.

Data from 2001 to 2009 cited in a recent policy study funded by the University of Santo Tomas showed why overseas migration alleviated the Philippine economy:

-Migration management. While the aggregated outflow of workers and immigrants rises, year-end pending cases on illegal recruitment and adjudication in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration are becoming bulky;

-Labor market indicators. The annual outflow of temporary and permanent migrants is already half of the country’s unemployed workforce. Overseas migration did not also increase or decrease the number of unemployed at home, as even combining the efforts of deploying new-hire overseas workers and generating new jobs in the Philippines isn’t enough to keep stem the tide of homeland unemployment.

-Migration and the macro-economy. Remittances, on a nine-year average, are nearly a tenth of gross domestic and gross national product (GDP and GNP); are at least 14 percent of domestic consumption; and are a third visible major source of gross international reserves and the country’s external debt. The Arroyo government also saw remittances from overseas Filipinos being way, way, way ahead of foreign direct investment, portfolio investment, and official development aid. Imagine what would happen to our Balance of Payments if Filipinos did not remit to the country’s formal banking system.

-Migration and homeland social development. On the good side, remittances were able to reduce the number of actual Filipino poor. On the bad side, inequality wasn’t abated because of remittances, as those with financial capabilities are the ones able to migrate. Noticeably, given that the Philippine population is now 93 million, overseas migration also rises.

-Harnessing the development potential of Filipinos’ overseas migration. One would wish that there will be more savings and investments from Filipinos abroad that are directed at the Philippines. Amid the mid-decade trend to promote financial literacy to overseas Filipinos, overseas Filipinos’ savings and investments are currently not enough to create much economic impact.

Route

Soon, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, as president, will directly handle an entire bureaucracy’s commitment to overseas Filipinos’ protection and maximizing their socio-economic contributions. Will Noynoy do what her mother Corazon and presidents that followed her did as regards overseas migration and development?

Given how Filipinos’ overseas migration impacts on various areas of Philippine society, it may be time for the Philippines to develop a migration-and-development-system, not just a system that manages the outflow of people so that the homeland economy merely receives more remittances. Such a migration-and-development system will see the bureaucracy coordinated in protecting the welfare of overseas Filipinos and in maximizing the development potential of overseas migration. This can be an agenda for the forthcoming Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan.

The Philippines’ reliance on overseas migration and remittances seems systemic and high, yet one wonders why the country remains less developed all these years. This dependence on migration and remittances was the major migration-and-development outcome of the Arroyo government, and we wonder if the Philippines still has the capability to produce, and to hope for something better here at home.

We look then at how countries that previously sent labor, like Portugal or Korea, did it. The lesson from those countries is that the domestic economy boomed. The lesson also, as a leading migrant advocate said, is self-sufficiency that relies less on overseas migration and that even uses the resources from overseas Filipinos to buoy further, more than ever, the domestic capacity of the Philippines.

Such a vision on migration and development for the Philippines, while we cannot prevent people from leaving, surely complements individual overseas Filipinos’ dreams of a better economic future.

The author is also with the nonprofit Institute for Migration and Development Issues. Comments are welcome at ofw_philanthropy@yahoo.com.

Filed under: 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,

CHED to colleges: Go easy on OFWs’ children who can’t pay tuition now

With just one week to go before the school year starts, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) appealed to colleges and universities to go easy on students who cannot pay their tuition early, especially children of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

CHED Chairman Emmanuel Angeles said a promissory note should be enough for such students to be allowed to enroll and study this school year.

Ang nahirapan at hindi makapasok dahil may delay sa tuition, mga (anak ng) OFW, meron din tayong mga assistance, tutulungan natin. (Ang promissory note) pwede ‘yan(We have to assist those who have problems raising tuition money for enrollment, particularly children of OFWs whose remittances are delayed. A promissory note should do),” Angeles said in an interview on dzBB radio.

Maging considerate naman sila. Pwedeng gumawa ng promissory note (They should be considerate. A promissory note should be allowed),” he added.

He added Filipino students should not be denied the right to education just because the money for their tuition came in late.

On the other hand, he advised students in colleges and universities to approach the Office of Student Affairs for possible financial assistance.

Meanwhile, Angeles said late enrolment is still allowed within this week.

He said the CHED expects less than 10 percent of colleges and universities this school year to hike their tuition.

Angeles said they expect 70 percent of the tuition hike to go to increases in teachers’ salaries.

The commission earlier approved a tuition increase of up to P50 per unit in over 300 schools in the country. (See: More than 300 schools allowed to increase tuition)

Kung may problemang ‘di malutas [at the college level], pwede nila akong puntahan (If they have problems that cannot be solved at the college level), they can call my attention to it,” he said.

By Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

Visit: http://www.gmanews.tv/story/193052/ched-to-colleges-go-easy-on-ofws-children-who-cant-pay-tuition-now

Filed under: Education, Kwentong OFW, OFW Corner,

OFW remittances, reserves to help insulate RP — S&P

THE ONGOING euro zone crisis is not likely to affect the Philippines substantially given the country’s robust remittances and foreign exchange reserves, global credit watchdog Standard & Poor’s said.

Elena Okorotchenko, Standard & Poor’s managing director and analytical manager of Asia’s sovereign and public finance ratings, said in a May 28 commentary that the country’s external liquidity, supported by $15 billion in annual remittance inflows and foreign exchange reserves of about $46 billion, would serve as buffers to renewed global turbulence.

“This makes the Philippines somewhat less vulnerable to shifts in external sentiment,” the S&P report states.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show that remittances from Europe amounted to $777 million in the first quarter, about 18% of the $4.3-billion total.

Monetary authorities expect the amount of money sent home by migrant workers to grow by 8% this year from 2009’s $17.348 billion.

The debt watcher also noted that domestic investors hold a large share of foreign currency-denominated government bonds, adding a further cushion to external shocks.

“Moreover, many investors view emerging Asia (including Indonesia and the Philippines) as attractive investment destinations relative to many developed markets,” it said.

“This is due to their stronger growth prospects, better demo-graphics, lower government debt burdens, and adequate external liquidity.

“We believe the combination of these factors is likely to maintain capital inflows into Asia,” S&P said. — J. B. F. Santos


Source: http://www.bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=12387

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