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PH gov’t affirms total OFW deployment ban to Kuwait

The Philippine government recently affirmed the total ban on the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Kuwait. The ban will stay until certain conditions set by the Philippines are met by the Kuwaiti government.

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the deployment ban is lifted once the country gets justice for the death of Jeanelyn Pardenal Villavende, as well as an approved consensus on the standard employment contract of household service workers (HSWs).

“If we don’t get these, there will be no deployment. It should be both,” Bello said in a press briefing in Manila.

He said the ban was based on several reasons, among them Villavende’s brutal death and the host country’s attempt to cover up the case.

“Three reasons: One, because of the very brutal killing of our OFW, Ms. Jeanelyn Villavende. Two, because of an attempt to cover-up. Three, because of the failure of the Kuwaiti government to come to an agreement regarding the finalization of the standard employment contract that should be agreed upon by Kuwait and the Philippines in accordance with the memorandum that was signed between the two counties in 2018,” Bello said.

The OFW, he said, was brutally killed based on the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which conducted a separate autopsy on Villavende.

“If you see the autopsy report of the Kuwaiti government, it says that the death was caused by heart failure arising from physical injury. This is contradicted by the findings of our NBI autopsy report, which says that she was sexually abused. A closer scrutiny of the report would show that our OFW Jeanelyn was brutally killed,” Bello said.

Asked about Kuwait’s reaction to the deployment ban, he said they have not yet received any response but they have already requested that the ban be lifted because according to them, they have already charged Villavende’s alleged killers.

Bello explained that the total deployment ban was imposed to prevent a repeat of what happened to Villavende.

“We understand the sentiment of those who will be barred because of the total deployment ban. But we hope they understand our position,” he said. “We don’t want that if we send our workers there, they will again be exposed to (the) dangers of brutal treatment, abuses, including sexual abuse.”

Bello clarified that OFWs who will come home for a vacation would be exempted from the ban.

“This refers to skilled workers or OFWs who will come home for a vacation and they will go back. Kung new contract, hindi na (Those who have new contracts would no longer be allowed),” he said.

Meanwhile, the Federation of Free Workers (FFW) lauded the government’s total deployment ban.

“The action is appropriate. We cannot continue to sacrifice the lives of our workers to the altar of Kuwait in exchange (for) foreign employment,” FFW president Sonny Matula said in a statement. “The constitutional mandate on full protection to labor, local or overseas, includes banning of deployment overseas as not to be exploited, abused and being killed.”

Last Wednesday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration approved a resolution imposing a total deployment ban on all newly-hired workers bound for Kuwait. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

DSWD provides assistance to evacuees in Batangas

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) deployed its Quick Response Team (QRT) on January 12, 2020 to areas around Taal Volcano to assist local government units (LGUs) in responding to the needs of affected residents.

After the news about Taal Volcano eruption broke out on Sunday, January 12, DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista and other DSWD officials went to the most affected town of Talisay, Batangas to check on the evacuees.

When alert Level 4 was declared by the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (PHIVOLCS) on January 12, which requires evacuation in areas within the 14-kilometer radius from the crater, the DSWD disaster team immediately provided assistance in evacuating the affected residents to Sto. Tomas and Nasugbu.

The DSWD disaster team stayed in Talisay until the last batch of evacuees was brought to the Sto. Tomas Gymnasium in Batangas which serves as one of the consolidating areas.

READ: Taal Volcano situation: DSWD extends help to evacuees in Talisay, Batangas

As of 6:00 PM on Monday, January 13, the DSWD reported that around 4,960 families or 21,937 persons from CALABARZON Region have been affected by the Taal Volcano eruption. Most of them are staying in the 78 evacuation centers that were arranged by Local Government Units.

The DSWD delivered more than P300,000 worth of family food packs as augmentation support to the LGU of Laurel, Batangas.

5,000 family food packs from the National Resource Operations Center (NROC), the DSWD’s main disaster hub located in Pasay City, were delivered to the different evacuation centers around Batangas on January 13.

Taal Volcano situation: DSWD extends help to evacuees in Talisay, Batangas

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) conducted relief operations in Talisay town, Batangas in the wake of Taal Volcano explosions.


DSWD Secretary Rolando Bautista led the relief operations in Talisay Gym which serves as an evacuation center for affected families, which mostly consist of children.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) announced that “hazardous eruption is possible within days” raising Alert Level 4 over Taal Volcano after sporadic explosions were observed as early as 11:00 am on Sunday, January 13, 2020.

Talisay is located along the coastline of Taal Lake.

Pinoy farmers, fishermen get social security coverage

The Philippines’ Social Security System (SSS) has recently forged a partnership with the Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC) for the social security coverage of farmers and fisherfolks in the Philippines.

SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Aurora C. Ignacio and PCIC President Jovy C. Bernabe signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the promotion of SSS programs and the provision of social security protection to farmers and fisherfolks.

“SSS and PCIC share the same objective of providing adequate safety nets to one of the most vulnerable sectors of the society especially to our farmers and fisherfolks in the provinces. Hence, we are tapping PCIC’s regional network to cover more potential members with our pension fund,” SSS PCEO Ignacio said.

PCIC is a government-owned and controlled corporation under the Department of Agriculture (DA) that provides insurance protection to millions of farmers and fisherfolks in times of financial contingencies arising from natural calamities, plant diseases, and pest infestation.

Based on PCIC’s 2018 Annual Report, about 2.27 million farmers and fisherfolks nationwide availed of insurance products and programs and established partnerships and linkages with at least 3,000 government agencies, local government units, cooperatives, farmer associations and microfinance and lending institutions.

“Cognizant of PCIC’s wider reach, SSS has decided to tap PCIC to promote SSS programs and deliver our services specifically in far-flung communities where our farmers and fisherfolks are located,” Ignacio added.

Under the MOU, the SSS shall link up PCIC with existing Partner Agents (PAs), provide information, education and communication (IEC) materials on SSS programs, as well as to conduct briefing and orientation on the value of SSS membership during seminars organized by PCIC. On the other hand, PCIC shall include social security protection as one of the major topics during its briefing/orientation for farmers and fisherfolks. Also, they can refer to cooperatives and associations to SSS for coverage and promotional activities of their respective members.

“There is a greater chance of convincing other organized groups to join SSS as our accredited partner agents. That’s why we would like to thank PCIC for building stronger ties with us. We will ensure that SSS will support these farmers and fisherfolks as primary movers in our society who deserve social security protection in times of contingencies such as sickness, maternity, disability, unemployment, retirement, funeral, and death,” Ignacio concluded.

Also on the same day, the SSS entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Angono Credit and Development Cooperative (ACDECO) as an accredited servicing and collecting partner agent (PA). With more than 9,000 members, ACDECO is authorized to collect SSS contributions, loan amortizations, and other miscellaneous payments from regular or associate members who are also self-employed or voluntary members of SSS. The Angono-based cooperative is also authorized to receive and screen SSS membership and loan applications including funeral benefit claims.

PH government assures quality billeting for SEA Games delegates

The Department of Tourism (DOT) on November 26, 2019, convened representatives of various hotels in Metro Manila, directing them to assure quality accommodation for Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) delegates.

“Ensure that the Filipino brand of hospitality is exercised to the maximum capacity of hotels’ resources and capabilities,” DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat instructed representatives of hotels where foreign delegates of the 2019 SEA Games are billeted in.

The DOT said this year’s SEA Games is estimated to bring in a total of 137,563 room nights to hotels across the four clusters of Manila, Southern Luzon and La Union, Clark, and Subic, with delegates staying from Nov. 19 to Dec. 12, 2019.

The emergency meeting, held on November 27 at the DOT main office in Makati City, served as a platform for some 32 hotels, industry associations including the Tourism Congress of the Philippines (TCP), Philippine Hotel Owners Association Inc. (PHOAI); Hotel Sales and Marketing Associations (HSMA); and Philippine Association of Convention/Exhibition Organizers and Suppliers (PACEOS) to raise questions and suggestions in accommodating the SEA Games delegates.

Also present in the meeting were Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) officials Arsenic Lacson, director of Games Services; and Chris Tiu, deputy director for Volunteer Program.

The DOT will be assigning a focal person in each of the four clusters and will be upgrading its existing information desks at the lobbies of the participating hotels.

Initially intended to promote Philippine tourist destinations and tour packages to visitors, the desks are now open to disseminating additional SEA Games-related information from Phisgoc, and receiving concerns, which will be forwarded to Phisgoc for proper handling.

“Allow me to convey my gratitude to everyone for your support and active participation as a unified tourism sector, ready to render our best practices as we always have,” Romulo-Puyat said.

‘Bayanihan’

Romulo-Puyat was apparently moved by the “bayanihan” spirit and a “stepping up” mentality among the representatives of the hospitality industry.

TCP president Jose Clemente III has assured the DOT that the entire tourism industry will be behind SEA Games supporting its success.

“The tourism stakeholders felt the need to work together with the DOT as it is incumbent on us to show the best of the Philippines and the Filipinos. We have to keep our focus and ensure that the overall experience of our Asean neighbors’ athletes and officials will be good. It’s not as important how we start, but how we finish,” he said.

Romulo-Puyat said numerous brands and companies have reached out to the DOT to offer their products and volunteering services as a support to this collective goal.

“It is in situations like this that we are faced with the challenge of making our visitors’ stay in the country one of fun and fulfilling experience,” she said.

“Anyway, that is what this friendly competition is about. Let us win as one. To do this, let us rise to the occasion and put our best foot forward,” she added.

As of posting, the DOT is reaching out to hotels in Clark and in the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon (Calabarzon), and La Union to assure quality and consistent services all throughout. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)

Customs-NAIA destroys 20 tons of unsafe forfeited goods

Customs officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) on November 21, 2019, destroyed 20 tons of goods in Trece Martires, Cavite.

In a statement, Port of NAIA district collector Carmelita Talusan said the condemnation proceeding is part of the Bureau of Customs’ (BOC) efforts to decongest their storage facilities.

It is also in line with the directive of Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to clear storage facilities of abandoned and illegally shipped items to better facilitate trade within the port.

She added that the goods were destroyed using the thermal decomposer (pyrolysis) facility of the Integrated Waste Management Inc. (IWMI).

Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of substance and materials without any trace of molecular oxygen in the destruction chamber.

The activity was in coordination with the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) Optical Media Board (OMB) National Telecommunication Commission (NTC) and the Commission on Audit (COA).

The condemnation is in accordance with the provisions of Section 1145 (Disposition of Goods Injurious to Public Health) and 1148 (Disposition of Regulated Goods) of the Republic Act No. 10863 or the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

Top photo: DESTROYED. Customs officials at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport destroyed 20 tons of forfeited goods in Trece Martires, Cavite on Thursday (Nov. 21, 2019). The goods were destroyed using the thermal decomposer (pyrolysis) facility of the Integrated Waste Management Inc. (IWMI). (Photo courtesy of BOC-NAIA)

PH government issues list of holidays for 2020

The Philippine government released the copy of Proclamation 845 on November 15, 2019, which enumerates the regular holidays and special non-working days for 2020.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed on November 15 the proclamation, which takes effect “immediately.”

The 2020 regular holidays are January 1 (Wednesday) – New Year’s Day; April 9 (Thursday) – Araw ng Kagitingan and Maundy Thursday; April 10 – Good Friday; May 1 (Friday) – Labor Day; June 12 (Friday) – Independence Day; August 31 (last Monday of August) – National Heroes Day; November 30 (Monday) – Bonifacio Day; December 25 (Friday) – Christmas Day; and December 30 (Wednesday) – Rizal Day.

Special non-working days include January 25 (Saturday) – Chinese New Year; February 25 (Tuesday) – EDSA People Power Revolution Anniversary; April 11 – Black Saturday; August 21 (Friday) – Ninoy Aquino Day; November 1 (Sunday) – All Saints’ Day; December 8 (Tuesday) – Feast of the Immaculate Concepcion of Mary; December 31 (Thursday) – Last Day of the Year.

The proclamation also declares November 2 (Monday) and December 24 (Thursday) next year as additional special non-working days.

Proclamation 845 declares January 25, 2020 as a special non-working day because Chinese nationals worldwide celebrate Chinese New Year, which is “one of the most revered and festive events celebrated not only in China but also in the Philippines.”

The presidential proclamation also stresses the need to commemorate the 33rd anniversary of EDSA People Power Revolution on February 25, 2020 because it “restored democracy and ushered political, social and economic reforms in the country.”

It also notes that Black Saturday, which falls on April 11, 2020, has been traditionally declared as a special non-working day nationwide, in observance of Holy Week that is “one of the most cherished traditions of our predominantly Catholic people.”

The proclamation also emphasizes that declaring November 2 and December 24 as additional special non-working days nationwide “will strengthen family ties by providing more time for the traditional All Saints’ Day, All Souls’ Day and Christmas Day commemorative activities, and will promote domestic tourism as well.”

Meanwhile, December 8 of every year is celebrated as a special non-working holiday in the entire country to commemorate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, as provided under Republic Act 10966 signed by Duterte on December 28, 2017.

The proclamations declaring national holidays for the observance of the Eid’l Fitr and Eid’l Adha will be issued after the approximate dates of the Islamic holidays have been determined, in the accordance with the Islamic calendar or the lunar calendar, or upon Islamic astronomical calculations, whichever is possible or convenient.

Proclamation 845 must be published in a newspaper of general circulation. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)

DOLE expands internship coverage

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on October 26, 2019, announced the expansion of the coverage of the Government Internship Program (GIP) to encourage qualified individuals to pursue a career in government service.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III signed Department Order No 204-A series of 2019 which allowed applicants aged 31 years old and above to also apply for the program.

Previously, the DOLE-GIP is open only to beneficiaries aged 18 to 30 years old.

To qualify, applicants must have no work experience or with intermittent work experience; laid-off or terminated due to closure of establishments; or displaced due to natural or manmade disasters.

The program may also be extended to victims of armed conflict, rebel returnees, persons with disability, and indigenous peoples.

The GIP beneficiaries are tasked to assist the DOLE and its partner agencies in duties that are not highly technical, such as encoding of registrants in the Public Employment Service Offices (PESO) Employment Information System; and profiling of child laborers, PWDs, and senior citizens in concerned barangays.

Among DOLE’s partner agencies in the program are the executive, legislative, and judicial bodies at the regional and national levels, PESOs, public hospitals, and public schools or educational institutions, government financial institutions, government-owned and controlled corporations, and local government units.

The internship period shall be for a minimum of three months to a maximum of six months and the salary is equivalent to the existing minimum wage of the region where the beneficiary will be employed.

The successful applicants shall also be entitled to insurance coverage, which shall not be deducted from the beneficiary’s allowance, based on the premium agreed by DOLE and the Government Service Insurance System.

Beneficiaries may also be re-admitted upon recommendation of the partner agencies.

The DOLE added the new qualifications add up to the established requirements for GIPs who must have no work experience and at least graduates of high school/senior high school or its equivalent level under the Alternative Learning System or graduates of a technical-vocational course. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

Customs installs more X-ray machines in Manila port

Two fixed portal x-ray machines were recently installed at the Bureau of Customs-Port of Manila (BOC-POM) to protect the country’s borders against the entry of smuggled goods and other contraband.

In a statement, the BOC – X-ray Inspection Project (XIP) said the installation of modern scanners is in line with Bureau’s commitment to strengthen border security measures by increasing its non-intrusive inspection capabilities of containerized shipments.

“The machines are expected to further enhance the capability of BOC in detecting smuggled and anti-social goods like misdeclared items, undervalued goods, non-declared goods as well as the entry of narcotics in various ports nationwide,” it said.

The scanners installed at the POM are part of the six upgraded X-ray machines procured from Astrophysics Inc., a US company based in Southern California.

The BOC- XIP added that the newly acquired modern X-ray machines can scan at least 120 containers per hour.

Aside from the POM, the other units will be installed, two machines in Manila International Container Port (MICP) and one each for Port of Davao and Port of Cebu.

It added that the machine is equipped with material discrimination capability allowing X-ray image analysts to distinguish organic and inorganic materials.

“The capacity makes image analysis of X-ray inspectors more accurate in their decision-making process,” the BOC-XIP said.

It noted that the X-ray machines have lower radiation dose ensuring the safety of X-ray workers as well as the transacting public who may be exposed to radiation.

The machines will also enable the rapid and effective screening of containerized shipments with minimum interruption to the movement of goods inside the ports.

“Designed for ease of operation and maintenance, the X-ray scanners are expected to minimize unnecessary delays and enhance trade facilitation,” it added.

PH government constantly advances workers’ welfare — DOLE

The Philippine government continues to implement programs aimed at advancing the rights of workers with the implementation of intensified enforcement of labor laws and standards, particularly in ensuring every worker’s right to safe and humane working conditions, and to the security of tenure, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

DOLE Secretary Silvestre Bello III said the government has been exerting genuine efforts in advancing the Filipino workers’ welfare, who enjoy greater protection under the Duterte administration.

Citing the recent International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) Global Rights Index 2019 report citing the Philippines as one of the worst countries in the world for workers, placing the Philippines “as among the top 10 worst countries in the world for working people,” Sec. Bello said: “It is unfortunate that ITUC failed to see the consistent efforts of the government in protecting the welfare of Filipino workers. To say that the country has drastically regressed in protecting the worker’s rights is a drastically one-sided finding.”

Bello said in the ITU report’s cases of “violence and murder, brutal repression of public protests, and repressive laws” among workers are all allegations as the cited accusations are not officially reported as labor-related incidents.

As the ITUC, an international labor organization, promotes and defends workers’ rights and interests and is the largest trade union federation in the world, the enacted landmark laws in the Philippines that support the workers’ greater interest, including the Occupational Safety and Health Law, and the Expanded Maternity Leave Law, among others, show that the Philippine government protects its workers, Bello said.

The DOLE is currently in the process of hiring 500 additional Labor Laws Compliance Officers to complement the assessment of over 900,000 establishments across the country to ensure compliance with the general labor laws and standards.

“DOLE is not sleeping on its job and responsibility to protect the workers, in the same way, that we are mandated to encourage businesses to invest more. We remain committed to providing essence to our mandate despite these unwarranted accusations that undermine the genuine efforts of the administration,” Bello said.

In 2018, President Duterte signed the landmark OSH Law, which ensures a safe and healthful workplace for workers by affording them full protection against all hazards at work.

It also provides that any person who manages, controls, or supervises the work is compelled to ensure that the place of employment is safe for workers, and should be free from hazardous conditions likely to cause death, illness, or physical harm to workers.

The DOLE recently signed the IRR of Republic Act No. 11210 or the 105-Day Expanded Maternity Leave Law (EMLL), another landmark Act increasing the Maternity Leave Period to 105 days for female workers with an option to extend for an additional 30 days without pay and granting an additional 15 days for solo mothers and for other purposes.

Covered by the Law are female workers in the public and private sectors; in the informal economy; female members who are voluntary contributors to the Social Security System and female national athletes.

It also allowed a female worker, at her option, to allocate up to seven days of said benefits to the child’s father, whether or not the same is married to the beneficiary. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)