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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.

PH on alert against illegal Iraq-bound OFWs

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) recently ordered its officers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Manila and other ports to thoroughly screen Filipinos traveling to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente issued the directive after receiving reports that human trafficking syndicates are using the Arab country as a transit point for illegally deploying overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Iraq.

He added that they were recently alerted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) regarding the alleged recruitment by syndicates through social media of Filipino workers to Iraq despite the ongoing ban on the deployment of OFWs there.

“Immigration officers are directed to exercise extra vigilance in clearing the departure of Filipino travelers bound for Dubai, particularly those who are departing as tourists, and make sure that they are not going to other foreign destinations in order to work,” the BI chief said in his directive to BI Port Operations Division (POD) chief Grifton Medina.

There are reports that online ads advertising newly-opened job vacancies in Iraq allegedly circulated online and falsely claimed that the deployment ban has been lifted.

Morente instructed airport officers to monitor the names of several OFWs allegedly illegally recruited to work as restaurant waiters in Baghdad, which the bureau obtained from the DFA.

“Be sure that none of these illegal OFWs disguised as tourists are able to leave the country. They should be stopped and turned over to the IACAT (Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking) if encountered, for their protection,” he said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Medina added that according to the Philippine Embassy in Baghdad, the said recruits have been issued visas authorizing them to work in Iraq.

“There are also reports that Iraq-bound OFWs are deployed there by first sending them off as tourists to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur before they proceed to Baghdad,” he said.

“Our immigration officers were already properly alerted of this scheme so they better think twice,” he added.

The victims have allegedly agreed to reimburse the deployment cost incurred by their recruiters through salary deduction.

“This is a form of human trafficking through debt-bondage,” Morente said.

“These illegal recruiters will sweet-talk their victims, encouraging them to take the job offers while the costs will be deducted from their salaries. When they get to their worksites, many are enslaved, given meager salaries, and made to work more than they supposed to in order to pay off their alleged debt,” he added. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

DOLE marks 86th anniversary: PH government offers 22K local, overseas jobs

More than 22,000 local and overseas employment opportunities are available to job seekers at the seven job fair sites around the Philippines in celebration of 86th founding anniversary of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in December 2019.

In a statement released by the DOLE on November 27, 2019, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said there are 22,280 jobs available, from around 200 employers in the job fairs to be held in National Capital Region (NCR), Region 1 (Ilocos Region), Region 4-A (CALABARZON), Region 5 (Bicol Region).

The local jobs with the most number of vacancies are for the positions of production operator, customer service representative, technical support representative, counter support services, sewer, warehouse custodian, loan officers, retail service assistant, and receiving admin specialist.

For those seeking overseas employment, the top vacancies are for production workers, nurses, laboratory technicians, and respiratory technicians.

The job and business fairs will be held on the following dates and venues:

November 28: Cuneta Astrodome, Pasay City (NCR)

December 4: Ayala Malls, Legazpi City, Albay (Region 5)

December 5: Bacnotan, La Union (Region 1) and Robinson’s Galleria South, San Pedro City, Laguna (Region 4A)

December 9: Robinson’s Place, San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte (Region 1)

December 11: Don Leopoldo Sison Convention Center, Alaminos City, Pangasinan (Region 1)

December 16: Dagupan City Astrodome, Dagupan City, Pangasinan (Region 1)

Bello advised jobseekers to be ready with the following application requirements: resume or curriculum vitae (bring extra copies for multiple job applications); 2 x 2 ID pictures; certificate of employment for those formerly employed; diploma and/or transcript of records; and authenticated birth certificate.

The DOLE will mark its 86th founding anniversary on December 6 at the Santa Rosa Multi-Purpose Complex in Laguna.

This year’s theme is “Patuloy sa Mahusay, Mabilis at Malinis na Serbisyo.” (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

Visa violators face severe penalties in Japan

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) warned Filipino workers who are planning to work illegally in Japan against pursuing their plan or they may face severe penalties once caught.

POEA Administrator Bernard Olalia recently said that foreigners involved in unqualified activities are in violation of Japan’s law on the proper use of visa or residence status.

Among the penalties illegal workers may face are detention and deportation, including prison term and a ban from re-entering Japan, depending on the gravity of the violation of the residency status, forfeiting their right to pursue other employment opportunities in Japan.

Olalia issued a reminder after the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Tokyo reported that some Filipinos were involved in unqualified activities in violation of the Immigration and Refugee Control Act of Japan.

“Unqualified activity includes taking up a job or work which is beyond the limitation of the visa or the permitted work under the category of residence status of a foreigner in Japan,” he added.

Labor Attache Marie Rose Escalada said there are engineers with engineering/ humanities/international services visa who worked as laborers, factory workers, machine operators or kitchen helpers.

Some teachers or instructors went to Japan but end up as babysitters or nannies in school or household of the supposed employer.

Filipinos holding a visa of an interpreter were also found working as care workers in facilities for the handicapped or elderly while international salespersons supposedly to market the products of the Japanese employer were working as hotel cleaners or kitchen staff.

Those recruited as household service workers under a special program for such work at the National Strategic Zones and overseas performing artists were caught moonlighting as club workers or hostesses.

On the other hand, Olalia reminded anew Filipinos who are seeking employment in Japan to only transact with licensed recruitment agencies with job orders approved by the POEA.

“For their own protection, applicants for overseas jobs should have the appropriate work permit or visa or employment contract approved by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and processed by the POEA before leaving the country,” he said.

The POEA chief also enjoined applicants to be vigilant against illegal recruiters and to report any suspected illegal recruitment activities to the POEA Anti-Illegal Recruitment Branch at 722-11-92 or at POEA Hotline numbers 722-11-44 or 722- 11-55.

For those who are in Japan they may also contact POLO Tokyo at its email address polotokyo@gmail.com or Facebook page facebook.com/poloowwatokyo. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

Foreign visitors in PH reach 6.16-million in 2019

The Philippine tourism industry has sustained its growth as inbound visitor count increased steadily since January, surpassing the six million mark by the end of September, the Department of Tourism (DOT) recently announced.

According to the latest data released by the DOT, the Philippines received a total of 6,161,503 visitors from January to September, indicating a 14.37 percent increase from the 5,387,458 arrivals recorded in the same period last year.

GROWTH SUSTAINED. Tourists flock to Boracay Island, a favorite among locals and foreigners alike. The Philippine tourism industry has sustained its growth as inbound visitor count increased steadily since the start of the year, surpassing the six million mark by the end of September, the Department of Tourism announced Friday (Nov. 8, 2019). (PNA file photo)

“The figures look very promising, and we are glad that more tourists are visiting us in light of the accolades received by the Philippines and our destinations throughout the year,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat said in a statement.

The department chalked up 606,553 visitors in September, which is still widely considered as a lean month in the Philippines in terms of tourism.

The figure poses a growth of 17.09 percent, compared to the 518,041 visitor count for September 2018.

Data from the DOT monthly report for September also showed a positive year-on-year arrival growth for eight of the top 10 visitor markets for the Philippines.

For the first nine months, South Korea still topped the list with a total of 1,450,792 arrivals, followed by China, with 1,359,817. The United States claimed the third spot with 792,619 visitor arrivals for the nine months.

Meanwhile, Japan, which overtook the US last month based on market share, ranked fourth in the list with 518,211 arrivals, followed by Taiwan, with 252,578.

2019 has proven to be a good year for Philippine tourism as the country has also received numerous recognition on its sustainable tourism efforts.

Last month, it ranked eighth among the 20 Most Favorite Countries in the World of the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards, besting popular destinations, such as Japan and Italy, with a 90.63 score among the magazine’s 600,000 readers.

The Philippines was also hailed as Asia’s Leading Dive Destination by the prestigious 2019 World Travel Awards (WTA) in its Asia and Oceania gala held in Phu Quoc, Vietnam last October.

Subsequently, the DOT was named Asia’s Leading Tourism Board by the WTA in the same event for the significant increase in tourist arrivals for the Philippines in 2018.

The Japan Tourism Awards also presented the DOT with its Excellent Partner Award for the department’s crucial role in the closure and successful rehabilitation of the tourist-favorite Boracay Island.

“While these awards prove prudence in our efforts to bolster Philippine tourism, ultimately, what keeps us doing what we do in the DOT is seeing more of our countrymen revel in the positive impacts of genuine sustainable tourism,” Romulo-Puyat said. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)

OWWA disburses P26-M in rebates for members

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) has disbursed over PHP26 million to members under its ongoing rebate program.

In a Twitter post on October 11, 2019, OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac said a total of Php26,071,683 have benefitted 10,512 members.

The program was launched last month in compliance with Republic Act 10801, or the OWWA Act, which states a rebate should be given to overseas Filipino workers (OFW).

The beneficiaries must be a member of OWWA for at least 10 years and have not availed themselves of any benefit from the agency.

The amount of the rebate range from PHP941.25 up to PHP13,177.50 depending on the Filipino worker’s number of contributions.

OWWA records show a total of 556,000 of its members, who have made at least five or more contributions as of December 31, 2017, will qualify in the initial implementation of the program.

The agency has allocated PHP1 billion for the rebates.

A total of USD5 is being collected by the OWWA for every contract for both land-based and sea-based Filipino migrant workers.

Qualified members, who would like to avail of the rebate program may visit the OWWA’s official web site at owwa.gov.ph or call OWWA Hotline 1348. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

DFA advises Pinoys on new Saudi public decency policy

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) advised overseas Filipinos to familiarize themselves with the new Saudi Arabia regulation on public decency to avoid violations and penalties.

“The Department of Foreign Affairs reminds Filipino travelers to Saudi Arabia to adhere to a new regulation related to public decency, which identifies 19 offenses punishable by fines,” DFA said in an advisory issued on October 9, 2019.

The DFA said the new regulation helps ensure that travelers to Saudi Arabia are reminded of laws that concern public behavior, including rules on immodest clothing, public display of affection, taking photos or videos of people without permission, playing music at prayer times, among others.

As for implementation, Saudi Arabia identifies the Saudi Police as the sole authority responsible for monitoring offenses and imposing fines ranging from 100 Saudi riyals (PHP1,380) to SAR6,000 Saudi riyals (PHP83,000).

According to the DFA, offenders have the right to submit a grievance claim before the Common Courtesy Department and to appeal any penalties. But any person harmed by offenders shall have the right to file a lawsuit, it noted.

For the complete list of public decency offenses and their corresponding fines, the agency encourages Filipino travelers to visit the link: https://docs.google.com/viewerng/viewer?url=https://www.arabnews.com/sites/default/files/userimages/20/violations.pdf. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora 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.