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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.

4 Chinese universities hiring English teachers — POEA

English teachers in the Philippines may find employment opportunities in China.

In an advisory on Saturday, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said four tertiary educational institutions (TEIs) in China need English teachers — the Northwest A&F University, Yancheng Teachers University, Yiwu Industrial & Commercial College, and Shandong University of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

It added that it is now accepting applications through its Government Placement Branch.

The POEA said interested applicants must have a bachelor’s degree in education or English language and must be a graduate of Philippine educational institutions accredited by the Ministry of Education of the People’s Republic of China. (http://www.poea.gov.ph/news/2020/PH- TEI%20LIST%20accredited%20by%20PRoC12263.pdf )

They also asked qualified applicants to register online at www.poea.gov.ph or at http://onlineservices.poea.gov.ph/OnlineServices/POEAOnline.aspx.

Applicants are required to personally submit documents at the counters of the Manpower Registry Division, Ground Floor, Blas F. Ople Building (formerly POEA Building), Ortigas Avenue corner Edsa, Mandaluyong City.

The following are the requirements for registration:

Passport with at least six-month validity upon submission of application, PSA Birth Certificate, 2 pieces of 2×2 recent ID pictures, school credentials, relevant to the position applied for, PRC board certificate, employment certificates, relevant to the position applied for (if required), certificate/diploma of highest educational attainment, transcript of records and printed copy of worker’s information sheet/E-Registration (log-in at http://onlineservices.poea.gov.ph/OnlineServices/POEAOnline.aspx).

The agency said all documents must be fastened in a folder labeled with RSF no., applicant’s name, position applied for, country of destination, PEOS online number and E-Registration number.

It added that applicants are required to present their original documents for authentication of written information before forwarding the resume to the employer.

The deadline for submission of applications from POEA regional offices is on January 15.

For applicants from the Central Office, POEA – Ortigas, Mandaluyong City, the deadline will be on January 20. (PNA)

‘Mandatory repatriation in Iraq is for Filipinos’ safety’ — PH gov’t

Faced with imminent dangers amid tensions between the United States (US) and Iran, Filipinos must heed the Philippine government’s desire to repatriate them, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles recently said.

“I suppose may mga mixed reactions diyan (there have been mixed reactions from Filipinos in Iraq). But at the end of the day, ‘pag sinabi nating (when we say) mandatory repatriation, no ifs and buts diyan (there). That’s for the safety of everybody,” Nograles said in a media interview.

“Tuloy pa rin ang mandatory repatriation natin kasi (Our mandatory repatriation continues because it is) better safe for everybody,” he added.

The mandatory repatriation in Iraq remains in place and the deployment of Filipino workers to the Gulf state is still prohibited, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on Thursday.

Alert Level 4, which orders the mandatory repatriation of Filipinos in crisis-stricken areas, was raised in Iraq, Iran, and Lebanon, following the US’ airstrike in Baghdad that resulted in the death of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani.

However, Filipinos working and residing in Iran and Lebanon will no longer be covered by the mandatory repatriation imposed by the Philippine government after alert levels in the two countries have been downgraded.

The rise in tensions between the Washington and Tehran appeared to de-escalate following Iran’s retaliatory strike against US military facilities in Iraq.

On Wednesday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Philippine government would respect any Filipinos who wish to stay in Iraq despite the stand-off between the US and Iraq.

Despite the news of the seemingly tamed crisis in the Middle East, Nograles said the government is still preparing for the mobilization of resources to ensure the safe return of Filipinos from Iraq to the Philippines.

There are an estimated 4,000 Filipinos in Iraq, according to the data from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Nograles said Filipinos who will be repatriated would be first assembled to a “safe place” in the Middle East before they can go home.

“‘Pag sinasabi nating (When we say) mandatory repatriation, of course, you will apply it to the fullest extent and this is for the safety of OFWs, our fellow Filipinos,” he said.

“So the primary objective right now is just to get them out of Iraq. Dadalhin sa (We will bring them to) safe haven. ‘Pag dating sa (When they arrive in) safe haven, obviously, we want to bring them back to the Philippines,” the Cabinet Secretary added.

President Rodrigo Duterte has created a special working panel that will oversee the evacuation and repatriation of Filipinos from the Middle East.

The committee is chaired by Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and vice-chaired by National Security Adviser Hermogenes Esperon Jr.

Members of the panel include Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III, Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, and Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade.

The Budget department announced Wednesday that around PHP1.8 billion in government funds have been readied for the repatriation of Filipinos in the Middle East.

Nograles assured returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) that they will receive immediate assistance from the government.

He said the current administration can either grant them livelihood packages, or re-deploy them to other countries like Japan, Canada, Germany, China, and Russia.

“‘Pag dating sa Pilipinas, io-offer naman natin sila ng livelihood packages, io-offer naman natin ang mga training sa TESDA (Upon their return to the Philippines, we can offer livelihood packages or training from the Tesda or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority),” he said.

“Io-offer din naman natin ang kanilang re-deployment (We can also offer their re-deployment) if they want to work again overseas but no longer in the Middle East. Kaya nga pinagbubuksan natin ang ating (That’s why we are opening our) communications with Japan, Canada, Germany, China, [and] Russia, hopefully to accommodate our OFWs,” he added.

Nograles said OFWs, who will be repatriated from Iraq and have excellent construction skills, can also join the government in its implementation of the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

“In fact, all of our infrastructure projects are all over the country so it does not matter kung saan man sila nakatira (where they live). Kasi syempre kapag sinabi mong OFWs (When you say OFWs), they come from different regions,” he said.

“But all of our regions will be beneficiaries ng mga infrastructure projects ng gobyerno (of the government’s infrastructure projects). So kahit doon sa kanilang sariling region or sa kanilang sarili probinsya, siguradong may project doon na pwede nilang pag-trabahuhan (So they can work in their region or province because there are infrastructure projects there).”

The government has allotted around PHP9 trillion for the implementation of around 100 key infrastructure projects and over 10,000 small infrastructure projects under the “Build, Build, Build” program.

Around 38 of the 100 big-ticket infrastructure projects are expected to be completed by 2022, while 22 are “partially operational or substantially completed” and the remaining 40 would be finished “beyond 2022.”

The 35 big-ticket infrastructure projects are ongoing, 32 will commence construction in the next six to eight months, 21 are in the advanced stages of government approval, and 12 in the advanced stages of a feasibility study. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)

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.

Duterte wishes OFWs ‘fruitful, meaningful lives’

resident Rodrigo Duterte’s Christmas wish for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is to have a “fruitful and meaningful lives.”

In a special video played before distressed OFWs in Al Khobar, Saudi Arabia, the President extended his Yuletide greetings to them and took the opportunity to thank them for their hard work for their respective families, loyalty to the country, and support for the government.

“More than anything, we want you home. We want you (to) live fruitful and meaningful lives close to your loved ones,” he said in the video message, which was warmly received by the OFWs.

“Maraming salamat po. Hinding-hindi ko kayo malilimutan. Maligayang Pasko at Bagong Taon (Thank you to all of you. I will never forget you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year),” he added.

OFWs all over the world are estimated at 2.3 million, according to a 2018 survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).

Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil exporter, is among the top destination countries, accounting for 24.3 percent of the total 2.3 million migrant Filipinos worldwide, the PSA poll showed.

Duterte, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs, gave Christmas presents to the distressed OFWs in Al Khobar on Tuesday through their representatives, Malacañang said in a press statement on Wednesday.

“The female and male wards at the Al Khobar shelters were given care packages and special financial assistance,” the Palace said.

“Chief of Presidential Protocol and Presidential Assistant on Foreign Affairs (Undersecretary Robert Borje), Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola, and Ambassador Adnan Alonto handed over the care products to the female and male wards awaiting repatriation,” it added.

Borje assured OFWs that the President has “continuing concern” for the plight of Filipinos working abroad, Malacañang said.

He guaranteed that the Duterte administration is “working relentlessly to address the concerns of OFWs and strives to improve the economic condition in the Philippines to create more jobs.”

“The President’s representative (Borje) relayed the message of the Chief Executive for his continuing commitment to ensure the welfare of OFWs,” Malacañang said.

After meeting with female and male wards at the Al Khobar shelters, Borje and Arriola had a dialogue with members of the Filipino community at the International Philippine School.

Borje also serves as Duterte’s special envoy to Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain.

He was sent to North Africa and the Middle East to assess the situation of Filipinos in the regions. (Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, PNA)

26 distressed Pinoys from Lebanon return home on Christmas Day

Twenty-six distressed Filipinos arrived in Manila from Lebanon on Wednesday, Christmas Day, as their host country continues to face financial woes.

The 26 Filipinos, including a three-year-old child, are the second batch since the first 30 Filipinos from Lebanon were sent home on December 22.

While some of the repatriates were victims of abuse, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin, Jr. said a majority of them requested repatriation due to salary issues caused by Lebanon’s economic crisis, particularly shortage of dollars.

“Lebanon is not in a state of civil war, it’s just that they ran out of dollars so they cannot pay Filipino workers in dollars,” he said. “That’s the reason they are leaving because they cannot be paid.”

The batch that arrived on Wednesday has connecting flights to Cagayan Valley, Davao, Roxas City, General Santos City, and Pagadian.

For Gemma Degala, a household service worker in Lebanon, her flight home to Manila can already be considered a gift, given all the difficulties she experienced working and sustaining herself in the state.

“Wala nang dollars, wala na ring gamot, walang trabaho. Ang trabaho ko three times a week nalang kaya mahirap na talaga (They are running out of dollars, even medicine and jobs. My work there has been cut to thrice a week so it has become really difficult),” she said in an interview.

Genevieve, who refused to disclose her full name, echoed similar sentiments with Gemma although she noted abuse and maltreatment in her work abroad.

“Ako naman ‘di ko na kaya kasi natutulog po ako umaga na, tapos gigising agad tapos maraming gagawin tapos sisigaw-sigawan pa (I wasn’t able to sleep well and after, I’d still get nagging from my employer),” she said. “Magulo na po doon, may mga nagsusunog na sa gitna ng kalsada tapos wala na raw pong dollar doon (It’s chaotic there, some set up fire in the middle of the streets and I heard there were no money already).”

Upon their arrival, Locsin gifted the Filipino repatriates with cash assistance to help them tide over as they return home with almost nothing.

Together with Locsin in welcoming the group was Justice Undersecretary Emmeline Aglipay-Villar who vowed to assist some of the repatriates in filing cases against their illegal recruiters.

The DFA had earlier sent a Rapid Response Team to assist the Philippine Embassy in Beirut to manage the repatriation amidst the deepening financial difficulties in the state.

Of the total 32,000 Filipinos residing in the state, Locsin said the agency targets to repatriate a total of 1,500. (Joyce Ann L. Rocamora, PNA)

PH government to cut in OFW deployment to Saudi in 2020

The Philippine government announced on December 17, 2019, it is looking to scale down next year the sending of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA).

“We plan to scale down our deployment to Saudi Arabia starting next year. This will be the first time, at least during my term,” Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a press conference.

Bello said the move is due to the slow action concerning the plight of Filipino workers, noting that they have yet to receive any actions on their appeal regarding the case of OFWs including those who failed to get their salaries since April.

“The purpose of the scaling down is to call the attention of the Saudi government to what we consider as the slow action on the plight of workers. We have yet to see the result of Saudi intervention,” he added.

Bello said it will cover all OFW sectors, from household service workers to skilled workers.

“We will not issue OECs (Overseas Employment Certificate) to new deployments. The matter of balik-manggagawas (returning OFWs) will be on a case-to-case basis. This is not a ban, just a scaling down (of deployment),” he noted.

At the same time, he added that the guidelines of the scaling down of deployment will be crafted by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration.

There are some 2.3 million OFWs deployed in Saudi Arabia. (Ferdinand Patinio, PNA)

PH bags 2019 SEA Games overall title

Team Philippines on Tuesday raked in 11 more gold medals to formally clinch the 30th Southeast Asian Games’ overall championship described by a top local sports official as “sweet surprise”.

The host country was actually unthreatened on top of the medal tally from start to finish of the 10-day biennial meet, duplicating its first overall title in 2005.

The Philippines garnered a total of 383 medals – 149 golds, 116 silvers and 118 bronzes, surpassing the 112 gold, 85 silver and 92 bronze medals it won in the 2005 Manila meet.

“We were all hoping and praying for this, but it is still a sweet surprise now that it is actually happening. I am so proud of our athletes. All of them deserve our respect and love,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman William ‘Butch’ Ramirez in a statement.

Ramirez, also chef de mission of the Team Philippines, said members of the triumphant Team Philippines will go to Malacañang on December 18 to meet with President Rodrigo Duterte and to receive their incentives.

Under Republic Act 10699, the winners of SEA Games stand to receive PHP300,000 for gold, PHP1500,000 for silver and PHP60,000 for bronze.

The Philippine Olympic Committee earlier said it will give similar amount to the gold, silver and bronze medalists of the SEA Games.

“This is a result of all the sacrifice and hard work of everyone who pushed for chances at victory,” Ramirez said. “This victory is very sweet given the many difficulties we had to face. This win proves that we can achieve a lot when we come together united as one team.”

The Gilas Pilipinas, as expected, secured the country’s 18th basketball title in 20 finals appearances via sweep while the women’s team captured its first ever title with both squads beating rivals from Thailand. The Filipino cagers also swept both the men’s and women’s 3×3 basketball golds.

In men’s volleyball, the Filipino spikers succumbed to Indonesia in three straight sets but still emerged proud as they played in their first finals appearance in 42 years.

Other gold winners for the Philippines in the final day of competitions are the billiards tandem of Rubelin Amit and Centeno (9-ball pool doubles), men’s soft tennis team, shooting trap team, Caviar Napoleon Acampado (esports), jiujitsu artists Annie Ramirez (62kg) and Adrian Guggenheim (77kg), and Gina Iniong and Jean Claude Saclag who ruled the kickboxing’s 55kg kick light and 63.5kg low events, respectively.

Eric Shauwn Cray (400m hurdles) and Aries Toledo (decathlon) also snatched two more golds to bring the country’s total athletics golds to 11 with eight silvers and eight bronzes at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium in Capas, Tarlac.

After athletics, Arnis is the next top medal contributor for the Team Philippines, winning 14 golds, 4 silvers and 2 bronzes followed by dancesports with 10 golds and two silvers; and, taekwondo with 8 golds, 9 silvers and 4 bronzes.

The Philippines regained the dominance in boxing with a total of 7 golds with 3 silvers and 2 bronzes while skateboarding, led by Asian Games gold medalist Margielyn Didal, pocketed 6 golds, 4 silvers and a bronze, while obstacle course has 6 golds, 3 silvers and one bronze.

James Deiparine awarded the Philippines its first gold medal in swimming in 10 years after ruling the 100-meter breaststroke in record fashion.

Aside from Didal, other top athletes who lived up to expectation are world gymnast champion Carlos Edriel Yulo who finally won not one but two golds and five silvers in the SEA Games.

Olympic-bound EJ Obiena also came out with a record-breaking victory in pole vault while Olympian Hidilyn Diaz pulled out a golden performance.

Vietnam, the next host of the SEA Games, rallied in the final two days of competitions to finished second with 95 golds, 85 silvers and 103 bronzes followed by Thailand with 91-101-122 and Indonesia with 72-82-111 tally.

Malaysia, the 2017 overall champion, settled for fifth place with 55-58-71 performance Singapore collected 53 golds, 46 silvers and 69 silvers in sixth spot.

Myanmar and Cambodia had four golds each but the former finished seventh with superior silvers (18) and bronzes (50) while the Cambodian athletes brought home six silvers and 36 bronzes followed by Brunei (2-5-27).

Soukan Taipanyavong snatched Laos’ lone gold medal in the final day of action after winning the kickboxing’s 60kg low kick. Laos has also five silvers and 27 bronzes.

Despite wishes from local netizens, Timor-Leste went home without gold but an emotional Rosa Luisa Dos Santos won the hearts of the Filipinos after bagging a silver medal in taekwondo to add to her country’s five bronzes.

The Games’ closing ceremony will be held at the newly-built New Clark City Athletics Stadium in Tarlac on Wednesday. (Jelly Musico, PNA)