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‘Isiwalat ang modus operandi ng pekeng pagpapasuko ng PNP’

“Ipinapanawagan ng KMU na ilantad at labanan ng mga manggagawa ang ganitong aktibidad ng rehimeng Duterte at mga ahenteng militar at intelligence nito laban sa kilusang-paggawa. Nananawagan kami sa lahat ng biktima ng ganitong atake na ilahad ang kanilang mga kwento at isiwalat ang modus operandi ng pekeng pagpapasuko ng PNP.” Elmer Labog, Tagapangulo, Kilusang Mayo Uno

‘Evil and crooked’: Councilor, employees unions condemn dismissal of 60 Bacolod employees

A Bacolod Councilor opposed the termination of 60 employees of the city’s water district, saying the move is a grave abuse of authority by the directors of the local water utility.

In a privileged speech Friday, January 8, Councilor Wilson Gamboa said the Board of Directors of the Bacolod City Water District (BACIWA) unjustly and illegally terminated the workers in collaboration with the private water utility company PrimeWater Infrastruture, Inc.

The local legislator was reacting to the Board’s decision to terminate the workers effective December 31 by declaring their positions “redundant” after the public water utility signed a controversial Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) with PrimeWater.

PrimeWater is owned by the family of Senator Cynthia Villar.

Gamboa said the firing of the employees hammered the final nail of a total “takeover” of BACIWA by PrimeWater.

“These members of the BACIWA Board of Directors believed that they are the absolute authority by issuing arbitrary, capricious, and illegal resolutions and orders which completely gave PrimeWater total supervision and control over its management, operations, collections, and the trampling of employees’ rights. Now, they have evolved as the henchmen of PrimeWater,” Gamboa fumed.

Gamboa said the BACIWA Board could not declare the workers’ positions as redundant when PrimeWater would hire private employees as replacement, including the fired employees who would be “reabsorbed” should they take Option 2 of the proffered retirement package.

The legislator also said the “evil and crooked” BACIWA directors failed to conduct proper consultation with the affected employees.

“[The workers’] rights and tenure must be protected against an unjust, inhuman, and illegal order of the Board of Directors of BACIWA who acted as the corporate carpetbaggers and collaborators of PrimeWater,” Gamboa said.

First dismissed government employees of 2021

Employees union president Leny Espina, who was among those dismissed, said the affected workers were barred from entering the BACIWA premises since Monday, January 4.

Espina said the union will continue to stage actions in front of the BACIWA office every day along with other Bacolod City supporters in protest of their dismissal and the takeover of the public water utility.

The Confederation for the Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees (COURAGE) and the Water System Employees Response (WATER) also launched a nationwide campaign to have the dismissed employees reinstated.

COURAGE National President Santiago Dasmariñas, Jr. said the dismissal violated the constitutional and legal rights of government employees to security of tenure.

He added that the dismissal was also meant to quell legitimate protests against the privatization of local water services.

“We ask the Duterte government to stop privatization of local water services and put laid off public sector workers back to work!” Dasmariñas said.

Ramir Corcolon, WATER secretary general, asked the government to put the welfare of people above business interests.

“Experience has shown that privatization of water only led to more expensive but still poor, or even poorer, water services. Greed should not reign over the right of the public to affordable and quality water services,” Corcolon said.

Water district unions and national agency employees unions all over the country also posted photos of solidarity activities in support of the BACIWA workers Thursday. #(Raymund B. Villanueva)

PH labor market rebounding but not recovering – IBON

In reaction to the statement of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) upon the release of the recent labor force survey, research group IBON said that the labor market rebounding as lockdown restrictions are eased should not be mistaken as ‘recovery’. More than people returning to work, the term should mean returning to the same levels of employment as before. Recovery can only happen with substantial economic stimulus including sufficient government financial assistance or emergency subsidies to workers affected by the pandemic, IBON said.

The official unemployment rate according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) is 8.7% or about 3.8 million unemployed in October 2020. NEDA compares the October unemployment figure with those of previous quarters (10% in July and 17.6% in April) to show as a sign of recovery.

But IBON noted that the number of employed fell by 2.7 million to 39.8 million in October 2020 from 42.6 million in October last year. The group also noted that labor force participation rate (LFPR) has fallen to a remarkably small 58.7% in October 2020, causing the labor force to shrink by 933,000.

IBON estimated a different unemployment figure.According to the group, if LFPR in October 2020 stayed at its 61.4% level in October 2019, the labor force would be around 45.6 million, which is 1.98 million more than officially reported.

IBON added this 1.98 million, which it referred to as invisibly unemployed, to the officially reported 3.81 million, bringing the real number of unemployed to 5.79 million and the real unemployment rate at 12.7 percent.

The group also said that though underemployment rate fell to 14.4%, this does not indicate that the quality of work has improved. This is most likely, IBON said, because many of the employed have stopped searching for work due to pandemic conditions and lack of job prospects with many small businesses closing down.

The group pointed out that the inability of the economy to recover thus affecting job creation is hugely due to the lack of a substantial economic stimulus. This pertains to government spending that can arrest economic decline through increased or revitalized economic production and strengthened consumers’ purchasing power.

But government’s response is too little for such a huge economic decline, IBON said. The Php165.5-billion Bayanihan 2 is niggardly for urgent attention areas such as health system recovery, financial aid to vulnerable sectors and support for agriculture and small businesses. IBON also hit the 2021 proposed national budget, that except for tokenistic allocations, is no longer providing socioeconomic relief to workers and financial assistance to agriculture and MSMEs.

Meanwhile, government’s economic managers are determined to retain the huge Php1.1 trillion budget allocation for infrastructure development as their main stimulus program and to propose corporate income tax cuts through the passage of the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises (CREATE) bill.

Recovery cannot happen with such government neglect of labor and the economy, IBON said. Scrimping on meaningful economic stimulus prevents the health system to cope with the pandemic and the workers to return to work. It also leaves behind the more basic economic sectors of agriculture and domestic manufacturing in creating more meaningful jobs, IBON added.

The economy may indeed recover from its collapse. But like such ‘recoveries’ of the past when no meaningful government intervention took place, it would take a while, if at all, for jobs and incomes to be fully recovered and improved, said the group. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Bayanihan 2 and 2021 budget leave millions of unemployed behind

by IBON Media & Communications

The latest July 2020 labor force survey (LFS) figures confirm the inadequacy of the Duterte administration’s response to what is developing into the worst jobs crisis in the country’s history. The Bayanihan 2 and the proposed 2021 national government (NG) budget give the appearance of assistance but will leave millions of jobless and distressed Filipinos behind. The level of aid for the people is much too small for the magnitude of the crisis at hand.

This year will likely see the biggest contraction in employment in the country’s history. Employment contracted by 1.2 million in July 2020 from the same period last year, falling to 41.3 million employed according to the latest LFS. This comes after the reported 8.0 million year-on-year contraction in April 2020. For the whole of 2020, IBON estimates employment to fall by 2-2.5 million from last year. This will far surpass the previous record employment losses of 833,000 in 1980 and 821,000 in 1997.

The crisis of joblessness is unprecedented. The official unemployment rate of 10% in July 2020 brings the average of the first three rounds for the year so far to 11% which is not likely to improve much even when the October round results come out. The 4.6 million officially reported unemployed in July 2020 is already 2.1 million more than in the same period last year.

Adding 4.6 million unemployed and the 7.1 million underemployed means that the government acknowledges at least 11.7 million Filipinos jobless or looking for additional work to increase their incomes in July 2020. IBON however has long pointed out that official unemployment figures since 2005 tend to underestimate the real number of unemployed Filipinos by around 2-2.5 million annually.

Moreover, the labor department has already reported 604,403 overseas Filipino workers seeking assistance of which only a little over one-third (237,778) have been helped so far. In a press briefing today, they also said that they expect another 200,000 to need help until the end of the year.

Official figures likely underestimate the extent of the problem. However, even going by these, the inadequacy of the government’s response to directly help the people is clear.

Bayanihan 2 promises Php5,000-8,000 in emergency cash subsidies and other assistance for poor households, displaced workers and OFWs. However, only Php19.2 billion is budgeted for cash subsidies and other assistance which is just 3.8 million beneficiaries at most. The aid will also just be a mere Php37-60 per person per day for a month or even less than the official Php71 poverty threshold.

In the proposed 2021 NG budget, there is no provision for substantial emergency cash subsidies beyond existing social welfare department programs such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and smaller programs. Indigent pensioners are not getting any increase in their pensions. Even the labor department’s Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged/Displaced Workers and Government Internship Program (TUPAD-GIP) program gets just a meager Php3.2 billion increase to Php9.9 billion.

Micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) are also not getting the focused assistance that they need. There are 997,900 MSMEs employing 5.7 million workers aside from hundreds of thousands more unregistered establishments with millions more workers. Formal sector establishments had over Php21 trillion in expenses in 2018. In July 2020, the DTI said that 26% of companies they surveyed closed operations and another 52% were only partially operating. Those partially operating also said their income was down by 90 percent.

The Php77.1 billion Bayanihan 2 budget for production and enterprise support will cover only a small fraction of workers in MSMEs, and is even shared with farmers and fisherfolk. In the proposed 2021 NG budget, the MSME Development Program is even getting a Php416 million budget cut to just Php2.3 billion. The budget of the Small Business Corporation (SBC) stays the same at just Php1.5 billion.

In their press briefing today, the economic managers projected a 12% unemployment rate in 2020 (mid-point of the Development Budget Coordination Committee estimate of 11-13%) improving to 6-8% in 2021 then 4-5% in 2022. These optimistic projections cannot materialize without substantially increasing aggregate demand through meaningful cash transfers to millions of distressed households and more support to hundreds of thousands of struggling MSMEs.

Tens of millions of Filipinos and their families will continue to suffer for years without a genuine stimulus program overriding the misguided fiscal conservatism and reckless optimism of the economic managers. #

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Kodao publishes IBON articles as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Official unemployment figures understate historic jobs crisis

by IBON Media & Communications

IBON said that the unemployment crisis is actually even worse than official figures show.

The group estimates that the real unemployment rate is likely around 22% and the real number of unemployed around 14 million.

The 20.4 million real unemployed and underemployed today is the worst crisis of mass unemployment in the country’s history.

The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported 7.3 million unemployed and 6.4 million underemployed in April 2020.

As it is, this is the worst government-recorded unemployment (7.3 million) and combined unemployment and underemployment (13.7 million) in the country’s history.

IBON pointed out, however, that the technical definition of unemployment does not count as much as 4.1 million Filipinos who did not formally enter the labor force because of the ECQ and another 2.6 million that the revised unemployment definition since April 2005 stopped counting.

The drastic drop in the labor force participation rate (LFPR) to 55.6% is most of all due to the ECQ, said the group.

The jobless Filipinos who did not enter the labor force will not be counted as unemployed because the technical definition of unemployed requires them to be in the labor force to begin with.

If the LFPR had stayed the same at 61.3% in April 2019, there would be an additional 4.1 million in the labor force.

The methodology for counting the unemployed was revised in April 2005. Since then, jobless Filipinos who did not look for work in the last six months or are unable to immediately take up work are no longer considered unemployed and removed from the labor force.

This lowered officially reported unemployed Filipinos and stopped comparability with data from previous years.

The revised unemployment definition tends to underestimate the magnitude of unemployment by 35% and the unemployment rate by 3.3 percentage points.

An initial correction for this would mean an additional 2.6 million jobless Filipinos who should be counted as unemployed according to the previous definition, said the group.

IBON said that it is important to see historical trends in the country’s unemployment situation to get an accurate picture of the long-term implications of economic policies. Having data that is comparable over time will give a much clearer indication of the structural economic changes the economy is undergoing which will enable better policymaking. #

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Kodao publishes IBON reports as part of a content-sharing agreement.

Coronavirus: Philippine labor office in Dubai suspends cash aid

By Angel L. Tesorero/Gulf News

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates: The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Dubai on Tuesday suspended the application process for the US$200 (Dh730) cash aid to Filipinos whose jobs were affected by the coronavirus.

“The public is hereby informed that pursuant to the directive of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the Philippine Overseas Labor Office Dubai and Northern Emirates will temporarily suspend acceptance of applications for the DOLE one-time financial assistance for displaced OFWs due to COVID-19,” reads a statement sent to Gulf News.

“The link for the submission of applications will no longer accept responses effective 12:01AM, 21 April 2020. We appeal for your full understanding,” added the memorandum.

According to POLO-Dubai the suspension was made “pending evaluation of applications received and subject to availability of funds.”

The DOLE-AKAP (Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong) for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) was announced by Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III on March 25 as a one-time financial assistance by the Philippine government to be given to displaced OFWs – both sea-based and land-based – around the world, due to COVID-19.

Also eligible are OFWs infected by the virus, provided that they have not received any form of financial assistance from their host government or employer.

The cash assistance for OFWs who lost their jobs was earmarked from DOLE-CAMP or DOLE COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Program fund amounting to PhP1.5 billion (Dh108.5 million).

Over 25,000 applicants in Dubai

Philippine Labour Attaché Felicitas Bay told Gulf News: “As of 12.01 am, April 21, the total applications we received have reached 25,733. These are all subject to evaluation – whether the request will be approved or denied. We have so far evaluated 4,732 applications.”

Philippine labor secretary Silvestre Bello III. (Photo by R. Villanueva/Kodao)

The first batch of recipients will receive the assistance on Tuesday.

“Around 250 Filipinos will receive the Dh730 (Php10,117.39) cash assistance through a remittance centre today,” Bay said.

Many Filipinos in Dubai, who are still employed but whose income has been adversely affected by COVID-19, meanwhile felt they had been left in the lurch.

Advisory from the Philippine Overseas Labour Office Dubai and Northern Emirates. (Gulf News photo)

Dubai resident Edwin Costales told Gulf News: “What will happen to us who have been placed under a ‘no-work, no pay’ scheme? Are we not going to receive any assistance from our government? I hope they have also considered us.”

Filipino expat Huey Rai Sta Ana, 26, a waiter at a Dubai restaurant, earlier told Gulf News: “Our employer told us to go on unpaid leave but we still have bills to pay. Losing a month’s salary will have a big impact on our wallets – we have not enough savings to pay for our rent and utility bills. Whatever assistance we can get from our government would really be a big help.”

False hope

Gabriela-UAE, a group of Filipino expats in the UAE advocating for workers and women’s rights has condemned DOLE for suspending the applications for financial assistance it promised to OFWs.

In a statement sent to Gulf News on Tuesday, the group said: “DOLE and the Philippine government gave many OFWs hope when they promised the financial assistance. By suspending the acceptance of applications for assistance, they have crushed our hope.”

“The excuse given by the DOLE for the suspension, that the submitted applications and the existing funds will be evaluated, is simply unacceptable. OFWs are running low on food and basic necessities, and the financial assistance is urgently needed now,” the group added.

“In the UAE alone, there is an estimated 650,000 OFWs, most of them are employees who were laid off from work, whose wages have been delayed, whose wages have been cut by 25 to 50 per cent; and who have been put under “no work, no pay” arrangements. With a budget of PhP1.5 billion, it turns out that only 150,000 OFWs or less around the world would be able to avail of the financial assistance,” the group noted.

A Filipino expat shares a picture of the the Dh730 cash aid she received on social media. (Gulf News photo)

“Do top (Philippine) government officials think that OFWs are virus-proof and immune from COVID-19? We reiterate our appeal to the Duterte government for immediate, sufficient and systematic distribution of financial assistance to OFWs,” they added.

Not enough budget

Filipino community leader Jason Roi Bucton, chairman of Kalayaan 2020 Organizing Committee, said: “We have to understand that all budget allocated is for the entire OFW around the globe. The overwhelming numbers of more than 25,000 applicants (in Dubai and Northern Emirates alone) is subject to POLO-OWWA’s evaluation and approval with their limited staffs and funds.”

“We have to accept the fact that this is not enough to cater the number of Filipinos displaced in this pandemic. We hope that our Philippine government will be able to assess further and find means to sustain the Filipinos’ needs. Otherwise, it should be better to just prepare for a massive repatriation globally,” he added.

Bayanihan during hard times
Another OFW advocate, Barney Almazar, director at the corporate-commercial department of Gulf Law, told Gulf News: “Since President Duterte signed the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act last March 24, much has been publicized on the provision of emergency subsidy to OFWs. In the UAE, the allocated fund for OFW, unfortunately, is just not enough to solve the problems of everyone in need.”

“The solution is clearly written in the name of the law itself: Bayanihan, a Filipino virtue of collective heroism for a common cause. The government has kick-started amelioration efforts, and it is now high time for fellow OFWs to help each other,” he explained.

Almazar noted: “We have no control over the funds but we can very much rely on each other. We should not forget that Filipinos are creative, resourceful and ingenious. We may lack funds but certainly we do not have a shortage of talented Filipino professionals in the emirates.

“There should be a close coordination with volunteer groups. For example, those who do not qualify for the financial assistance from the government should be endorsed to Filipino volunteer groups instead of being refused outright. With this, we eliminate duplication of efforts and ensure scarce resources are allocated efficiently especially for the sick, children and other vulnerable groups,” he added.

Almazar reiterated: “We can improve, because we are more than this (COVID-19). What the government cannot provide, we OFWs ca fill up by volunteering our services, by being vigilant that no resource is wasted. It is crucial to evaluate needs, assess available resources and set priorities to protect the lives of our people, while maintaining their dignity, mental and social well-being.”

“We also want to see the preparedness and advanced capabilities of government staff assigned to assist the OFWs. Planning and managing the response is as important, if not, more important than the funds,” he concluded.

IN NUMBERS

-PhP1.5 billion (Dh108.5 million) – allocated to overseas Filipino workers displaced by COVID-19 worldwide
-US$200 (Dh730) – financial assistance promised to Filipino workers who lost job due to coronavirus pandemic
-25,733 – Filipinos in Dubai appplied for cash aid
-250 Filipinos to receive the Dh730 from POLO-Dubai on Tuesday

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This report was first published by Gulf News.

415 Filipino sailors stranded in UAE flown home

Sailors had been stranded for six weeks aboard three vessels.

By Angel L. Tesorero

Dubai: A total of 415 Filipino seafarers stranded in the UAE for six weeks returned home to the Philippines on two chartered flights on Saturday and Sunday.

The first batch of 207 Filipino crew members were repatriated to the Philippines on Saturday and have already arrived in Manila. Another batch of 208 Filipino seafarers on Sunday boarded a special Emirates flight, EK334, bound to Manila, expected to arrive at 9.05pm (Philippine time or 1.05am Monday, UAE time.)

The stranded Filipino crew members, who are not UAE residents, worked on international vessels MV Norwegian Jade, SS Nautica, and SS Voyager which are still docked at Port Zayed in Abu Dhabi and Port Rashid in Dubai, Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes told Gulf News.

415 Filipino seafarers depart from Dubai terminal 3 (Image Credit: Supplied)

The repatriation was coordinated with UAE authorities who allowed them to disembark and take a chartered flight arranged by their employers through local manning agencies.

“All expenses were shouldered by the Norwegian Cruise Lines Holdings, Ltd, which owns and operates MV Norwegian Jade, SS Nautica, and SS Voyager,” said Cortes, adding: “The seafarers are still employed and also part of the DOLE-AKAP Program.”

415 Filipino seafarers depart from Dubai terminal 3 (Image Credit: Supplied)

DOLE-AKAP (Department of Labor and Employment-Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong) Program is a one-time financial assistance amounting to US $200 (Dh730), given by the Philippine government to overseas workers, both land-based and sea-based, who have been displaced by a lockdown in a foreign country, according to Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello.

Philippine Ambassador to the UAE Hjayceelyn M. Quintana oversaw the repatriation of the Filipino crew members who have been stranded for six (6) weeks at Port Zayed in Abu Dhabi and Port Rashid in Dubai.

The sailors had been stranded in the UAE for six weeks aboard three vessels. (Image Credit: Supplied)

In a Facebook post by the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, Quintana “thanked the UAE authorities for assisting the Embassy in ensuring that these Filipino seafarers arrive home safely by allowing two special flights to leave for Manila despite flight suspension still being in effect.”

The Embassy added the Philippine Department of Health Bureau of Quarantine will ensure that upon arrival, “the seafarers will undergo proper screening procedures. Representatives from Depart of Foreign Affair’s Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) and counterparts from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), will meet them upon their arrival in Manila.” #

This report was originally published in Gulf News.

Coronavirus effect: Hundreds of Filipinos in the UAE want to go back home

By Angel L. Tesorero

Dubai: A few hundred Filipino expats are seeking to be repatriated soon, a source within the Filipino diplomatic community said Saturday, March 11.

Flights to Manila from this city, however, are still suspended, following the Philippine government’s directive on extending the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) in Luzon.

Philippine Airlines (PAL) and budget airline, Cebu Pacific – have also extended the suspension of all flight operations between Dubai and Manila until April 30.

Moreover, the decision to suspend passenger and transit flights to and from the UAE – as a preventive measure to curb the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) – is still in effect.

Meanwhile, around 200 seafarers have been repatriated to the Philippines on Saturday.

The repatriation of the stranded Filipino crew members, who are not UAE residents, was coordinated with UAE authorities who allowed them to disembark and take a chartered flight arranged by their employers through local manning agencies.

In an earlier Gulf News report, Marford Angeles, Consul-General and Deputy Head of Mission at the Philippine Embassy, said they have been working on the repatriation of Filipino crew members stranded in various ports in the UAE.

The Filipino diplomat also clarified, as per POLO-OWWA (Philippine Overseas Labor Office – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), “employers are responsible for their employees’ repatriation, based on their contract.”

Angeles added the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi has been closely coordinating with the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs on cases of stranded Filipino nationals. “These cases are subject to compliance with both Philippine and UAE laws and regulations, including a mandatory 14-day quarantine period upon arrival in the Philippines being coordinated with the Philippine Department of Health and OWWA,” he earlier told Gulf News.

Angeles also clarified the Embassy’s programme of repatriating those with visa problems and immigration offences and victims illegal recruitment is still on hold due to the suspension of exit pass processing and suspension of UAE flights.

“This programme is also subject to availability of funds. Those who need help with their exit pass processing may call +971508584968 or +971508963089, or email atn.abudhabi@gmail.com for proper advice,” he added. #

(This article originally appeared on Gulf News.)

Coronavirus: Filipinos await aid from home country

Manila has promised Dh730 cash aid to Filipinos who have lost jobs.

By Angel L. Tesorero/Gulf News

Dubai: Filipinos in the UAE, who have lost their jobs or have been asked to go on unpaid leave, are asking their home country for cash aid after the Philippine Government last month promised a one-time financial assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) whose jobs were affected due to coronavirus (COVID-19)

Several Filipino expats told Gulf News they have been waiting for the US$200 (Dh730) financial assistance announced on March 25 by Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III. They said the announcement was a welcome news.

Philippine labor secretary Silvestre H. Bello III (Photo by Raymund B. Villanueva/Kodao

Filipino expat Huey Rai Sta Ana, 26, a waiter at a Dubai restaurant, said: “Our employer told us to go on unpaid leave but we still have bills to pay. Losing a month’s salary will have a big impact on our wallets – we have not enough savings to pay for our rent and utility bills. Whatever assistance we can get from our government would really be a big help.”

Huey Rai Sta Ana

Another Dubai resident, Shiera lyza Fernando, 21, who is a service crew, added: “The Philippine Government, through POLO-OWWA (Philippine Labour Office- Overseas Workers Welfare Administration), has the means to help us, OFWs.”

Shiera lyza FernandoImage Credit: Supplied

Ana Marasigan, an office administration staff, echoed the same sentiments. She said: “The financial assistance must be provided to our distressed OFWs who are currently affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We appeal to the Philippine government to fulfill its promise urgently.”

Filipino expat, John Raymart, 25, said he has to rely on friends for some of his basic needs. “We have been working on a tight budget since last month after we were placed under leave. The solution that me and my friends have come up with is to pool our money and buy food for everyone. But our fund is now running low.”

John RaymartImage Credit: Supplied

‘Let us be patient’

Meanwhile, Joan Vargas, 33, a restaurant manager and Filipino community leader, advised her kababayans (countrymen) to be patient. “I think the (Philippine) government is doing its job. I’m sure the money will come.”

Joan VargasImage Credit: Supplied

“But I hope there will be no difficult requirements needed – just passport and Emirates ID would be enough when we collect the money,” added Vargas, who said 19 of them were asked to go on unpaid leave since March 23.

Josephine Sanchez, 46, sales staff at a freight forwarding company, said majority of OFWs are family breadwinners. If they lost their jobs or experience pay cuts, their respective families will also suffer.

Josephine SanchezImage Credit: Supplied

“We have our own expenses and we also need to buy our own food. If we lost our jobs, how then can we provide for our family back home? We really hope our government will take care of us in times of need,” Sanchez said.

No comprehensive plan

In a statement sent to Gulf News, the chairperson of Migrante International, a migrants rights group based in Manila, said the delay in cash assistance “revealed the lack of comprehensive plan by Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in addressing the immediate and long-term effects of the crisis on OFWs.”

Migrante chairperson Joanna Concepcion said: “Up to now, the government has not provided any guidelines to disburse the funds they promised to distressed OFWs who were expecting the assistance since last month.”

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and the various Philippine Overseas Labour Offices (POLOs) will start processing the release of financial aid for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who lost their jobs due to COVID-19 pandemic, the Philippine Department of Labour and Employment (DOLE) said in a statement sent to Gulf News on Thursday.

Overseas workers, both land-based and sea-based, who have been displaced by a lockdown in a foreign country will be given a one-time financial assistance amounting to US $ 200 (Dh730), under DOLE’s AKAP programme for OFWs.

Also eligible are OFWs infected by the virus provided that they have not received any form of financial assistance from their host government or employer.

DOLE-AKAP will cover regular/documented OFWs as defined in the 2016 Revised Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Rules and Regulations.

“Regular or documented OFWs are those who possess a valid passport and appropriate visa or permit to stay and work in the receiving country; and whose contract of employment has been processed by the POEA or the POLO,” Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III said.

The assistance programme, Bello added, “also covers qualified undocumented OFWs or those who were originally regular or documented workers, but for some reason or cause have thereafter lost their regular or documented status”.

Bello said the assistance is part of DOLE’s COVID-19 Adjustment Measures Programme (DOLE-CAMP) that the department had initiated to extend financial support for Filipino workers displaced by the pandemic.

Bello underlined: “The coverage is generous since it will cover not only documented workers but also undocumented ones as long as they have “undertaken” actions toward regularisation or they are active members of OWWA.

Bello said OWWA and the POLOs will now start the processing and evaluation of the qualified DOLE-AKAP recipients, especially in countries heavily affected by the pandemic.

Requirements and guidelines:

According to DOLE, OFWs must submit the following documents to their respective POLO:

a. Accomplished application form for the special cash assistance which is downloadable at their respective POLO website or social media account;

b. Photocopy of their passport and/or travel documents;

c. Proof of overseas employment, such as a valid OEC, residence ID, visa, reentry-visa etc.

d. Proof of loss of employment on account of the COVID-19 disease; and

e. Proof of a pending case that have caused their current “undocumented status, such as case reference number, case endorsement stamped by the POLO, etc.

Those who are already in the Philippines or repatriated OFWS will be covered by Balik Manggagawa. They must submit the following documents to their respective regional or local OWWA offices:

a. Accomplished application form for special cash assistance downloadable at www.dole-akap.owwa.gov.ph website;

b. Copy of passport or travel documents;

c. Proof of overseas employment, sch as valid OEC, residence ID, visa/re-entry visa, etc. and

d. Proof of loss of employment due to the COVID-19 disease.

For further details, please check http://www.polodubaiportal.org #

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This article originally appeared on Gulf News.

KMU: Police in industrial zones violate labor rights

Labor federation Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) condemned the creation of police offices in Central Luzon industrial zones, saying the move violates the Constitutionally-guaranteed right to form and join organizations.

The KMU blasted Philippine National Police (PNP) in Region III and the Rodrigo Duterte government’s National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) as the agencies announced the creation of the Joint Industrial Peace and Concern Office (JIPCO) to prevent militant labor groups from organizing unions in the region.

“The creation of the JIPCO is a direct attack on workers’ basic right to form unions –our legitimate means to collectively fight for our basic interests and welfare as workers. The JIPCO is meant to stifle not the so-called ‘radical labor infiltration’ but the workers’ very right to exercise self-organization and union work,” KMU Chairperson Elmer “Ka Bong” Labog said.

PNP Central Luzon director Police General Rhodel Sermonia last Wednesday, January 22, led JIPCO’s launch at the Clark Freeport Zone in Zambales Province “to act as the first line of defense from radical labor infiltration of the labor force and the industrial zones in support of ELCAC (End Local Communist Armed Conflict).”

With Sermonia as guests of honor and speakers were presidential adviser on the peace process Secretary Carlito Galvez, newly installed Philippine National Police (PNP) Direcor General Archie Francisco Gamboa, and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Director Charito Plaza. 

The KMU however said there can be no peace anywhere in the Philippines if the PNP, known for criminal and deadly practices such as “ninja cops” and “Oplan Tokhang”, are tasked to prevent unionism in factories and workplaces.

The group also noted that both the PNP and Philippine Army have repeatedly accused militant labor unions of being supporters of the underground communist movement in the Philippines. The creation of a JIPCO is precisely aimed to prevent organizing of unions which will affect the entire labor sector, it added.

“The [NTF-ELCAC] has been weaponized to the extent of violating fundamental rights of workers to form unions, which are clearly provided in the Bill of Rights of the Philippine Constitution, as well as International Conventions. The JIPCO in effect bans the existence of any union and all unions in Central Luzon,” said KMU’s Labog.

The militant labor group charged that the JIPCO is a project of the National Task Force- End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC), which was created through Executive Order No. 70.

“That the JIPCO is a mechanism to defend industrial zones from radical labor in support of the ELCAC is all rhetoric for crushing legitimate people’s organizations carrying legitimate demands, such as unions calling for higher wages, regular work and implementation of labor standards, especially in Economic Zones which are not regulated by the Labor Department,” Labog said.

The labor leader also added that “only the few big capitalists stand to benefit from the eradication of unions in the economic zones.”

The KMU Chairman asked workers and the people to launch actions and engage all institutions to stop JIPCO even as it looks for possible legal actions against the PNP and PEZA. # (Raymund B. Villanueva)