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Trafficked Pinoys hope for more protection in UAE

Dubai, UAE–Thirty-three-year old Filipina Sheila Endong heard stories of happy lives in the UAE and was lured by a friend to come here to work as a domestic worker. She arrived in the country in November last year but it was not the promised life that greeted her.

Sheila was a victim of human trafficking. Her case has been told many times over. Her ordeal started from her country of origin and when she was offered a free airline ticket and paid-for tourist visa.

Sheila said she left Zamboanga Sibugay in Southern Philippines to find a job and provide a good life for her 10-year-old son. Her friend told her that a job was waiting for her in the UAE and her travel papers were immediately processed. She did not pay anything except for her medical test.

She said she breezed through the immigration check-in from Manila because she was ‘escorted’ by a Philippine immigration staff. A kabayan (compatriot) picked her up at the Dubai International Airport and she was immediately brought to an accommodation in Ajman.

She was not allowed to leave the flat and she learned she was offered to prospective employers at a cost of Dh17,000. Employers had to bite the bullet because of the dearth in the supply of available household service workers.

With no regulation and proper monitoring in place, Sheila had at least three different employers in the past 10 months. At one point, she suffered physical abuse from her employer which prompted her to run away.

Philippine labour officials in the UAE said Sheila’s case is just one of the many cases they’ve handled because of the lack of transparency in recruitment and because many Filipinos come to the UAE using a tourist visa to find work.

This will soon come to an end, according to Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello, who recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Labour Cooperation with UAE Minister of Human Resources and Emiratisation (MoHRE) Saqr bin Ghobash Saeed Ghobash.

“The MoU enhances existing friendly relations between the UAE and the Philippines, through labour cooperation to promote mutual benefits and provide adequate protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs),” he said.

The MoU is a result of many consultations, which began when the UAE Cabinet tasked the ministry to oversee the domestic workers sector in the country, he added.

Human trafficking will be curbed because, under the MoU, the recruitment office is tasked with sending the job offer to the employee in their home country and listing the obligations of the labour contract. The contract will be signed by the employer and employee upon the arrival of the latter to the UAE Only recruitment agencies registered with the MoHRE are able to offer recruitment and employment applications for domestic workers that have been submitted by employers.

Awareness and guidance programmes will also be organised for the employer, and the employee before exiting the Philippines. Moreover, the programmes will inform contractual parties about their rights and obligations towards each other.

Bello also noted that the MoU on Labour Cooperation includes an annex called Protocol on Domestic Workers. He said the Protocol highlights recruitment and admission of Filipino domestic workers to the UAE in accordance with the protective Philippine and UAE laws.

The Philippine Labour Secretary said: “Among the rights to be guaranteed under the Protocol, through a standard employment contract under the newly-approved UAE Law on Domestic Workers, are the following: a) Treatment of the worker that preserves personal dignity and physical safety; b) Due payment and non-withholding of wages; c) Twelve hours of daily rest; d) One full day of weekly rest; e) Decent accommodation; f) Medical treatment; g) Retention of identity documents, such as passports; h) Non-payment of costs and fees on recruitment and deployment; and i) Non-payment of costs for repatriation.

At a recent town hall meeting with Filipino community leaders in Abu Dhabi, Bello praised the MoU as a big step for the protection of OFWs. Sheila, who was in the audience, is optimistic that her rights are now protected. # (Angel L. Tesorero / Khaleej Times)

This story was first published here.

OFW ID is not free after all

By Angel L. Tesorero of Khaleej Times for Kodao Productions

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates–Filipino expats were disappointed to discover that the OFW (overseas Filipino worker) ID, touted as Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s ‘best gift’ to millions of OFWs, is not actually free, as earlier announced.

Duterte led the soft launching of the OFW ID on Wednesday in Manila. The ID, also called iDOLE (ID of the Department of Labor and Employment), is set to replace the OEC (overseas employment certificate), a travel document or exit pass that is required for any OFW leaving the Philippines and returning to the country of his/ her employment.

Some Filipino expats tried to apply for the OFW card by accessing the iDOLE portal https://ofw.idole.ph/ and were surprised to discover that they will be charged with 501 pesos to get the card, aside from the delivery fee.

Sharjah resident and Migrante Middle East coordinator, Nhel Morona, who tried to acquire the ID on Thursday night, told Khaleej Times: “At the onset, we already had doubts that this ID is totally free. After I encoded my personal and employment details, I was asked to pay 501 pesos and another 200 pesos  to have it delivered at my hometown.”

Philippine Labour Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier announced that the OFW ID is free of cost. “All we need is to conduct an inventory of all the bonafide OFWs based on the list of the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), in conjunction with DOLE, then we will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Bello, who described the OFW ID as the “best gift’ that President Duterte is giving to millions of OFWs for matters concerning their overseas employment,” added that “all the unique IDs will be delivered to them, whether they are in the Philippines or overseas.”

Labour undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad III told Khaleej Times on Wednesday that OFWs will not pay anything to get the unique card.

“Walang babayaran ang OFWs (OFWs will not pay anything), Lagunzad said in Filipino. “Recruitment agencies will pay on behalf of employers. This will be enforced by POEA. Because POEA issued a governing board resolution authorising and imposing fees.”

“The amount will be set by POEA based on charges by three government offices – DBP Philpost and APO. Validity is term of contract but ID number is same. The ID will be updated every time there is new contract.

“The POEA will process the contract and OEC then send to DOLE the names and other details of the processed OFW then have the ID printed by APO Printing (the same company that prints Philippine passports). Then Philpost will deliver the ID to the forwarding address of the OFW,” Lagunzad added.

“The processing of the iDOLE would be shouldered by the employers; hence, OFWs need not pay for the cost of the ID,” according to a DOLE statement.

But Dubai resident Jun Cargullo said: “The (Philippine) government earlier announced that employers or recruitment agencies will shoulder the cost of the ID. But this ID is only relevant to domestic transactions and has nothing to do with our employment abroad. This is not like the Emirates ID or UAE health card.”

“At the end of the day, it is us, OFWs, who will have to pay for the card,” Cargullo added. “The OFW ID is actually more expensive than the OEC. We used to pay only 100 pesos to acquire an OEC every time we travel and we go back home at least once every year. So it will take at least five travels or five years before we can recoup the same expense of getting an OEC five times,” he explained.

Morona added that the cost of the OFW ID can probably be imposed on recruitment agencies which are deploying new OFWs. “But how about those who are already employed abroad? Who will pay for the OFW ID? I don’t think we can charge it to our employers,” he asked

Morona also made his own calculations. “The OFW ID will mean a windfall profit for the (Philippine) government,” he said. “Imagine there are 10 million Filipinos working abroad, if all of us will get an OFW ID that can easily translate to 5.01 billion pesos (Dh365m).

Portal goes offline

Meanwhile, the Department of Labour and Employment has yet to issue the guidelines on how OFWs can avail of the OFW card. The iDOLE portal also went offline for few hours on Friday and when it went back live with a note that reads: “This website is for testing purposes only. To our beloved OFWs, please wait for the official launching, rest assured that the OFW card is 100 per cent free of charge to the OFW.” (angel@khaleejtimes.com)

OEC is gone, but UAE Filipinos have to wait for new OFW IDs

By Angel L. Tesorero / Repost from Khaleej Times

DUBAI, United Arad Emirates–Filipino expats in the UAE will have to wait for a couple of months before they can avail of the eagerly anticipated OFW (overseas Filipino workers) ID launched in Manila today.

Felicitas Bay, Philippine Labour Attaché to Dubai and northern emirates, told Khaleej Times: “We have not received any instructions or operational guidelines yet from the main office” (in Manila) regarding the OFW ID that will replace the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC).

An OEC is a travel document or exit pass that has to be presented at international ports of exit in the Philippines before an OFW can return to the country of his/ her employment. The OFW ID, also called iDOLE (ID of the Department of Labor and Employment), is set to replace the OEC starting July 12.

No less than Philippine president Rodrigo Duterte is expected to grace the launch event on Wednesday.

Aside from serving as an ID for migrant Filipinos, the OFW ID can also be used in lieu of other Philippine government IDs, including Social Security System, Pag-IBIG Fund, and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation cards. Eventually, Filipino expats can also use the OFW ID for other government transactions like getting a police clearance or  as an ATM or debit card to send money back home via the proposed OFW Bank.

Philippine Labour Minister Silvestre Bello III announced last week that the OFW is free of cost. “All we need is to conduct an inventory of all the bonafide OFWs based on the list of the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration), in conjunction with the Department of Labor, then we will start processing the IDs,” he said.

Filipino expats in the UAE welcomed the move by the Philippine government. “Replacing the OEC with an OFW ID is good news,” former FilCom (Filipino Community) president Alan Bacason said. “It will be an all-in-one ID, much like the Emirates ID. It is also a good way to properly monitor the OFWs not just in the UAE but around the world.” (OFWs worldwide number around 10 million, according to Philippine official records).

“In the meantime, for those who will take a break or will attend to some concerns in the Philippines and will return to the same employer (in the UAE), you may wish to apply online for your OEC as this will facilitate your exit from the Philippines,” Bay told Khaleej Times.

Bay also advised her kababayans (countrymen) to regularly check www.polodubaiportal.org for updates on the OFW ID.

“Should there be any official pronouncement/ guidelines, we will post them at the POLO-Dubai (Philippine Overseas Labor Office) portal,” she noted. # (angel@khaleejtimes.com)

OFWs in Italy condemn ‘inhumane’ dispersal of IPs in Manila

ROME, ITALY- Members of Umangat-Migrante, ICHRP-Rome and the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino (Italy-Philippine Friendship Association) held a candle light protest in front of the Philippine Embassy last night to condemn the recent dispersals of mass actions in the Philippines.

Calling the dispersals “violent and inhumane,” Luciano Seller of the Comitato di Amicizia Italo-Filippino urged the Philippine government to look into the incident.

“Indigenous people in the Philippines have suffered enough with military occupation in their communities, only to meet more ruthlessness and violence from the Manila police when they are holding a peaceful protest,” Seller said.

Alex Reyes, Secretary General of Umangat-Migrante expressed anger at how the police continue to act as “lapdogs of the US’ while President Duterte himself is calling for an independent foreign policy.

“It is time that the Philippine police learn to protect and serve the Filipino people instead of protecting US interests,” Reyes said. # (Pom Cahilog-Villanueva)

Migrant workers storm OWWA office

Migrant workers and their families led by Migrante stormed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office last March 16 to protest the agency’s inaction on the plight of stranded Filipinos abroad.

Migrante says that OWWA forces them to pay for so-called protection funds for Filipino workers abroad but does nothing when needed.

At the moment, hundreds of migrant workers are stranded in Saudi Arabia alone but are not being repatriated by the Aquino government.

Migrante demands that the government use their welfare funds to help stranded Filipino workers abroad.

The protesters are also demanding that assistance claims must be given to OFWs as well as an accounting of the 18 billion peso OWWA fund.

P1NAS: Hands off Philippines, independence day twin rally

A twin rally was held last June 12, 2015, independence day in front of China embassy at Makati City and US embassy at Manila, to calls on the Filipino people to stand in defense of national sovereignty and territorial integrity against the foreign powers that seek to tear the Philippines apart.

Chinese Consulate to US Embassy
June 12, 2015

LARAWAN: Defend Philippine Sovereignty

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Chinese Consulate to US Embassy
June 12, 2015

Groups hold protest at Chinese consulate in Manila

more news at www.bayan.ph

Chinese Embassy, Makati City
June 4, 2015

Gabriela: Illegal recruiter ni MJV, dapat kasuhan


Kasama ng iba pang progresibong grupo, Gabriela hiniling sa Department of Justice (DOJ) na pabilisin ang pagdinig sa kaso ni Mary Jane Veloso laban sa illegal recruiter na sina Cristina Sergio at kapartner nitong si Julius Lacanilao. Ngayong araw sinimulan ang preliminary investigation kina Sergio at Lacanilao para alamin ang naging papel nila sa limang taong pagdurusa sa kulungan ni Mary Jane Veloso sa Indonesia sa kasong pagdadala diumano ng droga sa kanilang bansa. Si Veloso ay biktima ng human trafficking at hindi kriminal ayon sa Gabriela secretary general Joms Salvador.

Department of Justice, Manila
May 8, 2015

LARAWAN: Progressive groups urge DOJ to speed up cases vs Tintin Sergio and Julius Lacanilao

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Preliminary Investigation against Tintin Sergio and her partner Julius Lacanilao.

Department of Justice
Manila, Philippines
May 8, 2015