Scrapping of remittance fees could be studied – Palace

July 23, 2008

07/21/2008
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang may look into the possibility of scrapping remittance fees being paid by overseas Filipino workers (OFW) amid the fuel and food crises faced by the country.

Lorelei Fajardo, deputy presidential spokesperson, said government economic managers could mull over Migrante International’s proposal to either give up the fees or lower the rate of OFW remittance being received by the government.

“That could be studied. But for the meantime, the government is doing its best to mitigate the impact of the challenges that our country is facing now in all sectors of the society especially the poorest of the poor,” she said.

She acknowledged that OFW contributions helped the government in cushioning the impact of the global surge in the prices of basic commodities.

Migrante International-Middle East Chapter earlier called for the scrapping of the remittance fees to enable the families of OFWs to cope with the economic crisis.

OFWs are charged a 15-percent documentary stamp tax, which is deducted by the government from all remittances coursed through legal channels.

OFW remittance in the first five months of 2008 reached $6.8 billion, up 14.7 percent from last year, according to the Philippine central bank.

There were 533,945 OFWs deployed during the said period, or 40 percent more than those deployed in the first five months of 2007, based on government records.

The central bank expects that remittances coursed through banks will reach $15.7 billion by the end of 2008 or 9 percent higher than in 1997.

Most of the eight million Filipinos abroad work as domestic helpers, entertainers, nurses, caregivers, engineers, and ship crew members.

A large portion of OFW remittance come from Saudi Arabia, US, United Kingdom, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Italy, Japan, Hong Kong, and Singapore. – GMANews.TV

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OFW groups express opposition to Pichay appointment to OWWA

July 23, 2008

Arroyo offered post aside from SBMA, ex-solon says
By Veronica Uy, Maila Ager
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 19:01:00 07/21/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Overseas Filipino worker groups have expressed opposition to the possible appointment of a former congressman and losing administration senatorial candidate to the top post of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The Center for Migrant Advocacy and the Philippine Migrant Rights Watch said they wanted someone from the ranks of OFWs to handle OWWA and its billions of dollars in OWWA membership fees which they feared might be used for the 2010 elections.

Reports are rife that former Surigao congressman Prospero “Butch” Pichay, who ran for senator under the administration ticket, could take over the helm of the OWWA.

Pichay confirmed to INQUIRER.net that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had offered him the top OWWA post and the chairmanship of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority and that there were also other offers of Cabinet positions.

He refused to elaborate however on the Cabinet offers “in deference to sitting officials.”

“OWWA at Subic. Iyan ang talagang inoffer ng President — a few months ago pa [OWWA and Subic. That is what the President really offered — a few months ago],” said Pichay who was in Vietnam.

Pichay said that he was considering the OWWA post.

“Maraming offer [There are a lot of offers] but I’m still trying to think about all these offers. In a few weeks, makaka-decide na ako [I can decide]. Inaasikaso ko pa ang negosyo [I am just attending to my business].”

OFW groups which spearheaded the drive to pass the Overseas Absentee Voting Law several years ago have launched a campaign to put Mike Bolos, an accountant who has worked for more than 20 years in Saudi Arabia to head OWWA.

Heeding the government’s call for overseas Filipinos to return to the country and contribute to its development, Bolos has since returned to the Philippines to start several business enterprises.

Rashid Fabricante, of the Pinoy-abroad-forum and elagda-Riyadh, started the e-mail thread with the suggestion that OFW groups and migrant rights organizations should lobby for OFW representation at OWWA.

OWWA, which is tasked to promote and protect the well-being of OFWs, was previously headed by Marianito Roque until he was appointed secretary of the Department of Labor and Employment when his predecessor Arturo Brion became associate justice of the Supreme Court.

The attached agency of DoLE does not get any budgetary allocation from the government. It lives solely off the $25- membership fee of every departing OFW.

While the membership fee is supposed to be paid by the leaving OFW’s employer, the OFW in most cases pay for the amount.

OFW groups have sought more representation in OWWA and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, the other DoLE-attached agency concerned with OFWs.

There are an estimated eight million Filipinos who live and work overseas while some 3,000 leave the country every day.


DFA rules on househelp hiring exempt from POEA rules

July 11, 2008

Tingnan mo nga naman si Mar Roxas. Eh pinag uusapan nila rules of hiring ng DH ng mga diplomats. Ni walang sinabi tungkol sa  biktima na si Marichu Suarez Baoanan. Wala ni isa man sa gobyerno ang
nag palabas ng reprimand or warning kay Amb. Lauro Baja. Di man lang na suspend si Baja. Ano ba yan…

==========

By Veronica Uy
INQUIRER.net

Posted date: July 10, 2008

MANILA, Philippines — The rules of the Department of Foreign Affairs
(DFA) allowing its foreign service officers to hire domestic helpers
does not go through the process required by Philippine Overseas
Employment Administration (POEA) of foreign employers, Senator
Manuel “Mar” Roxas II said Thursday.

“We cannot have a set of standards for foreign employers and none at
all for Filipino diplomats because this affects the confidence of our
own workers in the objectivity, humanity, and professionalism of our
own foreign service,” he said in a statement.

Roxas’ reaction stems from the case filed in New York against former
Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja, his wife
Norma, and his daughter Elizabeth Facundo for alleged human
trafficking, slavery, fraud, and 12 other alleged violations of US
laws.

According to the DFA, its people posted abroad are allowed to
hire “personal staff,” the number of which depends on the hiring
person’s rank.

In an interview with INQUIRER.net, POEA Administrator Rosalinda
Baldoz confirmed that such hiring does not go through her agency.

“We are not part of the hiring process of HSWs (household service
workers) by DFA personnel. We are not part of the contract. No OEC
(overseas employment certificate) is required, that’s why we don’t
have any participation,” she said.

Roxas, a member of the powerful Commission on Appointments, which
confirms the promotion and assignment of ambassadors and other
personnel in foreign assignments, noted the irony that the Philippine
embassy is the “first place of refuge” of a Filipino domestic helper
abused by her foreign employer abroad.

He thus called on the DFA to adopt clear and uniform rules and
standards in the employment of Filipino maids by all government
personnel posted abroad.

“There must be a uniform contract stipulating a salary of not less
than $400 a month, with stipulated number of days off in a week, and
an assurance of adequate food and decent quarters,” he proposed.

“Violations of this contract by civil servants posted abroad must be
the subject of administrative sanctions and should be submitted to
the Commission on Appointments as part of our documentary
requirements,” he added.

The senator suggested that every contract of a domestic helper hired
by a Filipino diplomat, as well as attaches sent abroad like trade,
labor, and welfare attaches, must be registered with and
countersigned by the personnel office of the respective department.

“The adoption of fair and transparent procedures in the hiring of
Filipino maids by embassy personnel regardless of rank will redound
to the protection of both the diplomat and his or her kasambahay,”
Roxas said.

At the same time, he said, that the protection given to these
househelps should conform to the labor laws of the country where the
diplomat is assigned.

The senator noted that the controversy surrounding a case filed by
Marichu Suarez Baoanan, a Filipino nurse who was employed as a
domestic helper by the Bajas for three months, could have been
prevented had the DFA been more clear, assertive, and transparent
with its hiring policies in relation to domestic helpers.

Roxas said that regardless of who is telling the truth, the lesson of
the story is clear: the universal principles of decent work apply to
all.

He urged the DFA to act fast and give a timeframe for drawing up
rules on the matter, so as to assure domestic helpers of their safety.

====

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view/20080710-
147621/DFA-rules-on-househelp-hiring-exempt-from-POEA-rules


News: Not Just One Ambassador, Just One Consul

July 9, 2008

GABRIELA Network-USA / Mariposa Alliance Statement

Not Just One Ambassador, Just One Consul
DFA of Philippines is a Haven for Traffickers

Had Marichu Baoanan not filed a civil complaint against former
Philippine ambassador to the UN Lauro Baja, his wife, his daughter and
their travel agency, people of Philippine ancestry would have shrugged
off her story for its ordinariness.

In the more than ten years that GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance has
worked on the issue of trafficking, countless such stories have come
our way: of embassy and consulate personnel and their relatives
lugging, like so many suitcases, women from the Philippines,
extracting enormous amounts for a US visa, or a Saudi visa, or a
British visa or French or Italian – in other words, wherever the
government of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has diplomatic representation.

There have been innumerable stories of Filipinas seeking sanctuary
from their brutal employers at consulates and embassies only to be
returned to the same employers; of Filipinas funneled into the sex
trade by embassy and consular personnel; of Filipinas traded as
domestic workers by embassy and consular personnel to their relatives
and friends as favors; of Filipinas coerced into paid-for marriages
and sex work to enable embassy and consular personnel to make enormous
profits.

It is a vast narrative of corruption and greed – the hallmarks of
bureaucrat capitalism – and of feudal/patriarchal anti-woman values
which underlie the sustained violence against women that is the
hallmark of the Philippines’ Labor Export Policy.

Every Filipino is familiar with this narrative. Every Filipino has
at least one tale of this miserable narrative, whether directly
experienced or indirectly experienced through family and/or friends.

When the first DFA personnel and/or the relative(s) thereof was
convicted of forced labor, peonage and/or trafficking, the Department
of Foreign Affairs should have immediately launched an investigation
to weed out the traffickers in its midst.

When the first diplomatic corps staff was shown to have been
connected, even remotely, to even one incident of trafficking and
coerced labor, the proper thing for the government of Gloria Macapagal
Arroyo to have done was launch an immediate crack-down on the
traffickers in its midst.

Instead both Macapagal-Arroyo and the DFA bosses chose to ignore such
incidents.

Now we know why; the DFA has been transformed into a sanctuary, not
for overseas Filipinos, but for traffickers. Trafficking profits
fulfill the lust for wealth of the bosses of bosses.

The overseas face of Macapagal-Arroyo’ s government accurately reflects
its character at home: corrupt, greedy, exploitative, a parasite
living off the wounds of the Filipino people, exacerbating injuries to
the body politic by blaming its victim. Marichu is poor and just “a
maid” and therefore should not speak truth to power.

One very simple question — how many diplomatic “red” passports for
alleged “domestic employees” does the DFA issue per year? – would have
immediately given anyone an understanding of the extent of this
corruption.

As for those who decry what they perceive to be attempts to sully the
reputation of “a citizen above suspicion” by a simple “maid,” bear in
mind that whitewashed tombs are beautiful outward but full of
corruption and “uncleanliness within.”

Marichu Baoanon’s story is common. GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance
has heard it over and over and over again. To fence-sit and do
nothing about it now is to be an accomplice in the exploitation,
commoditization and disempowerment of the Filipina. Do nothing, say
nothing and you conspire with the Macapagal-Arroyo government’s policy
of implementing globalization through sustained violence against women.

Therefore, GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance calls for a thorough
investigation, not only of the defendants in the civil complaint filed
by Marichu Baoanon but of the entire Department of Foreign Affairs and
of its embassies and consulates.

We demand that the DFA issue and implement a policy of zero tolerance
towards trafficking, forced and exploitative labor among its ranks.

Zero tolerance toward trafficking and peonage should be the minimum
policy of a government that survives on remittances from overseas
Filipino workers.

We demand of the United Nations as well a policy of zero tolerance
toward trafficking, slavery and peonage among its ranks. Nations
cannot be united if trafficking, slavery and peonage are allowed to be
visited upon more than half of the world’s population.

We demand that these “whitened sepulchers” stop vilifying Marichu
Baoanon for being just “a maid” and for speaking out. This is public
verbal abuse and extremely disrespectful of the Filipina domestic worker.

We call for the affirmation and assertion of labor rights and women’s
rights for Filipinos at home and overseas.

We call for JUSTICE FOR MARICHU and all “maids” like her victimized by
the sustained violence of the Labor Export Policy.

We ask all friends of the Filipino people to stand with Marichu, to
stand with GABNet of the Mariposa Alliance, in opposition to the
continuing violence against women embedded in the Labor Export
component of imperialist globalization.

JUSTICE FOR MARICHU! JUSTICE FOR OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS! JUSTICE
FOR THE FILIPINA! JUSTICE FOR THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!
END TRAFFICKING AND PEONAGE NOW! ONWARD TO WOMEN’S LIBERATION AND THE
LIBERATION OF THE FILIPINO PEOPLE!

##


Annalisa Vicente Enrile
Chairperson, GABRIELA Network
Initiating Committee, Mariposa Alliance
PO Box 403, Times Square Station
New York, New York 10036
Tel: 1.619.316.0920
Email: chair@gabnet. org

The Mariposa Alliance is a US-wide alliance of individual women and
women’s organizations working on intersectional issues


OFWs Still Being Deployed in Danger Zones

July 5, 2008

OFWs Still Being Deployed in Danger Zones

In spite of President Arroyo’s statement that it is government policy to “allow our citizens to work only in safe places,” some 1.1 million Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are still working, and many more are being deployed in danger zones all over the world.

BY AUBREY SC MAKILAN
Bulatlat

http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-29/6-29-zones.htm

Two Filipino truck drivers were killed in a span of two months in Iraq. On Aug. 12, Rogelio Alere Saraida, 47, of Bacoor town, Cavite province, died in a grenade attack in Mosul. Saraida worked for the Kuwait-based Parsons International.

Earlier, on July 30, Carlito Sotes Mainit, 52, of Malabon City was killed when the truck that he was driving was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. Mainit’s truck was part of a 20-vehicle convoy that was bound for Baghdad from Kuwait. Aside from Mainit, Migrante International said that 10 other drivers in the convoy were Filipinos. The Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) has only recently confirmed Mainit’s death.

In February, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) Abel Monterela and Felix Llorando, along with three others, died in Saudi Arabia after being wounded in a shootout between Saudi police and a militant group there.

Meanwhile, 20 Filipino seamen were seized by Somali rebels who held them hostage for 108 days since March 29. They were finally freed, and nine of them were back in Manila on August 5.

Despite previous incidents of hostages and deaths, many OFWs have decided to work and stay on in strife-ridden or war-torn countries.

Increasing deployment

At present, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has suspended deployment in Lebanon and Iraq and restricted work in Afghanistan.

But POEA data showed that deployment of OFWs in Iraq and Afghanistan even increased since 2003 (see Table 1).

Based on the July-December 2004 Report to Congress prepared by the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs (OUMWA) of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), there are about 6,020 OFWs in Iraq. Of this, about 2,000 OFWs are undocumented.

Migrante International chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado said that although OFWs are not deployed directly to Iraq, many of them cross over to this war-torn country for higher-paying mercenary jobs.

Based on the DFA report, majority of OFWs in Iraq are semi-skilled workers like laborers. Some are professionals, like engineers and accountants, and skilled workers, like carpenters, and administrative assistants.

In 2003, the Department of Labor and Employment issued a suspension of deployment in some Middle East countries, yet records show the increase of documented OFWs within that year. (See Table 2)

At stake

Garry Martinez, spokesperson of Migrante Sectoral Party (MSP), said that aside from the three countries, there are many other countries the government should consider as danger zones, considering the history of being at war or internal conflict in these places.

Migrante said that countries which are considered danger zones are Iran, North and South Korea, Nigeria, Somalia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Liberia, Israel, and the countries in the Balkan Peninsula.

About 1,160,132 OFWs are in danger in these countries, and in Iraq, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, said Martinez (see Table 3).

In Saudi, Kuwait and Lebanon, most of the OFWs work as domestic helpers. Women in production work as dressmakers while men as construction laborers. Aside from domestics, most women in Israel work as caregivers and nurse aides.

In the Balkan peninsula, OFWs are skilled workers in companies. Some women are domestics for diplomats.

Held hostage

Martinez said that although only seafarers, and no other permanent OFWs are in Somalia, ships carrying Filipino seafarers pass through the Somali waters where several boats have been held hostage by Somali rebels.

In Afghanistan, Iran, Liberia and Nigeria, most OFWs are engaged in construction and oil industries.

Anthony Santos, is an OFW who worked for the American oil service firm Willbros Group in Nigeria. Santos, along with eight other foreign workers, were held hostage by the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND).

The nine foreign workers were on a pipe-laying barge in Nigeria’s Niger Delta when they were abducted on Feb. 18. The incident reportedly took place after a militant commander declared “total war” on all foreign oil interests in the Delta. They were released after 11 days.

Despite the hostage taking of OFWs in Somalia and Nigeria, the POEA issued no restriction of work or deployment ban to these countries.

No bilateral agreement

Bragas-Regalado said that the government should ensure that they have bilateral agreements with host countries to protect the welfare of migrant Filipinos.

But based on the OUMWA-DFA 2004 Report to Congress, the Philippine government has no bilateral agreements with these countries, except Iraq.

But the same report stated that the RP-Iraq labor agreement signed in early 1980s was “hardly implemented because of the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait (1990-19991), Gulf War (1990), United Nations sanctions (1990-2003), United States invasion of Iraq (2003).”

“Interestingly, even Iraq’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs officials are not aware of the bilateral agreement concluded between the Philippines and Iraq during the Saddam Hussein’s regime,” the report said.

The report added that countries like Lebanon and Syria “are not keen on signing an agreement exclusively focused on labor related issues.”

Unfortunately, these countries did not sign or ratify the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, said the same report.

The OWWA reported that most, if not all, of the host countries insisted that their national laws were enough in protecting the rights of migrants and that there was no need for bilateral agreements. Ominously, the U.S. government tried to pass an anti-immigrant bill if not for the groundswell of protest actions it created.

Bragas-Regalado said, “The fact that many OFWs continue to languish in jail in their host countries, with some in death row, proves that national laws are not enough to protect the rights of migrant workers.”

Korea then and Israel now

Martinez said that the slow response of the government to repatriate the OFWs in Lebanon showed its lack of a crisis management plan.

Martinez was a factory worker in Koyang-Shi, Kyunggi-Do in South Korea from 1991 to 2003, and he was there when the country went to its highest state of alert in 1996 following an announcement by the North that it no longer recognized the demilitarized zone (DMZ).

From 1994 to 1997 violence resulting in casualties erupted along the border every year.

He recalled that he went to the Philippine embassy there and asked about its plan if the war intensified.

Talagang walang kahandaan,” (They are really not prepared) he said after the ambassador at that time, instead of informing them what the evacuation plan was, allegedly just told them not to worry since the war would not intensify.

As more and more Filipinos asked about the embassy preparations, Martinez said the embassy only issued a Certificate of Identity to OFWs. He, however, said that many were not able to avail of it since many OFWs used another name in their passport to enter Korea that time.

After being aware of his rights and organized by other migrant leaders in 1996, he said, “Dati parang nagmamakaawa ako sa embassy, pero simula nung mamulat ako, nagde-demand na ako. Buhay ko ‘yun eh.” (Before, I would plead at the embassy, but ever since I was organized, I learned to make demands. It’s my life that’s at stake.)

Martinez worried that his plight then is being experienced by his wife Jocelyn.

Jocelyn, 36, works as a caregiver in Kadima, a three-hour trip away from Israel’s capital Tel Aviv. Martinez echoed his wife’s complaint that she has not heard of an evacuation plan for migrant workers like her if strikes against her host country escalates.

Of the 34,000 OFWs, only about 6,000 OFWs have been repatriated from Lebanon. Martinez stressed that this being a Lebanon-Israel crisis, a crisis management plan should have also been in place for about 30,000 OFWs in Israel.

Although his wife’s employer, a Swiss-Israeli, promised to take Jocelyn out of Israel in case of a worse scenario, Martinez designed their own plan.

He instructed his wife to contact OFWs she knows in Israel, keep huge Philippine flags, assign among them street coordinators and spread Migrante’s hotline number (632) 911-4165.

At present, he said three street coordinators have been identified, two in Tel Aviv and one in Kadima. In case of an intensified war, each street coordinator will lead about 10 OFWs in a bunker where a huge Philippine flag will be put up. The leader will inform Migrante’s office of their location and condition which will be echoed to the DFA officials and other concerned agencies for possible rescue.

Martinez worries that “if the government could not repatriate the 30,000 OFWs in Lebanon, has no plan for those in Israel, how could it save the other OFWs in other Middle East countries in case of a region-wide war?” There are about 1.5 million OFWs deployed in the Middle East.

But Lorenzo Jungco, OUMWA special assistant, said that each post “definitely” has its plan for evacuating OFWs in these countries. However, he did not elaborate further about the plan aside from saying that they have “varying plans in varying conditions.”

Jungco said there are currently 85 posts covering 194 countries and territories.

Less jobs

Despite the dangers in these countries, many OFWs decided to work and stay on in strife-ridden or war-torn countries. They say, “Di bale nang mamatay sa ibang bansa basta may pera, kaysa mamatay sa gutom ang pamilya namin sa Pilipinas” (We would rather die in another country rather than allow our families to die of hunger in the Philippines).

For IBON Foundation, an independent think tank, “the fact that many OFWs would prefer to risk their lives in war-torn Lebanon than return home only highlights how the Arroyo administration has failed to create sufficient livelihoods locally to enable them come home permanently and make a decent living.”

From April 2001 to April 2006, IBON said the government has created an average of only 787,000 jobs annually, which is “not even enough to absorb just the average new entrants in the job market of more than 978,000, much less make a dent in the growing number of unemployed Filipinos, currently pegged at over 4.4 million workers.”

Meanwhile, the government has deployed a yearly average of 900,000 OFWs from 2001 to 2005. The share of OFW remittances to the gross national product has grown from nearly 8 percent in 2001 to 10 percent in 2005, said IBON. (see Table 4).

“Until sufficient jobs can be created, overseas workers will have to continue risking physical and psychological abuse, and even death, in order to feed their families and ensure them a decent life,” the think tank said. Bulatlat

Copyright belongs to: http://www.bulatlat.com/news/6-29/6-29-zones.htm


DESPITE KIDNAP ORDEAL, OFW ASKS GOVT TO LIFT DEPLOY BAN TO NIGERIA

July 5, 2008


MANILA, OCTOBER 14, 2007 (STAR) By Pia Lee-Brago – The Filipino electrical supervisor who was released last Wednesday by his kidnappers in Nigeria, arrived yesterday in Manila and appealed to the government to lift the partial ban on the deployment of workers to Nigeria.

Albert Bacani Sr. made the appeal in the weekly dzMM radio program “Para Sa Iyo Bayan” of Vice President Noli de Castro after he arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Bacani, chief electrician of an Italian petrochemical company in Nigeria, and another co-worker were abducted by armed bandits last Sept. 27 from SAIPEM’s petrochemical complex in Port Harcourt in River State, Nigeria.

Since January, at least nine cases of kidnapping of foreign workers in Nigeria involved overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which prompted the Philippine government to impose a ban on the deployment of Filipino workers to oil-rich Nigeria.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said the partial ban on OFWs in Nigeria stays and that workers currently deployed there may avail themselves of the ongoing repatriation program. Only returning OFWs are allowed to go back to their same employers and jobsite in Nigeria.

Bacani said that despite his ordeal, he will return to Nigeria after two months of vacation here.

He said Nigeria is a good labor market for OFWs where foreign companies offer good compensation for workers.

He added that the eight armed men who kidnapped him are not part of an organized group that is responsible for the other abductions of foreign workers in Nigeria.

Bacani had undergone medical check-up and psychological evaluation after he and his Colombian co-worker were released by the abductors to the State Security Services of Nigeria on a bridge in Port Harcourt last Wednesday.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo ordered the Philippine Embassy in Nigeria to facilitate the repatriation of Bacani to Manila and conveyed his release to his family.

The government expressed gratitude to the Nigerian government and SAIPEM for their efforts to secure the release of Bacani.

Sen. Manuel Roxas II warned jobseekers to avoid accepting employment offers to Nigeria.

He said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration had suspended the processing of job contracts for Nigeria until the peace and order situation in the said African country improves.

The senator also underscored the need for workers’ vigilance against bogus online recruitment scams proliferating in the Internet. – With Aurea Calica

http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/hl/hl106412.htm


Government’s continued apathy towards Nigeria OFWs

July 3, 2008

Late in 2006, the government still allowed deployment of workers to Nigeria despite reported kidnappings. [1]

Early in 2007, President Arroyo declared a “halt” to the deployment of workers to Nigeria after successive kidnapping incidents which involved OFWs in Nigeria’s oil areas. The travel and work ban may have been justifiable at that point. [2]

“The president has ordered a temporary halt to deployments to Nigeria until the security of our nationals is guaranteed,” Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

It is to be noted that at the height of Nigerian militants attack on foreign workers in oil areas, it was not only Filipinos who were kidnapped, but other nationals as well. But none of their countries ever declared a ban or even made a travel advisory. [3, 4]

However, long after the kidnapping has been resolved and kidnapped OFWs were released, the government still maintained the travel ban to Nigeria

The travel ban affected not only New Hires but vacationing OFWs as well, —- even those OFWs who had been working in Lagos and non-oil areas for a long time already.

Even the last OFW kidnap victim, Albert Bacani Sr., after his return to the country, asked the the government to lift the travel ban to Nigeria. [5]. Adding that he will still go back to Nigeria after his two months ‘vacation’.

By February 2007, the DFA and POEA still maintained Total Ban to Nigeria, despite the release of all 24 Filipino sailors seized by rebels in January. [6]

By March 2007, upon the strength of the petition of some expatriate companies in Nigeria, the OFW association in Nigeria, and the endorsement of the Philippine Embassy, the Total Ban was scaled-down to Partial Ban, allowing the vacationing OFWs with valid work visa to return to Nigeria. [7]

The partial lifting of ban of deployment to Nigeria will only allow the processing and deployment of returning Filipino workers who are on vacation and are going to work with the same employer and work site in Nigeria. OFWs with new contract are not allowed to leave.

Brion explained the decision to partially lift the ban was in light of the improved security conditions in both countries.

However in May 2007, the government agencies concerned made a turn-around in the Nigeria deployment issues.

“Despite the release [of the hostages], we will not lift the ban on the deployment of Filipino workers [to] Nigeria yet, pending our thorough assessment on the general situation in that African country by the Department of Foreign Affairs,” Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said in a statement. [8]

Returning OFWs to Nigeria found themselves barred again by Immigration and POEA officials at the NAIA because they were told that a Total Ban was in effect.

Brion’s statements were in complete contradiction the DFA’s recommendation to lift the travel ban to Nigeria. Thus:

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has recommended the “immediate total” lifting of the deployment ban on overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to Nigeria.

In a letter to Labor Secretary Arturo Brion dated April 30, 2006, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net, DFA Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs Esteban Conejos Jr. cited the report of the Philippine embassy in Abuja on the “stable” security situation in Nigeria. [9]

This is just the beginning of the flip-flopping decisions made by the DOLE. It also showed a lack of coordination with DFA and POEA.

By early November 2007, it looked like the three agencies — DFA, DOLE and POEA – were really hell-bent in imposing the total travel ban to Nigeria. [10]

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has no plans of lifting the deployment ban on Filipino workers for Nigeria, dzMM reported Wednesday morning.

Rosalinda Baldoz of the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said that security risks to Filipino workers are still present in the African country. She said there are no plans to lift the total ban.

She added that the POEA is asking returning workers affected by the total ban to be considerate of the government’s moves to protect Filipino workers from the rebels in Nigeria

But on Nov. 17, 2007, then-DOLE Sec. Brion issued a memorandum that DOLE has partially lifted the ban in the deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) to the conflict-ridden countries of Nigeria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan, but not that to Iraq.In Department Order 86-07, dated November 16, a copy of which was obtained by INQUIRER.net, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion qualified the lifting to the ban to the three countries. [11]

It was supposedly a cause for celebration among Nigeria OFWs as they heaved a sigh of relief, thinking of finally getting a hassle-free vacation. Well, not exactly.

In a case of Wow Mali!, Sec. Brion on Nov. 19, 2007 made a 360-degrees turnaround on his own memorandum. Recalling his own order, Brion said:

The labor department recalled on Monday the order partially lifting the ban in the deployment of Filipino workers to Nigeria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan “in light of expressed concerns on the security/ peace and order situation” in those countries as well as in Iraq. [12]

“….While we previously allowed the deployment of new hires and returning workers to international organizations in Afghanistan, the Department of Foreign Affairs will not issue any ‘no objection’ certificate for Afghanistan; hence there is also an effective complete ban,” the advisory said. [ibid]

This latest travel ban announcement ignited a fierce reaction among Nigeria OFWs. Petitions and angry e-mails circulated though the internet, addressed to government agencies, congressmen, senators, the office of the President and the Vice-President. The Nigeria OFWs were anxious that their Christmas vacation might be in peril if the total ban is not lifted by December 2007. The Nigeria OFWs sent at least three petitions to all government official and agencise concerned. [13]

Despite the massive online and offline effort, no governent agencies and officials intervened. And the Nigeria OFWs had to make a difficult decision last December 2007 whether to go home or not.

To this day, there seems to be no plans to lift the ban to Nigeria. And so Nigerian OFWs continue their petition. [14]

From the OFWs

The OFWs in Nigeria, believe that the imposition of the Total Ban is not the solution to this issue of kidnapping in Southeast Nigeria, which for the record, also involved other nationalities. The continued ban is hurting every Filipinos’ chance of getting a decent work and a chance to contribute to the Philippine economy.

By declaring a Total Ban on Nigeria on account of security issues in the country, the Philippine government is insulting the capabilities of the host country to maintain its internal peace and order. The present administration of His Excellency President Yaradua is exerting a huge effort to secure the oil areas and guaranty the safety of all expatriate workers.

One thing is certain in the OFWs minds, the kidnapping incidents in specific areas of Nigeria is not a mirror of the entire country’s state of security.

The OFWs themselves in the oil-areas have sent numerous letters to the Philippine embassy assuring the embassy that they feel safe with the present security efforts implemented in their workplace.

Filipino workers in Nigeria are found in oil industry, civil and military aviation (pilots and avionics), construction, manufacturing, telecoms and service industries. Others are married to Nigerians, and the rest are relatives of Filipinos with residency.

Nigeria OFWs assure the Philippine government and their loved ones that Nigeria is a decent and relatively safe country to work and stay.

Advisory

Instead of declaring a Total Ban on Nigeria, OFW associations recommend that the Philippine government do what other governments are doing – give out an advisory to Filipino workers in Nigeria to take precaution and observe company security policies. Then it should advise the Philippine embassy to coordinate communication with oil companies to ensure that Filipino workers will have a direct line to embassy if their safety is threatened.

Bilateral Agreement

More significantly, the Nigeria OFW associations strongly recommend that the present administration establish bilateral multi-sectoral agreement with Nigeria and take advantage of the growing Nigerian economy, the increasing demand for foreign workers and technologies, and the export potential of Philippine goods to the Nigerian market.

Having bilateral relations with various sectors would be advantageous to the Philippines, especially with regard to business opportunities and oil supplies, and to the OFWs here.

The bilateral agreement with Nigeria will also pave the way to a similar agreement with the rest of Western Africa, considering that Nigeria is a leader in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Since there are growing numbers of Filipinos working in various ECOWAS nations, an agreement with Nigeria/ECOWAS would ensure protection and better treatment of OFWs, and possible business opportunities.

State Visit

President Gloria M. Arroyo should consider making a state visit to Lagos/Abuja and go up in history as the only Philippine president to ever visit an African State, and maybe the second head of state from Asia to do so, after China’s Hu Jintao.

Preceding the state visit, a Philippines-Nigeria Business Cooperation summit could be organized. This is to pave the way for the establishment of an office to handle Philippine investors coming to Nigeria and to act as a liaison office to various Nigerian authorities.

Embassy Support

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should open a consular office in Lagos, considering that Lagos is the arrival and departure point for Nigeria OFWs.

There is also a need to deploy a Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in the Abuja Embassy and in the Lagos Consulate to process and document all Filipino workers in West African countries.

Undocumented Filipinos (those that came with business or tourist visas or came from another country) here would like to be registered with OWWA and POEA and legitimize their existence. For now, only the Filipino community in Lagos – the Philippine Barangay Society in Nigeria (PBSN) — is documenting all OFWs who passed by Lagos by way of membership forms. PBSN is also assisting the Philippine Embassy regarding undocumented and distressed OFWs.

In April 2008, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes visited Lagos, Nigeria to attend a world energy summit. He saw for himself the positive status of Filipinos and the community in Lagos. And he can surely vouch for the stable general peace and order of Nigeria.

Nigeria OFWs fervently hope and pray that Her Excellency, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will reconsider the present policy towards Nigeria, and order for the total lifting of travel and work ban to this country.

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P.S. The Philipines should, instead, implement a TOTAL BAN against the deployment of Domestic Helpers (DH) to Middle East countries since there are more abused, jailed or killed DH in ME countries.

1) [DFA okays OFW travel to Nigeria despite reported kidnap http://www.gmanews.tv/story/9115/DFA-okays-OFW-travel-to-Nigeria-despite-reported-kidnap

2) [Arroyo bans OFW deployment to Nigeria after kidnap] http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storyPage.aspx?storyId=64092

3) [American, Briton kidnapped in Nigeria after Filipinos] http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmafp/is_200701/ai_n17138046

4) [Nigeria oil rig raided, 8 abducted] http://www.bt.com.bn/en/world_news/2007/10/27/nigeria_oil_rig_raided_8_abducted

5) [DESPITE KIDNAP ORDEAL, OFW ASKS GOVT TO LIFT DEPLOY BAN TO NIGERIA] http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/hl/hl106412.htm

6) [OFW work ban in Nigeria stays] http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/feb/15/yehey/top_stories/20070215top4.html

7) [Deployment ban to Lebanon and Nigeria partially lifted] http://www.dole.gov.ph/news/details.asp?id=N000002032

8) [Ban on Nigeria deployment stays — DoLE] http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/breakingnews/view_article.php?article_id=65023

9) [DFA recommends lifting of deployment ban to Nigeria]

http://globalnation.inquirer.net/news/news/view_article.php?article_id=63691

10) [POEA: Deployment ban to Nigeria will continue] http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=98363

11) [OFW ban to Nigeria, Lebanon, Afghanistan partially lifted] http://www.ofw-care.com/2007/11/17/ofw-ban-to-nigeria-lebanon-afghanistan-partially-lifted/

12) [DoLE recalls order on partial lifting of ban ] http://www.gmanews.tv/story/69332/DoLE-recalls-order-on-partial-lifting-of-ban

13) [OFWs in Nigeria long for Christmas in RP] http://www.gmanews.tv/story/71191/OFWs-in-Nigeria-long-for-Christmas-in-RP

14) [Remove Travel Ban to Nigeria – Online Petition] http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/remove-travel-ban-to-nigeria.html

Filipinos in Nigeria websites:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/naijapinoy/

https://philbrgysocietyinnigeria.wordpress.com/

http://profiles.friendster.com/pbsn

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Copyright © 2008 to Barangay OFW. All rights reserved.