Nigeria-base OFWs renew appeal to PGMA to lift the ban

October 28, 2008

Lagos, Nigeria

A Filipino association in Nigeria have renewed their appeal to the Philippine government to lift the travel and work ban ordered by DFA under Usec Esteban Conejos since March 2007.

The Philippine Barangay Society in Nigeria (PBSN), which was organized by pioneering OFWs in Nigeria way back the late 70’s, remains on the forefront of this appeal to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The travel ban affected not only New Hires but vacationing OFWs as well, and those OFWs who had been working in Lagos and non-oil areas for many years. When kidnapped OFW Albert Bacani Sr returned to the Philippines after his release, he asked for the lifting of the ban, declaring that he will still be returning to Nigeria after two month´s vacation. Proof that he believed in the safety of working in Nigeria.

Since March 2007 to November 2007, there was a confusion among Nigeria-based OFWs on the on-again, off-again decision on the lifting of ban to Nigeria. This has caused so much stress and anxiety to OFWs, especially those scheduled for vacations.

raffle draw during Family Day

raffle draw during Family Day

In November 2007, Nigeria-based OFWs sent petitions and e-mails requesting at the least, to reduce the ban to partial, allowing those with residency status to take vacation without problems.

Despite the massive online and offline efforts, there were no encouraging results. The ban remained. And the Nigeria OFWs had to make the difficult decision of not going home to the Philippines in December 2007 for the Christmas holidays.

Nigeria is a safe country

PBSN said that 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.

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 in the oil & gas industry, civil and military aviation (pilots and avionics), construction, manufacturing, telecom and service industries. Others are married to Nigerians, and the rest are relatives of Filipinos with residency status.

Safety Advisory

Instead of declaring a Total Ban on Nigeria, the OFW association believe that advisories from the Philippine Embassy for precautionary measures and security information will be sufficient action for the protection of the OFWs.

This ‘advisory’ is being done by the embassies of other nations regarding the day-to-day situation in Nigeria. The Philippine Embassy can coordinate with the various companies to ensure that their Filipino employees are aware of the actions to take in cases of security threats.

Nigeria OFWs also join their petition with the Filipinos in Afghanistan in asking President Macapagal-Arroyo to consider lifting the travel ban on both countries…


Conejos urged to resign for ‘neglecting’ distressed OFWs

October 23, 2008
10/22/2008 | 05:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines – An alliance of migrant workers’ groups on Wednesday asked Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos Jr to resign from his post for allegedly neglecting Filipino workers who are languishing in jails abroad.

In a rally in front of the DFA head office in Manila, about 100 protesters from the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) said Conejos has lost his credibility as head of the department’s office of migrant workers affairs.

“His palpable neglect of government responsibility towards overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) is tantamount to a crime,” said Garry Martinez, spokesman of Migrante International, one of the members of IAMR.

Martinez cited the case of beheaded OFW Venancio Ladion, alias Jennifer Bidoya, as a result of the alleged irresponsibility of the department regarding migrant cases.

Ladion, 27, was executed in Saudi Arabia last week for the murder of a Saudi national in 2005.
DFA officials claimed the government has done everything possible, including President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appeal for clemency to the King of Saudi Arabia, to spare Ladion’s life.

But the victim’s family rejected offers of diya or blood money payment and insisted on retribution.

The Philippine consul general in Jeddah, Ezzedin Tago, earlier said the family of the victim refused to pardon Ladion, who was found guilty by the courts of biting the victim’s penis before stabbing him on the neck and strangling him with an electrical cord.

But Connie Regalado, secretary-general of IMA, said it’s not just Ladion’s case where the DFA personnel under Conejos have been negligent.

“There are around 30 cases of OFWs on death row, almost a million cases of undocumented migrant workers, and about 5,000 migrants in jail waiting to be assisted by the DFA,” she said.

“Amid all their inadequacy to respond to migrants’ cases and amid the proven bankruptcy of its labor export policy, the DFA and Malacañang still have the gall to showcase the Philippines as a model at the GFMD,” Regalado said.

The GMFD is the Global Migrants Forum and Development (GFMD) being hosted by the Philippines at the end of the month in Manila, with Conejos as one of the key officials.

“Just like the Arroyo government, the organizers of the GFMD are drooling over the huge remittances of migrant workers, at the expense of our further commodification, and in violation of our rights and welfare,” she said.

Martinez added: “Clearly, the gall of Conejos to even talk about migrants and their protection knows no bounds,” he said. – Mark J. Ubalde and D’Jay Lazaro, GMANews.TV


A migrant workers’ group has demanded for the resignation of the head of the migrant workers affairs office of the the Department of Foreign Affairs for allegedly abandoning Filipino workers facing charges overseas.

On Wednesday, Migrante International, an alliance of migrant workers’ groups, said that DFA Undersecretary Esteban Conejos should step down.

In a demonstration, Migrante accused Conejos of lying in the case of Jenifer Bedoya, an OFW beheaded in Saudi Arabia for murder.

Contrary to Conejos’s statements, Migrante said Bedoya did not receive any legal assistance during his trial.

“Kasinungalingan ang sinabi nilang bibigyan kami ng tulong. Nangako sila sa akin pero pinabayaan nila ang kaso ng anak ko,” said Jenifer’s father, Geremias Bedoya.

In a statement, Migrante accused the DFA of lying to the Bedoya family about the real status of the case and gave them false promises after it asked the family not to reveal the case to the media.

“The family was later outraged to find out that Jenifer did not receive legal assistance, and was only provided an interpreter and not a lawyer in the early stages of the trial,” Migrante said.

The relatives of three other OFWs on death row in Saudi Arabia and Taiwan also joined the protest.

They are appealing to government to exhaust all efforts to save their relative from execution.

Brothers Edison and Rolando Gonzales were sentenced to death in Jeddah for allegedly killing a fellow OFW while Cecilia Alcaraz was sentenced to die by firing squad in Taiwan for allegedly killing a Taiwanese citizen.
Migrants’ grassroots organizations under the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) support the demand for Conejos to resign.

“There are around 30 cases of OFWs on death row, almost a million cases of undocumented migrant workers, and about 5,000 migrants in jail waiting to be assisted by the DFA. Amid all their inadequacy to respond to migrants’ cases and amid the proven bankruptcy of its labor export policy, the DFA and Malacañang still have the gall to showcase the Philippines as a model at the GFMD (Global Forum on Migration and Development),” said IMA Secretary General Connie Bragas-Regalado.

IMA organized the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) which will gather migrants and migrants’ organizations around the world in Manila this October to oppose the GFMD. The Philippine government will be hosting the 2nd GFMD also this month. With a report from ANC

Militants hit OFW forum

October 22, 2008

Wednesday, October 22, 2008
By Annabelle L. Ricalde

MILITANTS protested Tuesday in front of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (Owwa) office to denounce the holding of Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD) in the country next week.

The two-day forum will be participated by different countries that are members of the United Nations, private banks, investors from big telecommunication companies, money transfers and recruitment agencies.

Wildon Barros, spokesperson of Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) in Northern Mindanao, said the purpose of the forum is to re-align the working system abroad for the government and other big corporations to benefit the dollar remittances from Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). He said the forum will also outline new taxes for OFWs.

“Nahimo na nga commodities ang atong mga OFWs nga basta na lang ipatrabaho sa gawas ug gihimong gatasan sa gobiyerno,” Barros told Sun.Star.

Militants condemned President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the continuing economic crisis, which they said has made the country the second largest human resource exporter in the world.

Barros added that the forum will actually represent how backward the country’s economy is, contrary to Arroyo’s claim that the forum will delve on the OFWs contributions to the country’s economy.

Surprised by the protest, Roseller Bartolome, Owwa’s officer-in-charge explained that their office is not the proper agency to answer the grievances aired by the militants.

“Kumbaga sa task force, Owwa is only a member and besides we are only implementing mandate from the national level,” Bartolome told Sun.Star.

The scheduled activity is a multi-agency forum coming from different countries in which delegates will discuss the human depict of migration and recognize it as the key to development.

Barros, along with other militant groups such as Anak Pawis, Gabriel-Northern Mindanao Region and Alagad sa Maayong Panlawas, is also demanding the removal of remittance fee and service charges, including documentary stamp tax, imposed on OFWs.

‘Zero remittance day’ to cost govt millions – group

October 21, 2008

10/21/2008 | 05:45 AM

zero-remittance for OFWs

zero-remittance for OFWs

MANILA, Philippines – Militant groups are eying hundreds of millions of pesos in “lost” revenues for government when they hold a zero-remittance day protest action on Oct. 29.

Gary Martinez, spokesman of Migrante International, said Monday this will be a reminder to the government that its claim of migration being used as a tool of development will not wash.

“Sa loob ng isang araw, maliwanag aabot ito sa daang milyong piso. Sa isang buwan $1 billion pinapadala ng OFW. Kung kukuwentahin sa 30 araw daang-milyon piso ang di papasok sa ating bansa (In a single day we expect government to lose hundreds of millions of pesos in remittances. In a month, OFWs bring in $1 billion in remittances. Divide it by 30 and we can see hundreds of millions of pesos in lost remittances in a single day),” Martinez said in an interview on dzBB radio.

He said they expect millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in 192 countries to take part in the Zero Remittance Day next Wednesday.

Martinez also questioned the government’s offer of a retraining program for OFWs who may lose their jobs due to the global financial crisis.

According to him, the government issued a similar retraining program offer in 1997 but OFWs did not benefit from it.

“Wala kaming nakuhang retraining program. Di na bago ang sinasabi ng pamahalaan sa pangyayari sa aming kasamahan sa labas ng bansa (We got no retraining program. So the government’s offer is not new),” he said.

Earlier, migrant groups composed of 112 organizations worldwide will declare Oct. 29 as a “Zero Remittance Day” to signify its opposition to “forced migration and systematic exploitation of cheap labor.”

In a statement released on Sunday, the International Migrants Alliance (IMA) said its symbolic protest action would coincide with the opening of the Global Forum on Migrant Development (GFMD) that would be hosted by the Philippines in Manila.

IMA said that through the Zero Remittance Day, the organizations would be sending out united message of protest from millions of migrants worldwide “who are forced to leave their homelands and subject themselves to cheap labor and exploitation out of desperation.”

The alliance said the message would discredit migration as an effective tool for development, and unmask it as a “result of continuous unemployment, landlessness, and lack of basic services in sending countries.”

Migrant organizations worldwide will also hold the International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees (IAMR) on October 29 to oppose the GFMD.- GMANews.TV—group

DOLE still waiting for DFA assessment on Iraq ban

October 14, 2008
Philippine Barangay Society-Nigeria (PBSN)

Philippine Barangay Society-Nigeria (PBSN)

To all Filipinos in Nigeria. This news calls for another aggressive information campaign to our government officials to remove the travel and work ban in Nigeria. While we have nothing against the lifting of ban to Iraq, we find it unfair that the DFA remains deaf and dumb to our pleas to remove the ban.

Is Iraw far safer than Nigeria these days? What would the DFA do when another Filipino is killed or kidnapped in Iraq? Ban again? Like what they did to Nigeria?

When foreign countries issues travel warning against the Philippines on account of kidnapping or war in the South, the government gets a convulsions and insists the trouble is ‘only’ in the South.

What about Nigeria? Just because of a restive state in Nigeria, the Philippines is fit to consider entire Nigeria as unsafe? That is why it is not removing the ban?

This is really madness.

Let us write our Congressmen and OFW-friendly senators to help us get this ban lifted soonest.

Di na tayo makaka asa kay Ka Noli, masyadong busy para sa 2010.

DOLE still waiting for DFA assessment on Iraq ban
10/10/2008 | 05:26 PM
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Friday said it was still waiting for the assessment of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on whether the deployment ban on Iraq can be lifted or not.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said reports from the Middle East Preparedness Team indicated that the incidence of violence in Iraq has already dwindled but it was relying on the DFA’s recommendation.

“The DOLE position is subject to the security assessment by the DFA on the peace and order condition in Iraq,” Roque told GMANews.TV through a text message.

“While there maybe emerging employment opportunities there, the welfare of our nationals remains primal,” he said.

Recruitment agencies earlier called for a relaxation of the deployment ban to legally open up the job market in the war-torn country once more.

The Philippine government stopped sending workers to Iraq after Filipino accountant Robert Tarongoy was abducted in 2004.

The government said the abduction confirmed its apprehension of sending workers to the conflict-stricken country since the hostage-taking of truck driver Angelo dela Cruz that same year.

Word has it that the government spent millions of dollars for the freedom of the two hostages.

Roque admitted that despite the deployment ban, Filipino workers continued to enter Iraq illegally to take advantage of the high pay offered by mostly American companies with contracts in the Mideastern country.

He said reports reaching his office say the number of OFWs who are currently in Iraq has jumped to 15,000.

Labor officials have also maintained the deployment bans on Lebanon and Jordan despite similar calls for these to be lifted.

The Lebanon ban was kept due to ongoing peace and order problems while that on Jordan was kept because employers refused to comply with new conditions set for hiring OFWs.

Administrator Jennifer Manalili of the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency (POEA) has said the DFA recommended that these bans be maintained due to the “still volatile situation” in the two countries. – GMANews.TV