November 12, 2012

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JULY 20, 2012 – Overseas Filipino Workers will use Facebook and Twitter to protest the impending plan of Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) to increase its premium. Dubbed as Global Webwide Protest to Stop Philhealth Increase which will run from July 20 – 25, 2012 in different social media platforms, the online protest was initiated by Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards founding president Kenji Solis who is based in Jeddah, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has now adherents from 67 countries majority are OFWs from the Middle East or Gulf countries, followed by Singapore and Hong Kong.

The Philhealth Board recently issued Circular No.022 imposing a 150% hike in health premium for OFW members from PhP 900 to become P2, 400; OFWs find this increase extremely exorbitant and inconsiderate because not many of OFWs were consulted. Through its Facebook page Global OFW Voices – the voices of more than 10,000 OFWs, is being mobilized to stage synchronize protest on the different social media platforms of Philhealth, government officials including the President PNOY and other government agencies to air a unified message against the increase.

OFWs globally plead to stop and immediately implement a moratorium on imposing the increase until a comprehensive and genuine consultation with most OFWs and other stakeholders have been conducted. The government has to consider the mobile or transient nature of OFWs, and recognize their unique circumstances where majorities do not directly benefit from the insurance since most of them are already provided with far better and superior health insurances by their companies. In particular, Philhealth should be more sympathetic on OFWs who are earning meager salary like domestic helpers, laborers, janitors, food servers, or those categorized as unskilled workers who find the increase as an added burden to pay before they leave abroad. The said increase is a direct violation of RA 10022, otherwise known as the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipino Act of 1995 that “prohibits increase in government fees for services rendered to OFWs and their dependents.”

It is unfair for OFWs to be treated as revenue mill or as OFWs consider themselves as government’s milking cow. With their dollar remittances that keep the Philippine economy afloat including the strengthening of peso against the dollar, it is unfortunate that the government continue to levy additional fees on this sector. Although OFWs do not oppose government’s plan to provide universal health insurance to the poor, it is immoral to use solidarity to burden the already suffering workers overseas.

The group calls for a comprehensive discussion with Philhealth and other government agencies to agree on an equitable premium among OFWs and stop the increase until a mutual agreement has been reached.

For more information on this protest, visit:
Webwide Protest Against Philhealth Premium increase
Friday, July 20 at 7:00am in UTC+03 at Worldwide

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Nigeria punishes 13 Filipinos for oil theft in delta

February 21, 2009

ABUJA, Feb 20 (Reuters) – Thirteen Filipinos were sentenced to five years in jail or a $6,770 fine on Friday after pleading guilty to handling oil products suspected to have been stolen in the Niger Delta.

The military arrested them in November after intercepting a vessel suspected of carrying 12,000 tonnes of stolen crude oil in the delta, the heart of Nigeria’s oil sector.

Nigeria is the world’s eighth biggest exporter of crude oil but thieves take a sizeable proportion of its output by drilling into pipelines or hijacking barges loaded with oil, theft known locally as “bunkering”.

“The accused persons, who initially pleaded not guilty on arraignment, later changed their plea and they were found guilty based on their plea,” said a spokesman for Nigeria’s anti- corruption police, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission.

Some estimates say 100,000 barrels of crude are stolen from the Niger Delta each day, about five percent of the country’s production and equivalent to around $4 million daily or $1.5 billion a year at current prices.

It is shipped out of Nigeria and sold on the international market. Human Rights Watch has put the amount stolen at two or three times that level.

Last week, the military impounded 22 barges of stolen crude oil in the delta in what it said was its biggest seizure for months. (Reporting by Randy Fabi, edited by Richard Meares)


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


Crisis stretching OFW ability to send money

September 2, 2008

By Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

Posted date: September 01, 2008

MANILA–A US-generated financial crisis is testing overseas Filipino workers’ ability to send cash home, an economist said, using government data on remittances.

“If OFWs persist in sending more money, it will not be physically sustainable for them,” Alvin Ang told the OFW Journalism Consortium before monetary authorities reported on August 15 that OFWs sent home a record $1.5 billion in June.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas linked the 30-percent year-on-year remittance growth rate to an increase in the number of Filipinos who left for work abroad from January to June this year. Government recorded over 600,000 Filipino workers who left the country using official channels in the first six months of the year.

While acknowledging the increasing rate of remittance from these Filipinos, Ang warns that remittance flows especially from the United States and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia are entering a “plateau.” Using year-on-year totals of cash remittances formally sent over a six-month period ending May, Ang defined that plateau as a growth rate of remittances at three percent and below.

As an example, he cited remittances from OFWs in the US growing less than one percent (0.66) to $2.462 billion in the first six months ending May as against the same six-month period, $2.446 billion, in 2007.

He also noted the 1.12 percent growth rate of OFW remittances from Saudi Arabia in the five-month period ending May this year, totaling $528.013 million, compared to $522.156 million in the first five months of 2007.

These remittances from major host countries still grew, Ang said, but they were “not significant increases.”


Even the total monthly remittances are either touching plateau levels or experiencing negative growth rates, Ang said.

The country received $1.396 billion in December 2007 but the January remittance declined by 9.52 percent to $1.264 billion and $1.258 billion in February 2008.

Declining rates may be due to several factors, among them US inflation and higher oil and commodities prices, said Ang, but their effects on remittances are not immediate, “Give it one to one-and-a-half years before we really feel the full effect.”

He also noted that OFW remittances from countries other than the US and Saudi Arabia have been contributing more to growth rates and helping arrest the decline in cash flow.

OFWs in Singapore, for example, sent home $0.175 billion during the first five months, or an 81.98-percent growth from $95.985 million in the same period last year.

Filipinos in Canada sent $0.46 billion during the first six months, achieving a year-on-year 70.65-percent growth rate.

Filipinos in Europe also saw their year-on-year five-month remittance volumes grow – like Italy at 22.11 percent, Germany at 27.22 percent, and the United Kingdom at 19.01 percent.


Ang’s prognosis on the Philippines’s plateau-level remittance growth rates recalls a basic economic concept: the law of diminishing returns. There will come a time when remittances from OFWs, whether it’s the overall total or the per-continent or per-country totals, “will go down somewhere,” he said.

Given the weakening dollar, World Bank economists Dilip Ratha and Sanket Mohapatra have also observed in Remittances Dispatch that rising inflation rate and oil and commodities prices have “further (eroded) the purchasing power of remittances” to Mexico, India and the Philippines.

In particular, they noted that while Philippine remittances increased by nearly 50 percent between 2004 and 2007, “[a] large part of this increase has been simply to preserve the purchasing power of recipients since the Philippine peso appreciated by 33 percent against the US dollar.”

OFW remittance to the Philippines hit roughly $14.5 billion last year. It was at $8.5 billion in 2004.
But after accounting for the peso’s appreciation and domestic inflation, Philippine remittances increased by only three percent in the three years beginning 2004, write Ratha and Mohaptra.

In comparison, India’s and Mexico’s remittance growth rates after accounting for inflation were 13 and 19 percent, respectively.

While the effects of the world price adjustments are yet to sink in, Ang expects Filipinos in many countries to be sending home lower amounts of money.

OFW Journalism Consortium


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
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.

Philhealth thumbs down proposed hospital for OFWs

June 15, 2008

The head of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. rejected on Wednesday proposals in the Senate to put up a hospital exclusively for overseas Filipino workers and their dependents.

Lorna O. Fajardo, acting Philhealth president and chief executive officer, said at a joint public hearing of the Senate committees on health and labor that it would be more sensible to use the money intended for the proposed hospital to augment existing medical facilities run by the government.

“Another hospital that cannot be fully equipped will just add up to the number of ill-equipped hospitals, “ Fajardo pointed out.

Besides, she stressed that the needs of OFWs and members of their families are no different from those of ordinary Filipinos, and that they should not be accommodated separately.

Fajardo said there are around 700,000 OFWs enrolled in Philhealth, each contributing P900 membership fee before going to their destination countries.

While Fajardo acknowledges that there are certain peculiarities in the OFWS’ cases, she said Philhealth does not support putting up a separate hospital exclusively for migrant workers.

Senate President Protempore Jinggoy Estrada filed in July Senate Bill 421, or the Migrant Workers Hospital Act of 2007, to ensure availability, accessibility of comprehensive health-care services to all migrant workers and their dependents.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr. and Sen. Lito Lapid also filed separate bills for the construction of an OFW medical facility.

Vilar’s bill appropriates P5 million as government’s contribution for the initial operations and maintenance of the “OFW Medical Center.” It also provides that the government would “contribute the necessary land, building equipment and facilities” to the hospital.

Estrada, who chairs the Senate labor committee, asked resource persons invited to the public hearing on Wednesday if putting up a 50-bed hospital for OFWs would be a better option than accrediting existing medical facilities to cater to migrant workers’ health needs.

The OFW hospital is proposed to be supervised by the Overseas Workers Welfare administration (OWWA) and will initially serve OFWs who have paid their dues and their legal dependents.

It was intended to complement the existing package of services under the Medical Care Program (Philhealth) so as to include preventive, promotive, diagnostic, curative and rehabilitative programs.

“We can’t take for granted the indispensable role played by our modern heroes. Aside from their skills and experiences, an important capital that they have possessed is their health,” Estrada said in justifying the proposal.

In the course of the discussions, Estrada said having an OFW hospital would no longer be necessary if existing government hospitals would be willing to attend to the health needs of OFWs and their dependents.

The proposed hospital, he said, could be built using funds from OFWs’ contributions through OWWA. “We can even establish the hospital in the compound of the Veterans Medical Memorial Center,” Estrada said.

“I know the place very well, having stayed there for two years,” he jested, referring to his detention there in 2001 until he was allowed to post bail in 2003 as a co-accused of his father in a plunder case.

For her part, Sen. Pia Cayetano, who chairs the health and demography committee, said the proposed hospital could serve as a “processing center” to check on health needs of OFWs for referral to other Philhealth-accredited hospitals.

But Cayetano said she has strong reservations against putting up a new hospital for OFWs, considering that most OFWs are not based in Manila where the medical facility is proposed to be built.

Rhodora Abaro of the Center for Migrant Advocacy said about 50 percent of OFWs and their relatives come from Calabarzon (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon), the National Capital Region (Metro Manila), and Central Luzon, while the rest are spread in the Visayas and Mindanao.

She suggested that the intended beneficiaries be properly consulted on the proposal, noting that it would be their money that would be used to build and operate the facility.

“It’s the OFWs’ money, they should be consulted about it,” Abaro said in an interview with GMANews.TV.

While the benefits of the proposed OFW hospital can only be availed of by documented workers, Estrada suggested that undocumented OFWs should also be entitled to its services.

“Like documented OFWS, these undocumented workers also send money to the country,” he said.

Estrada said that he would organize a technical working group to look into the prospect of addressing the needs of undocumented OFWs. – Mark J. Ubalde, GMANews.TV


02/27/2008 | 11:10 PM