Cimatu to establish base in Qatar for immediate evacuation of Filipinos in Iraq

Marje Pelayo   •   January 7, 2020   •   915

DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu

MANILA, Philippines – Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu is setting up plans for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in the Middle East in response to the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The President has ordered Cimatu to oversee the situations in the Middle East amid the ongoing conflict between the United States and Iran following the killing of Iran’s top military commander Qasem Soleimani.

“I will do my best to do another mission for our country,” Cimatu assured.

Cimatu served as Special Envoy to the Middle East during the Iraq war in 2003.

He said he will immediately fly to the Middle East once his documents are settled.

He plans to stay in Qatar where he can lay the plans for the repatriation of OFWs in Iraq.

“I plan to go to Qatar, establish our base there and from there we’ll see kung would be able to go inside Iraq,” he said.

Cimatu will recommend raising Alert Level 4 in Iraq to pave way for forced or mandatory evacuation.

Iraq hosts a number of US Military bases thus it is highly susceptible to attack by Iranian forces.

“We have to move out immediately the Filipinos out of Iraq,” Cimatu said.

“Because I believe that this could be the target, initially the US facilities inside Baghdad. Almost the same area where the Iranian general was killed,” he added.

The official targets to repatriate first Filipinos working and living near US facilities in Iraq before they move to other gulf countries with US military bases such as Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait.

“The best way for the moment is for them to leave Iraq immediately,” he said.

Secretary Cimatu also confirmed that Philippine representatives have also been deployed to Iran to assess the situation of Filipinos there.

Cimatu worries, however, how to deal with the situation of undocumented Filipinos.

Nevertheless, Cimatu calls on the relatives of undocumented Filipinos in the Middle East to coordinate with authorities to locate their loved ones especially those within the possible target areas.

“Ang parents naman nila rito ang magsasabi that they are there, so ito yung mga sources namin kung saan talaga sila, (Their parents here can tell us if they are there so they will be our sources to identify their exact locations),” Cimatu concluded. – MNP (with details from Rey Pelayo)

Duterte commends Cimatu for Manila Bay white sand project

Marje Pelayo   •   September 22, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — In his public address Monday evening (September 21), President Rodrigo Duterte lauded the efforts of Environment Secretary Roy Cimatu in the full rehabilitation of Manila Bay. 

The President expressed his high confidence in Cimatu despite criticisms on the use of crushed dolomite boulders to cover the coastline of Manila Bay and the timing of the project amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“I think everybody was there when I said, ‘Roy, kaya mong linisin ‘to (can you clean this up)?’ And his answer was a very curtly given, ‘Kaya kong trabahuhin (I can work on it),'” the President recalled quoting Cimatu.

The President also noted that it is common for the opposition to criticize the government in all of its undertakings and specifically, the President himself.

Wala naman talaga tayong magawa (We really cannot do anything). You do it, may masabi sila (they have something to say). You do not do it, may masabi si Leni (Leni has something to say about it too),” he added, referring to Vice President Leni Robredo who is the leader of the opposition.

“They are trying to delude people.  They are trying to picture that there’s a failure of government. We have done our best,” Duterte stressed. 

He also said the opposition should not be adding to the already heavy burden of the country brought by the pandemic.

Robredo has questioned on multiple occasions, the government’s COVID-19 response and criticized its seeming lack of direction.

Alam mo Leni kung gusto mo (You know Leni, if you want), if you really want to do away with the COVID, i-sprayhan natin itong Pilipinas o Manila ng pesticide galing sa eroplano para patay lahat (let’s spray the whole Philippines or Manila with pesticide from a plane to kill them all) […] Do not add something to the pandemic by making such reckless statements na (that) we are not doing enough,” Duterte said addressing Robredo. MNP (wirh reports from Rosalie Coz)

Ex-PhilHealth official reveals ‘fake receipts’ being issued to OFWs

Marje Pelayo   •   September 3, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A former senior auditing system analyst of the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) has revealed that there is indeed a syndicate within the agency that takes advantage of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) premium contributions.

In his expose during the House committee hearing on Wednesday (September 2), Ken Sarmiento said he discovered the modus operandi of this alleged syndicate when he was assigned in the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

He said this alleged syndicate issues fake receipts to OFWs. Based on information gathered by the Committee, there is an estimated P1.2 billion worth of unremitted OFW premiums.

“Napansin namin dalawa ang modus na nangyayari – isang retail fraud. Retail meaning isa-isang binibigyan ng fake receipt ang OFW (We noticed that there were two schemes happening, one of which was retail fraud. Retail meaning, each OFW was given a fake receipt),” he said.

May napansin din kami isang level na wholesale na dito may involvement na ang hiring agency na ini-instruct nila ang local officer nila na huwag nang magbayad o mag-remit ng premiums sa PhilHealth (We also noticed another wholesale level wherein the hiring agency instructs its local officer no to remit to PhilHealth, ” he added.

With new irregularities surfacing during the hearings, the Committee plans to amend the law on PhilHealth’s OFW premiums.

PhilHealth membership was optional for OFWs until the enactment of the Universal Health Care law in 2019 which classified overseas Filipinos as “direct contributors” thereby requiring them to make premium contributions to PhilHealth. 

READ: PhilHealth’s 3% mandatory pay hike amid global pandemic draws public ire

In May, PhilHealth’s announcement of premium rate hike for OFWs drew public ire among Filipinos here and abroad saying such a rate adjustment is a clear form of injustice especially during a pandemic. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

PRC’s plan to halt COVID-19 test on PhilHealth patients won’t affect OFWs — PCG

Maris Federez   •   August 18, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) assures the public that COVID-19 testing for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) will continue even if the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) decides to temporarily stop accepting PhilHealth patients.

The PCG said the expenses that arriving OFWs will incur in undergoing COVID-19 testing are paid for by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

This means that even if the PRC temporarily stops accepting PhilHealth patients due to the latter’s balance amounting to more than P700-million, the said testing will not be stopped.

PCG spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo added that based on their record, more than 145,000 OFWs have been processed for COVID-19 by the PRC.

He, however, expressed concern over PCG personnel who are assigned to assist OFWs during COVID-19 testing. They also undergo testing and depend on Philhealth benefits for the test.

“Ang maaapektuhan lang siguro dito kaming mga Philhealth members na Coast Guard na mga frontliners na regularly nagpapa-swab sa Philippine Red Cross […] Hindi ito magiging problema pagdating doon sa trabaho namin sapagkat yung OWWA ang nagpi-finance ng mga OFW,” PCG spokesperson Commodore Armando Balilo said.

The PRC and PhilHealth entered a 900 million peso-worth Memorandum of Agreement for a mobilization fund with an advance of P100-million.

The House of Representative had a lengthy discussion about this on Monday’s hearing.

“Kung talagang meron silang mobilization fund na 100 million bakit nung mag testing ang PNRC o ang Red Cross, bakit pinagbabayad pa yung mga kababayan natin tinetesting? Hindi ba maliwanag naman na bayad na yun?” asked Deputy Speaker Rodante Marcoleta.

“The Philhealth will only pay for those tests that falls under the wage protocol those people that covered under the expanded targeted testing. So if a person does not fall in that particular category they will have to pay out of pocket,” PhilHealth SVP for Legal, Atty. Rodolfo Del Rosario, explained.—(from the report of Rey Pelayo) /mbmf

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