DSWD resumes distribution of transport allowance to Boracay migrant workers

Marje Pelayo   •   May 1, 2018   •   2498

BORACAY ISLAND, Philippines – The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) resumed Tuesday, May 1, the distribution of transport cash assistance to migrant workers in Boracay.

The distribution of said transport aid was deferred Saturday, April 28, due to the shortage of cash.

DSWD’s “Balik Probinsya” program grants transport and food allowances to workers who are bound for their respective hometowns following the temporary closure of Boracay Island.

The agency’s one-time financial assistance depends on the regular fare that an individual pays to go back home. The program, however, does not include baggage allowance.

The agency also clarifies that only one person in each family is entitled to the assistance to ensure all beneficiaries will receive the aid.

From more than 17,000 migrant workers in the island, DSWD has granted financial aid to only 2,251 individuals since the closure. DSWD has allotted P500 million pesos for the program. – Lalaine Moreno | UNTV News & Rescue

BFP official relieved over personnel’s breach of quarantine protocols in Boracay

Aileen Cerrudo   •   June 18, 2020

The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Eduardo Año has ordered the relief of Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) Region 6 Director Fire Senior Supt. Roderick P. Aguto after several BFP personnel allegedly breached quarantine protocols in Boracay.

The BFP personnel, dubbed as the ‘Boracay 27’, reportedly visited the island of Boracay from June 12 to 14 for a despedida party. However, one of their members was supposed to be in quarantine while waiting for her COVID-19 test result which later came out positive.

Año said the country is currently facing a pandemic and there is no time for any excuses.

“We will never tolerate any wrongdoing by our BFP personnel or any other DILG personnel for that matter because lives are at stake here. Moreover, as law enforcers, we must set a good example to our people and the breach of quarantine protocols sets a very bad example,” he said.

The DILG also said that the BFP Regional Office is now conducting swabbing and placing under quarantine all its personnel who have had contact with the said individual.

Meanwhile, the BFP will begin further investigation on the matter and is prepared to file a complaint once it is found that the Boracay 27 indeed violated quarantine protocols. AAC (with reports from Lea Ylagan)

Singapore’s migrant workers fear financial ruin after virus ordeal

UNTV News   •   June 9, 2020

As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.

The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.

As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.

“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.

For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.

Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.

The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.

“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.

He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.

That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.

The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.

Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.

“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.

Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)

Duterte cancels Boracay trip amid COVID-19 threat

Aileen Cerrudo   •   March 12, 2020

President Rodrigo Duterte has postponed his scheduled trip to Boracay amid the threat of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the country.

Duterte’s supposed visit was to conduct an inspection of Boracay after the six-month rehabilitation period last year.

In a statement on Wednesday (March 11), Malacañang announced that the chief executive’s trip will be rescheduled for another date.

“In light of the recent developments and after careful review of the situation concerning the coronavirus disease in the country, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte will not proceed to Boracay Island on Thursday, March 12, as earlier scheduled,” Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.—AAC

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