PH, Russia in talks over labor agreement

Marje Pelayo   •   June 12, 2019   •   2717

(L-R) Philippine and Russian flags

MOSCOW, Russia – The Philippines and Russia are now in talks about labor relations as there is no existing agreement yet between the two countries particularly regarding the welfare of Filipino domestic helpers.

The government sent House Speaker Gloria Arroyo to Russia last week to talk to Russian labor officials on the matter.

“Dapat maawa naman ang mga official sa mga nangyayari, so kinuwento ko naman doon sa forum na sampung libo sila pero halos dalawang daan lang ang quota,” the House Speaker explained.

(Officials should at least show compassion and so I told them the situation. There are about 10,000 [OFWs] but the quota is only 200.)

“Halos sila ay nagpupunta dito na ang visa nila ay hindi tunay. Hindi totoo o kaya kunwari estudyante o kaya kunwari negosyante kaya naman parating natatakot na baka isang araw mahuli, mapaalis,” he added.

(Almost all of them entered the country without a proper visa. They only have a student or business visa, causing them to live in constant fear of being arrested and deported.)

Arroyo said the Philippine government is pushing for an agreement that would assure protection for overseas Filipino workers (OFW) in the European nation.

For ten years now, “Yeye” has been working as a foreign domestic worker in Russia.

Even after a decade of working, her status remains uncertain as she is working in Russia undocumented.

“Sa ngayon napaka hirap talaga sa dami na ng pinagdaanan ko dito lalo na sa ibat-ibang Agency na pinapasukan ng aming mga visa talagang napaka hirap na lagi kaming may kabog sa dibdib,” she said.

(Honestly, we’re in a very difficult situation. After all the hardships that I went through, my experiences with various agencies where we lodge our visas, the fear is always there.)

While the labor agreement in on the negotiating table, Ambassador Carlos Sorreta constantly calls on Filipino workers in Russia to refrain from inviting their relatives and friends to come and work in Russia.

“Ang pinakahiling lang namin (ay) itigil ang pagre-recruit muna lalo na ang mga kaibigan ninyo, kamag anak, mga kababayan. Ang nangyayari (kasi) nababayaran pagdating dito nagkakaaway-away,” the Philippine envoy to Russia said.

(We appeal [to our kababayans] to refrain from recruiting your friends, your relatives because what happens, is after the payment is settled, the conflict would arise when they arrive here in Russia.)

“Hindi namin makukuha ang labor agreement kung dumadami ng dumadami ang ilegal kasi pumasok ang issue ng amnesty so mas nagiging komplikado,” he added.

(We will not succeed in getting a labor agreement if the number of illegal entries will increase given that there is already an amnesty program. Things would surely become more complicated.) – with reports from Catherine Martinez / UNTV News Russia

Bodies of dead OFWs from Saudi Arabia to be flown home starting Friday – DOLE

Robie de Guzman   •   July 8, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvester Bello III on Wednesday said that the remains of overseas Filipino workers who died in Saudi Arabia will be brought home in batches starting Friday.

Bello said the first batch will be comprised of 44 bodies of deceased OFWs – 19 of whom succumbed to novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) while the others died of various causes.

The remains will arrive at the Villamor Airbase via a chartered flight on July 10.

Bello said those who died from COVID-19 will be immediately brought to a crematorium for cremation. Their ashes will then be turned over to their families.

For OFWs who died of natural causes, the labor chief said that their remains may be claimed by their relatives or sent to their respective provinces.

The second batch of OFW remains will arrive on Sunday. A total of 274 remains of OFWs will be flown home from Saudi Arabia.

Bello said the bodies will be repatriated in batches because they cannot bring them home all at once due to stringent protocols and requirements.

“Unahin muna natin yung nakumpleto ang papeles kasi ang hirap ng mga papeles dito. Meron from the Ministry of Labor, meron Ministry of Foreign Affairs nila, ospital kung saan galing yung labi. Ang pinakamahirap yung consent ng employer ang ating mga kababayan,” he said.

Meanwhile, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) assured it will extend aid to the families of deceased workers.

OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac said the families of both active and inactive members of the agency will receive financial assistance.

“Bereavement financial assistance at a minimum for inactive OWWA members and then there is an additional death and burial benefit for the active OWWA member in addition to other related benefits like livelihood. But there will be a minimun financial basic assistance for all,” Cacdac said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Mon Jocson/Jaycel Valera)

Solon pushes for military honors for OFWs who died of COVID-19 abroad

Marje Pelayo   •   July 7, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — A lawmaker is pushing for the granting of military honors to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who succumbed to coronavirus disease (COVID-19) abroad as they can be considered as ‘modern-day heroes.’

Senior Citizen Party-list Rep. Francisco Datol Jr. in House Resolution No. 1027 said the sacrifices of OFWs and their significant contribution to the country’s economy are enough to merit them such military honors. 

Based on the latest count of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), a total of 577 OFWs have already died of COVID-19 from the overall number of 8,679 confirmed cases across the globe.

Datol said OFWs are qualified under The Flag and Heraldic Code of the Philippines for their unconditional sacrifices as overseas workers.

The lawmaker also proposed that the government shoulder the complete burial expenses of every OFW who died of COVID-19 abroad as part of the full military honors. 

DOLE seeks P2.5 billion more cash aid for OFWs displaced by pandemic

Robie de Guzman   •   July 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is seeking to get additional budget for its cash assistance program for the growing number of overseas Filipino workers (OFW) affected by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

DOLE said that as of July 4, its overseas offices and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) have recorded a total of 551,606 aid applications from land-based and sea-based workers who are either still in host countries or have already returned to the Philippines.

“The fund released to us is fast depleting. So far, our offices approved the requests of 224,756 OFWs, 128,348 of whom are still locked down or stranded in their countries of work,” Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a statement.

The agency had been given P2.5 billion in two tranches to finance its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program, a one-time cash aid of $200 or P10,000 to help Filipino workers displaced by the pandemic. The budget for the program came from the emergency fund under the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act.

Of the 250,000 expected beneficiaries of the program, around 188,473 have already received the cash aid from DOLE as of July 4 amounting to some P1.927 billion, DOLE said.

Of those who have received the aid, 105,756 are on-site while the remaining beneficiaries have returned to the country, it added.

With additional funding, AKAP will be able to extend emergency assistance to close to half a million OFWs, Bello said.

Bello hopes that President Rodrigo Duterte will grant their request to extend help to more OFWs in need.

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