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PH, Russia in talks over labor agreement

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Wednesday, June 12th, 2019

(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

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Overseas absentee voting kicks off April 13

by Robie de Guzman   |   Posted on Saturday, April 13th, 2019

An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) in Dubai participates in 2013 Philippine elections through overseas absentee voting (OAV). (Lonix Foto Grafix | PVI)

MANILA, Philippines – The month-long overseas absentee voting (OAV) has begun today, April 13.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) Office for Overseas Voting (OFOV) said there are a total of 1,822,173 overseas voters for this election. Majority of this voters are land-based workers totaling 1,779,140 while 43,033 are sea-based workers.

In photos taken by UNTV News and Rescue team in Singapore (correspondent Queenie Ballon), some of the registered Filipino voters there have lined up early at the Philippine Embassy to cast their votes.

Overseas Filipino worker Bobby Catolos, who has been working in Singapore for 20 years now, said he makes it a point to consistently exercise his right to suffrage since 2007.

In Hongkong, the UNTV News and Rescue team (correspondent Ferdie Petalio) reported that Filipinos there also went to cast their votes early despite the inclement weather.

Comelec-OFOV said most of the registered voters are in the Middle East and African region followed by the Asia Pacific, North and Latin America and European region.

However, there will be no OAV in three areas—Damascus in Syria, Tripoli in Libya and Baghdad in Iraq—due to the ongoing tensions there.

READ: DFA raises alert level 3 in Libya

Comelec said that of the 83 countries or Philippine posts, 41 will use vote counting machines (VCM), while Filipinos abroad within the jurisdictions of the remaining 42 areas will use the manual system of voting, either personal or through postal.

The 41 posts that will use VCMs include Agana, Brunei, Calgary, Chicago, Canberra, Honolulu, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Los Angeles, Macau, New York, Ottawa, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Taipei, Osaka, Seoul, Singapore, Sydney, Tokyo, Wellington, Athens, London, Madrid, Rome, Milan, Beirut, Abu Dhabu, Kuwait, Manama, Doha, Dubai, Jeddah, Muscat, AL-Khobar, Riyadh and Tel Aviv.

The 42 countries that will use postal voting are Buenos Aires, Brasilia, Bangkok, Beijing, Chongqing, Guangzho, Hanoi, Islamad, Mexico, Santiago, Port Moresby, Yangon, Ankara, Berne, Budapes, Berline, Brussels, Budapest, Lusbon, Moscow, Geneva, Oslo, Paris, The Hague, Vienna, Warsaw, Prague, Cairo, Pretoria and Abuja.

Personal voting will be used in Jakarta, Dhaka, Dili, Manado, New Delhi, Phnom Penh, Vientiane, Xiamen, Shanghai, Vatican, Amman, Tehran and Nairobi.

Comelec-OFOV hopes for higher voter turnout this election than the 16 percent recorded in 2007 and 2013 polls.

The overseas absentee voting will last until May 13. – Robie de Guzman

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Filipinos in Sudan urged to ‘exercise caution’ amid political unrest

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Friday, April 12th, 2019

Protesters take to the streets of central Khartoum demanding military leaders to hand over power to civilians. | Photo credit: Reuters

MANILA–The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Thursday (April 11) called on overseas Filipino workers in Sudan “to exercise caution in light of the uncertainty caused by the current political crisis” in the said country.

“The Department echoes the call of the Philippine Embassy in Cairo for Filipinos in Khartoum to avoid crowded areas and stay inside their homes while the protests are ongoing,” the DFA said in an advisory.

For emergency assistance, the agency also urges Filipinos to contact the Philippine Embassy in Cairo through +202-252-13062 or the Philippine Honorary Consulate in Khartoum through the numbers +249-183-468717 or +249-183-468716.

They may also reach the embassy through its Facebook Page, the “Philippine Embassy in Egypt.”

Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown in a military coup on Thursday (April 11), marking the end of his 30-long-years of autocracy.

But protesters’ jubilation was short-lived as they took to the streets of central Khartoum demanding military leaders to hand over power to civilians.

Sudan’s Ministry of Defense said the country would enter a two-year period of military rule to be followed by presidential elections.

Following Bashir’s ouster, Sudan’s Defense Ministry announced a state of emergency, a nationwide ceasefire and the suspension of the constitution.

A curfew has also been imposed. – Marje Pelayo

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OFW remittances 4th biggest in 2018 – World Bank

by Marje Pelayo   |   Posted on Thursday, April 11th, 2019

(File photo) Overseas Filipino workers

MANILA, Philippines – Migrant workers contributed a huge share in the country’s economy in 2018, according to a recent World Bank report.

Based on the World Bank’s April 2019 Migration and Development Brief, the Philippines received $33.8 billion dollars — the fourth biggest remittance from migrant workers in 2018.

India received the biggest remittance with $78.6 billion, followed by China with $67.4 billion, and Mexico’s $35.7 billion.

The World Bank noted that though remittances in 2018 increased by 3.1%, it was still lower than the 5.4% growth in 2017.

This pulled down the Philippines by one notch from its third place in 2017.

The World Bank explained that the decline in growth was due to “the significant drop of 15 percent in private transfers from the Middle East in 2018.”

Nonetheless, the World Bank sees the Japanese government’s new policy to hire foreign workers in the next five years, hiking remittance flows to the Philippines as well as to eight other priority countries, namely Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam.

The World Bank noted that “migrant workers from said nine countries will be deployed to 14 sectors in Japan that have severe labor shortages.”

The Philippines has already signed a memorandum of cooperation with Japan in March 2019 on hiring Filipino workers expecting to fill about 100,000 of the open positions. – Marje Pelayo

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