Philippines (see also Malaysia)

Deployment up

A total of 533,318 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) were deployed in the first half of the year, topping the government’s target of .5 million.  An average of 2,640 Filipinos left daily for overseas work from January to the first week of July, up 4.1 percent than the 2,536 daily departure figure recorded for the same period last year. The following countries registered an increase in OFW deployment: UK, from 5,021 to 7,461; Kuwait, from 8,172 to 10,731; UAE, from 18,989 to 22,187; Japan, from 27,990 to 30,555; Singapore, from 13,334 to 14,496; Taiwan, from 20,027 to 20,815; and Saudi Arabia, from 90,064 to 90,360.  Meanwhile deployment to the following countries decreased: Brunei, from 6,306 to 5,774; Hong Kong, from 57,826 to 54,071; and Italy, from 10,120 to 9,991. 


OFW remittances up

OFW remittances are projected to pass the US$6.5 billion mark this year because of continued rise in OFW deployment not only in traditional destinations but also in new markets in various parts of the world.   Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said global OFW deployment rose by almost three percent to 866,590 from 841,628. She said the top ten OFW destinations are Saudi Arabia, Hong Kong, Japan, UAE, Taiwan, Singapore, Italy, Kuwait, UK and Brunei.  Of those deployed, 661,639 were land-based OFWs, posting a 2.9 percent growth from last year’s 643,304; 204,304 seafarers were deployed, up 3.3 percent from 198,324.  She added that an average of 2,748 workers leave the country daily to work abroad.


Land-based OFWs remitted US$5.141 billion last year, or 0.35 percent more than US$5.123 billion remitted in 2000, while Filipino seafarers’ remittances surpassed the US$1 billion-mark for the first time in 2001, reaching US$11.093 billion or growing 17.98 percent from US$926.7 million.  Annual remittances sent home by OFWs have reached the US$6-billion level and averaged US$6.359 billion in the last three years.  OFWs remitted US$6.234 billion last year, or 3.05 percent more than the US$6.050 billion remitted in 2000.  OFWs remitted US$6.794 billion in 1999, the highest so far. 


Malaysia extends deadline

The government has to find a way to bring home an estimated 80,000 irregular Filipino migrants in Malaysia in the next few days. Malaysia has given the Philippines until 24 August to repatriate the undocumented Filipinos who face arrest and caning as punishment.  As of 15 August, almost 5,000 Filipinos were awaiting deportation in Sandakan, Sabah, but the Philippine Navy is yet to send vessels to ferry them back to the country.  The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is sending a team to Malaysia to help facilitate the documentation and deportation of the Filipinos in Sabah. They will also ensure that the Filipinos to be deported will not be harmed by Malaysian authorities.   


In Zamboanga City, where the deportees will disembark, they will be brought a Department of Social Welfare and Development Center, where they will be processed and quarantined. A food allowance of P120 a day has been allotted per deportee. The government does not have enough funds to house and feed all the deportees. The military is concerned that members of the Abu Sayyaf who escaped to Sabah would try to return to the Philippines.


Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon and Senate Majority Leader Loren Legarda Leviste said the government, through the DFA and all other agencies concerned, should initiate a move regarding the inhuman deportation of 122 overstaying Filipinos in Malaysia to avoid similar incidents in the future.  The deportees, 60 of them children, were forcibly returned to the country on board a fishing vessel designed to carry 30 persons.


Humane treatment of deportees from US

President Gloria Arroyo appealed for the humane treatment of deported Filipinos to US Secretary of State Colin Powell in their 3 August meeting.  A group 65 deportees from the US arrived in the Philippines via chartered plane in which they were kept in handcuffs until they reached the tarmac. She urged that US deportees be put on a regular flight and not be handcuffed.  She also expressed hoped that amnesty will be granted to overstaying Filipinos.  Powell said he will take up the latest deportation incident with the government agencies concerned when he returns to the US.  President Arroyo also brought up other pressing issues such as the care for the Amerasian children and the clearing up of toxic wastes in the former US bases.


Alarm over exodus of nurses

The Department of Health (DOH) has expressed alarm over the exodus of Filipino nurses to other countries, leaving inexperienced ones to serve the country’s needs.  Health Secretary Manuel Dayrit said the department is working on a better training system to produce competent nurses in a shorter period of time.  Experienced and specialty nurses are lured by higher pay and better opportunities, particularly in the US and UK.  He said the only way to keep them in the country, at least for the time being, is better training, discounting the possibility of raising their wages since they would always earn more outside the country.                    


OFWS avail of amnesty in Italy

The Italian government has offered more than 30,000 OFWs an amnesty program that would legalize their work in Italy. The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said most of the OFW beneficiaries are domestic workers.  Italy will issue two-year permits for amnesty beneficiaries, instead of four years for those with valid contracts. An unemployed worker applying for amnesty will be given six months to look for a job or face deportation.  Administrator Soriano of OWWA said there are about 100,000 OFWs in Italy, and more than 30,000 of them are irregular migrants.  According to Italy-based welfare officer Lynol Fulgencio, the new law also entitles OFWs to petition their family dependents in the Philippines. A domestic worker in Italy earns between US$600 to US$1,0000 a month.


OFWs saved from execution

Three OFWs in Saudi Arabia have been saved from execution after being acquitted in the killing five years ago of a Saudi national.  The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh reported that the court dismissed the case against Joselito Alejo, Romeo Cordova and Ramiro Esmero due to failure of the victim’s representative to appear in court.  It said authorities at the Malaz Central Jail are just waiting for a copy of the court decision before endorsing the three OFWs to the deportation center.


Repatriation plan for OFWs in Israel

Foreign Secretary Ople has offered to repatriate OFWs in Israel following a suicide blast that killed two Filipino women.  He said there are at least 30,000 documented Filipino workers in Israel.  However, despite the offer to repatriate, most Filipinos have chosen to stay, saying they are not directly affected by the conflict between Israel and Palestine.  DFA has advised Filipinos in Israel to avoid buses, the usual targets of suicide bombers. 


Evacuation of OFWS in Iraq

DFA is preparing emergency plans for the evacuation of 150,000 Filipinos in Iraq following reports that the US is bent on ousting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.  DFA Secretary Ople said there are 117,000 Filipinos in Baghdad and 30,000 in northern Iraq.  Ople’s figure of Filipino workers in Iraq is greater than POEA figures, which lists only 86 Filipinos deployed to Iraq as of last year.  This year, only eight were deployed to Iraq.


Meanwhile, Migrante International warned that an estimated 1.4 million OFWs in the Middle East might be caught in the crossfire should the US attack Iraq.  It said any attacks on Iraq will subsequently affect neighboring countries like Kuwait, which hosts 35,000 OFWs, and Jordan, with close to 5,000 OFWs.  OFWs in Saudi Arabia and UAE are also at risk since the US’ biggest military facilities are located in the two countries. 


Absentee voting bill to be approved

The House of Representatives is expected to approve the absentee voting bill on 4 August. Committee chair Rep. Jose Apolinario Lozada Jr. said approval of the proposal will come 15 years after the 1987 Constitution mandated the participation of overseas Filipinos in national elections.  He also disclosed that aside from the absentee voting measure, the House is expected to pass the proposed Dual Citizenship Bill, another landmark measure that provides for the retention of Filipino citizenship by natural-born Filipino citizens who have acquired foreign citizenship. 


Hospital for OFWs

Senate President Pro Tempore Manuel Villar filed a bill in Congress seeking the establishment of a hospital for OFWs.  He said a medical center would be a small favor for the US$8 billion that OFWS contribute to the economy every year through remittances.  Aside from providing medical services to OFWs, he said the hospital would also conduct studies of illnesses common to OFWS and how these could be avoided.  Once passed, the bill would allocate P500 million from the National Treasury for the initial operations and maintenance of the proposed hospital. 


Increased benefits for OFWs

Workers’ benefits will soon increase once the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) completes its review of the benefits being extended by OWWA.  Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said the OWWA Board of Trustees has started reviewing the existing benefits to determine the proper monetary compensation that OFWs or their relatives should receive.  She said the move will also halt the inappropriate use of the workers’ welfare funds to unnecessary investments, which resulted in losses to OWWA.  The decision to increase the benefits of the OFWs occurred after two Filipino caregivers were killed in Israel by suicide bombers recently.


OWWA to handle pre-departure seminar

POEA transferred the handling of pre-departure orientation seminars (PDOS) for Filipino migrant workers to OWWA since the latter agency handles welfare cases.  POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz and OWWA Administrator Wilhelm Soriano issued a joint circular mandating the transfer as a major component of OWWA’s information program for OFWs and their families. Baldoz described PDOS as more than just a requirement for overseas employment and said that it was about time that the program is turned over to OWWA so that it would gain new strengths, perspectives and values. OWWA will implement the program following a six-month transition period.


Fines for foreign entertainers

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) slapped a fine of almost half a million pesos on 24 foreign entertainers after they were found to have performed in public without the required work permits.  Immigration Commissioner Domingo imposed a total of P490,000 on two British musicians and 22 Chinese acrobats after it was confirmed that they performed in different places in Metro Manila recently.  Fined were Britons Peter Anthony Coyle and Jeremy Kelly of the band Lotus Eaters, P25, 000 each, and 22 Chinese members of the Changchun Acrobatic Troupe from Beijing, P20, 000 each. The two Britons were reported to have paid their fines, while the Chinese performers have yet to pay theirs. 


Indonesian captives to be released soon

Southern Command chief Lt. Gen. Ernesto Carolina expressed optimism that the three Indonesians being held captive by local pirates in Sulu would soon be released.  He revealed that the pirates have given up hopes of getting ransom in exchange for the release of the captives.  The Indonesians were seized off Basilan on board a ship on their way deliver coal to Cebu last 17 June.   


Japanese protesters face deportation

The Bureau of Immigration is currently monitoring the activities of four Japanese activists who are facing deportation for allegedly participating in protest actions against the government.  The four Japanese, believed to be members of Asian Wide Campaign, a leftist labor group in Japan, is being investigated following reports that they were spotted among a group of militant workers who staged a rally in Manila and Parañaque on 31 July.  They were also among the members of an international fact-finding mission, which looked into the alleged abuses and human rights violations committed by Filipino and American troops who took part in the recent Balikatan exercises in Zamboanga and Basilan.  Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo explained that under the Immigration Act, any alien who believes in, advises, advocates or teaches the overthrow of government can be arrested on orders of the immigration commissioner. 


Muslim communities in Luzon

Due to steady migration from the south in the past three years, numerous Muslim communities have sprouted in the Luzon and Visayas, both predominantly Christians.  Fast-growing Muslim communities have emerged in northern provinces of Tarlac and Pangasinan, and in Cavite, south of Manila.  Although two-thirds of the Muslim population of 6.6 million still resides in Mindanao, about 25 percent are now based in Luzon, of whom 600,000 live in Manila. 


Sources:  Julie Javellana Santos, “OWWA now in charge in briefing departing Filipino migrant workers," Arab News, 1 August 2002; ABS-CBN News, “Four Japanese protesters face deportation," 1 August 2002; AP, “Manila not ready to receive fleeing illegal immigrants," Borneo Bulletin, 1 August 2002;  “Remittances of OFWs to pass $6.5 b," Manila Bulletin, 3 August 2002; Ben R. Rosario, “House expected to approve absentee voting bill today," Manila Bulletin, 4 August 2002; Max de Leon, “’Quiet diplomacy’ saves 3 Filipino workers in Saudi from death row," Manila Times, 4 August 2002;  Marichu Villanueva, “RP seeks humane treatment of deportees," Philippine Star, 4 August 2002;  Luz Baguioro, “Migration from Muslim south into Christian areas," The Straits Times, 5 August 2002;  Aurea Calica and Mayen Jaymalin, “Villar bill to set up hospital for OFWs," Philippine Star, 5 August 2002;  Maricel Cruz, “RP tops .5 m OFW target for 2002 1st sem," Manila Times, 5 August 2002;  INQ7, “DFA offers to repatriate Filipinos in Israel," 5 August 2002;  Gabriel S. Mabutas, “Senators ask gov’t to file complaint with Malaysian gov’t," Manila Bulletin, 6 August 2002;  INQ7, “Exodus of nurses leaves inexperienced ones: DOH," 6 August 2002;  Francis Jay M. Bilowan, “BI head imposes P.5 million fines for 24 foreign entertainers working sans permits," Daily Tribune, 8 August 2002;  Max de Leon, “Evacuation of Pinoys in Iraq eyed," Manila Times, 9 August 2002;  INQ7, “US-Iraq war imperils 1.4m Filipino workers: migrante," 10 August 2002;  Marie A. Surbano, “OWWA to increase OFWs’ benefits," Daily Tribune, 12 August 2002;  Mario J. Mallari, “AFP official says captive Indons soon to be freed," Daily Tribune, 13 August 2002;  Joshua Dancel, “30,000 Pimoy illegals get Italian amnesty," Manila Times, 15 August 2002;  Max de Leon and Roland Ramos, “Flood of deportees looms," Manila Times, 15 August 2002