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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Organize to survive, health expert advises Pinoy nurses in UK


MAKATI CITY--HAVING a collective voice may save the jobs of Filipino nurses threatened to be sucked into the fiscal hole of the United Kingdom’s public health system, a health management expert recommends.
Filipino nurses who wish to stay longer in UK should make the NHS (National Health Service Trusts in the UK) realize their impact on that country’s health sector, Dr. Eufemia Yap of the Ateneo Graduate School of Business told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
“They should address this with a collective voice,” the school’s health unit director said. “They need to tell the NHS: ‘Hey, we are important players here.’”
Yap was responding to questions on what Filipinos could do a month after UK Health Minister Lord Warner of Brockley in July announced the removal of nursing from the “national shortage occupation list”.
With this new policy, job openings for nurses will first be advertised to British nationals and Europeans. Foreigners would only be considered for recruitment if there would be no qualified candidates from the European workforce.
The same rule applies for foreigners currently employed under work permits: they would be given the last priority for hiring.
“Taking nursing off the shortage list does not stop employers undertaking international recruitment, it only means that they have to demonstrate that they cannot fill a post with a UK or EEA [European Economic Area] applicant first,” a July 3, 2006 statement from the health department said.
“If employers are unable to fill a particular nursing post following advertisement, they may then apply to the Home Office for a work permit,” it added.
Currently the largest health care services system in Europe, the NHS is subdivided into smaller organizations called Trusts. Apart from overseeing hospital operations in every county or province in the UK, an NHS Trust also manages recruitment of doctors, nurses, health workers and non-medical staff.
In this system works some 40,000 Filipino nurses, half of who have no residence visa and would have to leave the UK upon expiration of their work permits, as the new policy mandates.
According to the policy, posts held by these foreign workers would be offered first to locals.

No return
ACCORDING to Yap, in this situation, it is best for nurses to rely upon themselves because the Philippine government, which remains divided on the issue of health worker migration, could only do so much.
On the one hand, she said, is the Department of Health, which makes do with the limited healthcare workforce in the country. On the other is the Department of Labor and Employment, which continuously manages the export of the country’s best and brightest.
Filipino nurses, Yap said, also need to solve their problem by making themselves more competitive.
“They should challenge themselves and reshape themselves as nursing professionals,” she said. “They can do this by continuing their professional education and taking in leadership roles.”
Ateneo, to note, has the only business school that offers hospital management degree courses to health sector professionals.
“Packaging themselves well” will also help nurses to demand for better opportunities should they decide to settle in the Philippines, Yap said.
Nurses who really don’t want to return to the country, however, must start seeking other opportunities in the Middle East or in the US, and consider possible “trade-offs”, she added.
“They may be employed in other countries [even though] the work condition is not as good as that in UK’s.”
Nurses like Riza Franco who works in Queen Alexandra Hospital, Portsmouth, Scotland, are bracing for an extreme scenario: the narrowing of the market for foreign health workers.
“There’re a lot of opportunities,” she said. “Australia alone is offering immigrant visa. It offers better compensation packages.”
Still, Franco, 31, says she’s not that worried since she has an “indefinite leave to remain” (permanent residence) visa.
Except for the right to vote, the visa entitles Franco to the rights enjoyed by the British.
“I am already a resident here so I am not under a contract anymore. I can work anywhere and as long as I want to.”

Voting thru mail likely in 39 more countries by 2007


SAN FRANCISCO, USA—OVERSEAS Filipinos spread in four continents who have registered for the national elections next year are expected to vote by mail, a Philippine foreign affairs executive said here.
Vice consul Anthony Mandap of the Philippine Consulate in San Francisco, USA, said the Manila-based Commission on Elections gave the country’s diplomatic posts abroad the news that the commission en banc will likely allow overseas Filipinos situated in 26 diplomatic posts to vote by mail.
These posts cover 39 countries and include the United States. Thus far, only over-9,000 of some 1.85 million Filipinos in these countries have registered for the 2004 elections and in the ongoing voter’s registration.
Mandap said embassies likely to be covered by the prospective Comelec directive include Vienna, Austria; Berlin, Germany; Bucharest, Romania; Budapest, Hungary; Madrid, Spain; Bangkok, Thailand; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Berne, Switzerland; Pretoria, South Africa; Wellington, New Zealand; Singapore; Tel-Aviv, Israel; and Washington, USA.
Consulates and other diplomatic offices of the country that will be likely covered by the vote by mail are Sydney, Australia; Agana, Guam; Milan, Italy; Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands; Manado, Indonesia; Geneva, Switzerland; the Manila Economic Cultural Office in Taipei; and the US-based consulates of the country in Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco.
“This (development from Comelec) is certainly good news for Filipino overseas voters in the US,” Mandap said in reference to the 7,011 registrants for the May 14, 2007 elections, and to the 3,537 who registered in 2003.
Those 26 diplomatic offices will join Japan, United Kingdom and Canada (covering three embassies and three consulates) that will allow voting by mail. The three countries, during the 2004 national elections and as per the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9189, piloted the voting through mail mechanism.
The 19 countries mentioned will not only cover the countries where these embassies and consulates are physically situated. Some six embassies and three consulates also cover Filipinos situated in some 20 nearby countries and island-states, and voting by mail will also cover Filipinos coming from those places.
These include: Bulgaria and Moldova (embassy in Bucharest); Poland, Serbia, Montenegro, and Bosnia-Herzegovina (embassy in Budapest); the islands of Nauru, Tuvalu, and Vanuatu (embassy in Canberra); Morocco and Andorra (embassy in Madrid); Cyprus (embassy in Tel-Aviv); Slovenia, Croatia (embassy in Vienna); Marshall Islands, Wake Islands, Micronesia (consulate in Agana); and CNMI islands Tinian, Rota and the Northern Islands (consulate in Saipan).
However, it is not known nor reported if Filipinos from those 20 other countries registered in 2003, and if they crossed islands and border countries to sign up for the ongoing voter’s registration.
Missing in the list of countries to be allowed voting by mail is Saudi Arabia.
An October 6 report by Arab News bared a House oversight committee on overseas voting thumbed down a proposal to allow mailed voting in the Kingdom because Filipinos use postal office (PO) boxes instead of real addresses
During the 2004 elections, Filipinos there work in places far away from the embassy in Riyadh, the consulate in Jeddah, and the Philippine International School in Al-Khobar, and had to travel hundreds of kilometers driving borrowed vehicles or flying in domestic airlines.
Mandap explained other embassies and consulates formally requested the Comelec to allow registered absentee voters to vote by mail in the 2007 elections.
It is possible other embassies and consulates will be allowed by Comelec if they request that to Manila before Comelec finalizes a resolution for voting by mail, Mandap told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
The United Kingdom, Canada and Japan were initially chosen by framers of RA 9189’s implementing rules and regulations to have voting by mail in the 2004 elections “owing to the efficiency of (their) mailing systems,” wrote a 2004 Statistical and Narrative Report by Comelec’s Committee on Absentee Voting.
But Mandap said that voting by mail works in the US because of “an efficient postal system”.
The US Postal Service website ( bared domestic express mail can be sent the next day for at least US$14.40 (P723.02 in current exchange rates). Meanwhile, domestic priority mail and ordinary letters or cards can be sent in 2-3 days for at least US$0.39 (P19.58) and US$4.05 (P203.35), respectively.
Mandap said the 2004 overseas voting exercise was “cheat-proof” in all embassies and consulates, including the UK, Japan and Canada.
“Those in Manila should expect the same for 2007, and I hope mailed voting will be a big incentive for Filipinos in the US to register and then vote.”
As of October 9, some 3,153 Filipinos in the San Francisco consulate’s jurisdiction have signed up in the ongoing registration to add up to the 855 who signed up in the 2004 elections. The San Francisco consulate covers counties in northern California and northern Nevada, and the states of Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Utah, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming.
The figure is tops in the whole US, as 7,011 thus far signing up in the new registration that started on October 1, 2005 and that was extended up to October 31, two months from the original August 31 deadline.

Pinoys ‘in hiding’ abroad a million less after 7 years


SAN FRANCISCO, USA–ARE more Filipinos here coming out to explore the belly of the beast legally?
In view of American officials’ moves to squeeze out illegal migrants in the name of homeland security, Philippine government data swing to the affirmative node. The figures show the number of Filipinos “in hiding” –Tago ng tago (TNT) in local parlance– have dropped sharply.
This is what the multiple-year stock estimates of overseas Filipinos from 1997 to 2005, from Philippine government agency Commission on Filipinos Overseas revealed: there was a high of 1,913,941 undocumented migrants in 1998, and a “record-low” of 881,123 last year.
Looking at regional data that the CFO gave to the OFW Journalism Consortium, North, South American and Trust Territory countries –including the US– had the most drop of irregular migrants.
These countries have a total of 357,923 irregulars, down by 589,047 from the 1997 figure of 946,970, the CFO estimates.
The US had the most reductions of irregular migrants in the stock estimates data: from a high of 844,046 in 1998, undocumented Filipino migrants went down to 157,998.
Striking in the US figure was that the estimates were 510,000 in 2003, and 350,000 in 2004, the CFO record says.
The reduction of the figures in the US comes before the heated debate among American legislators on the immigration question, which began in the first quarter of the year. Several bills seen to slash benefits to non-American workers in the US Senate and House of Representatives did not meet Congress’ October 1 deadline, thus these bills go back to zero when Congress resumes sessions after the November 7 US elections.
Thus, a “good news” perspective could mean there’re more Filipinos here working or living temporarily or permanently with all documents certified legal and have been registered as so in over-90 Philippine diplomatic posts.
However, the figures themselves remain debatable: how could a government agency document the number of people it says are “undocumented”?
Likewise, some analysts say the reduction in the number of illegal migrants could mean an increase in the number of them deported back to the Philippines.

Go figure
THE sharp reduction in the number of Filipinos migrating here sans legal documents reflects global trends, based on the CFO data.
For example, in Malaysia, where Sabah island is believed the common route for irregular migration, the CFO cited a drop in the number of undocumented Filipinos to 125,000 last year from half a million six years ago. The drop came after the Malaysian government cracked down on irregular migrants in 2002.
If the year-on-year reduction figure for the US is 192,000, the CFO registered a reduction in Malaysia of 175,000 based on an estimated 300,000 undocumented Filipinos in that country in 2004.
The CFO listed other countries with large numbers of undocumented migrants as of last year include France (40,105), Singapore (37,600), Japan (30,619), Israel (23,000), Italy (20,000), and the United Arab Emirates (20,000).
East and South Asian countries —including Malaysia, Japan, Singapore, and Korea— is another regional hub of irregular migration that got a significant drop: the 2005 figure of 238,238 is 496,109 less than the year 2000 estimates of 734,347.
Lawyer Golda Roma of the CFO’s Planning and Policy Research division says estimates of both undocumented and documented temporary contract workers and immigrants come from Philippine diplomatic posts abroad, and records from homeland-based agencies involved in managing migration outflow.
What CFO does, Roma says, is “cross-check these data from the posts”.
Countries like the US have figures coming from host countries’ census offices, while the other data come from passport registrants in diplomatic posts, records for assistance to nationals program, travel documents, and even meetings with members of Filipino communities in host countries.
Roma said there is no precise figure in coming up with those estimates of undocumented Filipino migration, yet she says it should be “at least 20 percent of the total number of overseas Filipinos”.
The 2005 stock estimates show there are 7,924,188 overseas Filipinos –3,651,727 temporary contract workers, 3,391,338 permanent residents, and the 881,123 who are undocumented.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

US labor unions adrift over foreign workers' activism


SAN FRANCISCO, USA—JOHN Ford was flipping an egg in his kitchen when union members and immigrant activists in the Bay Area marched down Market Street here.
Ford may have sensed something was up since he paused for a fraction of a minute before going back to cooking.
Ford's absence in that march bares the ambivalence that have clutched American unions on the issue of immigration reforms, pending bills in Congress that never saw light when legislators recessed October 1.
Union leaders like Ford –he represents iron workers– even stayed at home weeks before lawmakers signed off amid clamors for positive immigration reforms to benefit undocumented and legalized foreign workers (including Filipinos).
Labor union members —as themselves, like some members of Ford's Iron Workers Bridge Structural, Ornamental and Reinforced Union Local 377— went to Civic Center (the seat of the city of San Francisco's governance) September 4, but top honchos of unions like Ford's weren't around.
Ford's reason: the union is still discussing some reform measures in the pending immigration reform bills that, because of the recess, would be reverted back to committee hearings.
Traditionally, US labor unions are unsupportive to immigrants, and their officials might need more time to understand immigrants' concerns in today's rise of immigration issues, says Oakland, California-based Mexican Lara Casillas of the Bay Area Immigrant Rights Coalition.
While this indecision to support immigrants or not prevails, foreign-born workers in the US are growing in number. The Migration Policy Institute in Washington D.C., in a May 2004 paper citing US Census figures, said there are 17.654 million foreign-born wage and salary workers.

"There is a changing demographic in the workplace: union members now speak English with an accent," Casillas said.


RALLIES in various US cities, including San Francisco, marked Labor Day holiday over a month ago, though some 1,000-4,000 rallyists were spread out among themselves in their march from Embarcadero Avenue to Civic Center.
That Labor Day rally was no match to the estimated 50,000 that filled Civic Center Plaza last May, at the height of the US immigration reform debate.
And for the first time "in a long while," observes Casillas, this year's American Labor Day celebration touched on immigrants' issues.
Still, San Francisco Chronicle headlined the rally, reporting on September 5 that the affair "(demonstrated) a new alliance between unions and illegal workers—groups that have been at odds".
"I went here at the rally on my own," Filipino Bryan Cruz of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 790 said.
Cruz also told the assembly: "I believe the 11-to-12 million undocumented migrants should be legalized. My local union sees (immigration issues) as a cause."
That day saw immigrant union members –janitors, hotel and garments, and other service workers– wearing colorful t-shirts, hats, and caps.
Ford said two days after that march that some of his union's members joined the rally, as his local union "has no formal stand yet."
IWBSOR Local 377, whose members maintain the structural strength of San Francisco's bridges, has 3,000 members –all paying $40 in union dues monthly.

Foreign workers like Mexicans and some Filipinos already make up 40 percent of Local 377, but whether they're black, brown or white-skinned, Ford said Local 377 negotiates for them.

"Our union represents all workers, and we are not mindful at looking at them as 'immigrants.'"

Police says going high-tech, aggressive vs illegal-recruiters


—POLICE officials in one of the key metropolitan cities said they are going to be aggressive in weeding out illegal recruiters, using surveillance cameras and other advanced equipment.
Superintendent James Brillantes, Quezon City Police District’s Intelligence Investigation Division chief, told the OFW Journalism Consortium the move comes with an increase in the number of cases his group has monitored and worked on.
Brillantes cited that in 18 months up to June this year, his group has arrested 50 illegal recruiters –some of who, he said, are members of “big-time” syndicates.
Under Presidential Decree No. 2018, illegal recruitment is deemed committed by a syndicate if carried out by a group of three or more persons conspiring and/or confederating with one another in carrying out any unlawful or illegal transaction, enterprise or scheme. Illegal recruitment is deemed committed in large scale if committed against three or more persons individually or as a group.
No bail is recommended for those caught engaging in the latter kind of activity.
The total number of those arrested by Brillantes’ group meant an average arrest of two illegal recruiters a month beginning January last year.
These recruiters have been paid by some 79 victims a consolidated total of roughly P7 million, with victims coughing out an average P87,859.50 each (see Table 1).
Brillantes cited that the victims told the police the jobs offered were domestic help or housekeeping, factory work, entertainment, and nursing.
Brillantes said a worker applying for a factory job in Taiwan was asked to pay P120,000.
Such amount is in excess of the authorized fee, which is the equivalent of a worker’s one-month pay, plus P5,000.
The victims, Brillantes said, concentrate on the promise of jobs sans doubts they are being duped.
“By the time they realize their mistake, it’s already too late. Nasayang na iyung savings na nagamit to pay [the illegal recruiter],” Brillantes told the OFW Journalism Consortium in a phone interview.


ACCORDING to Brillantes, illegal recruiters choose Quezon City as base of operations because of the city’s high rate of informal settlers and the unemployed.
This is supported by a recent study conducted by Task Force Sikap-Buhay, a local government’s social welfare arm, which showed that 50 percent of those living in the city are informal settlers Laraine Abad-Sarmiento, the task force chief, said that out of the 2.3 million people residing in Quezon City, almost half live in informal settlements or squatters’ areas.
She said most of these settlers lived in provinces near the country’s former capital, which connects Manila and the south to northern parts of the Philippines.
Nonetheless, Brillantes said that a number of skilled workers and professionals, like architects, accountants, nurses and even doctors had also been duped by illegal recruitment syndicates in recent years.
“Some of the victims graduated college and are living comfortably. Their dreams of earning big abroad are what illegal recruiters capitalize on,” he explained.
He said cases of estafa and violation of Article 38 (b) in relation to Article 39 (a) of the Labor Code by PD 2018 were already filed by the police against the suspects in various Quezon City and Manila courts.
“As far as we know, the cases filed against these illegal recruiters and syndicates are still being heard in various Quezon City courts. The wheel of justice is rolling against them,” he said.
Still, the wheels churned slow to bag a certain Lorenzo Alvarez Sosa, also known as "Roberto Carpena Alvarez", of 33 B Datsun St., Greater Lagro, Fairview, Quezon City.

In a six-page joint complaint of large-scale illegal recruitment and estafa by 25 of 35 of his alleged victims, Alvarez remained missing with roughly P1.36 million they paid him as “processing fees” for promised work in Saudi Arabia.
The complainants said they learned that Alvarez’s wife was also no longer living in the address Alvarez gave them.
These complainants, mostly engineers, architects, and accountants, said they paid P27,500 each to Alvarez in December last year.
His promises of flight were replaced by reasons for delays –even using his mother’s alleged death on July 10, the last time each heard from Alvarez.

Table 1: Case profiles on illegal recruitment in Quezon City (January 2005 to June 30, 2006)

No. of victims


Money paid each

Total money paid


work in Italy




work in Italy




work overseas, money for alleged visa processing




work in South Korea










work abroad in USA




factory work in South Korea




work in France




work in the US and Middle East, money for alleged stamping of visa and processing fee





*P87,859.50 average amount paid by a victim

**US$138,818 (at US$1=P50)

Skepticism greets CFO task force

By Julie Javellana-Santos

MANILA—ANOTHER task force created by a government agency was met with skepticism by migrants’ rights advocates.
Reeling from reports of undocumented workers jumping to their deaths to escape abusive employers in Lebanon, Malacañang issued Executive Order 548 titled “Creating a Task Force against Illegal Recruitment (TFAIR) under the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO).”
President Macapagal-Arroyo’s former publicist and now CFO chair Dante Ang said the task force would include representatives from the police, the foreign affairs and justice departments, airport authorities (MIAA), the government’s overseas recruitment office, and the Bureau of Immigration.
But Maya Bans Cortina of nongovernment group Kanlungan Centre Foundation Inc., questioned the order’s mandate to the CFO, an agency she described as indecisive against illegal recruitment.
“Why the CFO? They have always been wishy-washy like in the fight against illegal trafficking and mail order brides.”
Ellene Sana, executive director of the Center for Migrant Advocacy (CMA), asked why create another task force when one created in 2004 having similar purposes “did not even produce any results”.
“Where is the performance report of the first task force, the Presidential Anti-Illegal Recruitment Task Force?” she asked. The PAIRTF, headed by Director Reynaldo Jaylo, was created two years ago after three women overseas workers –Luz Pacuan, Catherine Bautista and Louella Montenegro– died almost one after the other in the first five months of 2004.
Reports cited these workers exited the Philippines through an “escort service” at the international airport named after the country’s anti-corruption advocate and late Senator Ninoy Aquino.
Jaylo, a former police officer, was later charged with illegal detention.
“The existence of escort system at the airport is very disturbing,” said Robert Ceralvo, a Filipino community leader based in New Jersey, United States.
Ceralvo cited the cases of two women contract workers who fell to their deaths in war-torn Beirut. The two were reportedly attempting to escape from abusive employers and be repatriated to the Philippines, amid the fighting between Hizbollah armed groups in Lebanon and Israeli soldiers.
It was reported that two out of three overseas Filipino workers repatriated from Lebanon were undocumented workers, many of whom had used tourist visas and availed of the “escort services” at the international airport.

Tasked, forced
CMA legal adviser lawyer Henry Roxas said: “suddenly, its task force formation season once again.”
“There’s a task force against illegal recruitment and … against prostitution. I suppose other task forces will be created against gambling, drugs, smuggling and what have you.”

Sana said the lack of a performance report on the PAIRTIF operation reflects government’s lack of seriousness in combatting illegal recruitment.
She added: Why not just beef up the POEA’s AIRTF?
POEA Administrator Rosalinda Baldoz herself expressed surprise over the president’s choice of the CFO as lead agency for the anti-illegal recruitment group.
Still, Baldoz said she “welcome[s] the move”.
“Hopefully their efforts will be better because they will take care of illegal recruitment using tourist visas and other non-worker visas,” she said.
Baldoz said at least there would now be a body to concentrate on the criminal aspect of illegal recruitment, which the POEA has been unable to do, that being not part of their mandate.
According to the order, the new task force would be tasked to “develop and execute strategies and schemes” against illegal recruiters like the so-called “escort” services within the country’s international airports and other points of departure.
CFO officials wanting to remain anonymous expressed doubts over the wisdom of placing such a “tough” campaign in the hands of their agency, which they said has always distanced itself from issues concerning OFW.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Nearing burial, Gulf War claims issues haunt RP govt unit

by Alexis Douglas B. Romero

MANILA–It was given a second lease at life; yet even as its death is imminent this October, issues surrounding money claims of Filipino workers affected by the Iraq-Kuwait war continues to haunt a government unit.
As the United Nations final deadline nears for the Philippine government to finally compensate victims of the 1990 Gulf War, critics of the Philippine Claims and Compensation Committee remain suspicious that something is amiss in the committee’s operations.
“Deliberate” was how claimant Freda Contreras phrased the delay in informing Filipino workers and/or their families that they can still get money even as committee officials told her otherwise.
Officials of the committee, which is responsible for releasing UN money, are adamant there was nothing irregular about the processes of finding out who should and should not receive cash.
“The DFA did not neglect its duty in informing the claimants,” Michael Lorenzo of the committee secretariat told the OFW Journalism Consortium. He stands pat on the work of his agency, which is under the Department of Foreign Affairs, adding that majority of the claimants already filed their claims.
The minority, he added, includes those whose claims were disapproved “because they failed to produce or submit ‘sufficient’ documents to the committee.”
Lorenzo explained that of the 48,000 Filipino workers killed, maimed, or displaced when bombs and bullets flew in labor-receiving countries Iraq and Kuwait 16 years ago, some 46,000 “were able to file claims.”
The UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) tapped from a war reparations money pool to compensate migrant workers, depending on the gravity of the strife’s impact on their lives. It gave each government six months to satisfy the claims of their respective citizens affected by the war.It suspends governments that fail to remit the compensations within six months and report the amount distributed within three months.
Some claimants and migrant groups believe the UNCC stopped giving money to the Philippine committee because of such alleged delays in the processing of claims.
The committee appealed and was given a final chance to compensate claimants estimated to be 2,000.A press release dated May 3 this year from the Department of Foreign Affairs website, however, said that the UNCC would no longer entertain the Philippine government requests after the September 30, 2006, deadline.
For full story, click here

Group seeks neglected Japanese descendants via poll

by Trisha Marcelo

QUEZON CITY–Some rely on just their surnames to carry them to Japan and, hopefully, a better life. A group here wants to help.Since August, the Federation of Nikkei-Jin Kai Philippines Inc. is undertaking a poll of Shin-Nikkei-jin (Japanese descendant) in the Philippines who were abandoned by their Japanese fathers.
The federation of 16 groups spread throughout the archipelago perceives these people to number in the thousands but government statistics remain unavailable or inaccurate.
The Philippine government and Japan have no record of the number of neglected Japanese descendants in the country because their birth certificates show their citizenship as Filipino.
Worse, some Japanese fathers refuse to recognize these children as from their blood despite the Filipino mother declaring otherwise.Like the mother of 17-year-old Shilla-Mei Murakami who brought her to the office of federation-member Manila-Central Luzon NIPPI (Japan-Philippines) Association Inc. for inclusion into the group’s census.
“I want to meet my father and work in Japan,” said Murakami, a single mother to a seven-month old baby.The five-foot Murakami stopped going to school after getting pregnant during her senior year. She works as a waitress in a coffee shop in Quezon City while living with her mother, who has since retired from working as an entertainer in Japan.Beside her is 13-year-old Toshiyuki Ito Jr., who is more fortunate: he was able to meet his father.
Since Ito’s Japanese father was an entertainment promoter in Japan, he would make it a point to visit the young Ito when he was in Manila despite separating from the mother in 1996. The young Ito was just three years old that time.He said they went to the federation’s office to seek help since his father has stopped seeing him since December 2000.Murakami and Ito were among the 16 Shin-Nikkei-jins who registered with the MCLNAI the day that the group began its intensive search for an estimated 100,000 Japanese descendants in the country.The federation expects to confirm that number when they reveal partial results by November this year.
For full story, click here

Data crunchers say RP has proxy migration data

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

QUEZON CITY— Just how many Filipino workers are there really in Lebanon?
In a country that constantly relies on money sent by Filipinos like them overseas, finding their exact or near-exact number could spell a difference. Having such figure could help in computing the cost of flying them home from discordant labor-receiving countries, for example.
However, as demographers –people who study population movements– lament, the country only has “proxy” data on overseas migration.
Hence, demographers like Nimfa Ogena and Josefina Cabigon of the University of the Philippines-Population Institute said the country is missing out on probing deeper a century-old phenomenon that is tearing apart the country’s socio-economic and political fabric.
But the Commission on Population remains undaunted, planning to include in the fourth edition of the State of the Philippine Population Report the economic, social, and demographic links between international migration and development.
The report, coming out November this year, “is bringing to the fore (Filipinos’) international migration as a population and development issue” since the overseas emigration of the country’s skilled workers “will challenge the country’s socio-economic future,” according to Deputy executive director Mia Ventura. [Disclosure: The author was hired by PopComm as technical editor of said report. –Eds.]
The first three editions of the report carried themes such as unmet need for family planning, youth development, and urbanization.
Still, Ogena told the OFW Journalism Consortium she could only wonder how PopCom will discover the links between international migration and demography since the country’s migration data leave much to be desired.
Both she and Cabigon said that while migration data and surveys in the Philippines—from stock estimates abroad, household surveys, to remittance inflows—are abundant, the validity of findings could be questioned due to the “fluidity” of international migration as well as misconceptions on the phenomenon.

For instance, using data on the evacuation of Filipinos from Lebanon as example will throw a monkey wrench into the business of crunching data.
Media reports citing the Philippine Embassy in Beirut as source cite there are an estimated 34,000 Filipinos there.
As streams of Filipinos come home from that discordant country, the December 2005 stock estimate of overseas Filipinos would reflect they are flying in trickles.
According to that estimate, there is a total of 48,031 Filipinos there, with 41,912, or nearly 90 percent, comprising temporary contract workers.
The figure comes from the state-run Commission on Filipinos Overseas, which said the number also came from Embassy officials. Of that total, the CFO data says 19 are permanent residents while some 6,100 are dubbed irregular or undocumented migrants.
Another example is the stock estimate, also from the CFO, of the number of Filipinos overseas.
That estimate, which the CFO compiled based on information from multiple government agencies and the country’s diplomatic posts, showed the country now has 7,924,188 Filipinos in 193 countries, the figure being lower than the December 2004 stock estimate of 8,083,848 (see table 1).
Of that total, some 3,651,727 Filipinos were identified as temporary contract workers while 3,391,338 were listed as permanent residents. Undocumented migrants, on the other hand, are reduced to 881,123 from 1,297,005 last year.
That set of data, Cabigon said, “is not accurate, and the figure may be more or less.”

CABIGON wonders how that stock estimate information from CFO plays a role in the country’s Census of the Population, where the country had a 76,504,077 population during the 2000 Census.
“The (use of the) stock estimate as a fraction of the total population, let’s say it is a tenth, is inaccurate. And if the 76.5 million in 2000 includes Filipinos overseas, that seems questionable,” she said.
Not only that the estimates of overseas Filipinos must be deducted to the domestic population count, Cabigon added. “There also seems to be a distortion of concepts between overseas contract workers and immigrants. (The latter is) not counted anymore as part of the Philippine population”.
Corazon Raymundo, another Pop-I colleague, agrees.
“Immigrants have a different definition (in demography) because they left the country with the intention to leave and stay out of the home country permanently.”
However, Cabigon said temporary contract workers or permanent residents should be enumerated in the household data “if [they] return to the country.”
Cabigon also thinks there is a “distortion” to the concept of overseas Filipinos. For one, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), which specifically pertain to temporary contract workers, are “misconstrued” to include permanent residents and undocumented migrants.
Others even lump international labor migration, which covers “OFWs,” as international migration in general, Ogena observed.
“It is not necessarily so.”
Another complication to the equation are situations when Filipinos abroad who were registered prior to their flight abroad as temporary contract workers become permanent residents, or even undocumented or illegal migrants, Ogena added.
Undocumented migration also reveals a difficulty in tracking down the number of Filipinos passing through those channels, said Ogena. “Even those Filipinos who go through regular channels,” she added: “we can’t document them properly.”
And thus, Ogena and fellow demographers think there is still no way “to put together a coherent (set of) data that can be used for analysis and research.”

CFO’s Planning, Research and Policy Office’s Golda Roma said the stock estimates are annually prepared by an inter-agency committee composed of CFO, the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the country’s 80 diplomatic missions.
Likewise, each of this government office has its own statistics and recording system of Filipinos who leave the country.
The CFO monitors those leaving as permanent residents or as spouses of foreign nationals, the POEA the newly hired and re-hired temporary contract workers, and each diplomatic post the Filipino presence in their respective countries.
Other agencies like the National Statistics Office use three household and income surveys related to Filipinos abroad: the quarterly Labor Force Survey (LFS), which is 72 pages thick; the annual Survey on Overseas Filipinos (SOF); and the triennial Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES).
The SOF looks at salient characteristics of OFWs and other Filipinos abroad, including remittance patterns and behavior, from April to September every year. It also presents data on remittances sent through banking and non-banking, or informal, channels.
Another government agency that has its own monitoring system is the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, which records Filipino migrants passing through air and sea ports.
Roma, however, said the BID doesn’t use the embarkation and disembarkation forms that Filipinos fill up when exiting and returning to the country.
There is also the Philippine Retirement Authority that records the number of Filipinos who availed special retirement retiree’s visas.
Roma, however, explains that because Filipinos abroad can now avail of dual citizenship as a result of Republic Act 9225, “only a few retirees avail of the visa, thus leading to a fewer number in the agency’s records.”
Despite these figure-watching schemes, Roma, Cabigon, and Ogena are dissatisfied.


RESULTS of migration-related surveys such as those in the SOF lean towards migration’s economic consequences, particularly remittances, the three former directors of Pop-I observed.
Knowing that international migration has a social cost to Filipino families, Cabigon said “non-economic hard data” about migration are nowhere to be found except in case and micro-level studies.
“It is hard to counter-argue those who project the positive economic benefits of international migration,” she added.
This data paucity also constrains demographers from looking at migrants’ and migrant households’ demographic characteristics, or from seeing international migration as part of population policy (see related story).
While CFO’s has stock estimates of overseas Filipinos from 1997 to 2005, Ogena cautions using time-series comparisons of the data, because migration “can be defined differently” by people.
Lack of funding to conduct a national migration survey (to even include internal migration) is also a constraint. Cabigon said the idea of administering a National Migration Survey covering both internal and international migration have been discussed as early as the 1970s,
Having accurate international migration statistics is a global concern because many countries do not have those.
“The low response levels regarding data on international migration flows stem from the lack of data collection systems that provide those data and the difficulty of producing all the data required by users from a single data source,” a paper of the United Nations Statistics Division stated.
UNSD added that for countries to obtain a comprehensive view of international migration processes, “the combination of different data sources that produced different types of data (border statistics, residence permits, population registers, etc.) is needed”.
UNSD, since 1997, is trying to harmonize international migration statistics worldwide, following the document Recommendations on Statistics on International Migration, Revision One. Its pilot test of an “International Migration and Travel Statistics Questionnaire” three years ago revealed there is an estimated 200 million migrants and refugees worldwide.
For full story, click here

Demographers decry downplayed diaspora dynamic

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANILA—It’s not about fertility, but about people.
Demographers from the University of the Philippines said the country’s overall population policy, which is currently “too focused” on lessening population growth, should be changed to include the international migration of Filipinos.
“People are moving out, and people are the population. That’s very obvious,” said Nimfa Ogena, former director of the UP Population Institute.
Since population growth reduction remains to be the focus, Ogena observes Philippine population policy is “misconceived” to be wholly about fertility, and this puts occurrences such as the overseas exodus of Filipinos “into the background.”
“Unless we correct the misconception that population (policy) is about fertility, we can’t go anywhere,” she told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
In a paper about population and international migration, which Ogena wrote as early as 2003, she has maintained that fertility has been the anchor of Philippine population policy since the 1960s.
The clamor for population reform from demographers like Ogena came at a time when President Macapagal-Arroyo did not mention any population policy in her recent State-of-the-Nation Address.
Deputy executive director Mia Ventura of the Commission on Population confirmed the country’s current population policy is oriented” towards the family, towards regulating population growth, and towards reproductive health.”
However, the opportunity to include migration framework in the country’s population data has been lost as legislators failed to pass the 2006 national budget.
Without a budget, the National Statistics Office cancelled the conduct of the 2006 Census of Population and Housing.
Even preparatory activities by NSO, like the recruitment of data collectors and supervisors, cannot proceed, an August 4 statement by the agency said.
These delays, it added, could "compromise the quality of the data.”
The NSO is mandated by law to conduct a census every five or ten years. The last census it conducted was in 2000.
Despite this handicap, Ventura said PopCom will use quantitative and qualitative studies on Filipinos’ international migration, as well as the surveys of agencies such as NSO related to overseas migration by Filipinos, to discover the links between migration and demography.
Fertility, mortality, and migration (both international and internal) are the three population processes involved in demography, says the Philippine Center for Population and Development in its website (
These three processes should be part of Philippine population policy, Ogena said, citing its impact on a country’s population “outcomes” (age-sex structure, etc.) and development “outcomes” (employment, educational and health statuses, income distribution, etc.).
The National Statistical Coordination Board said last May it expects country’s population growth rate to slow down by 2010, when the country would have an estimated 94 million people, from an estimated 85.2 million (2005 NSO projection).
In this population growth projection, the NSCB considered international migration as “negligible,” saying international migration “has little effect on the national total population.”
With the lack of current data, the NSCB appears to play it safe, especially in linking, for example, international migration and fertility.
Even Cabigon cautions against linking the two, citing figures from the 2000 Census.
She pointed out that 800,051 households with overseas Filipino worker (OFW) dependents have larger average family sizes than the 14,478,757 households without OFW dependents.
Some of these OFW households have members coming from the extended family, and the Census might have counted them, Cabigon added.“What the data warrant us to do is to ask further questions,” Raymundo said.
For full story, click here

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Safe from Lebanon strife, Pinoys pine for work abroad

By Jay Garcia
Villamor Air Base—The wind howled and lashed thumb-size raindrops on the windows of the Airbus 310 taxiing the tarmac, but the storm has nothing on the bullets and bombs raining Lebanon.
Yet, the 232 Filipino Airbus passengers wished they were back in Lebanon.Even before their feet kissed Philippine soil, some of the first batch of Filipinos flown from the strife-ridden Middle East country, couldn't help but wish to go back abroad.
Efren Limon, 39, for one, already expressed his plan to go back to Lebanon, where fighting between Hizbollah guerillas and Israeli soldiers have grown fierce in the 15 days since the conflict began.Carrying two large green duffle bags on each shoulder, Limon didn't appear to have come from what other Filipinos like him described as a “nightmare.”
The dark-skinned Limon's teeth and lips below a combed moustache formed into a smile as he strolled into a hangar. He even waved at relatives, including his 33-year-old wife Cristina and their two-month-old son Gabriel Arturo, who were sitting and waiting for him at the back row of plastic chairs.“I didn't want to go back [to the Philippines] yet,” Efren told reporters Sunday afternoon here, the second day of a wet weekend.
For full story, click here


Groups swap thoughts on Pinoys in Lebanon
by Isagani Dela Paz
MANILA--As stories in this packet were being processed, messages from several groups were also being swapped online after Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos (Ercof) president Ildefonso Bagasao forwarded a message that stemmed from one of the largest Filipino associations in the United States.
In his message that has spurred a thread, Bagasao said he decided to circulate his Los Angeles, USA-based cousin Paula Bagasao's message “because it gives us some first hand information on the conditions of Filipinos who have sought refuge in Fr. [Agustin] Advincula's church and how we may be able to help.”
“This is something we do not find in our local newspapers, which has decided to highlight the bickering and buck-passing among government officials.”Bagasao's cousin Paula forwarded a message dated July 29, 2006, from Doy Heredia of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (Naffaa), an association of 500 Filipino groups and networks in the US.Heredia, on the other hand, cited the electronic mail from Arlene Machetta, the group's Southwest Region chair with the subject “NaFFAA Appeal - Help Filipinos Stranded in Lebanon”.
Machetta, in turn, also cited a message, dated July 28, 2006, from a certain Arsenio R. Martin, a doctor.
For full story, click here

Mobile phones not just for sending money, group shows

By Julie Javellana-Santos
MANILA—Two Filipino workers need immediate assistance within 24 hours, Riyadh-based operators of a six-month old mobile phone helpline service system revealed.
According to a Kingdom of Saudi Arabia-based group of overseas Filipino workers, some 250.2 OFWs have sent short messages via their wireless handheld telephones and required direct intervention or assistance.
“Since its launching last February 14, our archives show us an average of four to six SOS messages a day just for KSA alone—minus those walk-in calls from all over the region,” an electronic mail from advocacy group Pusong Mamon Task Force said June 24.
This means that within 130 days, a total of 780 messages have been received by the SOS SMS [short message system] Hotline System of PMTF and the nongovernment group Center for Migrant Advocacy Philippines.PMTF said that 60 percent of these SOS messages required “para-legal counselling on various labor and welfare problems, 25 percent require[d] direct intervention or assistance, while the remaining are plain queries on various government services.”
This means that some 468 messages sent to the system were about labor- and welfare-related issues, 195 were cries for help, and 117 were requests for information on government services.
For full story, click here

Activists downplay ASEM migration initiative


MANDALUYONG CITY—Inter-Regional cooperation through the Asia-Europe Meeting is now a decade old, but a regional advocacy network for migrant workers thinks nothing much will come out of ASEM regarding international migration.
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA) regional coordinator William Gois told ASEM member-countries' ministries of labor that ASEM has yet to understand international migration issues fully beyond controlling borders and curtailing illegal immigration.
Migrants' rights are not yet integrated, Gois said at an forum mid-May sponsored by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Philippines (the strategic partner of the OFW Journalism Consortium).Gois' comment comes at a time when labor ministers of ASEM member-countries will meet for the first time this September in Berlin, Germany to discuss varied employment issues and the social dimensions of globalization.
The meeting also comes at a time when United States government officials are at odds on what to do with the continuing flow of productive non-Americans--mostly Asians--“making it” in the highly-capitalized society.After Berlin, ASEM heads of state will meet for the Sixth ASEM Summit on September 10-11 in Helsinki, Finland to tackle varied socio-economic issues, including the management of migratory flows between Asia and Europe.Migration discussions have been there for some time, says Gois, but he has yet to see “a genuine interdependence between migration, growth, and development through ASEM.”

For full story, click here

Monday, August 07, 2006

Special Edition on Financial Literacy for Overseas Filipinos and their Families (Part 2)

Experts say OFWs not ready for market
by William Alzona and Isagani de la Paz

QUEZON CITY—Tony Ranque's heart beats faster every time someone from a bank pops up a message on his mobile phone.
Like a lover on a tryst, Ranque punches the keypad where a set of numbers sways his decision whether or not to log on to the Internet, access his account, and buy or sell stocks he bought from three or four publicly-listed firms in the country's exchange.
He's in Bohol, 630 kilometers southeast of Manila, where his stocks, bought from savings of a 20-year work in Saudi Arabia, are one of millions traded at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).
The former overseas Filipino worker, however market savvy he appears, says it took him more than a year after returning from Riyadh before engaging in the market for securities. He advises against OFWs from following his lead.

For full story, click here

Internet improves investment initiatives: Q and A with Antonio Ranque

by Dennis D. Estopace

(Ed. -- Mr. Ranque worked for nearly two decades in Saudi Arabia and is project development officer of the NGO Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos. He also shares insights and tips on financial literacy to OFWs and their families here and abroad, such as during recent financial literacy seminars conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas in Cebu, Laguna and Pampanga.)

QUEZON CITY – He’s his own guinea pig. Former overseas Filipino worker turned stock trader Antonio V. Ranque applies his trial-and-error style on the Philippine Stock Exchange trading board on himself first before giving solicited advice.

DDE: I heard you traded in stocks while working in Saudi Arabia.
AVR: No, no. It was after six months when I arrived after working in Saudi that I went into online trading. My entry into stocks was due to difficulties that I saw start-up businesses experienced. Mabuti kung mahilig sa negosyo ang maiiwan mong pamilya dito; yung sa akin wala. Personally, I also experienced that when I went into a taxi business years ago, but the driver I hired cheated me on many things. I lost P200,000 and the parcel of land I sold for that business. From that experience I learned it's difficult to go into the taxi business, especially here in Manila. Kung gusto mong kumita dito sa taxi, kailangan big time ka kaagad: minimum na 3 to 5 ang taxi units mo. Isipin mo, you're parting with hard-earned money on a vehicle that would depreciate in the long run e yung amortization mo di naman bumababa so dun lang mapupunta yung kinikita mo.

DDE: But I heard you're in online trading and it began in Saudi.
AVR: Ah, yes, I'm really into the Internet even when I was in Saudi. I was involved in a computer society and my line of “specialty” there was Internet for communication. I started with electronic mail, chatting, and then joining e-groups. Besides that, ang pinakamaganda talagang gamit ng Internet for OFWs like me is online news and online banking. I usually use my bank account to send money, especially to my children. For example, I send them allowance through an online bank transfer service called third-party enrolment. They'll send me an email and then I transfer money from my account to their savings account. From online banking, nagtuloy na ko sa online investment but months after I arrived here in the Philippines.

For the full Q & A, click here

Dutch offers treat for OFWs

by William Alzona

Makati City—What’s with the Filipinos and the Dutch?
The Netherlands have been the long-time home for the Philippine government's political foes and an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 Filipino workers and migrants.
Now, that country's second largest bank is leading initiatives in capturing money of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for investment.
“Our target is money or funds of the Filipinos abroad that were just kept [in the banks],” Cesar C. Zulueta said in an interview.
Zulueta, a Filipino, is managing director and head of the investment management unit of the Amsterdam-headquartered International Netherlands Group (ING) Bank, which recently got Philippine regulators' nod to go ahead with its investment scheme.
“We are not targeting those [money] that they [OFWs] are remitting in the country because the banks are already capturing it,” Zulueta told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
Zulueta is referring to the ING's The Overseas Filipino Fund, a financial instrument to capture at least 90 percent of savings kept by an estimated eight million Filipinos working and living abroad.

For full story, click here

Despite soured deal, groups offer OFWs to milk dairy industry

by William Imperial and Arianne Apostol

QUEZON CITY—Despite the soured deal between the National Dairy Authority and the Economic Resource Center for Overseas Filipinos, executives of both group bank on the dairy industry for migrant Filipino workers' investment.
"Even without the MOA, [the NDA] will be there to assist them in starting their own dairy business," NDA chief Sally Bulatao told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
"They [Ercof and other investors] are very much welcome," she added. Bulatao was referring to a memorandum of agreement that the NDA entered into with Ercof January this year that would allow migrant Filipinos to invest on livestock, specifically cows.
However, the NDA terminated the deal last March upon Ercof's withdrawal of its P100,000-advance payment.
“The only reason why we initiated the deposit was to have a priority in the cow purchase from NDA, given the scarce supply and the NDA being the main source,” Ercof president Ildefonso Bagasao told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
The deal was supposed to give Ercof the privilege of selecting and buying the cows ahead of other potential buyers. Dairy industry trader Danilo Fausto who represented Ercof in the NDA deal said he advised pulling out the money since he found another source of cows at lower prices.

For full story, click here

Special Edition on Financial Literacy for Overseas Filipinos and their Families (Part 1)

Ex-OFWs, advocates confront business realities
by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

CALOOCAN—Former overseas Filipino workers trying their hands in business are discovering the cold truth of the market: rules are unforgiving to those unprepared.
While social enterprise advocates say the shock is due to lack of skills and training in entrepreneurship, former OFWs with businesses believe “luck” has something to do with it.
“[Going into business] is a daunting task when you don’t have a concrete business in mind before and upon your return to the Philippines,” Celestina Soriano said of her experience when she returned in 2002 after a 14-year domestic work stint in Hong Kong.
The 39-year-old mother of one owns a four-year-old home-based store, which was three-fourths full with food products.
She also operates a six-door apartment, currently all occupied by low-income families and students.She gave up her passenger transport business with the increasing prices of tricycle and jeepney parts, maintenance and fuel costs.
For Cecilia Icaonapo, operating a micro-store is enough.

For full story, click here

‘Ever been scammed?’

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano
Editor’s note: Victim requested anonymity in exchange for baring her story.

SOMEWHERE IN LUZON ISLAND–Overseas worker’s wife Virginia Recuerda’s mind wanders to a Citibank check in her drawer every time a television show on scams began airing at Channel 11 recently.

That check for US$3,000 and the show remind her of how trust in other people could lead to financial disaster.
It’s exactly three years ago that Recuerda got that check–equivalent to three months her husband’s salary overseas–which she can’t transform into hard cash due to a scam known as Ponzi.
“See this? This check is our money,” Recuerda told the OFW Journalism Consortium Inc.
Her gaze measured, Recuerda doesn’t allow the check to leave her hands.
The check, a contract from a local holdings company, and a handwritten acknowledgment receipt add on to the memory of how she fell for an investment scheme in 2002.
Television actor Leo Martinez’s gaze and voice narrating the cases of scams that clutched Filipino investors like Recuerda only refresh her regrets of believing a certain Maridina Dizon that her US$4,000 investment could earn four percent.“I found her [Maridina] trustworthy since her husband’s an executive of a bank,” Recuerda recalls.

For full story, click here

Seafarers turn to cooperatives for borrowings


MANILA-Amparo Munariz and her seafarer husband have been members of a cooperative for nearly two decades now and they wouldn't have it any other way.Savings and investment groups like the Magsaysay Employees, Crew and Alottees Developmental Cooperative (Mecadec) that Munariz belong to have given seafarers an alternative to banks for borrowing and growing their money.
The Munariz couple, for one, has relied on from their cooperative to send their children to school, put up a sari-sari store, and pay the down payment for their house and lot in Better Living Subdivision, Parañaque.
The 46-year-old Amparo herself was able to graduate from a correspondence school through borrowing from Mecadec.With P20,000 share capital each, they are able to borrow twice every year by alternating as loan borrower.
Another member, Lauro Cabanilla, said he always turned to the cooperative for loans to fund his examinations and licenses since the 1980s.
It’s better than borrowing from usurers, Cabanilla said.Members Noel Abejar, 44, and wife also tapped the cooperative’s credit line to build their new house in Cavite.
As Abejar puts down boxes on the floor, he said they are thinking of borrowing again to opening a market stall near the house they are moving in.
What’s buzzing up these borrowings and financial activities?

For full article click here

Bogus schemes galore

by Jeremaiah M. Opiniano

MANDALUYONG—Pseudo-investment schemes such as Ponzi and pyramiding do not only promise quick cash to ordinary investors, but also rake in millions to billions of pesos for operators.Ponzi scheme operators, explains lawyer Lalaine Monserate of the Securities and Exchange Commission, pay exceptional returns to investors coming from the deposits of “a growing number of investors.”

Generally, an investor can receive seven post-dated checks, said Monserate of the SEC compliance and enforcement division.
Suspected Ponzi companies get helped by agents or counselors, either an individual or a corporation, who will recruit as many investors, she explained.
The company or individual agent then gets the deposit of its first investor, who tells others of this “good investment opportunity” and who also receives an interest income.
A second one comes in, gives his or her investment, and also earns from the interest.
The first investor is then paid by the agent her or his next interest income as a result of the money from the second investor.
When a third investor comes in, gives his or her money, and earns interest income from it, the second and first investors also get their next interest incomes. The cycle then continues (see diagrams A, B, C and D).

For full story click here

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Boats remain sure way of pumping Pinoy money from overseas


[Editor’s note: The exact location of the remittance system described in the story has been hidden to protect against unscrupulous individuals and groups]

SOMEWHERE in Visayas – PUMP boats. Of course, pump boats.
In a world where cash passes hands at the push of a button, pump boats remain the fastest, surest method of remittance from overseas Filipinos to their families in remote areas of the Philippines’s southern island-group.
For the past 41 years, Ismael F. has relied on these boats to send money from Chicago, United States.
This method “has been tried and tested,” Ismael told the OFW Journalism Consortium during his vacation for a fiesta celebration of his coastal town.
He eschews newer, technology-backed remittance channels for Filipinos abroad, saying using the pump boat — or aviso — method allows him to avoid remittance charges.
Ismael sends a minimum US$50 or US$100 every month. “But I also continually provide tuition and fees to a relative. Thus, I send some P25,000 (nearly US$500) every semester,” he added.
Remittances sent through non-banking channels and informal practices, such as the method used by Ismael, are a five-year US$8.24-billion resource that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) hopes would pass through the formal banking system (see related story ‘Chunk of Pinoy cash fro abroad still outside bank sphere in past five years’).
Ismael sends his remittance through relatives in Manila who then take a ferry boat to the province’s center of commerce, where Western Union and several banks operate.
From the center, his relatives take a jeep to the tip of the island where they would catch a boat.
The boat stops by a town and then reaches islets where the money is handed over personally to its recipient.
Ismael’s money takes 10 hours from Manila via ferry to the mainland or the provincial capital and two to three hours from there to in-between-islands boat travel.
“Even a simple snail mail here takes a month before it reaches the first boat stop,” Ismael explained.

THE archipelagic nature of the Philippines has made it difficult for remittances to directly reach families, especially in far-flung rural areas, according to a 2004 study by the Asian Development Bank.
Even as a Philippine bank can serve an average of 10,982 clients (as of December 2003 BSP estimates), the geographical disparity of these banks “is quite pronounced,” the study added.
Head offices and branches of banks, the study said, are concentrated in the National Capital Region where Manila belongs. South of the capital, roughly 40 to 80 kilometers away is the Southern Tagalog region that has only 1,267 bank offices, 578 ATM units, 211 post offices, and 3,238 cooperatives. If all these outlets are allowed to receive remittances, each commercial bank, rural bank, cooperative, or post office will serve an estimated 271 OFWs in that group of landlocked islands.
Rural banks are not yet formally allowed to receive foreign exchange, but a recent approval from the Monetary Board will soon see the country’s 765 rural banks directly receive money from OFWs abroad.
The BSP also recently reported that informal remittances have dropped last year, explaining that OFWs are remitting more to formal banking channels.
Still the ADB study maintained that about 38 percent of recipients in the Philippines would prefer the informal and non-banking methods, “primarily due to lower remittance costs.”
Ismael said using the pump boat method saves him US$7 for every US$100 he sends.
He added the US$7 he pays somehow covers the estimated P2,000 transportation cost and incidental expenses of the courier.

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PRC to test million-dollar online exam system on seafarers


MANILA – NO more lining up for hours under a hot sun to register for the professional exam. No more waiting in agony for the release of results.
By May, seafarers wanting to take examinations for marine deck officer licenses can register online, take the walk-in computerized exam, and get the results soon after the test.
The Professional Regulation Commission announced recently in a forum the readiness of the computerized walk-in examination process under the Licensure Examination and Registration Information System (Leris).
The long wait is over, PRC chairperson Leonor Tripon-Rosero said, five years after Leris was mandated by a law to computerize examinations to be given to Filipinos from 42 types of professions seeking license or renewal of their license. These include teachers, nurses, mechanical engineers, dentists, and x-ray technicians, among others.
Seafarers would be the first sector on which the system would be applied.
Private firm Geo-Spatial Solutions Inc. (GSI) is crafting and implementing the electronic design that would process thousands of items in a databank of questions, according to Capt. Constantino Arcellana Jr., who is also a member of the board of marine deck examiners.
GSI president Efren Ricalde Jr. confirmed they are readying the platform to implement the Leris for seafarers.
The implementation of Leris was nine years late in coming.
The PRC blamed the delayed implementation on the lack of funding even as the Norwegian Government and the International Maritime Organization donated US$1.2-million in 1997 and a seafarer’s union also donated 40 computers recently.
The PRC also pointed to the lack of security, but Ricalde said this concern has been addressed by GSI as the system would use “state-of-the-art” firewalls and other security features.
“We would not leave any window of opportunity for hackers,” Ricalde said, adding that only professional board examiners could access several points in the system.
A successful online registration and computerized examination at the PRC by seafarers would serve as impetus for offering the system to other professions, Ricalde said.

For full story, visit:

Chunk of Pinoy cash from abroad still outside bank sphere in past five years


MANILA – NEARLY a fifth of cash being sent by Filipinos abroad for the past five years remained outside the sphere of banks and formal channels, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas shows.
The country’s balance of payments data, which the BSP revised recently to comply with a new International Monetary Fund reporting standard, showed that overseas Filipinos sent some US$8.24 billion of cash remittances through informal channels from 2001 to 2005.
The amount is 17.18 percent of the five-year total US$47.975 billion cash remittances of overseas Filipinos, data from country’s central bank showed.
Under the revised BoP data, cash worth US$39.735 billion flowed through formal banking channels.
In terms of year-on-year share, money sent via informal channels appears to decline: from 21.89 percent of the total remittances in 2001, 19.99 percent in 2002, 16.65 percent in 2003, to 16.66 percent in 2004.
Informally-sent remittances further declined to 13.06 percent of the total US$12.3 billion the BSP recorded as money sent by overseas Filipinos to the country last year.
According to BSP director Iluminada Sicat, this chunk worth US$1.6 billion represents cash remittances through informal channels while the US$10.7 billion “represents hard currencies that drive exchange rates, as well as the domestic economy.”
The latter amount, explains the head of BSP’s Department of Economic Statistics, would near-accurately describes the real contribution of remittances to Philippine economy, which has been overtaken by its neighbors since the Asian financial crisis almost a decade ago.
“We have consistently told the public that the OFW [overseas Filipino workers] remittances we have reported are those that pass through the banks,’” Sicat told the OFW Journalism Consortium.
The BSP is just on its second year of using the “new series” to report remittances in measuring the BoP.
The country’s BoP, which measures the Philippines’s total trade with other countries, had a surplus of US$2.407 billion in 2005, a big improvement from a US$280 million deficit in 2004. As of February this year, the BoP position revealed a US$2.209 billion surplus.

For full article, visit:

Advocates want say in Malacañang OFW bank bid


MANILA – MIGRANT advocates may be split on Malacañang’s go-ahead to build a bank of overseas migrant workers via migrant workers’ pooled funds but they agreed OFWs should be given say; some even ownership of the project.
“This government move again insulted many unsung heroes by diverting our money without due consultation,” wrote Ronnie Abeto of the Saudi Arabia-based Pusong Mamon Task Force, one of several groups of overseas Filipinos connected to the Internet.
“The issue here is not actually the creation of an overseas Filipino workers’ bank, but the use of OWWA funds,” an email by another Saudi Arabia-based OFW, Francis Oca, said.
Abeto and Oca were two of many OFWs consulted via email by the OFW Journalism Consortium after President Gloria Arroyo reportedly approved taking P1 billion from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to transform the Postal Bank into an OFW bank.
Francisco Aguilar Jr. of the Federation of Migrant Workers (FMW) said in an e-group discussion that he is apprehensive over the president's pronouncement since it would involve use of OWWA's resources without any consultation.
We reiterated the clamor to have proper representation and consultation with the OFW sector and to put in place full transparency of the project, wrote Aguilar, who is also president and chief executive of FMW Group of Companies.
Robert Ceralvo, who claims leadership of a Filipino community in New Jersey, United States, shared the “same fear”.
If OFWs will not be consulted, included, and vested in this OFW bank project, chances are, it will benefit more the powerbrokers than any of us [and] OFWs, Ceralvo’s email ran without explaining how this would come about.
Edna Aquino, trustee of the Centre for Migrant Filipinos (CMF) in London, England, also wrote that the decision “seemed like a unilateral one”.
She posited the following questions: “Why should the [Postal Bank] be given this kind of authority solely on the basis of its 18 branches and P30 million profit? How can it compete against the other mega banks with track records in the remittance services? And if the bank is for OFWs and the money for running it will come from OFW contributions, the more they should be consulted on the issue.”

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