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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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, ParaƱaque.
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