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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, MalacaƱang 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.