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Friday, August 29, 2008

Photo shows (from left) Annie Trillo, ExcelAsia’s Vice President; Gloria Cejero, Director for HR Consulting Services, PeopleSupport; Monica Feliciano, Senior Recruitment Manager, PeopleSupport; Naomi Oliver-Alleje, Communications Training Supervisor, ExcelAsia

PeopleSupport named ExcelAsia, a leading human resource solutions provider, as one of its best partners for 2007 in its first-ever Vendors Appreciation Night. The recent event recognized excellent service from the contact center’s third party providers.

“This event was held in recognition of the services rendered by all of our recruitment partners,” said Diego Castro, PeopleSupport HR Recruitment Marketing and Communications Manager. “It’s our own way of giving back to our partners that have rendered outstanding services.”

PeopleSupport best partner awardees were chosen based on high endorsement numbers and hit rates last year, Castro added.

PeopleSupport first engaged ExcelAsia’s services in 2005, when the human resources solutions firm had just one facility in Cebu. When the company expanded to Makati City in 2006, PeopleSupport extended the relationship for agent-level hiring.

To meet client demand for volume hiring and frequent agent ramp-ups, ExcelAsia trains and endorses near-hires—job candidates who come close to qualifying for a job but need additional skill development—following completion of a special skills training program, which is conducted in partnership with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Training for Work Scholarship Program under the auspices of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

As an accredited provider of the program, ExcelAsia conducts two- to three-week training programs on basic computer skills and English proficiency. “On an average, we train around 500-700 near-hires a month.” ExcelAsia President Rita Trillo-Ugarte said.

“This award from PeopleSupport validates how our system has become an important tool enabling our clients to meet increasing agent-hiring demand.” Trillo-Ugarte said.

Congress Committee Takes Up Concerns of Recruiters

House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs, chaired by Representative Manuel “Waykurat” Zamora, has taken up urgent concerns affecting the overseas recruitment industry.

Responding to the appeal made by Eduardo T. Mahiya, president of the Federated Associations of Manpower Exporters Inc., the committee has been conducting public hearings to look into the shortage of airline flights that hamper the deployment of overseas workers to various countries in the Middle East. The committee is also looking into the complaint of overseas workers against the decking system being practiced by the Gulf Cooperation Council-Approved Medical Clinic Association, which in turn delays the medical examination of overseas workers and makes it costly.

“The committee has acted swiftly on all concerns such as passport problem, birth certificate, booking problem and NBI clearance. Present at the hearings are representative of various government offices concerned regarding the matter. In the said hearing, the Civic aeronautic Board and Philippine Airlines, were tasked to address the shortage of airline flights for which a commitment was made by PAL to provide daily bookings for 500 departing workers”, Mahiya said.

“On the other hand, Representative Magtanggol Gunigundo, chairman of the House Committee on Labor and Employment, and concurrent vice chairman of the committee, has directed the representatives of GAMCA to do away with the decking system and come out with another one that will be convenient and less costly to the workers’ Mahiya further said.

The federation has also attended the recent two meetings conducted by the technical working group of the committee which is deliberating on the proposed amendments to the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 (RA 8042) for the purpose of enhancing the protection of overseas Filipino workers.

A position paper was submitted by the Federation with respect to the proposed revision of several sections of the law. The position paper considers the interests of industry stakeholders while respectful of the welfare of overseas workers.

“The committee will soon continue with the public hearings to complete the inquiry on the GAMCA issue and take up new concerns that we recently brought to its attention. I am referring to the mandatory psychiatric testing proposed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the policy for a “unified contract” that the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia is set to implement come September 1, both of which the Federation already strongly objected to”, Mahiya said.

Mahiya explained that the unified contract will be detrimental to the industry as it requires the deploying Philippine agency to have an agreement with a Saudi agent before it is allowed to apply for visas of Filipino overseas workers. The policy will serve as a stumbling block to the entry of Filipino workers to Saudi Arabia.

On the other hand, the psychiatric test will drive further the household workers to the arms of illegal recruiters and depart as undocumented workers to avoid the new requirement.

“Thousands of household workers have left the country as undocumented workers and hundreds of them continue to leave daily because they refuse to subject themselves to the requirements of a policy mindlessly imposed two years ago. And here come the Department of Foreign Affairs with a new restrictive requirement which will only force them to become illegal workers”, Mahiya pointed out.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

UAE Housing Cost Goes Up

Abu Dhabi--House rents and related services in the UAE surged by 17.5 percent in 2007 as the Gulf country recorded one of its worst inflation rates, according to official figures. Rents jumped by 18.8 per cent while most other associated items and services, including furniture and housemaids, became much costlier except the heavily subsidised water and power supply, which either stabilised or declined.

Figures by the Ministry of Economy showed that 2007 was one of the best years for the UAE in terms of economic growth and revenues. But it was one of its worst years in terms of inflation, which soared by nearly 11 per cent. The UAE has cited a surge in food prices and rents as the main reasons of inflation along with a higher import bill because of the decline in the US dollar.

While higher food prices was caused by a surge in global farm costs, strong demand triggered by the economic boom allied with soaring fuel and construction costs to push up rents and other housing services.

According to the Ministry of Economy, house rent and related items surged by 17.5 per cent in 2007, far higher than the 12.5 per cent growth in 2006. Rents alone leaped by 18.8 per cent while the prices of furniture and associated services swelled by nearly 13 percent in 2007.

Water and electricity prices were almost the only exception as water rates remained flat because of heavy government subsidies on water supply for domestic use. Electricity rates declined by around 5.5 percent. But butane gas and kerosene prices rocketed by nearly 16 percent while charcoal shot up by 21.2 percent , the figures showed.

Furniture costs surged by 16.2 percent and carpets and covers by around 10.7 percent. Sheets, towels and curtains prices also swelled by 13.4 per cent. The figures showed that while refrigerators were cheaper in 2007, washing machines became costlier, leaping by around 14.9 percent. Gas cookers prices rose by nearly 3.6 per cent and other household by 4.4 percent.

In a previous report, the ministry estimated inflation in the UAE at 11.1 percent in 2007 and said soaring rents and food prices were the main reasons. Abu Dhabi, the principal oil-producing emirate, had the highest inflation rate of nearly 11.6 percent, followed by Dubai and Sharjah.

The rate last year meant the UAE had the second highest inflation level in the GCC after Qatar, which recorded over 13 per cent. The UAE rate was also nearly triple Saudi Arabia's inflation of around 4.1 per cent and four times the inflation rate in Bahrain.

Last year's figure was far higher than the inflation rate of 9.4 percent recorded in the UAE in 2006 and nearly double the rate in 2005.

Economists expect inflation to remain high this year as rents are rising, food prices are expected to increase further, and the UAE remains reliant on imports, which have grown in value and quantity because of a regional business upsurge and the peg between the UAE dirham and the dollar.

DOLE Advises OFWs on UAE Rules on Passports

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today advised overseas Filipino workers seeking or returning to their jobs in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to check on the validity of their passports to avoid delay, which could adversely affect their employment in the Emirates.
Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said the UAE government has issued new rules concerning the validity of passports of expatriates and visitors in the Emirates.
In line with the rules, Roque said the Philippine passport must be valid for not less than six months if the OFWs have no UAE residence permit. If the OFWs hold a UAE special entry permit or an employment visa, their Philippine passports must be valid for not less than three months.
The DOLE Chief said that without valid passports, OFWs will not be granted a UAE entry permit or entry visa, which they need in order to enter the emirates and also return to the home country or any country, which issued their passports.
An entry visa indicates the approval to be made on the OFW or visitor's passport/travel document, allowing him or her to enter the UAE.
This visa can be issued by a UAE embassy or consulate in the country of the person who is applying for the entry visa. It can also be issued by the Naturalization and Residency Department in the UAE.
An entry permit is a special document issued to expatriates allowing them to enter UAE. It is issued only by the Emirates' Naturalization and Residency Department.
Roque said OFWs working in the UAE whether alone or accompanied by their families should follow the rules set by the UAE government concerning visas and entry permits to avoid problems that may hinder their jobs in the Emirates.
He told the OFWs to ensure that their passports are valid adding that those with expiring passports may apply for renewal with the Department of Foreign Affairs in Pasay City or at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi. (PNA)

Clock Ticking for Expat IDs

Abu Dhabi
--UAE authorities are setting a firm deadline to force all expatriates to carry national identity cards.

Darwish Al Zarouni, Director General of the Emirates Identity Authority, said that all expatriates in the country will be required to have the national identity card for governmental, semi-governmental and private transactions by the end of 2010.

Without the cards, expats won't be able to register cars, transfer ownership of vehicles or do banking transactions. "They will face problems dealing with all sorts of transactions, including banking, in case they don't get the card," said Al Zarouni.

Emiratis without identity cards will not be able to receive any service from government, semi-government and even private organisations from the beginning of next year.

"The identity card which is meant to verify identity and simplify transactions will be compulsory for all Emiratis from the beginning of next year," he said. He added that starting next month, EIDA will discuss the system of implementation with all governmental and private organisations.

"We had talks with the Abu Dhabi Traffic Department which culminated in making the card mandatory for Emiratis to transfer the ownership of their cars and do other transactions at the department," he said. "Other departments will follow to link the card to services that will gradually enable the holders to use it as a multipurpose smart card." Among the estimated total population of 835,000 Emiratis, 285,000 have not yet registered.

"Among the unregistered Emiratis, most of them are children below 15 years. Parents coming for registration do not bring their children due to a misunderstanding that it is not compulsory."

Al Zarouni made it clear that although obtaining an identity card is optional for children below 15 years, registration with the population register is compulsory. "We give an identity number to children, which is compulsory for any official transactions including educational matters," he said.

Al Zarouni said EIDA will have access to the Ministry of Labour's database to integrate labour cards with national identity cards, as per an agreement signed by the two. The agreement between the MoL and EIDA will facilitate identity cards being issued to about 3.1 million workers in the country. Ministry officials said they would encourage employers to facilitate registration of their employees for identity cards.

Al Zarouni said the card will eventually enable holders to use it in place of labour cards, driving licences, health facilities and travelling to GCC countries [for citizens only], e-payments and an e-gate card, which provides a fast-track immigration clearance using smart technology and a fingerprint scan.

EIDA had been entrusted a project worth US$55 million (Dh202 million) to issue about 5 million ID cards to both citizens and expatriates by 2010.

Details: How to register

Applicants can fill in the registration form on and print it out to submit at any of the 24 registration centres in the country. To find out the locations and opening times of the centres and documents required visit the website or call the EIDA call centre on 600 523 432.

People looking to register from the comfort of their homes can contact EIDA's call centre and make an appointment for its mobile registration service. The service charge is Dh500 per family (apart from the registration fee), provided all family members are registered in the same family book or under one sponsorship, in addition to Dh10 for every family member.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Fil-Ams and other US Citizens Rally at Quezon Bridge to Show Support for Obama

Today, 24 August 2008, a group of Americans living in Manila gathered at the Quezon Bridge to show their support for US Senator Barack Obama’s bid to become the next American president, and to encourage Americans living in the Philippines to register to vote Online.
More than 200,000 American citizens live in the Philippines--many of them Filipino-Americans with dual nationality. With an estimated 6 million Americans living outside of the US , only 1 million of whom voted in the last presidential election, Democrats Abroad believes that American citizens living abroad can help make the difference in this election.
“In the past two US presidential elections, a few thousand votes in a few key states have determined the elections’ outcomes,” said David McCauley, Acting Chair of Democrats Abroad–Philippines.
“Many US citizens living in the Philippines aren’t aware that they can easily vote by absentee ballot, and it’s never been more crucial that they make their voices heard. Every vote really does matter.”
At today’s rally, McCauley conveyed personal stories of the Obama family, whom he’s known since the 1980s when he worked with Senator Obama’s mother in Indonesia .
“Barack Obama’s mother was a remarkable woman who cared deeply about development in Asia and raised a very special son, with a unique sense of strength and caring,” said McCauley.
“Senator Obama’s election will restore America ’s leadership in promoting global economic development and understanding, and it will strengthen the bond between the United States and the Philippines . No American should sit on the sidelines when they can take part and vote,” he added.
“In the past, registering to vote from outside the US could be a complicated affair, but this new website makes it easy,” said McCauley. The group he leads is promoting the Website as a quick and easy way for Americans to request absentee ballots and obtain voter information.
Quezon Bridge was chosen as a gathering place for today’s rally to symbolize Obama’s efforts to build bridges for problem solving across ethnic and political lines. More than 50 such “Yes We Span” events have been held by Democrats Abroad chapters around the world, playing on the Obama campaign’s motto of “Yes We Can”.
Today’s event comes on the heels Senator Obama’s selection of Joe Biden to be his running mate, and is a prelude to tomorrow’s opening of the week-long US Democratic Party Convention in Denver, Colorado, which will culminate with Senator Obama accepting his party’s nomination on Thursday before a crowd of 75,000 supporters.

Monday, August 18, 2008

PASEI Voices Concerns on "Unified Contract"

The country's overseas employment service providers appealed to concerned government agencies and both the Senate and the Lower House to come to the defense of the Filipino overseas contract workers whose rights, interests and welfare will be put at risk by the impending implementation of the "unified contract."

The group, led by the 777-strong Philippine Association of Service Exporters, Inc., (PASEI), the biggest association of landbased recruitment agencies licensed by the POEA and DOLE, said the onerous "unified contract", a unilateral imposition by a private group of private agencies from Saudi Arabia called the Saudi National Recruitment Committee, may take effect on September 1 this year.

The implementation of the "unified contract" which PASEI branded as "prejudicial," was relayed by the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia in a Note Verbale dated July 18, 2008 to Assistant Secretary Jesus I. Yabes of the Office of the Middle East and African Affairs who furnished last July 22, 2008 copies to the Department of Labor and Employment and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for their "information and appropriate action". To date, no action was taken by both DOLE and POEA in protecting the OCWs against the Unified Contract which is about to take effect by September 1.

"We strongly oppose this scheme because it is virtually devoid of any consultation with the Philippine government, industry stakeholders and most especially with the Filipino migrant workers' groups and OCWs who will be greatly disadvantaged by the proposed onerous scheme," PASEI president Victor E. R. Fernandez, Jr. said.

He pointed out that the Department of Foreign Affairs, Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Affairs, DOLE, Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, would be remiss on their mandated tasks of protecting the rights and promoting the welfare of Filipino OCWs if they treat the "unified contract" as a mere private contract between the SANARCOM member agencies and their Philippines counterparts. It is imbued with public interest and concerns the protection and welfare of our OCWs.

"Will government turn a blind eye and deaf ear to the onslaught and clear "legitimization of oppression and abuses to be committed to our OCWs under the Unified Contract scheme by SANARCOM?," Fernandez asked.

This is due to a provision in the "unified contract" which clearly stipulates that the employer-employee relations between the Saudi employer and the Filipino OCW will be governed by a substituted and another work contract presented by the SANARCOM agency which will disregard the original approved POEA contract attested by our POLO, Fernandez explained. "If this is tolerated, it would certainly spawn the abhorrent practice of contract "substitution" to the detriment of the Filipino OCWs and opens the worker to "permitted abuses," he added.

POEA called the leaders of the industry associations to a meeting on the subject last July 28 but nothing immediately clear came out of it in terms of action. "The letter supposed to be drafted by the POEA conveying to the DFA the strong sense and unanimous objections of the industry stakeholders vis-à-vis the unified contract has yet to reach the royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia through the Philippine DFA with copy to PASEI," said Fernandez.

He warned that if concerned government agencies and Congress cannot do anything to prevent the implementation of the "unified contract" before September 1, PASEI will wage a sustained campaign among industry stakeholders to refuse acceptance and signing of any "unified contract" with any Saudi recruitment agency whether or not they are members of the SANARCOM group of KSA, or any manpower agency or intermediary in the Middle East.

Fernandez vowed to take this issue as well to the ILO, IOM, UNIFEM and concerned NGOs such as Consultative Council for OFW and Migrante as well as with the newly formed Alliance of Asian Associations of Overseas Employment Service Providers composed of Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Vietnam.

Urging their member agencies to "prevent the oppression of our OCWs," Fernandez also appealed to them "to take the moral high grounds and show our genuine concern for the rights and welfare of the OCWs we deploy because the problems and concerns of our OCWs are our concerns as well. Our OCWs need not be defenseless and strong determined decisive action in unison with government and industry stakeholders is the battle cry of the day to protect our OCWs as well as other migrant workers from other labor-exporting countries."

SSS benefit payments hit P33B in 1st half

Social Security System released a total of P33.41 billion for members’ benefits during the first half of the year, which was 16 percent more than the P28.80 billion it disbursed for the same period in 2007, a top official said.
SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Romulo Neri said nearly half of the total, or P16.0 billion, went to retirement benefits which increased by 18 percent from P13.54 billion in 2007.
“SSS has been working hard to remain financially viable so we can continually make benefits more meaningful and available to more members,” he said.
Payments for retirement, death, maternity and sickness posted double- digit increases during the first six months of 2008. Retirement and death claims made up 84 percent of the total disbursements for the period.
Death claims, which like retirement and disability benefits are paid in lump sum or as monthly pension, increased by 16 percent to P12.08 billion from P10.38 billion last year.
Maternity benefits rose by 18 percent to P1.67 billion from P1.41 billion, and sickness claims grew by 11 percent to P869.44 million from P782.89 million. The SSS grants maternity and sickness benefits to eligible members who are temporarily unable to work due to illness
or pregnancy.
The institution, which would be celebrating its 51st anniversary on September 1, disbursed 7 percent more for funeral benefits amounting to P1.14 billion this year from P1.07 billion in 2007.
Neri said the SSS also paid 3 percent more for disability benefits, which totaled P1.64 billion from P1.59 billion last year.
“We urge members to pay contributions regularly to qualify for our benefits in times of financial contingencies,” he said. “Members who pay more contributions are entitled to higher SSS benefits.”

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Grandmaster Eugene Torre Moves in Real Estate

Photo shows Grandmaster Eugene Torre, vice president of Fianchetto Realty Development Corporation with Rosemarie Basa, chairman and president of the recently concluded 2nd Philippine Real Estate Festival held at the SMX Convention Center , SM Mall of Asia
Eugene Torre, the 1st Asian chess player to earn the International Grandmaster title, is now dipping his fingers in the real estate business. Besides playing chess, GM Torre also fill his time handling the reigns of marketing for Fianchetto Realty Development Corporation, an all Filipino realty development and management company that has built its reputation of integrity, quality service, and fair play in the real estate industry.

Since 2006 he was the vice president and has been teaming up with fellow chess player and patron, Cesar M. Iligan who has a more than 40 years of solid realty experience. With both being chess enthusiasts, the company formerly CM Iligan Realty Development Corporation, was renamed to Fianchetto Realty Development Corporation as “fianchetto” (Italian for little flanking) is a “bishop move” aimed to secure a king. Following this credo, Fianchetto Realty Development Corporation is committed in providing safe and affordable residential properties fit for home owners and investors whom they esteemed as kings.

With the goal of learning more “moves” from the movers and shakers in this industry, GM Torre attended the recently concluded 2nd Philippine Real Estate Festival held at the SMX Convention Center , SM Mall of Asia.

Specialty Store Makes Malunggay Bread

A new type of bread that has been proven to fight anemia is now the rage in Mandaluyong City and parents are gushing over the health benefits for the buns, animal-shaped bread and cookies offered by PowerNut, a pastry shop in Barangay Baranca.
The-not-so-secret ingredient in the pastries and bread that PowerNut's expert bakers produce is the lowly malunggay, dubbed as "power gulay" by Alicia Ilaga, Director of the Department of Agriculture-Biotechnology Program Office.
PowerNut trailblazed the production of malunggay bread and it is thus the only shop to ever sell commercially such a unique commodity, which goes well with malunggay ice cream that can be secured from Ilocos Norte.
Apart from being the source of moringa edible oil and biodiesel, malunggay, scientifically known as Moringa oleifera Lamk., it is also packed with vitamin A, which battles anemia, iron, calcium and is even known for its rejuvenating effects on sluggish males.
However, Hanny Antonio, is most concerned not with biodiesel but with the power that heals, which power is now being harnessed by PowerNut to the hilt. Incidentally, PowerNut derived its name from peanuts laced with malunggay, which only shows how much this corporate player values malunggay.
Antonio, PowerNut operations manager, said science was behind her company's journey to therapeutic bread, and it was born after the firm conducted a 30-day feeding program and a research and clinical study on the effects of malunggay on children. LR Medical Clinic worked on the project and sifted through the data produced for the entire month.
Sixty-four malnourished Grades 1 and 2 pupils from public schools in Mandaluyong City underwent blood testing before and after they were fed with malunggay bread.
Results of the study showed that students who were diagnosed as anemic prior to the feeding program were discovered to have normal blood count, and the malady was gone.
It also showed that those who consumed malunggay bread had an increase in their hemoglobin count.
A test conducted by the Department of Science and Technology on the pH-level on PowerNut also indicated that the total solubility solids of the store's products had neutral pH-level and do not cause tooth decay. You can eat to heart's content without worrying about caries, periodontitis and other ailments.
The store also offers a range of malunggay-fortified products like bread, Powerpao (siopao), doughnuts, noodles (from Camarines Sur), pili nuts (from Legaspi City, Albay) iced tea, capsules, tea and other pastries.
The advocacy of PowerNut store is a perfect example of DA-BPO's advocacy on malunggay--to help Filipinos achieve a better quality of life through nutrition and good business.
This store does not only offer malunggay-fortified products. The store's kitchen doors are open for aspiring malunggay food entrepreneurs who simply want to learn how to make malunggay delicacies.
PowerNut may help the Biotechnology Information and Organization Network in narrowing the great nutritional divide, with many school children suffering from anemia all because they do not that right at their backyard is the spring of nutrients--malunggay, and the millions who spend a fortune just to stay healthy even when they need only to spend less to stay fit.
PowerNut is also in the business of sharing knowledge and acumen in the malunggay food business with other entrepreneurs who want to earn while promoting health consciousness among our people. (biolife news service)

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Headstrong Boosts IT Delivery Services with Integrated Solution

Manila--Headstrong, a global consulting and IT services company, is undertaking a “global process harmonization” initiative to integrate process asset libraries from Global Delivery Centers in the Philippines and India. The harmonization will not only provide a common process asset library but will combine the best practices and process strengths of all delivery centers into one global standard.

The company’s process asset libraries provide a centralized knowledge base for defining and deploying processes to address client requirements. Harmonization of the libraries will ensure that the delivery centers will be following the same set of quality processes.

Ongoing process harmonization has already contributed to an enhanced ISO certification for the company. Headstrong is currently certified for ISO 9001:2000
and scheduled for re-assessment for CMMi Level 3 in Q1 2009. Headstrong Philippines was previously certified for CMMi Level 3 and is looking forward to a simultaneous re-assessment of all Global Delivery Centers early next year.

“In harmonizing these process libraries, we ensure clients that they receive the Headstrong standard of quality in IT delivery from any of our Global Delivery Centers. This provides the client the flexibility to outsource the work in many Headstrong locations and still be assured that the high level of service quality will be same,” said Salud Domagas, Delivery Assurance Group head. Harmonization started in March and Headstrong expects to roll out its integrated process asset library for all GDCs next month.

The integrated Process Infrastructure, called the One Process Asset Library or OnePAL is the process foundation that enables Headstrong’s project managers and consultants to develop effective solutions for its clients. OnePAL was undertaken in response to the clients’ demand for a service delivery that is at par with globally recognized quality standards for software and IT solutions.

The Manila and India GDCs are collaborating on the development and implementation of One PAL. “The real challenge to completing the process integration is to get the all the process areas defined and enhanced with the best practices while ensuring the full coverage of the individual centers needs. The communication among the various Task Forces needed to be closely coordinated and seamless, considering the different time zones of the locations. The greater challenge remains the simultaneous roll-out in all GDCs in the coming months,” she said.

Headstrong, through the Delivery Assurance Group, is also working on further strengthening its capability in offshore outsourcing services through the major initiatives in the areas of knowledge management, tools and automation and further certifications in information systems security, CMMi and towards Six Sigma.

“DAG is focused on being a proactive partner to the Delivery Groups - to go beyond the standard compliance and facilitation activities, rather, to actively improve overall productivity and capability of the delivery centers," said Domagas.


About Headstrong

Headstrong is a global consulting and IT services company that applies its expertise in business processes and technology across key verticals in the Capital Markets Industry. Headstrong’s client base in the financial services industry includes the top 10 investment banks. It provides domain focused solutions across capital markets business areasWealth & Asset Management, Prime Brokerage & Securities Financing, Equities (Cash and Derivatives) and Fixed Income (Mortgage Backed Securities, OTC Derivatives and Commodities). Headstrong delivers solutions in Business Process Definition, Systems Integration, Application Development, Application Outsourcing, QA and Testing Services and Knowledge Process Outsourcing. Headstrong helps its clients realize value from their business and technology initiatives while leveraging a steadfast heritage (as James Martin + Co) of strong methodologies and global program management. Headstrong is headquartered near Washington DC, with a global presence across North America, Europe and Asia-Pacific.

More Workers Hired Than Laid Off in Metro Manila

Despite the economic slowdown brought about by the unabated increases in food and fuel prices and the U.S.-led global recession, more workers were hired than terminated in top corporations in Metro Manila in the first quarter of 2008, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

Citing a survey of the Bureau of Labor and Employment Statistics, Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that amidst the economic slowdown, labor turnover in large enterprises in Metro Manila continued to be on the uptrend as newly employed workers in these enterprises outnumbered those who were terminated or laid off during this year’s first three months.

Roque said the First Quarter 2008 Labor Turnover Survey of BLES monitored the employment expansion or contraction in 688 establishments randomly selected from among the top 3,300 corporations in Metro Manila.

He said the survey showed that accession rate or additions to employment in the covered establishments was at 12.23 percent which outpaced separation rate or termination of employment at 7.46 percent indicating a net turnover or employment growth rate of 4.76 percent.

In nominal terms, Roque said the net addition to the enterprises’ workforce was about 48 workers per 1,000 employed workers during the quarter. This occurred as 122 workers were hired per 1,000 employed as against 75 workers separated per 1,000 employed.

Roque added that accession was primarily attributed to replacement of separated workers and job quitters at 7.88 percent, adding that only 4.35 percent was due to expansion of business activities.

He noted that accession due business expansion, albeit small, still occurred despite difficult times. “This is remarkable as it underscored the economy’s resiliency and capability to expand in the midst critical situations like increases in fuel prices,” Roque said.

The survey also showed that the highest accession rate at 23.69 percent was recorded in real estate, renting and business activities with the booming business process outsourcing sector accounting for most of the hiring. Construction likewise yielded a high accession rate at 20.08 percent followed by mining and quarrying (14.98 percent), hotels and restaurants (14.24 percent) and wholesale and retail trade (10.82 percent).

On the other hand, the lowest accession rates were observed in agriculture, hunting and forestry (3.39 percent); electricity, gas and water supply (1.87 percent); and private education services (1.66 percent).

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

PPA Halfway House is the Focus

…at the 1st World Conference on Women’s Shelter in Alberta , Canada

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Oscar M. Sevilla has recently announced the acceptance of the paper which the port agency has submitted for presentation to the 1st World Conference on Women’s Shelter to be held in Edmonton , Alberta , Canada on September 8-11, 2008.

The paper entitled “Combating Trafficking in Women Through Creative and Functional Collaboration Amongst Stakeholders,” will focus on the concept, operations and other related concerns of the PPA Halfway House facilities and how the synergy among government agencies, the private sector and non-government organizations can actually work in curbing the trafficking phenomenon in the ports, Sevilla said.

PPA Gender and Development Focal Point Chair, AGM Aida P. Dizon likewise added that this is the first time ever that the port agency itself has initiated the presentation of the Halfway House concept in an international conference as part of its corporate social responsibility initiatives.

The first ever conference is being spearheaded by the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters which selected/picked the PPA Halfway House project among over 300 applications which the ACWS received coming from different/proponents/countries.

Monday, August 11, 2008

New Atty for OFW Group Named

Global Filipino Nation has appointed Johannes L. Ignacio, anInternational Human Rights Lawyer and Consultant, as its International LegalCounsel.
Ignacio is a member of the Philippine Bar.
GFN is an internationalassociation of global Filipinos, their families and allies, and onshoreFilipinos with a global mindset--all committed to promoting goodgovernance.
Among others, Ignacio serves as Executive Director of Santa Clara(California) Center for Occupational Safety and Health, doingadvocacy and capacity building around workers' right to health andenvironmental justice.
He advocates for the rights of vulnerable groupsparticularly migrant workers. He is an international trainer/ resourceperson on human rights fact finding, documentation, monitoring and advocacy, Ignacio is a Founding Member of Forum Asia, a regional network on humanrights and development.
He is in the International Board of Advisers of theInternational Human Rights Internship Program, based in Washington. He is the Chair of Stairway Foundation, a non-profit for street kids.
Philippine human rights and legal experience of Ignacio includes service as legal officer/consultant of the Philippine Constitutional Commission(1986) and the Philippine Commission on Human Rights (1987-1994), as seniorofficer providing training and capacity building on human rights for NGOsand community-based groups including migrant workers (1989-1992), and as senior officer providing advocacy and training center on human rights,handling cases of migrant workers involving fraud and illegal recruitment,sex trafficking, HIV-AIDS, occupational safety and health, job benefits, etc.
He advocated locally and internationally for the rights and protectionfor migrant workers.
Ignacio has served as International Consultant for the Office of the HighCommissioner for Human Rights (UNOCHR, UNDP, UNAIDS), Ford Foundation, AsiaFoundation, European Union, and others.
His latest assignments include having trained the UN Office of the HighCommissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Nepal and Nepal Human RightsCommission staff on human rights fact-finding and documentation.
Hecurrently is the Senior Expert-Human Rights Training and CapacityBuilding, European Union Conflict Mitigation Program, Nepal.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

OFWs, Travelers to Saudi Arabia Told to Declare Cash, Jewelry Worth over SR60,000

Department of Labor and Employment advised overseas Filipino workers and other travelers to Saudi Arabia to declare upon arrival and departure cash, precious metals or jewelry worth over SR 60,000 or US$16,000 to avoid confiscation or legal penalties.

Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque issued the advisory upon receiving a communication from the Saudi Embassy in Manila on the matter.

Roque said the Saudi government has enjoined all travelers to their country to strictly follow Saudi Arabia’s Customs Department rule on the declaration of cash, transferable monetary instruments or precious metals and jewelry exceeding SR60,000 or its equivalent in foreign currency to customs officials upon arrival or departure.

The labor secretary, quoting a statement from the communication, said the main purpose of the declaration was to prevent “money laundering and some forms of terrorist funding.”

Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has intensified its efforts to combat money laundering at the national, regional and international levels, the statement said.

“The Kingdom is among the first few countries, which gave special attention to counter money laundering by committing to and complying with many rules and international conventions,” said Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf in a statement.

The filing of the declaration was in accordance with Article 14 of the Anti-Money Laundering Law of the Kingdom and “those who do not declare the precious metals and jewelry they possess while leaving the Kingdom have to pay customs duty on them on their return,” the statement said.

The statement said declaration forms are available at all of the Kingdom’s entry points, including airports and seaports. Passengers should write their names, passport numbers and addresses in Saudi Arabia. They should also state their country of origin and destination, flight numbers, the type of currency they are carrying, the total amount in Saudi riyals, the value of precious metals in Saudi riyals, their source and the purpose of carrying them.

DOLE has noted that most of the OFWs in the Kingdom are fond of buying precious metals and jewelry for pasalubong or for “investment purposes” and it would be to their best interest if they were made aware of this latest developments.

Roque has called on all concerned sectors, including the media, to help in disseminating the information to OFWs and the traveling public.

Drive Against Illegal Recruitment, Human Trafficking Strengthened

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said his agency would continue to exert more efforts in curbing illegal recruitment and human trafficking in all fronts, locally or overseas.

Roque, who also sits as chairman of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration Board, made this assurance as recent news reports by a non-government organization indicating an increase in human trafficking activities in the Philippines.

Roque said the government has consolidated all its resources and focal agencies into one Task Force that would directly address the problem of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

Roque said through Executive Order 548-A issued recently by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the role of POEA, an attached agency of the DOLE, has been defined and strengthened as mandated by R.A 8042, or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995.

The order has amended and superseded the previous EO, which created a task force against illegal recruitment under the supervision of the Commission of Filipino Overseas, Roque said.

He clarified, however, that the CFO shall be in charged of the task force against human trafficking as provided for by EO 548-A.

EO 548-A, he stressed, redefined in clearer terms the functions of POEA and CFO in the fight against illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

"This shall enable the POEA in coordination with the regional offices of the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure greater focus in fighting illegal recruiters down to the local level," he said.

Roque said that the executive order underscored the on-going campaign of POEA to involve local government units in the fight against illegal recruiters.

He said that the agency has forged agreements with LGUs in Metro Manila late last year, particularly with the city governments of Taguig, Valenzuela, Malabon, Mandaluyong, Las Piñas, Muntinlupa, and Quezon City.

The agreements, he said, called for the active participation of the concerned local government authorities in surveillance and investigation of establishments and entities suspected of engaging in illegal recruitment in their respective jurisdiction.

The labor chief said that POEA is set to forge similar agreements with other LGUs in Metro Manila and other regions this year in line with Executive Order No. 548-A and RA 8042.

Pursuant to the law, POEA shall continue to adopt policies and procedures and implement programs towards the eradication of illegal recruitment.

The agency shall also coordinate with the task force, along with other government agencies and the CFO which serves as task force chair, in addressing the problem on human trafficking.

As chair of the task force, CFO shall recommend to the inter-agency council against trafficking policies, programs, and services aimed at eliminating trafficking in persons.

IACAT is the primary body tasked to coordinate, monitor, and oversee the implementation of programs against trafficking in persons as provided for by RA No. 9208, otherwise known as the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003.

“We always believe that the best way to prevent or minimize illegal recruitment or human trafficking is for would be overseas workers to check and verify first with the authorities, particularly with POEA, any offer of overseas job by individuals or entities engaged in overseas employment before dealing with them,” Roque said.

The labor secretary added that among the safety nets and measures established by the DOLE to mitigate if not totally eradicate or prevent illegal recruitment and human trafficking is the conduct of Pre-Departure Orientation Seminars, the establishment of Public Employment Service Offices in cities and municipalities nationwide which assist workers for their local or overseas employment; and linkages with various agencies of government charged with migration and travel.

Overseas, the Labor Chief said the 34 Philippine Overseas Labor Offices of the DOLE established worldwide help trace, shelter, assist and repatriate victims of illegal recruitment and human trafficking.

Occidental Mindoro Mayors Back biotech, Support Establishment of Information Centers

It is only when farmers realize that agriculture is an enterprise from which they can derive larger incomes that they are encouraged to take the plunge to entrepreneurship.
This much was observed by officials of Occidental Mindoro who saw the potential of their farmers being key players in local and regional agricultural trade since their town is major food producer.

Occidental Mindoro actually boasts of a high 9.4 percent annual economic growth among the provinces in Mimaropa, which is comprised of Occidental Mindoro, Oriental Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan.

Mayor Sonia Pablo of Rizal, Occidental Mindoro, who has taken the role of champion as far as biotechnology advocacy is concerned, was instrumental in launching the Biotechnology Information and Organization Network-BIOCommerce in her province.

Pablo says the establishment of the BIONet Resource Center in their province is a great opportunity not only for farmers but for all inhabitants of the province. "It pays to have a resource center where you can access new information like biotechnology"

One example of the importance of having access to information is the case of Mayor Vincent Festin of San Jose, Occidental Mindoro.

Festin is actually a convert to biotechnology, having been skeptical about its benefits and surprised even more by what he initially thought was meddling or modifications of God's creations.

It was when he participated in a Biotechnology Seminar for the Local Government Units that he realized that biotechnology had been in existence for thousands of years, starting with beer making, wine making, and bread making.

Surely, it did not start with the discovery of the laws of genetics by Fr. Gregor Mandel, a Jesuit priest.

"Our town's growth rate will surely get better than what we have now, because of the presence of the BIONet-BIOCommerce Center at the heart of our town," he said.

BIONet-BIOCommerce Center in San Jose aims to help farmers achieve a better quality of life by helping them increase their profit through biotechnology. Some of the organization's target products are corn, like Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, and Round up ready corn and malunggay, which has become a profitable venture for residents.

Not only will BIONet provide information on the latest information on biotechnology, moreover, but it will also link up the province with other BIONet Centers in the country, like those in Tarlac and Butuan, to provide a national database on agricultural biotechnology information.

The best thing is that BIONet aims to serve as a link between the farmers and the private sector, which is their ready market. (biolife news service)

DOLE, PMAP Join Hands to Speed up Industry’s Search for Skills

Department of Labor and Employment has entered into an agreement with a premier organization of human resource management executives and the network of Public Employment Services Offices nationwide to improve the industry’s search for skills and speed up the employment of workers.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said Enrique Abadesco Jr., president of People Management Association of the Philippines, and Aurora Zaportiza, chair and president of the National Federation of PESOs in the Philippines signed a memorandum of agreement for the three parties’ cooperation in the delivery of career counseling and employment facilitation services to workers.

Under the agreement, Roque said that the PMAP, PESOPHIL, and the DOLE would share resources and expertise geared towards improving career counseling and employment facilitation services in the country.

DOLE hailed PMAP’s participation in the MOA saying it underscores the need of government and the private sector to collaborate and support each other in promoting the employment of Filipino workers.

He said that PMAP would specifically subscribe and promote the extensive use of the Phil-JobNet among its members. PMAP consists of over 1,800 member companies and individual management executives and 19 chapters throughout the Philippines engaged in human resource management and industrial relations.

Phil-Jobnet, on the other hand, is a free online job and skills search engine where employers can post their vacancies. Jobseekers can also search for latest job listings and register for employers seeking workers with appropriate skills.

Roque said that aside from providing easier and efficient access to quality labor market information, the Phil-JobNet would also speed up the PMAP members’ search for qualified workers and, thus, minimize cost they usually incur in their search for skills.

He said PMAP’s willingness to utilize the Phil-JobNet would boost efforts to facilitate skills and job matching and more significantly the workers’ search for quality employment among PMAP members.

At the same time, PMAP would provide managerial and technical training to PESOPHIL members to enhance their skills on providing career counseling and employment facilitation services free of charge.

Meanwhile, the DOLE would make accessible the Phil-JobNet services to all PMAP members and train PMAP staff on its operation free of charge.

To meet the labor market needs of PMAP, PESOPHIL would also provide PMAP members access to available labor market information data and assistance related to HRD in their locality.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Headstrong Hires Former Freddie Mac's Employee

More than 40 specialized personnel to reinforce Headstrong’s Platform Centers of Excellence

Headstrong, a global consultancy, announced the hiring of Noreen Iles and other key former leaders of Freddie Mac’s specialized Technology Solutions Unit. The assimilation of a number of the TSU’s Eagle Investment and Misys Summit Debt & Derivative systems delivery team enhances Headstrong’s strategy of building Platform Centers of Excellence in key financial software instruments to meet high market demand for domain-focused capabilities.

The acquisition adds depth, expertise, and new services, particularly in Eagle and Summit software solutions, to Headstrong, while building upon the company’s capability in providing end-to-end solutions to financial services clients. In particular, it reinforces the company’s talent pool by adding more than 40 differentiated experts in investment accounting portfolio and debt & derivatives portfolio systems implementations.

“Noreen and her team are a great fit with Headstrong’s focus on financial services and Platform Centers of Excellence. They will strengthen the current P-CoE to cater to all front, middle and back office applications,” said Arjun Malhotra, Chairman and CEO of Headstrong. “Headstrong’s focus has been on providing domain-led IT services to Capital Markets and today we are recognized as one of the key players in this area.”

“Our growth related investments will continue to focus on building our expertise and domain differentiators,” Malhotra added.

The TSU’s proven expertise in the Eagle investment system, the Summit debt & derivative system, Pega Systems and automated underwriting capabilities for mortgage processes, combined with Headstrong’s solid financial services consulting practice, will provide customers with the leading technology and services available in the market today.

The team, led by Noreen Iles, maintains a 10-year plus working relationship, with extensive experience in providing IT solutions to the financial services, e-commerce, and retail industries. Iles, who has led successful completion of large, multi-year projects at Freddie Mac, will continue to manage the Chicago-based near-shore center for Headstrong. She is a recognized technical expert and corporate leader, and is a “Women in Technology International Leadership in IT” award recipient.

“We are excited to be part of Headstrong,” Iles stated. “Our key strengths and capabilities and commitment to client service complement each other and now we have a more complete value proposition.”

“By combining our vast experience in portfolio accounting systems in software implementation projects with Headstrong’s domain-led distributed delivery model, we should have a strong offering to serve our clients and grow the business,” she explained.

Eagle serves many of the world’s most prominent financial institutions, integrating and streamlining the investment process in support of achieving improved business efficiencies with its web-based solutions. Summit, a recognized market leader with a 14-year market experience, combines rules-based workflow and real-time trade processing with its sophisticated trader tools and risk management.

Headstrong currently maintains and develops platform centers of excellence in established financial services and Business Intelligence technology solutions, including Netezza, Calypso, etc, and with Eagle and Summit now added to its P-CoE portfolio.

# # #

About Headstrong:

Headstrong, a leading software consulting company providing solutions to the financial services industry with focus on capital markets and securities, works with the foremost global investment banks, regional banks, asset managers and Exchanges. Headstrong provides innovative solutions in complex production environment across Credit Derivatives, Fixed Income, Marketplaces, Mortgages, Securities Financing, and Wealth Management. Headstrong combines robust methodologies, prototypes and reusable components with its global engagement footprint and seamless distributed delivery model. The company’s Platform Centers of Excellence (P-CoE) spearhead the creation of offerings for large multi-year managed programs and development of significant capabilities in selected ISV platforms that leverage Headstrong’s deep capital markets domain knowledge.

RP Call Centers Must Maintain High Quality Service to Sustain Growth

To achieve sustained growth, contact centers in the Philippines should maintain high quality service standards, a noted international customer service expert said.

“It’s no secret that a significant fraction of the country’s revenues in offshoring and outsourcing comes from the call center business,” said Ron Kaufman, also a best-selling author and customer service expert. “With advanced equipment available to practically anyone, the real battle ground would not only entail the fastest Internet connectivity, for instance. It will also focus on the response time and output given to the client as well.”

The Philippine call center industry is expected to top $ 4.3 billion in revenues this year or about two-thirds of the entire business process outsourcing market in the country and sustain 30 percent annual growth, according to a report released by the Contact Center Association of the Philippines during its annual Call Center Conference and Expo last month. CCAP projects that such growth would translate to 50,000 additional call center jobs this year.

“In a service-oriented industry, it is really the people who drive the business. And by simple logic alone, one is but compelled to accept the fact that there’s no amount of technology, or any piece of equipment for that matter, to compensate for inefficient or uncaring staff,” Kaufman said.

Call centers should not abandon their commitment to excellent service, which is an integral part in building strong relationships with clients, Kaufman said. He added that call center companies should build excellent rapport with suppliers and vendors and strategize on satisfying customers to achieve and sustain growth.

“And this is not restricted to the call center industry alone,” said Kaufman.

The Philippines is poised to capture 10% of the global O&O market by 2010, with total revenues of local providers forecasted to hit US$ 12 billion. By the end of 2008 alone, BPAP expects Philippine-based providers to reach approximately US$7 billion in total revenues.

“What all these figures depict is a bright future for this business,” said Kaufman. “Most of the technological requirements are there. That’s already a given. What needs more focus is having people in call centers satisfy clients.”

Kaufman will present “Secrets to Superior Service” in a one-day lecture at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Makati City on August 21. The seminar will focus on customer service principles necessary in enhancing service-oriented relationships.

Kaufman is the author of UP Your Service! and Lift Me UP!, two book series that led to the establishment of the “UP Your Service! College”—an integrated educational program for enhancing customer service and building a “superior service” culture.


About the Ron Kaufman

Ron Kaufman is an internationally renowned educator, distinguished motivational speaker, and founder of UP Your Service! College. The acclaimed author of the UP Your Service! and Lift Me UP! book series, Kaufman first gained international recognition through his educational Website where he regularly uploads his award-winning UP Your Service! newsletter along with his video lectures on how organizations can build a superior service culture—the fundamental building block for ensuring first-rate customer service. He has conducted numerous training programs around the globe for clients including government agencies, multi-national corporations, and regional firms in the fields of financial services, manufacturing, and entertainment, to name a few. Kaufman is a graduate of Brown University, with post-graduate studies in London, France, and Berkeley, California.

NEDA Board approves P2.6-billion New Projects with USAID Grant

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board, chaired by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, approved about PhP2.6-billion new projects under the Environment and Energy Program as provided in the Assistance Agreement between the governments of the Philippines and the United States. Of this amount, about PhP1.99 billion* shall be provided by the United States Agency for International Development while the remaining PhP656 million shall be provided by the Philippine government and other non-government partners.

The PhP1.99 billion is part of the total USAID assistance of PhP3.2 billion (US$73 million) which covers both new and ongoing projects under the Program. The remaining PhP1.22 million (US$27.822 million) is allocated to support the implementation of ongoing activities.

An initial grant of US$13.74 million will be provided in 2008. Meanwhile, the Philippine government implementing agencies—Department of Agriculture, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Energy and Department of Finance—and non-government grantees shall provide the counterpart contributions in cash or in kind but shall not be less than the equivalent of one-third of the total USAID contribution. The implementation will cover a six-year period from October 2008 until September 2013.

The ongoing activities include: The Philippine Environmental Governance Phase 2 project, Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest (FISH) project, Energy and Clean Air project, Alliance for Mindanao Off-Grid Renewable Energy (AMORE) II and Philippine Water Revolving Fund (PWRF) Technical Assistance, among others. New activities will be identified and planned during the program implementation stage.

The ongoing projects are currently being implemented under the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding between NEDA and the USAID for Strengthening the Management of Productive and Life-Sustaining Natural Resources signed on May 30, 2002 and amended on May 18, 2005; Memorandum of Agreement among the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of the Interior and Local Government and USAID for the implementation of Environment Programs signed on June 1, 2005, and MOA among the Department of Agriculture, DILG and USAID for the implementation of the Fisheries Improved for Sustainable Harvest Project signed on March 1, 2005.

The Environment and Energy Program activities cover three areas—environment, infrastructure and health—which will be undertaken to promote economic growth and investing in people. Activities for the environment program area will focus on natural resources and biodiversity and clean productive environment while the infrastructure area will concentrate on modern energy services. The health program area will focus on water supply and sanitation.

Under the implementation arrangement, NEDA is the principal representative of the Philippine government while the implementing agencies are responsible for the overall implementation and management of their activities under the Program. The NEDA shall also facilitate coordination with other relevant lead agencies and other donor programs and provide policy guidance for the government and ensure that the objective, program areas and elements are consistent with the development strategies, plans and priorities of the government.

*US$1.00 = PhP44.00