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Friday, January 30, 2009

NEDA CHIEF: ‘EDUCATION MUST PREPARE YOUTH FOR THE GLOBAL REBOUND’

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and National Economic andDevelopment Authority (NEDA) Director-General Ralph G. Recto said in apress briefing today that there is a need to prepare Filipinos aged 15 to21 years old—the most unemployed sector of the economy—for the globalrebound through education and retraining.
“The biggest unemployed sector in the country is from that agebracket of 15-21 [years old]. They should not be out looking for jobs. Sothe challenge also is to get them back to school—either in colleges oruniversities or in technical-vocational schools. The idea is to trainthem, equip them with skills so when the global rebound comes, it is easierfor them to get a job,” he said.
Recto also noted the proposal of the Commission on Higher Education(CHED) on adding an additional year in college courses such as nursing,architecture, engineering and accounting is valid to help graduates ofthese courses be better equipped in the global market.
“The CHED plan of an additional year for college is a valid argument.But if you ask me, I would prefer an additional year in pre-school than thefifth year in college. That way, we can take advantage of the betterabsorptive capacity of children for knowledge,” he said. The CHED’s proposal is part of the overall effort under the newPhilippine Main Education Highway (Towards a Knowledge-based Economy) whichaims to transform the country’s education system to conform to globalstandards and make Filipino graduates competitive and internationallyacknowledged. The five-year courses also conform to internationalagreements that set the standards for such courses. This is also part ofthe Presidential Task Force on Education (PTFE)’s recommendations submittedto President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last month.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

OFW deployment surges to 1.376 million in 2008

The total global deployment of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) surged to more than 1.376 million in more than 190 host destinations worldwide in 2008, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today reported.

At the same time, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that notwithstanding the global financial crisis, global OFW remittances to the country’s economy reached US$15 billion in the first 11 months (January to November) of 2008.

Roque cited a preliminary report of the DOLE’s Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) that a total of 1,376,823 OFWs were deployed worldwide in the entire 2008, representing a growth of 27.8 percent compared to the 1,077,623 OFWs deployed in 2007.

Roque was apprised by the POEA that on a daily basis, some 3,772 documented OFWs were deployed globally in 2008, adding that the more than 1.376 million OFWs deployed worldwide represents 137.7 percent of the country’s one million annual OFW deployment goal.

Meanwhile, the Labor Chief cited the latest update of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that the $15 billion remitted by the OFWs to the country’s economy from January to November 2008 is 15.1 percent higher than the level recorded in the comparable period in 2007.

The BSP emphasized that the continued demand for professional and skilled OFWs in overseas economies substantially contributed to the sustained dollar remittance flows to the country in 2008.

Meanwhile, Roque said that the potential effects of the continuing global economic slowdown on deployment could be mitigated by the strong labor demand in host countries like Canada, Bulgaria, Australia, the United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. The DOLE, through its Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in more than 30 strategic host destinations worldwide, continues to conduct marketing missions and employment facilitation programs to widen the productive opportunities for Filipino workers both in the local and global spheres.
Roque earlier indicated that the DOLE’s overseas employment facilitation efforts will complement the country’s responses to cushion and mitigate the effects of the ongoing global crisis on OFWs.

Interview with Steven Kapsos, ILO Labour Economist on the Global Employment Trends Report

What are the trends and projections for South-East Asia in particular the Philippines based on the Global Employment Trends Report?

STEVEN KAPSOS: The ILO has developed three scenarios based on labour market data available to date which illustrate that the regional unemployment rate for South-East Asia and the Pacific (which includes the Philippines) could increase from 5.5 per cent in 2007 to between 6.0 and 6.4 per cent in 2009. This would represent an increase of 2 to 3 million unemployed people in the region.

The number of working poor and workers in vulnerable employment (lacking benefits and without a safety net to guard against loss of incomes during economic hardship) also appears to be on the rise in this region. In addition to the 45 million workers in the region living with their families in extreme poverty (US$1.25 per person per day), an additional 23 million are living only marginally above the poverty line and are in danger of becoming poor if the right action is not taken.

What is the impact of the global economic crisis on employment trends in the Philippines and other Asian countries?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Economic growth in the Philippines has shown a sharp decline from 7.2 per cent in 2007 to 4.2-4.5 per cent in 2008 and is expected to fall further to 2.3-3.4 per cent in 2009. We haven't yet seen large increase in unemployment in the Philippines, but the crisis is also likely to affect workers in other ways that are somewhat more difficult to measure, such as declining hours of work (an increase in part-time work), pressure for lower wages and less job security.

Based on the report, the three Asian regions which included the Philippines accounted for 57 per cent of global employment creation in 2008 as compared to low global creation in developed economies, what are the reasons for such trends?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Much of this is due to demographic trends - Asia is a very young region with relatively rapid population and labour force growth.

The employment rate in the Philippines based on the Labour Force Survey showed an increasing pattern amidst the global financial crisis, what can you say about the trend when other countries have decreasing employment?

Date Employment rate (%)
January 2008 92.6
April 2008 92.0
July 2008 92.6
October 2008 93.2

STEVEN KAPSOS: The issue in the region is not so much employment creation, but rather whether good quality jobs are being created - for instance jobs that pay a decent wage that opens the way to a better future and allows workers and their families to escape poverty and jobs that allow economies to move to higher value production. It is important to remember that Asia still has a large share of workers in vulnerable employment - an estimated 60 per cent of the workforce and more than 400 million workers living with their families in extreme poverty.

In the Philippines, there were about 10.5 million informal sector operators identified in the 2008 while the Global Employment Trends projected an increase in vulnerable employment, what do you think are the factors for such increase? What are possible actions to be taken to protect those in vulnerable situations?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Direct transfer payments and spending on health care can be effective ways of ensuring that people are able to continue spending and consuming, which will support growth. Loans to small and medium-sized enterprises, which employ most workers in the region and which are being hard hit by problems accessing credit, are another good tool for policymakers to consider. Longer term, increased investment in education and training can help to ensure that workers have up-to-date skills that will be in demand when the recovery begins to take shape.

What is the ILO doing amidst the global financial crisis which has now become a global job crisis?

STEVEN KAPSOS: The ILO, in collaboration with the Asian Development Bank is organizing a High-Level regional Forum in Manila, 18-20 February 2009 on “Responding to the Economic Crisis- Coherent policies for Growth, Employment and Decent work in Asia and the Pacific”. The aim is to promote policy dialogue between regional and international experts and policy makers from governments, business and labour on concrete steps to counter the economic and social consequences’ of the crisis.

Do you think the Philippine economy is safe from the global crunch with large foreign exchange reserves and fiscal surplus?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Growth in the Philippines is slowing, which is likely to have adverse impacts on the labour market and, more directly, on people's lives and livelihoods. Large reserves and a fiscal surplus provide space for addressing the problems of the crisis, but policymakers should not be complacent. Appropriate policies must be designed and implemented. It is important to identify ways to create jobs amidst the crisis and to ensure that the poor and most vulnerable do not slip further behind. This will help to ensure that a recovery occurs sooner rather than later.

What is the worst scenario especially for a country like the Philippines with large level of remittances?

STEVEN KAPSOS: A prolonged crisis could result in a negative cycle of declining demand, falling output and rising joblessness and poverty. But we feel that if appropriate action is taken and there is international coordination, this outcome can be avoided. It is important to ask what the impact will be on migrant workers, as they are important in both receiving countries, where they often perform vital jobs in the economy and in their home countries such as the Philippines, which benefit from remittances. Migrant workers may be at risk if rising unemployment puts pressure on policymakers to try to free up jobs for nationals. Migrant workers should not be used as a political football. This would not only be harmful to them - it would also be harmful to the firms where they work as they may have difficulties finding appropriately qualified workers to replace migrants that have acquired skills over time.

What are the necessary steps or measures for Asian countries like the Philippines now that the whole world is confronting this economic crisis?

STEVEN KAPSOS:

1) Ensure that the patient survives - that credit markets are unfrozen so that business and lending can resume. A lot of progress has been made on this front.

2) Give the patient the appropriate medicine - monetary and fiscal stimulus, with an explicit goal in fiscal stimulus packages of creating employment, improving labour market outcomes and protecting the poor and vulnerable.

3) Begin to rehabilitate the patient for the long-run - focus on building skills and education of the workforce so that they are able to run once the race starts again.

What are your projections for 2009 based on the Global Employment Trends globally and locally for the Philippines? Do you think we could ever survive this economic crisis?

STEVEN KAPSOS: Most certainly yes, if we act quickly and bring in the right policies. We may not be able to prevent the onset of the crisis but to a large extent how quickly we get out of it, and in what sort of shape, is in our hands.

Do you think it is possible to achieve decent work amidst the crisis when people are unemployed or have no other choice but to settle for whatever jobs are available?

STEVEN KAPSOS: It may certainly be difficult, but the onset of the crisis - and the way it was created - is producing a fundamental re-evaluation in all countries of the aims and objectives of growth and development. People know that for growth to be sustainable and stable it must be more inclusive. The benefits of progress must trickle down. Jobs that trap people in poverty, rather than releasing them from it, do not allow people or societies to grow economically and socially, or to be competitive in the long term. So the lesson of this crisis is that Decent Work is not an optional luxury, it is essential for stable, equitable growth.

Unemployment, working poor and vulnerable employment to increase dramatically due to global economic crisis

MANILA--The global economic crisis is expected to lead to a dramatic increase in the number of people joining the ranks of the unemployed, working poor and those in vulnerable employment, the International Labour Office (ILO) says in its annual Global Employment Trends report.

Based on new developments in the labour market and depending on the timeliness and effectiveness of recovery efforts, the report says global unemployment in 2009 could increase over 2007 by a range of 18 million to 30 million workers, and more than 50 million if the situation continues to deteriorate.

The ILO report also said that in this last scenario some 200 million workers, mostly in developing economies, could be pushed into extreme poverty.

“The ILO message is realistic, not alarmist. We are now facing a global jobs crisis. Many governments are aware and acting, but more decisive and coordinated international action is needed to avert a global social recession. Progress in poverty reduction is unravelling and middle classes worldwide are weakening. The political and security implications are daunting.” said ILO Director-General, Juan Somavia.

“The crisis is underscoring the relevance of the ILO Decent Work Agenda. We find many elements of this Agenda in current measures to promote job creation, deepening and expanding social protection and more use of social dialogue,” Mr. Somavia said. He called on the upcoming meeting of the G-20 on 2 April in London, alongside financial issues, to urgently agree on priority measures to promote productive investments, decent work and social protection objectives, and policy coordination.

Key projections of the GET report
The new report updates a preliminary estimate released last October indicating that the global financial crisis could increase unemployment between 15 to 20 million people by 2009. Its key conclusions are as follows:

· Based on November 2008 IMF forecasts, the global unemployment rate would rise to 6.1 percent in 2009 compared to 5.7 per cent in 2007, resulting in an increase of the number of unemployed by 18 million people in 2009 in comparison with 2007.
· If the economic outlook deteriorates beyond what was envisaged in November 2008, which is likely, the global unemployment rate could rise to 6.5 per cent, corresponding to an increase of the global number of unemployed by 30 million people in comparison with 2007.
· In a current worst case scenario, the global unemployment rate could rise to 7.1 per cent and result in an increase in the global number of unemployed of more than 50 million people.
· The number of working poor - people who are unable to earn enough to lift themselves and their families above the US$2 per person, per day, poverty line, may rise up to 1.4 billion, or 45 percent of all the world’s employed.
· In 2009, the proportion of people in vulnerable employment – either contributing family workers or own-account workers who are less likely to benefit from safety nets that guard against loss of incomes during economic hardship – could rise considerably in the worst case scenario to reach a level of 53 percent of the employed population.

Other findings
The ILO report notes that in 2008, North Africa and the Middle East still had the highest unemployment rates at 10.3 and 9.4 per cent respectively, followed by Central & South Eastern Europe (non EU) & the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) at 8.8 per cent, sub-Saharan Africa at 7.9 per cent and Latin America at 7.3 per cent.

The lowest unemployment rate was once again observed in East Asia at 3.8 per cent, followed by South Asia and South-East Asia & the Pacific where respectively 5.4 and 5.7 per cent of the labour force was unemployed in 2008

The report shows that the three Asian regions - South Asia, South-East Asia & the Pacific and East Asia - accounted for 57 per cent of global employment creation in 2008. In the Developed Economies & European Union region, on the other hand, net employment creation in 2008 was negative, minus 900,000 which explains in part the low global employment creation in this year.

Compared with 2007, the largest increase in a regional unemployment rate was observed in the Developed Economies & European Union region, from 5.7 to 6.4 per cent. The number of unemployed in the region jumped by 3.5 million in one year, reaching 32.3 million in 2008.

According to the study, sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia stand out as regions with extremely harsh labour market conditions and with the highest shares of working poor of all regions. Although the trend has been declining over the past ten years, around four fifths of the employed were still classified as working poor in these regions in 2007.

Policy measures
The economic crisis of 2008 has deepened the concern over the social impacts of globalization which the ILO had previously raised. Stressing the need to take measures to support vulnerable groups in the labour market, such as youth and women, the ILO report observes that a huge labour potential remains untapped worldwide. Economic growth and development could be much higher if people are given the chance of a decent job through productive investment and active labour market policies.

“The Decent Work Agenda is an appropriate policy framework to confront the crisis. There is a powerful message that tripartite dialogue with employers and workers organizations should play a central role in addressing the economic crisis, and in developing policy responses,” Mr. Somavia said.

The report lists a number of ILO recommended policy measures being applied by many governments, as discussed by the ILO Governing Body in November of 2008, namely:

i) wider coverage of unemployment benefits and insurance schemes, re-skilling redundant workers and protecting pensions from devastating declines in financial markets;
ii) public investment in infrastructure and housing, community infrastructure and green jobs, including through emergency public works;
iii) support to small and medium enterprises;
iv) social dialogue at enterprise, sectoral and national levels.

If a large number of countries, using their own accumulated reserves, emergency IMF loans and stronger aid mechanisms, put in place coordinated policies in line with the ILO Decent Work Agenda, then the effects of the downturn on enterprises, workers and their families could be cushioned and the recovery better prepared.

Senate Holds Thursday Morning Sessions to Prioritize Enactment of Local Bills

Starting next week, the Senate will start holding sessions on Thursday mornings to prioritize the enactment of local bills emanating from the House of Representatives to ensure better relations between the two chambers of Congress, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said today.
"In a caucus we had earlier this week, we agreed to resume the holding of the Thursday sessions next week so that we can take up and approve as much bills and resolutions as possible," Enrile said in a statement.
"It has come to our attention that there are numerous bills of local importance dealing on education, justice, public works and others which have been approved by the Lower House, transmitted to the Senate for concurrence and are now pending in the various committees in the Senate," Enrile added, "We have also lined up many important pieces of legislation that must be prioritized."
The Senate President noted that there were only 48 remaining session days in the Second Regular Session of the 14th Congress and that both chambers should maximize the time available to enact vital pieces of legislation, both of national and local importance.
"More importantly, holding sessions on Thursdays will affirm our commitment to our counterpart in the Lower House that we are willing to work with them for the benefit of our people," Enrile said. Records obtained by the Senate Public Relations and Information Bureau (PRIB) indicated that since the start of the 14th Congress, a total of 963 House bills have been sent to the Senate for concurrence. Only a total of 148 House bills have been acted upon by the Senate, the records said.Enrile noted that the past weeks, the Senate has been working double time to approve important measures needed to help the executive branch overcome the effects of the ongoing global financial slowdownHe said the Senate has also approved a number of local bills on third reading that have been pending since December.
"We will be able to take up more local bills as soon as the various Senate committees file their reports on matters relating to justice, public works, local government, among others," Enrile said.The other bills included in Enrile's priority agenda are the Baseline Bill that was approved on third reading Tuesday, the Magna Carta for Women, amendments to the Agrarian Reform Law, amendments to EPIRA and the proposed Anti-Trust law, among others.
In will be recalled that in September last year, the House of Representatives created a Special Task Force to monitor House bills transmitted to the Senate to ensure their immediate passage. Speaker Prospero Nograles said so-called "House ambassadors to the Senate" would lobby for the passage of bills that had been approved on Third Reading in the House of Representatives. House sources said the Task Force was Nograles' response to a nagging problem in a bicameral set-up wherein bills could not be passed without the concurrence of both chambers.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Ople Center urges deferment of government’s rationalization program

Given the rising tide of unemployment in the country, the Blas F. Ople Policy Center urged the government to suspend Executive Order No. 366 otherwise known as the rationalization plan meant to streamline the bureaucracy and provide options and incentives for affected government personnel.

“A deferment or suspension of the rationalization program would enable all departments to focus on the primordial task of job creation and preservation as more jobs are at risk due to the financial crisis. Government cannot be in the business of creating jobs and assisting displaced workers at a time of crisis when thousands of civil servants are also uncertain about their own careers in the bureaucracy,” the Center pointed out.

Under EO 366, all department secretaries are directed to conduct a “strategic review” of their agencies’ operations and organizations in order to improve efficiency and quality of services “through the rationalization of service delivery and support systems, and organization structure and staffing.”

Section 8 of the EO states that affected personnel have the option to:

Remain in government service, if with permanent appointment attested by the Civil Service Commission. Those with temporary appointment attested by the CSC may opt to remain but are guaranteed tenure up to the expiration of their appointment only; or,
Avail of the retirement/separation benefits

Under the said provision, affected personnel who opt to stay in government service shall be placed in other agencies by the CSC where additional personnel are required. Those who would later object to the new job assignment shall be deemed separated or retired and shall be paid retirement, separation or unemployment benefits.

Susan Ople, president of the BFO Policy Center, noted that resources needed to finance the rationalization program can be conserved and put to use in fielding more people in regional offices to help implement their respective agencies’ economic resiliency packages and programs.

The Center pointed out that the government would need to beef up its field offices in the implementation of a nationwide economic stimulus package. “The executive branch would require all hands on deck for its stimulus plan to take off particularly in the most remote parts of the country. A deferment of the rationalization program is called for, to give national employees some breathing room to serve others rather than be embroiled in their own individual struggle for survival.”
Based on a paper entitled, “Re-engineering the Bureaucracy: Issues and Problems” published by the Senate Economic Planning Office in April 2005, the government is the single biggest employer in the country with one out of five Filipinos in the labor force a government employee.

As of 2001, the number of public sector employees reached 1.53 million. The education sector comprises more than half of total civilian national government employees. The growth in public sector employment has exerted pressure on the national budget. According to the 2005 SEPO paper, these personnel services account for more than 30 percent of the budget.

The Center stressed that the rapid spread of the ill-effects of the financial crisis requires the national government to maintain a sharp focus on job generation and preservation rather than the rationalization of its own employees.

OWWA Loans Available for Displaced OFWs for Projects

Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) announced the start of an easy lending program that overseas Filipino workers displaced by the global financial crisis can avail of as part of the President╩╝s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program.
An agency of the Department of Labor and Employment, OWWA will directly lend a displaced OFW up to P50000.00 to start or expand his livelihood project.
OWWA Administrator Carmelita S. Dimzon said today (January 26, 2009) that the money is available at low 5% interest per annum, no collateral, and payable over 24 months after a grace period of 90 days, interest free.
Labor Secretary Marianito Roque approved the procedures for application and availment of FELSF under an administrative order issued last January 19, 2009. Applications may be filed with the family welfare officer at the Regional Welfare Office of OWWA.
Administrator Dimzon made the announcement during the releases of loans to the first four borrowers of the lending program or the Filipino Expatriate Livelihood Support Fund (FELSF).
The four borrowers were Lilia Camacho of Pasig City; Vedasto Marmol, Jr. of Malabon; Maria Garces of Tanza, Cavite; and Rose Ann Bucao of Gen. Trias, Cavite.
Administrator Dimzon said that more FELSF loan releases have been scheduled within the next few days in other regions.
As an economic safety net, the FELSF was allocated P100 million by the OWWA board of trustees. The guidelines and procedures were approved by the OWWA board of trustees earlier this month.
Dimzon said that OFWs must first attend free business courses on the production and management of their livelihood projects to borrow from the FELSF. These skills are important to an OFW with the ambition of transforming into an entrepreneur with a sustainable, income-producing project for the long-term, Dimzon said.
Loan requirements include proof of OWWA membership, proof of displacement due to the global financial crisis, business proposal, and promissory note, and marital consent for married borrowers.
The Department of Labor and Employment defined an OFW displaced due to the global financial crisis as one terminated on or after October 15, 2008. The reasons for termination are closures or downsizing of their companies as a result of the crisis.
The National Reintegration Center for OFWs and the OWWA Regional Welfare Offices will endorse or pre-qualify OFWs as a displaced OFWs based on the following:
1)inclusion of the name of applicant in the list of displaced OFWs provided by the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOS) to appropriate DOLE agencies;
2) upon validation of the information directly with the POLOS;
3) upon interview and validation personally with the applicant to prove that his/her displacement is due to the global financial crisis.
If loan applications are complete with required documents, OWWA will immediately act on loan applications upon its submission. Attendance in the free business courses is a pre-qualifying phase.
The FELSF is the second component of the integrated livelihood program of the Department of Labor and Employment for displaced OFWs due to the global financial crisis. This is under the National Reintegration Center for OFWs (NRCO). It consists of a package of assistance and services of DOLE. It includes business mentoring services, business skills training, and assistance in acquiring raw materials, equipments, tools and jigs.
Training centers are accredited co-partners (ACPs) of the Department of Labor and Employment. They included the Technology Resource Center (TRC), an agency of the Department of Science and Technology, and Dream Incorporated. DOLE is funding the training courses, including trainors, teaching materials and raw materials and equipment.

DOLE rectifies Displacements in Laguna

The Department of Labor and Employment today said only 312 workers from the automotive and electronics sectors at the Laguna Technopark in Laguna province lost their jobs due primarily to the global financial crisis contrary to an earlier news report alleging that about 35,000 automotive and electronics workers from the Laguna Technopark have been displaced.
This developed as a One Stop Shop Service Caravan at the Cultural and Convention Center in General Trias, Cavite held Thursday, Jan. 22, to kick off this year’s nationwide program aimed at bringing employment and livelihood opportunities and other services to the grassroots, particularly to workers adversely affected by the financial crisis.
Citing a report from the DOLE Regional Office in Calamba, Laguna (DOLE RO IV-A), Sec. Marianito D. Roque said there were no actual displacements of such magnitude (35,000) even as displacements and slowdown of company operations occurred in Laguna and other provinces in the Calabarzon.
Retrenchment reports filed by affected firms with DOLE RO IV-A, he said, showed that a total of 10,344 workers in Calabarzon were displaced from October 2008 to January 19, 2009. Of the total, about 1,511 displaced workers were from Laguna 343 of whom were automotive and electronics workers. Out of the latter, 312 workers came from the Laguna Technopark.
In response to the global crisis, Roque said the DOLE has strengthened the Quick Reaction Teams (QRTs) in all its regional offices to facilitate its delivery of assistance and services to the affected workers.
Among other tasks, the QRTs conduct profiling of the displaced workers to determine their skills and assistance that may be extended them. Assistance includes helping them find another job locally or overseas. They may also be assisted in setting up income generating projects. PGMA training for work scholarships shall also be granted to workers who want to train in appropriate skills.
To bring the DOLE services closer to the affected workers including those from overseas, Roque said that a series of Serbisyo Caravans shall also be conducted this year at the municipal, city, and provincial levels in coordination with Public Employment Service Offices (PESOs), employers, and recruitment agencies.
In Calabarzon, the Caravans shall be held at the following: Gen. Trias, Cavite (Jan. 22); Calamba City (Jan. 31); Taytay, Rizal (Feb. 6); Quezon Province (Feb. 6); and Batangas City (Feb.12).
Roque cited the Caravan held at Gen. Trias Cavite which was participated in by local employers and recruitment agencies offering thousands of local and overseas jobs to jobseekers including those who lost their jobs due to the financial crisis.
The Labor and Employment Secretary noted that despite the crisis, there are still hundreds of thousands of overseas jobs that are available for Filipino workers. These jobs are found mostly in countries that have not so much been affected by the financial crisis such as those in the Middle East and in emerging markets in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Bulgaria.
Local employment, on the other hand, shall come from industries that rely mainly on domestic consumption, which shall be complemented with pump-priming projects of the government, Roque said.
Aside from employment facilitation and livelihood services, the Caravan shall also provide pre-employment services to the new entrants to the labor force. Personnel from the Social Security System (SSS), National Bureau of Investigation, PhilHealth, and the National Statistics Office shall be at the Caravan for workers seeking their services.

Monday, January 26, 2009

FAQs ABOUT THE RECENT SANCTIONS ANNOUNCED BY THE WORLD BANK UNDER A PHILIPPINES ROADS PROJECT

(as of January 23, 2009)
1. Why were these firms investigated and debarred?
These firms were investigated for possible wrongdoing in connection with the bidding processes
for two road contracts under phase one of the National Roads Improvement and Management
Program (NRIMP-I) financed by the World Bank with the Government of the Philippines.
The National Roads Improvement and Management Program was a $150 million project,
approved by the World Bank Board in February 2000. It financed the first phase of a program that supported the Philippines Government's reforms in the road sector. Between 2003 and 2006, the World Bank team identified excessive pricing and other signs of possible collusion by several construction companies on three successive rounds of bidding for two road rehabilitation
contracts. As a result, the World Bank team refused to give its “no objection” to the award of
these contracts. It also reported its observations to the Department of Institutional Integrity1 (INT) of the World Bank.
During a thorough investigation, INT gathered evidence that several firms and individuals may
have engaged in collusion in connection with the bidding for these two contracts. The World
Bank Sanctions Board, which is comprised of external legal experts and senior World Bank staff,
has now reviewed the case and sanctioned seven firms and one individual on grounds of
collusion.2
NRIMP-I set out to help establish management and financing systems which would ensure the
sustainable upgrading and preservation of the country’s national roads network. As a result of the now completed project, some 1,400 kilometers of roads were built or resurfaced and the
management of money for roads within the Department of Public Works and Highways was
improved. The program overall has led to a significant improvement in the lives of the
beneficiary communities by facilitating their access to markets, schools and health centers and
has created a more modern and transparent roads management system around the country.

2. Now that the Sanctions Process is complete, will the World Bank recover its money and
how much will it recover?
The World Bank has no money to recover from this case of collusion as it did not finance the
contracts. Under the National Roads Improvement and Management Program (NRIMP-I), the World Bank rejected the proposed contract awards for two large road contracts in three successive rounds of bidding between 2003 and 2006 because the Bank team noticed excessive pricing and other signs of possible collusion. As a result, the World Bank refused to give its “no objection” to award of these contracts worth an estimated $33 million and reported the case to the Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) of the World Bank.

3. How common is it for the World Bank to debar firms?
Public sanction is viewed by experts as a significant deterrent to fraud and corruption. Over the
past decade, the World Bank Group has recognized corruption as one of the greatest obstacles to
economic and social development and we have applied sanctions to firms from many countries
where they have been determined to have engaged in these wrongdoing.
Since 1999, more than 350 firms and individuals from more than 22 countries – including the US, Sweden, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom – have been banned from bidding for Bankfinanced projects, either indefinitely or for a specific period of time. All of their names are
published on the World Bank’s website at www.worldbank.org/debarr for the term of the
debarment.
A number of other international financial institutions also debar firms for fraud and corruption.
The World Bank Group needs to assure its shareholder governments, developing world partners, and other stakeholders that we will exercise the utmost fiduciary responsibility to safeguard the funds entrusted to us. We owe this responsibility to the people we are seeking to assist.
Fraud and corruption, if unchecked, can erode confidence among donors and beneficiaries,
leading to skepticism about the effectiveness of international development and, ultimately,
jeopardizing our very mission: overcoming poverty and building inclusive and sustainable growth and opportunity.

4. How does the World Bank define fraud and corruption?
Per the World Bank Sanctions Procedures, the following are the current definitions3 used by the
World Bank for practices constituting “fraud and corruption”:
• A “corrupt practice” is the offering, giving, receiving or soliciting, directly or indirectly,
of anything of value to influence improperly the actions of another party;4
• A “fraudulent practice” is any act or omission, including a misrepresentation, that
knowingly or recklessly misleads, or attempts to mislead, a party to obtain a financial or
other benefit or to avoid an obligation;5
• A “coercive practice” is impairing or harming, or threatening to impair or harm, directly
or indirectly, any party or the property of the party to influence improperly the actions of
a party;6
• A “collusive practice” is an arrangement between two or more parties designed to
achieve an improper purpose, including to influence improperly the actions of another
party;7
• An “obstructive practice” is (i) deliberately destroying, falsifying, altering or concealing
of evidence material to the investigation or making false statements to investigators in
order to materially impede a Bank investigation into allegations of a corrupt, fraudulent,
coercive or collusive practice; and/or threatening, harassing or intimidating any party to
prevent it from disclosing its knowledge of matters relevant to the investigation or from
pursuing the investigation, or (ii) acts intended to materially impede the exercise of the
Bank’s contractual rights of audit or access to information.

5. Given that the Sanctions Board found that these firms have colluded, shouldn’t each of
the governments involved be launching criminal proceedings?
Our internal process determines whether there is sufficient evidence of sanctionable offenses
under the World Bank's policies and procedures for us to pursue sanctions. The Bank’s sanctions
regime is an administrative process, not a criminal one, which relies on specific definitions of the
sanctionable offenses (see question 4) and involves different evidentiary and burden of proof
requirements.
INT has shared its investigative reports with the countries of firms involved in this case and we
trust that the national authorities will look closely at these reports and take the necessary steps
from here. It is dependent on the national legal framework in each country to judge whether legal proceedings in the country are warranted.

6. Now that the sanctions are made public, how do we get the report of INT that was the
basis of this decision?
Submissions in sanctions cases are confidential in nature and are not available for public
dissemination – in part to avoid putting at risk some of the sources. However, if an INT
investigation finds evidence that a country’s national laws may have been violated, INT shares a
copy of its report with affected countries. In this case, a copy of the INT report was shared with
the Philippines Department of Finance and the Office of the Ombudsman in early 2008. The
report was also shared with the authorities of the other countries whose firms were involved. A
report summarizing the Bank’s investigative findings will be posted on the INT page of the
World Bank website following the Bank’s redaction and review protocol.

7. How does this case fit with the World Bank's global fight against fraud and corruption
and its anti-corruption work in East Asia & Pacific?
In 2007, the World Bank Group endorsed a new strategy entitled “Strengthening World Bank
Group Engagement on Governance and Anticorruption.” The strategy’s three pillars are to:
• build capable, transparent, and accountable institutions through assistance to countries;
• minimize corruption in Bank-funded projects by assessing corruption risk in projects
upstream, actively investigating allegations of fraud and corruption, and strengthening
project oversight and supervision; and,
• expand partnerships with multilateral and bilateral development institutions, civil society,
the private sector, and other actors to address corruption.
The NRIMP-1 case is a good example of the Bank’s anti-corruption processes working at their
best. We detected the possibility of collusion very early, we took action to investigate, we worked
with the Government in the Philippines to strengthen anti-corruption controls in the follow-on
project, we undertook an extensive and fair due process to allow the companies to respond to the
allegations, and at the end of this process we took action to sanction companies determined to
have engaged in wrongdoing.
In addition, in developing the second phase of the NRIMP project which was approved by the
World Bank’s Board in May 2008, we took into account the lessons learned through the
investigation. A battery of stringent anti-corruption measures was incorporated into the project’s
design, including:
• Use of an independent procurement evaluator (IPE) to improve the transparency and
integrity of procurement processes;
• Further enhanced procurement controls to ensure the reliability of contract cost
estimates, detect over-pricing through bid analysis, enhance supervision control over
contract variations and disseminate complaints mechanism in bid documents;
• Strengthening internal controls and internal audit capacity in the Department of
Public Works & Highways;
• Adoption of enhanced business processes – with increased use of computerized
business systems and enhanced processes for procurement and financial
management, the efficiency of transaction processing will be improved and
opportunities for interference reduced; and,
• Independent oversight by civil society – a coalition of citizen and road user groups
has been established, named “RoadWatch” (“Bantay Lansangan”), to strengthen the
voice and influence of citizens in ensuring transparency and proper use of public
funds for roads, and to counter corruption at high levels of government and society.

8. Why does the World Bank debar firms?
Misuse of public money is a problem for everyone, everywhere, from the least developed to the
most developed nations. The Bank has a responsibility to ensure that the money it is entrusted
with is used for its intended purposes.
When we receive allegations of fraud and corruption in our projects we take action to get to the
bottom of what happened and, where necessary, apply sanctions to individuals or firms found to
have acted improperly, in order to hold them accountable.
The fight against corruption is vital for a fair and just society, but no country is absolutely free
from the problem. That is why the World Bank supports governments that want to improve their governance standards and fight corruption. These partnerships are in part about ensuring that national and World Bank money is used properly. But it is also about putting in place standards that will apply to other projects and sectors so that the funds the World Bank makes available for development to improve the lives of poor people are used for that purpose.
In the Philippines roads case, we acted quickly when concerns were raised that bids for contracts
were coming in – in successive rounds of bidding – with excessively high prices and showing
signs of collusion between firms.

9. Some of the debarred firms have claimed that they did not have due process and that
they “did not have their day in court.”
The Bank’s sanctions process ensures that any and all evidence is evaluated carefully and that
individuals and firms alleged to have committed wrongdoing are granted a meaningful
opportunity to dispute the allegations against them.
All of the respondents in this case received the Bank’s Notice of Sanctions Proceedings in May
2008 and were given 90 days to submit a response in their defense and contest the allegations
against them. The firms were also offered the opportunity as part of their response to request a
hearing before the Bank’s Sanctions Board. The Sanctions Board took all of their submissions
into account in making their decision.
This is a summary of the Sanctions process:
• INT investigates allegations that a firm or individual has engaged in a sanctionable
offense in connection with a World Bank-financed project;
• If INT believes that there is sufficient evidence that a sanctionable practice has occurred,
it prepares a proposed Notice of Sanctions Proceedings and submits it to the World
Bank’s Evaluation and Suspension Officer (EO);
• The EO reviews the evidence submitted by INT and determines if the evidence is
sufficient to support a finding that the alleged sanctionable practice has occurred. If so,
the EO issues a Notice of Sanctions Proceedings to the firm or individual alleged to have
engaged in the sanctionable offense, recommends a sanction, and may temporarily
suspend the firm or individual pending the final outcome of the proceedings;
• If the firm or individual does not contest the allegations and/or the recommended
sanction, the recommended sanction is imposed;
• If the firm or individual does contest the allegations and/or the recommended sanction,
the case is referred to the World Bank’s Sanctions Board, and any temporary suspension
stays in force until a final determination is made;
• The Bank’s Sanctions Board reviews the submissions from all parties and if requested by
a Respondent or INT, will hold a hearing on the matter, during which parties may present
arguments and evidence, before any sanction is imposed;
• If the Sanctions Board finds that the evidence supports the conclusion that it is more
likely than not that the alleged sanctionable offense occurred, it will impose an
appropriate sanction.

In 2006, the Bank reformed its sanctions process to ensure that outside legal experts would play
the deciding role in corruption cases. No World Bank staff – either from the investigation office,
INT, or from the project team are involved in the sanctions decision-making process. This ensures the independence of all Sanctions Board decisions.
________
1 This Department has since become the Integrity Vice-Presidency (INT).
2 Another firm was separately debarred in August 2008 in connection with the same NRIMP-1 case. That proceeding
was not contested by the firm and accordingly, under the applicable procedures, did not require Sanctions Board
hearing.

3 It should be noted that the applicable definitions of fraud and corruption in the NRIMP-1 case were thosefound in the World Bank’s Guidelines: Procurement Under IBRD Loans and IDA Credits (Jan. 1995, rev.Jan. and Aug. 1996, Sept. 1997, and Jan. 1999) (Procurement Guidelines). In that version of theProcurement Guidelines, collusive practices were considered a form of fraudulent practice, in turn definedto mean “a misrepresentation of facts in order to influence a procurement process or the execution of acontract to the detriment of the Borrower, and includes collusive practices among bidders (prior to or afterbid submission) designed to establish bid prices at artificial, non-competitive levels and to deprive theBorrower of the benefits of free and open competition.”
4 For the purpose of the Bank’s Procurement and Consultant Guidelines, the term “another party” refers toa public official acting in relation to the procurement or selection process or contract execution. In thiscontext, “public official” includes World Bank staff and employees of other organizations taking orreviewing procurement decisions.
5 For the purpose of the Bank’s Procurement and Consultant Guidelines, the terms “party” refers to a publicofficial and “benefit” and “obligation” relate to the procurement or selection process or contract execution;and the “act or omission” is intended to influence the procurement or selection process or contractexecution.
6 For the purpose of the Bank’s Procurement and Consultant Guidelines, the term “party” refers to aparticipant in the procurement or selection process or contract execution.7 For the purpose of the Bank’s Procurement and Consultant Guidelines, the term “parties” refer toparticipants in the procurement or selection process (including public officials) attempting to establish bidprices at artificial, non competitive levels.




Ople Center to Gov’t: Consider Transition Allowance for Workers Laid Off Due to the Global Financial Crisis

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center joined the mounting clamor for a bail-out package for displaced workers as part of the government’s livelihood assistance program. The suggestion was initially aired by Partido ng Manggagawa, a party-list workers’ group.
Susan Ople, founder of the BFO Policy Center, said a bail-out package for displaced workers could include a transition allowance that would enable them to put food on the table for their families while scouting for new jobs or undergoing livelihood training as part of the government’s economic resiliency program. The Center said the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) can work with the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) on a joint program to keep children of displaced OFWs in school despite the crisis.
“In January 2003, the government bailed out private banks with non-performing assets through the Special Purpose Asset Vehicle (SPAV) law. There have also been previous attempts to come to the aid of Napocor. Now, when hundreds of workers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, can’t government intervene by giving them direct financial assistance during a transition phase?” the Policy Center pointed out.
Over three thousand Filipino workers have been sent home last December due to layoffs in various factories in Taiwan. Most of the displaced workers have outstanding debts obtained prior to departure in order to pay their placement and brokers’ fees. They issued post-dated checks to private lending companies hoping that their earnings would be enough to cover the loan.
“A transition package to enable displaced workers to partly settle outstanding loans or maintain their families’ upkeep is an imperative confidence-building measure. Unless they are given cash assistance to help their families, these workers would have a difficult time finding new jobs or setting up a micro enterprise,” Ople stressed.

The Center said cash transfers can be part of a transition program for displaced workers that would also include career-planning sessions and skills retooling. It stressed that overseas and local workers displaced by the global crisis possess the experience and skills to be gainfully employed and are not in search of dole-outs from the government. “This direct assistance should not be considered as a dole-out but as an integral part of a more comprehensive jobs and livelihood program. It will help them to move on and hopefully, even move up as productive members of the workforce,” the BFO Policy Center pointed out.
The Special Purpose Asset Vehicle (SPAV) Law or Republic Act No. 9182, enacted inJanuary 2003, was widely expected to address the problem on non-performing assets (NPAs) of Philippine banks.
In 2003, the Philippines NPL ratio of 14.1% was one of the highest in the region compared with Thailand - 12.9%, Malaysia - 8.3%,Korea - 2.6%, and Indonesia - 8.2%. RA 9182 provides the regulatory framework for granting fiscal incentives to asset management companies (AMCs) or special purpose vehicle (SPVs) that purchase the NPAs of banks at a discount.

Ople Center Calls for a Tripartite Labor Summit Amid Rising Unemployment

The Blas F. Ople Policy Center and Training Institute called for a tripartite labor summit on job generation and preservation amid growing concern over the rising tide of unemployment and underemployment due to the global financial crisis.

The call was issued during a labor forum held at the AIM Conference Center in Makati today by the BFO Policy Center and LBS e-Recruitment Solutions, Inc to discuss the impact of the global crisis on the country’s workforce.

The Center noted that Malaysia’s ban on foreign workers may not affect foreign household workers in Malaysia but is a sign that more economies are “going local”. “Out of an estimated 30,000 Filipino workers in peninsular Malaysia, only 4,000 or so are professionals. Malaysia’s ban on hiring of foreign workers except those working in menial jobs combined with the non-renewal of expired work contracts demonstrate how vulnerable some of our OFWs are at this time of crisis,” Susan Ople, president of the BFO Policy Center said, adding that a tripartite labor summit would lead to a multi-sector and multi-pronged approach in helping displaced workers.

The center, named after the late Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas F. Ople, said the impending closure of Intel in the Philippines and other parts of the world where Filipino IT workers are employed, serves as a wake-up call for the country.

“Now is not the time for government to act in isolation from its constituents. We need the kind of consultative and open environment prevailing in America to draw the best ideas from our citizens.”

The Ople Center also noted the Malaysian government’s order for companies to lay off foreign workers first if they need to slash their work force. “This trend towards localization of jobs is a Sword of Damocles hanging over our own economy which is driven mainly by the dollar remittances of our OFWs.”

The former labor undersecretary noted that Macau has also taken specific steps to preserve job vacancies for its residents. Its administration has recently ordered a fifty percent reduction in foreign workers employed by janitorial and security agencies. Meanwhile, there are fears in Taiwan and Macau that more job cuts will be made after the Chinese New Year (January 26) is over.

Ople called on the government to publish guidelines and disseminate information through the barangay system on how displaced workers can seek government aid. She also called for more specific information on newly-created jobs arising from government efforts to stimulate the economy.

“Retrenchment of Filipino workers overseas and here at home signals the need for us to turn inward, creating opportunities for self-employment through microfinance, vocational skills training and community enterprises. We call on government to include the labor and OFW sectors in a serious, open discussion about safety nets and how the P330-billion economic stimulus package will be spent to create new jobs.”

Labor leaders, displaced workers, and migrant workers’ organizations attended the labor forum which included Cora Guidote, vice-president for investor relations of SM Investments Corporation and Professor Ben Diokno of the UP School of Economics. The forum was sponsored by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation and the International Labor Organization Sub-Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.

ICTSI's Ecuador Unit Acquires New Container Cranes



Contecon Guayaquil SA, manager and operator of the Guayaquil Container and Multipurpose Terminals in Ecuador, recently took in delivery of three new quay cranes and eight rubber tired gantries. The new container handling equipment, manufactured by Shanghai Zhenhua Port Machinery Co. of China, is the first of their type to be introduced in Ecuador, heralding a new era of modern port operations in the country. In 2007, CGSA acquired two mobile harbor cranes immediately after its takeover of the port. CGSA is a subsidiary of Philippine-based International Container Terminal Services Inc., a leading developer of international ports and terminals with a global port network spanning 11 countries in four continents. ICTSI is on its 20th year of operation, and continues to pursue container terminal opportunities around the world.

ExcelAsia Partners with Megaworld in New Eastwood Site

New ExcelAsia site to start operations within Q1 of 2009

Human resource solutions firm ExcelAsia forges a new partnership with premiere property developer Megaworld Corporation to open a new recruitment and training site in Eastwood City Cyberpark. ExcelAsia’s newest site will be set up at the e-Commerce Plaza in Eastwood City, Bagumbayan, Quezon City and is scheduled to begin operations in the first quarter of this year.

According to Megaworld Corporation First Vice President for Business Development and Leasing Jericho Go, 50% to 60% of companies leasing Megaworld office buildings in Eastwood City are from the business process outsourcing (BPO) and IT-related industries. At present, more than half of approximately 60 companies operating in the area are engaged in the BPO and IT sectors. Having achieved critical mass, existing and prospective locators have flagged inquiries about replenishing their labor pool as Eastwood’s business hub continues to grow with the industry.

Megaworld initially approached ExcelAsia about their new site in Eastwood City based on positive feedback from their current BPO partners. Current and potential locators expressed satisfaction and confidence to Megaworld about the way ExcelAsia services and meets their BPO requirements.

“BPOs and IT-related industries need to refresh, replenish, and retain talent to continue to drive growth and competitiveness in their industry,” Go said. “We noticed that 30% to 40% of the available workforce for the BPO and IT businesses are classified as near-hires. ExcelAsia has consistently shown that it is equipped with the expertise to hire qualified applicants as well as train near-hires in preparation for a BPO or IT industry career.”

ExcelAsia President Rita Trillo-Ugarte emphasized that they will utilize their successful dedicated site strategy in Eastwood to meet and exceed their clients’ expectations. “We’ll be delegating account managers and recruitment staff to ensure that crucial ramp-up periods are met for our clients,” she said. “This will help us tailor-fit our strategies based on the needs of our clients and their customers.”

According to Trillo-Ugarte, around six (6) training rooms will be available in the new Eastwood site. Monthly trainees are also expected to increase from 700 to 1,500 in all of their ExcelAsia sites nationwide.

“I believe this new partnership with Megaworld Corporation will serve as a strong strategy to further business development, as both Megaworld and ExcelAsia are committed to providing quality and high-value solutions among our growing roster of clients,” Trillo-Ugarte said.

SSS Infrastructure Investments to Earn Benchmark Rates

The Social Security System’s (SSS) participation in the government’s proposed P300-billion economic stimulus fund would be purely an investment which is expected to earn a reasonable yield based on benchmark rates, a top official said.
SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Romulo Neri said the Social Security Commission—SSS’ policy-making body composed of representatives of workers, employers and the government—would approve the projects to be funded under the program.
“We are treating this purely as an investment with a two-pronged objective: to earn money and to create jobs, which means bringing in more SSS members,” he said. “It is not free nor a dole-out.”
The proposed stimulus package would be funded by the government and private sectors. It aims to pump-prime the local economy amid the global financial slowdown.
SSS eyes an investment of about P12 billion or one-fourth of the government financial institutions’ share of infrastructure projects. Under the Social Security Law, the SSS can finance domestic infrastructure projects provided that the investment shall be guaranteed by the Philippine government.
“Our charter allows SSS to invest in roads, bridges and other similar projects,” Neri said. “The SSS law also provides safeguards to protect the investments.”

Friday, January 23, 2009

Department of Finance endorses BoC proposal on trade facilitation to World Bank

Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves formally endorses to World Bank the proposal paper of Bureau of Customs entitled “World Bank Technical Assistance Program to Support and Supplement the Secure Trade Facilitation Component of the 2008-2012 Strategic Plan of the Philippine Customs Service: A Proposal.”

The Bureau is hoping for the World Bank’s support to the program in order to receive technical and capacity building assistance from this international organization, particularly on the BoC’s push towards facilitating trade.

Moreover, Commissioner Morales added that “the endorsement of the BoC’s paper to the World Bank is indispensable because the vital projects proposed in this paper will accelerate the drive to create essential reforms that will provide a truly transparent, efficient, effective and world-class Customs Service”.

In the recent report of the World Bank entitled, “Doing Business 2009”, the Philippines ranked 58th out of 181 countries. In addition, the country has improved in two vital factors—time to export goods, which is reduced to 16 from 17 days and time to import goods, which declined from 18 to 16 days. The improvements in the fiscal activities of the country are attributed to the upgraded risk management and electronic data interchange system of the BoC.

Earlier in November 2008, a Donor’s Meeting was held as attended by representatives from the Bureau, World Bank, European Union, USAID, JICA and the Banker’s Association of the Philippines, convening on the needed immediate assistance for the crafting and issuance of implementing rules and regulations of the Electronic to Mobile Customs System (e2m Customs) of the Bureau of Customs. In the said meeting, the World Bank required the Bureau the aforementioned paper to study more other probable areas wherein they may assist the latter.

In a letter dated January 12, 2009, the Department of Finance stated that “these projects will improve the Philippines capacity to secure and facilitate international trade, be compliant with international standards and be at par with the world’s best.”

Secretary Teves concluded that “the assistance and support of World Bank will definitely sustain and strengthen the improvements in Customs for trade facilitation and security.”

Help Desk in Oman to assist stranded OFWs, other Filipinos

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today said a Filipino Help Desk shall be set up at the Al-Buraimi border in the Sultanate of Oman to assist overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and other Filipinos taking refuge in that country while waiting for their new reentry visas to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) or repatriation to the Philippines.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said a team shall profile the skills and abilities of the stranded OFWs to facilitate their search for employment whether in the UAE or any other country in coordination with the Philippine Overseas Labor Offices (POLOs) in Oman, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.

Al-Buraimi is an oasis town in northeastern Oman on the UAE border. Prior to the new UAE immigration laws, Filipinos with expired UAE visas exit to this part of Oman while waiting for new re-entry UAE visas which they can acquire within three to five days only.

Roque, citing a report from Muscat-based Labor Attache Romeo Young, said that problems affecting the Filipinos staying at Al-Buraimi began to crop up when UAE changed its laws regarding the acquisition of reentry visas in July 2008.

He said the issuance of new reentry visas in UAE now takes from the usual 3-5 days to 30 days or one month. In case the visa is not released within the 30-day period, the applicant can wait for a maximum period of another 30 days upon payment of 100 dirhams.

The DOLE Chief said that due to the long waiting period, the number of Filipinos staying at Al-Buraimi increased each day and even reached thousands at one point in the third quarter of 2008.

He noted, however, that the turnover of Filipinos staying in several hotels at Al-Buraimi has been constant and fast as soon as they get hold of their reentry visas to UAE. There were also Filipinos who chose to be repatriated to the Philippines.

As of Jan. 11, 2009, Roque said only 782 Filipinos were staying at Buraimi, Bagwan, Jawhara, and Al Saleem Hotels in the Al-Buraimi border. An Omani hotel manager had good words for their Filipino guests saying “they are good and clean.”

Roque said the Help Desk shall provide them the necessary assistance to help them in their concerns including their search for appropriate employment in the UAE or in any country where their skills are needed.

He said Help Desk is expected to pave the way for more expeditious turnover of OFWs and other Filipinos staying temporarily at Al-Buraimi while waiting for their fresh UAE visas.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Jinggoy wants barangay-based businesses to retrain and hire retrenched OFWs and other wokers

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada today urged the national government to implement a “barangay-based retraining and hiring program” for OFWs and other retrenched workers through which small village enterprises could retrain and/or hire those workers severely affected by the global recession, and enjoy special incentives in return.

“We have an extensive network of barangay-based enterprises which could provide to thousands of laid off OFWs and other severely affected workers their much-need retraining on current skills or for skills-shift, and even alternative employment,” Estrada, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, and the Joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, said.

He particularly cited businesses assisted by the national government through the Barangay Micro Business Enterprise (BMBE) Act of 2002 (Republic Act 9178).

The law has been supporting the formation and growth of small barangay-based enterprises with assets of less than P3 million that engage in production, processing and manufacturing of commodities including agro-processing, trading and services.

Businesses registered with the BMBE program enjoy exemption from income taxes and minimum wages rates, specially dedicated credit windows from financial institutions and guarantors, and pay only minimal taxes and fees. The program was initially provided with a P300-million special revolving fund.

Estrada noted the admission by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) that thousands of OFWs had already been retrenched due to the crisis, and that the lay-off trend is on the rise.

Estrada said he was "alarmed" over the report made by the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) that at least 35,000 workers were retrenched from several factories exporting electronics and automotive parts at Laguna Technopark in Binan and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Last week, the National Statistics Office (NSO) had said that Philippine exports fell 11.9 percent to $3.49 billion in November, the second straight month of double-digit decline after contracting by 14.8 percent in October.

The country lost a total of $1.18 billion worth of exports from October to November 2008 compared to the same two-month period in 2007, according to the same NSO report.

The NSO report said the electronics sector -- the country's biggest exporter -- absorbed the bulk of the lost sales at $960 million over the two-month period.
Herrera attributed the rapid decline in electronics exports to massive job losses and tightening credit around the world, which in turn have dampened in a big way spending for automobiles, liquid crystal displays and high-definition TV sets, personal computers, mobile phones, MP3 players, iPods and other consumer durable goods.

Among the large electronics firms include F. Tech Philippines Manufacturing Inc., Fujitsu Die-Tech Corp. of the Philippines, Fujitsu Ten Corp. of the Philippines, Furukawa Electric Autoparts Philippines Inc., Futaba Corp. of the Philippines, Hitachi Computer Products (Asia) Corp., Matsushita (National Panasonic) Communication Industrial Corp., Matsushita (National Panasonic) Electric Philippines Corp., NEC Computer Storage Philippines Inc., Nidec Philippines Corp., TDK Philippines Corp. and Toshiba Information Equipment Philippines Inc.

“Barangay-based businesses, particularly those in the BMBE network, already form an operational and vibrant industry that has been keeping our economy afloat despite the global recession. The challenge to the national government now is how to maximize this system to help OFWs and other workers adversely affected by the global financial crisis so that they would immediately become economically productive again,” Estrada said.

According said that on top of those already provided for by the BMBE law, the national government should grant additional incentives to barangay-based enterprises that would participate in the retraining and hiring program for returning OFWs and other laid off workers.

Estrada also earlier proposed a special incentive package including tax credits, tax exemptions, income tax holidays and duty-free importation of raw materials and equipment for companies that would retrain and hire retrenched OFWs and other workers from local industries.

NEDA ICC-CabCom approves PTV-4 upgrading & bridges project totaling PhP10B, cost increase of Iloilo Flood Control Project worth PhP1.68B

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee (ICC-CC) recently approved two projects totaling some PhP10 billion to strengthen the government’s information system and link the country’s islands. Approved were the Immediate Rehabilitation Project of the People’s Television Network, Inc. (PTV-4) and the Bridges for Prosperity Acceleration Project.

Meanwhile, the ICC-CC re-evaluated the Iloilo Flood Control Project Phase 2 (Stage 1) and its change in scope and cost increase of PhP1.68 billion was also approved. The project aims to mitigate flood damage to create a more sustainable urban community in Iloilo.

Aiming to modernize the analog broadcast facilities and equipment of PTV-4 and strengthen its efficiency and effectiveness as an integral and critical part of the government’s information system, the rehabilitation of the network is estimated to cost PhP470 million. About 85 percent of the funding for the said project shall be sourced from the US Export-Import (EXIM) Bank with London Forfaiting Americas, Inc. (LFAI) as lender. LFAI shall finance the remaining 15 percent.

On the other hand, the bridge project of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) involves constructing permanent bridges and replacing temporary bridges, all totaling 242 along national roads nationwide.

Of the PhP9.6 billion-bridge project, about PhP8.3 billion shall be financed by the United Kingdom and about PhP1.31 billion shall be provided by the Philippine government.

The Iloilo Flood Control Project Phase 2 (Stage 1) change in scope of works was approved to avoid further delays in the completion of the project due to right-of-way (ROW) problems. Also approved was the project’s additional cost due to increase in the civil works, ROW and construction management components and the 38-month extension of implementation period from March 2002 to March 2007 to March 2002 to July 2010. The project is expected to benefit the six districts of Iloilo City with a total land area of 6.85 hectares.

Sinister scheme seen in Puno in 2010 campaign

Louis "Barok" Biraogo warned today of an "unseen hand" using interest groups, including those from the church, to peddle Chief Justice Reynato Puno as a presidential candidate in 2010.

"What makes this entity sinister is that it wants a malleable president to emerge from the 2010 election. And who can be more inexperienced in politics than Puno himself?" said Biraogo.

"Chief Justice Puno admitted he'd be like a fish out of the water if thrust into the world of politics. That's precisely what makes him so attractive to king-makers and puppet-masters."

A slip of the tongue by Jocelyn Limkaichong, the beneficiary of Puno's non-promulgation of a Supreme Court decision ousting her as member of congress, "gave away the game plan," Biraogo added.

He noted that Limkaichong, whom he seeks to disqualify as a member of congress for being an alien, had been going around town trumpeting that an impeachment complaint will be filed against Puno.

She had been so certain about the impeachment that such a complaint, if it will be filed, will surely be the handiwork of the very people who want to depict Puno as a victim of political persecution, he pointed out.

"Administration allies in congress had emphasized that no impeachment complaint against Puno is forthcoming. That being the case, it would be in the interest of those behind Puno in 2010 campaign to have one filed against him to conform to the script of their zarzuela," Biraogo said.

In reality, the impeachment move against Puno is just "an illusion," said Biraogo, "intended to politicize the disqualification case against Limkaichong."

Biraogo warned the people not to allow themselves to be used by those who want a president in 2010 whom they can control. "Beware of the wolf in sheep's skin herding the flock into the slaughterhouse," he said.

The Commission on Election second division had found Limkaichong to be an alien and thus disqualified to run as Negros Oriental representative in the 2007 election. The Comelec en banc affirmed said decision.

Four cases had been consolidated before the SC over the Comelec Limkaichong Comelec decision. One was filed by Limkaichong herself seeking to overturn the Comelec ruling, another was filed by a rival candidate while two others were filed by concerned citizens, including one by Biraogo.

On July 15, 2008, the SC en banc affirmed the Comelec decision ousting Limkaichong. Fourteen Justices signed the ponencia of the now retired Justice Ruben Reyes but Puno had refused to promulgate it.

NEDA forecasts Q4 2008 growth to hit 3.6 to 4.4 percent, full year between 4.2 to 4.5 percent

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) projects gross domestic product (GDP) to grow between 3.6 to 4.4 percent in the fourth quarter of last year as all sectors have weakened compared to 2007. Meanwhile, growth for 2008 is expected to be within 4.2 to 4.5 percent.

“This is a conservative forecast and it is good to be conservative right now,” NEDA National Policy and Planning Staff (NPPS) Director Dennis Arroyo said in a briefing, factoring in the effects of the global economic crisis. He sees however the full-year growth to be toward the higher end of the NEDA forecast.

By sector, Arroyo projects agriculture, fishery and forestry (AFF) to have grown 2.4-3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008. Industry and Services are expected to be within 5.0-6.0 percent and 3.2-3.9 percent, respectively. For the whole of 2008, AFF, Industry and Services are projected to be within 3.1-3.3 percent, 4.8-5.1 percent and 4.3-4.5 percent, respectively.
Arroyo said the main growth driver would be the construction subsector which he sees to post the fastest growth among all industry subsectors mainly due to the accelerated spending of the government on public infrastructure. He added that private construction growth is also expected to remain high despite the dampening effect of high prices of construction materials such as steel.

“The construction subsector however could be partly negatively affected by the low level of confidence caused by the global economic crisis but strong demand is still expected for residential and office spaces with the growth in outsourcing, demand from overseas Filipinos and favorable terms for housing loans offered in the market,” Arroyo said.

Arroyo also said that one of the bright spots is real estate as strong demand from retail and mid-level markets and the outsourcing firms continues in the fourth quarter. “The availability of housing loans at competitive interest rates is also expected to contribute positively to the performance of the subsector,” he said.

Another bright spot is the private services sector which is seen to retain its good performance in the fourth quarter. Arroyo explained that business process outsourcing (BPO) was observed to be benefiting from the economic slowdown in industrial countries.

“The firms in these economies tend to consider outsourcing as a more efficient alternative for
this would allow them to save on cost,” he said. However, the NEDA-NPPS director cautioned that the downside risk in the private services subsector would be the nil growth in tourist arrivals and the lagging average hotel occupancy rate in the country.

He added that the transportation, communication and storage service subsector’s growth will be invigorated mainly by lower fuel prices. “Air transport is expected to grow positively with the liberalization of the industry and higher demand lured by air fare promotions and long holidays in December. The higher rail ridership in MRT, LRT and Megatren will also contribute positively to the performance of this subsector,” Arroyo said.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Rumor has it

01/21/2009
C.R.O.S.S.R.O.A.D.S
JONATHAN DELA CRUZ


It started with a rumor and continues to be fueled by rumors. First, rumor had it that certain forces are out to impeach Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Reynato Puno. No less than his spokesman, lawyer Jose Midas Marquez, confirmed this at the Kapihan sa Sulo forum last Saturday. Marquez said that a reporter from a Manila broadsheet called him up the week before asking his reaction to a rumor that some people close to the Palace are bent on filing an impeachment complaint against Puno. He went along and said that they have also been hearing similar rumors but the Chief Justice just shrugged this off for what they were — rumors. These rumors were incorporated with other rumors of the same nature into one big, banner story the Monday after. And, the rest as they say, is now history in the making. Rumor on top of rumor.

The rumored impeachment was actually triggered by another rumor — that Puno's refusal to promulgate an SC decision signed by 14 justices ousting Negros Oriental Rep. Janet Limkaichong for being an alien was prompted by interests other than the ruling not having any "doctrinal value." That rumor in turn was based on internal court documents including records of the debates and reflections of the members before, during and after affixing their signatures and even soon got their way to the house of Limkaichong's critic, Louis "Barok" Biraogo, who in turn is rumored to be a fraternity brother of the solon's political opponent and predecessor, Jacinto Paras, whose wife run against her. But back to that second rumor.

The story is that Puno along with Justice Antonio Carpio "maneuvered" to have the full court conduct oral arguments — considered unprecedented by Limkaichong's detractors — to allow the other justices to change their minds and perhaps go along with Carpio's written reflections on the case. That rumor was boosted by the impression that the line of arguments proffered by Limkaichong's new lawyer, dean Pacifico Agabin, and new solicitor-on-case, Renan Ramos, who are rumored to be Puno's fraternity brothers, were eerily similar. Instead of asking his boss, SolGen Agnes Devanadera what happened, the critics put a negative spin on Ramos' change of mind.

And rumors of money changing hands, among or between who, started to surface with rumored details to spice things up. Rumored Puno run. Then, the rumor of Puno's possible presidential run caught fire after the Chief Justice himself came out swinging against the "shadowy forces" out to malign him and destroy the court. Apparently, his ruminations about the need for a moral force to change the course of our history triggered a spate of rumors, semi-rumors and actual endorsements. Sen. Ping Lacson started the ball rolling with a gratuitous advice that he was willing to forgo his presidential ambition if and only if the Chief Justice agrees to run with him playing second fiddle. That advice took a turn with a set of other rumors this time involving Lacson already.

The solon was playing it up to Puno, the rumor went, in time for the full court's hearing on the "Kuratong Baleleng" case and the rumored imminent deportation from the US of his two lieutenants, Col. Michael Ray Aquino and Cesar Mancao, to face criminal charges lodged against them for the Dacer-Corbito murders. These are mere conjectures, of course, but like Puno's rumored imminent impeachment, they have taken a life of their own. And the rumors get going buoyed no less by the Chief Justice playing coy about his plans while the court takes time to act on the earlier rumored maneuvering in the case at bar. Then, to add more rumor to the mill, last Saturday in the same Kapihan forum where Marquez guested Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Nilo Tayag, a contemporary of Puno's at the University of the Philippines and former KM chairman, launched the Puno-for-President Movement vowing to put together a group to gather 2 million signatures to convince the Chief Justice to run in 2010.

Initially, Tayag was looking at church and youth groups to spearhead the effort noting that the Chief Justice has such a moral standing grounded on his Christian upbringing as a leading member of the Methodist Church in the Philippines. That triggered another round of endorsements and, yes, rumors and twists about this enveloping run. Kapatiran and their workouts.

The problem of Tayag's call is that it has triggered all kinds of rumors and workouts in its wake, all of which tend to put not only the Chief Justice but the entire court in a bind. It has unduly politicized the situation to the point that any advisory from the Chief Justice and even the Court now will be treated gingerly and with a huge dose of salt. Thus, even if the Kapatiran party which founder Nandy Pacheco called a "God-centered" grouping and that of other religious groups saying they are just civic minded citizens seeking to put "morality and good governance" at the forefront of public debate in endorsing Puno they run the risk of violating time honored precepts on the separation of church and state. They also put their very advocacies or even personal or sectoral concerns which require judicial consideration, into play and place Puno in a quandary.

On top of this, the mobilization, voluntary or otherwise, of court personnel from the justices of the Court of Appeals, the association of judges and court personnel and others associated with the judiciary including the IBP in support of the initiatives to derail the rumored imminent impeachment and then the possible presidential run of Chief Justice Puno places the SC in a course which is bound to degrade its standing as an impartial body and the court of last resort on any and all legal and constitutional questions. That will be very sad indeed and something we can ill afford to have at this time.

DOLE to help displaced OFWs put up own business enterprise

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque today said some displaced overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) from Taiwan would soon organize themselves to put up their own business enterprise under the DOLE contingency plan for workers affected by the global financial crisis.

Roque held a dialogue with the displaced OFWs following their protest rally, which they staged with Migrante and other groups in front of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Intramuros last week. The OFWs demanded for a refund of their placement fee and airfare, among others.

Roque assured the OFWs that the DOLE and Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) would exhaust all means to assist them. On order of Roque, the POEA would hold continuous hearing to expedite the resolution of the OFWs’ complaints against their recruitment agencies and Taiwanese employers.

POEA Administrator Jennifer Manalili who joined the dialogue, implored on the OFWs to extend their full cooperation in the hearing to ensure its expeditious completion.

Roque also said that while their case is being resolved at POEA, the OFWs would be assisted in putting up their own livelihood project. The affected OFWs are interested in producing and selling peanut butter.

The labor chief likewise assured the displaced workers that all the necessary assistance shall be extended them in order to hasten the setting up and operation of their livelihood project. This would help them earn anew and be able to cover expenses while their case is ongoing. Assistance would include helping them prepare a business plan, operate a business, and market their products.

To expedite airfare refund, Roque also directed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) to immediately give the OFWs the money they used in paying their return airfare. OWWA would in turn charge the airfare from the OFWs’ recruitment agencies.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mapfre Insular Ends 2008 with Its Annual Milk Donation Campaign for Chosen Children Village


Photo shows the resident kids from Chosen Children Village along with Mrs. Lita Fullerton and Mapfre Insular representatives. Inset shows Mapfre Insular’s AVP for Human Resources Management Tere Datinguinoo; Chosen Children Village Founder Lita Fullerton; and Mapfre Insular’s VP for Branch Operations Bobby Dayrit.

Mapfre Insular, one of the leading and stable non-life insurance industries in the country, ended the year with its corporate social responsibility (CSR) campaign for the Chosen Children Village last December 2008.

The company successfully launched an annual Milk Donation Campaign among its employees for the Village’s children in 2007. Employees pledged monthly donations, which were collected through salary deduction. The setup allowed the entire Mapfre Insular community, along with its provincial branches, to participate in this CSR endeavor. The company closed 2008’s donation campaign with more than a hundred milk cans plus other pertinent supplies such as rice, clothes, medicines, and other in-kind donations.

Located in Silang, Cavite , the Chosen Children Village is a community specifically established for mentally and physically challenged children abandoned by their families. Founded by Lita Fullerton in 1989, Chosen Children Inc. cares for 78 children within the Village. Aside from providing a family setting that allows the children to experience emotional support as they grow up, the Village also develops educational and specialized therapy programs to enhance the potential of each child.

As a non-profit community, the Village relies on donations and child sponsorship programs to sustain its level of care and development for the children and to continue its mission of reaching out to abandoned special children.

Mapfre Insular has been conducting its Milk Donation Campaign since 2007, supporting one of the most important sustenance needed by the children inside the Village. In addition, Mapfre Insular also sponsors the education of five children from Chosen Children Village .

In the current economic climate, Mrs. Fullerton expressed her concern for sustaining the Village through sponsorship and campaigns. ”Donations have substantially declined this year and we understand that people are prioritizing their own necessities first.” Fullerton said.

However, despite these tough times, Mapfre Insular continues with its social service by reaching out to these special children and continuously enriching their lives for a better future.

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About MAPFRE Insular

Mapfre Insular is one of the leading and more stable insurance providers in the country today. With over 70 years of professional experience, Mapfre Insular provides a comprehensive line of non-life insurance services. Mapfre Insular is a joint ownership between Mapfre of Spain and the Insular Life Assurance Co. Ltd. of the Philippines . The Mapfre Group owns 75% of Mapfre Insular and is considered as the largest insurance conglomerate in Spain with a global presence in 36 other countries. Insular Life owns 25% of Mapfre Insular and is the first and largest domestic life insurance company in the Philippines with over 100 branches nationwide. At present, Mapfre Insular has over 50,000 policyholders and is situated in 11 branches all over the country.

Korea 2009: Architecture and Acoustics of the Highest Standard

Closing date for applications for the World Choir Championships is the end of February –
Prize money totalling US$ 200,000 for this top event
Korea 2009 is gathering momentum and gaining in attraction. Choirs, brass bands and folk
groups all over the world are feverishly preparing for the first World Choir Championships.
Choirs and ensembles can register until the end of February for participation in this premium
choral and musical event, which is taking place from 7 – 17 July 2009 in the Province of
Gyeongnam in the south of the country. The closing date was announced by INTERKULTUR
on 12 January 2009 in Frankfurt.
The choirs and other music ensembles can look forward to concert facilities of the highest
quality. The halls in the four host cities are world-class in terms of architecture, acoustics and
technical equipment. "In the twenty years of our history", raved Ralf Eisenbei├č, artistic
director of INTERKULTUR, "we have never witnessed such excellent conditions".
The World Choir Championships (WCC) are the umbrella event for a series of exquisite
choral and musical competitions that is unique in this world. They range from the second
Asian Choir Games through the Korean International Open Competition to the Grand Prix of
Choral Music. A special attraction at this top event in Korea 2009 is the prize money for the
best-placed choirs at the Grand Prix of Choral Music, with a total purse of US$ 200,000.
The WCC are being jointly organised by INTERKULTUR and the Province of Gyeongnam in
four southern cities in South Korea. The first Asian Choir Games were held in 2007 in
Jakarta, Indonesia.
For details and photos visit our website at www.korea2009.com

ExcelAsia Receives Top Vendor Recognition from Citigroup BPS, TELUS Philippines, and IBM Daksh

Year 2008 ended with more awards for industry-leading human resource solutions company ExcelAsia as it collected commendations from existing global business process outsourcing (BPO) clients. ExcelAsia was one of the top vendors awarded during the ceremonies held by Citigroup Business Process Solutions Pte. Ltd. (Citigroup BPS), TELUS International Philippines, and IBM Daksh last December 2008.

During the Vendors’ Night conducted by Citigroup BPS, ExcelAsia was named the BPO firm’s Partner of the Year. ExcelAsia has consistently produced the committed number of endorsements for Citigroup BPS since their partnership began on January 2008. By producing the most number of hired endorsements throughout the same year, ExcelAsia bagged this prestigious commendation from Citigroup BPS.

“By achieving a 100% fill rate for our hiring accounts, we were able to meet the targets set by our own clients for 2008,” Citigroup BPS Assistant Manager for Sourcing Maurice Ryan Bevera said.

Bevera also added that through ExcelAsia’s endorsement turnout, Citigroup BPS was able to meet its client requirements and effectively address the erratic call volumes that usually arrive during the holidays.

IBM Daksh also commended ExcelAsia as one of its top partners for 2008 based on overall endorsement scale and productivity. Aside from this award, IBM Daksh also highlighted the quality of services ExcelAsia has provided by naming it the Most Ambitious Partner of 2008 and Most Responsive Contributor to Ramp.

ExcelAsia was also awarded TELUS’ Most Progressive Performer for 2008. TELUS International Philippines gave a plaque of recognition to ExcelAsia, citing it as one of their top performers for the said year.

In the midst of all these developments, ExcelAsia President Rita Trillo-Ugarte shares that the company is looking forward to roll out client service developments this 2009.

“The awards and recognitions ExcelAsia received in 2008 testifies to the high level of commitment the company is offering among its roster of clients,” Trillo-Ugarte said.” By continuously exceeding client expectations and working closely with them to make sure we give them the right fit, ExcelAsia hopes to usher in 2009 with an even better approach to ensure continued service excellence.”


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About ExcelAsia
ExcelAsia provides industry-leading human resources (HR) solutions to more than 30 multinational companies in the Philippines. The firm is staffed by training and recruitment experts who provide end-to-end HR solutions: sourcing and recruitment, executive search, training and development, and HR and business consultancy. ExcelAsia is a professional and reliable service-oriented company that addresses the growing HR needs of contact centers and other business process outsourcing sectors. At present, ExcelAsia is headquartered in Manila with offices in Cebu, Bacolod, and Alabang. It has trained and deployed over 16,000 Filipino jobseekers.

Japan to recruit Pinoy nurses, caregivers starting this year

Starting this year, Japan would recruit Filipino nurses and caregivers for training and employment in that country under the Economic Partnership Agreement between Japan and the Philippines (JPEPA), Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque announced Monday.

Roque said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services (JICWELS) entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) providing for the recruitment of Filipino nurses as candidate-kangoshi and caregivers as candidate-kaigofukushishi to Japan under the Framework for the Movement of Natural Persons of JPEPA, which came into force on Dec. 11, 2008.

POEA Administrator Jennifer Jardin-Manalili and signed for the Philippine side, while Japan was represented by Takashi Tsunoda, managing director of JICWELS. The signing of the MOU at the Blas F. Ople Development Center in Intramuros, Manila and witnessed by Secretary Roque.

Roque said the MOU provides for the roles and responsibilities of the two parties and the working conditions for the Filipino nurses and caregivers, that would ensure their welfare and protection while training and working in Japan.

He said the hiring program shall commence with the initial recruitment of 200 Filipino nurses and 300 caregivers whom the POEA would endorse to JICWELS. The latter, for its part, would match the nurses and caregivers to hospitals and institutions in Japan that it had pre-qualified to receive the Filipino candidates.

He said the Filipino nurses and caregivers shall be covered by a fully transparent employment contract adding the Filipinos shall receive the same salaries equivalent to what Japanese nurses and caregivers receive, based on similar tasks and qualifications.

For her part, Administrator Manilili said that prior to their actual work with their respective employers in Japan, the selected candidates shall nonetheless undergo a six-month language and culture training. During the training, the candidates shall receive allowance of not less than 40,000 yen or more than P21,000 per month.

“The language training shall help them prepare to eventually take the Japanese licensure examination. The examinations can be taken not more than three chances within three years in the case of candidate-nurses, and once on the 4th year of stay in the case of candidate-caregivers,” Manalili said.

She added that before obtaining their qualification as full-fledged nurse in Japan, candidate-nurses shall work under the supervision of a Japanese Kangoshi to fully familiarize them with the Japanese system. After passing the licensure or certification examinations, the fully qualified nurse and certified caregiver shall have the option to stay for an unlimited period in Japan to practice their profession based on new and upgraded employment contract with their employer.

Registered nurses with at least three years experience are qualified to apply for training and employment in Japan. Candidate caregivers, on the other hand, should be a graduate of a four-year course and should be certified by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA). Graduates of a nursing course may also apply as caregiver.

Applicants shall be required to undergo an aptitude test and interview by JICWELS to facilitate their matching with employers,. After selection, they must pass the required medical examination to conclude the employment contract and to successfully qualify to enter Japan. Nominal expenses of application shall be borne by applicants for document submission/authentication, medical examination (P1,500 basic) and visa fee (P1,150).

Airfare and onsite training costs are shouldered by the employers or the Government of Japan.

Qualified nurses and candidates are invited to apply with the POEA and to register online at www.eregister.poea.gov.ph.