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Tribute to employers  
102 OFW patrons honored in First International Employers Awards

    Aside from the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Philippine government also owes gratitude to many foreign employers who provide OFWs jobs and income that in the first place made possible their multi-billion dollar remittances every year. These remittances help sustain the

    Aside from the millions of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), the Philippine government also owes gratitude to many foreign employers who provide OFWs jobs and income that in the first place made possible their multi-billion dollar remittances every year. These remittances help sustain the national economy. In recognition of their role as job providers, for their trust in Filipino workers’ abilities and for being partners in the country’s economic stability, Malacañang and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) honored for the first time the foreign employers by giving them the International Employers Awards (IEA) and the Presidential Award of Distinction (PAD).
    The IEA Committee chose 102 employers who became the first awardees of the annual event that President Arroyo institutionalized starting this year.
    The DOLE Secretary heads the committee of judges, who include members of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) and a representative from land-based and sea-based industry associations. The chosen foreign employers never had second thoughts of attending the first IEA held at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City on Nov. 21 amid the terrorism hysteria to receive the awards.
    Of the 102 awardees, 32 were also conferred the PAD by Arroyo in Malacañang on Nov. 22.
    Foreign employers of land-based OFWs are majority of the awardees (55) while 38 foreign employers of Filipino seafarers received the IEA. But more employers of Filipino seafarers (22) received the PAD. Only 15 of the 55 employers of land-based OFWs earned PADs.
    By country, Saudi Arabia had the most number of awardees in the land-based employment category with 21. It also received the most number of IEA trophies. This is so because the kingdom is still the top destination for OFWs. There are over one million OFWs in the Middle East mostly concentrated in Saudi Arabia.
President Macapagal-Arroyo congratulates Holland America Line Westours, Inc. Vice President for Human Resources Jerry Whitmore, (top) after presenting him the PAD trophy for being an outstanding international employer of overseas Filipino workers and seafarers. Arroyo confers the PAD trophy to Qatar Petroleum, Assistant Manager Sheik Abdul (middle) as Labor Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas looks on. Nancy Belmonte (above) receives the FIEA trophy on behalf of individual awardee Mrs. Betty Tsui Wong of Hong Kong from Sto. Tomas as she shakes hands with Labor Undersecretary Manuel G. Imson.
The hires are professionals, skilled workers, domestic helpers, medical workers and laborers.
    Although there are many Filipino entertainers working in Japan, this country had the most number of awardees in the sea-based employment category with 12. However, Norway got the most number of IEAs with eight. Together with Norway and the US, Japan employs the highest number of Filipino seafarers.
    Saudi Arabia also got the most number of PADs with four in the land-based category while Japan received eight such awards in the sea-based category.
    Aside from hiring many Filipinos, including high school graduates, the awardees were chosen for consistently employing Filipino workers. Among the first batch of IEA awardees, the world’s leader in workboat business - Tidewater Marine - is the oldest employer of Filipino seafarers dating back to 1971. The Ministry of Health (MOH) and the Saudi Arabian Oil Co. (Saudi Aramco), both from Saudi Arabia, have been hiring land-based Filipino workers for the longest time: since 1977.
    The MOH has employed 80,000 Filipino medical workers so far making it the longest pioneering land-based OFW employer, the most enduring client of the POEA-Government Placement Branch and the biggest foreign government client of the POEA.
    The awardees also provide OFWs competitive salaries, exemplary benefits, welfare services and career advancement opportunities. The IEA organizers failed to mention the salary rates of employer-awardees. But the benefits are numerous: one month vacation in the Philippines for every two months of work; retraining on IT innovations; Christmas bonus; provision of sports and health facilities; provision of satellite dish exclusively airing Filipino channels; family assistance; continuous education program; scholarship grants to family members; free and discounted travel tickets to family members; retirement pay; service awards; paid vacation; incentives; profit sharing; safe and healthy work place; free transportation to and from worksites; free food and accommodation; free medical services; yearly vacation; full medical coverage; annual leave of 45 days; salary increase for every year of service; relocation allowance; end of contract benefit and bonus; repatriation tickets even to family members.
    Saudi Aramco, the world’s number one oil company, provides 13th month pay, severance pay, free uniforms, death benefits, travel allowance, vacation packages, group insurance, medical plan, retirement income plan, disability benefit, travel processing assistance, rental allowance for living quarters, air transportation for dependents, and educational assistance.
    Among the awardees were four individuals, four unions, two shipowner associations and two Japanese maritime organizations. The sole individual awardee in the land-based employment category was Dig Hong Betty Tsui Wong, the managing director of the Union Bank of Switzerland in Hong Kong.
    Tsui has faithfully nurtured her Filipino maid, Lolita Besmonte, for 12 years.

When Besmonte found out she had cervical cancer while on vacation in the Philippines, Tsui immediately summoned her back to Hong Kong, sent for the best doctors to treat her and even hired part-time maids to fill in her duties in the house even as she received her full pay.
    Besmonte is now back on her feet, her cancer cured. Her daughter, who is now also in Tsui’s employ, is being sponsored for masteral studies by Tsui.
    The three individual awardees in the sea-based category were Pieter Vroon of Vroon B.V., Capt. Masaaki Kobayashi of Unitra Maritime Co. Ltd., and Kenichi Iwakawa of Vermillion Overseas Management and New Century Overseas Management. Vroon was responsible for making the Palompon Institute of Technology in Leyte as the Dutch government’s pilot school for seafarers to man Dutch vessels. Kobayashi and Iwakawa were honored for hiring Filipino seafarers for Japanese vessels.
    Awarded were the Japanese Shipowners Association for hiring 25,000 Filipino seafarers, the Seamen’s Employment Centre of Japan (SECOJ) for training Filipino cadets and employing them afterwards, the All Japan Seamen’s Union for employing 20,000 Filipinos yearly, the International Mariners Management Association of Japan for training and hiring 13,000 Filipinos, the Norwegian Shipowners Association for hiring Filipinos aboard Norwegian vessels, and the Norwegian Maritime Unions (the Norwegian Seamen’s Union, the Norwegian Marine Officer’s Association and the Norwegian Union of Marine Engineers) for employing 7,000 Filipinos yearly and for putting up the Norwegian Training Center in the Philippines.
    There are still many employers of OFWs aside from the 102 awardees. So the list of notable OFW employers is expected to grow in the next staging of the IEA.
TEEKAY SHIPPING goes the distance
Winning Two Awards

    The recently concluded First International Employers Awards, spearheaded by the Department of Labor and Employment, had been launched to honor 92 combined land-based and sea-based foreign employers, who have copiously provided employment to Filipinos and managed their well-being throughout these years. The International Employers Awards was given to the so-called “institutional employers” whilst the Presidential Award of Distinction was given to those foreign employers who rendered extraordinary acts of assistance to Filipino workers, including seafarers.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo congratulates Teekay Chairman Emeritus Axel Karlshoej after handing him the Presidential Award of Distinction in Malacañang.
   It is with great honor that Teekay Shipping Limited had been chosen as one of the 36 foreign sea-based employers who grabbed the International Employers Awards from DOLE out of the more than 200. Adding to that victory was winning the even more prestigious Presidential Award of Distinction from Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo along with only 12 other sea-based employers. Definitely a great triumph for Teekay, which has been recruiting Filipinos since 1989 through the then Mayon Marine Management.
    Winning two awards from the Philippine Government confirms Teekay’s real concern for their people - particularly the Filipinos. Becoming a member of the company that offers one of the best job benefit packages is not easy. However, once an individual becomes a member of the TK team, a career path is broadly seen inside and made available for those achievers. TK is one of the few companies that have been able to set up its own retirement fund for employees most especially the seafarers. The fund aside from its being transparent and conservatively managed, earns record high returns in Switzerland under the able stewardship of one of UK’s best insurance companies. Having such in place ensures every Filipino working within Teekay to retire not empty-handed.
    Teekay not only extends concern for the well being of its employees but also their families. One example is the skills training being provided regularly to the spouses of its seafarers under the organized Mermaid’s Club. Also, Teekay in the Philippines has strong commitment to its social responsibility in the community by promoting activities such as caring for the environment and the street children among others.

The Chairman Emeritus
    Teekay Chairman Emeritus, Axel Karlshoej, came to the Philippines and shared the International Employers Awards feat with the Philippine staff.
    Axel is the elder brother of the late founder of Teekay, Torben Karlshoej.
    Axel took time out from his hectic schedule so as not to miss the special occasion and his presence indicated his close working relations with his people. During the victory party, Axel emphasized the importance of company’s work force, wherever one turns.
He also reiterated his brother’s belief in the capability of the Filipinos; something he beams with pride while mentioning.

Other Facets of the Company
    Oil players hire TK vessels because they have come to know of Teekay’s safety and operational efficiency. Those were the reasons why the company grew so hastily and became very dynamic. With its almost 30 years in the business, the vigorous support is still evident through its people. It is still committed to attain an even bigger and more audacious goal to become the undisputed world leader in marine services for the oil and gas industry by year 2010.
    Teekay nurtures its own work force by first identifying their potentials and giving them the right training to make them perform according to the highest standards demanded by the industry. The inner strength of the company lies in its customers and colleagues, and this is construed by one of its boundless programs called Caring for Colleagues and Customers. The focus on customers is very vivid and it emphasizes that everyone who works in TK is driven to deliver services above and beyond the expectations of the customers. Customers in TK are not only external clienteles but also colleagues, who work within the framework of the company.

Extension of Recognition
    The initiative of the Department of Labor and Employment, in coordination with POEA, was very timely and these agencies should be thanked for their efforts in bringing together the best employers of Filipino workers and seafarers around the world.
    To the honest-to-goodness DOLE Secretary, Ms. Patricia Sto. Tomas, who aims to create more jobs for Filipinos, make them more competitive than ever, and mold the Filipino overseas workers to be more well-liked by foreign employers. ...To the untiring assistance of the Administrator of POEA, Ms. Rosalinda Baldoz, who makes a difference from the stereotyped government employees.... they all deserve the recognition as well!

OPAs talsik sa Japan? Ano ba talaga?
   Magkasalungat ang mga ulat tungkol sa kalagayan ng mga overseas performing artists (OPAs) sa Hapon. Hindi tuloy malaman kung ang labor attache sa Tokyo na si Reynaldo Regalado o ang mga lider ng mga OPAs na sina Willie Espiritu at Lorenzo Langomez ang nagsasabi ng totoo.
    Sinabi ni Regalado sa programang Radyo OFW na walang mass repatriation ng mga artistang Pilipina ang nangyayari sa gitna ng panghuhuli sa mga promoter at among Hapones na lumalabag sa regulasyon tulad ng pagpapaupo ng mga OPAs sa mga customer, di pagbabayad ng tamang sahod at buwis, di pagbibigay ng insurance at pamemeke ng papeles ng mga empleyadong Pilipino.
    Pinabulaanan din ni Regalado na marami na ang nasuspindeng promoter, na siyang taga-supply ng OPA sa mga club sa Hapon.
Ayon kay Regalado, walang diretsahang suspensyon kundi may advisory sa mga promoter na maaantala ang pag-aproba ng papeles (ng mga OPA) dahil sinusuri ito nang maigi ng mga opisyal na Hapones.
    Hindi apektado nito ang mga OPA dahil ang mga club sa Tokyo ay kumukuha na lang ng entertainers sa ibang promoter. “Patuloy pa rin ang pagkuha sa mga OPA pero may pagbagal lamang,” sabi niya.
    Sinabi naman ni Willie Espiritu, may-ari ng Philippine Overseas Employment Industry Foundation (POEI) na nagpapadala ng mga OPA sa Hapon, na pinagtatakpan lang ni Regalado ang totoong kondisyon ng mga OPA sa Hapon. “Halos araw-araw ay may umuuwing OPA na napektuuhan ng mga raid ng club sa Tokyo,” sabi ni Espiritu.
    “Dapat nang i-fast track ng Kongreso ang hiling naming imbestigasyon sa kalagayan ng mga OPA sa Hapon. Dapat ding I-recall si Regalado. Kung hindi nila kayang tulungan ang mga Japanese promoters at OPA na napapauwi, wala silang karapatan na manungkulan sa pamahalaan,” sabi pa niya.
    Sinabi rin ni Lorenzo Langomez, pinuno ng Philippine Association of Recruitment Agencies Deploying Artists Inc. (PARADA), na 200 promoters na ang nasususpinde sa Hapon. Sabi niya na hindi napapanahon ang pag-i-inspeksyon sa mga club owners at promoters dahil maraming OPA ang hindi makakatikim ng White Christmas.
    Tinatayang 70,000 ang bilang ng OPAs sa Hapon. Sila ay nagpapadala ng $1 bilyon sa Pilipinas taun-taon. Pinangangambahan na 30,000 OPAs ang mawawalan ng trabaho at kalahating bilyong dolyar na remittance ang mawawala sa mahigpit na regulasyong pang-imigrasyon na pinatutupad ng mga Hapones sa ngayon.
Caregivers di pa kailangan sa Hapon
  Kung may nag-aalok sa inyo na magtrabaho bilang caregiver sa Hapon, huwag kayong maniniwala at ipaalam agad sa POEA ang nananamantala. Hindi kailangan at hindi rin kumukuha ang mga Hapones ng caregivers.
    “Wala kahit isang caregiver ang nakakapasok sa Japan,” babala ni Reynaldo Regalado, ang labor attache ng Pilipinas sa Tokyo.
Inamin ni Regalado na nakikipag-usap pa sila sa mga kinauukulang opisyal na Hapon tungkol sa pagtanggap ng Pilipinong caregiver subalit wala pang napagpapasyahan at napagkakasunduan.
    Sinabi ni Regalado na inabisuhan na niya ang DOLE at POEA na ipagbigay alam sa publiko na walang kailangan na caregiver sa Hapon. Pero marami pa ring kabayan natin ang naloloko, ang pinakuha ng training at pinagbayad ng placement fee.
    Ang mga manggagawang kailangan sa Hapon ay mga entertainers, marino, espesyalista sa IT at mga inhinyero, sabi ni Regalado. Marami pa ring shipping companies sa Hapon ang nangangailangan ng marinong Pilipino, sabi niya.
Libu-libo umaasa sa Gulf War claims
   Mga 60,000 OFWs sa Kuwait at Iraq, pati na libu-libo manggagawang Pilipino sa Eastern Province ng Saudi Arabia, ang maaari pang makakuha ng kabayaran sa pagkakalikas nila sa trabaho dahil sa Gulf War noong 1991.
    Kinumpirma ni Rodney Villegas, isang disbursing officer ng Philippine Compensation and Claims Committee Secretariat (PCCCS) sa ilalim ng Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) na tatalakayin ng United Nations Compensation Council (UNCC) sa Disyembre ang hiling ng Pilipinas na muling buksan ang pagkuha ng Gulf War claims.
    Sinabi ni Villegas na hiniling nga ni Bayani Mangibin, Secretary-General ng PCCCS, sa UNCC ang pagpapatuloy ng pagkuha ng claims dahil marami pang OFWs ang hindi nakakuha nito. Sa tinatayang 100,000 OFWs sa Kuwait at Iraq noong 1991, 50,000 lang ang nakapaghain ng claims at sa bilang na ito ay 39,000 lang ang nabayaran mula noong 1995.
    “The UN started paying claims in 1997. Ang nabayaran namin as of September 30 ay $144 million,” ayon kay Villegas. Iba-iba ang halaga ng claims sa mga inilikas na OFWs at naapektuhang kumpanya nang salakayin ng Iraq ang Kuwait nuong 1991. Kinuha ng UN ang pambayad ng claims sa Iraq.
Marinong Pinoy baka Tsino maging boss
    Simula 2005, maaaring sunud-sunuran na lamang ang mga marinong Pilipino sa mga Tsinong opisyal ng barko. Ibinunyag ng mga Tsinong opisyal sa mga nagsipagdalo sa 5th LSM Manning and Training Conference sa Shanghai, Tsina na nakapokus sila sa pagsasanay at paglikha ng maraming opisyal na marino sa halip na mga di-opisyales na marino.
    “In 2005, China will start producing over 2,000 officers annually to serve on the Chi-nese merchant fleet,” sinabi ni Lito Dailisan, ang executive director ng Philippine Seafarers Promotion Council (PSPC) na dumalo sa naturang kumbensyon.
    Ang PSPC ay binubuo ng mga kumpanyang maritima na naglalayong gumawa ng stratehikong plano para mapanatiling numero uno ang marinong Pinoy sa buong mundo.
    Matagal nang malaki ang pangangailangan ng marinong opisyal sa mga barkong internasyunal at ito’y isang pagkakataon na hindi palalagpasin ng Tsina. Ang kakulangan sa opisyales ay umaabot sa 40,000. Sa ngayon, tinatayang 50,000 ang bilang ng marinong opisyales na Pilipino samantalang may 30,000 naman opisyales na Tsino.
CFO di bubuwagin
    Naiulat na nangangamba ang mga empleyado ng pamahalaan pati na ang mga OFWs na mabuwag ang 14 ahensya kasama na ang Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) na nasa ilalim ng DFA. Ngunit pinabulaanan ng CFO executive director na si Jose Z. Molano Jr. na bubuwagin ang kanilang ahensya bilang bahagi ng pagtitipid ng pamahalaan.
    “It’s (CFO) not going to be abolished. The Secretary of Foreign Affairs (Blas Ople) has taken a position that it should not be abolished,” deklara ni Molano. “This media report about the CFO’s abolition, I don’t know where that came from. I have not read any official notice that CFO is a candidate for abolition,” dagdag pa niya.
Sa pahayag ni Molano, makakahinga na ng malalim ang may 70 empleyado ng CFO.
    Ang CFO ang nagpapatupad ng programa para palakasin ang ugnayan ng mga Pilipino sa loob at labas ng bansa. Kabilang sa programang ito ang pagtuturo ng wika at kasaysayang Pilipino sa mga Pilipinong nasa labas ng bansa upang malaman nila ang kanilang tinubuang lupa.
    Meron ding Lakbay-Aral ang CFO kung saan ay ipinakikita sa mga Pilipinong laki sa ibang bansa ang iba’t ibang lugar sa Pilipinas para mamulat sila sa kagandahan ng sariling bayan.
27,000 nars buwenas sa Nursing Act of 2002
    Pakikinabangan ng may 27,000 pampublikong nars ang Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 na pinirmahan ni Pangulong Gloria Arroyo bilang isang batas nuong Okt. 20.
    Pangunahing pakinabang dito ang mas mataas na sahod. Nakasaad sa batas na tatanggap sila ng simulang sahod na P14,000 mula sa dating P9,000.
    Sa mga nars na magtatrabaho ng matagal sa pampublikong ospital o sentrong pangkalusugan, higit pa sa P14,000 ang tatanggapin nilang sahod buwan-buwan at may libre pang pagsasanay, sabi ni Dr. George Cordero, presidente ng Philippine Nurses Association (PNA). Makatitipid sila ng P8,000 kada buwan, na siyang halaga ng kurso sa specialty areas tulad ng mga gawain sa operating room, intensive care unit at critical care unit. Ang Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. at Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office ang gagastos sa pagkuha nila ng kursong ito kung mananatili sila sa pampublikong ospital ng dalawang taon.
    Magiging hadlang lang ang libreng kurso sa mga nars na nais magtrabaho sa labas ng bansa, sabi ni Cordero.
    Magkakaroon din ng mas maraming nars ngayon dahil tinanggal na ang limitasyon sa pagkuha ng kursong nursing. Sa lumang batas, ang mga estudyanteng high school na kabilang sa 40% ng klase nila na may mataas na grado lamang ang maaaring kumuha ng kursong nursing sa kolehiyo. Ngayon, kahit sino ay may pagkakataong maging nars, sabi ni Rosie de Leon, ang executive vice president ng PNA.
  TULONG SA STRANDED. Inaabot ng isang opisyal ng Lingap Pinoy ang isang supot na may damit at pagkain sa isang kasapi ng Kapatiran ng mga Migranteng Stranded sa Riyadh (KAMI-SR). Isinagawa ng LP ang pagbigay ng donasyon sa may 50 kasapi ng KAMI-SR sa basement ng Manila Plaza sa Batha area, Saudi Arabia noong Nob. 7. Mahigit sa 100 Pilipinong tumakas sa kanilang amo ngunit di makauwi dahil walang pera ang tinutulungan ng kanilang kababayan sa Saudi Arabia.
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