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Caught in the AVB crossfire
RP banks in harms way of remittance embargo
Overseas Filipinos are demanding Congress to pass ora mismo the Absentee Voting Bill (AVB). The bill allowing them to vote has been languishing in the legislature for 15 years. If legislators still dilly-dally, they threatened to cut their cash remittance and postpone coming home this year. The International Coalition on Overseas Filipinos Voting Rights (ICOFVR), which groups OFW organizations worldwide, issued the warning after the Senate failed to calendar the Angara-sponsored AVB before the September break.
The Senate version of the AVB was supposed to have been passed already by opposition senators during a short-lived stint as majority group in June but administration senators voided the action after re-assuming power the next few days. The incumbent majority led by Senate president Franklin Drilon wanted the approval process repeated to incorporate more refinements to the AVB.
In response, ICOFVR leaders warned that OFWs would stop remitting funds through banks and instead send money through colleagues, friends, family, or private agencies until the administration realizes that they mean business. They also will send balikbayan boxes instead of cash.
If by the end of October the AVB is still not passed, OFWs will set a specific period when they will completely refrain from remitting money.
Isagani B. Manalo, leader of the OFW Congress based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, said it was time to resort to stronger action for congressmen to take seriously their clamor to choose the right people who will lead the Philippines in the 2004 elections. But he said the plan of cutting remittances is not aimed at hurting the national economy.
Currently, around 70% of all OFW remittances go through banks. The amount of remittance of the over 7 million overseas Filipinos estimated at $7 billion is monitored and taxed by the government. The remittances also helped fuel domestic consumer spending. In the first six months of this year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) indicated that OFW remittances amounted to $4.143 billion, up 43.2% from the same period in 2001. The BSP attributed the remittance growth to the increase in the number of workers deployed abroad mostly to Europe, Africa and the Americas. Over half a million Filipino workers left for abroad from January to June this year.
If remittance flow stops, it will deprive the government of needed foreign cash. Moreover, the banking industry will suffer.
The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) cried foul against the planned remittance boycott because OFWs are picking on the wrong people.
“Why penalize the banks for something that they don’t have anything to do with. Mali ‘yung choice of punishment. You’re punishing a lot of innocent bystanders,” lamented BAP Executive Director Leonilo Coronel.
BAP admitted that the remittance embargo will cut banks’ profits but they cannot do anything about it. “That’s their (OFWs) prerogative,” Coronel told Balikbayan.
Banks stand to lose earnings from incoming remittance transactions such as service charge, commissions from telemoney centers abroad and markups from dollar-to-peso conversion.
A Metrobank branch in Manila that receives up to P400,000 in remittance money (not all from OFWs) per month, charges P100 for every incoming remittance transaction regardless of the amount of peso remitted. For any amount of dollar remittances, the service charge is $2.
An RCBC branch in Manila charges $5 service fee for every remittance from its telemoney centers abroad to individual and corporate accounts. The branch transacts an estimated $20,000 incoming remittance per month.
RCBC claims to have the most number of padala or telemoney centers in the Middle East. In Saudi Arabia, RCBC has 13 telemoney centers and 40 in the United Arab Emirates. There are other RCBC padala centers in Bahrain, Lebanon, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar.
The bank also charges P66 service fee for advice-and-pay transactions. In this service, the allottee has no account in the bank and dollar remittances are automatically converted to peso denomination before it is claimed. The bank earns up to 50 cents markup for every dollar converted.
RCBC also has a remittance service through Moneygram, in which the money is transferred from abroad to the bank within a day. The bank earns a fixed commission from Moneygram remittances while the government earns through the use of documentary stamps. Every P200 remittance is charged 30 centavo worth of documentary stamp.
Of course, foreign banks will also be affected by the remittance embargo in the same way as local banks while the lack of balikbayan spenders during the Christmas holiday will impact on the domestic economy and the tourism industry.
Congress is unperturbed by the blackmail though it is cooperating as the Senate passed on second reading its version of the bill. The remaining question is if the Lower House will follow suit.
Sabah workers, employers back in each other’s arms
Who said Malaysia doesn’t need Filipino workers? Filipinos who were deported in August from Sabah for illegally working in plantations, factories and various firms in the Malaysian province are slowly being reunited with their employers. It was the employers who asked Malaysian authorities to allow the return of the deported workers, whom they need to keep their business running. They are simply irresistible.
Malaysian authorities are gathering the names of workers who have been deported but whom their employers want to return and giving them working visas. The deportees’ name are then submitted by the Philippine labor attaché in Kuala Lumpur to the DOLE regional office in Zamboanga City and the inter-agency one-stop shop that was formed there to provide travel documentation (employment certificates and passports) and overseas job placement for the refugees. Those deported after May 1, 2002 are even given free passports. Filipinos who are interested to work in Sabah can also get papers at the one-stop shop as long as they meet the job qualifications.
Free livelihood skills training for refugees
Hope is not lost for the Filipino refugees who don’t want to return to Sabah anymore. They can learn how to put up a meat processing, fish processing, baking, novelty items making, hog raising and other kinds of business for free courtesy of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Regional Office IX.
TESDA is conducting the livelihood skills training in various communities where the female repatriates are located. For the male repatriates, TESDA offers free skills training on electrical, lathe machine operation, automotive, civil and construction trades, refrigeration and airconditioning, and welding.
For those who are in Zamboanga City, the free training can be availed at the Regional Training Center at the TESDA Region IX Complex, along Talungon Street, Barangay San Roque. For details, call Engr. Lorenzo Macapili or Marilou Olayan of TESDA Region IX at telephone nos. 991-3229 and 991-9434.
Overseas Filipinos starting own bank
By the end of the year, OFWs will have their own bank. The Overseas Filipinos Worldwide International Holdings, Inc. (OFW Holdings), has laid the groundwork for the establishment of a thrift bank in one of the provinces outside Metro Manila.
The SEC-registered OFW Holdings is the financial arm of the OFW-run Overseas Filipinos WorldNet Foundation, Inc. (OFWNet), a group that aims to empower some 8 million OFWs economically and politically.
The thrift bank will initially provide remittance, loans, investments, and other financial service to OFWs in Saudi Arabia.
The OFW Holdings hopes to put up its own universal bank catering to OFWs by 2006.
OFW dependents putting up seafood farm, resto
Dependents of OFWs are embarking on an P11-million business to breed seafoods and operate a floating restaurant and marine park in Babak, Island Garden City of Samal.
The venture of the Samal Island Filipino Overseas Workers Dependents Multi-purpose Cooperative is being undertaken together with the Federation of Filipino Workers of Region XI, Balet Fisherfolk Association and Balet Barangay Councilmen. Various government agencies, led by the Department of Agriculture, are providing technical support while the OWWA and other donors are providing the capital.
The livelihood project involves building fish cages and culturing of bangus, crabs and lobsters. It also involves the maintenance of a reef and collection of ornamental fishes, the management of the fishery, marine culture training, and construction of bunk houses for workers, an office building, a warehouse and cold storage facilities.
Dubious money managers on the loose
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) warned the public, particularly OFWs and their families, against investing their money in two unregistered financial firms.
The SEC said the Overseas Workers Stock Capital and Portfolio Management Services, which are targeting OFWs, are not licensed to operate as securities brokers and dealers, investment advisers or futures exchange brokers.
The SEC added that both firms are not registered corporations.
Saudi consulate promotes entrepreneurship
The Philippine Consulate General’s office in the Western Region of Saudi Arabia is ready to help OFWs set up their business back home. The consulate’s Economic Diplomacy Unit is offering to process the documentation of the business. The EDU also conducts business opportunity seminars to enable OFWs to become entrepreneurs.
For more details, contact the EDU office at the consulate at telephone numbers 667-8101, 663-0354, and 660-0348. Consult Rose Justiniano.
Sunday freaky Sunday
The accident involved one 10-wheeler, 1 truck, two Adventures, one Expedition, one Pajero, one Toyota and ako. I was driving a green Nissan.
September 8 was a lazy Sunday when I drove home from Taft Avenue. Mom was sitting in front, my tita and two cousins at the back.
As my usual route, I took Nagtahan (going to España). Traffic was light but when we reached the flyover near Amang Rodriguez, cars were not moving. I could see a blue 10-wheeler several cars ahead. While we were enjoying Latin music over the radio and discussing the pros and cons of inflatable pillows, we saw a guy signaling everyone to pull back.
Mom said, “O, atras daw.”
I replied, “Paano tayo aatras eh may mga kotse sa likod.”
A brand new white Pajero was right behind us. There was no room to maneuver to the left since the lane was also filled with cars.
All of a sudden, the guy was running and hysterically shouting “Atras! Atras!” It was then that we noticed the 10-wheeler was fast rolling down.
Mom was shouting and pointing to the truck. Everything happened so fast. Honks were blaring. People were screaming. I looked at the rear view mirror and saw cars behind us frantically trying to back-up. I felt the rear of our car bumping against metal.
All I could think was how to save my passengers, especially (my) mom, who was sitting beside me. I was not sure if she had fastened her seatbelt so I stretched my right arm to protect her from hitting the windshield. The container van was a few meters away and still out of control. I had to stop our car from colliding with those behind us. Otherwise, we would be trapped (with the 10-wheeler in front). I held on the hand brake, floored on the brakes, and with my left hand, turned the wheel to the right. The rear right end tire blew. We hit the railings.
Again, our trunk was bumped. It sounded like metal being crumpled. We were pushed to a 45-degree angle. I turned and saw a white truck running straight to my side; the 10-wheeler was now right in front of us. The white truck hit my door and smashed the window. My mind went blank. I just stepped on the brakes and one-handedly gripped the steering wheel until my fingers were numb and my knuckles were white. The truck’s left side hit the tail of the 10-wheeler, stopping both their momentum of further crushing me to smithereens.
Albert, my cousin, was shouting “P—ina! Baba! Baba! P—ina!” The doors at the right side were not damaged and they left a wide space for us to pass thru.
Tita Thelma scolded him “Albert, wag kang mag-mura!” {See, prim and proper ang familia namin. Even in times like these, yan pa ang naiisip.)
When they all alighted, the car slid downwards. A green flashlight and a rubber slipper sailed thru my window. Mom stood motionless. I was still inside. I could hear her thinking that I might have been injured. At last, everything was still. I was able to get out without mishap. When (my) mom saw that my fingers and toes were still intact, she allowed to be guided down the bridge and wait at the school. It was then raining.
Albert was urging me to get away from the scene. Somebody was yelling, “Takbo! Tumutulo ang gasolina! Baka sumabog!” On-lookers were running in all direction. Albert grabbed my arms but I said he could go ahead. I had to check if nobody was left injured in the rubble. (Feeling heroic daw).
I walked towards the heap of cars and heard somebody moaning “Hintay, hindi ako makalabas.” Then two guys crawled out of the green Adventure, which was squeezed, between the white truck and Pajero. He confirmed that nobody else was inside and thankfully, he was not injured. He was limping though.
I never expected the extent of the damage nor the number of cars to be that much. The accident involved one 10-wheeler, 1 truck, two Adventures, one Expedition, one Pajero, one Toyota and ako. I was driving a green Nissan.
When I saw everything, all I could say was, “Sh—t, paano ako papasok bukas? Wala akong kotse.” (tonta, of all things to say...)
Nobody sustained injury though. I have bruises at my left arm, my elbow and wrist hurts. The investigating police officer said he could not imagine how it happened and with the positions of the cars, he had expected casualties if not major injuries.
Well, all of us were truly very lucky. May isang ale na niyakap ako nang makita niya yong kotse. Sabi niya, “Magpasalamat ka ma’am. Second life mo na ito. Magpamisa ka at magpakabait.” After hearing the last word, I said to my cousin, “Albert, di ba mabait naman ako?”

Lessons I’ve learned from this experience?
1. Pray and have faith - when my tita (who was sitting behind me) saw the 10-wheeler     rolling down, she implored Mama Mary to save us. It was Sept 8, the birthday of the     Blessed Virgin.
2. Presence of mind - do not panic. All I could think of then was my mom and tita, who     have the tendency to be nervous wrecks. Sabi nga ng friend ko, ginawa ko raw na     human shield ang sarili ko. It may sound stupid but can you bear the thought if     something had happened to your relatives? The gravity of the situation only hit me on     our way home. I was shaking and felt like crying but no tears would fall (pusong     bato?)
3. Mobile phones - very useful. But then, dapat naka-charge. My phone conked out. Buti     na lang, may dala si momie and my cousins.
4. Emergency numbers - store them in the phone book. Mine was Diners Club Road     Assistance. Am not sure if they were the ones who alerted the police. I guess, this will     be a good card feature, parang 911 for Diners Club members, not just for road     assistance but other emergencies as well. :
5. Fasten your seatbelt - kahit pasahero ka lang. This experience made me re-evaluate my     life. So am trying hard na magpakabait. Second life ko na daw ito, so I’d better make     every minute count (hmmm..).

Sabi nga, LIVE, LAUGH, LOVE. Enjoy and appreciate what you have while you have them. Thank the One above for all your blessings... thank Him for your family who’s always there for you, for your friends who make life’s journey light and easy, and for the gift of life.
Ford rolls out 5 millionth Explorer
The five-millionth Ford Explorer produced recently rolled off the assembly line in Louisville, Kentucky - driven by no less than the company Chief Operating Officer and President Nick Scheele amidst the cheers of its hundreds of plant employees.
The first Ford Explorer rolled off the line in Louisville on Valentine’s Day in 1990. Since then, the American love affair with this best-selling SUV has continued to grow and mature. In 1991, Explorer’s first full year of availability, sales jumped 38% to more than a quarter-million units, and Explorer became the first sport utility vehicle to join the ranks of the top 10-selling vehicles, holding the seventh spot.
You’re in control with Honda’s Accord
Through its Accord, Honda Cars Philippines’ has made decision-making a dauntless task for the world-executive when it comes to choosing cars.
Designed to be a world-executive class sedan, the Accord offers a 2-liter in-line four-cylinder VTEC engine that delivers increased power, reduced vibration and extremely low emissions. The VTEC engine operates with Honda’s renowned Multi-point Programmed Fuel Injection, with a 16-bit powertrain control module for higher fuel efficiency. The double wishbone front and rear suspension gives unmatched stability for smoother handling and drive.
On the outside is a sleek front grille and bumper and chromed side window moldings. Lush interior features include rear seat armrest with cup holders, illuminated power window switches and an opulent wood grain center panel with an in-dash TV monitor and a Pioneer CD Tuner.
SEX BOMB GIRLS. Fourteen boob-tube babes would like to help fight lawlessness and evil in our crime-infested communities. How are they going to do it if they have superpowers?

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