19 APRIL 2014

Philippines grants visa-free entry to 7 more countries
Caibaan warehouse cited by TV5, not DSWD’s – Sec. Soliman
Philippines, Japan Hold 7th Political-Military Meeting
SG delegation visit: start of bigger biz relations
Registration of applicants for Korean language test set
Regional III big winner at national skills competition
Small steps to new beginnings
RWO IV-A partakes in month-long Batangas Migrants' Day celebration
DPWH Holy Week traffic advisory
At a college graduation, DOLE regional official takes graduates to a glance at DOLE's employment facilitation system
PNP conducts Social Media 102 seminar
Philippines grants Visa-free privilege to 7 more countries
Phl Ambassador to Lebanon calls on new Minister of Education
SSS, NSO team up for improved monitoring of pension eligibility
BI intercepts fake agent
Regional III big winner at national skills competition
Amendment of cabotage law eyed to bring down domestic shipping cost
DA-ARMM and UN-WFP Sign MOU for a Joint Project
No cause for price increase - SRA

Philippines grants visa-free entry to 7 more countries
Source: http://www.immigration.gov.ph
The Philippines has opened its doors to the citizens of seven more countries who may enter without an entry a visa and stay for 30 days.

The addition of seven countries makes a total of 164 the countries granted visa-free entry into the Philippines, pursuant to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Foreign Service Circular (FSC) No. 95-2014 and Executive Order no. 408.

Immigration Commissioner Siegfred B. Mison disclosed that the seven countries whose nationals have been granted visa-free admission into the country are: Belize, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgystan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

To be granted a visa-free entry and 30-day initial stay, Mison said the citizens of the seven countries only need to show their passport which must be valid for at least six months and must possess a return ticket to the country of origin or onward ticket to the next country of destination.

The executive order provides for a more expeditious system and simpler forms for the encouragement and facilitation of foreign tourist travel to the Philippines.

“This move will hopefully encourage more tourists and investors to visit and stay in the Philippines”, Mison said.

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Caibaan warehouse cited by TV5, not DSWD’s – Sec. Soliman
Source: http://www.dswd.gov.ph
Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon Juliano-Soliman reiterates that the unkempt warehouse being referred to by TV5 in its report aired on March 26 newscast and posted on its news portal is not the DSWD Relief Hub in Tacloban City.

This developed as the network issued a statement that it stands by its story on the unkempt warehouse with rotten goods and aired the same story again on April 14 over its radio station.

TV5 has said that the warehouse they have been featuring is located in Barangay Caibaan, Tacloban City. Sec. Soliman sent a team to said area and found that there is a warehouse which is being occupied by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Food Program (WFP).

WFP confirmed to the DSWD Field Office in the region that they are the ones maintaining the said warehouse.

Contrary to the TV5′s claim that there was a signage “Task Force Yolanda-DSWD Hub,” the team did not see one that would attribute to the DSWD warehouse.

“Attributing the Caibaan warehouse to the DSWD by showing the signage is creating a wrong public impression and misinformation,” Sec. Soliman stated. She clarified that the DSWD warehouses are located in Barangays Apitong and Abucay in Tacloban City with the Task Force Yolanda-DSWD Hub banner prominently displayed on the façade. In the same compound in Brgy.

Apitong is also the warehouse of the National Food Authority. Misleading Sec. Soliman said that the TV5 news report was misleading when it aired footages that showed the ‘Yolanda’ relief

hub in Tacloban and segued to snapshots of scattered and unkempt relief goods including ready-to-eat food and cup noodles, without getting the explanation of the Department.

“That makes the video more misleading as the DSWD has no stockpiles of ready-to-eat food and cup noodles because these are not part of the DSWD food packs,” Sec. Soliman pointed out.

She added that DSWD has not also received any donations of such as shown in the video news clip of TV5.

In an incident report submitted to Sec. Soliman by Christian Cabrigas, caretaker of the DSWD Hub in Tacloban, he said that on March 26, a female reporter with her cameraman came to the warehouse looking for Assistant Regional Director Virginia Idano who was out to meet UN Dignitaries.

Then without informing Cabrigas, the two suddenly went inside the NFA warehouse and took a video recordings of the area.

Cabrigas further said that there were indeed piled trashes, but not a decomposing chicken as shown by the TV5 network, because the NFA warehouse personnel just started to clean the area, as they regularly do.

He also explained that the repacking of 50-kg rice sacks into 3 or 6-kg rice bags resulted in the unintentional spilling of rice grains, and at different times of the day, these rice grains are swept up and placed again in rice sacks, which are then sent to the NFA warehouse for re-milling to separate the rice grains from sand and dust particles.

DSWD has reminded the NFA to arrange the rice sacks for re-milling to avoid impression of inefficiency. Not in disarray Sec. Soliman said that the DSWD hub is strictly maintained as international and local donors usually visit the area anytime.

She said that media persons are welcome to see all DSWD hubs including its main warehouse, the National Resource Operations Center (NROC) in Pasay City.

Sec. Soliman even conducted her latest press conference at NROC to show that DSWD warehouses are well-maintained. Recycled issues Sec. Soliman also expressed disappointment over the network’s “recycling” of issues like the rotten goods being buried in Palo and distributed in Barangay Gacao, which they continue to air in their newscasts.

“We have already clarified these issues several times and for the last time let me reiterate our side,” Sec. Soliman remarked. “Based on the certification of the Municipal Health Officer of Palo, the goods that were buried in the town only comprised of one sack of assorted biscuits, 10 cups of instant noodles, ½ sack of wet rice, and one sack of used clothing that came from ‘various agencies’ which she can no longer remember,” Sec. Soliman reiterated.

On the other hand, Sec. Soliman said the rotten goods in Brgy. Gacao were not distributed when the village chair learned that these were already spoiled.

The village head reported the incident to the Municipal Social Welfare Development Office which ordered for the immediate retrieval of the goods that were donated by a private organization which directly gave these to the local government unit.

“We provided technical assistance to the local social welfare office on handling and storage of goods to avoid similar incidents,” Sec. Soliman stated. Veracity of reports Sec. Soliman is urging the TV network to validate the veracity of the news of their reporters.

She is demanding for a public clarification on why the reporter spinned her story to imply that the Caibaan warehouse was DSWD’s by showing a footage of the warehouse with the DSWD banner.

Sec. Soliman said that there seems to be an intention to manipulate information and video clippings. The news report and the video have provided a totally different picture of how the DSWD works.

“These are causing psychological stresses to the DSWD colleagues in Leyte and Samar who continue to provide public service despite their houses not having been fixed yet and they live in difficult situations too,” Sec. Soliman ended.

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Philippines, Japan Hold 7th Political-Military Meeting
Source: http://www.dfa.gov.ph
16 April 2014 – The 7th Philippines-Japan Political-Military Meeting was held today at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA). DFA Assistant Secretary for Asia and Pacific Affairs Ma. Theresa P. Lazaro led the Philippine delegation to the meeting along with Department of National Defense (DND) Assistant Secretary for Strategic Assessment Raymund Jose G. Quilop and officials from the DFA, DND, Armed Forces of the Philippines, National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, and the Philippine Coast Guard.

The Japanese delegation was represented by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), the Ministry of Defense and the Embassy of Japan in Manila. It was headed by MOFA Deputy Director General Kenji Kanasugi.

During the dialogue, the delegations exchanged views on their respective countries’ national security policies and current regional issues. Further cooperation on maritime security as well as humanitarian assistance/disaster response were discussed.

The Political-Military and Military-to-Military (PM/MM) Meeting was established in 2006 and is one of the annual bilateral mechanisms between the Philippines and Japan. The last PM/MM

Meeting was held in Tokyo in May 2013.

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SG delegation visit: start of bigger biz relations
Source: http://www.dti.gov.ph
The recent visit of the 19-member Singaporean business delegation to the Philippines is seen as the start of bigger trade and investment relations for both countries.

“As we sustain economic growth, we are able work and talk with you in terms of areas for Singapore and Philippines to expand, invest in infrastructure, and focus on connectivity in our regions,” Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ponciano C. Manalo Jr. said during the recent trade and investment briefing for the Philippines-Singapore Business Council (PSBC) business mission.

Manalo mentioned investments in areas such as health, resilience to natural disaster, shipbuilding, business process management (BPM), information technology (IT) services, electronics manufacturing services, aerospace development and aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) services.

“The business community in the Philippines and Singapore can work strongly to provide outside investments for Singapore. At the same time, it is our goal to provide inclusive growth to Filipinos,” Manalo said.

He noted that Philippine exports are mainly electronics, accounting for 40% of the country’s total exports. In the last two months, Philippine electronics exports grew by 24% from USD 2.95B in the same period last year.

The business delegation’s visit is in line with the 4-day state visit of Singapore President Tony Tan Keng Yam to the Philippines to meet with President Benigno S. Aquino III as well as Filipino and Singaporean businessmen.

“We are confident that our trip will contribute towards strengthening economic ties between the two countries,” said PSBC Singapore co-chair and head of business delegation Loh Chin Hua during the briefing.

“This trip is also timely since the Philippines is in a robust growth phase. The World Bank has acknowledged that in the past few years the Philippines economy has outperformed the rest of East Asia and its Southeast Asian neighbors of Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand,” Loh said.

Loh added that driven by rising domestic demand, robust government spending, and political stability, the Philippine economy continues to be resilient amidst uncertain global climate.

“Moving forward, I am confident there will be more opportunities for collaboration across different business sectors between our two business communities,” Loh said.

The PSBC was launched in Singapore in October 1994. The council’s objectives are to identify and develop areas of cooperation between both countries’ private sectors; to encourage and develop further investment in both the Philippines and Singapore; to encourage and develop the trade links between both countries; to encourage joint exploration of business opportunities in third countries; to identify business opportunities, particularly at the level of small and medium sized enterprises; and to enhance networking, contacts, and exchange between the private sectors of both countries.

In 2013, Singapore was the Philippines’ 4th largest trading partner, 5th export market, and 6th import source. It was also the Philippines’ 5th source of investments, and 7th source of remittances.

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Registration of applicants for Korean language test set
Source: http://www.poea.gov.ph
The Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRD-Korea), in coordination with the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), is conducting from 21 to 25 April 2014 the 10th Test of Proficiency in Korean (TOPIK) for Filipino job seekers who want to work in Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS).

POEA Administrator Hans Leo J. Cacdac said applicants for TOPIK registration must be between 18 and 38 years of age or those born between April 21, 1976 and April 21, 1996.

They must not have any record of deportation or departure orders from the Republic of Korea and must not be restricted from leaving the Philippines.

Cacdac said applicants must personally register for the test and must have a valid passport on the day of registration. HRD Korea is implementing a “no valid passport, no registration” policy.

In the guidelines issued by HRD Korea, only applicants with valid passport will be allowed to register for the test to avoid discrepancy in their personal information later on.

They should also bring to the registration venue photocopy of their respective passport, 2 pieces passport size pictures taken within the last three months, and PhP1,066 for testing fee.

Cacdac reminded applicants that inclusion in the EPS roster after passing the TOPIK and the medical examination requirement is not a guarantee for employment in South Korea.

He clarified that as agreed upon by HRD-Korea and POEA, only male applicants who responded to the online survey can register for the next TOPIK.

“A big number of female applicants in the EPS Roster remains to be without employer and yet the demand for them by Korean employers is still very low, hence the temporary exclusion of female applicants from taking the language test,“ Cacdac said.

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Regional III big winner at national skills competition
Source: http://www.tesda.gov.ph
Region III (Central Luzon) emerged as this year's overall champion gathering the most number of golds at the recently-concluded Philippine National Skills Competition (PNSC).

Technical vocational (tech-voc) graduates and trainees from the region bagged 10 of the 16 golds that were up for grabs from the trade areas where they competed.

The gold medalists of each trade area earned the opportunity to compete and represent the Philippines at the ASEAN Skills Competition (ASC) in Vietnam in October. The PNSC is the highest level of skills competition in the country organized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

"The Philippines' participation at the ASEAN Skills Competition in the past years has afforded our delegates an opportunity to challenge themselves and hone, not just their skills, but qualities such as teamwork, creativity, and discipline," Secretary Joel Villanueva, TESDA Director General, said.

Aside from bagging 10 gold medals, Region III competitors also got silver and bronze awards, and diplomas of excellence in the different trade areas. Region IV-A and National Capital Region (NCR) came in second and third, respectively, as the regions with the most number of gold medals.

The national organizing committee of the PNSC will meet at the end of the month to assess the overall results and determine the composition of the delegation to the ASC, according to TESDA deputy director general Teodoro Pascua.

"Once we have determined the composition, training of delegates would likely begin in May until October," Pascua said, adding that some sessions for the training would be held in Metro Manila or at the delegates' respective regions.

Since some of the delegates who will participate at the ASC are already working, Villanueva appealed to their respective employers to extend the needed support to boost the morale of the competitors, and their chances of winning the gold.

The training for the ASEAN competition would make them incur absences at work, and would entail additional expenses, Villanueva said.

In 2012, Pascua noted that some employers even gave financial support to the competitors.

"Our delegates will not only bring honor and prestige to the country, but to their respective companies, as well, so we should give them full backing," Villanueva said.

The following are the list of winners:

Beauty Therapy
Gold: Rey Mark S. De Mayo (Region III)
Silver: Clarissa C. Mercadal (Region XI)
Bronze: Mary Cris F. Recomio (Region I)

Ladies/men's Hairdressing
Gold: Angelica I. Rafallo (Region III)
Silver: Larry Ian E. Singson (Region II)
Bronze: Maclin A. Cabungcal (Region IV-A)

Fashion Technology
Gold: Jessica P. Mirabel (Region IV-A)
Silver: Fatima A. Pardillo (Region VII)
Bronze: Elizabeth M. Abundo (Region V)

Cooking
Gold: Joshua F. Lizardo (CAR); Jasper Kaiser H. De Vera (Region III); John Kirby J. Miranda (Region IV-A)
Diploma of Excellence: Jonathan T. Paet (Region I)

Restaurant Service
Gold: Karlos Emmanuel A. Buted (Region IV-A)
Silver: Katherine B. Perez (CAR); Mikko D. Rosell (Region XI)
Diploma of Excellence: Jeffrey V. Sagud (Region I); John Michael M. Haber (Region II); Benjar P. Maga (Region III); Cashmere M. Manaois (NRC); Charmaine Dane M. Gimotea (Region VI); Maria

Alyzza Albon (Region VII); Jorlex R. Soldevilla (CARAGA)

Automobile Technology
Gold: Ramon R. Dipasupil (Region IV-A)
Silver: Ronnel C. Bobis (NCR)
Bronze: Dennis V. Lachuan (Region I); Rich Viczon D. Noza (Region III)

Welding
Gold: Wilfred Miguel P. Calimbas (Region III); Christian Ray C. Callo (Region V)
Bronze: Christian M. Gerongco (CARAGA)

Electrical Installation
Gold: Gino A. Eulatic (Region III)
Silver: Bryan Adam P. Maglambayan (Region I)
Bronze: Jaymar J. Laurio (Region IV-A)
Diploma of Excellence: John Louie S. Pioquinto (Region IX)

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
Gold: Lhemuel C. Endaya (Region V)
Silver: Anthony C. Cabellon (Region IX)
Bronze: Jefree G. Bautista (NCR)
Diploma of Excellence: Michael Angelo C. Bautista (Region III)

Electronics
Gold: Keith A. Beja (Region III)
Silver: Jonald Jay G. Pineda (NCR)
Bronze: Erwin C. Delas Alas (Region IV-A)

Mechanical Engineering Design-CAD
Gold: Joshua D. Mina (Region III)
Silver: John Bonn L. Jayme (Region X)
Bronze: Ricardo A. Abungan (NCR)

Web Design
Gold: Percian Joseph C. Borja (Region III)
Silver: Jun G. Bugtong (Region IV-A); Prinz Nikko C. Palahang (Region X); Jerylle M. Ramos (NCR)
Diploma of Excellence: Christoeffer John R. Estrada (Region VII)

Mechatronics
Gold: Michelle D. Navarro and Mark Jason B. Torio (NCR)
Silver: Major Cris P. Estremos and Aljon B. Omandam (Region X)
Bronze: Jojo B. Dichoso and Johnmar N. Rance (Region IV-A)

IT Software Solutions for Business
Gold: Francis Erizz Florentino (Region III)
Silver: Walter M. Lad (CARAGA)
Bronze: Julie H. Hayagan (Region V); Rasul A. Pundogar (CAR)

IT Network Systems Administration
Gold: Lunar Angelo E. Pajaroja (NCR)
Silver: Jason R. Sampang (Region III)
Bronze: Raffy K. Banghuyao (CAR)

Graphic Design and Technology
Gold: Christopher J. Gania (Region III)
Silver: Prescious A. Langcawan (CAR)
Bronze: Benesse M. Ancheta (Region I)
Diploma of Excellence: Dexter E. Aguinillo (Region V); Lyneth C. Cutamora (Region VII)

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Small steps to new beginnings
Source: http://www.dswd.gov.ph
Guiuan, Eastern Samar – Every helping hand is a reason big enough for 43-year-old Vilma Tacastacas to start again after her harrowing experience with Typhoon Yolanda.

Left homeless and jobless, Vilma said there is no time for pity and dwell in the past. There is only the time to make a step forward and continue rising and recover after the storm, even one step at a time.

“Hindi namin akalaing maraming tulong ang darating sa amin. Noong nakita namin iyon, nagkaroon kami ng pag-asang bumangon ulit. Isa o dalawang araw pagkatapos ni ‘Yolanda,’ hindi namin alam kung makakakain kami o may mapupuntahan kami (We did not expect this much help to us. When we saw these, we already had a reason to rise. One or two days after ‘Yolanda,’ we had no idea whether we will have something to eat or a place to stay),” she shared.

Starting with a few items like coffee and candies, she started a small sari-sari store as their source of livelihood that she has expanded as cash and in-kind assistance from various groups continue to pour in.

Small steps

Vilma’s family is a beneficiary of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, a project of the national government that provides conditional cash grants to qualified poor households in support for the health and educational needs of children aged from zero to 14.

As a beneficiary of the program, Vilma’s family was also a qualified recipient of an additional P1,300 cash assistance provided under the partnership of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (UNWFP).

“Dahil wala naman kaming kailangang pagkagastusan dito kasi meron naman kaming bigas galing sa relief goods at may mga nagbigay ng school supplies sa mga bata, pinuhunan ko na lang ‘yung pera para mapalago itong maliit na tindahan (Since we have rice from the relief packs and there were donors of school supplies, I used the money from UNWFP to grow this small store),” she narrated.

The sari-sari store is a big help to the family, especially that ‘Yolanda’ had also left her husband jobless. Their small boat, which he used to earn for the family, was destroyed during the onslaught of the typhoon.

Starting with a few items, little by little, their store became bigger. Its income is enough to allow the family to buy most of their needs and even save a little.

“Hindi naman kami p’wedeng umasa na lang sa kung ano man ang tulong na darating. Dito sa aming tindahan, kahit maliit ang kita, okay na rin kaysa wala kaming ginagawa (We cannot always depend on relief. With our store, even if its income is not that big, it is better than doing nothing),” she added.

Their way out

With a smile, Vilma serves her customers all day long in the store they built using scrap wood and sheets in the tent city where they currently reside. For her, this store will also be their way out of this situation

The tent city, set-up within the compound of Eastern Samar State University, is home to 112 families who were displaced by ‘Yolanda.’ Rebuilding their previous homes is no longer an option since their area was declared “No Dwelling Zone,” being within 40 meters from the shoreline.

Vilma admits that they have no capacity yet to build a new home, much more find a place to construct one. Hence, they have to stay here for now but not for long.

Once they have enough savings, she plans to bring their livelihood back where her husband catches fish and she selling his catch. This will give them better income and will eventually lead them to finding a safer home for their family.

Moving forward

As Vilma looks around the tent city, she sees hope. With every person who buys from her store, Vilma knows that he or she is also moving forward. With every smile she gets from children when they buy candies, she is moved and inspired to continue what she is doing.

“Kung ‘yung mga tumutulong nga sa amin umaasa na makakabangon kami, kami pa kaya ang mawalan ng pag-asa? Sila ang aming naging lakas (If those who are helping us believe that we can rise from these difficulties, then, all the more, that we should not lose our hope. They are the source of our strength),” a very optimistic Vilma shared, the tragedy of the past year already out of her mind.

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RWO IV-A partakes in month-long Batangas Migrants' Day celebration
Source: http://www.owwa.gov.ph
March, 2014. OWWA RWO IV-A, together with POEA RO IV and Batangas PSWDO partakes in a month-long celebration of Migrants’ Day; a province-wide activity initiated by the Lipa Archdiocesan Commission on Migration and Mission (LACMMI).

The activity’s goal, according to LACMMI Director Rev. Fr. Onofre Bimbo Pantoja, is to attend to the social costs of overseas migration and its impact to Catholic families of the Archdiocese. One of the activities include a forum with public agencies such as OWWA and POEA to re-orient the OFWs and their dependents to the government’s programs and services and attend to queries so as these migrant families would not be likened to a “lost sheep”.

OIC Julia F. Fabian sees the activity as an effective way of social marketing and an opportunity to present a clear picture of OWWA to its valued clients, whose busy life overseas made the latter unfamiliar with the former. The region’s LCO was sent to the 7 Vicariates of the province that make up the Archdiocese to re-orient the people on OWWA’s programs and services and attend to concerns and queries.

In the 4 Saturdays of March, RWO IV-A reached out to Vicariates I (Balayan), II (Taal), III (Batangas City), IV (Padre Garcia), V (Lipa City), VI (Tanauan City), and VII (Bauan), each municipality/city representing its geographical vicariates. The participants are composed of OFWs, returnees, members of PASAMPA (Pamparokyang Samahan ng Migranteng Pamilya), and members of Anak Batangueno (a youth organization for children of OFWs). The activity was more than successful as countless OFWs and dependents were familiarized and enlightened regarding OWWA’s programs and services and the true nature of OWWA as the lead government agency in promoting the welfare and interests of OFWs.

It is very heart-warming that some ELAP recipients and Repatriates even attended the activity just to testify, with teary eyes, that OWWA had been true to its principles in upholding the welfare of OFWs and their dependents.

Through the activity, the LCO was able to identify the top misconceptions regarding the institution: 1) unlimited membership duration, 2) alleged retirement benefits, and 3) alleged medical benefits. Still, it was pointed out that misconceptions regarding OWWA result from mouth-to-mouth misinformation from unreliable or mal-versed sources. Other problems that arose are the recruitment agencies which require PDOS payments and which do not include OWWA programs and services in their PDOS modules. With the problems laid, RWO IV-A cleared the misconceptions and encouraged the people to be vigilant against fraudulent entities, assuring that only OWWA and its recognized OFW helpdesks are reliable regarding OFW queries.

Within the activity, 350 flyers on OWWA Programs and services, 20 ODSP application forms, 15 SESP application forms, and 3 case intake sheets were handed out to over 400 participants who were re-oriented to OWWA’s Programs and Services. One of the welfare cases was attended to and was granted an immediate repatriation in less than a week.

OWWA maintains its network with LACMMI through the OFW Helpdesk and its regular guesting at LACMMI’s radio program, “I’m Home!”, every last Saturday of the month, 9 to 10 in the morning at DWAM FM Radyo Totoo 95.9.

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DPWH Holy Week traffic advisory
Source: http://www.dpwh.gov.ph

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At a college graduation, DOLE regional official takes graduates to a glance at DOLE's employment facilitation system
Source: http://www.dole.gov.ph
 DOLE Regional Director Exequiel R. Sarcauga, speaking at the 7th Commencement Exercises of Maasin City College, the other day extolled graduates for their grit and determination in living up to their parents’ expectation, that is, graduating despite the rigors demanded of a college life. "Now the road for you ahead is full of opportunities you can choose from," Sarcauga said. The DOLE regional chief informed the graduates that as future members of the workforce, for example, can take a look at the Phil-JobNet, an internet-based job and applicant matching system that seeks to fast track a jobseeker’s search for job and the employers' search for manpower. He also mentioned the strengthened link between job seekers and other key employment stakeholders, the Public Employment Service Office (PESO). "The PESO is the brainchild of the DOLE, established pursuant to Republic Act 8759 otherwise known as the PESO Act of 1999. This is a non-fee charging multi-employment service facility that promotes full and equal employment opportunities for all," he said. As mandated by law, PESOs are organized to expand employment facilitation service especially at the local level. PESOs are largely maintained by LGUs with links from the non-government organizations (NGOs), community-based organization (CBOs), state universities and colleges. The DOLE's Bureau of Local Employment supervises the PESOs and provides them technical assistance. Sarcauga also explained to the graduates the DOLE's Labor Market Information (LMI) and the Skills Registry System (SRS) which also aim to accelerate employment search and guide students and job seekers to "hot" careers and assist them in making wise career decisions. "The DOLE seeks to enhance the employability of our workers through its strategy of facilitating job matching and placement. We work to make it easy and fast for you to find jobs that fits your qualifications, interests, and career inclinations," Sarcauga told the graduates. One of those who intently listened to the regional labor and employment official was was Crissa, who admitted she was among thousands of would-be graduates who, only a year ago found, herself looking at a distance. "I was wondering what life would be after college," she said. "Now, I am clear and determined to do what I wanted." She graduated on top of her class, but an innocent outsider would not believe that Crissa's past was checkered with memories of pain and consternation over her future--and that of her son’s. A single mother, she raised an adorable six-year old child and through it all learned life lessons in a hard but, nevertheless, edifying way. Crissa assured Director Sarcauga she will soon find a job.

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PNP conducts Social Media 102 seminar
Source: http://pnp.gov.ph
The Philippine National Police wants to be part of the emerging community in the social media where netizens communicate and share information, thus, the Directorate for Police Community Relations (DPCR) conducts seminar on Social Media attended by different police officials from the PNP Directorial Staff, National Administrative Support Units (NASUs), National Operational Support Units (NOSUs), Police Regional Offices and other PNP offices today (April 15, 2014) held at DPCR Conference Room, Camp Crame.

The one-day seminar aims to enhance the utilization of social media as a strategy in harnessing support on crime prevention and solution as well as increasing netizens participation in crime reporting and to be able to measure the impact of social media activities in improving the police service.

The said activity was spearheaded by the officials of PNP-DPCR led by POLICE CHIEF SUPERINTENDENT MANUEL B FELIX with the support of guest lecturers, Mr. Carlo Ople from DM9JaymeSyfu and unbox.ph, Atty. Yves R. Gonzalez from the MRM/McCann, Atty. Francisco “Kiko” Asero and Engr. Pierre Tito Galla of Democracy.Net.PH, and Blogger/Social Media Mom Ms. Jane Uymatiao.

“If we become the major source of information by being pro-active in the social media and become sincere partners of the netizens, the PNP will be able to empower the community and gain their trust and confidence then we’ll have the netizens on our side”, PCSUPT Felix said.

Part of the topics discussed to the more or less one hundred twenty (120) participants were How to use Twitter and Other Social Media Effectively, Social Media and Its Impact to Police Service, Integrating Social Media in the PNP Programs and Understanding Social Media Analytics and Metrics. (PNP-PIO)

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Philippines grants Visa-free privilege to 7 more countries
Source: http://pnp.gov.ph
15 April 2014 – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that, effective today, April 15, nationals of seven (7) additional countries will now enjoy visa-free privilege to enter the Philippines for a period of stay of 30 days. These countries are Belize, Croatia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The privilege aims to promote tourism and investments from these countries, all of which have been emerging as key players in the international economic community and which have growing bilateral ties with the Philippines.

“The DFA fully supports national efforts to attract more tourists and potential investors to the Philippines. In particular, the DFA, through its various embassies and consulates abroad, has been playing an active role in helping the Department of Tourism reach its target of 10 million foreign tourist arrivals by 2015,” said DFA Undersecretary Rafael E. Seguis.

The decision is a product of inter-agency coordination with the Bureau of Immigration, Department of Tourism, Department of Justice, Philippine Center on Transnational Crime, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency and the National Security Council.

Meanwhile, Somalia has been removed from the list of countries whose nationals enjoy visa-free privilege. Somali nationals may apply for visas at Philippine embassies or consulates in their countries of origin or residence.

Nationals of countries who may enter visa-free can avail of the privilege by presenting a national passport valid for at least six months beyond the contemplated period of stay and a return ticket to the country of origin or onward ticket to the next country of destination.

A list of all countries with visa-free privilege, now numbering 157, is available at the DFA website at https://www.dfa.gov.ph/index.php/site-administrator/visa-information.

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Phl Ambassador to Lebanon calls on new Minister of Education
Source: https://www.dfa.gov.ph
16 April 2014 – Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon Leah M. Basinang-Ruiz paid a courtesy call on the new Minister of Education of Lebanon Elias Bou Saab on March 14 to convey the Philippines’ felicitations and best wishes on his appointment. The Ambassador also briefed him on the current state of Philippines-Lebanon bilateral relations, particularly the Embassy’s efforts to forge agreement on a standard employment contract for household service workers.

Ambassador Ruiz informed the Minister that the Philippine Embassy in Lebanon is actively collaborating with the Filipino community in implementing cultural and sports activities that aim to enhance mutual appreciation and understanding between the two countries. She also conveyed the Embassy’s intention to interact with the appropriate educational institutions in Lebanon to achieve this objective and also to promote educational exchanges in the future.

Minister Saab welcomed the Embassy’s initiatives and expressed his readiness to support them in accordance with his Ministry’s mandate.

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SSS, NSO team up for improved monitoring of pension eligibility
Source: http://www.sss.gov.ph
 The Social Security System (SSS) has joined forces with the National Statistics Office (NSO) in creating a data matching program to check the continued pension eligibility of members and beneficiaries using death and marriage records in the civil registry.

The SSS-NSO project, which complements the Annual Confirmation of Pensioners (ACOP) program, may pave the way for the eventual waiving of the ACOP requirement for certain types of pensioners. The partnership also provides SSS access to the Batch Request Entry System, NSO's offline system that accepts requests for civil registry documents. Photo shows Social Security System (SSS) President and Chief Executive Officer (PCEO) Emilio de Quiros, Jr. (4th from right) and National Statistics Office (NSO) Administrator Carmelita Ericta (4th from left) present the folder containing the agreement, which was inked by the two agencies on February 14, during a photo opportunity at the SSS Main Office in Diliman, Quezon City. Also shown were (from left) NSO Information Technology (IT) Systems and Research Division Chief Veronica Pido, NSO IT Officer I Robert Joseph Coronado, NSO Civil Registration Department Director III Lourdes Hufana, SSS Special Assistant to the PCEO Ma. Lourdes Mendoza, SSS Vice President for Benefits Administration Division Agnes San Jose and SSS Officer-in-Charge of Benefits Oversight and Review Department Jocelyn Evangelista.

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BI intercepts fake agent
Source: http://www.immigration.gov.ph
Bureau of Immigration (BI) agents have arrested a fake agent posing as a BI officer and offering “escort” services to prospective overseas employment workers (OFWs) who use tourist visas.

Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison disclosed that joint operatives from the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and BI arrested the suspect, Jennifer Ching Javier, alias “Jana Reyes,” in an entrapment operation.

Reyes reportedly operated both at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and outside the airport, particularly in Mall of Asia (MOA) and other shopping malls.

Investigation showed that Javier, charged up to P25, 000 to facilitate the departure of passengers bound for Dubai for employment but without necessary POEA permits.

Javier sent them a text message, introducing herself as Jana Reyes, an Immigration Officer who can help them depart for Dubai.

In exchange for her escort services, Aceron agreed to pay P16, 000 while Raga bargained to lower her dues from P25, 000 to P20, and 10,000.

In the BI report, Aceron and Raga described Javier as a “beautiful lady, 5’6” tall and with fair complexion.

Before the arrest, Javier and the victims exchanged text messages and agreed to meet at the KFC branch at MOA while the BI Intelligence Agents set up the entrapment operation.

The suspect, who is facing usurpation of authority and forgery, is now detained at the Pasay City Jail. The Pasay City Prosecutor’s Office has not issued a resolution since her arrest, according to BI’s Intelligence Division.

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Regional III big winner at national skills competition
Source: http://www.tesda.gov.ph
Region III (Central Luzon) emerged as this year's overall champion gathering the most number of golds at the recently-concluded Philippine National Skills Competition (PNSC).

Technical vocational (tech-voc) graduates and trainees from the region bagged 10 of the 16 golds that were up for grabs from the trade areas where they competed.

The gold medalists of each trade area earned the opportunity to compete and represent the Philippines at the ASEAN Skills Competition (ASC) in Vietnam in October. The PNSC is the highest level of skills competition in the country organized by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

"The Philippines' participation at the ASEAN Skills Competition in the past years has afforded our delegates an opportunity to challenge themselves and hone, not just their skills, but qualities such as teamwork, creativity, and discipline," Secretary Joel Villanueva, TESDA Director General, said.

Aside from bagging 10 gold medals, Region III competitors also got silver and bronze awards, and diplomas of excellence in the different trade areas. Region IV-A and National Capital Region (NCR) came in second and third, respectively, as the regions with the most number of gold medals.

The national organizing committee of the PNSC will meet at the end of the month to assess the overall results and determine the composition of the delegation to the ASC, according to TESDA deputy director general Teodoro Pascua.

"Once we have determined the composition, training of delegates would likely begin in May until October," Pascua said, adding that some sessions for the training would be held in Metro Manila or at the delegates' respective regions.

Since some of the delegates who will participate at the ASC are already working, Villanueva appealed to their respective employers to extend the needed support to boost the morale of the competitors, and their chances of winning the gold.

The training for the ASEAN competition would make them incur absences at work, and would entail additional expenses, Villanueva said.

In 2012, Pascua noted that some employers even gave financial support to the competitors.

"Our delegates will not only bring honor and prestige to the country, but to their respective companies, as well, so we should give them full backing," Villanueva said.

The following are the list of winners:

Beauty Therapy
Gold: Rey Mark S. De Mayo (Region III)
Silver: Clarissa C. Mercadal (Region XI)
Bronze: Mary Cris F. Recomio (Region I)

Ladies/men's Hairdressing
Gold: Angelica I. Rafallo (Region III)
Silver: Larry Ian E. Singson (Region II)
Bronze: Maclin A. Cabungcal (Region IV-A)

Fashion Technology
Gold: Jessica P. Mirabel (Region IV-A)
Silver: Fatima A. Pardillo (Region VII)
Bronze: Elizabeth M. Abundo (Region V)

Cooking
Gold: Joshua F. Lizardo (CAR); Jasper Kaiser H. De Vera (Region III); John Kirby J. Miranda (Region IV-A)
Diploma of Excellence: Jonathan T. Paet (Region I)

Restaurant Service
Gold: Karlos Emmanuel A. Buted (Region IV-A)
Silver: Katherine B. Perez (CAR); Mikko D. Rosell (Region XI)
Diploma of Excellence: Jeffrey V. Sagud (Region I); John Michael M. Haber (Region II); Benjar P. Maga (Region III); Cashmere M. Manaois (NRC); Charmaine Dane M. Gimotea (Region VI); Maria Alyzza Albon (Region VII); Jorlex R. Soldevilla (CARAGA)

Automobile Technology
Gold: Ramon R. Dipasupil (Region IV-A)
Silver: Ronnel C. Bobis (NCR)
Bronze: Dennis V. Lachuan (Region I); Rich Viczon D. Noza (Region III)

Welding
Gold: Wilfred Miguel P. Calimbas (Region III); Christian Ray C. Callo (Region V)
Bronze: Christian M. Gerongco (CARAGA)

Electrical Installation
Gold: Gino A. Eulatic (Region III)
Silver: Bryan Adam P. Maglambayan (Region I)
Bronze: Jaymar J. Laurio (Region IV-A)
Diploma of Excellence: John Louie S. Pioquinto (Region IX)

Refrigeration and Air Conditioning
Gold: Lhemuel C. Endaya (Region V)
Silver: Anthony C. Cabellon (Region IX)
Bronze: Jefree G. Bautista (NCR)
Diploma of Excellence: Michael Angelo C. Bautista (Region III)

Electronics
Gold: Keith A. Beja (Region III)
Silver: Jonald Jay G. Pineda (NCR)
Bronze: Erwin C. Delas Alas (Region IV-A)

Mechanical Engineering Design-CAD
Gold: Joshua D. Mina (Region III)
Silver: John Bonn L. Jayme (Region X)
Bronze: Ricardo A. Abungan (NCR)

Web Design
Gold: Percian Joseph C. Borja (Region III)
Silver: Jun G. Bugtong (Region IV-A); Prinz Nikko C. Palahang (Region X); Jerylle M. Ramos (NCR)
Diploma of Excellence: Christoeffer John R. Estrada (Region VII)

Mechatronics
Gold: Michelle D. Navarro and Mark Jason B. Torio (NCR)
Silver: Major Cris P. Estremos and Aljon B. Omandam (Region X)
Bronze: Jojo B. Dichoso and Johnmar N. Rance (Region IV-A)

IT Software Solutions for Business
Gold: Francis Erizz Florentino (Region III)
Silver: Walter M. Lad (CARAGA)
Bronze: Julie H. Hayagan (Region V); Rasul A. Pundogar (CAR)

IT Network Systems Administration
Gold: Lunar Angelo E. Pajaroja (NCR)
Silver: Jason R. Sampang (Region III)
Bronze: Raffy K. Banghuyao (CAR)

Graphic Design and Technology
Gold: Christopher J. Gania (Region III)
Silver: Prescious A. Langcawan (CAR)
Bronze: Benesse M. Ancheta (Region I)
Diploma of Excellence: Dexter E. Aguinillo (Region V); Lyneth C. Cutamora (Region VII)

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Amendment of cabotage law eyed to bring down domestic shipping cost
Source: http://www.pids.gv.ph
High local shipping costs may be attributed largely to the absence of competition in the local shipping industry, thus the need for a comprehensive review and amendment of the Philippine cabotage law. This was according to a recent study published by state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

Authored by Drs. Gilberto Llanto, PIDS president, and Adoracion Navarro, senior research fellow, the study argued for a well-planned review and lifting of cabotage restrictions to bring down the high cost of domestic shipping rates in the country.

Under the present cabotage law, only domestic shipping lines can serve domestic routes. The absence of competition has resulted in "high cost of transporting raw materials to manufacturing sites, finished products and agricultural goods to various destinations, and imported products to distribution areas, thereby increasing operational costs that are passed on to consumers as high prices," the study noted.

The study recommended a serious review of lifting cabotage restrictions, especially in the light of the planned Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Single Shipping Market.

It cited a study of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines (JFCCP), which showed the high cost of domestic shipping compared with the cost of shipping via foreign transshipment.

"It is cheaper to send a container from Manila to Cagayan de Oro via Hong Kong or Kaohsiung (in Taiwan) than to simply transport the cargo directly from Manila to Cagayan de Oro."

A 40-footer container domestic shipping, from Manila to Cagayan de Oro, costs USD 1,860, which is a lot expensive than foreign transshipment via Hong Kong (USD 1,144) and via Kaohsiung (USD 1,044). A local trader could save approximately 43 percent in shipping costs via transshipment to Kaohsiung than by directly availing of domestic shipping services.

The ageing domestic fleet of the maritime transport industry is also a cause for concern. "Domestic vessels for cargo in 2007 were generally 20 years old. Moreover, average age of passenger vessels in 2012 is higher compared to the average age of 5 to 10 years old in the late 1990s."

"Even though the Philippines is the world`s fifth largest ship building country, domestic shipping lines continue to use smaller and even older vessels in transporting cargo, which are uncompetitive compared to those used by their foreign counterpartsthe small capacity of cargo vessels implies longer transit and more turnaround times in ports, resulting in higher shipping costs."

For comparison, the study cited that the domestic shipping is dominated by vessels that have a capacity of 200-300 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs) compared with those of foreign container ships that can carry as much as 5,000 TEUs.

Thus, it underscored the need for the Maritime Transport Authority to examine very closely the likely effects of the removal of cabotage restriction on domestic shipping, trade, and movement of passengers and cargo.

Several developed countries have moved toward a more liberal cabotage regime. In New Zealand, for example, 21 vessels were engaged in coastwise trade in 2000, 19 of which were flying foreign flags.

Policymakers should seriously review and consider lifting cabotage restrictions, but in a phased-in and well-planned approach, the study emphasized.

Fears of foreign players immediately dominating the local shipping industry may be unfounded. The lack of familiarity with domestic markets may not allow foreign shipping companies to do business in all sectors of coastwise trade.

"The need for market adjustments by foreign competitors interested in engaging in coastwise transport will also give domestic shipping operators ample time to modernize their fleet and operations to be more competitive," the study said. "Competition provides a credible threat to those who refuse to modernize and maintain efficient operation."

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DA-ARMM and UN-WFP Sign MOU for a Joint Project
Source: http://www.da.gov.ph
The Department of Agriculture in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DA-ARMM) and the United Nations – World Food Program (UN-WFP) will jointly implement programs to benefit 300 farm families in two poverty stricken barangays of Kurintem and Sifaran in Datu Odin Sinsuat town, Maguindanao.

This followed after DA-ARMM Regional Secretary Atty. Makmod D. Mending, Jr. and UN-WFP Country Director to the Philippines Aomo Asaka Nyangara signed a Memorandum of Understanding on April 8, 2014, in Cotabato City.

Secretary Mending said DA-ARMM will provide 300 bags of corn seeds for the beneficiaries to implement corn production project covering 300 has. compacted area. Technical assistance on corn technology will also be provided.

For its part, the UN-WFP through its FOOD-FOR-WORK program will distribute 300 bags of rice monthly for the period of 4 months and conduct monitoring, progress and impact of the project.

During the event, Nyangara and Mending distributed P2.0M-worth farm equipment consisting of 35 units of collapsible drying case; 25 units of hermitic cocoon storage bin and 11 units of grainsafe-2 to 33 farmers’ groups from 22 Maguindanao municipalities.

Joel Dator and Rudy Montoya of the Grainpro, the distributor of the postharvest equipment, conducted an orientation and demonstration on the use and care of the equipment

Nyangara disclosed that the UN-WFP fully supports the food security programs of the Philippine government.

“This is one way of ensuring food sufficiency and proper nutrition for the people on Central Mindanao,” he said.

He added that the food agency wants to ensure that no child is malnourished and all pregnant and lactating women are provided with the required nutrients.

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No cause for price increase - SRA
Source: http://www.da.gov.ph
The Sugar Regulatory Administration assured that there is enough sugar stocks to meet the domestic demand, and stressed that there is no need for an upsurge in prices.

SRA Administrator Regina Bautista-Martin said that local sugar producers have already shipped out more than 125,000 metric tons (MT) of “D” sugar to international markets, with the US securing 60,000MT of the total shipment.

Sugar production has been delayed compared to last crop year but overall, the SRA is confident that its estimated production of 2.356 million MT this crop year will be achieved, if not surpassed.

“There is no reason for prices to go up”, added Martin.

At this time, the SRA is closely monitoring sugar production and withdrawal, including shipments and sugar movements. A slight increase in domestic withdrawals was observed, but it is still within the projections of the SRA.

The Sugar agency has also ordered its personnel to verify the physical stocks in the sugar warehouses. “Should prices continue to rise, we will take actions within our powers to curb the speculation,” Martin warned. ###

Reference:

SRA Administrator Gina Martin – 0917-896-5071

Rosemarie S. Gumera - 9296137; 4550446; 09175936806; 09228397670

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