Sep 18, 2010

Rep. Apacible pushes for China's tax stamp technology

China is interested in providing the Philippines with a laser-based, excise-tax stamp technology.

Batangas Rep. Tom Apacible said that the Chinese met with Bureau of Internal Revenue chief Kim Henares to signify that they want to compete with Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. or PMFTC in supply the government with a reliable technology.

PMFTC has an outstanding offer for government to take its technology in place of that offered by a Lausanne, Switzerland-based security products maker, SICPA.

“The Chinese are not turning away from the country. They want to make a Swiss challenge to whatever technology is already on the table of the BIR," said Apacible, a former Customs commissioner.

Job quality is a concern, says NEDA's Paderanga

Despite the lower numbers of underemployed and unemployed Filipinos in July, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) on Thursday said the quality of jobs in the Philippines is a concern.

“While the Philippine economy has shown relative improvements in the labor sector in July 2010, the quality of employment remains a concern," NEDA Director General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Cayetano Paderanga Jr. said in a statement.

Korea’s Lotte Chilsung to buy 34% of Pepsi Philippines

Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of South Korea’s Lotte Group, has agreed to buy 34.4 percent of beverage firm Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines Inc

Jeddah post warns Pinoys vs repatriation fixers 09/17/2010 | 08:27 PM

The Philippine Consulate General in Jeddah has warned overstaying and runaway Filipinos in Saudi Arabia against paying fixers who promise to facilitate their repatriation for a fee.

The Consulate issued the warning after receiving complaints from two Filipinas, who claimed they were swindled by a man who promised to assist them in processing their repatriation.

According to the victims, the man – who goes by the names Hassan, Toto or Joe – claimed to have connections or contacts with Saudi authorities that could expedite their return to the Philippines.

The unnamed victims came from two different places in Saudi Arabia and traveled all the way to Jeddah, the Consulate said.

They victims said they paid Hassan a total of 6,500 Saudi riyals (about P76,500), but later realized that the man will never deliver on his promise.

The victims then approached the Consulate to avail of its “voluntary deportation" process, conducted through the Hajj Seaport Terminal as arranged with local authorities, at the expense of the Philippine Government.

“The Consulate urges all overstaying Filipinos in the Kingdom to be very cautious and circumspect in dealing with individuals who pretend to have connections and contacts with Saudi authorities, and could facilitate repatriation to the Philippines for a fee," the Consulate advisory read.

It also advised Filipinos to directly contact the Consulate for matters relating to repatriation.

Last month, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) said at least 800 Filipinos were still stranded in Jeddah despite government efforts to send them home. (See: Some 800 Filipinos still stranded in Jeddah — OWWA)

“The 800 remaining OFWs in the Jeddah center could be growing again as more runaways and unregistered OFWs from outside Jeddah seek sanctuary," OWWA Administrator Carmelita Dimzon earlier said.

She said the agency has shouldered the repatriation of 466 OFWs and their children from Jeddah in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from June 27 to August 9 this year.

A total of 1,757 stranded OFWs have been repatriated during the first six months of 2010. OWWA said it repatriated 1,903 OFWs in 2009.—Jerrie M. Abella/JV, GMANews.TV

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PAL labor issues scaring investors away — official

The numerous labor issues hounding the Lucio Tan-led Philippine Airlines (PAL) have scared away potential investors from bailing out the cash-strapped flag carrier.

According to Jaime J. Bautista, PAL president and chief operating officer, potential investors have asked the airline to resolve its several labor issues before discussions about infusing fresh funds into the airline can resume.

“Investors’ appetite has decreased due to the company’s labor problems," Bautista told reporters at the sidelines of the company’s stockholders’ meeting on Thursday.

He said the company has not been in contact with its potential investors for the past few months.

PAL on Thursday approved the restructuring of its equity by reducing the par value of its shares to 20 centavos from 80 centavos, which will make it easier for outside investors to get a bigger voting block in PAL.

Potential investors in PAL were reported to be Middle Eastern groups and companies in the Asia Pacific region that are also involved in airline operations.

“We want new money to come in because if [PAL chairman Lucio Tan] simply sells his shares, then the money will go to him and not to the company," Bautista said.

PAL has been in search of investors since last year, after suffering over $300 million in losses due to high oil prices and low demand.

“There are investors that want to be passive but we are also willing to get investors that wish to have a more active role," Bautista said.

Among PAL’s many labor issues is the opposition to the company’s plans to outsource non-core services like in-flight catering, airport services and call centers, retrenching over 2,600 workers in the process.

PAL’s flight attendants are also protesting a policy that requires them to retire at the age of 40. All other PAL employees are allowed to work until they are 65.

Bautista said these labor issues have also affected bookings, with many passengers growing weary of a potential labor strike.

Bautista denied that the company approached the groups of San Miguel Corp. president Ramon S. Ang and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, inviting them to invest in PAL.

Flights to India

PAL is increasing its flights to India by the first quarter of next year, as it confronts challenges from is labor force and the country's tourism sector.

By March of next year, the airline will mount three direct flights a week to India's main airport in New Delhi, said PAL president Jaime Bautista on Thursday.

"There are a lot of Indian nationals here in the Philippines," he told reporters.

Bautista said PAL will use its wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft for its flight to India, making PAL the only local carrier that serves routes to the sub-continent.

He said international carriers once found it hard to compete against Middle Eastern airlines, which get their fuel at a discount, allowing them to offer cheaper fare rates.

PAL introduced new flights to Brisbane, Australia earlier this year. It already flies to Sydney and Melbourne.

Also, the airline has introduced new flights to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, making PAL the only local company that serves Middle Eastern routes.

"Another opportunity for us is to get the market of Indian nationals that want to go the North America," Bautista said, adding that it may opt to increase its flights to seven days a week if the demand is enough.

PAL earlier wanted to expand its flights to the US. But because of the country's poor regulatory environment, the Federal Aviation Administration has banned Philippine carriers from expanding there.

Passengers, said Bautista, can stopover in the Philippines and take connecting flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco and Las Vegas in the US or to Vancouver in Canada. —With Paul de Leon/JE/KBK/VS, GMANews.TV

South Korea exec says global recovery faces increased risk

September 12, 2010

The global economy faces increased risk to its recovery as growth slows in the US and China, and Japan battles the yen’s appreciation, South Korean Finance Minister Yoon Jeung Hyun said.

“We’re seeing some unexpected troubles in major economies,” Yoon said. “Their policy focus has shifted from exit policy to sustaining the economic-recovery momentum with fiscal consolidation.” Yoon made his comments at a September 10 media seminar in Icheon, southeast of Seoul.

He said the uncertain global outlook calls for a balanced approach by South Korea’s government between exit policy and recovery, even as domestic economic indicators excepting the property market show strength.

Yoon echoed Bank of Korea Governor Kim Choong Soo’s cautious view on the economic outlook after the central bank unexpectedly left its benchmark interest rate at 2.25 percent on September 9, a sign of concern that slowing external demand will hurt exports in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy.

South Korean officials joined counterparts in Australia and Japan last week in flagging worries about the strength of the global recovery amid elevated US unemployment and potential losses at European banks. At the same time, any prolonged delay in raising the nation’s borrowing costs may risk faster inflation.

Japan’s government rolled out an $11-billion stimulus package last week to shelter the world’s second-biggest economy from slower global growth and the yen’s climb to a 15-year high against the dollar.

Cooling global growth has soured prospects for the trade gains that propelled South Korea’s economy to its fastest first-half expansion in a decade. A possible US slowdown and persistent European fiscal problems are risks to economic growth, the central bank said in a statement after the rate decision. –(Bloomberg News)

Germany open to migrant workers, but…

September 12, 2010

MANILA, Philippines – As Germany expands its labor market, it will keep its doors open to highly qualified migrants but strictly enforce the law on low-skilled labor illegally crossing its borders, sounding off a fair warning to migrants, including Filipinos.

“If you are highly qualified, Germany wants you, especially in the healthcare and technology sector.

But for low skilled jobs, it is much more complicated,” lady pastor Fanny Dethloff, national representative of Kirchenasyl (Asylum in Churches), said.

Dethloff made the statement before participants to this year’s 27-day Summer Academy on Freedom and Responsibility in Media held recently in Hamburg and Berlin, Germany.

The topic on 7.8 million foreign nationals living and working in Germany came up as Dethloff explained to mostly Asian and African participants how the Deutschland wants to expand its labor market without neglecting its irregular migration policy.

She said Germany’s preference for highly-skilled rather than the low skilled labor migrants prompted the latter group to enter the European country through unlawful means.

Most of them who violate the regular process end up being deported, and detained.

While, German Economy Minister Rainer Bruederle called for the easing up of the Germany’s migration law to address its labor needs, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, on the other hand, rejected this proposal, saying that there was no need to modify the law controlling migrant workers, which took effect in January last year.

German Education Minister Schavan as well as business leaders also called for the opening of doors to skilled immigrants to boost their economy.

German economic experts warned that in the next 14 years, Germany will be in need of more than 200,000 technicians, engineers, and even scientists.

Dethloff, also the chairwoman of the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum, is into giving spiritual and psychological support to imprisoned asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

The ecumenical committee, which is led by the lady pastor is a network of associations of German Protestant, Catholic and Free Church parishes offering asylum to refugees who flee due to fear of persecution or life-threatening situation in their home country.

According to the briefer from the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum posted on its website, these parishes place themselves between refugees and the authorities in order to bring about a re-examination of cases and to prevent deportation.

Dethloff said every year, there are 33,000 people seeking asylum in Germany.

She said they never discriminate asylum seekers, whatever his or her religion or race. “We help them to stay they don’t have to be baptized as a requirement,” she said.

She said they had difficulty in identifying and distinguishing who is a labor migrant, refugee or an asylum seeker, since irregular migrants claim that they are refugees and have to seek asylum because they are being persecuted or threatened in their country of origin.

“It’s really hard to tell who is persecuted in one’s home country. What if they are dying of hunger there because they don’t have opportunities? Do we consider them persecuted?” Dethloff said. “It is not very easy to live in Germany,” she said.

With the intervention of asylum churches, from 1999 and 2001, over 75 per cent of church asylum cases ended with a solution protecting refugees from human rights violations and from danger of physical harm, according to the statistical information gathered by the German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum.

Marcelle Bugre, who works at refugee and asylum camps in Malta, noted the maltreatment committed by a number of foreign employers against labor migrants.

“They are treated similar to slaves. They can’t go out,” she said.

She recalled instances in which Filipino migrants sought her assistance because of their deplorable conditions.

“They have legal documents, but the problem is they are being treated badly by their employers,” Bugre said, calling Filipino migrants as “friendly and kind people.”

The German Ecumenical Committee on Church Asylum said it is possible that applications for refugee status, for protection from deportation or for a residence permit on humanitarian grounds (as provided for by the German Residence Act or “Aufenthaltsgesetz”) as well as claims to special treatment because of unacceptable hardships, have been refused, although the situation does in fact call for protection from forcible deportation.

“Investigations related to church asylum cases have so far mostly been closed without ending in a court proceeding. However, in some cases pastors or members of the church council had to pay a fine,” it said.

From October 7 to 9, a conference in Heilig-Kreuz-Kirche (Holy Cross Church) will be held in Berlin on “The New Sanctuary Movement in Europe, Healing and Sanctifying Movement in the Churches.”

A number of speakers and guests from several European countries will participate in the conference where they are expected to share experiences with church asylum, and discuss the harmonization of the EU asylum law, and the Dublin II regulation.

Germany has turned into a country of immigrants in the past 50 years. About 10 percent of about 82 million people living in Germany do not have a German passport making it a multicultural European country. (Charissa M. Luci, Businessmirror)