Daily Archives: March 13, 2008

Rising Oil Prices Inhibit Fight Against Poverty – GMA

by Jherlyn Meneses/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – President Gloria Arroyo said soaring oil prices is hurting the country’s fight against widespread poverty, despite high economic growth last year.

“We are aware that no matter how much improvement there is at the top of the economic ladder, many of our people still struggle mightily. The high price of gasoline and everyday commodities hits our poor the hardest. While the high price of oil is a global issue outside the control of government, we have nevertheless taken and will continue to take actions to reduce the pain on our people of these high prices.” she said last Sunday in Cagayan de Oro, where she was guest in a gathering of leaders of cooperatives.

Official figures released last week showed 3.8 million more people have joined the ranks of the poor between 2003 and 2006, amid cuts in social spending and new taxes to boost a narrow revenue base. The data showed one in three Filipinos lives on $1 or less a day.

Although the economy grew at a 31-year high of 7.3 percent last year, when inflation was kept at a 20-year low of 2.8 percent, the Asian Development Bank has said not enough jobs are being created amid insufficient investment and obstacles to growth, such as poor infrastructure.

The Manila-based lender earlier scored the Philippines in a report, saying rampant corruption, political instability and poor revenue collections are the main culprits in the country’s worsening poverty incidence. It also noted that the pace of poverty reduction has been slow and income inequality remains stubbornly high.

“The Philippines must raise revenues, improve infrastructure, strengthen governance to build investor confidence, expand its industrial base and improve access to employment and development opportunities to increase growth and reduce poverty,” the ADB said. It also identified a number of critical constraints to economic growth and the fight against poverty in the next five to eight years for the Philippines.

“Targeting and removal of the most critical constraints will lead to the highest returns for the country. It will spur investment, which in turn will lead to sustained and high growth and create more productive employment opportunities,” said Ifzal Ali, Chief Economist of ADB.

Notwithstanding the ADB review, Arroyo said “Many things are left to be done. I plan on working hard with you the next two years to fulfill our Philippine Reform Agenda until the day I leave office in 2010”.

“We have made tough and unpopular decisions to raise revenues, and we, in the executive [branch of government] crack down on tax cheats so that we could invest in our physical infrastructure and in our people.”


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by Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Brad Pe- Pres. Arroyo and everyday titclerc reported the disappearance of his two Filipino workers to Canadian immigration authorities Monday. He filed a complaint to Federal officials stating that two Filipino staffers he recruited recently on a two-year work permit quit after working only a few weeks in his auto detailing shop. “They are now probably working illegally,” he said.

Canadian newspapers reported Petitclerc’s frustration over the response he got from authorities. When he voiced concerns to Federal officials that such workers could be engaged in criminal activities after gaining entrance to the country as badly needed labour, authorities shrugged it off, said Petitclerc.

“The immigration people asked me ‘are they involved in illegal activity”’ And I said ‘I don’t know — I’m not going to stalk them,’ “ said Petitclerc, adding he was told unless there’s proof the men are engaged in illegal activity, there’s nothing Ottawa can do.

There has been a big demand for workers in many parts of Canada and employers have turned to the foreign market to recruit workers for their companies. In 2006,more than 22,000 foreign workers came to Alberta, Canada compared to just 7,000 in 1997. However, once they get to Canada, many temporary foreign workers are ditching the jobs they had agreed to take and meld with the population.

“They just disappeared into the sunset … and the federal government isn’t regulating anything,” Petitclerc said.


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Home at Last: Filipina stranded in Saudi for 20 yrs finally returns

by Cynthia Flores/Asianjournal.com

LOS ANGELES – Sixty-six year-old Leonora Somera, a former bus driver helper in Manila, had been stranded in Saudi Arabia for 20 years. She left the Philippines in her 40s, expecting a better future filled with good fortune for her and her young daughter. She came back more than 2 decades later, with only broken dreams.

Somera is back in the Philippines at last, the Arab News reported recently. She left Jeddah on board an Emirates Airlines flight on March 6 and arrived in Manila the next day, the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah said.

Wanting to provide a good education and future for her daughter, Somera went to Saudi to work for a family in late 1987, leaving her then six-year-old daughter, Marivic under the care of her sister.

Her dream turned into a nightmare a year later when her original employer died and the employer’s son, Misfer Al-Ghamdi and his family brought Somera with them to Al-Baha about 275 kilometers South of Jeddah. She was made to tend to her new employer’s goats apart from doing household chores such as washing clothes, and taking care of the man’s sick uncle.

Somera was stranded in the mountains of Al-Baha, herding goats to the hillsides. She was not paid proper wages and repeated requests for her employer to send her home were ignored.

In November 2005, she met a Filipino woman who helped her contact the consulate in Jeddah to rescue her. She was able to escape and move to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) shelter for distressed Filipino women at the consulate. The Philippine Overseas Labor Office helped her file before the Saudi Labor Office claims for Saudi Arabian Riyal (SAR) 67,000 ( more than P735,000) in unpaid wages and end-ofservice benefits, but her employer continued to stall.

Last December, Al-Ghamdi made a surprise visit and gave her a pittance of SAR 2,000 ( around P21,000) plus a plea for forgiveness by his father, who was supposedly ill. The young Al-Ghamdi also signed a document releasing Somera so that she could get her exit papers. But for reasons the consulate has refused to make public, Somera was not allowed to leave the Kingdom through the normal way.

Last month, she was fetched by immigration officials along with 42 other distressed Filipino workers at the consulate and taken to the deportation center of Jeddah. Somera said she was luckier this time because she was allowed to board for a flight home, while the fate of the 42 remained unclear.

“I’m extremely elated to be back in the country I left long ago. Please say thank you so much to everyone who helped me in one way or another, including those who offered prayers and expressed their sympathies over my plight,” Somera said.

Upon her return to the country, Somera was made to stay at a center maintained by the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in Pasay City for debriefing. After debriefing, she was sent home in San Jose City, about 140 kilometers north of Manila to be reunited with her daughter Marivic who is now a hotel worker.


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