Labor Ministry launches portal for expatriates

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Labor Ministry launches portal for expatriates

In a bid to prevent workers’ rights violations in the Kingdom, the Ministry of Labor has launched an exclusive Web portal to educate workers about their rights and how to avail them.

640x392_79058_157084The Web portal  www.laboreducation.gov.sa  launched on Tuesday aims to boost awareness about workers’ rights and the rules that regulate the relationship between the employee and employer in the Kingdom. While the Web portal’s Arabic version has comprehensive information, the English version is still under construction, according to sources in the Labor ministry.

The Web portal comes in the light of several reports of exploitation of expatriate workers in particular, due to lack of legal knowledge. The portal provides useful information related to the contact details of relevant authorities, workers’ rights, contractual obligations and wages, working hours, training, qualification, work responsibility, disciplinary rules and the calculation of end of service benefits.

It also makes provision for special rights for people with disabilities and women workers.

Sources pointed out that one can also lodge a formal complaint through the Web portal. The sources said that the Labor ministry which is fully automated through an electronic system now intends to extend the same facility for workers to improve the working environment and guarantee the rights of employer and employee.

Taken from: Arab News Saudi Arabia News/JEDDAH: Irfan Mohammed/Published — Wednesday 17 September 2014

 

Advocate what is right – NOto550

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The issue of the integration of terminal fee into airline tickets is seems like a reported ISIS (unconfirmed) statement on tweet to destroy the Holy Kaaba in Mecca after capturing Saudi Arabia.  Though these two issues very much differ from the other, it is like an atomic bomb exploded right in front of those concern people that surely affected by the recent events.

NOto550Actually, OFWs is still exempted from paying airport terminal fee if the plan prosper; the main question here is why integrate the payment of terminal fee into airline tickets if the OFW is properly documented by showing to the airline agent the OEC.  The logic is – we have the OEC; and why on earth incorporate the terminal fees along with the ticket and subject for reimbursement later because we are exempted from paying it.  What a totally stupid idea. What an insult to us – OFWs. (Other scenario in the implementing process at the last part of this post). 

And adding more insult to the insult is about the refund process. Why giving us more excess burdens by having it reimburse with all of those documentary requirements?  To obtain OEC, will take us one day and now you are asking us to queue on the very day of our departure just to collect the money that we can’t even use in the country of our destination. Sa isang banda, bakit pa namin bigyan ng problema or istorbohin ang aming pamilya o kamag-anak para lamang mag pa-reimburse. Exempted na nga, pagbabayarin pa at ibabalik rin pala! Di ba masalimuot? 

Are those stupid minds behind this plan are enemies of OFWs? Why our government always keeping an eye on us – OFWs? Are you not contented to the millions of dollars of remittances WE, OFWs brings into the country?  Saving our economy while those corrupt government officials spending millions of OWWA funds at the expense of an ordinary OFW’s.

But I still believed that all of these fees that Philippine officials want to put on the shoulders of our OFWs will not materialize because OFWs are protected with the Migrant Workers Overseas Filipinos Act.

imagesThe issue of terminal fees to be imposed to OFWs was already an issue way back then. I remember in 2005, the government plan to restore the gross income tax on OFWs,  the following year there was a proposal to collect from the OFWs security fee of $3.50 (P175) and a rumored about terminal fees surfaced in the succeeding years. All of these turned out into the trash because any fees to be collected to OFWs clearly violates the said law.

The  R.A. 10022 as amended read as follows:

SEC. 35.  Exemption from Travel Tax, Documentary Stamp and Airport Fee. - All laws to the contrary notwithstanding, the migrant workers shall be exempt from the payment of travel tax and airport-fee upon proper showing of proof entitlement by the POEA.

What proof entitlement does the law talking about? To quote “Upon proper showing of proof entitlement by the POEA”.  What document we are talking about?  The Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC). The OEC is a requirement under the rules and regulations of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA). This helps ensure that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are properly documented and protected.

The basic requirements to obtain an OEC are: a) Passport with valid working visa. In KSA, Exit Re-entry visa for vacationing OFWs/Employment Contract or Working Visa for new OFWs b) Annual payment and or OWWA Certificate of Membership c) Annual Payment of Pag-ibig membership d) Copy of Ticket  reservation e) Annual Payment of Philhealth membership.

If you have all of the above, OEC holders are exempted from paying the travel tax and the airport terminal fee.

Please note that in KSA, the employer are the one who will purchase the ticket (as prescribed in the contract) for their vacationing workers. The original copy of the ticket is handed to the worker on the day of his/her departure along with their passport (that was keep by the employer from the day the worker arrived in KSA) and other travel documents.  Prior issuance of the ticket, the worker only have the copy of the ticket reservation.  So it means if we will apply for OEC at our Embassy/POLO office we don’t have a choice but to present them with the copy of the ticket reservation from the airline company na may kasama ng terminal fee.Walang lusot ang kawawang OFW”.  Kung sa Pilipinas kami kukuha ng OEC natural na ang ticket namin na binili ng employer ay may dagdag or kasama ng terminal fee. PERO may isang problema, papayag kaya ang employer na bayaran ang dagdag na singil for terminal fee?  Ito ay isa sa mga usaping aabangan natin. Ang kawawang OFW na katulad ko ay walang magawa kundi pumila sa designated areas to comply with the refund stupid process.

Wala ba kayong naalala?  Parang kahalintulad ng OWWA membership fee!   To quote found at their websiteOWWA membership fee to be paid by the employer.”  NAPAKALINAW!  Ang tanong,  employer ba ninyo ang nagbabayad sa OWWA membership fee? 

Okey,  let’s talk about  amending the law. Of course, a certain law can be changed or a portion of it can be amended but it can be done in normal legislative process.  A law can be replaced in its entirety or if not the court can declare part of a law unconstitutional and renders that portion void but leaves the rest in place. However, all of these can be done in a proper forum through legislative proceedings or in court proceedings. Kaya may laban pa rin tayo na tutulan ang panukalang ito ng mga istupido. 

If our legislators, particularly those “leaders kono” for OFWs can’t do anything to stop this stupid plan, then WE should fight for it! Maybe not in the house of Congress, but perhaps in the Court of Law.

For whatever this pahirap sa OFW is all about, I am asking my fellow OFWs to advocate what is right for us - NOto550.  – BongA

NAIA-Terminal-Fee-International

 

An Appeal to Free Fred

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Wenifredo “Fred” Castolome, an active Filipino community leader in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia is now languishing in jail on the charge for breach of contract to operate a five year school operation. He is at present incarcerated in prison at Hogug Islahiyah, Amber 9 Detention Cell, Briman, Jeddah. Most of the Filipino community in Jeddah knows “Fred” very well, it is because he is actively involved in the Filipino community. He was the former President of CSOSA (Cebuano Speaking Organization in Saudi Arabia), a regional group behind many cultural, sports and fundraising activities for a purpose in the Philippine Consulate. He was also the former Chairman of the Overseas Filipino Worker Cooperative Council, whose organization (OFWCC) conducts seminars to fellow OFWs on cooperative and computer literacy training not only in Jeddah but also in Taif and Riyadh. These two organizations I mentioned are few of the many organizations, Fred has been active with.

Winefredo Pernes Castolome

Wenifredo Pernes Castolome

Fred and his wife Moncita  spent most of their lives in the Kingdom and in fact their two sons “Jan Jan” and “Jesric” are both born in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Like any other Philippine School in the Kingdom, the defunct Sunrise International School has its trustee in which Fred was the Chairman of the Board.

The first year of the five year contract operation was then going smoothly, however the next year was a trying year for the school. Until the board realized that to continue operating is impossible for them to perform its obligation. They decided to cease its operation.

Unfortunately, their local partner refused to accept the groups’ decision who take legal action and brought the complaint to the court against Fred in his capacity as chairman of the board.

Both parties, then initially agreed in the sum of SAR 300,000 to settle the amount representing losses for the remaining three years of the agreed contract. Regrettably, the court corroborated by the complainant raised the agreed amount to SAR 1,300,000.

Due to anxiety, lack of sleep and afraid of the consequences Fred as ordered by the court signed the documents in the absence of witnesses, consulate interpreter and legal counsel.

Impossible to produce such huge amount Fred was arrested and put in jail on May 15, 2012.

I know Fred personally way back when I was in Jeddah (1993-1997), he is a family man, an energetic person, full of life and stamina, a man who never rests and delivers what you wanted if you ask him to do a certain task. He likes to roam around offering anyone an alternative ways how to have an extra cash for savings.

His pocket is open to all his friends, organizations and charities; he never says no to a friend in dire needs of money. Not all are destined to succeed, there’s always an accompanying failure in an attempt to reach the top, people sometimes fail in any endeavors or ventures, I or you want to create and Fred is one of them.

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Click Gavel for the Facts of the Case

The Philippine Sunrise International School (PSIS) was a failure, but it doesn’t mean that ceasing its operation was an intent to cheat or defraud the other parties involved. Breach of contract is not a crime, therefore a two years in prison is considerably the value of the amount in damages asked by the complainant. Fred already suffers the consequences of his action. For Fred, 2 years in jail is another 30 long years as an OFW in the Kingdom.

On behalf of Fred’s family, relatives and friends; WE appeal to the other party concern to please drop the case so that Fred can go home and be with his family. He already suffers and punish, two years is enough to a 64 years old OFW with a declining health.

On behalf of Fred’s family, relatives, friends, Filipino Community organizations in Jeddah, Fred helps to organized; WE respectfully appeal to His Royal Highness Prince Mishaal bin Majid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Governor of Jeddah to please free the man who considered Saudi Arabia as his second home.

On behalf of Fred’s family, relatives, friends and OFWs in the Kingdom who knows him well;  WE humbly appeal to H.E. Ambassador Ezz Tago to please look Fred’s case and assist him of a legal counsel and or whatever necessary to be done under the circumstances of the case.

Lastly, on behalf of Fred’s family, relatives, friends and the son and daughters of  Almighty God ; WE pray Lord in Heaven to please give Fred more strength and good health for him to submit and hold Your Grace in this trying and tough times of his life.  

A Personal Tribute “Remembering Ka Bert”

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A Personal Tribute “Remembering Ka Bert”

There are an estimated half a million OFWs in Saudi Arabia, a few extraordinary souls quietly offer to lend a hand to others without any kind of recognition. As what the holy scripture says: Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

I – Distress Call

Many years ago (can’t remember exactly what year), I was responding to a distressed call from a fellow Filipino worker in a “nail factory” a few blocks from my place of work (former employer) in the 3rd Industrial Area-Riyadh. I was in the office at that time when I received the call. As an active community leader in the area during those year promised the other end of the line that I will visit them after work. 

"Ka Bert" speaking before the Philippine Senators during 2002 OAV Bicameral Meeting at Philippines Embassy-Riyadh

“Ka Bert” speaking before the Philippine Senators during the 2002 OAV Bicameral Meeting at Philippine Embassy-Riyadh

Aside from three months salary delay, I sensed the seriousness of the call and the thoughts that this visit was going to be different and my plan was to bring with me friends who can help me document the case. They were “Ka Bert” an OFW advocate, who was then actively involved in helping fellow distressed Filipino workers; and “Ka Bien”, an ArabNews correspondent at that time. Both friends are members of Pusong Mamon Task Force or PMTF. The PMTF group consists of volunteer crisis intervention coordinators, Filcom leaders and concerned individuals offering direct assistance and services of various OFW cases like labor, welfare and police cases.

We scheduled our visit Friday, two days after the distressed call. Despite of seeing seasonal complaints of OFWs in the Industrial area of Riyadh, our heart sank when we saw the real situation. 

When we arrived at the entrance of the adjacent gate located beside the factory itself, we noticed right away the guardrails loosen uselessly on the side. It came right in my head that the Saudi Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (baladiya) strictly prohibits workers’ accommodation near the place of work  factories or industrial plants in particular.

As we carefully walked in a muddy walkway going to our kababayans’ accommodation, we observed  what likely a dirty kitchen along the side of the alleyway for them to cook. At that very moment I, Ka Bert and Ka Bien glanced at each other’s simultaneously and I whispered to my own ear “God, I was right, this was indeed very different.” 

When we reached to their rooms, more surprised awaiting us, the rooms were dimly lit by a single drooping bulb; the surroundings were uncomfortable to them and congested enough for a twelve Filipino living in a 48 square meter living quarter. On the left side of their door a small round table with two dilapidated chairs. The leader of the distressed OFWs offered us to sit while others prepared coffee for us. As Ka Bien interviewed the spokesman of the group I can’t help myself to think how can they sleep during cold nights in their bed placed in the soil floor where it stands. 

Pasensya na po kayo Sir sa aming lugar” one of the distressed OFW said. “Pasensya na rin po kayo sa amoy” he added while his eyes led us towards the long piles of steel wires used for making nails where a mountain like metal dusts shining on the ground emanating unpleasant smell. 

Teary eyed, they’re asking us to help them on their grievances such as; delayed salary, no proper living conditions, hazardous working conditions and many more. 

II – Mission Possible (to be continued)

To my readers, my sincere apology that the next 2 chapters of this article will be posted in the next few days due to my busy hours of work.   The blogger is an OFW whose work is of more priority than any other personal activities. – BongA 

Walk for Freedom

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In 2008, I wrote about awareness of the Death Penalty in Saudi Arabia (Reward– A Sword) emphasizing to my readers and fellow OFWs that in Saudi Arabia if you take someone’s life you will pay your own life as well

But murders or killing someone are not the only crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia,  even adultery and consensual sexual relations between adults of the same sex is punishable by death through public stoning. Scary, isn’t it? Particularly if the crime committed resulted in murder or aggravated murder, the method of death penalty is beheading. 

Aggravated murder is an offense such as murder during a robbery or murder involving seclusion, treachery, or other methods rendering the victim helpless. While murder is any sane person who intentionally kills a person with a weapon. (Taken from Death Penalty Worldwide

dr_c2e9095ab859962ca08a1dfbe5f417caIn 2013 according to press agencies (AFP), there were 78  executions in Saudi Arabia by way of beheading.  And one of our own Joselito Zapanta is on the list to be beheaded in 2014 if our Government fails to come up with the blood money demanded from the family of the Sudanese national whom he killed in 2009 in a moment of blind fury over a rent dispute. 

While Zapanta’s freedom is under negotiation, another big blow to the Filipino community happens just yesterday, a Filipino national with British passport was found killed stabbed by fellow Filipino. According to the Philippine Embassy the perpetrator was arrested and confessed to the crime. The facts of the case were already reported today to the Office of  Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs-DFA

The victim works as a nurse in one of the Saudi government hospitals in Riyadh. He was found dead in a pool of blood after the Saudi authorities forcibly opened the apartment door of the victim in response to a claim of the victim fellow worker that their colleague haven’t reported to work.   The victim’s fatal stab wound was found in the neck, according to Al-Riyadh online news

I just hope and pray that the latest happening in the Filipino community in Saudi Arabia could not affect  Lito Zapanta’s walk for freedom. – BongA

كما جاء في البيان أنه تم تلقي بلاغ أحد المواطنين الذي تقدم به إلى مركز شرطة المعذر بتاريخ 15/5/1435هـ الذي يعمل في مستشفى حكومي عن تغيب أحد ممرضي المستشفى وهو بريطاني من أصل فلبيني يبلغ من العمر 53 سنة، وبالانتقال إلى مقر شقته في حي المعذر بصحبة الخبراء المختصين فتح باب الشقة ووجد مسجى على الأرض ويسبح في بركة من الدماء، وبه أثر طعنة في العنق وقد فارق الحياة، و تم إجراء التحريات اللازمة التي أسفرت عن التعرف على هوية القاتل والذي اتضح أنه فلبيني يعمل مقدم طلبات في أحد المطاعم، بعد أن سرق أجهزة حاسب من شقة المجني عليه، وجرى القبض عليه وأوقف وتم إشعار هيئة التحقيق والادعاء العام لاستكمال إجراءات القضية.  http://www.alriyadh.com/net/article/920482

Saudization right under our noses

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In Year 1993 as I step Saudi Arabia for the first time, the echoing whispers of Saudization were the first I heard among many issues in the circles of the expatriate community.

Between 1995 and 2000, Saudization had been already the talk of the town, even before the appointment of the late Saudi Labor Minister Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi, the father of the national strategy of Saudization. Though the rumored started to circulate among the Filipino community in Jeddah many expatriates in various nationalities shrugged off the idea and treated it as a mere hearsay because most expatriates at that time were employed in building and construction sector. Menial jobs such as laborer and construction workers often not the type of jobs the Saudis want to do.

As usual like rumors, that whispers started to wither into the horizon and expatriates realize it’s not a threat at all. Why? Because the jobs created were in the field of construction, trade, agriculture and service workers, which commonly occupied by expatriates. It was not until the late Dr. Ghazi Al-Gosaibi was appointed as Saudi Labor Minister.

In 2000 again a rumor came out that the host country starts campaigning to trim down the number of foreign workers in the Kingdom which was estimated at 6 million of that year and 500,000 of those estimated figures were Filipinos.

Y2K was the year the government started to become serious on their crusade by wrapping out economic and labor policies emphasizing the creation of jobs among the Saudi populace. Alarmed by the bulging population of foreign workers, thus – the creation of the Seventh Development Plan for the year 2000-2004 which focuses more on economic diversification and a bigger role of the private sector in the Saudi economy and new jobs for Saudi nationals as well.

Al-Gosaibi focuses on modernization of the Ministry, creating a new women’s sector in the labor market. His agenda tackles issues such as unemployment of women and reducing the number of low-skilled foreign workers and training Saudis to take over expats jobs.

SaudizationThe late Labor Minister during the Jeddah Economic Forum in 2008 defended the Saudization policy enforced by his ministry, asserting that businesses and the media unfairly portray Saudi youth as lazy. “Saudi primary and secondary schools need to improve the teaching of English and technical skills in order to better prepare students for a globalized job market” he said.

Of course, the late Labor Minister is absolutely right, for my 20 years as an expat in this country which I already considered my second home, I personally do not agree that Saudis are not suited for the job that usually given to expatriates. I have worked with secretaries, messengers, drivers and ordinary office workers, they are just the same as what other nationalities are capable of doing. I have met Saudis in high level position, they are friendly, smart and I admit they are very professional to deal with and most of all Saudis are very kind people.

SAUDI ARAMCO the biggest oil and the world’s most valuable company was the one who first heed to the call of Saudization under Al-Gosaibi’s turf of leadership in the Labor Ministry. SAUDI ARAMCO as early as 2005 already pursued the Saudization initiatives to their independent contractor. The plan is to employ Saudi national “stage by stage” as their Saudization strategy dubbed as CCS (Corporate Contractors Saudization). The contractor on the other hand had no choice but obligated to meet the employment standard demands mandated by the oil company, the only way to be able to continue their business partnership with the company who owns the world’s largest oil field.

In order to do so, these contractors should see to it that by the Year 2015, Saudi nationals employed as skilled workers in their respective companies must consist of an 80 % workforce and cut down the number of expatriate workers to 20%. (Taken from Saudization planning-Saudi Aramco-CCS).

I realized that Saudi Aramco’s strategy may bring the Saudi nationalization program a success soon before the year 2020 arrives. However, in my opinion government owned corporations and private companies could not come up with the same result overnight not unless there will be a will of their own to seriously train Saudi nationals to menial job they hate to do.

Here comes the Nitaqat program under the now energetic Labor Minister Adel Fakeih. The Nitaqat itself is a challenge from both the government and their constituents. Implementing such crucial plan should be done gradually because the long term impact of a succession plan is to develop human capital. It can’t be denied that the consequences of rushing up to the objectives could be the same tool that could backfire to the long awaited success of Saudization. The existing approach of change should be done in a slow manner, but steadily and under a minimum speed that could come up into a smooth transition of knowledge transfer.

Now, the amnesty program of the Saudi government is obviously a part of Saudization strategy. The just recent mass deportation of undocumented expats and over stayer is in fact a cleansing process which could be an opportunity for Saudi nationals to learn the job vacated by expatriates.

Now, the reality of Saudization is no longer a whisper, it is finally occurring right under our noses.  (BongA)

Related Post:   When the Soil is Ready;  The reality is yet to come   

References:  The Saudization Initiatives ;  Prominent Saudis: Dr. Ghazi Al Qosaibi; Saudi Aramco (Saudization Guide for Contractor Companies)

All About Final Exit

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A L L  A B O U T  E X I T

Final Exit

Many OFW commenters on our blog working in KSA are asking me what to do when their Saudi employers postponed their leave or final exit (visa) on certain grounds such as: waiting for the arrival of replacement or the worker position should not be vacant or the worker’s presence is necessary pending completion of a current project.

In usual practice, the sponsor can postpone the vacation or exit visa application of their employees taking consideration of work requirements or shall we say “with justifiable reason of the postponement.” However, if the employer asks for more extension after the period of ninety days, the workers’ consent must be obtained in writing (Art. 110 par. 2 SLL) and the worker have the right to say “NO”. In this particular situation the employer has no right to postpone again the leave of the employee. If the employer continues to insist and fails to obey the agreement or ignoring the worker’s plea, the only way for the worker to leave Saudi Arabia is to file a case in Saudi labor courts against the employer, which of course may take several days or perhaps months but surely the worker can leave after the verdict is handed which is clearly favorable to the worker.  

Exit Re-entry Visa

Let’s talk about vacation leave. Since a large number of employees do not return to Saudi Arabia after availing leave, most employers big or small, establishment or companies retain one month salary of their foreign worker or sometimes the worker will shoulder the half cost of airline ticket to compensate visa cost, resident/iqama permit, medical insurance and other expenses incurred in recruiting the worker “as a security precaution” before allowing the worker to go on leave. However, most of the employers will give back to the worker the amount held for that purpose when the worker’s return from leave or vacation. The blogger experienced this kind of internal company policy where you don’t have any choice but to follow the rules.    

surrender iqamaGCC countries, not just Saudi Arabia experiencing this kind of dilemma where expatriates with Exit Re-Entry visa  choose not to return to finish their contract.At present the GCC member countries  are looking for a concrete solution to implement a measure to ensure that workers, who are returning home to their country on leave or with exit re-entry visas, return to complete their contract terms.

 In KSA the following are the usual move of the employer.

1) When the sponsored expatriate traveled outside the Kingdom carrying exit and re-entry visa, the sponsor must revoke the Residence Permit of his sponsored and (secure) a page copy of his passport on which the exit and re-entry visa stamped on.

2) When the foreign worker failed to return back to KSA after two months or depending on the number of days the visa expires; the sponsor must follow-up the Office of  Jawazat (Saudi Passport Office) on which the visa was issued to receive the Iqama and to get a receipt from there containing retrieval of Iqama to deposit it on the Iqama file of the worker.

3) The office of the Jawasat or Saudi Passport Office will update the file status of the foreign worker, such as fingerprints and other personal information and forward the detailed information to the Naturalization and Residency  Division of the Ministry of interior and Saudi Immigration authorities  data base.

4) And if the sponsor got any information that his foreigner sponsored worker who he gave an Exit and Re-Entry Visa returned to the Kingdom with another employer, then the employer will report it to the Office of Investigation and Tracking Foreigners for necessary legal action. Upon apprehension and proven otherwise that a foreign worker violates certain directive from the office of the Jawasat or Saudi Passport Office, then the worker will be subject for deportation to the worker’s home country. Worst the worker will be subjected for jail term until deportation requirement proceedings is complete.

In today’s high-tech Information Technology, it is possible that GCC countries agreed to have common shared database information system where they can exchange names and whereabouts of their nationals and expatriates with criminal offenses or having pending legal action against their nationals and or expatriates.

Surrender Work Permit prior Exit

Last month an announcement made by the Ministry of Interior through the Division of Naturalization and Residency that expatriates residency permit (iqama or work permit) should be surrendered to the regional passport department at least three months or 90 days prior processing of expatriate final exit application visas. A residence permit is a government document issued to Non Saudis and National ID’s for their nationals. 

The question is WHY? The Answer is of course very simple, an expatriate can leave the country only if he/she is cleared of any monetary obligations like bank loans, unpaid credit cards, unpaid landline telephone bills, traffic fines, electricity bills, transfer of car ownership and other financial obligations. If you have bank accounts, be sure to close it and ask for certification from the bank that the account is already closed. 

In such circumstances the worker should request to the employer a photo-copy of iqama with company stamp on it and signature of employer or manager of the company’s Personnel Department. This is very important document to show to the authorities or police checkpoint that can substantiate  the worker’s work permit  is really in the custody of the Naturalization and Residency office as required for Exit visa application.

If you’re done with all your outstanding monetary obligations, always ask for an official receipt or certification as proof of payment. The worker must not forget to bring in the airport  copies of sale documents such as Deed of Sale, Sale Agreement or Transfer of Ownership of any property that the worker previously owned.  (BongA)

KACST tower to house Knowledge Center

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The King Abdul Aziz City For Science and Technology (KACST) will be building a SR500 million high-rise tower to set up its new Knowledge Center on its campus.

The contract for the construction of the proposed tower was signed on Monday by KACST President Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel and Sadoun Al-Sadoun, general manager of ABV Rock Group, which has undertaken to construct the complex in 27 months.

Al-Suwaiyel said that this will be an iconic tower which can be spotted from any part of the city. The project, he said, will be the first of eight to be constructed under its master plan spread over a period of five years.

Photo taken from: SPACEAGENCY (Space Agency was engaged to develop a wayfinding strategy and to design signage)

The proposed Knowledge Center. Photo taken from: SPACEAGENCY (Space Agency engaged to develop a way finding strategy and to design signage) – click image to zoom

Building a Knowledge Center is the most important project for the city, and it will include research institutes and centers to support scientific research,” said the KACST president. It will also provide the perfect environment for professionals and researchers in keeping with the spirit of the changing era which is going through a series of scientific and technological developments, he said.

The Knowledge Center will be a model of exclusive architectural work to go with scientific research. It is a unique design consisting of 18 floors with a total area of 47,000 square meters to house 1,750 employees in the complex. The complex will have two basement parking facility besides four floors for offices, media, public relations and communications.

Pointing out that the design of the building will take into account the use of the latest environment-friendly technologies in energy applications and smart buildings, Al-Suwaiyel said the building will provide innovative design and comfortable office environment within the organization for maximum productivity of employees. (ARAB News/22.02.2014)

Crackdown cripples life

FEATURED ARTICLE

JEDDAH/RIYADH – Residents and citizens woke up on Tuesday to a day crippled by a lack of necessary services as illegal expat workers, who failed to rectify their status, stayed indoors for fear of being arrested.

Streets were less crowded where taxi drivers charged exorbitant fares, markets wore a deserted look, many commercial establishments and hospitals reported no-shows, shutters were down on many grocery stores and eateries, street vendors were no where to be seen. Customers were forced to fill grocery bags themselves at super market counters in the absence of expat workers who did this job.

desert1A Saudi national in Jeddah summed up the scenario: “It seems that the country was full of violators. Shops are closed, streets are empty, restaurants are empty. I counted 30 cell phone shops on one street closed. God help us! Where are the citizens?”

In Jazan, a number of Saudis said that they had to go to their workplaces, wearing un-ironed thobe and headgear (shemagh) as most of the laundries remained closed. “There was no way for me to wear a washed and ironed thobe and shemagh as I saw doors of the laundry where I deposited my clothes closed without any notice,” said Muhammad Qassem. Even the dead had to suffer.

About 13 facilities for washing dead bodies were shut down in Jeddah due to the absence of workers. Those who wash dead bodies at these facilities are part-time workers who are scared of inspection raids.

Muhammad Fauzy Maulavi, director of the charity project for washing dead bodies, said that those who wash dead bodies are either drivers or have some administrative jobs listed as their profession. As a result of the closure of the facilities, many people started taking dead bodies to Makkah for washing.

About 60 percent of commercial shops, workshops, fruit and vegetable stalls in Jazan and other cities and towns in the region were closed. There have been increased business activities at the eateries in the region due to the closure of more than 40 percent of restaurants and boofias. “I had to wait more than four hours in front of a restaurant to get lunch from a restaurant where I saw unprecedented rush of customers,” said Abdurahman Nasheeli.

Jabir Kharmi, another citizen, said that he was forced to eat lunch from a fast-food outlet due to the closure of a traditional restaurant where he frequented to have his meal.

Meanwhile, crackdown on illegal expatriates continued throughout the Kingdom on the second day on Tuesday following the end of the amnesty period. More than 5,000 illegals were arrested on the first day. They included 3,607 in Jazan, about 2,000 in Jeddah and 1,159 in Asir region.

Lt. Col. Abdullah Al-Shaathan, spokesman of Asir police, said that the arrested expatriates included 461 people without a valid residency permit (iqama), and another 119 who were found working in violation of the labor law. Three Saudis were also arrested for providing transportation to illegals. A total of 201 illegals were arrested in Hail.

Several illegals from the Asian and Arab countries gathered at their consulates in Jeddah on the first two days of the post-amnesty period, seeking completion of the procedures to rectify their labor and residency status. They complained that even though they had registered their names at their missions, the procedures for correction or securing a final exit stamp have not been finalized at the Passports Department.

Some consulates urged the department to expedite the paperwork. Ali Al-Ayashi, Consul General of Yemen, demanded the department to complete the correction procedures of thousands of Yemenis whose names were registered at the consulate well before the end of the amnesty period.

The Border Guards in Jazan arrested more than 8,000 foreigners belonging to various nationalities who tried to leave the Kingdom illegally within the first 24 hours of the post amnesty period.

Brig. Gen. Abdullah Mahfouz, spokesman of the Guards in Jazan region, said that more than 3,000 of them were deported after getting finger-printed while the remaining illegals are under the process of finger-printing. “It was revealed that a number of these illegals are in the wanted list of security authorities for various crimes and hence, they will be transferred to the concerned authorities for follow up penal action,” he said.

FRONT PAGE: SAUDI GAZETTE  5 NOV. 2013

The reality of Saudization is yet to come

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4/11/2013, RIYADH: Why on earth those undocumented Filipino workers in the Kingdom are hard headed enough to comply legalization process under the Saudi government amnesty program and chose to stay in the Kingdom? Does the three months grace period not enough to conform requirements to complete paper works? I don’t think so. There are many remedies waiting for them during those periods;  to rectify their working status or decide to go home for good.

The Philippine Embassy on 10 October 2013 announced in their website that male Filipino worker who wishes to be repatriated before the 3 November 2013 deadline, but lack the required original iqama or passport and thereby have been unable to process exit visa to contact Embassy and labor office. The Philippine Embassy under the Ambassadorship of H.E. Ezzedin Tago   has arranged with the Office of the Emir for the creation of an interagency committee to look into the cases of those with no documents in preparation for their repatriation. The Philippine labor office was even open during Eid holidays to serve their distress nationals who want to avail the Saudi government amnesty program.

There were even separate facilities for mothers with unducmented children whether they are registered or not to proceed to the embassy’s Um Al-Hammam field office and avail the additional few days’ extension for DNA testing as provided by the Saudi authorities.

DNA testing is an initial step prior to processing at the Jawazat for final exit for those undocumented Filipina mother and children.

However, despite of the announcement and notices from various Filipino groups to their members and friends, a few have been heeding the call.

philembassyWhat’s wrong? What’s on the mind of our fellow OFWs? I can’t find any answers to those simple questions that I, myself asked. Are our embassy has failed to reach our fellow OFW in distress? The answer is No either, because the just concluded amnesty program of the Saudi government was not only for Filipinos, in fact it was for all expatriates in the Kingdom. It is a national instruction or order from Saudi authorities to all foreign workers to correct their status or leave the Kingdom for good. I think our Embassy and or our Consulate had exhausted all possible means to help our OFW in  distress. Maybe the three months time extension was not enough or there will be a personal neglect or the “Filipino manana habit” has something to do with it.

Today is the day to reckon, there will be no excuses. Whether we don’t like it, our own action and by ignoring to follow orders has been substantiated, and therefore we must face the consequences. The theory of flight says “for every action there is always an equal and opposite reaction”.

The Saudi authorities will start a massive crackdown to those expatriates who failed to rectify their statuses. There will be a knock on your door at any given time and as what Maj. Gen. Ibrahim Al_Hamzi, Director General of the Passport Department  said “we have plans to deal with overcrowding at correctional facilities and prisons have more capacity and are located across the Kingdom, unlike deportation centers, which have a limited capacity.

A Saudi colleague of mine at work saidafter the crackdown and cleansing period, the increase of crimes that involves foreigners will be lessen and corruption in few offices perhaps be eradicated which year by year became a disease in our system”.  

In a press conference, Deputy Labor Minister Mufrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani said labor inspectors would visit commercial establishments, construction sites, operations and maintenance offices, retail outlets, catering companies, cafes. They will crosscheck workers’ identities with their legal documentation to ensure that workers are legal.

Deputy Labor Minister Al-Haqbani was thankful to foreign workers who have participated in the development of the Kingdom. “We still want you but we want foreigners to remain in the Kingdom lawfully” he added.

The Passport Department and other Saudi government security agencies can now exercise and strengthen its internal security measures against terrorist activities and infiltration; crimes such as drug smuggling, manufacturing and alcohol use, visa forgery, immoral act and back door activities. It can easily solve crimes and prevent those expats or foreigners with criminal backgrounds to return the country with false names or new identity.

Again folks, it is not Saudi government harassment and or violation of human rights, it is for the good of all expatriates, the employers and the country as well; and the last but not the least the reality of Saudization is yet to come”.  – BongA

Related links:

Thousands arrested on first day of crackdown 

Life hit hard by labor raids 

MOI Spokesman announces end of grace period for violators of labour, immigration regulations 

Labor inspectors won’t raid homes

Thousands arrested on Day 2

Labor action pays off

Remittances poised to fall 20% in wake of campaign

Advisory against dealing with unscrupulous, unauthorized firms and individual’s

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The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh warned overseas Filipino workers in the Kingdom not to deal with any person or entities in exchange for promises of repatriation. The advisory was issued after  the Embassy received sworn complaints against certain individuals posing as Embassy or POLO staffs or employees. 

PR-190-2013%20ROBREDO

Sunny Robredo (a.k.a. Nasanciano Robredo)

(Riyadh, 23 October 2013) The public is advised to refrain and avoid transacting with a certain Sunny Robredo (a.k.a. Nasanciano Robredo).

Mr. Robredo misrepresented himself as a member of the Embassy staff and succeeded in swindling a fellow national of more than SAR 900.00.

The Embassy reiterates its reminder for the public to directly approach Embassy personnel regarding matters relating to consular and other relevant services. In addition, an official receipt issued by the Embassy even during outreach services covers all transactions and fees for services. The schedule of fees for consular services is posted on the Embassy’s website or if you want to know whom to deal with please  click here>>> EMBASSY OFFICIALS AS OF 30 SEPTEMBER 2013.  To those OFWs who wants to seek advise with our POLO in relation to Labor complaints, click this link >>> POLO Personnel (as of 30 September 2013) ; or you may approach directly our energetic, affable and friendly Welfare Officer in Riyadh in the person of MR. ROMEO PABLO, who is also the concurrent Officer-in-Charge of POLO-Riyadh & POLO-CRO.

The Embassy would also like to encourage the public to report cases of swindling or “fixing” that may come to your attention. You may reach the Embassy at tel: 482-4354, 480-1918 or email:   rype@riyadhpe.com .

Mr. Warren Villegas Soriano (Photo courtesy of Joseph Espiritu)

Mr. Warren Villegas Soriano (Photo courtesy of Joseph Espiritu)

Also a month ago, ccording to the sworn complaints, a group of Filipinos went to Riyadh International Airport based on promises made by MR. WARREN VILLEGAS SORIANO that they will be issued exit visas at the airport through an alleged high ranking official. The travel documents submitted by the group to Mr. Soriano were returned with exit visa reference codes. Mr. Soriano also indicated the seat numbers of the victims in the same Travel Document and claimed that they have each been booked flights to the Philippines. Each of the victims paid Mr. Soriano various amounts in facilitating the issuance of their exit visas.The advisory said Filipinos who have violated the Kingdom’s immigration and labor regulations and would like to obtain the issuance of exit visas  under the correction period may only be done through concerned Saudi authorities.

The Embassy strongly advises all Filipinos in Saudi Arabia against any dealings with MR. WARREN VILLEGAS SORIANO and any other individuals who promise to facilitate issuance of exit visas for any amount. The Embassy has not authorized any individual to facilitate issuance of exit visas in exchange for any payment.” the Embassy advisory reads.

The exit visa reference codes indicated on the Travel Documents purportedly facilitated by Mr. Soriano were verified to be SPURIOUS after the victims were denied by Saudi immigration authorities at the airport.

The Embassy in their previous advisories also reminded Filipinos in the Kingdom not to deal Pag-IBIG and SSS related transactions to  certain Mr. Richard Pagaduan Bernabe, as it illegal and any payment made to him will not be recognized by Pag-IBIG Fund and SSS.For information, call the following Pag-IBIG Fund numbers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia: 0537980452 (Riyadh) 053117706 (Al-Khobar) and 0564947732 (Jeddah). For Social Security System or SSS; you may call or text to 0500972728(Danny-Riyadh), 0531215972(Jerry-Riyadh), 0531242183 (Roue-Al-Khobar), 0558903597(John-Jeddah).

Last month, the Department of Trade and Industry  informed the public to regularly visit DTI’s website www.dti.gov.ph under the heading “Consumer Welfare and Business Regulation” and check from time to time the list of Freight Forwarding Companies not Accredited with Philippine Shipper’s Bureau; list of Philippine Agents/Freight Forwarders whose Formal Charges have been issued Decisions and list of Freight Forwarders whose complaints have been endorsed to the DOJ/Office of the City Prosecutor for criminal investigation as of August 30, 2013.  In this manner OFWs will be apprised and aware of the up to date information to avoid inconvenience when dealing with cargo forwarding companies. – BongA

Know your insurance rights, GOSI tells expats

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RIYADH – The General Organization for Social Insurance (GOSI) launched on Sunday an awareness campaign enlightening foreigners about their insurance rights against vocational hazards.

GOSI Governor Solaiman Al-Quwaiz told the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) that the campaign was within the continued efforts to spread social insurance awareness especially among non-Saudi subscribers.

Click Image: "Legal expat workers eligible for GOSI"

Click Image: “Legal expat workers eligible for GOSI”

In addition to newspapers, TV channels, publications, billboards and electronic sites, there will be special teams from the organization visiting foreigners at their work places to enlighten them about the insurance rights, Al-Quwaiz said.
He said the campaign will be in four languages: Arabic, English, Hindi and Urdu.There are more than 6.3 million foreigners registered with GOSI.GOSI implements social insurance rules, collects contributions from employers and pays benefits to entitled insured persons and their family members.

Calculations for GOSI are based on earning of an employee (Basic Salary + Housing Allowance) of a particular Organization. Calculations are divided into 3 categories: GOSI for Saudi citizens, GOSI for GCC (Gulf Corporation Council) nationals, and GOSI for non-Saudis.

Under a new scheme introduced recently by the Ministry of Labor, expatriate workers become beneficiaries of GOSI.
The date on which a non-Saudi worker arrives in the Kingdom or the date on which his service is transferred to another employer will be considered the date of his registration with the professional hazards division of GOSI.

In the event that the non-Saudi contributor sustains a work injury, he will be compensated with a lump sum amount. If the injury results in a permanent total disability the injured is entitled to a lump sum compensation of 84 months of the benefit value, which he was supposed to receive up to a maximum of SR330,000.

The calculation of the compensation takes into account the amount of the assistance of other allowances decided by the competent medical board. If the person’s injury results in partial disability, then the injured is entitled to a lump sum compensation equivalent to 10 years of the value of the assumed benefit up to a maximum of SR165,000.

If the injury results in the death of the contributor, his family members receive a lump sum compensation equivalent to 84 months. It is calculated on the basis of the benefit, which he was supposed to receive up to a maximum of SR330,000. It is equally distributed among the family members.  SAUDI Gazette 2/09/2013

ofwempowerment related link, read here>>>>>

This service lets you know whether you are registered in GOSI system or not. Click here>>>  and enter your iqama ID number.

Not anymore a question of morality

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Ten thousand or more undocumented OFWs in the Kingdom are comprised of runaway workers  and almost half of them are women.  That includes undocumented mothers and children.   

fearsThe Philippine Embassy in Riyadh as of 21 August reported that 1,351 distressed OFWs from Riyadh and Eastern region and 881 in Jeddah as of 13 August have been repatriated during the correction period. Others are waiting for tickets that will be shouldered by the Philippine government. 

Many Filipino runaways without recourse enter into a forbidden relationship for support, shelter and companionship. To them, single or married back home, the reality is not anymore a moral question. The most important is to live and let the future tell its story. First and foremost the reason is, as undocumented workers with no marriage certificate, work permits and passport it would be very difficult for runaways to obtain legal documents for their child’s birth. The strict guidance of the country’s Shariah law, birth out of wedlock is immorality and  punishable with imprisonment before deportation.      

 I admit that were many times that this blogger wants to tell the untold stories about our fellow OFW runaway’s situation in Saudi Arabia. There was also a time that I attempted to write stories about how fellow OFWs obtained  fake marriage documents from our very own National Statistics office at home in order to roam around freely, raised children in Saudi Arabia out of wedlock. However, as a Filipino I am hesitant to do so thinking that I will be violating their private life and who I am to judge them anyway, “let who without sin, cast the first stone.

 That is why, I am asking to those undocumented mothers and children who are still out there to heed the call of the Saudi government amnesty program and go home for good.  A better future for your children lies ahead,  not here but at home.

First you must comply the procedure and other requirements, our Philippine mission in KSA will help you in the process. Though it will take time to process your documents due to DNA testing, This requirement for a genetic reconstruction is required to determine the biological relationship of a child to both parents.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh announced today that the Second Batch of DNA Results for mothers and children are released. Our embassy informs all mothers with children who submitted themselves for processing and DNA testing who want to be repatriated that the DNA results of those with the DNA processing numbers have been released. 

Those with these numbers will be processed through Jawazat at Wafideen in Shumeisy starting next week on Sunday 25 August. The Embassy will call the concerned to inform them of their schedule at the Jawazat for fingerprinting and issuance of exit visa.

So, to all of you out there, this is once in a lifetime opportunity, this is not anymore a question of morality but a question of how to raise your children without fear of prosecution and punishment. Remember a quote that says, “Eve in the garden gives Adam a hard on and no one will pardon the snake look who invents him and later torments him, then makes us repent our mistakes.” –  BongA

Embassy Urges Filipinos to Go to Jawazat for Exit

More than 700 get Exit Visa since 3 July, Over 700 Repatriated on GPH (Government of the Philippines) Expense

RIYADH, 28/07/2013: The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh urges all Filipinos in Riyadh and Eastern Region who will go on final exit and are qualified under the guidelines of the correction period, which has been extended to 3 November 2013, to secure their exit visa as soon as possible.

01

Amb. Ezzedin Tago & Labor Attache Adam Musa talk to Filipinos at Jawasat (Shumeisy)

The Embassy has also booked and purchased 652 tickets for distressed Filipinos in Riyadh, and 123 for those in the Eastern Region or a total of 775 as of 27 July, with around 150 passengers still being booked on flights before the end of this month.

“We think the process to get a final exit visa in Riyadh is simpler than before 3 July. A person who is qualified under the guidelines and has no pending case gets their exit visa on the same day. This system is simpler than in the past where there was a waiting period, and the person had to go to the airport Jawazat to get their exit visa number”, said Ambassador Tago.

“I visited the Jawazat at Shumeisy several times since 3 July, and the process is now much simpler. I thanked the Jawazat officials who have been very accommodating and they stressed their full cooperation to ensure that everyone is helped,” Ambassador Tago said.

The schedule for females at the Jawazat Wafideen is Tuesdays and Wednesdays (830PM to 230AM during Ramadhan) and Thursdays during the same time for males. Females who do not have their iqama or passport used during entry into the Kingdom and who have not undergone fingerprinting and other biometric intake should coordinate with POLO Riyadh for processing at the Social Welfare Authority.

The Embassy reminds all males to ensure that they have paid their traffic violation penalties, and have cleared their record of any vehicles previously on their record.

The Embassy is ready to help clear the record of those with a case filed against them at the police or Jawazat. END

Press Release No. PR-138-2013/28 July 2013

Dammam Court Forwards Lanuza’s File to Emir’s Office After Victim’s Family Sign the Court Decision

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 RIYADH 27/07/2013: Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago returned to Riyadh from Dammam after a two day trip where he verified with the Court 3 that the family of the victim of Rodelio Lanuza has signed the court decision acknowledging their receipt of the blood money and their forgiveness to Rodelio Lanuza.

Ambassador Tago revealed that the court on 25 July formally forwarded the file to the Office of the Emir of the Eastern Region, after the victim’s family and the Judge had signed the court decision.

Dondon Lanuza

Dondon Lanuza

Ambassador Tago said “when it was confirmed that the court decision was already signed by the victim’s family and the Judge but it was not yet sent to the Emir’s Office since the supervising judge Usamah Al-Tayyar was on leave, I met on Wednesday 24 July with the Head of the Dammam Grand Court Judge Ibrahim Al-Sayyari and I briefed him on the reason for the delay. Judge Ibrahim Al-Sayyari summoned the court administrative supervisor and instructed him to prepare the endorsement and have the alternate judge sign the endorsement of the file.”

On 25 July, we went back to the court and ensured that the endorsement was signed and sent to the outgoing section for transmittal to the Office of the Emir of the Eastern Region,” added Ambassador Tago.

Earlier in the week, Ambassador Tago called Mr. Abu Saqr Al-Qahtani who is a relative of the victim to seek his help for the signing of the court decision. Abu Saqr had helped the Philippine Embassy and the Dammam Reconciliation Committee in February 2011 during the agreement with the family for the forgiveness.

Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago reiterated the appreciation of the Philippine government to the family of Mohammad Saad Al-Qahtani for their forgiveness, and thanked the Dammam Reconciliation Committee headed by Sheikh Ahmad Al-Osaimeen and Sheikh Ali bin Ali for their continued help and assistance throughout the years in reaching out to the family.

I must also thank the Office of the Emir under the former and current Emirs and ultimately the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud who issued a royal order to pay the remaining 2.3 million to complete the blood money due to the family”, Ambassador Tago stressed.

The Embassy will check with the Office of the Emir whether it will issue the order for release, or will forward the file to the Ministry of Interior.END

Press Release No. PR-136-2013
26 July 2013

Pasaway – Part 2

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Masarap ang Bawal

To my fellow OFWs most particularly here in Saudi Arabia, I would like to remind you again that Saudi Arabia is a highly conservative country in which Islamic Law (Sharia) is strictly being enforced.  So, under  Sharia, no alcohol, pork products  and religious books  not related to Islam are allowed in this country. Therefore, as a visitor we are obliged to follow their rules. Once you broke the rules, believe me my friend you will be living like hell in their prison cell.

So, if you are a pasaway in our country, please don’t ever do it here because they’re not arresting you to be reformed but they will arrest you so that you will be punished. 

So, if you’re an alcoholic in our country, Saudi Arabia is the right place for you to be rehabilitated after all, kaya naman siguro magsaya without alcohol. 

I just found out reading a blog article “What A Fella Has To Do To Get A Drink Around The Muslim World” that Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia are all quite very wet, and alcohol is available in restaurants, bars and shops and Turkey is also full of bars and liquor stores. It also said, Bahrain has some of the wildest bars in the region BUT Saudi Arabia and Kuwait are completely dry, and there’s not a drop of legal alcohol found in this country.

Well, why the author of the article say so that “not a drop of legal alcohol”  found in this two particular countries? Know why? Because there are also “drops of illegal alcohol in Kuwait  and Saudi Arabia.

Sabi nga nila kung mayroong legal may illegal. Sabi rin ng iba mas masarap ang bawal (lalo na pag Pagibig).  Masarap nga ang bawal pero pag mahuli na at makulong sisisihin ang Embahada or Konsulado dahil wala raw itong nagawa o ginagawa upang sila’y mapalaya. Sus! Mary and Joseph naman kayo kabayan!  Yan ang sinasabi ko,  sa OAV pag parehistro o botohan, maraming sinasabi, kesyo dayaan lang daw, malayo ang Embahada, walang pamasahe. E, ngayong nasa kulongan kayo, makuha nyo pang mag-reklamo, hindi naman kayo botante o bumoboto, Pilipino ba kayo? 

Sadiki Juice

Let’s go back to the fun. This illegal alcohol in Saudi Arabia is popularly known as “Sadiki Juice”. But before we touch this Sadiki thing, according to a book I read titled “Blue Flame” it said: historically, alcoholic distillation began with the Arabs who, however, did not invent, but greatly improved the cumbersome methods used by the Greeks in distilling turpentine from rosin. It added that the Arabs were the first to distill wine, and wood alcohol is plainly Arabic in origin.” That is why alcoholic drinks are banned in this country because they know from the beginning that nothing ever good comes from drunkenness.

In Saudi Arabia there are expatriates and some of them Filipinos languishing in various jails caught drinking or in possession of this so called “Sadiki Juice”. However, drinking and selling are two different things, in which the latter is a serious offense that could lead to many months or perhaps years in jail, accompanied with caning or whipping, worse a death penalty. But the death penalty depends on the crime committed under the influence of alcohol or intoxicating liquor. The Death Penalty Worldwide website explained that Recidivism hadd  can be used as grounds for execution in Saudi Arabia (Recidivism means, a tendency to relapse into a previous condition or mode of behavior; especially: relapse into criminal behavior. Source: Merriam Webster online dictionary).

So fellow OFWs and friends, if you want to have a party or gatherings, drinking sadiki  has nothing to do with having fun or not, as what I’ve said you can have fun without it. And why put your life, job, friends and your family at risk where you know already that drinking and possessing alcohol or intoxicating liquor is strictly prohibited in this country?  Bakit pa tayo magpasaway?

Babala sa mga Pasaway

In my previous posting, the Three Facets of Sexual Abuse, I pointed out that that it is so sad to think na ang mga taong may kayumangging balat, pango ang ilong at panot ay siya pang magpapahamak sa iyo, sa madaling salita kalahi mo, the very same people whom we believed to be on our side are the ones pushing us into the wall of limbo. 

"KAMOT SA LIKOD"

“KAMOT SA LIKOD”

Magsilbing babala sana ang posting na ito sa ating mga pasaway na kapwa pinoy sa Saudi Arabia.  Nais ko pong ipaalam sa inyo na may mga kababayan po tayong gumagala sa kaharian na ang misyon ay ipahamak ang ating kapwa kalahi. Ang mga taong ito ay mga ahente ng mga “mahabang balbas.” Kakaibiganin po nila ang mga pasaway sa sadiki. Mayroon rin po silang mga assets, at mga pain katulad po ng mga magagandang pinay na babae. Yayain po kayo ng babae na ito sa isang party at dahil nga alam nila na pasaway ka sa alak at alam mo kung saan ka kukuha, lalapitan po kayo o tatawagan, imbitahin sa isang pagsasalo sabay tanong kung ikaw ba ay may makukunan na sadiki. Ikaw naman na may alam kung saan kukuha, gagawa ng paraan upang magkaroon nito. Sa madali pong salita, dadalhin nyo po si sadiki sa babae o sa bahay tagpoan na kung saan doon magaganap ang kasiyahan. Lingid sa iyong kaalaman, pagdating mo pa lang at sa pagpaparada mo ng iyong sasakyan,  lalapit na po ang asset  nila sabay tapon o hulog ng pera sa iyong sasakyan. Sa di kalayoan paparating si mahabang balbas sabay halughog sa iyong minamanehong sasakyan at natural si sadiki ay naroroon at ang perang hinulog na may marka in other words, marked money. Dadalhin po kayo sa presinto habang makipag negosasyon sa iyo ang kapwa natin kalahi. Sa pagkakataong ito hihingan po kayo ng sampung libong riyal, depende po sa kanilang mabiktima. Kung alam nila na may pera ka tumataginting ang sampu hanggang labin-limang libo kapalit  sa iyong kalayaan. Kung ikaw ay pabagal-bagal kumilos sa paghahanap ng pera, timbog ka! Tutuloyan ka nila. Kawawa ka, makulong ka ng wala sa panahon. Kahihiyan ang aaabotin mo at pag-aalala naman ng iyong pamilya at mga kaibigan. Sa kabilang panig, si igan na babae at lalaki, pati ang asset nito ay  naghahatian na sa perang nakulimbat sa iyo. At alam mo ba igan kung ano ang kaso  mo?  Pushing or Selling liquor, na may mabigat na parusang pagkabalinggo ng anim na buwan hanggang isang taon o higit pa na may kasamang “kamot sa likod” (caning, flogging, whipping or lashing). Depende po kung ilang kamot sa isang araw hanggang matapos mo ang bilang na ipinataw sa iyo ng hukoman.

Kaya igan at kahanay kong OFW sa bansang Saudi Arabia, huwag ng pasaway at huwag basta basta magtiwala sa mga taong kausap mo lalong lalo na pag transakyon o Gawain ay illegal dahil wala po itong magandang kahinatnan. Alam nyo na pong bawal, huwag na pong gawin, huwag na pong magpasaway.

Alalahanin po natin na may mga bagay o pangyayaring hindi na kaya pang muling balikan upang ito ay itama. Ang naganap ay ganap na at ang pagsisisi ay laging nasa huli. Buksan natin ang ating isipan, huwag padalos-dalos ng desisyon at isantabi ang maka-mundong pangangailangan at higit sa lahat humingi ng gabay sa Panginoong Maykapal.  – Bong Amora

End of service benefits for domestic workers laudable

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The Saudi Council of Ministers through the recommendation made by the Ministry of Labor and its attached agencies announced a new law safeguarding the rights of domestic workers in the Kingdom.  One of them is the end-of-service benefits that will be given to the worker after four years of service. The OFWs in the Kingdom welcome the moved of the Saudi government for this very laudable action on their part to compensate the tons of sweats pouring out from the brows of our domestic workers in a days, months and years of hard work and perhaps humiliation in the hands of harsh employers. We can’t deny that not all employers are treating their domestic workers well but as what the good Labor Minister Adel Fakeih said “the law aims at regulating relationship between domestic help and their employers while explaining their rights and duties and punishment for violators of contract terms”.   

The Labor Agreement signed by both countries during the visit of Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz last May of this year includes: weekly rest days and daily rest periods, paid vacation leave, non-withholding of passports and work permits, free communication and humane treatment. The new law states same provisions as stipulated in the agreement that was agreed by both parties except for the ESB that was announced just recently. 

Though, I have still doubts that under the same sponsorship system non-withholding of passports and work permits will never be realized or be implemented.   

Also under the new agreement, some Saudi employers are complaining that Saudi recruitment agencies are asking SAR 13,000 or more in hiring domestic workers from the Philippines. According to some of my Saudi friends, same amount still to be paid for a pre-selected (of their choice) domestic worker. In case of pre-selected worker, the local recruitment agency will not replace any one found not suited to the job. In other words, not responsible to whatever complaint the employer may raised during the period of the employment contract. Domestic work is a large and growing sector of employment (Photo taken from WIEGO)

Moreover, the Philippine recruitment agency and local agency will work side by side in the selection process and are responsible or accountable to any uncertainties that may happen within the contract duration of the domestic worker. Secondly in the first 90 days, the recruitment agency is resposible for; replacement of a new one in case the domestic worker is not suited for the job, runaway from the employer, accountable if the domestic worker steals from the employer or any other problems that may occur during the 90 days provisionary period. 

According to WIEGO, a global action-research-policy network “domestic workers provide essential services that enable others to work outside the home, thus facilitating the functioning of labor market and the economy” and having an End of Service Benefits to our domestic workers is a commendable move on the part of Saudi government.  – BongAmora

Know your Philippine Embassy and Consulate Officials

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Surfing the Philippine Embassy website is one of the tasks I include in my morning routine, of course at the same time with a cup of coffee. Been doing it for the past two years in lookout for interesting information that I might be going to share here with you in our ofwempowerment blog.

philempersFor almost a year now since I decided to rest for a while in community service and activities; reading important events, news and advisories at PhilEmb website makes me still feel connected with the community that I’ve been serving for the past 20 years as one of the community leaders in the Kingdom. The last time I was with Filipino Community event when  Mr. Ernie Perez  the newly elected Global President of United Filipinos Worldwide for Community Development (UFWCD) asked me to be the Master of Ceremony  in the last September launching of  PHLPost e-Postmo service.  UFWCD is a SEC registered organization of OFWs worldwide where I was appointed as  UFWCD-Riyadh Chapter adviser.

And during the past few months surfing the Embassy website, I noticed that many new Foreign Service Officers from Manila were posted in Saudi Arabia to fill those who ended their tour of duty.

First Secretary and Consul Mohd. Noordin Lomondot, the Head of the Consular Section left on May 29, 2013 to assume as First Secretary and Consul in the Philippine Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh. Consul Lomondot also served as Philippine Consul General in Jeddah from 2004 to 2007. He was rumored to replace the then Philippine Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Tony Villamor however, the post of the Chief of Mission was given to the current H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin H. Tago.

Section 29-Promotions of “Philippine Foreign Service Act of 1991″ states that “Career ministers and chiefs of mission, class I and II, shall not have grade classifications within each class. Seniority shall be determined by their original dates of appointment as career ministers, as well as the dates of their original entry into the Department.”

On May 31, 2011  Ambassador Tago was confirmed by the Senate Commission on Appointments as Ambassador to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with concurrent jurisdiction over the Republic of Yemen. Among those confirmed  at that time by  CA was Career Minister Uriel Norman R. Garibay, now Minister and  Philippine Consul General in Jeddah.

I was one of those who lobbied for Ambassador Ezz Tago the then Minister/Consul General and Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy in Riyadh. I was also among the OFWS along with FilCom Jeddah leaders who pushed the appointment of  Career Minister  Norman Garibay who was at DFA-Manila overseeing the Office of European Affairs as Executive Director. But prior to that position, he was the First Secretary and Consul in Philippine Embassy in Canberra, Australia In 1993 when I was a neophyte 28 year old OFW in Jeddah, the good Consul General Norman Garibay was a young and blooming diplomat with a rank of Vice Consul.

Another Embassy official ended her two year tour of duty was Ms. Nilda Oliva, Social Welfare Attache from the DSWD. Attache Oliva was replaced by DSWD Social Welfare Attaché Ms. Perlita Panganiban whose prior appointment, served as Chief of Division in Institutional Development and head of Technical Division, of DSWD in Cordillera Administrative Region.

The young Minister ConGen Norman Garibay w/ FilCom Leaders in Jeddah

The young Minister ConGen Norman Garibay w/ FilCom Leaders in Jeddah

The Filipino community also welcomed Hon. Marshall Louis M. Alferez, who assume as Minister and Consul General in the Embassy. He will supervise the assistance-nationals sections (ANS) vacated by my sparkling friend Consul Atty. Roussel Reyes.  Alferez  in 1999 was posted in London as First Secretary and Consul  in charge of Political Section and eventually became Minister and Consul. He joined the Department of Foreign Service in 1996.

Just last month, former Philippine diplomat to France Hon. Winston Dean Siscon Almeda was designated Third Secretary and Vice Consul of Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, who replaced Consul Mohd. Noordin Lomondot as head of the Consular Section.From March 2008 to July 2009, Hon. Winston Almeda was Special Assistant in the Office of the Undersecretary for Special and Ocean Concerns, handling issues relating to the peace processes, maritime security and anti-terrorism.

If we have new career diplomats at Philippine Embassy, we have also newcomers, one of them is Ms. Maria Angelica Capili-Genotiva, Third Secretary and Vice Consul who joined the Department of Foreign Affairs on 7 July 2008. Ms. Genotiva passed the Foreign Service Examinations in 2007. Her first foreign assignment on 26 February 2011 at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Ms. Nora Jamil Nirza joined the Department of Foreign Affairs in November 2002. In the Home Office she was assigned at the Office of Consular Affairs. She is a graduate of BSC-Marketing (cum laude) from the University of San Jose Recoletos-Cebu.

Mr. Rene Diamante Salazar is a graduate of AB Economics from the Sacred Heart College in 1988. He joined the government service in July 2001. Initially, he was assigned at the Office of Consular Affairs as clerk and served in Lucena Regional Consular Office as Alternate Signing Officer. Prior to his assignment in Riyadh, Mr. Salazar has undergone seminars and training on Phil Passport: Production, Security Features and Fraud Detection; Course on Personality Enhancement and Public Service; Training on anti-Trafficking in Persons for Consular Officers, Protecting Domestic Workers from their Vulnerability to Forced Labor and Trafficking. He was a recipient of the Outstanding Employee award in 2006.

Less than a year ago, dynamic, energetic and respected career diplomat Mrs. Germinia V. Aguilar-Usudan assumed her duties as Consul in Jeddah. She was stationed at the Philippine Embassy in Riyadh as Second Secretary and Consul from 2002 to 2006.

Mrs. Aguilar-Usudan who is a lawyer, served as Principal Assistant at the Office of Consular Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs from June 1997 to October 1999, as Third Secretary and Vice Consul at the Philippine Embassy in Abu Dhabi, UAE (1999-2002). When she was placed back at DFA-Manila , she was the Vice Chairman of the Overseas Absentee Voting Secretariat. After a two year stint in Manila she was posted back abroad as First Secretary and Consul at the Philippine Embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia.

You can surf the Philippine Embassy website at http://www.philembassy-riyadh.org/ or click this link to see the updated list of Philippine Embassy Personel http://www.philembassy-riyadh.org/index.php/about-us/embassy-personnel. For Philippine Consulate General located in Jeddah, please click the following link http://www.pcgjeddah.org/ .

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The U.S. Department of State in their website has labeled every non-European country a “hardship post” for their American diplomats and that include Saudi Arabia in the Middle East.

Factors considered belong to hardship post are difficult living conditions due to climate, crime, health care and pollution. Other factor like security issues, for example in a war torn Afghanistan.

Isang Taon pa...WARAY na!

Isang Taon pa…WARAY na!

Philippine government may consider Saudi Arabia a hardship post for their Filipino Foreign Service workers. Our government should compensate their hardship for taking care of our OFWs in distress, not to mention that there are estimated more or less 1 million Filipinos working in Saudi Arabia under their watch. For me, naturally they deserved 15% to 20% extra pay as “hardship differential”.  However in return, we are expecting our Foreign Service officers to serve heartily and provide adequate services to their kababayans especially to those OFWs in distress who needs their utmost care and attention.  Many of them are those in detention.  I am hoping that the new ANS Chief, the Minister and Consul General Marshall Louis M. Alferez will give his full attention to those fellow OFWs incarcerated in various jails of the Kingdom.

Well, as what I mentioned in my old blog post “from KSA to Washington DC, USA”,  after sakit sa ulo, after all the kunot noo, lagas ng buhok, and batikos from some community organization and press – to recompense all of the abovewill be a good posting and shining moments somewhere in the top 10 best cities of Europe and America. – BongAmora

Click here >>>>>>>> PHILIPPINE OVERSEAS LABOR OFFICE (POLO) PERSONNEL  AS OF JUNE 2013  

Clcik here >>>>>>>>PHILIPPINE EMBASSY ATTACHED AGENCIES PERSONNEL AS OF JUNE 2013

 

Source: Philippine Embassy-Riyadh website, Philippine Consulate in Jeddah website, U.S. Department of State website

seedling

When the soil is ready

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I’ve been working in Saudi Arabia for almost 19 years now and the Saudization plan was already among the many hot issues way back then, but it’s like seaweed with no roots, it needs a firm surface such as rock to grow on.

Though, like any other country on earth unemployment among young Saudis is a serious problem and like all animal life in the ocean, seaweeds are essential to ocean health. Job creation on a specific country stimulates economic growth and unlocks young graduates on its potentials to contribute to economic development.

seedlingThe beginning will always be tiring and difficult, but young people can realize their ambitions if they are persistent and work hard,” said the late Saudi Labor Minister Ghazi Algosaibi after his surprised visit in a restaurant in Jeddah serving hamburgers to customers for three hours to encourage young Saudis to take jobs they think menial jobs or are not capable of doing it.

By extracting seaweeds it can generate billions of dollars each year by people for food, stock feed, fertilizers and medicines.

Perhaps, the Saudi government for all these years haven’t yet built the foundation that the Saudis can hold on to. Respected journalist Elham Ahmad of Saudi arabic daily Al-Yaum newspaper said, “Despite this, shouldn’t we test the soil before implanting the seeds? We have to wait and give this young generation a chance to learn.”

Today, under Labor Minister H.E. Adel Fakeih, Saudi Arabia is very serious in their mission by creating 1.12 million jobs for Saudis in 2014, 3 million jobs by 2015 and 6 million by 2030; the reality about “Nitaqat, Expat Fees and July 3 Amnesty Deadline” is to get rid of expatriate employees by the end of 2014 or maybe by 2015 or perhaps by 2030 “when the soil is ready.”

By: Manuel Amora (Overseas Filipino Worker in KSA)

(Republish and revise blog entry)

***

NITAQAT BLUES

Many government-contracted firms in the country do not want to continue sponsoring their expatriate employees because they want to make way for Saudi workers.

A number of expatriate employees here say that many of them have not had their contracts renewed because their companies are concerned about their Nitaqat quotas.

Many of these firms have short-term contracts with government bodies so they do not want to hire expatriate workers for long periods.

Hussain Al-Qahtani, spokesman for the Presidency of Meteorology and Environment (PME), said that some companies contracted to the PME have stopped transferring the sponsorships of new expatriate employees.

 “Most of the contracted firms have short-term contracts. Therefore, these firms do not want to hire expat employees over the long-term. These firms hire expatriate workers until the end of their contracts with government bodies. Most contracted firms have started looking for Saudis to work in government projects, instead of expats,” Al-Qahtani told Arab News.

Kamal Mahmoud, a Sudanese resident in Jeddah, told Arab News: “I got a chance to work as a public relations expert with a company contracted to a government body. However, I have spent eight months trying to transfer my sponsorship to my employer. I think they do not want to transfer my sponsorship in spite of their promises to me.”

Companies and workers face penalties for not legalizing their work status. However, some firms are still violating the law by hiring expatriates for short-term government contracts without transferring their sponsorship.

“Labor inspectors are regularly checking companies to make sure they hire expatriate employees under their sponsorship,” Hattab Al-Anazi, the Ministry of Labor’s spokesman, told Arab News recently.

JEDDAH: IBRAHIM NAFFEE

ARABNEWS: Wednesday 24 July 2013

Saudi-Philippine labor pact formally takes effect

Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani exchange documents after signing the labor agreement. (AN photo)

Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani exchange documents after signing the labor agreement. (AN photo)

RIYADH: Philippine Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz and Saudi Deputy Labor Minister Mufarrej bin Saad Al-Haqbani signed a labor agreement Sunday on the hiring of Filipino household service workers (HSWs). Al-Haqbani signed on behalf of Labor Minister Adel Fakeih.“The agreement is historic and today is a very significant day in Philippine-Saudi bilateral relations,” said Baldoz. The agreement is the first by the Saudi Ministry of Labor with a manpower-supplying country.

“This agreement heralds an era of stronger bilateral labor cooperation between the Philippines and Saudi Arabia for the protection and welfare of Filipino HSWs in the Kingdom,” she said.

The agreement comes after Saudi Arabia and the Philippines agreed on a standard labor contract last year, which shall govern the employment of HSWs in the Kingdom.

The Saudi Press Agency reported that the agreement is for five years and can be extended automatically for similar periods. It will also incorporate the formation of a joint working group to meet on a regular basis to discuss and resolve the problems of HSWs who include housemaids, baby sitters, laundrywomen, family drivers, cooks and gardeners.

“We expect that 60,000 out of an estimated 670,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia will immediately benefit from this agreement, which lays down areas of cooperation between the two countries,” Baldoz said.

The agreement includes the following:

1. A mutually acceptable recruitment and deployment system;

2. The recruitment of domestic workers through agencies that practice ethical recruitment and are licensed by their respective governments;

3. Prohibition of charging or deducting any cost attendant to recruitment and deployment from the worker’s salary;

4. The right of recourse to authorities in case of contractual disputes in accordance with applicable laws and regulations;

5. Legal measures against recruitment offices, companies or agencies for any violation of applicable laws, rules and regulations; and

6. Resolution of any issue arising from the implementation and enforcement of the agreement.

read more>>>>>

Is campers action justified? or just an act of stupidity!

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Is campers action justified? or just an act of stupidity!

I am not against the campers; maybe I would do the same if I was in their shoes especially if I feel I’m trapped and nowhere to go. However, we can’t justify an illegal action as “an exemption to the rule”. Moral justification by way of obstructing the law of the host nation cannot be moral; a questionable act thinking it is right under the circumstances is not the answer to all of our anxieties.

thereisnothingworsethanaggressivestupidityI would like to remind my fellow OFWs once again that in Saudi Arabia, the workers may it be their nationals or foreign workers are strictly prohibited from organizing, may it be a group of individuals forming an association, more on calling strikes against employers or the authorities. It means social organizing like camping together for a purpose; especially in public places are very much prohibited.

End of last year, the Saudi’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) announced banning any expatriate organization or association in the entire Kingdom. The said statement directed all foreign missions in Saudi Arabia to comply and prevent the creation of community organizations and immediately cancel formation of such and their activities without permit from the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Though the mentioned directives raised questions than answers among expatriate communities, the MFA didn’t bother to reason out why there was such an order.

The recent developments reported in Arab News today that about 2,000 Filipino workers are still camped outside the Philippine Consulate to put pressure on Philippine officials to speed up the processing of their paperwork is not the solution to their problems. The advisory on Procedures to Obtain Final Exit for Repatriation announced by the Embassy is clearly set out that there are still steps to follow and needed to be done prior repatriation proceedings. Camping outside the Embassy or Consulate premises is an illegal form of assembly according to their law. The worst case scenario is that the Saudi authority might treat this matter even seriously and massive arrest will happen in the next days to come. Di bali kung hindi kayo arestohin dahil may rasyon kayong natatanggap sa ating Embahada or Konsulado, ang problema kung sa kulungan kayo mapunta, maniwala kayo kabayan ang kulungan sa Saudi mas massahol pa sa kulungan sa Pinas.

 I also don’t believe that the campers are running out of food and water, the Embassy and the Consulate are providing you daily of your basic provisions like water and food.  Hindi nga lang kasama ang hinihingi nyong GOLD, mukha yatang sobra na ang pagka “spoiled” ng mga campers natin, pati Gold kasama sa mga hinihingi. Dito nga sa Embahada masaya ang mga campers, may DISCO pa between eating, napping and sleeping time. 

Acting helpless in order to gain pity or sympathy differs from acting  like stupid to seek attention from others or authorities. – BongA 

One who makes himself a worm cannot complain afterwards if people step on him”  – Immanuel Kant