Philippine Ambassador Ezzedin Tago visits KACST


1 February 2012/RIYADH :  As part of  the Philippine Embassy’s effort to enhance bilateral relations with the host country,  the new  Philippine Ambassador, His Excellency  Ezzedin Tago  met  with  officials of  the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology-KACST,  the Saudi Arabian national science agency and its national research laboratories.

His Excellency Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim Al-Suwaiyel, the President of KACST welcomed the visit and the meeting. The new Philippine envoy was accompanied by  Vice Consul, Atty. Paul Saret, the mission’s  Political and Economic Officer.

H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin Tago with KACST Directorate of International Cooperation, Director Mohammed Al-Badrani

The main purpose of the visit is to promote bilateral technical cooperation under the aegis of the Philippine Saudi Arabia Cooperation Agreement on Economic Trade, investment and  Technical Cooperation.

The  Philippine Embassy wishes to discuss possible areas for joint research programs on the basis of earlier discussions made between KACST and the Philippines, Department of Science and Technology-DOST  at the technical levels.

During the meeting the KACST President, Dr. Mohammed Al-Suwaiyel  directed the KACST-Directorate of International Cooperation to identify specific areas of mutual interest in selected fields for joint collaborative  research  programs.

PhilEmb Political and Economic Officer, Vice Consul Paul Saret, KACST-DIC Director M. Al-Badrani & Phil. Ambassador Ezzedin Tago

The Department of Science and Technology in the Philippines submitted  list of Philippine Institutions responsible in their Research and Development such as in the field of Computer Electronic Research, Petroleum and Petrochemicals and Energy ResearchAstronomy and Geophysics, Food Irradiation and Medical and Bioethics.

Aside from overseeing the welfare and protection of the estimated 1 Million OFWs in the Kingdom, the major task of the Philippine mission is to undertake bilateral agreements that will benefit both countries in the field of commerce, agriculture, engineering, science and technology. All of the mentioned areas can be achieved through collaborative means covered by the umbrella Memorandum of Agreement  signed by the two countries in 1994. –end- By: BongA

Extension of the Amnesty Period for Overstayers


Advisory No. 2012-006 (10 January 2012)

Extension of the Amnesty Period for Overstayers of Hajj, Umrah and Visit Visa Until 9 March 2012

The Embassy of the Philippines in Riyadh informs all Filipinos in the Kingdom that the amnesty period for those who have overstayed their hajj, umrah, and visit visas has been extended by another six months starting from 16/10/1432-H (corresponding to 14 September 2011). All concerned Filipinos are strongly urged to avail of the amnesty before the deadline on 16/4/1433-H (corresponding to 09 March 2012).

On 02 January 2012, the Embassy received Diplomatic Note No. 8/4/365161 dated 30/1/1433-H (25 December 2011) informing the Embassy of the Royal approval of the extension period for amnesty for violations of hajj, umrah and visit visas for another six months starting from 16/10/1432-H (14 September 2011). The six-month extension period will end on 16/4/1433-H (corresponding to 09 March 2012).

The Note did not include any mention of those with expired iqamas; those who came to the Kingdom for employment with a sponsor and have stayed beyond the validity of their iqama; or those who absconded from their original employer and seek repatriation. It is therefore clear that absconding workers or “ TNTs” are not included in the Royal Pardon or “Amnesty”.

The Embassy strongly advises all concerned Filipinos who have overstayed their hajj, umrah or visit visa to avail of the amnesty. According to the authorities, all overstaying nationals, including those availing of the Royal Pardon, will be blacklisted from returning to the Kingdom. Overstaying foreign nationals apprehended after the deadline will be required to pay a heavy penalty and may be subject to imprisonment.

The Embassy advises all Filipinos against dealing with “fixers” of any nationality, who claim that they could facilitate repatriation in exchange for fees. All concerned Filipinos are advised to proceed to the Saudi Immigration Office (Jawazat) in their region and complete the processing of their repatriation as soon as possible and before the deadline on 09 March 2012. ###

PhilEmb and OKOR commemorate 115th Anniversary of Martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal


The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, together with the Riyadh Chapter of the Order of the Knights of Rizal (OKOR), ended 2011 with a commemoration of the 115th anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine National Hero.

Ambassador Ezzedin Tago during the Event

In Riyadh, Ambassador Ezzedin Tago led the Philippine Embassy staff and family in joining the officers of the Order of the Knights of Rizal with simple program to commemorate the event starting with a wreath laying to honor the Philippine National Hero, Dr. Jose Rizal. Ambassador Tago and OKOR President Jun Nacion led the ceremony, with the Embassy staff and OKOR member paying respect to Dr. Rizal who was shot on 30 December 1896 in Bagumbayan, now known as Luneta, Manila.

In his remarks, Ambassador Tago expressed hope that the Philippine community in Saudi Arabia could emulate Dr. Rizal and put into action his teachings and ideals. Calling Filipinos overseas and in the Kingdom as the true ambassadors, he stated that the patriotism showed by Dr. Rizal should inspire everyone to act for the good of the nation. Ambassador Tago also exhorted the OKOR to work with the Philippine schools in the Kingdom to instill the Rizal’s teachings in the hearts of the next generation to ensure that the legacy he left behind would not be forgotten.

The program included a screening of Pluma, a documentary by the Philippine network GMA on the life of Dr. Jose Rizal.

The Filipino community in the Eastern Region of Saudi Arabia also commemorated Dr. Rizal’s martyrdom. Labor Attaché Adam Musa represented the Philippine Embassy in the commemoration organized by the Eastern Region Chapter of the Order of the Knights of Rizal held at the International Philippine School in Al-Khobar (IPSA). The program featured a wreath-laying, a reenactment of the death of Dr. Rizal by students from IPSA, and a recital of Mi Ultimo Adios (Last Farewell), Rizal’s farewell poem penned before he was executed.

 

 

The insignificant impact of “OFW Zero Remittance Day”


The call for Zero Remittance Day on December 18, International Migrants’ Day has no substantial positive impact at all on the outcome of remittances from Filipinos overseas. The fact that the plan is only for just a day, it is likewise has no adverse impact on social needs of OFW families during Holiday season.    

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) Administrator Carlos Cao said total remittances by Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) are likely to exceed P20.1-billion target for 2011.” Even a point margin for tomorrow’s call for zero remittance could not affect the forecasted 2011 total OFW remittances. Last year’s 2010 remittances of overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs’) was P18.8 billion.

Let’s say, tomorrow’s action initiated by overseas Filipinos in 20 countries (as what they say) would push through, I am not inclined to believe that these OFWs represents the Overseas Filipinos Worldwide, and not all OFWs in Saudi Arabia will heed for the call for a “Zero Remittance”. Why? Because 50 percent of the hard earned money of OFW’s can be sent to improper channels, if we really want.  Christmas is about giving and OFWs like me wants our families to be happy in this very important holiday season. We don’t want our families to troop down to malls on an eleventh hour shopping spree. And besides, kaming naiwan sa Saudi Arabia ay masaya pag ang aming pamilya ay masaya tuwing kapaskohan even without our presence.”

What we need in our midst is “political empowerment” and it can easily achieve if there will be a unified and concerted effort among our ranks.

“Iisang boses, nagdadamayan, iisang katawan, walang gamitan, walang bangayan, walang AKO kundi TAYO lahat, Muslim at Kristiyano, nag-iisang tinig para sa makabulohang pagbabago tungo sa kagalingan ng Manggawang Pinoy sa ibayong dagat.”   

We fought for the passage of the Absentee Voting Law, it is now in our hands, “Go Out and Register” – Be an Absentee Voter!  (BongA)

Multi awarded former OFW Dr. Carlito Astillero will receive Outstanding Balikbayan Reputation Award (OBRA)


CEBU:  A former Overseas Filipino Worker in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia will be awarded as one of the “Outstanding OFW and Balikbayan Reputation Award (OBRA) for 2011″ this coming December 9, 2011 at the Megatrade, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City.

The blogger with (POEA Board of Trustee Nominee) Dr. Lito AStillero

Dr. Carlito Astillero who had just left Saudi Arabia and returned to Cebu seven months ago after 35 years as an Overseas Filipino worker is one of the eight awardees to be recognized for their important contribution in the society; and as an OFW and Balikbayan models based on their good characters and deeds. “OBRA aims to recognized OFW and Balikbayan who we can emulate in these trying times where it is really very hard to find someone where we can use as a guide in living a worthy life”, said Mitch Ballesteros, CEO of Exlinkevents.

Dr. Astillero is also among those MOFYA awardees vying for the top “National 2011 Model of Family of the Year Award” to be held on December 7, 2011 at  Sofitel Philippine Plaza Manila in Pasay City. The awarding of the Regional Winners will be held on 06 December 2011 at the Heritage Hotel in Metro Manila. Dr. Astillero was Region 7 Model OFW Family 2011 awardee for the land based category.

During his stint as an Overseas Filipino Worker, he received various awards, that includes: The Special Presidential Award 1996 – Banaag at Sikat, the San Lorenzo Ruiz Award for Outstanding OFW (1994) both awarded by former President Fidel Ramos; the Bagong Bayani Award (1992) by former President Cory Aquino; and the Most Outstanding Filipino in Saudi Arabia (1990) by the Philippine Embassy.

He earned his degree at Southwestern University and placed 9th in the 1968 Medical Board Exam. Presently, his family is residing in Labangon, Cebu City. The doctor and his wife Elena have five children, which include two doctors, a nurse, an engineer and a lawyer.

My Family with Dr. Astillero and his wife Elena at their residence in Labangon, Cebu

As a retiree, he is currently busy into farming located at his ancestral hometown in Molave, Zamboanga Del Sur. And aside from being a farmer, he is also the Program Consultant of Center for Agricultural Productivity, Environmental Care and Countryside Industrialization that deals with organic and probiotic agricultural production.

He is also one of the guest of honor this coming OFW Family Day 2011 on December 10, 2011 at Ayala Center, Cebu. The yearly event is organized by DOLE-OWWA of Region 7.

Note: CONGRATULATIONS!!!! TO KUMPARE DR. CARLITO ASTILLERO FOR WINNING THE “NATIONAL MODEL OFW FAMILY (MOFYA) OF THE YEAR 2011“.

PhilEmb Advisory re: Passport Extensions


PHILIPPINE EMBASSY Advisory 120-2011

4 December 2011

DFA Discontinues Gratis Passport Extensions

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh advises Filipinos in the Kingdom that the Department of Foreign Affairs has discontinued the extension of Machine Readable Ready Passports (MRRPs) gratis (free of charge) as the delivery of electronic passports (e-Passports) has normalized.

Those applying for the extension of their passports’ validity shall be required to pay the consular fee for the extension of passport’s validity. The fee for extension of passport validity is 80 Saudi riyals.

However, applications for extension of passport’s validity may be given due course only when the applicants simultaneously file their applications for e-Passports. The fee for passport renewal is 240 Saudi riyals.

The Embassy urges all Filipinos to check the validity of their passports, and to ensure they apply for renewal of their passports early or at least six months before the expiry of their passports in order to avoid any inconveniences.

The Embassy also reiterates to all applicants its earlier advice for them to secure an appointment for passport renewal through text (SMS) to 0560503895 or preferably online on the website (blue button on the right side) which provides for instant confirmations for appointments. Only a limited number of walk-in applicants are accepted at the Embassy’s Consular Section, and an appointment makes time spent at the Embassy shorter.

The requirements for passport renewal are the original passport, photo copy of data pages, accomplished application, and fee of 240 Saudi riyals.END

Contact information re: Philippine Embassy in Riyadh. Fax  No. 482–3945, Email:  filembry@sbm.net.sa. For more information, please visit Philippine Embassy website: http://www.philembassy–‐riyadh.org .

PNoy is serious on human trafficking


Riyadh, SAUDI ARABIA – The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office or POLO organized a forum on Human Trafficking held at Philippine Embassy Chancery yesterday afternoon (28 October 2011). The guest during the meeting was no other than Associate Commissioner Atty. Abdullah S. Mangotara of the Bureau of Immigration.

The visit of Associate Commissioner Mangotara, a former Lanao Del Norte congressman is in line with President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III serious fight on human trafficking.

According to the 2007 US Department of State Trafficking in Persons Report, Philippine men, women, and girls were trafficked for labor and sexual exploitation to other countries and used Philippines as transit country for victims trafficked from China.

Commissioner Mangotara explained that in accordance to PNoy’s directive to combat human trafficking, immigration personnel’s assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) are doubled as well as conducting thorough intelligence gatherings by the bureau’s Intelligence Division.

Pnoy is not only serious in eradicating human trafficking at the airport but also eliminating corruption at the Bureau of Immigration more particularly those personnel assigned in the airport in connivance with illegal recruiters and syndicates operating around our major airports in the country”, Commissioner Mangotara added.  

The Commissioner informed the participants to report any suspicious and verified information of those corrupt BI personnel assigned in the airports.

Associate Commissioner Atty. Abdullah S. Mangotara of the Bureau of Immigration.

It was discussed during the forum that undocumented OFW’s who were able to enter the Kingdom and work illegally using business and visit visas assisted by unscrupulous recruiters and immigration personnel if proven guilty – is against Republic Act 9208 known as “Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003” more particularly Section 5, Paragraph “d” and “e” of the mentioned law.

DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis asked Associate Commissioner Mangotara to visit Saudi Arabia as part of the government’s information campaign on Human Trafficking. He is also scheduled to visit United Arab Emirates after Saudi Arabia. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Bureau of Immigration are focal members of the Inter-Agency Council on Trafficking (IACAT).

IACAT is an inter-agency panel created by the Government for the purpose of prosecuting persons accused of human trafficking. 

In Year 2006 the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) increased the minimum monthly wage from $ 200 to $ 400 and raised the minimum age from 18 to 23, and it required prospective domestic workers (Filipino Household Service Worker)  to get a certificate of competency from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority and the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration.

In 2007, the government’s Interagency Council Against Trafficking established its first Ninoy Aquino International Airport anti-trafficking task force.  

Associate Commissioner Mangotara further explained that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country but in order to prevent human trafficking, the government had no choice but to imposed some requirements like Affidavit of Support for Filipino travelers and Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) for OFWs.” 

IACAT is represented by Department Secretaries of Department of Justice as Chairperson, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Foreign Affairs, and Heads of  DOLE, BI, PNP, POEA, National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women and representatives from End Child Prostitution, Pornography and Trafficking (ECPAT), Coalition Against Trafficking in Persons and OFW Sector. –  by: BongA

Huroob-Saudi Labor Law


Huroob is a common phenomenal in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia now. All categories of employees included in Huroob menace irrespective of profession, status, wealth. Surprisingly, among Huroob victims, 10 % belong to the high profile job category. Only 1 % fights against illegal Huroob and rest of the 99 % leave the Kingdom to their home country through Tharheels with frustrated mind and empty savings.
Huroob is not defined in Saudi labor law. It is an Arabic term which means Absconder/Escapee. It is a kind of termination of work contract in a special situation. It is true that, as per Saudi labor law a Sponsor/ employee has to report his expatriate employee’s absence in employment site for a specified period of time to the passport authorities to declare him as Huroob (Absconder / Escapee), in order to escape liability of illegal activities of the employee during his absence. It is mandatory in Saudi labor law. Otherwise the sponsor will be penalized. Unfortunately now a day’s many sponsors misuse this protective provision of law for ulterior motives. If one becomes Huroob, his residency permit in Saudi Arabia will be cancelled and his stay in the kingdom will be illegal. In this circumstance, his all rights and benefits as a legal employee will be cancelled and he can leave the country only through Deportation (Tharheels) centers.
In Saudi Arabia, the Sponsor (Kafeel) has immense controls over his foreign worker. The Sponsor can only take work permit, Resident permit (Iqama) and Exit / Re-Entry visa of the employees legally. Even though Saudi labor law has given many rights to worker, but many of them cannot avail directly by the worker because of these controls. So if a person wants to return to his mother country, he has to depend Sponsor or Labor Court. Even though Saudi authorities prohibit taking possession of Passport of the worker by their Sponsor/employer, around 99 % of the employers possess the passport of their employees and give only Iqama with them. This is to prevents the worker run away from his employer, even if in the worst cases and he has to depend his employer in case of Exit.
Misuse of Huroob provision: Sometimes the issue of Huroob may be very complicated. The authorities cannot identify the real victims and problem makers in many cases. Some employers misuse this provision in a very cleaver manner. Somebody use this legal provision as an opportunity. If an employee is going to approach labor court against his employer for nonpayment of salary, mistreatment or any other causes, the employer may make a complaint against the worker stating that the worker did not report to him for the last few days consequently worker shall be declared Huroob and consequently the sponsor will be escaped from the allegations and payments and the Huroob employee will be deported to his home country at the State expense also.
Many allegations have come out in regard to the mediators/agents also in between sponsors and worker. Many occasions the mediators/agents mislead sponsors for their own profit motive. Sometimes some sponsors procure work visas from the Saudi Ministry of Interior to recruit expatriate workers to Saudi Arabia. They sell these visas to local agents in Asian countries etc, and make a high profit. When employee reach in Saudi Arabia, the mediator / agent will mislead and Saudi sponsor submit application to declare him as a Huroob, so that the Saudi sponsor can approach the authorities and ask for the same number of visas again that he made Huroob. Some Saudi sponsors themselves doing like this for getting new visa’s.
Legal provisions in Saudi Labor Law: Articles’ 74 to 83 deal with termination of work contract. It is stated that there should be a valid reason behind all terminations and other stringent conditions in favor of the employees as well as protect the rights of employees as well as employers. Saudi labor law does not discriminate rights of employee/ expatriate/ employer etc. it is a fair law. Some clever persons are behind the sabotage of these noble provisions.
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New Philippine envoy will meet FilCom leaders quarterly to discuss OFW issues and concerns


RIYADH, Saudi Arabia:  The new Philippine envoy to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin Tago reiterated his commitment to meet with Filipino Community leaders  every three months to discuss issues and concerns affecting overseas Filipino workers in the Kingdom. He made the statement during the acquaintance meeting with the Filipino Community leaders in Philippine Embassy along with the embassy staff and POLO/OWWA officials last Thursday, 15 of September 2011 at the Philippine Embassy grounds.

It was recalled that Ambassador Tago  just recently presented his credentials to HRH Prince Saud Al Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia.  Tago is now officially and formally designated as Philippine Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Yemen.

In the meeting, Ambassador Tago announced some changes to improve the embassy’s services to its nationals. Working hours from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and no lunch break and Thursday’s is open from 8:00 AM to 12:00 Noon.

The Consular Section also introduced an appointment system for passport renewal. “With the new appointment system, applicants will be able to request for a specific date and hour during regular working days” he added. The applicants in this new system will no longer have to wait in long lines at window 1 for processing and directly proceed to the encoding area.

Ambassador Tago reminded the community to directly transact business with Philippine embassy staffs and officials and urging Filipinos doing business in the Embassy not to deal with fixers and those individuals claiming as Embassy employees. He also ordered the member of the diplomatic corps to wear the official embassy ID’s all the time.

POLO Labor Attaché Albert Valenciano when asked what are the implementing guidelines of the host country for those workers whose categories belong to Red and Yellow who wishes to transfer to Green and Excellent Zones, “as of this time, the host country and the Ministry of Labor website has yet to announce the specific implementing guidelines for this purpose” he said. Labor Attaché Valenciano advised OFWs to keep visiting the Embassy website for any fresh developments about Nitaqat.

Welfare Officer Atty. Cesar Chavez pointed out that OFWs should not be worried about the new Saudization law, “OFWs are still bound to continue working till the employment contract is finally over” he said.  Even if the worker is belong to Red and Yellow categories, expatriate workers are still oblige to continue working until their contract expires” he further explained. Chavez however, reminded that pre-termination of employment due to Nitaqat should be reported to POLO. Termination due to the implementation of Nitaqat is a violation of Saudi Labor Law. Chavez also said that the new Nationalization law may not affect OFWs presently working in Saudi Arabia but to those future OFWs who wants to work in Saudi Arabia.

Overseas absentee voting registration was among the agenda discussed during the open forum. The Embassy will write a formal letter to the host country asking permission that mobile OAV registration will be conducted in Batha area in Riyadh and Philippine schools in the Kingdom. OAV registration starts October 31, 2011 to October 31, 2012. -end-

New CoM, First Order of Business


First Order of Business

9/12/2011, RIYADH:  Just recently H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin Tago presented his credentials as new Philippine Ambassador to the Kingdom to His Royal Highness Prince Saud Al Faisal, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Saudi Arabia. Upon formally assumed office as the new Chief of Mission (COM) in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin Tago’s first order of business is to bring the Embassy closer to its nationals.

The Filipino Community in Riyadh received an invitation coming from POLO Labor Attaché Albert Q. Valenciano, inviting the Filipino Community organizations to participate in a meeting on Thursday, 15 September 2011 at the Embassy Chancery.

H.E. Ezzedin Tago, Ambassador and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of the Philippines to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Yemen will  discuss with the Filipino Community leaders the following agendas: New Saudization Policy of the Kingdom, Government Repatriation Program, the Absentee Voting and other relevant concerns.

The Saudi government started yesterday, September 11, 2011 the implementation of the Nitaqat restrictions to those companies who failed to comply with the Saudization targets. The sanction for non-complying companies will be the non-renewal of work permits of foreign workers. However, companies categorized in Red categories may still have time to comply up to December 11, 2011 while those in Yellow categories are given up to March 11, 2012 to improve the compliance.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh and the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah advised OFWs in the Kingdom to check from time to time the Embassy ( http://www.philembassy-riyadh.org ) and  Consulate ( http://www.pcgjeddah.org ) websites respectively,  for new developments.

In an advisory released last month by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stated that the Embassy, through the POLO officers, will provide the necessary assistance to affected OFWs.

Other important matter to discuss is how to improve the present program of the Government in assisting the repatriation of  Filipinos who overstayed in the Kingdom and to make sure that the shelter where our kababayan stay inside the Hajj Terminal are in good condition and comfortable while awaiting for their scheduled repatriation.

It may recalled that the used of Hajj terminal is a special arrangement made by the Philippine Government represented by the Philippine Consulate in Jeddah with Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the approval of the Office of the Emir of Makkah to address the cases of Filipinos staying under the Sitteen Khandara overpass.

Among issues to be discussed are the plight of OFWs in distressed or OFW runaways housed at Filipino Workers Resource Centers and those in the Saudi Welfare Administration facility run by the Saudi government where female expatriates runaways in various nationalities are housed pending the required exit clearance from their sponsors to be deported.

In the upcoming meeting of  the FilCom and Embassy/POLO/Riyadh includes; the continuing Overseas Absentee Voting registration. The one year OAV continuing registration will start from October 31, 2011 to October 31, 2012.

In the last two absentee voting exercises, Filipino community participation were among seen as one of the contributing factors of the low turnout of voters registration and voters turnout during 2007 and 2010 elections. The new Philippine Chief of Mission in Saudi Arabia, H.E. Ambassador Ezzedin Tago will see to it that the Filipino community organizations must be involved this time.

The Philippine Overseas Absentee Voting mechanism was implemented in 2003, 2007 and 2010 Philippine elections to provide an opportunity for Filipinos abroad to exercise their right in electing the President, Vice President, Senators and one Party-list Representative. –end- BongA