Monday, April 30, 2007

11 Filipino Orphans Looking For Homes

( - Their résumés are short, just a few lines, and they are grim.

Abandoned at 2. Lived on the street until age 7. Taught by his mother to steal for a living. In foster care until father got out of prison and abused him until he was 4.

There are bright spots. Studying violin. Skillful in drawing. Appeared in a detergent commercial.

And all are from the Philippines and counting on someone to adopt them, warts and all.

International adoptions are common in the United States. One organization, Hand in Hand, which has an office in Albion, has long helped facilitate these adoptions by bringing children to the United States on what was called a vacation. Once here, orphans would be paired with host families interested in adopting. Over a couple of weeks, the potential parents and child could get to know one other.

The vacation strategy helped potential parents deal with what was a grab-bag approach to adoption. In Ukraine, for example, people wanting to adopt had to go to the orphanage and choose a child out of a book. They were then introduced to the child and expected to quickly decide whether to adopt. There was never a chance to get to know the child, and the orphanages provided little information about the children.

By presenting the trip to the U.S. as a vacation, the hope was that children wouldn't have their hopes built up and then dashed if they weren't adopted.

In just the past couple of years, for example, 14 children were brought to Fort Wayne from Ukraine, and 12 were adopted.

Then, just days ago, Russia, one of the major sources for American families wishing to adopt, called an abrupt halt to foreign adoptions.

Orphans aren't unique to Russia and Ukraine, though. They're all over the world. Hand in Hand is also trying to find homes for Filipino children living in orphanages, and 11 will be coming to Fort Wayne this summer. In the next couple of weeks, the organization hopes to arrange for a host family interested in adopting each of the children.

There is one major difference between children coming from, say, a Russian orphanage and those from the Philippines. The Russian and Ukraine orphanages offered little information on the children, other than their ages.

The children from the Philippines, though, come with full backgrounds. The backgrounds are often sad and often include tales of being abandoned, living on the street, abuse and mistrust born of being abandoned, abused and rejected.

The descriptions aren't completely grim. One 13-year-old boy has won awards for his art and appeared in a commercial for Tide. Another is studying the violin and performs dance. One has undergone counseling to deal with his behavior but is regarded as having good leadership qualities. Then there are the two sisters, both abuse victims, described as sweet and playful. The older one, 11, watches after her sister, 6. They want a mom and dad.

No one is trying to kid the children. Most are in the 11- to 13-year range, and unlike children who have come from Russia in the past, they know this isn't a vacation. They are old enough to know this isn't really just a trip to a day camp in America and have been told that the trip to the U.S. could result in their being adopted.

Many of the people who adopt these older orphans are people who have had children who are grown, says Vickie Truelove, administrative director for Hand in Hand in Indiana.

Truelove isn't trying to kid the parents, either. Families that are interested will be given a 35-hour class in which they are made aware of all the problems that can arise, particularly when dealing with children who have lived a life of abandonment. Families also undergo a home study process.

That is why the organization is hoping to arrange host families by early May.

"Your Friendly Web Designer & Developer"

Taiwan set to increase the salary of Filipino workers

( - While some host countries have protested the government's policy to double the monthly salary of domestic helpers, Taiwan has gone a step further and is raising their pay as global competition becomes stiff, especially with rival China, a labour official said.

Rosalinda Baldoz, chief of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said Taiwan is expected to raise the salary of commercial household helpers and factory workers from $400 (Dh1,469) to $700 (Dh2,571) a month in the near future.

"We hope to get more jobs for workers in Taiwan, especially the high-end jobs," Baldoz said.

She added the planned increase in workers' pay could have been Taipei's reaction to the "stiff competition" it faces among labour-importing countries, particularly China.

There are about 90,000 Filipino workers currently in Taiwan and most of them are factory personnel, according to the POEA chief.


In December last year, the POEA implemented a policy on the hiring of domestic helpers, which resulted in the doubling of their monthly salary, their age requirement up from 18 to 23 years old, and a ban on placement fees being imposed by recruitment firms.

Baldoz and Augusto Syjuco, Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief, were in Taiwan recently to prepare for an upcoming meeting between the two countries' labour officials.

Baldoz said the Philippines is aiming to deploy more workers to Taiwan because of the higher wages the country is offering.

The POEA chief added the government is also working on a system where workers no longer need to wait for the expiration of their contracts to be able to complain about abusive employers and their local counterparts.

"We will pilot-test a new system where workers with complaints of recruitment violation against their employers and recruiters may file these at the POEA [in Taiwan] even before their contracts expire," she said.

"Your Friendly Web Designer & Developer"

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Backward Mentality (Should Be English)

MANILA, Philippines -- Educators, including a retired Supreme Court justice, have asked the high court to nullify an executive order requiring the use of English as the principal medium of instruction beginning with the first grade.

In its 24-page petition for certiorari, prohibition with preliminary injunction, the Wika ng Kultura at Agham Inc. (WIKA, Language of Culture and Science), led by retired justice Isagani Cruz, said Executive Order (EO) 210 issued by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo "anti-poor and alienates Filipino school children from their Filipino heritage" and would make them "functional illiterates."

"The EO and the implementing order deprives school children coming from the lower socio-economic classes of the desired benefits in education for it has been shown that due to poverty, such school children receive very little public education, or a poorer quality of education than that available to rich families," the petitioners said.

Citing government and institutional studies, the petition said children in grade schools will learn much faster if they are taught in Filipino.

They also said the executive order and Department of Education (DepEd) Order 36 are unconstitutional.

EO 210 (Establishing the Policy to Strengthen English as a Second Language in the Educational System) was issued May 17, 2003. DepEd Order No. 36 contains its implementing rules.

Under the order, English should be used as the primary medium of instruction in all public institutions at the secondary level, relegating Filipino to being the medium of instruction in the subjects Filipino and Araling Panlipunan.

"The provisions of EO 210 and DepEd Oder No. 36 that English shall be taught as a second language starting with the first grade violates the above-quoted provisions of the Constitution since Filipino is actually only the second language in non-Tagalog areas. The EO thus subverts the present status of Filipino in non-Tagalog areas, and violates the constitutional injunction that regional languages shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction," the petition said.

They added the 1991 report of the Congressional Commission on Education recommended that the vernacular and Filipino should be the medium of instruction for basic education.

Because of this study, the education department implemented in 1991 and 1998 a program for the development of instructional materials in Filipino and, by the year 2000, all subjects except English and other languages were taught in Filipino. ( )

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Philippine-based Toothpaste Maker

The company also plans to venture fully into the country's cosmetics and household product sectors, which are dominated by both MNCs, by adding more products.

"We are now in the process of analyzing the market for three additional cosmetic products, which we plan to launch soon," he said in an interview at the Marco Polo Plaza Hotel yesterday.


Pedro was the speaker of the "Meet the Business Legend," a monthly project of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI).

Lamoiyan is the manufacturer of Happee toothpaste, Fresher feminine wash and Dazz dish washer.

Lamoiyan's Happee toothpaste has cornered about 25 percent of the market, third only to Colgate and Closeup, which have market shares of about 40 percent and 30 percent, respectively.


"We (Lamoiyan) are ready to fight them (Unilever and P&G) in the country. We are moving to the next level to compete with them. I believe that the Filipinos can excel and that Filipino products, like Happee, are comparable, and are even better than other products (manufactured by foreign companies)," Pedro said.

"But then, making us number one depends on the Filipinos," he added.

To improve on product quality, Pedro said Lamoiyan will invest some P100 million this year for equipment alone. This is on top of the amount the company will spend on marketing efforts and its human resources.


"We have hired the services of an international advertising agency. Our people in our research and development are from Unilever and P&G. This is a very huge—a growing—investment," he said.

Pedro said the company's hiring of international artist Lea Salonga as endorser of Happee is a manifestation of its determination to increase market share in the country.


Despite the additional investments, he said Lamoiyan will not increase the prices of its products. The toothpaste's price will remain 20 percent to 30 percent lower than the two leading toothpastes in the market.

"We are compromising our margin because we believe in providing quality yet affordable products to the Filipinos," Pedro said. (JBN)

Retirement Facility in Cebu

GROUP running a retirement and nursing home in Japan is now eyeing the Cebu Doctors' South General Hospital (South Gen) as a p****tial retirement facility.

"They want a place where it's near the hospital and the sea," Dr. P****ciano Larra-zabal Jr., Cebu Doctors' Hospital Inc. (CDHI) president said.

Larrazabal said CDHI and the Aiko group of Japan are negotiating to have the group relocate its retirees to the hospital's 70-bed fourth floor.

"It will be a trial run. But the Japanese are decided. They may be here in a couple of months," he said.


While waiting for the plans to materialize, the fourth floor will undergo renovation and additional amenities will be put up.
He said CDHI is already contemplating on hiring Niponggo teachers and a Japanese cook.

Larrazabal said once the deal is inked, the nursing staff will have an opportunity to learn the Japanese culture and to speak Niponggo.

While the initial plan was for the Aiko group to hire some of South Gen's nurses, he fears this may cause a "culture shock" for some nurses.

Bringing Japanese retirees here instead will be a "win-win" situation to both parties.

Larrazabal said the partnership with the Aiko group is a step closer to CDHI's realization of establishing a retirement village in southern Cebu.


"With the growing aging population, I can see that the Philippines, particularly Cebu, has bright prospects to cater to these retirees who are in need of good healthcare facilities and services," he said earlier.

He said CDHI may utilize a portion of the one-hectare lot in Naga, where the 250-bed Cebu Doctors' South Gen Hospital sits, for the retirement village or acquire other properties nearby.

There are also plans to construct a "mini mall" within the vicinity of the retirement village.

Larrazabal is optimistic that, in the near future, the healthcare sector will be among the province's booming industries, along with property development and information and communications technology.


While some hospitals in Manila make good retirement facilities, he said Cebu has a stronger probability to attract the medical tourism market because of the province's peace and order situation, better airport facilities, good telecommunications and the Cebuanos' proficiency in the English language.

In the past years, CDHI has invested in building and improving its network of hospitals in the province, including Cebu Doctors' Hospital, North General Hospital in Talamban, Cebu City) and South Gen.


"We have committed our resources in building facilities that enhance the country's medical industry," Larrazabal told Sun.Star Cebu in the sidelines of the soft opening of Cebu Doctors' University at the Mandaue Reclamation Area last Saturday.

The multi-million-peso facility includes a six-story campus and will soon have an Olympic size swimming pool, a track oval and a mixed-use facility.

It sits on a 2.5-hectare lot. (MMM)

Published in SunStar Cebu

Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera Rematch

A MEXICAN newspaper reported a Manny Pacquiao-Marco Antonio Barrera rematch on Sept. 15 this year in Las Vegas, USA.

The news that came out from Esto last Saturday came as a surprise to the camp of Barrera who is anticipating a Barrera-Juan Manuel Marquez rematch.

But the news brings elation to Barrera who is itching to exact vengeance against the Filipino Mexican Destroyer.

However, the news was not confirmed by the Barrera's promoter Golden Boy Promotions (GBP) or from Pacquiao's promoter Bob Arum of Top Rank.


The GBP is planning a Barrera-Marquez rematch while Top Rank has scheduled Pacquiao against either Golden Boy's undefeated WBO superfeatherweight champion Joan Guzman of the Dominican Republic or Mexican Humberto Soto.

Last January the Pacquiao-Barrera rematch was ditched after the Filipino fighter signed up with Top Rank.

The two promoters sent offers and counter-offers but at the end, Barrera fought and lost to Marquez, while Pacquiao humbled the big-mouthed but unheralded Jorge Solis.

Although Barrera lost his belt to Marquez, many believed that a Pacquia-Barrera rematch could generate a huge interest from boxing fans.

Meteoric rise

Barrera lost to Pacquiao in November of 2003 in San Antonio, Texas, which earned the Filipino fighter his meteoric rise to stardom.

Pacquiao fought Marquez to a draw in May 2004 and the mandated Pacquiao-Marquez rematch was put off after the Mexican refused to take a lesser prize purse.

The World Boxing Council had ordered Marquez to make a mandatory title defense against Pacquiao but allowed the Filipino warrior to have a six-month break before pushing for the fight. (RCM)

Published in SunStar Cebu

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"No lack of work in RP only job-skill mismatch"

MANILA, Philippines -- Asserting that there is no lack of jobs in the Philippines but only a job-skill mismatch, the Department of Labor and Employment has listed down 29 hard-to-fill jobs in eight sectors.

At the National Human Resource Conference at the Manila Hotel Wednesday, the labor department said jobs that had vacancies but were difficult to fill were those for: geologists, mining engineers, and metallurgical engineers in the mining sector; cooks, tour guides, reservations officers for hotels and travel agencies, butlers, and baristas in the hotel and restaurant sector; welders, fabricators, pipe fitters, marine electricians, and all other jobs related to shipbuilding sector; entrepreneurs for the agribusiness sector; marine officers, seafarers, and culinary chefs for the maritime sector;

Doctors, nurses, massage therapists, and spa therapists in the health, wellness, and medical tourism sector; architects, engineers, heavy equipment mechanics, and other allied workers in the construction sector; engineers, accountants, animators, programmers, contact center agents, and medical transcribers and editors in the cyber services sector.

At the same time, Labor Secretary Arturo Brion said a total of nine million jobs -- four million in the country and five million abroad -- were available from 2006 to 2010.

"One of the most pressing social issues in the country is the outcry for jobs. Media and social discourse can make us believe that there are no more jobs left in the country. The reality, however, is that there are plenty of jobs waiting to be filled up by qualified workers," he said.

"What we found out is that there are sectors that are in need of workers who possess the critical skills required by the respective industries," he added.

In its presentation, DoLE defined hard-to-fill jobs as those that were "highly demanded and emerging jobs where supply shortages occur based on recruitment and hiring experiences of the key informants."

The labor department sourced the mismatch problem principally to low enrolment in the courses for these jobs due to lack of interest, high cost and long duration of training, lack of higher education and technical-vocational institutions that offer these programs, lack of qualified faculty and trainers, and lack of or inadequate training facilities.

These result in the poor performance in licensure exams, especially in the engineering and medical professions.

To address this problem, the Commission on Higher Education and the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority agreed to implement several interventions this year and next: to reintegrate skills courses in basic education; add language and information technology units in higher education; and adopt uniform international standards for accreditation.

(Published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer)

World-Class Filipinos

by Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star)

A Filipina graced the cover of the New York Times magazine last weekend. No, she isn't a supermodel or a celebrity. She is much better than that. She is an OFW. Rosalie Comodas Villanueva, who grew up in the tough neighborhood of Leveriza, is a nurse at Al Rahba Hospital in Abu Dhabi. She makes $24,000 a year — compared to the $1,200 she made while working here at home. Her parents have been taking care of her two children for years. The lengthy feature honors OFW sagas, Rosalie's, her family's and many others like her.

There is no more doubt that our OFWs are now a world class phenomenon. Nearly 10% of our 89 million people live abroad. About 3.6 million are OFWs, another 3.2 million have migrated permanently, largely to the United States, and 1.3 million more are thought to be overseas illegally. There are a million OFWs in Saudi Arabia alone, followed by Japan , Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates and Taiwan. OFWs are in at least 170 countries, and about a quarter of the world's sailors come from the Philippines. They send home $15 billion a year, saving not just the economy but a succession of governments from a rebellion by the jobless and hungry poor.

I once made the joke that there is no need for our people to learn English because in a few more years, the world will understand Tagalog. Imagine all the Filipina nannies from Hong Kong to Rome to Toronto and London and who's going to say they aren't teaching more than a word of Tagalog to the young children they are taking care of. I think it was writer Jessica Zafra who once declared that we will one day conquer the world: today their bedrooms and bathrooms but tomorrow, the world!

Indeed, as Jason DeParle, the author of the lengthy NYT magazine article observed, the Philippines has exported labor for at least 100 years. The pineapple plantation workers of Hawaii, who left the Philippines in the early 1900s come to mind. Greg Macabenta traced an early colony of Filipinos in the New Orleans area, descendants of Filipinos who might have jumped ship during the Galleon trade between Acapulco and Manila.

This modern migration we are seeing today took shape 30 years ago under Ferdinand Marcos. And we were not alone. A number of Asian and Latin American countries were sending migrants abroad for the same reasons. A growing number of economists see migrants, and the money they send home, DeParle wrote, as a part of the solution to global poverty.

This view of effectively making the poor pay for development is distasteful. "It risks obscuring the personal price that migrants and their families pay. It could be used to gloss over, or even justify, the exploitation of workers. And it could offer rich countries an excuse for cutting foreign aid and other development efforts," DeParle wrote.

The worse part is how the phenomenon makes it easy for governments to develop a dependence on worker remittances. Migrants all over the world, according to DeParle, sent home some $300 billion last year. In contrast, the world spent $104 billion on foreign aid.

According to DeParle, the Philippines, which received $15 billion in formal remittances in 2006, ranked fourth among developing countries behind India ($25 billion), China ($24 billion) and Mexico ($24 billion). "Remittances make up three percent of the GDP in Mexico but 14% in the Philippines.

DeParle continues: "Despite fears that the money goes to waste, a growing literature shows positive effects. Remittances cut the poverty rate by 11% in Uganda and six percent in Bangladesh, according to studies cited by the World Bank, and raised education levels in El Salvador and the Philippines.

"Being private, the money is less susceptible to corruption than foreign aid; it is also better aimed at the needy and 'countercyclical' — it rises in response to slumps and natural disasters. Remittances help reduce government borrowing costs, saving the Philippines about half a billion dollars in interest each year… And consumption among the poor is hardly a bad thing."

The downside, DeParle writes, "is the risk of dependency, among individuals waiting for a check or for rulers (like Marcos) who use the money to avoid economic reforms… No country has escaped poverty with remittances alone. 'Remittances can't solve structural problems,' said Kathleen Newland of the Migration Policy Institute, a Washington research group. 'Remittances can't compensate for corrupt governments, nepotism, incompetence or communal conflict…'"

Then… there are the social costs. "Among the biggest worries, in the Philippines and beyond, are the 'left behind' kids, who are alternately portrayed as dangerous hoodlums and consumerist brats. Some people fear that their gadgets and clothes, sent from guilty parents abroad, corrupt village values."

Still, studies have found out that overall, "the migrants' kids did better in school, had better physical health, experienced less anxiety and were more likely to attend church…one theory is that remittances compensate for the missing parent's care. The study found migrants' kids taller and heavier than their counterparts, suggesting higher caloric intake, and much more likely to attend private school… There is no doubt that migration has costs… The point is that not migrating has costs, too — the cost of wrenching poverty."

The growth in migration, DeParle admits, "has roiled the West, but demographic logic suggests it will only continue. Aging industrial economies need workers. People in poor countries need jobs. Transportation and communication have made moving easier. And the potential economic gains are at record highs… with about one Filipino worker in seven abroad at any given time, migration is to the Philippines what cars once were to Detroit: its civil religion. A million Overseas Filipino Workers left last year, enough to fill six 747s a day."

This is why for me, the OFW phenomenon is a source of hope for the future. As I told a group of foreign businessmen last week, " with all our negatives in factors of production important to investors, it seems our real plus factor lies with our human resource. I am banking my hope in that large population of OFWs who will one day come home with new ideas, new dreams and a stronger determination to make political leaders accountable."

The world knows from first hand experience with our OFWs that we are good workers and top notch professionals, making them the best incentive to come here and invest. And one of these days, their talents would be used to bring to the motherland the economic gains they helped bring for the countries they worked in.

Summa cum laude

Mikaela Irene Fudolig, a 16-year-old graduated last weekend with a degree in BS Physics and with the highest academic honor of summa cum laude. She has a 1.099 grade point average. She is the youngest student to graduate from the UP in recent years and one of only two admitted to the state university without a high school diploma and without taking the UP College Admission Test, ANC reported.

I am glad there is an early placement program at UP to take care of gifted students like her. She was only 11 when she started taking college level courses at the university. I am sure we have many other students like her whose world class brains are being wasted in an educational system that provide them little challenge.

One other great thing… she isn't taking up nursing to work abroad. She is staying on at UP to teach. My congratulations to her, her parents and the UP professors who conceived and implemented the program! Let us now look for more Mikaelas out there and give them the education that they need.

Little Manila in Stockton

( - STOCKTON -- Most evenings, Stockton's Little Manila bustled. Dance halls hopped. Barbershops buzzed with the banter of young Filipino men, the picture of prosperity in suits and fedoras.

Pool halls crackled with excitement. Card rooms packed them in. Hotels filled with men seeking respite from the crowded barracks in the farm camps and asparagus fields outside town.

Little Manila was roaring.

"There was a pool hall on every block, a barbershop at every corner," said Albert Juanitas, 77, whose father was among the first Filipinos to settle the Central Valley. "There were lots of people hanging out in the street. They'd come dancing. They used to gamble in the basements."

For four decades, beginning in the late 1920s, Little Manila was the center of Filipino life in the Central Valley, its hub at the intersection of El Dorado and Lafayette streets, now on the southern fringe of downtown Stockton.

In May, a 30-minute documentary on KVIE-TV -- "Little Manila: Filipinos in California's Heartland" -- pays homage to Little Manila and the life that was for the manongs -- the term of endearment used by Filipino Americans to describe the forebears who began arriving from across the Pacific a century ago to work in the plantations and canneries of Hawaii, then later to the fields and orchards of California.

Their stories -- of perseverance, ambition, racism and triumphs -- shouldn't be forgotten, said Marissa Aroy, a U.S.-born Filipina from Bakersfield who produced the program.

"No one's telling their story," she said. "They're the ones who sacrificed, who left their families behind" for work in America.

"All these men went to Little Manila just to have fun, to forget about their hardships and their loneliness," said Aroy.

These days, few of the old buildings remain. Some made way for a handful of new businesses. The McArthur Hotel was razed for a fast-food restaurant.

Over the years, others were declared as blight, then demolished. Many parcels remain vacant because of redevelopment battles and unfulfilled ambitions.

Disappearing history

Little Manila's struggles, perhaps, are emblematic of the greater challenges facing the Filipino American community.

Despite being the country's second-largest Asian group, the Filipino community has largely remained invisible, its history at risk of being forgotten, said Dillon Delvo, a filmmaker and director of the Little Manila Foundation. The group hopes to preserve the district's few remaining historical buildings.

"It's one thing to read about history. But it's something else to feel it, to touch it, to have a direct connection to it," said Delvo.

The city designated four blocks as a historic district in 2000, but with no promises of protection. Still, it was hailed by Delvo as important recognition for the preservation movement.

For some communities, it's too late. San Francisco's Manilatown vanished, its 10-block expanse alongside Chinatown fading into the shadows of the financial district's skyscrapers and downtown redevelopment. The Kearny Street corridor had been home to thousands of Filipinos.

In Stockton, the Little Manila Foundation wants to save three buildings in the core of the neighborhood. The foundation bought the Mariposa Hotel, where Filipino farmworkers mapped strategy for some of the state's earliest labor strikes. The foundation has plans for restoring the hotel -- perhaps transforming it into a cultural center -- but has struggled to obtain financial backing.

A vestige of the Rizal Social Club remains, its dance floor empty, its windows boarded, its stuccoed facade wrinkled by peeling paint. The hip-hop group Black Eyed Peas, which counts a Filipino American among its members, used the dance hall as the setting for a video in 2006 to spotlight Little Manila's plight.

The Filipino American National Historical Society, which has a branch in Stockton, wants to establish a museum in one of the historic buildings.

Much of the district is already lost. The Crosstown Freeway, linking Interstate 5 and Highway 99, cut a swath through the district -- uprooting families and adding to the Filipino diaspora.

P360-M Crude Oil Plant in ARMM

(SunStar General Santos) - CRUDE oil processor, Agumil Phils. Inc., is expected to start putting up its P360 million refinery in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (Armm) within the year, a senior investments official said.

Agumil, a joint undertaking of Malaysian and Filipino investors, has applied with Armm's Board of Investments in March 2006 and was subsequently issued registration the same year.

Nemesio S. Mana-ay, Armm-BOI technical division chief, said Agumil has now about 600 to 700 hectares of oil palm plantation in Buluan, Maguindanao through an outgrowership planting scheme.

"Based on Agumil's time-table that was submitted to our office, they should be building the processing plant this year also in Buluan town," he said.

At full capacity, the refinery can accommodate about 45 tons per hour of fresh fruit bunches of oil palm, he added.

Mana-ay noted that Agumil's presence in Armm, the nation's poorest region, would boost the oil palm industry in the country considering the shortage of supply.

Agumil also maintains oil palm plantations in neighboring Sultan Kudarat but harvests are brought to Agusan del Sur for processing into palm oil.

The two other palm oil mills in Mindanao are the Kenram Industrial Development, Inc, which is also based in Sultan Kudarat province, and Filipina Palmoil Plantations, Inc. in Agusan del Sur.

Mana-ay pointed out that Agumil's plan to establish a refinery in Buluan would significantly reduced transport costs of farmers contracted by the firm to cultivate oil palm trees.

From Maguindanao to Agusan del Sur, travel time is estimated to be not less than six hours, passing through the Davao region.

Sultan Kudarat Gov. Pax Mangudadatu earlier told reporters that Agumil is bent on constructing a palm oil mill in Buluan town, the next town after President Quirino, Sultan Kudarat.

"There's a 20-hectare lot in Buluan where Agumil would construct its processing plant," he said.

The governor said, however, that Agumil will construct the plant after some 2,000 hectares of oil palm will be planted in Buluan and adjoining areas.

Mangudadatu said that in adjacent Columbio, which is under Sultan Kudarat province, oil palm plantations have been opening up.

The target in Columbio town is 6,000 hectares, with the governor failing to disclose how much has been consumed to date.

Mangudadatu's province is known for its oil palm industry, one of the top priority investment areas pushed by local government leaders.

Palm oil is the processed product of oil palm tree. Palm oil's unique composition makes it versatile in its application in food manufacturing and in the chemical, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries.

In the food industry, palm oil is the choice for manufacturing solid fat products. Palm oil olein and stearin are popularly used worldwide in making margarine, shortenings and confectionery, and in frying snack foods.

Palm oil is also used in the manufacture of soaps, detergents and other surfactants. It is a good raw material for producing oleochemicals, fatty acids, fatty alcohols, glycerol and other derivatives.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Filipinos 4th Largest Group in New Zealand

(GMA 7) - Filipinos rank 4th among the largest Asian groups in New Zealand, according to New Zealand's 2006 Culture and Identity Report.

The Chinese group is biggest with 147,570 people, followed by the Indians with 104,583, the Koreans with 30,792, and Filipinos with 16,938.

There are 354,552 Asians in New Zealand accounting for 9.2% of the national population, which now stands at 4,181,060, the latest census report said.

Although Asians remain the third largest group in the country, next only to Europeans and Maoris (New Zealand's native people of Polynesian descent), their populations grow fastest —that is from 238,176 in 2001 to 354,552 in 2006.

Filipinos expect their number would keep swelling as many are coming to find a home in this country known as the "Land of the Long White Cloud."

Victor, 40, a certified public accountant from Cebu, who arrived January of 2006, expects to get a permanent resident (PR) visa status next month. He said once he gets his PR, his wife and three kids in Cebu will join him soon.

Victor works as an accounting staff at the New Zealand Post, the country's postal services agency.

Highly skilled and professional Filipinos who migrated in last five years had hard time hunting for a job.

"If you are a nurse or an IT specialist or an accountant you can easily find a job that fits your credentials. Otherwise, you end up doing menial or manual jobs, regardless of credentials you have," said Vivian, 36, former sales executive and a graduate from a premier university in Manila.

She said she first worked as a factory worker for a year in Auckland before moving to the capital city Wellington, where she works as a clerk in a government office.

The two Filipinos have observed the growing diversity in New Zealand's population and culture, especially with the increase of the number of Asians.

They said this diversity in ethnic origins creates a pool of talented and skilled workers that New Zealand employers may wish take advantage of. – GMANews.TV

Ratings for 3 Philippine Banks

( - Standard & Poor's Ratings Services said it has raised the long-term counterparty credit ratings to 'BB-' from 'B+' on Indonesia's PT Bank Negara Indonesia (Persero) Tbk (BNI), and the Philippines' Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co. (Metrobank), Banco De Oro Universal Bank (BDO) and Equitable PCI Bank Inc. (EPCI) (see Ratings List below). The outlook is stable. At the same time, the Bank Fundamental Strength Ratings (BFSRs) of the four banks remain unchanged at 'D'.

The ratings have been raised to incorporate expected extraordinary support from the respective governments due to these banks' systemic importance in their individual countries. Standard & Poor's believes the respective governments are likely to have the willingness and capability to provide extraordinary support in the event the above banks encounter distress.

Extraordinary government support refers to specific actions-–recapitalization, liquidity support, or the purchase of problem assets-–that would prevent banks, including private sector banks, from failing. Standard & Poor's recognizes that the willingness of the governments of Indonesia and the Philippines to support systemically important banks in their systems, and defines these two governments as "interventionist." "Interventionist" is defined by Standard & Poor's as a government that is highly likely to intervene directly and rescue failing banks, compared with "supportive" and "support uncertain" governments (see "External Support Key In Rating Private Sector Banks Worldwide," published Feb. 27, 2007, on RatingsDirect).

BNI is a systemically important bank as it is the third largest with 10.5% market share in deposits and 8.4% in loans. Indonesia's PT Bank Mandiri (Persero) (BB-/Stable/B) is also a systemically important bank, in theory, qualifying for an uplift in its rating. However, Standard & Poor's does not think it appropriate that such implicit government support should raise the ratings on the bank above the foreign currency sovereign credit rating (foreign currency BB-/Stable/B; local currency BB+/Stable/B).

Metrobank in the Philippines is also systemically important as it is the largest bank with 16.4% market share in deposits and 11.4% in loans. BDO is also considered to be a systemically important bank as it will become the second-largest bank in the Philippines, after its expected merger with EPCI. On a pro forma basis, the merged market share of BDO-EPCI would be an estimated 15.8% in deposits and 12.4% in loans. Standard & Poor's expects BDO and EPCI to get the necessary approvals to complete the merger and be the second largest in the country.

Sola Cell Maker Expands Manufacturing Plant in RP

( - Sunpower Corporation, majority owned by Cypress Semiconductor, announced that they are expanding their solar cell manufacturing plant in the Philippines (SunPower Philippines Manufacturing Ltd). About Php 27 B ($562M) is being allocated for the expansion that will increase plant capacity to 400MW. An estimated 2000 jobs will be created by the expansion.

The existing plant in the Philippines is responsible for the production of the A300 model Solar Cell of the company. The expansion was brought about by a positive forecast for the succeeding years profits which is expected to triple that of 2006 due to an increased demand for Solar Power equipment.

A brief history of the company from their site:

SunPower solar technology was developed by Dr. Richard Swanson and his students while he was Professor of Electrical Engineering at Stanford University. Financial support for Dr. Swanson's early research was provided in part by the U.S. Department of Energy and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). In 1985 Dr. Swanson founded SunPower Corporation to commercialize high-efficiency photovoltaic cell technology for use in solar concentrators.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

First Philippine-Made Container Ship

(The Philippine News Agency) - Hanjin Heavy Industries, Corp-Philippines, Inc. (HHIC-PI), one of the world's largest shipyards in the world, switched on the steel plate cutting machine that signaled the start of its production here Thursday.

The first steel cutting ceremony was held at the newly-built HHIC-PI shipyard at the Redondo Peninsula.

"It is our pleasure to host the first steel cutting ceremony for the building of 4,300 TEU container ship here in Subic Bay. It is really a historic moment for our Subic shipyard," said HHIC-Phils. president and HHIC regional director Jeong Sup Shim.

The HHIC-PI constructed the shipyard complex inside the 480-hectare land area in the peninsula with a committed investment of $ 1 billion and is expected to create around 30,000 jobs.

Already lined-up for production are six units of 4,300-TEU container ships to be delivered to Diorxy Maritime Corp. in Greece in 2009.

The second production line will be comprised of six units of 4,300-TEU ships intended for NSC Schiffartsgeselhaft of Germany.

The ceremony was graced by Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Feliciano Salonga, SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Subic-Clark Alliance and Development (SCAD) Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan, and HHIP Chairman Nam Ho Cho.

Arreza noted that the activity marks a milestone which strengthens investors' confidence in the Freeport and in the entire country "as well as it catapults us into the forefront of the global shipbuilding industry".

Favila, meanwhile, conveyed to the HHIC-PI and maritime executives the President's wish to grace the major event, which is the launching of the first vessel.

"As for me, I find it a privilege to be part of this special occasion to signal the grand start of the fabrication of your first ship by having the honor, on behalf of the President, of pushing the button of the maiden cutting of steel plates," he said.

Favila also noted that the ceremony is a momentous event not only for Hanjin, but also to the shipbuilding and ship repair industry in the country as the project will boost the economy of the country.

Some 4,000 persons have been already employed during the pre-operation and construction phase. This will also create indirect employment to some 30,000 and will bring in close to -3.5 billion worth of export industries.

"I strongly believe that with the training programs conducted by HHIC-PI for Filipinos, the vast experience and stature of Hanjin shipbuilding, and the competent Filipino technicians, this project will introduce the Philippines in the world map of large scale shipbuilding as the new shipbuilding hub in Asia and the Pacific," the trade chief noted.

Visa Limit in Dubai?

( - DUBAI — Reports that visit visa holders are being restricted to entering the UAE only for four consecutive times are posing a new concern for Filipinos, said officials at the Philippine Consulate General (PCG) during the monthly community meeting on Friday.

While the issue was recently discussed formally, it had been talked about within the community for quite some time, causing serious concern for Filipino visitors, a majority of whom seek employment in the emirates. A study conducted last year disclosed that more than 500 Filipinos arrive in the UAE each day.

Although Brigadier Mohammed Ahmed Al Marri, Director of Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD) denied that any restrictions were imposed on the number of times people could come into UAE with visit visas, he said he was not aware of this particular report concerning Filipinos.

He further denied having received any official communication from Philippine Consul-General requesting for clarification of the immigration policy.

Meanwhile, Philippine Consul-General Antonio S. Curameng said he was informed about two weeks ago that four Filipinos were held and questioned at the Terminal 2 of the Dubai International Airport (DIA). The group had just arrived from a visa change trip to Kish Island.

"The immigration officer at the airport questioned them since their visit visas have been renewed several times. One of them has even been on visit visa for almost two years," said Curameng.

The group was eventually allowed to enter Dubai following PCG's intervention with DNRD, Curameng added.

Although working on visit visa is technically not permitted as per UAE laws, it is no secret that most tourists come to Dubai with the intention of looking for jobs. But if a person has been in the country for almost a year and has not secured an employment or residency visa, it could arouse the suspicion in the minds of immigration officials, commented an officer from the consulate's Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Section.

"The UAE visit visa is being abused by some tourists and leads to unscrupulous employers who often exploit tourists seeking jobs. This may probably be the reason why the Immigration is being more vigilant about visit visa renewals," added the source, who requested anonymity.

Curameng said the PCG has sent an official communication to the DNRD, requesting for a clarification of the immigration policy and is awaiting response.

"We do understand that we have to abide by the rules of our host country. But if the country has issued a visa to a tourist, the implementing immigration officer should honour that document. Otherwise, if they have a new policy on the limitation of entry for visit visa holders, it would be better not to issue visa to a tourist any more and just ask the applicant to go back to his country," the consul-general said.

Search for 10 Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children

( - Expat Pinoys are truly deserving of their titles as the country's modern-day heroes. They are living showcases of the endearing characteristics of Filipinos, bringing honor to the country through the diligence and resourcefulness they demonstrate in their work. They help tremendously in the progress of the Philippines through their earnings and remittances.

An even nobler cause, fueling our Expat Pinoys' drive in their efforts beyond borders, is their dreams for their children. Our fellow Filipinos overseas toil and labor to ensure a picturesque future for their offspring.

The Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) has long recognized the importance of Expat Pinoys. In another effort to cater to the needs of this sector of society, BPI is launching the Search for 10 Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children.

Through this endeavor, BPI wishes to instill pride within the Expat Pinoy children, helping them realize the magnitude of their parents' contribution to the country, but more importantly, to their future. It aims to inspire the children to achieve their dreams, which are the driving force of their overseas parents' sacrifices and endless diligence. This also serves as an added motivation to our Expat Pinoys, and validation as parents to see their children excel and be honored in a prestigious contest. The Search also seeks to reach out to the public's consciousness for them to fully grasp the value of the community of the Expat Pinoys and their families.

The Search for 10 Outstanding Expat Pinoy Children holds at stake a cash prize of PhP50,000.00. It is open to 15 to 21-year-old children of Expat Pinoys (OFWs) with current contract in another country. They must have parents or relatives who are BPI depositors. They must belong to the Top 10% of their class, level, or batch, with no failing marks. They must be presently enrolled or a graduate of a four-year course (no more than two years past).

Apart from an accomplished application form, they must provide a certified true copy of grades, including a list of awards from school; Proof of enrollment in the current school year ( e.g. registration form), or a diploma or certificate of graduation from the college or university; Birth certificate or proof of relation to the Expat Pinoy (OFW); Form certification of BPI Branch Head, indicating that a member of his/her family has an account with BPI; Letter of nomination from the school principal, district superintendents, college dean, managers of BPI or BPI Family Savings Bank; Parish priest or head of a civil or church organization (Forms are available for free at all branches of BPI or BPI Family Savings Bank, or may be downloaded from; and

The criteria for judging include Academic Excellence (70%); Non Academic, including Sports (5%), Artistic Talent (5%), Performing Arts (5%), and Community/Civic Works (5%); and Essay Writing (10%).

The nominee must submit an essay, answering the question "Ano ang papel ko sa pagpapaunland ng ating pamayanan bilang anak ng isang Expat Pinoy?" (What is my role in the development of our society, as a son/daughter of an Expat Pinoy?). The essay may be written either in English or Filipino, type-written; double-spaced, and must be between 1,500 – 2,000 words. It will be judged according to relevance (30%); presentation and style (30%); impact (30%); and grammar (10%).

Deadline of submission of forms is on June 30, 2007. All requirements must be sent to the Secretariat c/o MerkCom at Unit 711 7th Floor, Manila Bank Building, Ayala Avenue Makati City.

Judges include representatives from BPI, Bangko Sentra ng Pilipinas (BSP); Department of Education, Culture and Sports (DECS); Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA); and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

The ten chosen Oustanding Expat Pinoy Children will be announced in August 2007 during the 156th anniversary of BPI. All winners will be notified through mail.

Filipino Mercenaries In Iraq

( - Filipino ex-cops and soldiers are among the growing number of "mercenaries" recruited to provide security in Iraq, a UN report said. The UN report, which will be presented next month, warned that methods used by private western security companies do not prepare recruits for the conflict. The strain, the report warned, could place recruits "in a situation where they can violate human rights because they are armed."

Private security guards employed by western companies make up the second highest number of armed forces currently posted in Iraq, after the US military but ahead of the British troops, according to Jose Luis Gomez del Prado, the head of a UN workgroup on the use of mercenaries.

Many of the recruits stem from former police and military forces in the Philippines, Peru and Equador, according to the workgroup, which recently conducted missions to the latter two countries.

"They are trained quickly but not prepared for armed conflict situations," Gomez del Prado said.

"They are sent there, they receive M16 [assault rifles] and are placed in very dangerous areas like the Green Zone [in Baghdad], convoys and embassies," he added.

While the recruits sometimes carry out important and honorable tasks like protecting humanitarian organization convoys, they are also "in a situation where they can violate human rights because they are armed," according to the UN expert.

"At least 160 companies are operating in Iraq. They probably employ 35,000 to 40,000 people," Gomez del Prado said on the sidelines of a second workgroup session in Geneva last week.

More than 400 of these private employees have died in Iraq since 2003, putting their casualties below the number suffered by US armed forces but ahead of British military deaths, he said. "And a lot more have been injured.'

The workgroup is scheduled to deliver a report to the UN Commission for Human Rights next month emphasizing concerns over mercenary recruitment methods used by US companies like Triple Canopy and Blackwater.

While Americans and Europeans working in war zones for private security companies often make as much as $10,000 (7,600 euros) a month, Peruvians doing the same job seldom make more than $1,000, and their working rights are often violated, Gomez del Prado said.

"The contracts they sign often hide things that aren't clear. The original is in English, which most of them do not speak," he said.

The recruits are entitled to the labor rights applied in the country where the company hiring them is headquartered, but the UN expert pointed out that it is hard to imagine "a poor Peruvian filing suit in an American court."

The number of private security companies working in war zones like Iraq has exploded in recent years, with one private security employee for every four US soldiers  currently stationed in Iraq.

That number is up from one private security guard for every 50 US soldiers who took part in the first Gulf war in 1990/91, Gomez del Prado said.

He is alarmed at the legal vacuum in which these companies operate, pointing out that their activities are not actually covered by the strict definition of mercenaries given in the 1989 International Convention against the Use, Recruitment, Financing and Training of Mercenaries, signed by 28 countries.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

An Anti-Family Pres. Bush (How Heartless!)

(The Philippine Star) - WASHINGTON DC - The plan of the White House to scrap immigrant petitions that many Filipinos with close relatives in the United States now have to wait from five up to 20 years to push through has triggered a howl of protest from the immigrant community in the United States.

United States President George W. Bush is reportedly moving to eliminate of all family-based immigrant visas as part of measures to reform the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

This stand of the White House clashes directly with US House Resolution 1645, which provides for comprehensive US immigration reforms.

The measure aims, among others, to eliminate the backlog in family-based visa applications, especially for spouses and unmarried children of legal residents, or the green card holders, 21 years old and younger.

Jon Melegrito, executive director of the National Alliance for Filipino Veterans Equity (NAFVE), warns the White House move will have severe repercussions for the Filipino-American community and their families in the Philippines.

Stephen Legomsky of the Washington University School of Law told a hearing of the US House subcommittee on immigration, citizenship, refugees, border security and international law Thursday afternoon, "these separations virtually invite illegal immigration".

Melegrito accuses Bush of "playing politics" with the proposed immigration reform package by offering to scrap family-based visas. Many see it as old-fashioned DC horse-trading to prod hard-line Republicans to support the reforms.

Curiously, much of the Bush package such as a guest worker program and allowing undocumented workers to stay in the US after paying fines, have drawn wider support from Democrats than from his own party.

Republicans have taken the tack that prevention and intensified enforcement - like building a wall across the Mexican border - was the way to go. There's an estimated 250,000 undocumented Filipinos in the US and they would obviously be anxious about any fresh crackdown on illegal aliens.

Muzzaffar Chishti, Director of the Migration Policy Institute, testified, "With very few options for entering legally through employment-based visa categories, intending immigrants could try to enter through the family-based categories...but the wait list for many of these categories are prohibitively long."

"In the absence of legal channels, immigrants entering our labor market have come to rely on illegal channels," Chishti told the solons.

The pressure is only sure to mount as so-called Baby Boomers near retirement. This and a combination of normal attrition and economic expansion are expected to create 65 million new jobs by the end of the decade, a demand the local workforce can barely fill.

Filipino-American groups are joining a large immigration rally on May 1, dubbed the "Great American Boycott."

Organizers are asking protesters to stay off work and shopping malls and march on the streets of D.C. The divergent immigrant groups are driven by their own agenda and priorities.

For the Fil-Am community, protecting their right to bring spouses and children here is top on their list.

"Families should be together as soon as possible, and they should shorten the time between applying for the visa and getting it here," explained Rozita Lee, vice chairperson of the umbrella National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA).

On the other hand, migrant workers group Migrante International opposed the move saying it is the right of a person to travel and migrate to US and other parts of the world.

Migrante International regional coordinator Ritchie Nellas said that the move might have to do with the September 11 attack for the US to control and monitor the people who are migrating to the country.

"It might be part of their anti-terror war for them to control and know who are entering their country," he said.

Nellas said that eight to ten millin Filipinos have migrated to the different parts of the world and the biggest part of the number went to the US.

At present, he said that there are some 2.5 million Filipino migrants in the US, which makes them the third biggest foreign nationality in number there.

At present, about 60,000 new Filipino immigrants enter the United States annually, making Filipinos the largest immigrant group from the Asia-Pacific region.

Nellas said that many anti-government and anti-Bush groups from other countries have also entered the US.

He cited Bagong Alyansang Makabayan or Bayan, which has also formed a chapter in the US.

"Many groups are against the US policies. Bush wants to restrict the entry of foreign nationals to their country not only to prevent entry of terrorists groups but also other legitimate groups," he said. - Wenna A. Berondo with / NLQ

Filipina Beaten by Nigers (monkeys from Africa) Draws Support

NEW YORK, NY, April 20, 2007 — FIND, Inc. is appalled at the nightmarish event that occurred on March 14, 2007 as a Filipina Catholic-school girl was heavily beaten on a New York City MTA bus and was further ignored by the bus driver who insensitively told her to "Go talk to a priest." 17-year old Marie Stefanie Martinez was attacked by 13 African American teenagers after stepping onto a B82 bus in Brooklyn. After being taunted, being called a "Chink" and being pushed around, Martinez finally decided to fight back and that is when things took a turn for the worse.

Martinez recalls, "They were pulling my hair, pulling my hair, opening my book bag!" she said. "I said, 'Leave me alone. I'm not doing anything to you… That's when they started to crowd around me. [One] boy punched me twice in my face and my mouth."

Fortunately, a man in his 30s currently on the bus intervened and took Martinez away from the group of rowdy teenagers, although afterwards she was thoroughly bruised and battered. After notifying the bus driver of what had happened to her she was shockingly told to "Go talk to a priest" without any other effort being done to ameliorate the situation.

After talking with the Martinez family, Martinez's lawyer Rosemarie Arnold stated that the family has decided to sue the MTA. "How did the bus driver let this happen?" Arnold said. "You have 13 kids making a commotion. This guy just turned a blind eye to it.

FIND Inc. National Chairman Steven Raga stated "This attack on Marie Martinez was a blatant act of anti-Asian racism, but not just by the assailants. As the MTA bus driver is responsible for the rights and welfare of those in the vehicle, it is shameful that his cavalier attitude towards this serious matter serves as representation for the New York City MTA. FIND Inc. fully supports Marie Martinez on her lawsuit and hopes for her full and quick recovery."

Please spread the word about this incident as anti-Asian hate crimes such as this are not to be tolerated. FIND, Inc. would like to encourage you to please review and take time to sign the petition linked below targeting the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) for accountability.

Thank you for your time in helping in this course of action. For more information on future FIND Inc, programs or events, please visit WWW.FINDINC.ORG.

Steven B. Raga
National Chairman; Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue
National Director, D3; Filipino Intercollegiate Networking Dialogue
(917) 392-4546 / (631) 821-4485

Korean Runs For Mayor In Mindanao

(ABS-CBN News) SURIGAO CITY - A 64-year-old Korean businessman married to a Filipina has joined local politics and is running for mayor of the seaside town of Basilisa in the newly created Dinagat Islands province.

Sangkil Ham Park, a naturalized Filipino, registered himself as "Chairman" in his certificate of candidacy (COC) and is running as an independent.

He is the Chairman-Founder of the Philippine-Chason Charity Foundation.

Park claimed he has been staying in Basilisa town for 10 years and six months prior to the May 14, 2007 elections, according to records obtained by THE STAR from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC).

Park was born in Seoul, South Korea on Jan. 10, 1943. He currently resides at Purok 8, Barangay Tag-abaca, Basilisa, Dinagat Islands.

He is married to one Susan Busmeon, a native of the islands.

In his certificate of candidacy, Park told the COMELEC that he will try to create jobs for the people of Basilisa by inviting foreign investors to set up industries and factories using the island's natural resources. He also wants to develop the town's agriculture sector in order to provide food security.

Park plans to construct a well-equipped municipal hospital.

He will also prioritize the improvement and development of the town's favorite tourist-destination areas like the beautiful Lake Balalu, and scenic Hagak-Hagakhak island.

He said he will also provide computers for Basilisa National High School and for each of the 27 barangays of Basilisa.

In his platform of government, Park said he will provide manpower training for the increasing number of out-of school youth left unattended by the government to prepare them for employment in the various industries he plans to invite in Basilisa town.

He also claimed that once elected, he will initiate the construction of a children's park and recreation center for the town's growing number of senior citizens.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Lucio Tan One of the Richest Persons in the World

( - A local entrepreneur is among three Filipinos listed as the richest people in the world, according to Forbes Magazine. Lucio Tan, the self-made tobacco proprietor turned business tycoon, is ranked 407th out of 946 recognized people from 53 different countries on the prestigious and notorious Forbes roster of global billionaires. Tan's net worth is estimated at being US$2.3 billion.

Tan's family's business local private sector endeavors include Benson's Hardware, SM Mart and the Fiesta Resort hotel. Described as being "frugal and low-key" and "at times controversial", the 72-year-old Tan has invested heavily in several Asian interests like Philippine Airlines, the Philippine National Bank and fortune tobacco. Forbes also cites Tan as owning a large portfolio of real estate in Hong Kong.

Tan is joined by two of his countrymen, industrialist Jaime Zobel de Ayala and retail giant Henry Sy.

Four Filipinos Die in Crash in Mid East

( - One of the survivors of a horrific van crash on the Riyadh-Dammam highway, in which four Filipinos died last Friday night, is to undergo surgery on his spine in Hofuf soon.

Alan Castaٌeda who was driving the van, told Arab News, in a phone interview from Riyadh Central Hospital yesterday, that he cannot remember what caused the accident.

According to community leaders based in Riyadh, among the fatalities were the couple Edimar and Rojani Abragante and their 7-year-old son, Neil.

Elien Bantay also died in the accident, according to sources. However, her husband Edmar Bantay and their son, Lemuel, survived in the accident.

Macky, the 10-year-old son of the Abragantes, also survived.

Traveling with them in the same van were four members of the Castaٌeda family. Miraculously, the driver Alan, his wife Daisy Castaٌeda and their two children Jordan, 4-years-old, and Janayah, 1-year-old, all survived in that tragic accident.

Daniel Vallestero, an officer of the Master Builders Association of the Philippines (MBAP) based in Riyadh, told Arab News that the three families had just attended the celebration of the MBAP Foundation Day in Riyadh and were returning to the Eastern Province when the tragic accident happened.

All the fatalities were brought to Riyadh Central Hospital while the survivors were treated at the King Fahd Hospital in Hofuf.

According to Alan, they flipped over several times and some of the passengers were thrown out, including the 4-year-old boy, Lemuel.

Other survivors only got minor injuries and are recovering well. But, Lemuel Bantay, who was rushed to the National Guard Hospital in Riyadh, was initially in critical condition and is under observation.

The teachers and students of the Philippine School in Dammam, where the children of Abragante and Castaٌeda studied, were shocked on hearing the tragic news. Classmates of Neil cried upon hearing that their jolly friend was already gone.

RP Basketball Team in the Olympics

by Joseph Pimentel/

LOS ANGELES - The last time the Philippine National basketball team reached the Olympics in 1972, most of the players on the current roster were not born yet.

Inside the Home Depot Center in Carson, excitement fills the air. Predominantly white jerseys with a shield-crest of the Philippine flag adorn a new generation of Filipino national basketball players.

The RP team arrived in Los Angeles during the last week of March and started training at the Home Depot ADT Event Center on Monday, April 2.

The group is hoping to be the first Philippine team in 36 years and eighth RP National basketball team to qualify for the Olympics. Next year, Beijing, China is hosting the 2008 summer Olympics.

"We want to create history by being the first Philippine team in 36 years to reach the Olympics," said RP National Coach Vincent "Chot" Reyes.

After the Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) lifted its suspension against the Philippines in February, Coach Chot Reyes quickly assembled the "best of the best" 12 players from the Philippine Basketball Association.

"We have a group of players that could play a lot of different positions. The guards are quick and the team as a whole could shoot the ball pretty well," said Coach Reyes. "More importantly is the excitement. These guys want to be here. They are a group of the highest paid professionals in the Philippines who are giving up their family time, vacation and rest time to come and represent the country."

"The team was put together three weeks ago [March 12] but as a group they have been playing with or against each other in the PBA for the past two years. It's going to be really exciting to see how they continue to gel," added Aboy Castro, Assistant Coach and Scout of the RP team.

The task to qualify will not be easy. The Chinese National Basketball team led by 7'6" center Yao Ming of the NBA Houston Rockets has dominated the FIBA Asia Championship for Men the past three tournaments. The tallest player on the RP team is 6'9" Asi Taulava of the PBA Talk N Text team.

"Our biggest weakness is going to be [going against] the size of China, Qatar, and Lebanon - the bigger teams in Asia. That's our biggest concern," said Coach Reyes.

Despite the odds, the coaches and players are set out to regain the dominance over Asia that once was Philippines basketball of the 1950's and 60's. But first, they have to compete against other players in tune-up games.

The RP team on Monday April 2 and Tuesday April 3 scrimmaged at the Home Depot Center against a compilation of American players who play international basketball professionally, ABA Hollywood Fame players, and Bryon Russell, formerly of the Los Angeles Lakers.

After being down by as much as 18 points on Monday, the RP National team came back and defeated the group of rogue players much to the dismay of Russell on the final score of 98-81.

"It was fun everybody had a good time. Both teams competed," said Russell. "And [on Monday] we lost to the Filipino National team. They started off slow but their very competitive and they stepped their level of play up."

Coach Hernando Planells, also of Filipino-American descent, coach of the ABA Hollywood Fame and the scrimmage, said the RP team doesn't appear to have a lot of size but they have a lot of speed that could carry them to an Olympic berth.

"From a talent perspective, and I've seen a lot of other national teams, I think they are very talented," said Coach Planells. "I truly believe they do have a great shot in qualifying for the Olympics."

Planell's rogue team with Russell blew out the RP National team by more than 20 points in the second game on Tuesday.

Jayjay Helterbrand of the PBA Barangay Ginebra Kings and member of the RP National team said after the lost that this is a learning opportunity but no reason to worry.

"We can't get down on this lost. We have to make sure we learn from it. Hopefully, we can improve and get ready for the upcoming tournament. We're playing guys that are bigger and stronger than us and just as quick so it's definitely going to help us get ready in our upcoming games versus China, and the best of Asia."

Helterbrand right now doesn't care about winning or losing games. He knows it's still early in the training process and the chemistry of the team is not there yet.

"This is only our second game we played together as a group," said Helterbrand. "Chemistry is built on playing together repeatedly. It's going to come with a lot of playing time and training together. We are the best in the Philippines but if we don't work together, we're not going to beat anybody."

Coach Reyes after the defeat said, "We're not in game shape right now."

To prepare for the rigorous training and conditioning regiment that the upcoming tournaments will require, Coach Reyes asked the assistance of the Abunassar Impact Basketball camp, which has trained NBA players Kevin Garnett, Chauncey Billups and other prominent professional players.

Joe Abunassar, President of the Abunassar camp, said the training regiment for the RP National players start their day at 8 a.m. where they do "performance training," a series of exercises including two hours of weights training, balance and body control, and nutritional information before hitting the basketball court for another two hours to work on individual skills. After they grab lunch, the players end their day playing an intra-squad or exhibition match.

"What the games are great for is it allows you to see strengths and weaknesses. Not winning or losing but seeing where the team is at right now," said Abunassar. "These are a group of guys that really play well with each other."

The Philippine National team will continue to work out at the Home Depot Center until they depart back to the Philippines on April 13 to prepare for competition tournaments in Iraq, Thailand, Qatar, and Europe. Most importantly, the team has the date circled for the FIBA 2007 Southeast Asia Basketball Association (SEABA) tournament and The FIBA Asia Championship for Men, the Olympic qualifying tournament.

Coach Reyes is hoping to see more Filipinos in the stands cheer them on for their next few exhibition games scheduled on Saturday April 7, Tuesday April 10 and Wednesday April 11. All games start at 2 p.m.

"We need all the support we can get," said Coach Reyes.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

10% of Philippine Population Work Abroad

by Cesar Torres, Filipino Insider, San Francisco Chronicle

This is probably a first in the history of mankind.

More than 10% of Philippine population of 89.5 million are in Diaspora. We are working in various capacities all over the world. We have remitted $15 billion to the homeland in 2005, according to the London-based Economist, an amount which is equivalent to 15.2% of Philippine Domestic Product for that year. Two-thirds of our people rely on us. Obviously, under normal circumstances, we should be given a little importance.

The powerful people in the Philippines cannot just consign us to a position as a lucrative and dependable source of Philippine foreign exchange to help stabilize our economy.

As a matter of fairness and in the national interest, we have to be represented in the affairs of government. When there is massive and legitimate dissatisfaction with the quality of national leadership and system of governance, our people can no longer continue to mass by the millions on a major street in Metro Manila like what happened in 1986 and 2001, in Edsa I and Edsa II, to demand that presidents depart from Malacañang. Resorting to "direct democracy" through mass actions can no longer guarantee a peaceful change in power. The potential risks have become deadly.

Consequently, less dramatic and less potentially dangerous was the enactment of two legislations by the Philippine Congress affecting overseas Filipinos. In 2003 a law allowing "Dual Citizenship," Republic Act 9225, was passed. It allowed natural-born Filipino citizens who may have lost their Philippine citizenship due to naturalization as citizens of a foreign country to re-acquire their Philippine citizenship. As of January 2007, the Bureau of Immigration had approved the application for dual citizenship of more than 24,000 former Filipinos.

In the same year, the Overseas Absentee Voting Law (OAVL) was also enacted. This law allows qualified Filipinos outside of the homeland to exercise their right of suffrage.

The latest figure from the Philippine Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the Department of Foreign Affairs indicate that some 504,000 Filipinos have registered as Overseas Absentee Voters.

It is noteworthy that based on the available data, in North and South America as of January 19, 2007, the Consulate General in San Francisco tops the list of the number of registered absentee voters at 4,800 out of a total of 13,083. For the same period, Los Angeles recorded 154 and Honolulu 20. Needless to say, the figures in these two cities are dismal, considering the great number of Filipinos in those places.

The San Francisco Consulate General also accounts for some 6,500 dual citizens out of the 24,000 or so all over the world. This is more than 27% of the total worldwide. In fact, about 50 Filipino Americans are sworn in as Filipino citizens every week.

Participation in Philippine governance by exercising the right of suffrage is one way of being involved more closely in the affairs of the homeland. The Overseas Absentee Voters and the dual citizens who have registered to vote can help in the selection of the more qualified and competent legislators. It is unfortunate, however, that the right of suffrage is confined to voting for President, Vice President, Senators, and Party List representatives. Overseas Absentee Voters would prefer to vote for their congressmen and governors because they have a direct impact on their hometowns and communities more than senators and Party List representatives.

Aside from participating in the election of their Senators, Party List Congressmen, Presidents and Vice Presidents, there is now an intensifying clamor among the 10 million Filipinos all over the world that they should have the right to be voted on as candidates for political offices without renouncing their other citizenship. It is argued that the right to vote implies the corresponding right to be voted on. If one is a dual citizen of, say, the United States and the Philippines, and U.S. laws do not prohibit Philippine citizenship while retaining American citizenship, Global Filipino Nation advocates such as Dr. Jose V. Abueva, Victor Barrios, Lito Gutierrez, Carmen Colet, Evelio Flores, Aida Barrios, Morgan Benedicto, University of San Francisco Professor Jun Jun Villegas of the Global Filipinos Coalition, UP lawyers Johannes Ignacio and May Ann Teodoro, journalists such as Greg Makabenta and Perry Diaz in the United States, and other concerned civic Filipino leaders all over the world such as Bong Amora, Sultan Rudy Dianalan, Bong Karno, Gerry Cuares in the Middle East, and Jun Aguilar and Leo Santiago whose network extend to sailors and Filipino workers all over the world, passionately argue that dual citizens should have the right to be candidates for political office or to be appointed to public offices in the Philippines.

This advocacy is now being hotly contested in the Philippines. Theodore Makabulos Aquino or Kuya Ted, a nephew of the assassinated martyr Ninoy Aquino, who is both a Filipino and an American citizen has filed his certificate of candidacy as an independent candidate for Senator this May 14, 2007 election. A graduate of the University of the Philippines, president of the UP Alumni Association of America, a volunteer in the Transfer of Knowledge and Technology program to the Philippines of the United Nations Development Program, an engineering and environmental consultant in America, the Comelec has disqualified his candidacy because he has not renounced his American citizenship. A request for reconsideration has been submitted. As we go to press, a decision is now being awaited. If the decision is adverse, then off to the Philippine Supreme Court it will be. It is imperative that the highest court in the land should rule on this critical issue.

In these critical times when mankind is faced with the deadly challenges of terrorism, global warming, globalization, intensifying poverty, environmental degradation, revolutionary movements, and hunger in the Philippines, our leaders cannot continue to lean on traditional and hackneyed ideas of citizenship and political participation. In California, the eight largest economy in the world, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is not only a dual citizen. He is a Triple Citizen. He is American, Austrian, and European Union Citizen. New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is a dual citizen. He is American and Mexican. The Philippines needs to take this "New Reality", in the words of Mr. Robert Ceralvo, an outstanding Filipino and IT engineer, into consideration.

In addition to the foregoing types of representation, the Philippines can learn from the system in Italy. Italians who are outside of Italy, those in what are known as "Foreign Constituencies," are represented in the Italian legislature. Six senators and twelve deputies represent these "Foreign Constituencies" in the Italian legislature.

After the election on May 14, it is more or less certain that the issue of Charter Change will be addressed again. We are not familiar with all the details of the draft Philippine Constitution that the House of Representatives wanted to impose on the Filipino people. Whatever it is, the 10 million Filipinos can no longer be regarded as just brutalized and maligned domestic helpers and exploited Filipinos. They have every right to participate in shaping the kind of society that their fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, relatives, and fellow Filipinos are hoping for – the dream of a progressive, peaceful, respectable, and just Philippine society. They are paying with their lives, with their misery, with their pain for this dream.

Doctor Jailed For Molesting Filipina

A DOCTOR who molested a maid during a medical examination has been sentenced to 10 months in jail.  

Steven Ho Ah Hoo, 54, was found guilty of touching the Filipina's breasts on April 25, 2005, at the Global Network Medical Centre in Jalan Bukit Merah.  

He is out on bail pending the outcome of an appeal against the conviction and sentence.  

During the five-day trial before District Judge Kow Keng Siong, Ho claimed that the maid had made the allegation only because she wanted to extract money from him.  

But under cross-examination, he conceded that she never demanded money at any point in time.  

He created a stir when he said that foreigners have "lesser rights" than Singaporeans.  

The comment came after he accused the maid's agents of breaching the Immigration Act by allowing her to stay overnight at one of their homes.  

To buttress the claim, he produced a copy of another foreign national's work permit conditions taken from his medical file.  

Asked by Deputy Public Prosecutor Imran Abdul Hamid whether he had respected patient-doctor confidentiality and sought that patient's permission, Ho said he had not.  

"Foreigners have lesser rights," he declared.  

In his defence on the molestation charge, Ho said that the door of his consultation room was kept open while he was with the maid.  

But the 25-year-old woman, at the clinic for a six-monthly medical examination, testified that the door was closed and that she was alone with Ho.  

After the medical check-up, she spoke to the clinic staff who confirmed that a breast examination was not needed.  

Ho's lawyer, Goh Teck Wee, pleaded for leniency, but Imran pointed out that the accused had abused his position of trust.  

A doctor since 1977, Ho was in 2003 acquitted of molesting a medical products sales promoter after the matter was compounded – meaning that it was settled between the parties involved. – The Straits Times / Asia News Network  

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Fil-Ams No Political Clout?

(ABS-CBN, The Philippine Star, By Jose Katigbak) - Filipino-Americans account for more than half of the foreign exchange that the Philippines receives annually from its overseas workers but lack the political clout to match their economic muscle.

From a handful of Filipinos who first arrived to work in the sugarcane fields of Hawaii 100 years ago, the community has grown to some 2.5 million, most of them naturalized US citizens or permanent residents. In addition there are about 200,000 illegal Filipino workers.

Their overall remittances to the Philippines last year totaled about $6.6 billion.

However, only 16,339 have registered to vote in the May 14 elections, said consul general Domingo Nolasco of the embassy in Washington.

The majority of these absentee voters are green-card holders, as permanent residents are known, while some are illegal workers and the rest, dual citizens.

The dual citizenship law of 2003 allows Filipinos who have acquired foreign citizenship to re-acquire their original citizenship enabling them to vote.

But the vast majority of Filipino-Americans have not availed themselves of this option in the mistaken notion that it will jeopardize their US citizenship, Nolasco said.

Whether it's voting in Philippine elections or US elections, the Filipino voter leaves much to be desired.

According to the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA), there are an estimated 1.8 million Filipino-Americans of voting age in the US.

However only 594,000 voted in the 2004 US presidential elections.

NaFFAA aims to mobilize Filipinos who are US citizens to register and vote in the November 2008 elections and to encourage those who are not yet citizens to go through the naturalization process.

"To influence policymakers, we need to get into positions of power by using our votes to elect officials who represent our interests, or getting elected ourselves," said NaFFAA head Alma Kern said.

"Political empowerment is about being able to better the lives of people by influencing legislation through our voices and collective strength," Kern said.

American Peace Corps Volunteer Missing in the Philippines

( - Taking a walk in the hills of one of the most dangerous countries in the world has led to the disappearance of Julia Campbell, a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer. She was last seen on April 8.

Reports said that Campbell, 40, planned to hike alone in the hills last Sunday just a mile from the town of Banaue, Ifugao province, in the mountainous northern Philippines. But when she failed to show up for appointments in the following days, Campbell's co-workers started to worry.

According to U.S. Embassy spokesman Matthew Lussenhop, local officials, Peace Corps security personnel and embassy staff are already in the area where the missing woman was last seen, about 160 miles north of Manila. They are busy talking with people who may have seen her. At least four teams from the Philippine National Police have been deployed in Ifugao province and were already combing the countryside.

Police operatives also checked various traveler inns and hotels in Banaue, crosschecking the registries in the hopes of getting a lead on Campbell's whereabouts.

The U.S. Embassy main office in Manila is offering an undisclosed monetary reward for anyone who can provide information on the exact status and location of the Peace Corps volunteer.

The almost picturesque province of Ifugao is famed for its mountainside rice terraces constructed by ancient northern Philippine tribesmen thousands of years ago. There are also acres of pine forests making the area a tourist haven and vacation spot for wealthy Manila residents during the sizzling summer months of April and May... full story

We Are Desperate

( - THE Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has reportedly launched an investigation after a letter published in the GDN stated that young Filipinos were making their way to Bahrain from Cyprus to work as housemaids. The letter, by B Lady, published in March 26 said that a business associate noticed that the Larnaca Airport in Cyprus was "full of young Filipino girls" hoping to find jobs in Bahrain.

Filipino Ambassador Eduardo Maglaya confirmed that a notice was sent to the DFA in Manila shortly after reading the letter.

However, he called reports made by newspapers in the Philippines and another English newspaper in Bahrain inaccurate after they quoted him saying that these illegal activities were definitely happening.

The fact that Cyprus was the country mentioned in the letter brought on some doubts, said the ambassador.

"Filipinos require visas to enter Cyprus and the country has very strict policies.

"I have heard that workers are being brought to Bahrain by other means, such as through Dubai or another GCC country, but not Cyprus until recently."

Mr Maglaya said that investigations are also being made over allegations that Filipinos are being brought to Bahrain as skilled workers but upon arrival are forced to work as housemaids.

"We have heard reports that Filipinos are being brought to Bahrain to work as seamstresses, master cutters and other factory workers - and end up working as maids."

Embassy assistance-to-nationals in-charge and consular attaché Ramon Nerida said that the notice sent to the DFA was sent to officially inform authorities there about the claims made by the GDN reader.

"Of course the embassy would like to know if this is true, as of now, we still do not know if it is but an investigation is underway," he said.

"Unfortunately, the notice was probably picked up by newspapers in the Philippines and another English newspaper in Bahrain copied these reports."

Embassy officials said that they have concerns over the possibility that more workers would be brought to Bahrain through "illegal channels" after their country's government imposed the new minimum wage of $400 (BD151) for all Filipino housemaids late last year... full story here

The Day Stops In The Philippines

(The New York Times) - Manny Pacquiao, a championship super featherweight boxer, is largely known as a uniting force in his native Philippines. When he fights, it has been said, the streets clear, crime drops and people gather around their televisions.

But when Pacquiao recently announced that he would run for a congressional seat in the district where he grew up, the move caused ambivalence: Many people, including fans, have questioned the decision. Pacquiao, 28, received his high school equivalency diploma this year in the Philippines, and some wonder what he would bring to office.

"We've already noticed how many of his fans are against his decision to run," said Earl Parreno, a political analyst at the Manila-based Institute for Popular Democracy. "I think he will lose, because while he is popular, he cannot provide an answer to the one thing that most Filipino voters demand from their candidates: What's in it for us?"

In the ring, Pacquiao faces a more immediate obstacle. He will put his World Boxing Council international super featherweight title on the line tonight in San Antonio against Jorge Solis. The fight will be televised on a pay-per-view basis.

The combination of the fight and the impending May 14 election have created controversy in the Philippines. A lawyer for the political party of Pacquiao's opponent, the incumbent, Darlene Antonino-Custodio, recently petitioned to stop the fight from being televised in the Philippines, citing election laws meant to prevent a candidate from having an unfair publicity advantage.

Filipino fight fans opposed the move, and the election commission ruled the bout could be televised. But the commission stipulated that Pacquiao could not discuss politics during television promotions for the fight.

Still, he has found a way to get his political message out. He is doing it through his promoter, Bob Arum, who said he planned to visit the Philippines to help the campaign and said he would distribute political posters and buttons before the fight.

They have their work cut out for them. Among the criticism of Pacquiao's decision to run for office is a chain e-mail message written by Kristine Rose, a 19-year-old student at the University of the Philippines.

"He is that generous man who shares his blessings to others," the e-mail message read. "But does it mean that he could also be a successful politician? Will he be a uniting agent amid all the contradictions that occur in this country? Or does he even know what he has gone into?" ...full story here

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Visa Run In Dubai

(Khaleej Times Online) - DUBAI — Just 30 minutes from Dubai, and at a minimum Dh500 for a return ticket, Kish Island has remained one of the most sought after destinations for those in the UAE, mainly workers, going for a visa change.

But as the cliche goes, 'you get what you pay for', the story is no different here. From nerve-racking charter plane rides to poorly maintained accommodations or the ill-mannered hotel staff, the list of complaints that Kish visitors, mostly from Dubai, bring with them, could be endless.

It may be recalled that Khaleej Times had reported last week of the case of Thai national Umaporn Kuasom, who had gone to Kish Island on April 4 for a visa change and returned to Dubai the following day 'traumatised' by her experience in Espadana Hotel. She alleged someone tried to forcibly enter the room she was sharing in with five other woman guests.

Kuasom had also alleged that the front-desk personnel had harassed her by holding back her passport and grabbing her wrist as she was about to take the staff's photograph using her mobile phone.

Upon returning to Dubai, she complained to the concerned travel agency, Al Jazeera and Qeshm Travels, about the treatment meted out to her by the hotel staff at Kish, but the agency is yet to come out with a clear-cut reply. A representative of Qeshm Travels only said the 'issue is still under investigation.'

Malou Garcia, a 25-year-old Filipina who was on the island for nearly a week while waiting for her UAE employment visa to be processed, said she had gone through a somewhat similar experience in Farabi Hotel at Kish Island, where she stayed from April 5 to 10. "There were 10 women in our room with only one bathroom. Although the room was cleaned every day, the housekeeper did not change the bedsheets and pillow cases," she began.

Two of her roommates, she narrated, had been transferred from the villa section of Farabi Hotel after some people tried to forcibly enter their room. "Although the hotel building had a security guard at the entrance, the hotel management did not assign a security patrol to roam the villa section, especially at night," Garcia said, adding: "The villa section, which was behind the hotel building, was poorly lit too."

When asked if she would still consider Kish Island if she needed to go for another visa change, she replied in the negative. "I shall choose any other destination because I feel Kish Island is not secure enough," she pointed out.

A travel agency executive who spoke to Khaleej Times said Kish Island continued to attract visa change tourists despite the poor hotel and airline services mainly because of the financial aspect.

"Among the three visa-change destinations, Kish has been the most popular because it is more developed. Qeshm in Iran and Khasab in Oman are still remote areas. While we encourage people to go to Muscat, Salalah, Manama or Doha, the demand for Kish remains the highest because it is cheaper than other destinations within the Gulf," he said.

On a daily basis, a travel agency can receive as much as 30 visa change applications for Kish, mainly from people from countries like India, Pakistan, and the Philippines.

Nasir Butt, Counter Supervisor at Gulf Sun Tourism, a Dubai-based travel agency that processes visa change arrangements, said they had no direct coordination with hotel operators in Kish but relied mostly on information given to them by Kish holiday package promoters like Qeshm Travels.

"After a recent complaint from a client who was ill treated in Kish, our management has decided to stop accepting bookings for Kish until the services in the hotel are improved," he said.

Flight services between Dubai and Kish Island has been very good with airlines like Kish Air, Aria Airlines and Qeshm Air operating more than one flight daily. Iran Air will soon operate two weekly flights on the Dubai-Kish route soon, industry sources said.