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.

Filipino IT Professionals Lowest Paid in Asia-Pacific

(The Philippine Daily Inquirer) - IT professionals in the Philippines receive the lowest salaries in Asia Pacific, according to a study by ZDNet Asia.

The average annually salary in the Philippines was slightly above $10,000, based on a survey of some 400 respondents.

Hong Kong, meanwhile, tops the list of seven countries surveyed, with IT professionals raking in close to an average of $52,000 every year.

Findings also show that executives with more experience earn more, although IT workers with five to 10 years of work experience earn an average of less than $10,000 per year.

Those with more than a decade worth of industry experience earn close to $20,000 annually.

Company size isn't much of a factor as those working for places with a thousand employees or more are only paid slightly higher at more than $11,000 yearly.

At 26 percent, the Philippines also has the lowest portion of IT workers holding at least one professional certification, even lower than Indonesia .

The survey, conducted online between August and November last year, drew more than 5,000 respondents from different industries in Hong Kong, India , Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and the Philippines.

German, His Wife Murdered in Bohol

( - A German man and his wife were killed Friday during a possible robbery on a resort island in the central Philippines, a police report said.

German national Helmut Malinka and his Filipino wife, identified only as Tequia, were killed by unidentified intruders who broke into their house before dawn in Baclayon town, on the island province of Bohol, 660km south of Manila.

Malinka received gunshot wounds while his wife suffered multiple stab wounds, the police report said.

Investigators said the killers tied up the maid before attacking the couple. It was not yet determined whether murder or robbery was the motive, or what valuables may have been taken from the house. - Sapa-dpa

Japanese Sued In Court For Not Marrying Filipina

( - The Davao City Prosecution Office (CPO) here has indicted a Japanese national who, in the last minute, cancelled his scheduled wedding with his Filipina girlfriend.

Charged with violation of Republic Act 9262 or anti-violence against women was Tsutomu Saito based on the resolution penned by prosecutor Mariam Mastura-Mamukid.

Mamukid found sufficient basis to charge Saito for causing pain and shame on Liezl Pasaol when he reneged on his promise to marry her on Aug. 22, 2006.

The complainant claimed that Saito promised to marry her after they became lovers on June 22, 2006. Subsequently, they made the wedding plans and scheduled it on Aug. 22, 2006, she added.

But a day before the ceremony, the Japanese cancelled their altar date. And to add insult to the injury, Saito married her best friend Geraldine Gealon.

This development caused her so much pain, Pasaol asserted.

Mamukid ruled that the Japanese should be held liable for causing embarrassment and pain to Pasaol.

Regine Speaks English Better Than Celine Dion?

( - Filipina songbird Regina Velasquez sings and speaks English better than Celine Dion, but you won't see her anywhere in the United States except on YouTube. Americans have elevated William Hung to stardom, yet Korean TV shows feature guys who put American Idols to shame.

Chop-chop Murder In Australia

Australia's Supreme Court has convicted a 42-year-old undocumented Filipino worker to three years and two months in jail after he pleaded guilty to being an accessory in cutting up a co-worker in December 2002.

But having been in custody since his arrest in May 2004 in the Philippines, Alejandro Almirol, a father of two, may be eligible for parole in June, Australian newspapers reported Friday.

The reports said Almirol helped his friend Prehector Trocio in cutting up Palataveke Tauveli, their 40-year-old co-worker in a cheese factory at Yagoona in Sydney's west.

Trocio had pleaded guilty to murder and had meted 12 years jail term.

Almirol was tried for murder but was acquitted by an 11 to 1 jury verdict, after which he pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of being an accessory to murder.

Tauveli was bludgeoned with a chair and had his throat cut after spending an afternoon drinking with Trocio and Almerol. The next day, his body was cut up, stuffed into plastic bags and dumped in bushland in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney.

A man walking his dog came across Tauveli's remains two weeks later, on December 30, 2002.

The reports quoted Supreme Court Justice David Kirby as saying Trocio and Almirol intended to dispose of Tauveli's body but he was "simply too heavy". Trocio, assisted by Almirol, cut his body up before they scattered the parts in the mountains.

Justice Kirby also said Almirol felt bound to Trocio, "notwithstanding his horror at what had occurred", and "there was no backing out".

He added that Almirol's status as an illegal immigrant may have stopped him from contacting police.

Almirol regarded Tauveli as "a good man" and had had a "jovial" afternoon with him before Trocio arrived, the judge said.