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.