Filipinos urged to respect Saudi Arabia’s laws

RIYADH: The Riyadh-based Filipino Expatriates Council (FEC) for Justice Peace and Order has called on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to be vigilant and respect the laws of the country while enjoying the hospitality of the Kingdom, media reports said.

The call was made following reports that three Filipinos were arrested for suspected involvement in terrorism recently along with a number of other suspects most of them Yemenis and Saudis, reported Arab News.

In October last year the FEC denounced all forms of terrorism and issued a manifesto pledging their support for the Kingdom’s local and global efforts for peace and security, the report said.

“As we are equally treated and protected by their government before the law we are morally obliged to respect the laws and regulations by being decent guests and expatriates here,” Saidali Malic, head of the council, reportedly said.

Malic was quoted as saying by Arab News that his group believes in the Kingdom’s peace initiatives and judicial rulings especially on peace security and justice and its protection of the country and its people.

He alerted fellow OFWs to set aside whatever beliefs principles fanaticism and other reservations they have.

“We should set these thoughts aside and keep them to ourselves. We should know our roles as OFWs and our limitations,” he reportedly said.

The community leader was quoted as saying that his group respects and admires how the Kingdom handles pressing issues and responds to diplomatic ties and preserves diplomatic relationships with other countries.

The newly-formed organization serves as a consultative body for Filipinos in the Kingdom through their activities of which advocacy is a major component alongside the promotion of peace and order in the country which is considered to be Filipinos’ second home, reported Arab News.

Little Manila comes to Satwa, Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: As a follow-up to an overwhelming response to Little Manila, the first authentic Filipino-themed restaurant in the region, Al Ahli Group is now bringing the well-received concept to Satwa and Abu Dhabi.

The inaugural branch of Little Manila in Muraqqabat Deira receives 1,000 daily foot traffic with some coming from as far as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, and other emirates of the UAE, Parvez Naqvi, International Business Development Head for Al Ahli Holding Group, was quoted as saying by Khaleej Times.

Little Manila offers multiple top Filipino food brands under one roof including Binalot, Jay-J’s, Fruitas Group, Mochi Crème, Zagu, Fiftea, along with its in-house brands Kwekie Bites and Breadshop, the report said.

In line with this upbeat demand, the company is now ramping up Little Manila’s expansion. The Satwa branch is set to be completed in the second half of 2016, to be followed by the opening of the Abu Dhabi branch, it added.

“We are excited for the upcoming new Little Manila branches, which will offer the same flavourful concepts that Filipinos and many other nationalities like. Filipinos are fun- and food-loving people and they do go out with families and friends a lot,” Naqvi reportedly said.

“We have about 1,000 customers per day which speaks of the great reception to this unique concept and good quality of food and service,” he added.

A themed restaurant, Little Manila pioneered in bringing the iconic Philippine jeepney as a symbol of Filipinos’ presence in the UAE, said the Dubai-based news portal.

Its walls are also festooned with snapshots of local traditions showcasing the country’s rich colourful history and multinational influence that dates back to the colonial Spanish period, it said.

Malacañang verifies reports claiming OFWs unsafe in Najran

MANILA: The Philippine government is verifying reports suggesting that thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Najran city on the border of Saudi Arabia and war-torn Yemen are unsafe following the bombing of the area a few days ago by Yemeni rebels, Malacañang has said.

Susan Ople, president of the Blas Ople Policy Center, had earlier said that at least four OFWs have sought embassy assistance to leave Najran, reported Manila Times.

“The Center referred their appeals for help to the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) for appropriate action. According to a worker, their employer has agreed to let them go provided that he is paid back all the recruitment costs,” Ople reportedly said.

Quezon doubts Ople’s report, however, saying that Malacañang is consulting with the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) “to get an independent verification published”, the report said.

Quoting information sourced from some workers from Najran, Ople added that about 5,000 Filipinos in the city in Southwestern Saudi Arabia near the border of Yemen have become vulnerable to the daily bombings which have increased from 15 to 80, including those carried out at nights as the Saudi Army and Yemeni rebels intensify their attacks.

She also reportedly urged the Philippine government to ban new hires from heading to Najran due to the city’s deteriorating security situation, the news report said.

She asked the DFA and the Department of Labor and Employment to provide assistance to four OFWs who are based in Najran and now seeking repatriation, Manila Times reported.

Ople reportedly added that their employer has agreed to let them go home to the Philippines on the condition that they reimburse the company $1,500 (PhP70,668) each to cover the cost of their recruitment.

Work on PhP8M send-off lounge at NAIA to start next month

MANILA: The construction of the PhP8-million passenger send-off area at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 1 may start in February with the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) bids and awards committee (BAC) completing the initial bidding for the construction of the public waiting lounge at the airport in December, according to a media report.

The BAC is currently conducting a post-qualification evaluation of the bidder being considered for the project which costs around PhP8 million, and is to be completed in 100 days, MIAA senior assistant general manager Vicente Guerzon Jr was quoted s saying by Inquirer.

The main aim behind constructing the public waiting lounge at the Naia Terminal 1 departure area is to provide relatives of overseas workers and other airport visitors an area where they could give their loved ones a proper send-off before boarding their flights, the official reportedly said.

Previously, the terminal had an OFW lounge and a Windows of the World area but these were taken down when the airport’s PhP1.3 billion rehabilitation began, the report said.

According to NAIA Terminal 1 manager Dante Basanta, the construction of the public waiting lounge was not included in the rehabilitation because the previous project called for just a makeover and the structural reinforcement of the 30-year-old terminal.

The contractor, DM Consunji Inc., basically replaced floorings, ceilings and partitions; improved amenities; and retrofitted columns. It also upgraded mechanical, electrical, plumbing and fire detection and prevention utilities, Inquirer reported.

Qatar grants clemency to 10 Pinoys

DOHA: The Qatar government had granted clemency to at least 10 Filipinos during its national day last December 18, the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs has announced.

Citing information from the Philippine Embassy in Doha, DFA was quoted as saying by Press Telegraph that the emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani extended the clemency to nine Filipino males and one Filipina.

The DFA reportedly said those who have been granted clemency are usually those who have already served a substantial portion of their sentences.

“Our church is grateful to the benevolent actions of [Emir] Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani”, commission chairman Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balangas was quoted as saying by the news portal.

It added that embassy officials are now processing the repatriation of the OFWs in coordination with the Search and Follow-Up Department under Qatar’s Ministry of Interior.

First Filipina set to land on Mars in 2026

MANILA: Jaymee del Rosario, 28, may become the first Filipino to reach Mars in 2026 as the chief executive officer of International Metal Source in the United States is up to the challenge.

Del Rosario, speaking at the weekly Pandesal Forum at the Kamuning Bakery Cafe in Quezon City, has been quoted as saying by Tempo that she was excited to avail the chance with another Filipino to go to Mars in 2026.

According to her, the chance to go to the Red Planet is a “dream come true”.

She reportedly said that to have the chance to go to Mars and live there brings tremendous pride for her especially since she will be representing her country.

“This experience of being able to be a part of a great opportunity of space exploring, it makes me very happy,” Del Rosario reportedly said.

“This is a once in a lifetime experience that anyone can get. Talagang happy ako kasi from 200,000 plus worldwide applicants and then I’m Filipina. Very proud talaga kami maging Filipino and to be able to carry that heritage from outer space and beyond,” Del Rosario added.

The news report quoted Del Rosario, born in Quezon City, as saying that she hopes that her interest in travelling to Mars will encourage better interest in Science and Technology all over the country and empower women.

She reportedly cited the recent victory in the Miss Universe beauty pageant of Miss Philippines Pia Alonzo Wurtzbach as proof that Filipinos are world-class.

Del Rosario was one of only two Filipinos among 100 shortlisted from 202,586 applicants to join the ambitious Mars space voyage under the “Mars One” project, the report said.

She reportedly said she does a lot of hiking and half marathon and works out at the gym to keep her physically fit and prepare her for the seven-month journey to Mars.

In order to know her possible or potential teammates, Del Rosario was quoted as saying that she has traveled to London, England; New York City and Washington D.C., and France, to talk to them.

She has also been reading a lot of books and doing lots of research to understand Mars better, Tempo reported.

Online processing of OFW employment certificate made easier

SAN FERNANDO CITY: Microsoft Tulay (Information Technology) Program introduced by Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will make it easier for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to process their Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC), media reports said.

The OEC is a requirement issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) to departing OFWs returning to their employers abroad for clearance at the airport, reported Philippine Information Agency.

Since 2014, the OEC has been made online via the POEA’s Balik-Manggagawa program, the report said.

Aimed to revolutionize the OEC issuances, the Balik Manggagawa online had reportedly not been easily accessed by OFWs who are not “techy” or computer-inclined.

According to Justin Paul D. Marbella, labor communications officer, OFWs who wish to pay their OWWA membership premium at the Regional Office in San Fernando, were assisted in printing their OECs, said the news portal.

Marbella reportedly said that OFWs take turns in using the 10 computer units available in their information technology classroom as they go through the application.

With the help of IT Instructor Ian J. Galutan and IT trainees, OFWs were assisted in signing up for an email address free of charge, the report said.

Among those who benefitted from the service were OFW couple Mark Donald and Michelle Suana, both working in the UAE for almost ten years now.

The couple said that they used to process their OEC manually and were pleasantly surprised with the online filing system, the PIA report said.

“We are glad OFWs are readily assisted in this new process,” remarked Michelle. “We thank OWWA for their excellent service,” the OFW couple reportedly said.

The OFWs can now present these documents at POEA to pay and claim their OEC, reported PIA.

Marbella reportedly said OFWs who wish to avail of the online filing can go to OWWA for assistance.

Rentals drop up to 10% in some Dubai areas

DUBAI: Rentals in Dubai’s Karama, Al Barsha and Oud Metha have dropped by up to 10 per cent in 2016, an official rent index has pointed out.

Rates for one-bed units in Oud Metha dropped 7.14 per cent, with leases starting at Dh65,000 to Dh80,000 pa. In 2015, leases were at Dh70,000 to Dh80,000 pa. Rates for studio units and two beds in the area remained at Dh40,000 to Dh50,000 pa and Dh85,000 to Dh110,000 pa, respectively, reported Emirates 24/7.

In Karama, the decline in rentals ranged between 6.25 per cent and 10 per cent. Rates for studio units are down 10 per cent, with leases starting at Dh40,000 to Dh45,000 pa compared to Dh40,000 to Dh50,000 pa in 2015, the report said.

Rentals for one beds declined 6.25 per cent to 8.33 per cent with lease rates starting at Dh55,000 to Dh75,000 pa as against Dh60,000 to Dh80,000 pa, it added.

Rates for two beds range between Dh75,000 and Dh90,000 pa, down 6.25 per cent to 10 per cent, compared to Dh80,000-Dh100,000 pa in 2015, said the Dubai-based news portal.

In Al Barsha, rates for one- and two-bed units fell 5.88 to 9.09 per cent. The former can be leased for Dh65,000 to Dh80,000 pa, while the latter can be rented for Dh90,000 to Dh100,000 pa, it said.

There was no change in rents in Al Qouz 2 (Al Khail Gate). Studio rents, as per the 2016 index, ranges from Dh30,000 to Dh40,000 pa, one beds Dh45,000 to Dh50,000 pa and two beds Dh65,000 to Dh70,000 pa, the report pointed out.

Similarly, rents remained at the same level in Al Satwa. Leases for studio, one- and two-bedroom apartments stay at Dh35,000-Dh40,000, pa, Dh45,000-Dh60,000 pa and Dh65,000 -Dh75,000 pa, respectively, it said.

In August 2015, this website reported that the official Dubai rent index will no longer be updated every four months, as done since 2009 when it was launched.

“The rental index now is being updated once per year, starting from 2015,” the Dubai Land Department (DLD) was quoted as saying by Emirates 24/7.

OFWs seek to return from war-torn Saudi border city

Najran, Saudi Arabia: Several overseas Filipino workers (OFW) from Najran, near the southern border of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) that has been recently hit by bombings, have sought help from the government for their repatriation.

The area has been under severe attacks by Yemeni rebels after the Saudi forces started aiding the Yemeni government to regain control of the country, which has now turned into civil war, Manila Bulletin reported.

Blas F Ople Policy Center president Susan Ople disclosed at least four OFWs have already sought their assistance to leave Najran.

“The Center referred their appeals for help to the POEA (Philippine Overseas Employment Administration) for appropriate action. According to the worker, their employer has agreed to let them go back home provided that he is paid all the recruitment costs,” Ople reportedly said.

The migrant advocate leader also said they received reports that other OFWs in Najran would also like to be relocated in areas in KSA, which remain peaceful.

Around 5,000 OFWs stay in Najran currently, the report said.

Ople urged the Philippine government to not hire more Filipinos in view of deteriorating security situation in Najran, Manila Bulletin reported.

Speed limit revised for selective Dubai roads

Dubai- Dubai Traffic Police have revised its speed limits on some streets in the emirate, according to a media report.

Emirates 24/7 quoted Colonel Saif Mohair Al Mazrouie, Director, General Directorate of Traffic Police, Dubai Police as saying the changes have been made as part of Dubai Police’s strategic aim of reducing road fatalities in Dubai.

The changes will be made effective after the final agreement between police and the RTA, Col Mazrouie reportedly said.

Speed limit on Al Ain Road – beginning from the first bridge to the border with Al Ain – has been reduced from 120kph to 100kph and the radar will click at 120kph as opposed to the current 140kph, the report said.

The radar speed limit on Umm Al Suqeim Road has been cut from 110kph to 100km, it added.

The speed limit on Dubai Police Academy flyover on Sheikh Zayed Road has been cut to 80km and the radar speed limit is set at 100km, said the news portal.

Roads that have a speed limit of 90km will now reportedly have radar speed limit of 111km.

Al Sufouh Road speed limit has been reduced to 60km from the earlier 80km, and the radar speed limit cut to 80km from the previous 100km, the Emirates 24/7 report said.

Col. Mazrouie reportedly commended the response of the public to Dubai Police’s awareness campaigns. He said that has greatly contributed to the reduction in traffic violations across the emirate.