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Archive for Philippines

Newsline: Philippines recalls ambassador to Canada in row over rubbish

The Philippines has recalled its ambassador to Canada in an escalating row over the disposal of waste wrongly labelled as recyclable. The Philippines’ foreign secretary said Canada missed a May 15 deadline to retrieve rubbish shipped out in 2014. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-48290963) Last month, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said he would “sail to Canada and dump their garbage there”. Reports say the waste amounts to many dozens of containers filled with common household rubbish like soiled nappies. “At midnight last night, letters for the recall of our ambassador and consuls to Canada went out,” Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teddy Locsin Jr said in a tweet. “Canada missed the… deadline. And we shall maintain a diminished diplomatic presence in Canada until its garbage is ship bound there.” Mr Locsin said what triggered him to pull out the envoys was Canada’s failure to show up at a meeting with Philippine customs officials.


Newsline: Philippine Embassy in Laos warns of Filipino card sharks preying on tourists

Filipino professionals are not the ones seeking work in Laos. A group of alleged Filipino card sharks called the “Blackjack” group is also busy preying on tourists and has alarmed officials of the Philippine Embassy here. The “Blackjack” group started in Vietnam as early as 2009, and then later branched out to Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. William (not his real name) was a retired police officer from Australia. He came to Laos for a short visit. While strolling at the Vientiane Night Market along the Mekong River, he was approached by a middle-aged woman. She introduced herself as a Filipina. Later that night, she invited William to her home, which the latter gladly accepted. Later William remembered that an ‘uncle’ told him that a visitor – a businessman actually wants to play blackjack with him. At first he was winning, but after a few rounds, he was losing. Wanting to get his money back, the woman convinced him to withdraw money from a nearby ATM machine. Afterwards, everything was vague. When he regained consciousness, William went to the police. He was able to meet with Philippine Embassy officials. William still recalled the landmarks where he was brought, but he could not pinpoint the exact location of the house. Investigators faced a blank wall. No names. No address. William could also be charged for breaking the law because gambling is technically illegal in Laos except in designated Golden Triangle Special Economic Zones. Third Secretary and Vice Consul Iris Vanessa Caranzo said members of the “blackjack” group usually targets backpackers, and those who are just on short visits to Laos or Cambodia. They usually approach a lone tourist and befriend them. They also target tourists who could hardly speak English like Japanese and Koreans. “They know that these people cannot pursue a case because it takes time,” Carranzo said. There are already reported cases in Cambodia and Thailand. A member of the syndicate was apprehended in Phuket. Nine Filipinos and two locals were arrested in Vietnam in 2010 but were later released because the case did not prosper in court.


Newsline: Top Philippine diplomat in Hong Kong backs calls to raise minimum wage of city’s domestic helpers

The Philippines’ top diplomat in Hong Kong has called on the city’s government to raise the minimum monthly wage for domestic helpers amid rising costs of living, with workers asking for a pay rise of 25 per cent to HK$5,500 (US$700) to prevent an exodus to mainland China. Their demands were prompted by Manila’s labour minister Silvestre Bello telling Dubai newspaper Gulf News that Beijing wanted Filipino domestic helpers, cooks, carers, musicians and nurses to work in China, with helpers conceding they would jump ship to the mainland if wages were higher than the current HK$4,410 a month. Bello made the remarks after officials from China and the Philippines last month signed a memorandum of understanding on the employment of Filipinos to teach English in China. Philippine consul general in Hong Kong Antonio Morales said: “[The monthly minimum wage] has to be adjusted to reflect the rising costs of living, the higher inflation rate and the like.” He declined to state a specific figure, but added he hoped Hong Kong officials would come up with a “reasonable” level. About half of Hong Kong’s 370,000 foreign domestic helpers are Filipinos and the numbers are likely to rise as the city needs more carers for its ageing population.


Newsline: Philippine ambassador expelled by Kuwait returns home

A Filipino ambassador expelled by Kuwait, which protested the rescue of abused Filipina housemaids in the Persian Gulf country as an affront to its sovereignty, returned home Wednesday with the Philippines insisting it did not commit any infraction. Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano welcomed Ambassador Renato Villa at Manila’s international airport. Both expressed hope that the diplomatic row could be resolved soon. Cayetano said 35 of 38 rescue efforts of Filipina housemaids by Philippine officials last month were coordinated with Kuwaiti authorities but three were conducted by Filipino officials themselves because rapid action was needed. The move, Cayetano said, “is acceptable and is a duty under international law but it caused commotion to them.” “That’s why I said I apologize if our actions seemed to violate your sovereignty but let me assure you it’s in the spirit of protecting our nationals,” Cayetano told reporters at the airport. Kuwait’s Foreign Ministry accused the Philippine Embassy last week of a “flagrant and grave breach of rules and regulations that govern diplomatic action where staff helped Filipina house helpers run away,” and ordered Villa to leave within a week. Kuwait also recalled its ambassador from Manila. Two Filipinos associated with the embassy were also arrested in Kuwait for allegedly convincing maids to flee their employers’ homes.


Newsline: Kuwait Expels Philippines Ambassador Amid Dispute

Kuwait on Wednesday expelled the Philippines ambassador and recalled its own from Manila over a growing diplomatic dispute regarding the abuse of Filipina housemaids and workers in the country. The highly unusual move came as a surprise in the typically sedate and oil-rich Gulf Arab nation, whose homes rely on Filipina nannies and maids. The two nations had been negotiating an end to the Philippines’ ban on workers from heading there following the shocking discovery in February of a Filipina stuffed into a freezer in Kuwait City for over a year. But the arrest of two Filipinos earlier this week over allegedly convincing maids to flee their employers’ homes and Philippines Ambassador Renato Villa’s comments reported in local media over the effort appears to have been too much for Kuwait to accept.


Newsline: Philippine ambassador to Nigeria faces corruption allegations

Diplomatic staff of the Philippine Embassy in Nigeria are seeking the recall and investigation of Manila’s ambassador to the African state for alleged corrupt and unethical practices, accusations the envoy has vehemently denied. Consular officer Elmor Maglunsod filed an official complaint against Ambassador Shirley Ho-Vicario for allegedly violating Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct of Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employee, and Republic Act No. 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Some embassy staffers backed Maglunsod’s complaint, which they said was strongly denied by Vicario, who assumed her post in May 1, 2017 after being appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte. In Malacañang, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. said Duterte was taking the matter “very seriously.” In his affidavit, Maglunsod also complained of “untoward practices” of the ambassador’s husband, Pascasio Vicario. “Throughout the consular mission, she claimed that she paid for lunch and dinner meetings with the Filipino community, bought gifts for certain groups, individuals, and companies. But the truth is, she never paid a single cent,” Maglunsod said. He claimed that Vicario “just collected all the receipts, certified it as however she sees fit, and reimbursed the receipts.” “It was actually the Filipino community who paid for the food during the meetings and gatherings and transportation of the ambassador during her tours,” he added. Maglunsod said Section 3(b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, public officials and employees are “prohibited to solicit, accept, directly or indirectly request or receive any gift for himself or for any other person.” He also alleged that every time Vicario goes to other countries under her jurisdiction, “all the ambassador ever does aside from brief meetings with the Filipino community are shopping, collecting souvenirs, and taking advantage of people where they can gain profit and materialize their personal interest.” Embassy staffers also complained that Vicario is rarely at the embassy and would allegedly always overstay in certain countries during consular visits. They also complained of Vicario’s husband’s rude treatment of embassy staffers and his interference in embassy affairs. Based on her curriculum vitae, this is the second time that Vicario was appointed as political ambassador, having served during the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as envoy to Papua New Guinea in Feb. 15, 2007 until she was recalled by President Benigno Aquino III in Sept. 30, 2010.


Newsline: Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv disowns ‘strip show’

The Philippine embassy in Tel Aviv disclaimed any involvement in a Christmas party of Filipino groups in Israel that showed one of the guests with a male stripper. Philippine Ambassador to Israel Nathaniel Imperial said the embassy had no hand in the Christmas party recorded on video and photos. A blogger who was neither present at the event nor based in Israel alleged that the party was organized by embassy officials. “The embassy had no hand in that Filipino community event, and calls on everyone to assist in stopping the spread of fake news that may have a detrimental effect on the image of Filipinos in Israel,” Imperial said in a statement. He added that the event was a Christmas party organized by three Filipino groups in Haifa, a city in Israel about an hour’s drive away from Tel Aviv, where the embassy is located.