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Archive for Philippines

Newsline: Philippines recalls ambassador to Brazil who allegedly mistreated maid

Officials say the Philippines’ ambassador to Brazil has been ordered to return home to face investigation after video surfaced allegedly showing her physically mistreating her Filipino house helper. Philippine Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said in a tweet that the diplomat, who was identified by his department as Ambassador Marichu Mauro, was recalled rapidly “to explain the maltreatment of her service staff.” (https://wbng.com/2020/10/26/philippines-recalls-ambassador-who-allegedly-mistreated-maid/) The video footage, reportedly taken from security cameras in the ambassador’s residence in Brasilia and shown by a Brazilian news agency, showed a woman maltreating somebody who appeared to be a house personnel, including by pulling her hair and ear. There was no immediate comment from Mauro and it was unclear where she was on Monday.

Newsline: Philippine Embassy in Sweden Reopens After 8 Years

The Philippine Embassy in Sweden has reopened after being closed for eight years, the Filipino Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced recently, noting that the same embassy will offer its services for all Filipinos in Finland as well, SchengenVisaInfo.com reports. “The reopening of the embassy, which also has jurisdiction over Finland, is the result of the efforts of the landing team, which arrived in Sweden in late 2019,” the statement reads. (https://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/philippine-embassy-in-sweden-reopens-after-8-years/) The Consul General and Officer-in-Charge Raul Dado will lead the team at the reopened embassy. He previously served as consul general at the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait. Due to “economic constraints”, the Philippine Embassy in Sweden was closed in 2012. After the embassy stopped its services, the Philippines was represented by Honorary Consul General to Stockholm Erik Belfrage.

Newsline: China’s COVID-19 Diplomacy Backfires in the Philippines

The Chinese embassy in Manila released a music video dedicated to COVID-19 frontline workers, but it quickly drew widespread anger among Filipino internet users because of the song’s indirect reference to the South China Sea, known locally as the West Philippine Sea. The lyrics of the song “Iisang Dagat” (One Sea) were written by Chinese Ambassador H.E. Huang Xilian and the song was performed by Chinese diplomat Xia Wenxin from the embassy and several Filipino and Chinese celebrities. The song mentions the friendship between the two countries and their mutual cooperation in dealing with the pandemic. The video begins by showing a fisher on a small boat in Manila Bay. This plus the song title made it difficult for many Filipinos not to think that Chinese diplomats were seeking to downplay the maritime dispute over the South China Sea by highlighting the supposed unity of the two governments in battling COVID-19. The video immediately garnered a huge number of dislikes. As of this writing, it has 212,000 dislikes compared to just 3,700 likes. An editorial by the Philippine Daily Inquirer sums up the reaction of many who heard and watched the music video: “The song’s fervent avowals to friendship, solidarity, and furthering Filipino-Chinese relations flies in the face of China’s brazen disregard and aggressive lockout of the country’s territorial rights over the West Philippine Sea.” (https://thediplomat.com/2020/05/chinas-covid-19-diplomacy-backfires-in-the-philippines/) In fact, two days before official release of the song, the Philippine government filed a diplomatic protest against China regarding two incidents in the sea. The first referenced a People’s Liberation Army Navy vessel pointing a radar gun at a Philippine Navy ship in Philippine waters on February 17. And the second issue cited the naming and inclusion of Philippine territories in China’s administrative rolls.

Newsline: Philippines’ ambassador to Lebanon dies of coronavirus

The ambassador of Philippines to Lebanon died of the novel coronavirus on Thursday, an official statement confirmed. “With deep sadness, the Department of Foreign Affairs announces the untimely demise on 2 April 2020, of Ambassador Bernardita Catalla, Philippine Ambassador to Lebanon, from complications arising from COVID-19,” the Philippine’s Department of Foreign Affairs said in a statement. (https://www.aa.com.tr/en/asia-pacific/philippines-ambassador-to-lebanon-dies-of-coronavirus/1789064) Catalla, 62, who suffered from chronic respiratory problems, passed away at a hospital in Beirut where she was receiving treatment. After surfacing in Wuhan, China last December, coronavirus has spread to 180 countries and regions.

Newsline: China’s island builder has US embassy in Manila surrounded

China Harbour Engineering has clinched a contract for a $1 billion land reclamation project to extend SM Prime Holdings’ Mall of Asia complex in the Manila area, with construction greenlighted to begin next year. The company is among a group of Chinese construction businesses working on at least five separate land reclamation projects in Manila Bay that will in effect leave the U.S. government’s bayside embassy in the Philippine capital surrounded by reclaimed land. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Construction/China-s-island-builder-has-US-embassy-in-Manila-surrounded) China Harbour will partner with Dutch company Royal Boskalis Westminster for the 360-hectare project, according to Alexander Pomento, vice president for investor relations at SM Prime Holdings, the Philippines’ largest real estate company by market value.

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.