CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 October 2018

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New president welcome but his guns are not

HONG KONG (SE): Dolores Balladares Pelaez, the chairperson of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong, said she is happy about the first State of the Nation Address of the newly-elected president, Rodrigo Duterte, because he showed concern for overseas Filipino workers.

She added that Duterte’s pledge to the Filipino people is unprecedented. “No other previously elected president has delivered with such intensity, simplicity and sincerity,” she said.

“We also appreciate his concern for the overseas Filipino workers, something that the previous administration failed to show in the last six years,” Balladares Pelaez said.

She explained that one of the demands of the Filipino Migrant Workers Summit 2016 was addressed concretely, as the government is working towards an amendment of the 1996 Passport Law to lengthen their validity from the current five years to 10 years.

In addition, the president has ordered the Department of Foreign Affairs to streamline documentary requirements and passport applications, as well as open additional consular offices in strategic places to decongest the Metro Manila sites and avoid queues that have caused hardship and suffering to passport applicants.

Balladares Pelaez said she was also pleased to hear that the government is planning to create a department for overseas Filipinos that will focus on and quickly respond to their problems and concerns.

She added that she hopes there will be no more need to go to different government agencies to secure requirements for the processing of overseas work applications.

She also pointed out that while addressing the urgent economic and social needs of the people, Duterte confronted head on the issue of armed conflict in the countryside, as he declared an immediate stop to violence on the ground, a restoration of peace in the communities and a provision enabling an environment conducive to the resumption of the peace talks.

“Let us remain vigilant and supportive that these plans for the good of the Filipino people will succeed,” Balladares Pelaez said.

However, she said although the group supported the call of the president against drug syndicates, it does not believe in the mass slaughter campaign against people connected with the drug racket and believes that due process should be given to the accused.

On July 24, one day before the State of the Nation Address, Filipino migrants in Hong Kong held a rally, walking from Edinburgh Place, Central, to Chater Road, where a forum was held to present a migrants’ agenda.

Representatives from the Filipino Migrant Workers Summit that approved the migrants’ agenda on June 19 this year, outlined the demands that they want the president to act on his first 100 days in office.

At the top of the list are abolishing the 550 peso ($96.25) terminal fee, increasing the budget for legal assistance, scrapping the requirement for the Overseas Employment Certificate and stopping the balikbayan box scam.

In addition, Migrante Macau issued a statement on July 29 urging Duterte to heed a petition to open the Philippine Consulate in the city on Sundays, when most of the Filipino workers have their day off, and improve service delivery.

A letter to be submitted to the Philippine president signed by organisations under the alliance KOMAKASA (for empowering migrant workers), says that the demand had already been forwarded to the previous administration, but to no avail.

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