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News from home: eTravel platform, illegal trafficking victims, proposed sovereign wealth fund

Kaycee Valmonte - Philstar.com
News from home: eTravel platform, illegal trafficking victims, proposed sovereign wealth fund
Passengers wait for their luggage at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport's Terminal 3 in November 2022.
Philstar.com

MANILA, Philippines – This is a rundown of our headlines and news stories from the past week we think you should know if you’re a Filipino based abroad.

Overseas Filipinos

  • Those traveling to the Philippines will be required to provide their arrival information and health declaration via an eTravel platform instead of the former One Health Pass, which will be discontinued beginning December 5. All inbound travelers will be required to present their eTravel passes for immigration clearance. 

    The passes are free, eTravel websites that demand payment for them are scams.
     
  • Voter registration is once again open and those who wish to sign up for overseas voting can do so at the foreign service posts nearest them beginning December 9 (or December 11 for those whose posts are open on Sundays). The Commission on Elections said overseas registration will last until September 30, 2024 ahead of the 2025 elections.
     
  • Susan “Toots” Ople has been confirmed by the congressional Commission on Appointments as the country’s first Department of Migrant Workers secretary. Under her leadership, Ople said, the department will prioritize welfare cases, conducting a review of registered employers to ensure worker safety, and the creation of reintegration programs for OFWs coming home, among other programs. 
     
  • The man who beat up a 67-year-old Filipino in Yonkers, New York has been handed down a 17.5-year prison sentence. He pleaded guilty to assault in the first degree on September 27, qualifying as a hate crime.

Work

  • Immigration officials were linked to the trafficking of Filipinos forced to work for a Chinese syndicate in Myanmar under abusive working conditions. Sen. Risa Hontiveros has since called on the government to tighten its borders to ensure the safety of its workers going abroad. The Department of Migrant Workers said it is also investigating a similar trafficking scheme that illegally brings Filipino workers to so-called crypto technoparks in Cambodia and Laos.

  • The Department of Labor and Employment has issued an advisory reminding employers to issue their workers’ their 13th month pay “on or before December 24.” Employers are also barred from applying for an exemption or a deferment of their employees’ 13th month bonus.

  • Calls for wage increases continue: Companies are being urged to give higher compensation to engineers and scientists as commodity prises continue to rise back home. Entry-level wages for their profession range from P10,000 to P15,000. 

    Pro-People Engineers and Leaders argue that increasing the wages would not only help professionals with the rising cost of living, but it would also help the country keep its talent.

    Meanwhile, a senator is looking at possibly increasing government employees’ minimum wage to P33,000 monthly. Government staff working in non-agricultural jobs in Metro Manila get paid at least P10,740 for a 20-day work month.

Politics and the nation

  • Lawmakers are proposing a P250-billion sovereign wealth fund, which will be called the Maharlika Wealth Fund. Under the bill primarily authored by House Speaker Martin Romualdez and Deputy Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander "Sandro" Marcos, the wealth fund will source its initial P200-billion investment from state pension funds GSIS and SSS, the Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines. 

    The government will also invest P25 billion, while the BSP and the PAGCOR will also contribute to the fund.

    While President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is on board with the idea, Sen. Imee Marcos and other senators have flagged it with concerns over mismanagement and corruption raised.

  • DepEd has issued guidelines for school Christmas parties, making spending for activities voluntary for both teachers and students amid rising commodity costs back home. 

  • Female students will be required to participate in their college or university’s ROTC program should proposals making it mandatory make it past Congress. There are currently six bills filed in the Senate seeking to make ROTC once again required for all students in a bid to make the youth more patriotic.

  • PAGASA said the country may be battered by up to two tropical cyclones this December, with weather specialist Benison Estaraja saying that these may reach typhoon and super typhoon categories.

  • The drug war continues under Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos, who said that the country’s anti-illegal drugs program has logged 24,159 drug personalities arrested from July 1 to November 24. However, Abalos did not specify if the ongoing raids will be patterned after the former administration’s "Oplan Tokhang."

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