A visit to Dubai

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Most Filipinos would rather toil in Dubai and other parts of the United Arab Emirates for the rest of their lives than go home and see their families and themselves starve.

There are 700,000 Filipino overseas workers (OFWs) – with 300,000 more who are undocumented – in the UAE. This makes them the second largest foreign nationality in the seven-emirate (kingdom) federation in the Middle East, second to Indians.

Dubai, the chief port and commercial center in the UAE and perhaps in the entire Middle East, has the highest concentration of OFWs.

Work is easy to come by in Dubai (no pun intended), from the medical profession to cleaning streets. There are hundreds of thousands of job vacancies.

These were the impressions I gathered in my brief visit to Dubai, considered the “Venice of the Gulf,” last week.

Can you blame our fellow Filipinos if they prefer the UAE to their homeland for employment? Even if they are employed here in the Philippines, they could still be underpaid.

Another principal reason for wanting to work in the UAE (especially in Dubai) is they can walk in the streets any time of the day without worrying about their safety.

Dubai is probably the safest city in the world, with CCTV (closed circuit television) cameras in every nook and cranny of the city.

“Dito, kung naiwan mo ang bag mo sa maraming tao, nandoon pa rin kinabukasan na walang nagalaw (Here, if you leave your handbag in public you’ll find it the next day left untouched),” said Kathlyn, an office worker.

(Kathlyn asked me not to mention her surname as she is undocumented).

A teenager from another country found a wallet dropped by another customer inside a mall. He didn’t go to the cashier to turn it in. The police promptly arrested him.

Crime in the UAE is practically nil, according to the OFWs I interviewed.

And yet, I never saw a uniformed policeman patrolling the streets in the several days I stayed in Dubai. The ubiquitous CCTV cameras have replaced uniformed cops.

Motorists who violate traffic rules pay exorbitant fines, and their tickets are sent to their homes or offices. Expatriates who have flouted traffic rules several times are deported.

Shelter covers safety in one’s home and being able to go about one’s business without fear of being disturbed by others.

In the UAE, especially in Dubai, all three basic needs are provided for.

Can we say that of the Philippines, where jobs are scarce (or if there are, they don’t pay well), where life is cheap (look at all the robberies and killings) and food costs like gold (look at the price of onions in the market)?

By the way, one in four people you meet in the streets of Dubai is Filipino. It’s as if I never left Metro Manila.

And here’s another important fact: the Arabs in the UAE are very much unlike those in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Syria. They treat expatriates, from medical professionals to housemaids, with respect.

*      *      *

Efficiency is the order of the day in any government office in Dubai.

My friend registered her business and set up an office in the city. She got the business license in two days and her investor’s visa within a week.

She also got the results of her medical examinations in one day. A clean bill of health is required of every foreigner who wants to do business in Dubai.

Everything is state of the art, according to my friend.

She said that aside from their efficient service, government personnel who dealt with the public were courteous.

*      *      *

It’s easy to compare the government personnel in Dubai to our fellow compatriots at the Philippine consulate in the city.

It’s like comparing a Mercedes Benz to a motor tricycle.

That’s what I gathered from my talks with fellow Pinoys in the city-kingdom.

People at the Dubai consulate are rude to their compatriots who go to them with problems, according to some Pinoys I interviewed.

More on that later.

*      *      *

The dismissal by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) of tax evasion charges against Nobel laureate Maria A. Ressa denies all her allegations to the outside world that she’s being persecuted by the government.

Ressa and the news website Rappler which she heads faced P162.5 million earned by the company from the 2015 issuance of shares to two foreign entities.

“No civil liability may be adjudged against the accused as the alleged unpaid tax obligations have not been factually and legally established,” the CTA ruled.

The CTA should be lauded for dismissing the tax cases against Ressa and Rappler. It means that our courts are not swayed by the political powers that be.

A part of Ressa’s beef with the government is her conviction for libel by a Manila court. The case was filed by billionaire businessman Willy Keng, who was tagged by Rappler as a smuggler and murderer.

Keng is a legitimate businessman.

Ressa considers her libel conviction a testimony to being harassed by the government.

If there is no press freedom in the country – as Ressa seems to claim – how come this columnist is still roaming around free?

I have faced many libel cases in various courts, filed against me by government officials whom I have accused at one time or the other of being thieves or nincompoops.

I know that those cases will eventually be dismissed because unlike Keng, who is a private person, those I accuse of irregularity are government officials.

The Supreme Court has ruled that government officials are public servants who should not be sensitive to criticisms.

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