"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Visiting Mayon Evacuees

As the Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) steps up its relief operations amidst continuing threats from Mt. Mayon, PNRC chairman Richard J. Gordon visited evacuation centers on Monday to personally inspect the living conditions of thousands of Filipinos there.

“We want to ensure that all evacuees are provided with basic needs,” said Gordon, who is visiting Mt. Mayon for the third time since eruptions 1993 and 2000. During his recent visit, a total of 2,832 families (13,104 persons) have received relief goods including rice, noodles, water and canned goods. So far, the PNRC has distributed relief bags to about 10,000 families in different evacuation centers.

“The evacuation centers should be clean and well-ventilated,” Gordon continued, adding that PNRC health teams in Albay make sure that evacuation centers are well-maintained and sanitized to prevent diseases. Evacuees are taught how to properly use latrines and bathing areas, and how to cook their food in the common kitchens, if there is any.

Gordon emphasized that disaster response goes beyond mere rescue and relief. As a humanitarian organization, the PNRC seeks to cover all bases, including the mental health and well-being of displaced residents. To this end, several PNRC personnel trained to provide psychosocial support are already making the rounds in evacuation centers.

Traumatized evacuees, many of whom have been living in evacuation centers for weeks, are given stress debriefing to help them deal with anxiety. Extra care and attention are provided to women, children and the elderly, who are considered the most vulnerable in times of disaster.

Despite the recent development of allowing residents living outside the 10-km danger zone to return to their homes, life for the majority of the evacuees remains the same as alert level 4 continues to hover over Mt. Mayon.


Senators listen intently to the testimonies of resource speakers during today’s (Aug. 29) public hearing on issues surrounding the people’s initiative, a signature campaign aimed at changing the Constitution which is being endorsed by the Arroyo administration. The hearing was jointly conducted by the Committees on Constitutional Amendments, Revision of Codes and Laws, Finance and Local Government chaired by Senators Richard Gordon, Franklin Drilon and Alfredo Lim, respectively. Top photo shows Drilon, Gordon, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada. Below, from left, former Comelec chair Christian Monsod of One Voice, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos and Solicitor General Antonio Eduardo Nachura. (Photo by Albert Calvelo, Senate PRIB)


Senator Richard ‘Dick’ Gordon raises his concerns for the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) trapped in strife-torn Lebanon before members of the media during the Kapihan sa Senado Thursday afternoon. Gordon filed a bill seeking to amend the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 following the evacuation and employment issues affecting the OFWs in Lebanon. Recently, President Arroyo ordered the total evacuation of all Filipinos in Lebanon as war heightens between Israeli and Hezbollah forces. (Senate Photo by Albert Calvelo, PRIB)

Thursday, August 03, 2006

DOLE should not accept less than US$400

During the closed-door briefing yesterday by DFA, DOLE and OWWA officials at the Office of the Vice President on the issue of repatriation of Filipinos in Lebanon, Senator Gordon raised the issue of measly paid workers receiving a monthly salary of only US$100-US$150 as reported by workers who were recently repatriated.

He called on Labor Secretary Brion to review their policy on this and insisted that DOLE should not accept such contracts. Gordon, appalled by such condition, said, “We should not allow our workers to receive very meager income with all the hardships they have to endure when they work abroad. They deserve nothing less than US$400 monthly. Our Government must undertake stronger efforts to ensure implementation of this policy.”

In the same meeting, Labor Secretary Brion committed to change the policy and promised to work on no less than US$400 monthly for Filipinos seeking employment abroad. He also added that DOLE will provide additional training on skills improvement for our workers.

DFA and DOLE must look for alternative employment for displaced OFWs in Lebanon

Senator Richard Gordon yesterday called for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to begin looking for alternative employment for the displaced Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in Lebanon.

“Though it is important to address the immediate needs of our countrymen by making sure that they are out of harm’s way, it is equally important to look into safeguarding their future,” said Gordon.

The Senator suggested scouting for employment opportunities in adjacent areas like Cyprus or European countries such as Greece because some Filipinos would rather stay in Lebanon because they feel that they will not be able to find a job in the Philippines.

“Most of the OFWs in Lebanon are domestic helpers, hotel and restaurant staff and technicians. This may be a good time for DOLE to conduct trainings or short-term courses to upgrade their skills so that they will be more competitive in the international job market,” said Gordon.

Gordon also asked the DOLE and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to give an account of just how many Filipino workers are still in Lebanon. And what is being done to quickly evacuate them from that war-torn country in the Middle East.

Gordon suggested an intensified information campaign among the Filipinos to inform them of the plans for evacuation. He also proposed the establishment of an up-to-date database and locator system of OFWs for their repatriation and asked that the Filipino refugees be made to fill forms to give their personal data, such as contact numbers and residence in Lebanon to serve as data base for a more methodical and rapid evacuation.


Senator Richard J. Gordon yesterday emphasized the need to maintain an up-to-date database and locator system of all Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) in all Philippine embassies and consular offices.

During the hearing of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development on the plight of OFWs in war-torn Lebanon, Gordon stressed that all Philippine embassies, particularly the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Resource Centers established under Sec. 19 of RA 8042 or the Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995, should have an effective data banking and locator system for all OFWs residing in their jurisdictions. This can be done through an amendment to RA 8042.

"Right now we don’t have any tracing capability. Our main concern is the safety of our people but how can we communicate with them with this kind of pitiful situation. The DFA must document all undocumented overseas workers. How can we mount massive evacuation if the embassy itself is not aware of their whereabouts and is simply relying on texting?" said Gordon.

He added that the Philippine embassies should know the number of OFWs in their respective areas and have full control of all the vital information concerning these workers so that the government can protect them and easily pull them out in case of emergency.

Gordon emphasized that 70% of OFWs in Lebanon were undocumented, a problem exacerbated by the embassy’s lack of information system on the workers there.