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Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Overseas Pinoys in 2012: Resiliency, tragedies, and PH pride

Overseas Filipinos continue to show their resiliency by braving the toughest of times including political strife, economic crisis, accidents, and even the impact of the peso's appreciation against the US dollar.
But the year also proved to be a lucky one for several Pinoys who continue to reap the fruits of their hard-earned labor be it in sports, entertainment, politics or personal advocacy.
Here are the some of the highlights of the year 2012:
1. Political unrest and repatriation
The year 2012 saw the repatriation of thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were evacuated due to political instability in their host countries in the Middle East.
Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert del Rosario flew to Syria to ensure the safety of the remaining Filipinos there. The DFA imposed and then lifted the travel advisory it imposed on Israel last November. The advisory advised Filipinos to defer travel to Gaza and central and southern Israel in view of the Israel-Hamas conflict.
It likewise lifted the Alert Level 2 (restriction phase) for central and southern Israel and the Alert Level 4 which called for mandatory evacuation for Gaza it raised last November 20.
But the work of the government does not end when the OFW arrives home. It continues to extend assistance to them in the form of its re-integration and livelihood programs.
2. Tragedies
In November, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) said it arrested Filipino American Ralph Kenneth DeLeon, 23, and his two friends for allegedly conspiring to join the Taliban and do violent acts of jihad.
DeLeon and his two friends pleaded not guilty to the charges early December.
Also in November, three Filipino workers were killed in an explosion at an oil rig operated by Grand Isle Shipyard, Inc. in Louisiana. Three other Filipinos were treated for burns, and the Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. said in a statement issued before Christmas that the condition of the three injured Pinoys had improved and that they would soon be discharged from the hospital.
On November 1, a truck carrying liquefied natural gas, driven by a Filipino, crashed into a flyover and exploded in Riyadh. The accident claimed the lives of more than 20 people, including one Filipino.
3. Issues affecting OFWs
The peso hit a 57-month high of P40.85 to $1 last Dec. 6, already a 7% increase from its close of P43.84:$1 in end-2011.
But this spells bad news to the millions of Filipinos working overseas as the dollars they remit to their loved ones may no longer be as strong as before.
In July, several OFW groups launched a 5-day campaign dubbed as “Global Webwide Protest to Stop PhilHealth Increase” in different social media platforms.
The PhilHealth Board issued Circular No.022 imposing a 150% hike in health premium for OFW members from P900 to P2, 400.
PhilHealth decided to defer the implementation of the new premium until 2013 “in light of the global crisis which has resulted to the repatriation of a lot of OFWs”.
The online protest, initiated by the Pinoy Expats/OFW Blog Awards (PEBA), stressed that Philhealth must be more sympathetic to OFWs who are earning salary.
The registration for the Overseas Absentee Voting ended on October 31st. The DFA said the total number of overseas absentee voting registrants hit 988,384, falling short of the 1 million target for the May 2013 polls.

4. Pinoys who made the country proud

Several Pinoys made the Philippines proud in 2013.
Filipinos here and abroad rooted for Fil-Mexican-American Jessica Sanchez during her stint at the singing competition, American Idol. Her win as a runner-up opened up more doors of opportunity for the 17-year-old singer.
Filipinos were also among the thousands of people who volunteered to become performers in the London Olympics 2012.
The Olympic ceremony’s theme "Isles of Wonder" by Oscar award-winning director Danny Boyle was inspired by Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest”. It showcased the UK’s rich heritage and the best of Britain’s diverse culture.
Another Filipino-American thrust into the limelight is Filipino-American Erik Spoelstra, also known as Coach Spo. He is the first Asian basketball coach to steer an NBA team to become world champions after the Miami Heat defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder in this year’s NBA Finals.
In South Korea, Philippine-born Jasmine Lee was the first naturalized Korean to be elected in Parliament. The 35-year-old mother of two ran as proportional representation candidate under the New Frontier Party. Lee was recently in Manila with four South Korean parliamentarians to look into the issue of Korean-Filipino children abandoned by their Korean fathers in the Philippines.

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