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Ifex Philippines showcases innovation, private sector initiatives

Posted on 10 May 2024 No comments

Will fruits and vegetables be this year's sales leaders again?

International Food Exhibition (IFEX) Philippines opened its 17th annual edition at the World Trade Center in Manila today, showcasing innovation and Filipino private sector initiatives to attract foreign buyers.

Among the stars of the show was Ube Cream Liqueur, an ube-flavored alcoholicdrink developed by Destileria Barako which has so impressed judges that they chose it as one of the nine Katha Awardees for outstanding products in the exhibition.

“I’m impressed,” said keynote speaker Sen. Mark Villar, chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade, Commerce and Entrepreneurship.


IFEX Philippines “is a platform where visions are turned into reality and opportunities are seized,” he added.

More than 500 exhibitors are participating this year, made up of food micro, small and medium enterprises, manufacturers, producers, distributors, and consumers in the export value chain.


Villar pledged support for the budget of the organizer, the government-owned Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM), which is the export promotion arm of the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).


CITEM Officer-In-Charge and Deputy Executive Director Ma. Lourdes Mediran said, “our country has a rich tapestry of flavors that remain unknown to certain parts of the world.”

The exposition harnesses the power of food to bring a sense of community and belonging, “to show the world the excellent food offerings, innovative craft, and export capabilities of the Philippines,” she added.

The show also highlights the effort of the Department of Agriculture to push for the production of what it called Premium 7 crops which are in high demand worldwide: banana, cacao, coconut, coffee, mango, pineapple, and tuna.


The organizers are optimistic that exhibitors will be able to exceed last year’s IFEX record of $162 million in actual and negotiated export sales.

Last year’s sales leaders were fruits and vegetables with $60 million in export sales, followed by snacks and crispy and savory foods with over $21 million. 


Customs, currency declaration now in e-travel

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The e-travel pass and customs clearance must be secured 72 hours before departure or arrival in Phl

From today, all passengers travelling to the Philippines may fill in the forms for customs and currency declaration using the e-travel application system ( or through the eGovPH app 72 hours before arriving or departing from the Philippines.

The e-Travel customs system will be implemented at the following Philippine international airports:


• Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Metro Manila, all terminals)

• Mactan-Cebu International Airport (Metro Cebu);

• Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Metro Davao);


• Kalibo International Airport (Aklan);

• Caticlan International Airport (Aklan);

• Puerto Princesa International Airport (Palawan);

• Bohol International Airport (Bohol);

• Clark International Airport (Pampanga); and

• Laoag International Aiport (Ilocos Norte).

The paper customs declaration may still be used for now 

After filling out the designated Customs Baggage Declaration Form and the Currency Declaration Form the QR code that is generated is automatically forwarded to Philippine customs officials for clearance.

As of now paper forms of the CBDF and CDF are still available at the named airports for passengers who fail to use the e-Travel system before arrival or departure.


Service fee refund in case of FDH termination ‘unacceptable’, says EA rep

Posted on 09 May 2024 No comments
FDHs deplore the job-hopping allegation which led to tighter regulations of agencies (File)

It is “totally unacceptable” to require employment agencies to refund in full or in part, the service fee paid to them by an employer in case the foreign domestic worker they placed is terminated, or backs out before the two-year contract period ends.

This is what Thomas Chan, chair of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, said in reaction to today’s promulgation of the revised Code of Practice for EAs, which provides among other things, that the service agreement between the agencies and the FDH employers must state whether a refund or arrangement for a replacement FDH will be provided in case of premature termination, or services are not rendered in full.

“Giving a partial or full refund to an employer if the helper terminates the contract is totally unacceptable because the termination by either side could be due to a lot of reasons,” said Chan. “Obliging the agency to refund implies that the termination was caused by an agent, which is absolutely absurd.”


He sees nothing wrong in making the agencies brief the FDHs on the possible consequences or premature termination of contract, but said that again, this overlooks the reasons behind the worker’s decision to quit early.

“The Code of Practice simply tells agencies to brief workers but does not analyze the complicated relationship between workers and employers,” said Chan.

Another feature of the new CoP is the requirement that EAs must inform the Labour Department if they are associated with any financial institution when applying for a license or renewal of a license.

In addition, the EAs should not provide job applicants with information regarding personal loans or withhold their employment contracts to force them to pay or repay any sum of money.

The amended Code replaces the one promulgated on Feb. 9, 2018, and is largely as a result of clamor from employers groups and legislators for an end to the so-called job-hopping of FDHs, who they say switch employers for better pay and working conditions.

The practice is said to be condoned by some EAs who offer cash incentives to workers they want to poach for employers who are desperately in need of domestic helpers.

To prevent this alleged practice, the new CoP forbids agencies from offering money to workers so they will terminate their contracts.

However, migrants and their supporters have dismissed the job-hopping claim as a myth, saying workers will not leave their employers if they are treated well, especially since many of them are in debt and cannot afford to lose their jobs.

They also know that it is not easy to change employers if their contracts are terminated as they will need to go back to their home countries to wait for their new employment visa, which means they will be jobless for at least six weeks.

Now that EAs are put under a lot of pressure because of the new regulations, migrant workers fear that a big part of the problem will be passed on to them, as they are in the most vulnerable position because of their need to keep their jobs. 

They say the number of terminations could rise, as employers will now be able to demand a refund if they deem the worker unsuitable. They also fear that the potential drop in the EAs’ income because of the refund provision would be passed on to them in the form of higher placement fees.

Either way, the workers say they could find themselves in a worse situation than before.


Bethune House gets donation from 'Lady Eagles'

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Donors and donees pose for photo

Bethune House, a charity which provides shelter and food to domestic workers who have found themselves suddenly jobless, has received a donation from a sisterhood of DHs in Hong Kong.


Grand Hong Kong Lady Eagles Club (GHKLEC) turned over a batch of food and other groceries as well as personal necessities last May 5 at the office of the Mission fort Migrant Workers at St. John’s Cathedral in Central.

Some of the donations

The Mission is the mother organization of Bethune House.

The GHKLEC ladies led by their president, Marie Velarde, and their male counterparts from the Grand Hong Kong Eagles Club (GHKEC) led by their president, Alann Mas, turned over the donation to the Mission's General Manager Cynthia Tellez and Bethune House head Edwina Antonio.


The goods were purchased out of proceeds of recent charity fund-raising projects and from members’ monthly dues,” Velarde said.

Hopefully, she added, this will only be the start of the two groups’ regular donations to the shelter under their motto, “Service Through Strong Brotherhood.“

The men’s and women’s “Eagles” are a non-sectarian fraternal group whose members have banded together to do civic and charitable work.

Aside from donations in kind, Bethune House also accepts cash through its website, as well as through bank transfer to its Hang Seng Bank Account: 284-362340-001, under the name The Bethune House Migrant Women's Refuge Limited.

HK to step up removal of ‘bogus refugees’

Posted on 08 May 2024 No comments


The government plans to deport no less than 1,200 'bogus refugees' each year (File)

The Hong Kong government has unveiled plans to speed up further the screening and removal of “bogus refugees” or those who seek asylum in Hong Kong using fake or baseless grounds.

The disclosure was made today in the Legislative Council by the Secretary for Security Tang Ping-keung, in response to questions raised by legislator Dr Johnny Ng in relation to serious crimes committed by the so-called bogus refugees.

Tang said the government will continue to spare no effort and will adopt a multi-pronged strategy in handling issues relating to non-refoulement claims, including the removal of no less than 1,200 unsubstantiated claimants each year.


The other measures being planned according to him,  include:

1)      Stepping up the interception at source of potential abusers through profile analysis and cooperation with mainland authorities. This will be further enhanced with the introduction of the Advance Passenger Information System due to be rolled out in phases starting in the third quarter of this year;  

2)     Maintaining Immigration’s high efficiency in screening NRCs; 

3)      Streamlining the processing time of cases before the Torture Claims Appeal Board, from an average of seven months in the past to around four months; 

4)      Further uphold discipline and order at detention facilities in line with various legislative amendments that have been implemented starting from November last year; and 

5) Strengthening enforcement actions against illegal employments, with a target to carry out no less than 12,000 operations on the targeted establishments every year, in order to lower the economic incentives of the claimants.


Ng’s main line of questioning was about the recent spate of gang fights and robberies in busy districts which he said are believed to have been committed by non-ethnic Chinese NRCs. He wanted to know what actions were being taken by the government to combat crimes and triad activities committed by the “bogus refugees.”

In addition, he wanted to know if the government plans to further shorten the length of stay of NRCs in Hong Kong through such means as enhancing the efficiency in processing their appeal cases, and strengthening communication with source countries to speed up the verification of nationality and identity of the bogus refugees.

Tang cited police statistics showing that in the first quarter of the year, a total of 151 non-ethnic Chinese NRCs were arrested for criminal offences, representing a four percent drop from the same period last year.

The crimes committed were mostly thefts and serious drug offences, with only five involving triad-related cases, or only three percent of the total.

Nevertheless, the government has taken steps to detain claimants who pose higher security risks to the community in accordance with the law. Since the Nei Kwu Correctional Institution was added as a place of detention starting in 2023, the total number of detainees has risen by 33 per cent to 900.

Also as a result of the introduction of the updated removal policy on December 7, 2022, a number of unsubstantiated claimants have been removed from Hong Kong upon the dismissal of their judicial reviews or relevant leave applications pertaining to their non-refoulement applications. 

Up until March 2024, a total of 2,401 claimants have been removed from Hong Kong, including 249 under the updated policy. The number in 2023 has significantly increased by 63 per cent compared to 2022.

Declare yourself as OFW to avail of privilege at Phl airports, says OWWA

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The 2 phones that sparked stories that OFWs can no longer bring 'padala' with them

It was all a case of misunderstanding.

This was how Overseas Workers Welfare Administration Arnell Ignacio explained the incident at Clark International Airport on May 4, when a Filipina who had just flown in from Dubai posted live on Facebook her altercation with customs personnel over two mobile phones found in her baggage.

He made his comment earlier today after visiting the airport and receiving a briefing from a customs official about the procedures that they follow in checking items brought in by arriving passengers.

Ignacio learned that the passenger, Majilyn Alina Valencia, failed to indicate in the customs declaration form that she was an overseas Filipino worker so the phones found in her baggage – one branded Oppo and the other iPhone –were subjected to further scrutiny, in line with guidelines for arriving tourists.


Under Customs guidelines for arriving passengers, all items that are brought it are exempt from duties and taxes if their value is less than P10,000. But for OFWs, the threshold is Php150,000. (The summary of the rules may be found here:

Ignacio (left) confers with Valencia over the Clark incident

Di mo naman pala dineclare na OFW ka, kaya yung batas na ipinatupad para sa iyo ay para sa turista,” said Ignacio. (Oh so you did not declare yourself as an OFW, that’s why the rule that was applied to you was for tourists).

Ignacio called on passengers to calm down when dealing with airport personnel, as he was satisfied from the briefing that they gave him that they were doing their best to ensure a smooth passenger flow in the airport.

He also said he was satisfied that the tiff resulted from a simple misunderstanding after being told that the phones were given back to Valencia with no taxes being levied on them.

In her live video that immediately went viral, Valencia, who described herself as a businesswoman in her Facebook profile, could be heard protesting loudly after she was told to open her suitcase and the two phones were found inside.

Speaking in her native Pampango language, Valencia asked the customs inspector if they intended to confiscate the items she had worked hard for. The customs staff said they were only holding the items as they were not in Valencia’s declaration form.

The video was cut short after Valencia said she was recording the incident live on Facebook and was told that it was not allowed.

A repost of the live video with a comment hitting at customs staff at Clark

Almost immediately, the official Facebook page of Clark International Airport (CRK) was flooded with hate comments, even death threats, that the agency had to turn off its comments and messaging sections.

Most of the angry comments came from overseas Filipino workers accusing the authorities at Clark of preventing them from bringing in “padala” (presents) for their loved ones, and fleecing them of their hard-earned money.

The CRK said the malicious and hate comments were forwarded to relevant government agencies.


Psychiatric report ordered for child molester ahead of sentencing

Posted on 07 May 2024 No comments


Tiquia was detained at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre ahead of his sentencing (Wikimedia photo)

A High Court judge ordered a Filipino electronic engineer to be remanded at Siu Lam Psychiatric Center earlier today, so a psychiatric and psychological examination can be conducted on him before his sentencing for three counts of indecent assault on a young girl.

Judge Andrew Chan said he wanted to make sure Joel M. Tiquia, 51, did not pose a risk to the community before determining the appropriate sentence on him.

He set down the sentencing in the afternoon of May 29, saying he wanted the case finished  as soon as possible.


Judge Chan earlier noted that the court files on Tiquia’s previous conviction in 2016 for two counts of indecent assault on a woman had been lost. However, the judge said he was able to retrieve the transcripts of the proceedings in the magistrate’s court where the case was heard.

In that earlier case, Tiquia was sentenced to three weeks in jail for committing indecent assault twice on a woman in a shuttle bus. 

In the first incident which happened in December 2015, he touched the arm of the woman, and about two weeks later, he deliberately sat next to the same woman and rubbed himself against her.


Judge Chan told the defense counsel, “It seems to me that your client has shown some sexually deviant behavior.”

Told that Tiquia was remorseful and just wanted the case to be resolved soon, the judge said this may be the case, but a full psychiatric and psychological report on the defendant, as well as the psychological impact on his victim, were still needed to come up with an appropriate sentence.

Tiquia admitted three counts of indecent assault on a girl inside a flat in Caribbean Coast in Tung Chung, which started in April 2017 when the victim was just seven years old. He repeated the assault the next year, and again  in October 2021, when the girl was 11.

Tiquia pleaded guilty to the charges nearly two years after committing the final offence. He was allowed to post bail until last month, when the judge ordered him taken into custody pending a review of his previous convictions.  

According to the Section 122 (1) of Crimes Ordinance of Hong Kong, a crime of indecent assault could fetch up to 10 years in prison.

Asylum seeker gets 15 months for illegal work

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DBay Plaza (file photo from HK Tourism Board)

A Filipino asylum seeker was jailed today for 15 months after pleading guilty at Shatin Court to working illegally in a restaurant.

Acting Principal Magistrate Amy Chan convicted Jim Leo Pascual, 36, and handed him the standard punishment  for “taking employment while remaining in Hong Kong in breach of the limit of stay.”


The Immigration Department charged him with violating two provisions of the Immigration Ordinance  two days after his arrest in Discovery Bay last March 20. He was found to have overstayed his visa, apart from taking up work in violation of his visa condition.

He was arrested during an Immigration check on people working at restaurants in the area on that day.


Under Section 38AA(1)(c) of the Immigration Ordinance, it is an offense to take up employment, whether paid or unpaid, if a person remains in Hong Kong in breach of the limit of his or her stay.

Under Section 38AA(2), such an offence is punishable by a fine of up to $50,000 and imprisonment for three years.

Intimidation charge dropped after man is bound over

Posted on 06 May 2024 No comments


Building where alleged incident happened

A Filipino construction worker who threatened to harm a woman, got off lightly today after facing a charge of criminal intimidation at Kowloon City Court.

Instead, A. Bacunawa, 51 years old, was bound over to a promise not to commit the same offense for 36 months or he would be made to pay a fine of $2,000.

After Bacunawa agreed to be bound over, prosecutors withdrew the charge.


The police complaint accused Bacunawa of threatening “female X with injury to her person, with intent to alarm her.”

The incident occurred last Jan. 3 in a flat in Man Cheong Bldg, Man Cheong Street, Kowloon.


Under the Crimes Ordinance, criminal intimidation is punishable by a fine of $2,000, and imprisonment of up to two years if convicted summarily or up to five years if convicted upon indictment.

Experts call on high-risk groups to get flu shots now

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The third child to succumb to the flu this year died at Eastern Hospital

Fifteen medical groups, along with some lawmakers, have posted a statement online urging those in high-risk groups, particularly young children and the elderly, to get vaccinated against the flu as soon as possible to avoid the bug, and become at risk for fatal complications.

Among the signatories in the statement posted yesterday were the Hong Kong Paediatric Society, the Obstetrical and Gynaecological Society of Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Geriatrics Society as well as lawmakers David Lam and Rebecca Chan.

The statement came days after Hong Kong health authorities issued a similar call following the death of a third child from the virus this year, warning that more severe cases of respiratory diseases might be in the offing.


The latest fatality was an unvaccinated four-year-old girl who was infected with influenza A and died at Pamela Youde Nethersole Eastern Hospital on April 29.

Two weeks earlier, two other girls, aged eight and six, also died after coming down with the flu, while another three-year-old girl was in critical condition. Eighteen other children who mostly did not get the flu shot, also developed severe flu complications.

Before the pandemic and last year, no more than two children died from the flu during the peak periods.


The signatories said children are often in close contact at school, so they are more likely to catch and spread respiratory viruses like the flu, and then infect other high-risk people in their households.

The statement added that the flu could lead to a child contracting severe acute necrotising encephalitis, a disease that leads to extensive multi-organ damage and neurological deficits, or even death.

Apart from children, those at high risk of serious complications from influenza include the elderly and pregnant mothers, and they, should be vaccinated immediately if they haven’t done so yet.

Also last Tuesday, the Centre for Health Protection warned that the dominant flu virus strain might change for a second time given the frequency of travel by residents. This could also extend the flu season that is already longer than usual.

A senior medical officer at CHP assured the public that the flu vaccine is safe and effective, and could reduce the risk of hospitalization by up to 60 percent.

According to the latest figures, about 20 percent of residents at elderly homes and nearly half of children and those aged 65 and above, had not yet received the flu shot.


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