More Filipinos can be helped this year

Dubai: The Philippine Consulate General is expecting more Filipinos in the UAE to receive welfare assistance this year now that the guidelines for issuing assistance has been expanded and the funding increased to one billion pesos (Dh72.5 million).

The Philippine Congress recently approved the request of President Rodrigo Duterte to increase the Assistance-To-Nationals (ATN) Fund from 400 million pesos to one billion pesos and Legal Assistance Fund from 100 million pesos to 200 million pesos this 2018.

Philippine Consul-General Paul Raymund Cortes on Tuesday said both funds are available to all overseas Filipinos in all 84 missions worldwide, including Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Cortes said there are 618,726 Filipinos in the UAE as of 2016, based on figures from the UAE’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.

Aside from increased funding, the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila also expanded or “relaxed” the guidelines for issuing ATN Funds to distressed Filipinos overseas.

“[This latest development] means more Filipinos can receive help from the Philippine government,” Cortes said, adding, “We’re here to assist our compatriots; we don’t discriminate.”

Cortes said the consulate on Monday renewed its contract with the consulate’s legal retainer to provide legal assistance to the consulate for 2018.

“We have a free legal clinic every Wednesday from 1pm to 5pm and we urge Filipinos who can’t afford to hire a lawyer to call the ATN hotline to book a session with our lawyer and to bring all the documents pertinent to their case,” he said.

Vice-Consul Marianne Bringas, head of the ATN Section, said the relaxed ATN guidelines now allow for most cases to be covered, including civil, criminal and labour cases.

“These cases could be bank cases, immorality, non-payment of dues, and others but only as far as representation is concerned. This is subject to assessment [and approval by the home office]. Payment of penalties and fines is not covered,” Bringas said.

Gulf News earlier reported that the consulate helped more than 7,000 Filipinos in 2017.

The top three cases registered were the distressed household service workers, immigration cases, and those seeking legal advice.

The consulate also repatriated 1,269 Filipinos, including 23 medical cases, in 2017 compared to just 331 Filipinos in 2016.

Cortes said the Consulate disbursed nearly $810,000 (Dh2.97 million) in ATN Funds in 2017 that covered the repatriation costs, living expenses and medical needs, transportation costs and other expenses of distressed Filipinos.

For the legal assistance fund, the consulate released $336,447.

Cortes said the ATN Section and the consulate can be reached through the ATN hotline (0565015755 to 56) or through his official Facebook page (Consul-General Paul Raymund P. Cortes).

Meanwhile, Cortes said the consulate will comply with the new Good Conduct Certificate requirement of the UAE for expatriates who need it for their work visas starting February 4. However, they are “awaiting specifics to be issued by the UAE government”.

Vice-Consul Elizabeth Ramos, head of the Economic and Consular Affairs Section, said she has already submitted a report to Manila regarding the new requirement for guidance.

“Some UAE companies are already requiring an NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) Clearance for work overseas. So this is not the first time. Though we don’t issue Good Conduct Certificates here, both documents are similar in essence. We will wait for the process to be ironed out and will announce the details at a later date,” Ramos said.

Ramos said the consulate released 1,000 NBI Clearances in 2017.




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