Archive for the ‘europe’ Category

Migration tragedy: 21 dead and hundreds missing as boat sinks in Mediterranean sea

April 1, 2009

In the cold waters off Libya, a frail fishing boat carrying about 250 aspiring migrants to Europe sank during stormy weather on Friday, March 27, 2009. At least 20 illegal aliens drowned and more than 200 hundred were reported missing. Mostly from Africa and Middle East, the victims were part of an undetermined number of illegal travelers who perish each year in their bid for a better life.

“Thousands of African, Asian and Middle Eastern migrants fleeing wars and poverty use Libya and other North African countries as a launching pads for the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean to southern Europe — often in rickety, overloaded boats. Another flimsy vessel with about 350 migrants was rescued about a day later in the same area where the fishing boat capsized.” AP (03/31/09, Fergany, AM; Santana, R)

Although 350 migrants in a second boat with no casualties were rescued and brought back to Tripoli, Jean-Philippe Chauzy of the International Organization of Migration (IOM) in Geneva, Switzerland said this sea mishap could be the biggest in terms of the number of dead and missing of a sea vessel leaving North Africa to Europe.

The cause of the sinking has not been known, but a Libyan police officer said the boat was overloaded, and bad weather could be a contributory factor. Some survivors however spoke of a hole that caused the boat to capsize.

The death of the migrants brings to light the growing problem of illegal immigration. In spite of efforts to curb unlawful movement of people in Europe, nationals from impoverished countries worldwide risk their lives in search for better economic opportunities.

Even those who travel with valid papers also face hardships and alienation in their search for jobs. A recent case is the humiliation and abuse by Chip Tsao, an arrogant HK journalist who disparagingly insulted overseas Filipinos whose country he referred to as “a nation of servants.” (Photo Credit: Holvic) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “New Immigration Laws Worry Illegal Aliens In Europe ” Posted by mesiamd at 6/22/2008

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“Not as a lecturer or as a judge,” EU thinks RP must do more to curb corruption

January 28, 2009

Many huge corruption charges in the Philippines involve officials in the highest corridors of power, but almost all of them remain as accusations displayed like dirty laundry for the public to bear. At the cost of the country’s credibility, almost no one gets punished. The entire nation keeps a blind eye of the growing list of scandals whose outcomes are often tip in favor of the crime doers.

For a long time, corruption comes like a foul odor ignored by the government and its citizens. The stench is allowed to stay, follow its course, until it dissipates in the wind. That’s the usual course that has incrementally robbed the country of its shame and dignity. The public is tired, perhaps, about to give up on corruption—for even with laws in place, there is little accountability. There is almost no public outcry of protest.

Illegal deals and criminal transactions occur right on the face of a Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo. Circumventing the law is common, perpetrated by criminals in broad daylight without embarrassment. The hideousness of the corrupt practices has prompted foreign entities like the World Bank (WB) and European Union (EU) to sound their alarm; they point to government deals that smell too stinky to brush aside. The latest is the WB disclosure of fraud in its bank-financed projects.

The president’s husband Jose M. Arroyo, just like in the past, has been linked to greedy collusion schemes. The latest is with the E.C. De Luna Construction Corp, one of the contractors named by the World Bank for rigging the bidding process of road projects funded by foreign money. Officials of the foreign bank are dismayed by the scale of corruption that is traced way back in 2007.

Careful not to rub the sense of shame of Filipinos, WB’s corruption charges which point the complicity of Chinese partners, suggest that the international community can’t just watch the dirty way the government is run. Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo continues to play the charade for the nation.

The EU also sounded its concern by offering the Philippines help to fight corruption. Ambassador Alistair MacDonald of the European Commission said in a Commission of Human Rights meeting in Manila that the EU “sees corruption as a symptom of poor governance and lack of transparent, accountable management, and control system. —Philstar (10/28/09, Clapano, JR)

There it is. MacDonald is right in saying that officials, the civil society and media must work together to fight corruption in government by observing “transparent electoral processes and supporting parliamentary and judicial oversight.” The country can’t live with perversion of integrity that is out in the open and politicalized for everyone to see, but can’t do something against it.

Even if the outside world wants to help the Philippines solve corruption, it is still the people who must first reject and work against it. There is no shortage of anti-corruption laws. They are just waiting to be enforced, not by officials who are themselves corrupt, but by those who are committed to move the country ahead.

The fight against corruption needs ethical leaders to help government officials and business leaders reform their ranks. They need moral rejuvenation and accountability which must be taught and applied in the community. With the nation’s fate at stake, there is deep shame when foreigners remind Filipinos of their freedom, duty for country, and moral responsibilities. (Photo Credits: Almostevil665; wdbphoto) =0=

RELATED BLOG: “Corruption scandals hurting Filipinos under Pres. Gloria M. Arroyo” Posted by mesiamd at 1/29/2009; “On Philippine Corruption And Our Being Inure To It” Posted by myty555 at 12/16/2008

For 45,000 Euros, a Fabulous Watch for a Fabulous Filipino in the "Euro Generals Scandal"

November 15, 2008

I laughed away my incredulity when Tyrone Ng Arejola, 35, a rich friend of retired Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Gen. Eliseo de la Paz testified in the senate hearing on the “Euro General Scandal.” Arejola explained that of the 105,000 euros (6.9 million pesos) confiscated by Russian authorities from Gen. de la Paz last month, 45,000 euros was his. The high-flying wealthy Filipino businessman with unusual liking for gem time pieces said the money was his payment for a watch worth P2.9 million to be bought in Europe— something Filipinos (myself included) find incredible.

I’m bewildered by Arejola’s exquisite interest for jewelry watches. As a long-time resident in America, it’s the first time I hear of such fabulous chronometers like “Roger Dubuis Bi Retro” or an “IWC Portuguese Chronowatch,” the time pieces Arejola loves.

I live close to the jewelry district of New York and I have often walked passed jewelry watches on glass displays. In the last 20 years, I never owned a wristwatch or dream of owning one. But I understand its necessiy—not the costly time pieces which one needs to cover with an insurance or guard against theft with dear life. For checking time, I only rely on my simple cell phone which works just as well.

My ignorance about luxury time pieces is magnified knowing I learn about them from kababayans in Manila who’re at the center of a hideous money-laundering scandal. Life can really be paradoxical sometimes, says my doctor-friend-colleague who learned about Arejola who lives in affluence within a society beset with grinding poverty.

Arejola, an avowed “born-again Christian” like de la Paz, can possibly afford such expensive European watches whose names twist my tongue. Yet, I wonder why he asked the PNP officer to illegally carry his money in a foreign travel to pay for them. It’s the 21st century. Why can’t he use modernity’s regular perks like a money transfer, a credit card, or a bank remittance?

(Noveau?) rich Filipinos like Arejola make me forget the country is poor. At that price of 45,000 euros, the watch is surely tops at the end of the price scale. Who can fault humility and hubris coming together? It’s the same thought that may have crossed Sen. Manuel Roxas’ mind when he directed his quizzical comment to Arejola in the senate meeting:

So 45,000 euros…Parang ang bigat suotin po nyan eh. Parang bahay na po yan. Yung akin Timex ah, $30. Personal na pera niyo yan kaya wala akong masabi (That would be quite heavy to wear. That’s like a house. My watch is a Timex, worth $30. In any case, that’s your personal money so I cannot say much),” Inquirer, (11/15/08, Kwok, A)

A question to ask Gen. de la Paz: “How can you, a law officer put your integrity in line and that of the country by agreeing to be a courier of Arejola’s money?”

In accordance to the law, every traveler has to declare money beyond $10,000 dollars, why didn’t de la Paz do it as he passed the customs? Even Filipino maids traveling for the first time in the airport know this rule by heart.

If Arejola is telling the truth, he should be decidedly affluent, but nonetheless awkwardly dirt cheap and stupid to put Gen. de la Paz and the country in hot water. He admitted that Enviroair, one of his companies, get juicy contracts from the PNP.

From here, I can only ask the reader to think and make your own theories and conclusions. I think investigators have uncovered some raunchy details of this scandal rocking the military, but they aren’t focusing on the right questions hard enough—the what, how, where and when of the 105,000 euros in the PNP officer’s possession.

It’s not so important that the Russian customs authorities have “absolved” him through some dubious diplomatic channels. The PNP officer has yet to explain, among others, why he has that huge money brought in the Interpol conference in St. Petersburg with his wife. He has to explain the illegal huge amount of money he carried abroad against conventions of international travel.

The “zarzuelas” and inanities of corrupt citizens go on in the Philippines. The people can only sigh in angst and anger thinking how many more rapacious scandals they have to endure in their lifetime. In Manila, one hears the poor street protesters yelling,“Tama na! Sobra Na!” while the PNP officers with their guns look on. =0=

PNP Gen. Eliseo de la Paz

Photo Credit: ABSNews; AP; Bullit Marquez

RELATED BLOG: “Euro Generals” from Moscow and the “zarzuela” that awaits them in Manila Posted by mesiamd at 10/21/2008

With market still bleeding, corporate greed blamed for financial woes in Wall Street

September 17, 2008

With last week’s unprecedented government bail out of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers, the United States and the financial world are finding ways to avoid further meltdown in Wall Street. Spooked by financial uncertainties, money institutions are finding ways to avert market collapse.

American International Group Inc. (AIG,) the largest insurance company of the world, suffered losses as its shares fell down 92% after fool-heartedly insuring risky bonds. The Federal Reserve had to loan $85 billion to save the company from financial ruin which could disrupt markets and put the economy in jeopardy if its losses aren’t contained. This is in addition to the Treasury Department’s commitment to infuse up to about $100 billion in funds to the Fannies, America’s top mortgage lenders to keep them from going insolvent. Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Washington Mutual suffer money problems too, feeding uncertainty, confusion, fear and distrust in the banking system. At this point it is unclear whether these measures will reverse the on-going bleeding in the market.

To where this economic woes will end is anybody’s guess. For ordinary citizens, the uncertainties that shake the market bring new realities and offer opportunities to reassess where their investments will go. In spite of their efforts to improve their finances, people have been gripped with scary concerns about jobs, higher taxes, social security, healthcare, retirement and the future in


The financial crisis had been predicted since the Clinton administration. When the stock market slumped in 2000, the housing market boom that followed built unrealistic expectations and over-taxed the lending system. After a long run of profitable home buying and selling, prices slumped in 2006 and continued to the fall thereafter. In the midst of mounting mortgage debts, many borrowers were unable to pay their loans, forcing them to default. The accrued losses quickly mounted, triggering the current financial crisis.

The crisis caused by multifactorial reasons didn’t happen overnight and the blame is shared in many fronts. Corporate greed of Wall Street is partly responsible. CEO’s and money managers, pandering on their interests, rake astronomical profits in overseeing stocks and investment funds to the disadvantage of regular shareholders. Government regulators were remiss in protecting the public when they did little to restrict flagrant money lending schemes and shady business deals of corrupt opportunists.

The Congress on the other hand had been slow in updating the laws that regulate the business of Wall Street. Loans in banks were approved by mortgage lenders in spite of the borrower’s questionable ability to pay. The bullish optimism among house-buyers had caught them ill-prepared for the ups and downs of the market. Investigation and prosecution of corporate malfeasance and abuses had been inadequate.

To promote stability, the government has little choice but to bail-out the floundering companies at the expense of tax payers. To clean up the mess, it has to recognize the weaknesses and failures of the system that lacks oversight. With a huge trade deficit, America needs a correction and tougher regulations in the financial markets to avoid further damage to the economy.

The adverse effects of this economic downturn have serious repercussions on the economies abroad. There is volatility of stocks traded abroad. There is worry across Europe, Asia and Russia. If the confidence to USA’s financial institutions weakens or altogether lost, economies worldwide will suffer affecting the most, the poorest nations.


T
axpayers, shareholders of investments and portfolio owners have to foot the bills to keep the economy going. They scramble for solutions to counter depreciation of homes and restore confidence in doing business. They need to bring back the profits in the stock market, lower the cost of borrowing, and stimulate the growth of businesses.

Yet new policies instituted by the emergence of global economy stand on the way. Saddled with debts and the on-going war on terrorism, the US finds itself in weaker economic footing now than in the past. If the American economy suffers further and reversal of the financial turmoil comes late, a possible worldwide recession can result to social and political instability.

The lessons learned from past hardships—the great depression and the world wars however make Americans resilient and hopeful. As they watch the events unfold, they try to find a wiggle room to solve their problems to escape the worst. The Bush administration is doing unprecedented measures to do just that, though its choices for solution are pretty limited. Photo Credits: Gingerbugjones; BeebsandChi; Steely.scott)=0=

Russian-Georgian Conflict: a separatist debacle, a thirst for oil & a show of military might

August 19, 2008

After a week of fighting and violence that left more than 1,500 dead and 158,000 Georgians flushed out from their homes, Russia’s bullying posture over a small-state neighbor is showing. Supposed to aid the rebellious region of South Ossetia, the Russians went on a campaign to support the separatists and dominate Georgia, a small sovereign state of 4.6 million people.

Sheltering US-supported oil lines which bypass Russia and Iran thus reducing the dependence of fossil fuel from the Middle East, Georgia has strategic importance for Europe and the world. The country is backed by Ukraine, Poland, Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania which consider the invasion a chance to stop Russia’s geopolitical design in the region.

The Russian attempt to annex the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia brings a sharp rise in the Poland’s determination to forge a missile defense accord with the US. Originally intended against Iran, the deal is now planned to include a defense against Russia.

Analysts say the Russia-Georgia dispute doesn’t only involve unresolved territorial borders which has been simmering for sometime. They say it also includes political assertiveness, a flexing of military muscle by Russia on surrounding smaller neighbors so it can control the region’s oil supply on which a large part of Europe is dependent on.

There are three key pipelines that run through Georgia. The biggest, designed to bypass Russia, is the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, or BTC, which transports about a million barrels of oil a day from the Caspian Sea through Georgia to ports in Turkey. From there, the oil is sent to Europe and other destinations around the world.

There is a lot of concern in America about Russia’s willingness to use oil and gas for political ends,” said Cliff Kupchan of the Eurasia Group, a former State Department officer who has studied Russia and its economy.

Kupchan further said, “There is precedent for such worry. In 2006, Russia cut natural gas supplies to Ukraine when that country refused to accept a price hike. As a result of the move, Europeans from France to Finland were left out in the cold.” ABC World News (08/16/08, Martin,R.)

In spite of Russia’s promise to withdraw from Georgia (a staunch ally of USA who sent support troops in Iraq,) Russian soldiers are still causing destruction and fear in at least a third of the country. On Aug 19, 2008, in spite of a ceasefire agreement, the Russians captured 20 Georgian troops in Poti, a seaport city in Western Georgia.

Leaders of Europeand USA and other countries are scrambling to contain the war with negotiations and political maneuverings. This underscores how governments with KGB influence can wantonly use military aggressiveness at the expense of peace of innocent lives. It also reminds the world of the dividends gained from the fall of the Soviet Union which may come to waste when the cold war returns because of reckless actions of a few. PCredits: AP/AFP =0=

New Immigration Laws Worry Illegal Aliens In Europe

June 21, 2008

After some delay because of differing positions among the 27-member countries, the European Union (EU) has finally set up stricter immigration laws which guide the handling and expulsion of apprehended illegal aliens. This is part of an effort to come up with a uniform European immigration and asylum policy by 2010.

With rising tide of resentments over lack of jobs, crowding, surging crime, and slowing of the economy, EU parliament on June 19, 2008 overwhelmingly passed the tough controversial measure. Here it is at a glance:

European Union Rules on Illegal Aliens (2008)
-Option to leave voluntarily within 30 days of apprehension
-Illegal aliens confined in special detention cells, not jails.
-Provide for basic human rights and access to legal help
-Maximum detention of 18 months (1.5 years)
-Reentry ban for those forcibly expelled
-2 years for governments to implement
-Workplace raids vs. illegal aliens not permitted

The new measure had been criticized by Amnesty International (AI) and other human rights groups asserting that the rules do not guarantee the return and dignity of the migrants. (USA Today, /AP (06/21/08)

Migrante-Europe’s chairman of the board, Rev. Jaime Taguba opined, “”We believe that enforcing these rules on undocumented migrants is counterproductive and would only exacerbate the crises in the EU and the countries of origin of these undocumented migrants because these rules go against social justice and progress, and are inhumane.” Taguba asked the EU to “adhere to conventions, treaties, and agreements, institute measures to de-criminalize the undocumented and take measures to remove the basis of ‘illegality’ by, among others, adopting regularization programs.” Inquirer (06/21/08, Uy,V.)

European Union (2006):
-8 million illegal aliens
-1 million apprehended
-500,000 caught inside EU
-200,000 deported mostly from Spain, Italy, Greece

Philippines:
-124,000 undocumented Filipinos in EU
-40,000 in France, 20,000 in Italy

USA:
-11 million illegal aliens, mostly from Mexico
-273,000 deported in 2007
-Workplace raids permitted

The controversy behind illegal immigration opens anew fresh wounds on countries like the Philippines which depend on overseas workers’ foreign money remittances to boost its local economy. In the short term, Filipinos hail jobs abroad as boon to survival, but as employment abroad grow scarcer, workers are displaced, exploited, and fall prey into a life of illegality. Separated from their families for years, they go through untold suffering and pain. There is little the government can do.

As Rev. Taguba pointed out, the long term solution to forced migration is to “fundamentally address the structural problems of economic backwardness, political dependence and neo-colonial enslavement of the home countries of these undocumented migrants.”

It is clear the Philippines need to make local employment more available so its citizens can resist the lure of going abroad to find jobs. The government must work doubly hard to convince its citizens that there is a future in the country—They can work and build meaningful productive lives while waiting for a chance to immigrate legally abroad. =0=