Sunday, January 20, 2013

Philippine Embassy Singapore To Cease Sunday Operations

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Posted on Sunday, January 20, 2013

The weather this morning was great. It's not sunny yet it was cold. I had a pleasant mass at church with the accompaniment of the violinist in the choir. When I reached home, just before my lunch I read this announcement from the Philippine Embassy's Facebook page:

Starting on 17 March 2013, the Philippine Embassy in Singapore will cease Sunday operations and move back to a Monday to Friday schedule as part of its continuous efforts to upgrade its services, and to facilitate the conduct of the Overseas Absentee Voting in April to May 2013.

Consular service hours have been revised so that applicants can submit and collect documents throughout office hours, without lunch break. The Embassy has instituted online appointment systems for key services, particularly for the issuance of passports and Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC), in which the applicant can choose a specific date and time that is most convenient to him or her.*

In view of the large Filipino community in Singapore, the Embassy is now ready to devote Sundays to more initiatives that will promote the welfare of Filipinos in Singapore, which is one of the mandates of the Philippine foreign service.

With the start this year of the Singaporean government's policy of requiring a weekly day-off for household service workers, the Embassy will focus its weekend operations to empowerment programs, including livelihood and entrepreneurial skills training, along with supporting the usual Filipino community social and cultural events.

(*To avoid any inconvenience, we strongly advise applicants to apply for their passport renewal in advance, such as around 9 to 12 months before expiration of validity—earlier, if a longer validity is required for the purpose of work pass renewal--or when their passports only have a few remaining blank pages. We also encourage our OFWs to avail of multiple-entry OECs in order to avoid having to make repeated visits to the Embassy.)


I was shocked at first then it turned to anger. How will they suddenly make a sudden announcement without the consultation of us, the OFWs in Singapore. I left a comment to their announcement which says:

"It's a good thing that you're going to push different initiatives on Sundays. But majority of OFWs in Singapore only have time to go to the Embassy on Sundays. We have to consume our annual leave just to avail consular services? Was there a consultation in the first place? Please don't say to email to this address, your staff never reply."

My two other friends left a comment and I was shocked again when my friend who also commented told me that our comments were deleted. I've checked my Facebook in my mobile and it was indeed deleted. Why would a government Facebook page deletes a comment? They are supposed to be transparent in the first place, right? I made another comment about transparency and surprisingly our comments are visible again.

My only argument is that we cannot afford the closure of the embassy on Sundays. OFWs like me in Singapore only have a minimum of 7 annual leaves per year. I'm lucky that my company gives 12 per year. How about those in probation or have a few annual leaves, they have to consume their annual leave just to avail consular services? I know that there are appointment systems now but half or a whole day at the embassy is still a deduction to our annual leaves. Wouldn't it be nice that we allot that leave to our vacation in the Philippines?

The embassy is actually pushing for different initiatives on Sundays for our beloved domestic helpers but how about us professionals? Can they just hire more staff for these initiatives?

With that, I have created an online petition addressed to Ambassador Minda Calaguian-Cruz. I hope that with this petition, she would reconsider not to cease operations on Sundays. Please sign if you want the embassy to stay open on Sundays.

sign the petition

Alternate petition page, if you are having difficulty in signing to the original petition page.



As I have said in my Facebook post, Don't be SILENT now and then later you COMPLAIN!

Follow-up on this topic. I have sent an email to the Philippine Embassy email around 5PM. With the way they are replying, they have already made a decision based on "extensive" consultation with groups of people I am not aware of.

----- Original Message -----
Makoy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 4:58 PM
To: php@philembassysg.org, php@pacific.net.sg, singapore.pe@dfa.gov.ph

Dear Ambassador,

Good day!

Lunch time today, I have the read the announcement in the Philippine Embassy Singapore Facebook page that the Sunday operations would be ceased by March.

I have expressed my opposing views to the topic by leaving a comment. I know that you're plan is to give attention to the domestic helpers on Sundays. But how about the professionals like me who only have time to visit the Embassy on Sundays? Are you aware that we only have 12 annual leave? That for some including me can only consume 1 annual leave per month, advancing leave means unpaid leave. Would you want us to spend one or half-day vacation leave or we better allot that leave by spending time with our families back home?

I hope you would reconsider not to cease operations on Sundays. If you want to drive initiative on Sundays, it would be better if you can hire extra staff for that drive. We would appreciate if you would consult on the OFWs first before announcing a big change.

Lastly, I want to express my dismay that the admin of
your Facebook page filtered my comment and my friends as well. Only after I have commented again, it was visible again. We are expecting transparency and not our voices to be hidden.

Sincerely,

Mark Ferdinand Tayag

--Bounced Mail--
MAILER-DAEMON@lda1.pacific.net.sg Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 4:58 PM

----- Original Message -----
Philippine Embassy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 5:41 PM
To: Makoy

Sir:
Thank you for your comment.
May we know what document you will be applying for during weekends?
Best regards.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Makoy"
Makoy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 6:21 PM
To: Philippine Embassy

Thank you for your reply. The usual documents are the OEC, OWWA and passport renewal.

I already have an OEC for June and have my OWWA renewed recently. For my passport renewal, I have just scheduled it today after I have read the announcement.

I am not just speaking for myself but also for my colleagues and friends.

I hope you would reconsider.

Thanks!

Mark

----- Original Message -----
Philippine Embassy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 6:37 PM
To: Makoy

Sir:
OEC is a document that you can apply for in the Philippines. It is not a document that can be described, therefore, as an exigency. In fact, POLO is simply doing the work of POEA about providing services for OEC in our embassies. It is not an "Embassy document" per se.
OWWA is a document valid for two years.
A passport is a document you apply for once in five years. There are now moves to extend it to ten years
Applying for a document in the Embassy does not take a whole day because of the appointment systems; an applicant can manage to do another urgent/important personal task on the same day, so one's leave is not "wasted."
Thank you for your concern, and we look forward to seeing you in the Embassy.
Kind regards.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Makoy"
To: php@philembassysg.org , php@pacific.net.sg , "singapore pe" < singapore.pe@dfa.gov.ph >
Makoy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 6:56 PM
To: Philippine Embassy

OEC can only be applied in the Philippines if you spent less than 5 days in the Philippines only. OEC is dependent on your passport and pass expiry. Pass for some is renewable per year.

I know there are appointment systems now in place but you have to reconsider that we are only available to go to the embassy on Sundays. Collectively, we are large numbers that will be affected if you're closed on Sunday.

We cannot afford to spend our hard earned 12 days vacation leave per year. How about for those who are under probation and doesn't have any leave?

May I know who am I discussing with?

Thanks!

Mark

----- Original Message -----
Philippine Embassy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 7:10 PM
To: Makoy

Sir:
Your information about the OEC is not correct. Kindly read the OEC FAQ; you are referring to an OEC that is applied for in the airport, and only in the airport.

It will be good to further discuss this matter with you on a Sunday if you are available. Please set an appointment through this email address and we'll be happy to talk with you and your concerns. Kindly let us know your name and our Consul will discuss with you our policy that was cleared with our home office, as our normal work week is Monday to Friday. A Sunday operation is allowed only during times of exigencies.

In the meantime, please consider once again our reply to your earlier message:

OEC is a document that you can apply for in the Philippines. It is not a document that can be described, therefore, as an exigency. In fact, POLO is simply doing the work of POEA about providing services for OEC in our embassies. It is not an "Embassy document" per se.
OWWA is a document valid for two years.
A passport is a document you apply for once in five years. There are now moves to extend it to ten years
Applying for a document in the Embassy does not take a whole day because of the appointment systems; an applicant can manage to do another urgent/important personal task on the same day, so one's leave is not "wasted."

Best regards,
Philippine Embassy

----- Original Message -----
From: "Makoy"
To: "Philippine Embassy"
Makoy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 8:39 PM
To: Philippine Embassy

I think we are already swaying to a different direction. Definition of OEC, OWWA or passport application is not the question here but the OFWs availability on Sunday.

I just have to point out that our concern is our leave. We do not have the same annual leave credits as you have in the embassy. I have 12 but for some only have 9 or less. Do the math and try to empathize. Going to the embassy on weekdays means we have to skip work (less annual leave or less pay). Half day or whole day at the embassy is still a deduction on our leave credits.

I hope that my concern will reach the ambassador.

----- Original Message -----
Philippine Embassy Sun, Jan 20, 2013 at 10:00 PM
To: Makoy

Dear Mr. Tayag,
The decision to revert back to normal work week was considered with the interest of the whole Filipino community in mind, and not just a particular group or profile of OFWs.
We also wish to inform you that the normal work week is written on the DFA rules and regulations, and extensive consultations were made in order to revert back to this normal work week, practiced in almost all of our foreign service posts.
We are simply making the announcements, to ensure that applicants will not waste their time coming to the Embassy when it is closed.
If you will be unable to come on a Sunday to discuss this matter (which is not just about definitions, but more importantly about how frequent a Filipino national has to go to the Embassy in order to apply for a particular consular document), you may wish to join us during our monthly meetings with the Filipino Community, held on Saturdays.
Kind regards,
Philippine Embassy

6 Responses to “Philippine Embassy Singapore To Cease Sunday Operations”

Jojo Lakwatsero said...
January 20, 2013 at 11:30 PM

parang nakaka loko lang yung embassy ah. Obviously di nila naeexperience yung hassle na pumila para sa OEC. Yung officemate ko nga na local, nagtataka bakit kelangan pa natin ng "Exit Pass" para lumabas ng bansa natin.


Makoy said...
January 21, 2013 at 9:03 AM

They have good intentions but they could have done it differently without affecting the huge OFW population in Singapore.


ferdie pipino said...
January 21, 2013 at 7:07 PM

this is a very good initiative, but i'm afraid it will not address our basic needs. we should instead start a campaign to ERADICATE the OEC itself!


Makoy said...
January 21, 2013 at 7:35 PM

Ferdie, your idea is the best scenario. That should be our next aim!


ferdie pipino said...
January 22, 2013 at 5:55 AM

the oec is not constitutional. but since it will take time to prove this at court, best strategy is petition our embassy for its removal. or suggest different system, one which will allow us to no need to go to either embassy or even poea just to get oec every time we want to go home. its already a very high-tech world. why not petition for cards or ids with magnetic strip, and have embassy issue it coterminous with the ofw contract? hindi ba mas logical ito? ofws pay so much to the government, the system can be put in place easily. i'd rather pay for such a card one-time valid for two years that go every time to the embassy to apply for oec. w


ferdie pipino said...
January 22, 2013 at 8:34 AM

we work so hard abroad, almost every day in a year. this is the least that government can do to help OFWs who remit so much. the oec is a heavy burden, especially during emergencies when we have to go home. our call should be to remove oec or replace the present system which is really outdated. its a sure way to eradicate the long queues for oec. grabe haba ng pila, you waste you day just applying for this strip of paper.


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