, DECEMBER 7, 2007 (STAR) By Marvin Sy And Paolo Romero - President Arroyo vowed yesterday to negotiate for greater job security for Filipino senior care workers in the United Kingdom as she began her official visit to the country that is home to some 16,000 Filipino workers.

Speaking before the Filipino community in London shortly after her arrival from a state visit to Spain, Mrs. Arroyo said that she was informed by Philippine Ambassador to the UK Edgardo Espiritu of the concerns of the Filipino senior care workers who face deportation because of a new British government policy.

Senior care workers are usually nurses or midwives who have not yet taken or passed the board exams.

The UK Home Office was earlier reported to have refused to renew the work permits of a number of Filipino “senior carers.”

The reason given then was that the senior care profession has been dropped from the list of occupations that are in shortage in Britain.

Although the Home Office has reversed the policy and agreed to grant work extensions to foreign senior care professionals, many employers have refused to implement the mandated pay hike or sponsor their workers’ work permit extension.

The Home Office raised to £7.02 the hourly pay for foreign senior care workers.

The President said she would personally discuss the workers’ concern with British officials, or possibly with Queen Elizabeth II herself at Buckingham Palace.

Philippine legislators in the President’s entourage would also raise the issue before their counterparts in the British parliament.

“This is a major agenda in our talks tomorrow and we hope that this would help,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

In her speech before the Filipino community, the President also encouraged Filipino workers to invest and save more, especially in the light of the strengthening of the peso.

OFWs believe the stronger peso has weakened their spending power because they earn in foreign currencies.

Mrs. Arroyo pointed out that the various government agencies are on a massive information campaign among the families of OFWs about the different investment options available in the Philippines.

“I want to assure you we are mindful of the impact on our overseas workers of a strong peso as you send remittances home. And we are working on ways to mitigate the impact of the peso on your families’ incomes,” the President said.

She said that the Department of Labor and Employment has been getting in touch with families of OFWs, particularly domestic helpers, to present to them the special programs offered by the government.

“And like what Ambassador Espiritu said, for OFWs and your families, it’s very important that you keep or even enhance your financial freedom during this time of a rising peso,” she said.

“And financial freedom does not stop at having enough funds to sustain a family’s basic necessities. Accumulating savings is part of financial freedom, sufficient savings and turning this hard-earned money into solid capital that is equally important,” she pointed out. “So we encourage OFWs and your families to save and channel their savings into investments.”

The President also encouraged the OFWs in the UK to visit the Philippines and see for themselves the breakthroughs achieved under her administration.

“Maybe now it’s worth a try to visit the Philippines. I am inviting you to visit us so that you may see the true state of the nation, our new gains and achievements,” she said.

Just like in Spain, Mrs. Arroyo also spoke of the government’s swift response to the Peninsula siege by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and other rebellious former military officers and some prominent civilians.

“The actions of these misguided men undermine each and every one of the genuine aspirations of real Filipinos. Instead of working to bring the nation together by working within our democratic process, their actions merely are fuel for selfish motives for personal gain,” the President said.

“But in the end, the rule of law prevailed. The transgressors will not hold this nation hostage with impunity. They will be punished to the full extent of the law. Justice shall be served and the interests of the people upheld,” she added.

Mrs. Arroyo also explained her decision to grant pardon to former President Joseph Estrada following his conviction for the crime of plunder.

“The trial and conviction of the former president was a major step forward for the rule of law in the Philippines. It proved that no one is above the law when it comes to meting out punishment, including former presidents,” she said.

“I honored the request for pardon because I believe it was in the country’s interest. It was a tough choice, but I have never been one to shy away from making tough choices when it comes to moving the nation forward.”

RP firm in Spain

A Manila-based business process outsourcing firm (BPO) has made a foray into Spain’s high-end knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) market, Malacañang said yesterday.

A Palace statement said Winsome Solutions Inc. (WSI) was able to enter into contracts with Spanish companies because the President’s five-day state visit to Spain “opened not just windows but doorways of opportunity for the Philippine business community in the European market.”

The company’s officials met with Mrs. Arroyo in Madrid and told her that WSI “found and penetrated new and better markets outside the saturated North American market and beyond the increasingly commoditized call center industry.”

While WSI’s maiden contract in Europe is admittedly modest in an industry of multibillion-dollar deals, the pioneering venture opens up continental Europe to the Philippine BPO industry, the statement said.

WSI’s contract with four Spanish companies is a first in using Filipino talents for digital imaging, computer-aided design (CAD) and software engineering service, the Palace said.

In just six months, WSI expects to create at least 250 to 300 jobs for Filipino engineers, architects, computer graphic designers, animators and data process outsourcing mining analysts.

As a rule of thumb, in salary terms, one KPO engineer is equivalent to three to four call center agents, the statement said.

A Palace statement said the firm attributes its success in penetrating the Spanish and British markets to the administration’s “non-stop hard work to address policy directions of President Arroyo to provide the right opportunities for Filipino professionals to remain in the Philippines working in their fields of study.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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