[PHOTO - Protesters shout slogans as they set on fire to a huge poster of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak during a rally at the US Embassy in solidarity with the Egyptian anti-government protesters in Manila, Philippines Tuesday Feb. 1, 2011. The protesters are urging the United States to stop its military aid to the Mubarak's government. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)]

MANILA, FEBRUARY 2, 2011 (STAR) By Mayen Jaymalin - The government is readying to evacuate an initial batch of 100 Filipino workers from Egypt, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) reported yesterday.

This developed as Malacañang said it would await recommendations from the Philippine embassy in Cairo as to when the Filipinos would be evacuated from Egypt as protests continued against Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

Presidential Communications Development Secretary Ricky Carandang said embassy officials were ready to relocate the Filipinos especially in Cairo but they refused to leave at this time.

Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said embassy and labor officials in Israel already have the identities and location of 100 overseas Filipino workers who may possibly be the first batch of OFWs to be evacuated from Egypt.

“Our officials in Israel already have the profile of 100 Filipino workers in Egypt and they are now getting ready to accommodate them in case there would be an evacuation of workers to safer areas,” Baldoz said.

Although data from various government agencies indicate that there are about 6,000 OFWs in Egypt, Baldoz said they still have to verify whether all of them are still in Egypt or some have returned home.

Baldoz stressed that the Philippine government has placed the situation in Egypt under alert level 2 and until it has been raised to level 3, there would be no evacuation to safer area.

Baldoz further ruled out the possibility of the government banning the deployment of Filipino workers to Egypt despite the prevailing tension there.

The labor chief said there is really no need to impose a deployment ban considering that Egypt is not among the top markets for Filipino workers.

According to Baldoz, the government is more inclined to defer or delay the deployment of those who are applying to work in Egypt instead of imposing a ban.

“The recommendation from the Department of Foreign Affairs is for deferment of deployment and based on our record there is only one worker awaiting deployment to Egypt at this time,” Baldoz disclosed.

Meanwhile, the DFA also said that it has made arrangements with third countries to allow the transit of Filipinos through their borders.

In Manila, DFA officials met with the ambassadors of countries near Egypt to request the assistance of their governments to allow the safe passage of Filipinos from their areas. – With Pia Lee-Brago, Aurea Calica


Palace belittles bishop's claims of Aquino's incompetence ABS-CBN - Tuesday, February 1

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - A Malacañang spokesman on Monday downplayed retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz's (photo at left) claim that 2 groups are eyeing to replace President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino because he is incompetent.

In a press briefing, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said the Aquino administration has already started initiating reforms in government.

"Well, hello there, Archbishop Cruz. We meet again. What is our reaction to this as far as the claim of incompetence goes?

Of course, that is utterly baseless. You have seen in the past 7 going to 8 months that we have started making the first steps to implement reforms. You have the conditional cash transfer in place. We have a very lean budget for 2011 and we intend to keep it that way," Valte said.

She said the Palace intends to verify reports that Pastor Boy Saycon of the Council for Philippine Affairs is urging Aquino to step down. She pointed out that Saycon supported the President in the May election.

"Actually I'd like to verify that also because from what I remember, they did support the President during the elections. If this is true, we'd like to know what happened in the interim as well," she said.

She noted that there will always be detractors against the government.

"It's actually the first time that I've heard of that. But you will always have detractors in every administration. We believe that we are doing the right thing. We will continue to push for the right thing," she said.

Cruz earlier said at least 2 groups are considering the possible removal of President Aquino just 7 months after was installed as Chief Executive.

Cruz said the first group "has money and wants to get back into power" while the second group is composed of ideologues. At least one of the 2 groups has a military component, he noted.

The former archbishop said the groups eyeing Aquino's removal agree that the incumbent President is incompetent.

"Ang problema po ay yung incompetence ng incumbent president. Ang incomptence ay hindi mareremedyuhan hanggat hindi aalis. Ano man pong ibigay niyo na magagaling na tagapayo, Cabinet members, basta't incompetent ka hindi po kayang lutasin. Yan po ang pinakamabigat na pasanin diyan," he told ABS-CBN's "Umagang Kay Ganda."

"He may be sincere, he may be truthful, he may be this, he may be that but frankly, he is incompetent," he added.

The Council for Philippine Affairs earlier warned the President might not be able to finish his 6-year term if he fails to stamp out rising criminality in the country.

Deteriorating peace and order

Cruz said the deterioration of peace and order is one of the sticking points of the groups out to replace Aquino.

He said Aquino appointed Jesse Robredo as an acting secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government while appointing his close friend, Rico Puno, as a permanent undersecretary of the department.

He said Puno was put in charge of the Philippine National Police but did not say anything when the police came under fire for the August 28 hostage crisis and the spate of carjackings in Metro Manila.

Cruz said Aquino's campaign to curb corruption has stalled after the Supreme Court blocked the formation of the Truth Commission. He said news reports of corruption, such as the "pabaon" system in the military, did not come from the Office of the President but from other people.

Even Aquino's centerpiece program - the P21 billion conditional cash transfer (CCT) - has been put into question because of the size of its budget.

Cruz said he knows 1 family who receives P10,000 every 3 months from the CCT even though the father is a drunk, the mother gambles and the kids are on the streets and not studying.

The archbishop said the family signs documents admitting that they receive P10,000 "but the question is if it's really P10,000."

Cruz said he still has hope that Aquino could turn things around and prove that he is competent enough to do the job required of him.

Otherwise, he warned that groups out to replace him might work together to bring about the President's downfall. With a report from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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