Services and Resources for Pinoy Canadians

Community News & Features Feb 22, 2019 at 4:58 pm
Consulate staff, speakers and attendees

Consulate staff, speakers and attendees

Consulate-FCT Orientation Session for Immigrants

By Michelle Chermaine Ramos

The Philippine Consulate in collaboration with directors of the Filipino Centre Toronto hosted an orientation day on Saturday February 16, 2019 at the volunteer-run Filipino Centre Toronto located at 4395 Sheppard Ave. East. The full day’s lineup of seminars provided Filipino immigrants with a wealth of information from the consular staff, social workers and community contacts regarding consular services, social services, access to housing, paying bills in the Philippines, banking, as well as updates on the SSS and PAG-IBIG fund.

Deputy Consul General Bernadette Fernandez stressed the importance of sharing the information with other kababayans who may not be able to attend orientation sessions due to their work schedules. “The collaboration between government and non-governmental organizations, civil society and religious organizations included has proven to be very significant in assisting our kababayans.” The Consulate General came full force with representatives of the Philippine government’s various agencies including the Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Labour and Employment, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, Social Security System and Home Development Mutual Fund PAG-IBIG to inform Filipinos about their services and resources. The number of Filipinos in Canada is reaching its one million mark. “Still we expect more Filipino families to join this diaspora,” said Deputy Consul General Fernandez. “This is when things like this are important so we can reach out to as many Filipinos as possible.”

Here are the key takeaways from the seminars:

Deputy Consul General  Bernadette Fernandez

Deputy Consul General
Bernadette Fernandez

Philippine Midterm National Elections May 2019

If you are unable to vote now because you are not registered, there is still another chance for you to vote as long as you remain a Filipino citizen for the 2022 presidential and national elections and register at the consulate. Deputy Consul General Fernandez, urged people to vote and pray for voters to choose wisely if they are unable to do so themselves, as children in the Philippines need politicians who will take care of the country as opposed to their personal interests. Stay updated on the latest news by following the Philippine Consulate Toronto Facebook page.

Updates on Consular Services

There are three Consulates General in Canada with Toronto having the largest volume of clientele. Other consulates are located in Vancouver and Calgary. The embassy is located in Ottawa. Additionally, there are honorary consular offices in Charlottetown (PEI), Halifax (Nova Scotia), St John’s (Newfoundland and Labrador) and Winnipeg (Manitoba).

Consul Edna May Lazaro

Consul Edna May Lazaro

The consulate’s website now has downloadable templates of legal forms such as affidavits of support, powers of attorney, special powers of attorney for sale of property, parental travel permits and other forms so people do not need to get a notary public to draft these documents http://www.philcongen-toronto.com/consular/consular_notarial.php

The consulate is open Monday to Friday from 9am-4pm, with no lunch breaks and every first Saturday of the month from 9am-12pm except in the month of June. They are also on call 24/7 for emergencies at 416-346-3268 in case of death or detention of a Filipino citizen.

E-Passport

Regular passports for Filipino citizens eighteen years and older are now valid for ten years and passport application forms are also downloadable from the consulate’s website. Applicants no longer have to bring their own passport photos. Go to the consulate anytime during office hours and they will take your photo. Make sure to wear business attire (with collar and sleeves). Do not wear colored contact lenses, eyeglasses, heavy makeup or false eyelashes since you will be asked to remove them.

There is also a common misconception among some Filipinos who want to renew their passports but are afraid to go to the consulate due to expired work permits. A myth has circulated that the consulate will report them to the police. Deputy Consul General Fernandez confirmed that is not true. Keep your passports up to date in case of any emergency travel needs. Do not wait for your passport to expire before renewing it to avoid the risk of an employer potentially questioning the gap between the validity of your old and new passport. Also, keep your old cancelled passports since you will need them when you apply for resident status and Canadian citizenship.

FCT VP Theresa Lumanlan

FCT VP Theresa Lumanlan

For caregivers and other OFWs who cannot get a day off and send friends to pick up their passports, the consulate will call to verify if they have truly given their friend the authority to pick up their passport on their behalf. This is to prevent creditors from holding passports for ransom for the money that the passport holder might owe them. You are also required to sign your new passport in front of consular staff so it is ideal for you to pick it up yourself whenever possible.

Philippine Law now recognizes Foreign Court Orders for Divorce

A foreign spouse can file for a divorce but a Filipino citizen cannot initiate the divorce. However, you can ask your foreign spouse to divorce you abroad so you can take the documents to a lawyer in the Philippines who will file for the recognition of a foreign court order. This is important especially if you were married in the Philippines.

General Powers of Attorney

For safety reasons, the consulate no longer advises people to use this and most banks in the Philippines no longer recognize this and require a special power of attorney.

Dual Citizenship for children

If both parents are Canadian citizens and want their child to have the privilege of Filipino and Canadian citizenship, they have to apply for dual citizenship before their child turns 18. This also allows the child to pass on their status to their future children and down generations.

Malou Reyes of Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) Services

Malou Reyes of Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) Services

Philippine Overseas Labour Office (POLO) services updates

Prior to 2018, employers could hire relatives as caregivers without requiring a PRA (Philippine Recruitment Agency). After May 2018, the Department of Labour started requiring the use of a Philippine Recruitment Agency even if you are hiring a relative. Under Philippine law, a PRA is jointly and severally liable should anything happen to the worker, if there are any contract violations or unpaid salaries. Visit www.poea.gov.ph to see the list of all licensed recruitment agencies searchable by country, job order or agency name.

Recently, in January, many OFWs vacationed in the Philippines without getting an OEC (Overseas Employment Contract) prior to travelling home. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration is very strict with issuing OECs in the Philippines and requires workers to supply a verified work contract to leave the country. OFWs in this situation should contact the Toronto consulate and they will help them and their employers comply with that requirement. It is always easier to process an OEC here before travelling to the Philippines due to the long queues over there.

The Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) is tasked with ensuring the workers welfare by documenting and processing contracts when they leave the Philippines. OWWA offers a two-year membership for a US$25 contribution chargeable to the employer even if the employment contract is for one year. Membership is renewable as long as they present their documents including the work permit, contract, visa and passport. Last year, the agency allowed the voluntary membership of permanent residents. Benefits include death benefits, repatriation, educational benefits for dependents in the Philippines and other services listed on the website https://www.owwa.gov.ph/

Every first Saturday of the month, they conduct a mandatory Post Arrival Orientation Seminar and networking session for newly landed workers and settlement workers. For information on services and upcoming seminars call 416-975-8252 or email POLO at polotoronto.2019@gmail.com or polotrt@bellnet.ca

Bobby Roldan of SSS

Bobby Roldan of SSS

Social Security System Updates

There is no need to travel to the consulate to update your contributions since you can now go online or use the SSS mobile app. Also, there is no need to be a dual citizen to get your pension. Everyone who has ever worked for an employer in the Philippines who contributed to SSS even for a period as short as a month, even if they are a foreigner, is entitled to their claim.

The deadline for applications for loan restructuring regarding educational, salary or calamity loans has been extended to April 1, 2018 Philippine time (12 noon in Toronto). Apply at the Toronto consulate with two valid IDs.

In the Philippines, SSS is now universal for all income earners. Domestic helpers, fishermen, farmers, tricycle drivers and self-employed small business owners are now eligible for SSS. Note that co-habiting or re-marriage to a new partner after the death of a spouse disqualifies the surviving spouse from receiving the deceased’s pension.

Aside from the regular SSS coverage program, the SSS Flexi-fund is exclusively available to OFWs who would like to contribute more. For more information, contact Bobby Roldan at toronto@sss.gov.ph and visit www.sss.gov.ph

Elizabeth Borres of PAG-IBIG Fund

Elizabeth Borres of PAG-IBIG Fund

PAG-IBIG Unclaimed Funds and Updates

90% of members who migrated to Canada are not aware that their PAG-IBIG savings have grown while they were away. PAG-IBIG is searching for many members who have yet to claim their funds. The long list of names is on the website at https://www.pagibigfund.gov.ph/

Additionally, members whose contributions were restricted to a certain amount when they were working in the Philippines are now allowed to contribute more. For membership renewals or new membership registrations, visit the website for more information.

Government Subsidized Housing for People with Low-Income

THHC rep explained the  concept of subsidized  housing

THHC rep explained the
concept of subsidized
housing

Located at 205-2500 Lawrence Avenue East, Scarborough, ON, The Housing Help Centre serves the York region and city of Toronto by providing programs for the needs of low-income clients. Their services range from helping clients with finding housing, paying for utilities, settlement counselling and referrals to furniture and food banks, to acquiring clothing, employment services and training.

As the price of rent rises continuously each year, the subsidized housing program helps low-income applicants find housing for rent at 30% of their income. Anyone living in Ontario who is at least 16 years old with a legal status in Canada such as Canadian citizens, landed immigrants, permanent resident applicants and refugees are eligible to apply as long as there is no enforceable deportation, departure or exclusion order against any member of their household. Once an applicant turns 59, they are automatically eligible for access to senior subsidized housing and buildings with services that cater to seniors’ needs such as meal preparation, housekeeping, 24-hour PSWs free for all eligible seniors. They encourage applicants to apply well before they turn 59 due to the 10-year waiting list. They also take care of special priority applicants, which includes victims of abuse and human trafficking and the terminally ill who are expected to have less than two years to live. They also provide support for mental health and addictions and referrals to external programs

The Toronto Rent Bank Program offers interest-free loans to help with rent deposit (if you need first and last month’s rent) or rent arrears for which you can get help for a maximum of three months if you are eligible for this program. For more information to assess your specific needs, call The Housing Help Centre at 416-285-8070.

CAN PAY BILLS Inc.

In order to prevent OFWs remitted hard-earned money from being misused back home, Can Pay Bills Inc. allows you to pay over 200 types of bills directly through their system giving you the peace of mind knowing that payment goes straight to the billing company. Registration is free and you can pay for SSS, PAG-IBIG FUND, Phil Health, phone, water, electricity, internet, cable TV, groceries, real estate, credit cards, school tuition, travel tickets, financial services, health care and more. Visit www.canpaybills.com

 

Winners of the Philippine Airlines calendar raffle

Winners of the Philippine Airlines calendar raffle

Jeanette Rosales served a fresh taho for breakfast

Jeanette Rosales served a fresh taho for breakfast