Guidebook explains UAE for Filipinos

The book explains the migration cycle as well as the UAE’s laws. It will be launched on Philippine Independence Day, June 12.

Michael Almazar, who works for Gulf Law, wrote the guide with the Philippine ambassador, Grace Princesa. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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ABU DHABI // From information on job contracts to labour rights, the country’s Filipino community has an abundance of information at its fingertips thanks to the launch of a guidebook.

The Essential OFW Guide to the UAE (OFW stands for overseas Filipino worker), put together by Michael Barney Almazar, the director of the commercial department of Gulf Law in Dubai, and Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE, will be launched in Dubai on Friday.

The six-month project was the end result of a series of free legal-aid seminars that have been held at the Abu Dhabi embassy and Dubai consulate since January last year.

Other topics covered in the guide are local laws, bank loans and how the UAE’s 900,000-strong Filipino community can best manage their finances.

The 144-page book, written mostly in English, covers the entire migration cycle, starting from someone’s move to the UAE to their return home. After the launch, on June 12, which is the Philippine’s independence day, the books will be handed out in Dubai and the capital.

More than 6,000 Filipinos in the UAE have received the free legal help offered by Gulf Law, with the five most common problems being indebtedness, intoxication and use of illegal drugs, immorality, illegal recruitment and improper and fake documents.

“Many OFWs have been working here for more than five years but do not have substantial savings or investments,” Mr Almazar said. “Worse, they are facing debts. It’s high time for OFWs to be guided on how to maximise their stay in the UAE.”

The book, Ms Princesa said, supported her advocacies on migration, development, financial literacy and reintegration.

A section of the book is devoted to UAE and Philippine laws, including an important legal principle that says ignorance of the law is no excuse. “The message we would like to convey here is: don’t break the law. Educate yourself,” Mr Almazar said. “Knowing what an expatriate can and cannot do in a foreign land is the first step to avoid being in conflict with the law.”

Filipinos who face problems at work, or who are debt-laden and on the wrong side of the law can check their basic labour rights, the UAE Central Bank rules on loans and settling a bank loan, along with useful information on drinking and getting drunk, police arrests and prison.

“I’ve also provided a sample demand letter which victims can send to abusive debt collectors,” Mr Almazar said. “Collectors do not have the right to assess defaulters, especially in their workplace. This book also offers guidance on how to seek assistance from the Central Bank.”

Filipinos are also advised to obey traffic laws and respect other road users. “If the accident involves injuries, loss of life or driving under the influence of alcohol, the police may arrest the offender and recommend filing a case with the public prosecutor,” the guidebook states. “Always drive within the law – not because you’ll be fined – but for other road users’ safety.”

The initial print run of the book is 20,000, all of which will be distributed free of charge. Plans are under way to publish an e-version of the book next month.

“Although a few portions are written in Tagalog, we are studying the possibility of creating a Filipino version,” Mr Almazar said. “We hope to reach out to more Filipinos, including those who are planning to work and live in the UAE.”

A similar book has been published for Filipino migrants in Saudi Arabia and Qatar.