Philippines Bureau of Customs – Taxing and Opening Balikbayan Boxes

The Philippines Bureau of Customs (BOC) have declared recently that they will be imposing taxes on all Balikbayan Boxes (boxes sent from Overseas Filipino Workers to the Philippines). They also mentioned that they will now make it compulsory to open the boxes to check. These has led to a lot of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) furious with the said decisions.

Here is a recent interview of Alberto Lina, Head of BOC.

Underwater tennis court in UAE

There has been numerous reports about a design presented to the UAE of an underwater tennis court. It is an interesting idea, out of this world. The idea came from Polish architect, Krzysztof Kotala. He is currently looking investors to fund the project. Engineers have been interviewed and have dubbed the idea as impossible or challenging. Here is a report from DailyMail. What do you think?

It’s traditionally played on grass and clay, but could tennis matches one day take place in a waterproof bubble in an ‘underwater Wimbledon’?

An architect has served up plans for an underwater tennis court complete with a massive curved roof that he envisages would keep the water out and let players see fish swimming above.

He wants to build the glass clad-court in Dubai, which has a track record of pushing the boundaries of architecture and engineering, by building the Burj Tower – the tallest skyscraper in the world – and the man-made Palm Islands, for example.

However, engineers warn that such a design may be prohibitively expensive and incredibly difficult to execute.

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UAE Petrol Prices for August 2015

UAE fuel prices hiked starting 1st August 2015

Fuel prices in the UAE are raised recently this month. One of the main reason was to help boost the UAE economy and reduce the number or cars on the road. The price has risen at least 20% from its original price. If compared to other countries it is still cheaper than the other countries.

Source from Khaleej Times

Source from Khaleej Times

However, the UAE Ministry of Energy announced that they will be revising the prices every month. The prices will not be fixed anymore as how it was in the past.

On 31st July 2015, lots of cars lined up to the petrol stations to fill up their tanks. For some, a difference of 10 dirhams to 15 dirhams when filling their tank full does matter. Imagine having to fill up on average of around 50 dirhams per week for a saloon sized car. With the new price, it will now be around 60 to 75 dirhams per week.

Source from UAE Ministry of Energy website

Source from UAE Ministry of Energy website

Reducing the number of cars on the road will be good as public transportations are available. However, different Emirate have different public transportations. In Dubai, it will make sense as public transport is more accessible and convenient. The train stations and bus stations are connected.

I do hope that this system will work and benefit for the better of the UAE economy properly. Dubai Expo 2020 is coming up so Dubai needs a lot of work to be ready for the Expo.

UAE issues law against hate crimes and discrimination

On July 20th 2015, UAE issued a new law against any hate crimes or discrimination within the country. WAM, the Emirates News Agency released an official public statement as seen below.

ABU DHABI, 20th July, 2015 (WAM) — The United Arab Emirates has issued a new law against any form of discrimination on the basis of religion, caste, creed, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin following a Decree by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

The new law, No. 02 of 2015, criminalises any acts that stoke religious hatred and/or which insult religion through any form of expression, be it speech or the written word, books, pamphlets or via online media. The law also includes provisions for punishing anyone for terming other religious groups or individuals as infidels, or unbelievers.

The law is intended to provide a sound foundation for the environment of tolerance, broad­ mindedness and acceptance in the UAE and aims to safeguard people regardless of their origin, beliefs or race, against acts that promote religious hate and intolerance.

Penalties for violation of the various provisions of the law include jail-terms of six months to over 10 years and fines from AED50,000 to AED2 million.

The Anti-Discriminatory Law prohibits any act that would be considered as insulting God, his prophets or apostles or holy books or houses of worship or graveyards. It also has provisions to fight discrimination against individuals or groups on the basis of religion, caste, doctrine, race, colour or ethnic origin.

The law condemns actions that would comprise hate speech or the promotion of discrimination or violence against others using any form of media, including online, print, radio or visual media.

Strict action will be taken against any form of expressions of hatred or incitement to hate crimes spread in the form of speech and published media.

The law also criminalises any act that amounts to abuse of religion or vandalism of religious rituals, holy sites or symbols, and takes a serious view of violence on the basis of religious doctrines.

The law prohibits any entity or group established specifically to provoke religious hatred and recommends stringent punishments for groups or supporters of any organisations or individuals that are associated with hate crimes. It also bars any kind of events such as conferences and meetings within the UAE organised with the sole purpose of sowing seeds of discrimination, discord or hatred against individuals or groups on the basis of faith, origin or race. Receiving financial support for such activities is also punishable under the new law.

The law encourages anyone involved in any activity that violates the law to voluntarily submit themselves before the authorities and has provisions allowing the courts to waive penalties in such cases.

The new law does not contradict with any other existing laws meant to protect specially privileged groups in the society such as women, children and individuals with disabilities or others.

After sharing the news, numerous associations like the Emirates Human Rights Association and The Islamic European Council praised the UAE for the making this move. UAE has been very stern about keeping all of their citizens and residents safe from all kinds of harm.

Video technology – 360 degree virtual reality

Recently a music video was released by Fort Minor (seen below), a project by Mike Shinoda who is a member from Grammy winning band Linkin Park. He together with Uprising Creative, used a special camera to record 360 degree in virtual reality. The video only works on a Google Chrome browser and a YouTube app.

While watching the video, you will feel immersed in the video, as if you are the person behind the camera. The debate of selective shot on screen can now be answered with this new technology. Imagine watching news and you get to decide which shot you would like to watch.

Other than news, silver screens using this technology will be mind blowing. However, the silver screens are currently focused with 3D technology. This technology with broadcast will be an advantage, choosing the shot you would want to see on your screen. Smart televisions are becoming popular and in the near future these smart televisions are going to become “smarter” with new features.

We are in the information age with multiple screens. Our televisions, laptops, smart phones are just some to name some. Everyone can now choose which screen they would like to use to watch their news or to watch their favourite shows. The 360 degree virtual reality may be an old technology around early 2000s as I have learned through research, it is the first time YouTube has enabled this type of video to be played on their website.

This technology is a great leap in the video community. With this technology, new ideas are going to pop up on how to use it in the media industry. The video below is an example from the entertainment industry. Broadcast and silver screens might come next in the future.

“This 360 Version requires Google Chrome or the YouTube App on Mobile.

Produced by The Uprising Creative (
Directed by Jeff Nicholas

It’s been nearly ten years since artist and producer Mike Shinoda – founder of Linkin Park – released “The Rising Tied,” the debut studio album from his solo project, Fort Minor. Inspired by his unforgettable experiences over the past decade and the artist within, Mike has just released a brand new Fort Minor song and video titled, “Welcome.” Among the world’s first 360-degree virtual reality (VR) music videos, Shinoda and his collaborators at The Uprising Creative in LA joined forces to fully leverage the power of VR. The result is a unique experience set in Venice Beach where everyone is invited.”

UAE Ramadan working hours reduced by 2 hours as per UAE Federal Labour Law 8 Article 65

Please be adviced that the working hours during Ramadan are reduced by two hours. Those who are forced by their employers to work normal working hours or are asked to work normal working hours because they are not fasting are breaking the law.

UAE Federal Labour Law 8 Article 65

UAE Federal Labour Law 8 Article 65

To know more read here

To read the full UAE Federal Labor Law 8 with complete articles

An OFW in Dubai

Essential OFW Guide to UAE

Filipinos travel to other countries to pursue better jobs to provide for their families. Between 2009 and 2013, around a million of Filipinos travelled abroad to become Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) making United Arab Emirates (UAE) as the second most number at 261,119, reported by Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Although it may seem as a great thing, most of them get into trouble with the UAE law. Michael Barney Almazar, Director of Gulf Law is a UAE legal consultant. In corporation with the Philippine Embassy to the UAE, he holds monthly free legal aids for Filipinos in the UAE.

Filipinos outside the Philippine Consulate in Dubai

Filipinos outside the Philippine Consulate in Dubai

“There are 5 I’s that most Filipinos get into trouble here (UAE).

  1. Indebtedness – people getting into credit cards problems or financial problems.
  2. Intoxication – people caught taking alcohol without license.
  3. Immoralities – people getting into extra marital affairs.
  4. Illegal recruitment – people who give false hopes to others of giving them a job.
  5. Improper documents – people who do not have UAE visas or Emirates IDs.”, says Almazar.

Almazar shared that the Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Grace Princesa, started an initiative to make a guide book for the Filipinos in the UAE. It is called “Essential OFW Guide to UAE”. It will be a free guide book to be handed out to all OFWs in the UAE. In the book, it will have guidelines and tips that Filipinos should be aware about, their human rights and what to do when faced with legal issues.

At the Philippine Consulate

At the Philippine Consulate

“Around 4200 people have reached out to Gulf Law to ask for assistance for legalities. The cases ranges from bounce cheques to improper documents.”, adds Almazar. The number of people collected was from their free monthly legal aids sessions alone.

The book was recently released on Friday, June 12th 2015 on the Philippine Independence Day. Here is an article which was published on Emirates 24/7

To learn more about Attorney Almazar and his team you may go to their website

The UAE Drones For Good Award

UAE Drones for Good Award

Earlier this year, I posted in What drones can do stating that I  attended UAE Drones for Good Award. As promised here is my article.

Drones in the UAE

Drone is an unmanned aerial or combat vehicle that has become a known tool in the military. However, there are other ideas in which this device can be of use. UAE Drones for Good Awards announced last year at the UAE Government Summit by His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates. He created a platform for drone developers to present their ideas using the drone technology. They have three categories; National, International and Government.

Wadi Drones during their presentation.

Wadi Drones during their presentation.

The winners were announced on the 7th of February 2015 at Dubai Internet City. For the National category, NYU (New York University) Abu Dhabi students and faculty team, Wadi Drones won Dh1 million. The conservative drone will help the park rangers to inspect Wadi Wurayah National Park which they originally have to do so on foot. During summer season, it is with great difficulty at times to do the job not only because of the heat, but also from danger of cliff falling and wild animals. With Wadi Drones, they will be facing less risks. The Wadi Drones can do the job for them by collecting data like salinity and atmospheric data around the park.

Flyability, a Swiss company, won the international category with USD1 million (Dh3.67 million). Their drone is focused on deploying to difficult areas during fire and disasters which is usually done by search and rescue teams who face life threatening situations.

Etisalat won the Government category. Their drone can go to remote areas, like the desert and mountains, where the telecommunication signals are low. It strengthens the signal wherever it goes. This will help if anyone needed to call the police or coast guards for rescue.

Drones for society

These ideas are great and are one step ahead in utilizing drone as a useful tool for our society. However, will drones really help the UAE? According to Xavier Esparrich, Senior Aviation Consultant from ALG (Advanced Logistics Group) Indra Business Consulting, drones that were originally developed for military purposes can be used for civil applications. They can be used for surveillance and earth observation.

There are commercially made drones available in the public market. These drones are made for hobby purposes. Regulating different types of drones in the UAE might be difficult but according to Xavier Esparrich, there are civil aviation authorities in each nation which adhere to international standards and regulations. In the UAE, it is the General Civil Aviation Authority which issues a national regulation to control the use of drones in the civil airspace.

George Held, Vice President Commerce in Digital Services, Etisalat Group, stated that in the UAE, the best authoritative bodies to regulate drones are the TRA (Telecommunications Regulatory Authority) and the UAE’s Civil Defense. He stressed that these two bodies are the best in regulating drones as they both have the right jurisdiction in the UAE concerning drone technology.

Frederico Renda with educational drones at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

Frederico Renda with educational drones at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

Other than regulating the use of drones, will the drones disturb the peace of the country and what about the safety measures? According to Frederico Renda, Post Doc Fellow at Khalifa University, each drone that is developed for civil purposes are designed in such a way where it does not harm or endanger the public. Other than its applications to do a certain job, it is designed to meet certain safety measures.

For example, the commercial drones are just made for leisure purposes and nothing else but a drone that entered in the UAE Drones for Good Award have a skill programmed in them to do a certain job. Both drones have different safety measures  as both are designed distinctly for different reasons.

Serving forward

It may be easy to say that the use of drone technology for civil use is still in the research and development stage. However, drones have been around for many years in the military. According to Xavier Esparrich, there has been a reduction in human loss, specially for pilots, in the military when the drone technology had been introduced.

Drones have been successful at achieving what they needed to do in the military. To use it as a tool in our society; it has to be approached wisely. When a new technology is discovered, it needs to be applied ethically especially if it can promote progress in our society.

In Singapore, Infinium Robotics have developed drones to serve you your food at a restaurant, BBC reports. Imagine having drones delivering your food to your table from the kitchen. It may sound surreal right now but it has started. Edward Chia, managing director of Timbre Group, which runs several restaurants in Singapore, plans to buy 40 drones to work in six of their locations.

Due to new visa regulations in Singapore, hiring foreign workers for the service industry is difficult. Singaporeans do not want to work in the service industry. This is why Edward Chia welcomes the idea of having drones as servers to solve his problem.

Drone future

George Held (far right) with his Etisalat Drone Squad at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

George Held (far right) with his Etisalat Drone Squad at the UAE Drones for Good Award.

Xavier Esparrich emphasized that the effect of the UAE Drones for Good Awards is very positive. The idea of allowing the developers of drone technology a chance to meet with potential clients who can further raise awareness of the idea of drone technology for civil purposes is outstanding. He said that there are other numerous potential applications, non-military purposes, with the drone technology.

United Arab Emirates have evolved into a growing hub. During the second day of the UAE Government Summit on 11th February 2015 at Madinat Jumeirah, His Highness Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs mentioned during his speech that though Emiratis come from the desert, through their effort, UAE was able to advance its people, infrastructure and society.

With a very optimistic attitude towards their future, UAE can conquer their dreams. The driving force, to be open minded towards new ideas when it comes to innovation, is very admirable. The future of drones in the UAE is possible as the UAE Government is not afraid to try new things that might give an advantage to their country.


Education & Healthcare for 1250 children in India

Early Child Care and Education (ECCE) still remains a critically neglected area in India.

Now you can contribute directly towards addressing health and learning needs in anganwadis (public child care centres) in an efficient and sustainable manner.

Your contribution will support in meeting the needs of children in 50 anganwadis spread across Yelahanka in Bengaluru and in improving the Early Child Care system

To know more & to contribute towards this initiative on addressing health and learning of 1250 children in the age group of 2-6 yrs, click on the link