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NaFFAA To Push FilAm VOTE Project

LAS VEGAS – The National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NAFFAA) has said one of its top priority goals is to encourage more Filipino Americans to be registered voters and to actively participate in the political process.

This was the first issue that was tackled in last month’s strategic planning conference at the Bally Hotel here that was attended by some 90 executive board members and representatives from the 12 regional chapters of NaFFAA’s strategic planning conference.

Co-chairs Merit Salud, a Democrat from New York, and Rudy Asercion, a Republican from San Francisco, discussed the need to increase the registration of FilAm voters to become a political force in US politics.

The Political Empowerment plenary session was presided by Gloria Caoile, former Executive Director of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA), a major sponsor of the NaFFAA conference. Vida Benavides, a Democratic Party strategist and former White House official in the Clinton Administration, encouraged NaFFAA members to bring the issues of the community to whatever political party they join.

“It was a very successful conference,” said Ed Navarra of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, NaFFAA national chair. “We unified our ranks throughout the US, defined our strategy of primarily empowering our community through advocacy, discussed ways and means of strengthening all NaFFAA regions, and approved resolutions of concern to our community.”

Newly-appointed Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. addressed the NaFFAA members in the afternoon plenary about the Save Our Industries (SAVE) Act, sponsored in the US Senate by Sen. Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) which would allow apparel products from the Philippines to enter the U.S. duty-free.

NaFFAA leaders also discussed with Cuisia the need for closer cooperation between the Philippine consulates and NaFFAA regarding assistance provided to “disadvantaged Filipinos” pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding previously entered into between then Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople and then NaFFAA Chair Loida Nicolas Lewis.

NaFFAA delegates unanimously passed the resolution “supporting the campaign for portability of US Medicare benefits” after Eric Lachica, lead organizer of US Medicare PH, Inc., spoke in the afternoon session about the need to amend US Medicare law to allow US retirees to avail of their Medicare benefits in the Philippines. According to the Medicare Trustees 2010 Report, the annual cost per Medicare beneficiary has doubled to $11,743 since 2005.

NaFFAA also unanimously endorsed passage of the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act which was recently reintroduced in the US Senate on May 11, 2011. The bill would provide conditional permanent residency to illegal alien students who graduate from US high schools, are of good moral character, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill’s enactment if they complete two years in the military or two years at a four year institution of higher learning.

NaFFAA Legislative Affairs Director Jerry Clarito explained that tens of thousands of Filipinos would benefit from passage of this Act including Miguel Gulfin, who was only 7 when his parents brought him to the US in 1991. After graduating from high school in New Jersey, US Immigration authorities placed him in deportation proceedings after learning of his illegal status. While fighting deportation, Gulfin serves as president of the Campus Crusade for Christ based in Brookdale, N.J. where he regularly participates in evangelization work among students.

Gulfin’s application for a stay of deportation before the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is being handled by the Filipino American Legal Defense and Education Fund (FALDEF) headed by New York immigration attorney J.T. Mallonga, national vice-chair of NaFFAA.

NaFFAA also announced plans to continue the Global Filipino Networking Conference it initiated in San Francisco in August 2002 after delegates unanimously voted to co-sponsor the Global Summit of Filipinos in Diaspora which is scheduled to be held in Manila on September 27 to 29, 2011 at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC). The Diaspora Summit will be co-hosted by the Philippine Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) headed by Chair Secretary Imelda Nicolas and the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USP4GG) whose national chair is Loida Nicolas Lewis.

NaFFAA national chair Navarra appointed former Region 2 chair Bing Branigin to coordinate NaFFAA’s participation in the Global Summit.

 

Branigin said that the three issues NaFFAA intends to present at the Summit are the legal defense of Filipinos abroad, human trafficking and global coordination of Philippine disaster relief.

Branigin will also inform Summit delegates about NaFFAA’s participation in the successful campaign to pass a Veterans Equity Bill that provided financial benefits to about 20,000 surviving Filipino WW II veterans.

She will also update Summit delegates about NaFFAA’s lobbying work for passage of the Save Act, the Dream Act and the Medicare Portability Act.

NaFFAA delegates also honored Lourdes Mitra Esclamado, one of the founders of NaFFAA along with her husband Alex who served as NaFFAA’s founding chair. Luly, as she is fondly called by NaFFAA members, has attended every NaFFAA conference since its founding in Washington DC in August 1997. Although she and her husband plan to retire to the Philippines later this year for health reasons, she assured NaFFAA members that she plans to continue her work on the by-laws committee of NaFFAA.

 

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