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Babala: Umiwas sa ‘kakanin’ scheme sa UAE

by | News, TOP STORIES

Feb. 05, 20 | 10:23 pm

UAE police and Philippine authorities in the country are strongly advising Overseas Filipinos not to patronize any food offered outside legal food and beverage (F&B) establishments in the country.

Speaking with The Filipino Times, Brigadier Dr. Abdullah Rashid Al Shamsi, Director of the Law Respect Culture Office at the Ministry of Interior, reiterated the call of the Ministry to Filipinos in the UAE as well as the general public.

Al Shamsi underscored that Ministry is keen on weeding out illegal street vendors and stressed that law enforcement in the country has intensified their efforts and measures to thwart the menace.

He called on all food businesses to comply with the standards set by the Food Safety Department before engaging in business.

“The dangers of consuming products from illegal food vendors are real. Foods that do not pass through proper quality control and competent monitoring bodies are vulnerable to contamination, food poisoning, and the likes. Hence, they pose a great health hazard to consumers,” he said.

He added, “We warn illegal food vendors to stop their activity not unless they have secured prior authorization from concerned government authorities. For consumers, refrain from patronizing their food products as you’re not sure of the food preparation and handling made.”

“We warn illegal food vendors to stop their activity not unless they have secured prior authorization from concerned government authorities. For consumers, refrain from patronizing their food products as you’re not sure of the food preparation and handling made.” Brigadier Dr. Abdullah Rashid Al Shamsi, Director of the Law Respect Culture Office at the Ministry of Interior

The Philippine Embassy and the Consulate also warned Filipinos that these illegal vendors are not approved by the UAE’s public health authority and thus pose a health risk to consumers.

“The Filipino community is strongly urged not to patronize these unlicensed vendors and are discouraged from buying food items that have not been issued a food safety clearance by the UAE authorities,” the Embassy’s statement read.

This, following reports of some Filipinos vending “kakanin” and other food items at populated areas including bus stations, restaurants, and public walkways.

Experts warned that illegal operations used in some countries around the world use unauthorized food selling as a cover for illegal operations which exploit innocent people, some of them could be OFWs, such as what happened in United States where three church leaders linked to Pastor Apollo Quiboloy’s Kingdom of Jesus Christ (KJC) were arrested for alleged human trafficking. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) raided KJC in the US that resulted in the arrest of its leaders last January 30.

For his part, Consul General Paul Rayound Cortes said that the UAE has strict laws when it comes to selling food and that food vendors without proper licenses will be fined by authorities.

“I wish to remind all our fellow Filipinos to adhere and strictly follow the rules and regulations of the UAE. Selling food without an appropriate license is an offense and may be meted with appropriate penalties,” said Cortes.

Meanwhile, Filipinos who sell food without legal papers can be slapped with a heavy fine due to illegal rackets, the Philippine Embassy said.

“The Filipino community is also reminded that moonlighting work through selling of food items, particularly prohibited food under UAE law, is not a solution to earning an income because the vendor is liable to paying a fine under local law,” the Embassy warned Filipinos in the UAE.

What happened in the US?

The KJC is believed to be founded and led by a controversial church leader in the Philippines. According to the FBI, they have been investigating the KJC for the past six years after some church workers who managed to escape reported that they were recruited and forced to work long hours and to beg for cash on the streets as donations for the church. If they fail to meet the daily quota, they claimed to have been beaten and psychologically abused.

US investigators said the victims had been obtained US visas under the pretense of performing in musical events in America. However, upon arrival, their passports were taken away and they were forced to work “as volunteers” to solicit money for “poor children”.

Close to $20 million or approximately Dh73 million were estimated to have been collected between 2014 and 2019. To keep workers in the US, administrators allegedly would use schemes like involving them in sham marriages or enroll them in schools.

‘Kinalabit’ para sa kakanin

Every morning, as he waits for his bus to work, Dubai-based OFW Janus Plasabas told TFT that he would always get approached by a man selling kakanin.

Due to the stealthy tactic of this peddler for years, he has become a familiar face among regular passengers and staff of food stalls along Al Rigga.

“Kapag nag-aabang ako ng bus sa may malapit sa Union Metro Station, bigla na lang siyang mangangalabit at laging nakikiusap na bilhan ko sya ng kakanin,” he said, adding that he often sees the vendor at the same spot even on weekends.

“Sa tuwing umaalis ako, either para pumasok sa office or kapag may lakad ako kasama ang mga kaibigan ko sa weekend, makikita mo lang siya nandoon at naglalako kahit 12 midnight na. Pero patago, di mo alam na vendor sya. Sa tuwing uuwi naman ako, gaano man ka-late, nandoon pa rin siya… palakad-lakad lang sa parehong spot,” he narrated.

Plasabas is just one of the many Filipinos across all emirates who have encountered a similar scheme. Most of them reported ‘kakanin’ as the usual food product being sold. Others said they also see hawkers carrying baskets of home-cooked food, rationing people in various establishments with breakfast and merienda meals.

Hawkers come at night

Many netizens who flocked TFT social media pages said it is usually a midnight strategy.

“Kahit diyes oras na ng gabi, nagtitinda sila ng kakanin. Minsan makikita mo sila sa isang sulok, antok na antok na,” one netizen commented.

When the netizen pressed if they know that what they do is illegal, she was told: “Huwag ko na daw problemahin kung mahuli sila.”

“Hindi lang naman ito para sa mga bumibili sa kanila, para din yan sa kanila mismo,” another female netizen commented, noting that most of these vendors are women.

“Isipin mo babae sila na lumalakad-lakad pag gabi kung saan-saan. Paano kung mapahamak sila, ma-rape o may mangyaring masama sa kanila?

“Kung sa ngalan man yan ng pera o simbahan nila, walang puwang ‘yan dito sa UAE na napakahigpit sa mga gawaing iligal,” she added.

Hidden dangers

While purchasing food from illegal vendors poses a health risk, the hidden danger is that buyers may be encouraging human trafficking and slavery, police officials warned.

In Abu Dhabi, a number of kakanin sellers do their rounds on the streets, carrying normal bags. But as they open their bags, one would be shocked that it is loaded with stacks of food items.

People won’t even notice that they are food vendors, as police are always on the lookout for illegal hawkers. Wary that authorities would catch up with them, they dress up in normal outfits and hide their products in travel or sports bags. Once they spot a kind-looking stranger, they would poke him/her and tell, “Madam/Sir, bili na po kayo ng kakanin. Tulong na po.” (Madam/Sir, please buy a rice cake from me. You could help me).”

“Dito sa Abu Dhabi, pinagtitinda sila ng kakainin tapos walang sweldo, pakain lang at patira daw,” one netizen said, explaining that he once talked to a Filipino vendor in Hamdan Street. The vendor told him that he was unpaid although he was given free housing.

In January 2018, local reports in the UAE quoted Dubai Police warning against illegal vendors as most of them are believed to have arrived in the UAE through illegal channels or stay in the country illegally.

“Most of street vendors are staying illegally in the country and they cause danger,” Major General Khalil Ebrahim Al Mansouri, Assistant Commander-in-Chief for Criminal Investigation Affairs of Dubai Police, said. “It is another way of begging and people shouldn’t encourage them by buying their goods.”

TFT reached out to Quiboloy’s camp for comment on netizens reports in the UAE but to no avail. Although last January 30, his spokesman Atty. Israelito Torreon denied in a televised press conference that the three administrators of KJC’s charity arm committed immigration fraud in the US.

Ate, Kuya, Suki, atbp

‘Kakanin schemers’ are addressed as “kuya” (brother) or “ate” (sister) by first-time customers. But they now have a “name” as people started to patronize their food. In local parlance, they are called “suki”.

Some of these food vendors, netizens purported, no longer have to wait for passersby on pavements or parks. TFT found that aside from Abu Dhabi and Dubai, they sell in places as far as Sharjah and Fujairah. And they now freely visit flats, offices and other establishments to ration home-cooked foods on a daily basis.

Revealing more details about their ploy, netizens claim that they do the work without pay. “Meron kaming suki, akala namin part-time lang niya, ‘yon pala free labor siya. Kahit summer na at tirik ang araw, naglalako siya,” a Filipino claimed.

Should you pity?

Still some Filipinos believe that bad luck and misfortune would befall them if they do not give cash to those who solicit money or show compassion to food racketeers on the streets.

So, they are being compelled to donate or buy from them.

However, this compassion exacerbates the situation as pity toward illegal food vendors and beggars creates a spiral to this menace. This is also used by coyotes who deploy them to generate money from the public, according to UAE police.

A certain “Lina”, a Filipino who works in Karama, said that even when she’s eating inside a food court, illegal vendors would simply sit beside her and quietly nudge her into buying kakanin. “Napipilitan pa din akong bumili dahil tatabihan ka nila at makikiusap. Sa awa mo naman sa kanila, bibili ka,” she admitted.

“Jay” and “Weng”, meanwhile, said that they also often see some people covertly selling inside restaurants and food courts in malls in Deira, Burjuman, and Downtown Dubai.

“Minsan pa nga sa food court patago silang nagtitinda ng kakanin, desperate lang na makakita sila,” Jay claimed.

“Dito sa Burjuman, madalas may nagtitinda sa loob ng food court and money exchange centers. Kahit makakasalubong mo lang bebentahan ka. Siyempre maaawa ka, bibili ka na lang,” added Weng.

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THE FILIPINO TIMES is the biggest and most trusted Filipino newspaper in the UAE.

It has a print run of 60,000 copies and 250,000 readership per week; bolstered by 2.5 million visitors to its website every month. It also has an e-newsletter sent to its 250,000 subscribers every day.

The Filipino Times is FREE and has the widest targeted circulation across the 7 emirates of the UAE.

With more than 2,500 strategic distribution spots, TFT is available where the Filipinos are - at Smart Bus Shelters, Metro Stations, restaurants, supermarkets, schools, airport lounges, Emirates and Etihad Philippine-bound flights, churches, Filipino community events and many more.

THE FILIPINO TIMES. We are where the Filipinos are.

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