x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Dubai government to license social clubs for Filipinos

The move was welcomed by the ambassador but some community leaders warn that not all groups will be able to afford the Dh2,000 fee.

Filipinos waiting to vote for the six members for the FilCom governing council in Al Quaisas, Dubai, last year. Jeff Topping / The National
Filipinos waiting to vote for the six members for the FilCom governing council in Al Quaisas, Dubai, last year. Jeff Topping / The National


Diplomats have welcomed a move by the Dubai government to license Filipino social groups and regulate their activities.

"I'm happy these groups are being offered an opportunity to be recognised by the host government," said Grace Princesa, the Philippine ambassador to the UAE.

The Community Development Authority (CDA) and 50 community leaders of the FilCom - an umbrella organisation that represents more than 100 community groups in Dubai and the Northern Emirates - met last month to discuss the issue.

Dr Omar Al Muthanna, chief executive of the social regulatory and licensing sector at the CDA, said the licensing requirement was implemented by Dubai municipality in 1995. Licensing was transferred to the CDA in 2011.

Since then, more than 100 groups representing various nations have applied. Of those, 46 have been approved and the rest are being processed.

The CDA regulates and provides licensing services to non-profit social clubs and associations that organise social, cultural, artistic or entertainment activities.

The events will be regulated and monitored for the quality of services they offer.

Individuals or groups may not establish a club, hold any activity, open a branch or relocate without first obtaining approval from the CDA and completing the registration and licensing process, Dr Al Muthanna said.

Breaching this rule can result in a fine of between Dh2,000 and Dh10,000, or a temporary or permanent closure of the club.

"It's really for our own safety," Ms Princesa said. "The groups will have more credibility and can hold their activities with the UAE's stamp of approval."

She plans to send an unsigned diplomatic letter to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to inquire about a similar move in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain.

FilCom's counterpart in Abu Dhabi is Bayanihan-UAE, an umbrella organisation of 47 Filipino groups across the emirate accredited by the Philippine embassy.

Diplomatic relations between the UAE and the Philippines began in 1980. Filipinos who wished to form a group were asked to register with the embassy in Abu Dhabi or consulate in Dubai.

Frank Cimafranca, the consul general in Dubai, said he found the existing arrangement "odd" when he arrived in the UAE last November.

"I was surprised the consulate and the embassy were directly exercising some influence or control over Filipino community organisations," he said. "Our role should be confined to providing encouragement and support to all these groups."

Mr Cimafranca, who has been posted to Australia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Switzerland and the Netherlands, said it was within the authorities' right to regulate the clubs within their jurisdiction.

"The same is true in the Philippines and in all the countries that I've been to," he said.

Apart from having a legal identity, the CDA licence will enable non-profit social clubs to open a bank account, employ staff and apply for visas and labour cards, Dr Al Muthanna said.

Community leaders worry about the Dh2,000 licensing fee.

"There are groups mainly composed of household workers who cannot afford the fee," said Matily Bagunu, president of Filcom. "Many of them will have to dissolve and join other groups within FilCom."