Ten thousand vacationing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are currently stuck in the Philippines after the government imposed a travel ban to and from China, Hong Kong and Macau to prevent the entry and spread of the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). An additional 15,000 newly hired domestic helpers are also unable to start their new jobs because of the travel ban.
New hires only typically have up to three weeks to get to their employers, and according to the Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (Sharp), these newly hired domestics and vacationing OFWs are expected to fly to Hong Kong in two to three weeks.
“Filipino domestic helpers from Hong Kong and Macau may lose their jobs if the travel ban and lack of flights to those regions is not resolved by the end of February,” Sharp President Alfredo Palmiery, who is currently in Japan, said in a statement.
Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said the travel ban might become counterproductive because Filipinos in Hong Kong, Macau and China would hesitate to return to the Philippines now that they know they would not be allowed to return.
“The government should issue an exemption for them to return to their jobs or [else they may]lose it if the government insists on the general order on all Filipinos traveling to China and to the special administrative regions,” Geslani said.
“The Bureau of Immigration should reconsider and study the implications of our OFWs who only want to work and have been properly recruited and documented by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to work in Hong Kong and Macau,” he added.
Due to the ban, desperate OFWs are playing a cat-and-mouse game with immigration officials who are intent on implementing a temporary ban on travel to China and its special administrative regions.
Their last option is to buy tickets to two different Southeast Asian cities, from where they could take another flight to Hong Kong or Macau.
“Contract workers like me, those with return tickets, should be allowed to leave. We understand that there’s a health emergency. But there are health authorities here and in Hong Kong to check us if we’re fit to work,” an OFW said.
Philippines Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. has disagreed with the government’s decision to bar Filipinos from leaving for Hong Kong amid the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Mr. Locsin, who had just returned from a visit to the United States, said he had appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to allow domestic helpers and other OFWs to return to their Hong Kong employers who want them back. (Source: INQUIRER.net)