Banayo said OFWs who failed to return to their jobs in Taiwan as a result of the travel ban imposed by the Philippine government last Feb. 11 can rely on the strong relationship the MECO has fostered with the Taiwanese government.
AFP/Sam Yeh
Stranded OFWs call for lifting of COVID-19 travel ban in Hong Kong
( - February 18, 2020 - 2:20pm

MANILA, Philippines — Amid news that the travel ban imposed on travelers from Macau would be lifted, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) bared the need to lift the COVID-19 travel ban in Hong Kong as well.

Overseas workers group Migrante International in a statement on Monday night demanded that an exception be made for returning students, migrant workers, and residents coming from Hong Kong as they presented a joint statement signed by 131 Hong Kong-based Filipino organizations.

“Health-wise, we also feel safer in Hong Kong where we are assured of excellent public health care at little or no cost to us. Some of us who have private medical insurance get the added bonus of being treated at private hospitals, also for free,” the joint urgent appeal statement said. 

Around 1,000 of the 25,000 stranded OFWs affected by the travel ban were workers, students and residents, Migrante International said.

One domestic helper from Hong Kong, Eleveneth Baldero, expressed her fear of losing her job because of the travel ban.

“We are affected by the travel ban because contractual workers like us are fearful of getting terminated if we are unable to return back to our employers on time. My contract is set to expire on 6 March that is why I'm really worried. Financially, I am running out of money to sustain my stay here in the Philippines. This is why I really need to return back to Hong Kong,” Baldero said.

Former Filipino Migrant Workers’ Union Chairperson Feliza Guy Benitez for his part said, “If OFWs get terminated because they exceeded the 14-day leave, it will be hard for us to get back again to zero just to process all the application papers and the government won’t even pay for it.”

'Safer in Hong Kong'

President Rodrigo Duterte imposed the ban on the rest of mainland China, including its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, on February 2 after the first confirmed novel coronavirus-linked death outside of China in the Philippines.

Furthermore, some 500 Filipino seafarers were placed under quarantine in Japan after 10 foreign ship crews which include one Filipino were put under quarantine for possible COVID-19. 

“People who need medical attention are safer in Hong Kong because of their advanced healthcare system. It will be harder for OFWs to settle back here in the Philippines because of high unemployment, low wages and contractualization,” Feliza Guy Benitez said. 

Victoria Lavado, the daughter of the Filipino seafarer of the cruise ship Diamond Princess, said she was "troubled" by the situation faced by her father and the other seafarers. 

“It took a long time before they received safety masks and they are still forced to work as if it is business as usual. There is no separate quarantine area for those who are already infected and they can still mix with other crews despite the risks. This is why I was really worried when I found out from reports that there are already 30 to 60 crews who are getting infected with COVID-19 daily," Lavado said. 

"We really want the Duterte government to work on medical repatriation for my father and for the other Filipino seafarers. The government must find a way to provide quality medical services for them here in the Philippines which is unfortunately notorious for its poor public healthcare and medical facilities. — with reports from intern Cody S. Perez

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