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Situation for OFWs in COVD-hit Hong Kong not that bad, House panel told

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Situation for OFWs in COVD-hit Hong Kong not that bad, House panel told
A police officer requests foreign domestic helpers on their Sunday rest day to leave during an operation against people who fail to comply with social distancing measures in Hong Kong’s Mong Kok area on February 20, 2022, amid the city's worst-ever coronavirus outbreak.
AFP / Bertha Wang

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong said reports of Filipino domestic helpers losing their jobs during a wave of coronaviruses are "overblown" and consular officials have already sorted the matter out.

Meanwhile, a migrant workers group representative requested for more assistance and to have government services for overseas workers expedited.

"No Filipino has requested the consulate for repatriation. I think the perception of the massive firings of household service workers in Hong Kong is a bit overblown," Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Raly Tejada said during the House Committee on Overseas Workers Affairs on Tuesday.

Reports of Hong Kong employers illegally terminating migrant household workers surfaced as the special administrative region went through another wave of virus infections. 

According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, Hong Kong has recorded 635,675 COVID-19 cases in total with 4,279 deaths. 

Tejada said that the Hong Kong government has expressed commitment to protect the rights of Filipino household service workers who test positive for COVID. 

"There were a few [who were terminated]. About three to five in the beginning, but we were able to talk to their employers and appeal to their compassionate hearts to discuss the situation and we have sorted it out and many of them have taken them back and some have come to an arrangement… rest assured na wala na pong ganoong sitwasyon...na ganoon ngayon," Tejada said.

He added that all Filipinos in Hong Kong who need assistance due to the virus surge "have been accounted for and assisted."

READ: More than 100 displaced OFWs rescued as COVID wave hits Hong Kong — NGOs

By the numbers

"The consulate has already received 319 reports from Filipino workers claiming to have tested COVIDpositve, including 227 needing isolation rooms and hospital admissions and those who are already committed to Hong Kong government isolation facilities," Tejada said.

"Around 92 have recovered already from being COVIDpositive," he added. 

Meanwhile, Department of Foreign Affairs - Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers' Affairs Senior Specialist Assistant Jose Cabrera’s report showed that as of Sunday, March 14, there were 314 OFWs in Hong Kong who had tested positive for COVID-19 .

Cabrera said 88 have already recovered, while 226 remained in isolation.

Department of Labor and Employment-International Labor Affairs Bureau’s Karen Arlan said those in community isolation are quarantined in their employer’s homes, in facilities hosted by non-government organizations, government facilities or in hospitals.

"Majority of these OFWs who tested positive are quarantined in their employer’s home," Arlan said.

Meanwhile, Tejada said that some have even returned home to the Philippines.

Arlan added that the Philippine Overseas Labor & Office has provided help to OFWs in Hong Kong, which includes financial assistance worth $200 through the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, food, medicine and other basic necessities on top of medical assistance through private ambulance services. 

"We also have coordinated with the Philippine Consul General in Hong Kong, the labor department, and non-government organizations to ensure that all OFWs needing assistance will be attended to," Arlan said.

Migrants group wants services expedited

Meanwhile, a migrant workers’ group representative is calling on agencies for a faster response system.

"Siguro po sa community namin sa Hong Kong, ang kailangan po kasi talaga ay yung mabilis na pagbibigay talaga ng services," Migrante International representative Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said during the hearing.

(What our community in Hong Kong really needs is a faster system when it comes to the services provided.)

Balladares-Pelaez noted that there were complaints about hotline services being unattended and financial assistance being delayed.

“Sa ground po talaga, marami pa ring humihingi ng tulong ng kanilang pangangailangan sa gamot, ‘yung daily needs nila,” she said. 

(On the ground, we see that there are still a lot of Filipinos who need help with their medical and daily needs.)

The OWWA said the delays are often due to the paperwork and the requirements needed to release aid, while the Philippine Consulate said they are working on making processes easier.

HONG KONG

OVERSEAS FILIPINO WORKERS

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