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Returning OFWs will stay only up to 5 days in Mla, says official

Posted on 06 June 2020 No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap

Latest batch of repatriated OFWs arrived in Manila from UAE on Jun 3 

Returning or repatriated overseas Filipino workers will stay a maximum of only five days in Manila while waiting for their Covid-19 test results before being sent to their home provinces, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said Friday, Jun 5.

Lorenzana said in an interview that this is to prevent a repeat of the previous incident when 24,000 OFWs were stuck in quarantine centers for up to two months even after testing negative for the virus.

After several well-publicized stories about the plight of the stranded OFWs, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered them to be brought home within a week.

“Ayaw na po nating mangyari iyong nakaraan na umabot ng isang buwan, napagakasunduan po namin na limang araw lang ang maximum na nasa Maynila ang OFWs,”  Lorenzana said.

(We want to avoid a repeat of what happened in the past when they were quarantined for up to a month, so we decided that the OFWs will remain in Manila for a maximum of five days).

He also said that for the 42,000 OFWs expected to be flown home within the month, only between 1,200 to 1,500 OFWs will be allowed to enter the country each day, to avoid overcrowding in the quarantine facilities.
He clarified the government will pay for the swab tests and accommodation only of OFWs and not other incoming passengers.

Earlier, the deputy chief implementer of the government’s Covid-19 response said Clark International Airport would begin accepting repatriated overseas Filipino workers starting Jun 5 so they could go straight to their hometown to quarantine.

Clark Airport is all spruced up for its reopening, but no OFWs arrived on Jun 5

Bases Conversion and Development Authority president Vince Dizon made the announcement on Jun 4, saying other international airports in the country would follow suit.

“Ang gagawin po natin ngayon sa mga susunod na linggo ay idi-decentralize na po natin ang arrivals ng ating mga OFWs,” Dizon said in a televised briefing aired on television.

“Magsisimula po iyan sa pagtanggap ng Clark International Airport bukas ng mga flights galing sa abroad dala ang ating mga OFWs,” Dizon said.

(In the coming weeks, we will decentralize the arrivals of the OFWs. It will start with Clark International Airport accepting flights from abroad carrying our OFWs from tomorrow).

“At dahil po tumataas na ang capacity ng ating mga probinsya at ng ating mga siyudad sa labas ng Metro Manila, magagawa na po natin ito ngayon para po mapadali ang pag-uwi at makasama ng ating mga kababayang mga OFWs ang kanilang mga pamilya.”

(And since the testing capacity of our provinces and cities outside Metro Manila has improved, we can now do this so our OFWs could go home faster and be with their families sooner).
A check of Clark’s Facebook page, however, showed that there were no commercial or sweeper flights scheduled to arrive at the airport on Jun 5. Two AirAsia flights bound for Cagayan de Oro and Davao City were apparently also canceled, based on comments from passengers.

Neither has the Department of Foreign Affairs, which regularly posts photos and stories about repatriation flights, posted any recent flights on its website.

All OFW repatriation flights currently land at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

All returning OFWs are required to undergo testing for Covid-19, and stay at a quarantine facility in Metro Manila before being allowed to return to their home provinces.

The Philippines has recorded 20,626 covid-19 as of Jun 5. Of these, 4,330 have recovered while 987 died.

Exhaust fans could have spread virus, says expert, as 3 new imported cases recorded

Posted on No comments
By The SUN
Residents of Luk Chuen House were evacuated Thursday night and taken to quarantine centers (RTHK photo)

Three new cases of coronavirus infections were reported today, Jun 5, all involving residents recently arrived from overseas, bringing Hong Kong’s total tally to 1,102.

The first two cases are a 73-year-old woman and her eight-year-old granddaughter who returned from India on Thursday, the second flight chartered by the government to bring residents home.

They’re the first returnees from India to have tested positive for Covid-19.

The third patient is a  49-year-old woman who had flown in from London earlier Friday, and tested positive on arrival at the airport.

Centre for Health Protection officials said they are also investigating the case of a 68-year-old man who arrived from Canada Thursday, and said he had earlier tested positive for the virus.

At today’s press briefing, health officials also announced that 75 residents of flats 12 and 10 in Luk Chuen House in Lek Yuen estate were evacuated overnight, and moved to  a quarantine facility.
The Shatin housing estate is where six of the patients in the latest local cluster of cases live. Five live in flats numbered 12, and one in a number 10 flat.

The index patient who lives in a number 12 flat, appears to have infected  her husband, two of her colleagues in a Kerry warehouse in Kwai Chung, and the ambulanceman who took her to hospital.

The CHP said it has collected 1,352 deep-throat saliva samples from residents of the estate, and all came back negative except for the ones that have already been reported.

Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported that a leading infectious disease expert has said that kitchen exhaust fans could have led to the spread of the virus.

Professor Yuen Kwok-hung said in an interview in the Post that he believed the exhaust fans in the kitchen could have spread the virus among residents of the three numbered 12 flats,

Yuen said the first reported case was on a lower floor and three more recent ones lived in flats above, so it was not likely sewage pipes could have caused the spread of the virus.

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“A patient who has a high viral load could blast out air (with the virus) when cooking,” he is quoted as saying.

“If the flats above did not turn on their extraction fans, and the wind was blowing towards those flats, people there could have got infected.”

In a separate interview, respiratory expert David Hui said Lek Yuen residents should not have been allowed to leave their homes as this has increased the risk of community transmission.

Some scared tenants had been seen fleeing the estate despite appeals from the government to stay put while more investigations are being carried out.

1k stranded passengers flock to Mla airport, hoping for flights home

Posted on No comments
By Daisy CL Mandap

More than 100 slept outside terminal 2 after failing to board a flight back to Mindanao (ABS-CBN photo)

About a thousand Filipinos who have been stranded in Metro Manila since the lockdown was imposed in mid-March have flocked to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, hoping to catch flights back to their provinces after government officials announced domestic flights would resume with the easing of restrictions on Jun 1.

About 150 of them had to sleep overnight outside terminal 2 of the airport, when the free flight to Mindanao that they had hoped to catch yesterday, Jun 4, did not materialize.

All of those without confirmed tickets no earlier than three hours before their scheduled flights were not also not allowed in, and were thus forced to stay outside amid the searing heat.
Those who camped out overnight said they went to Manila to apply for overseas jobs but were abandoned by their recruitment agency when the lockdown was imposed.

They said they went to the airport after being told by someone in their group that there would be free flights to Visayas and Mindanao.

But Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said the sweeper flights are only being offered free to overseas Filipino workers.

“We are coordinating their sweeper flights pauwi, pero hindi po necessarily OWWA ang gagastos kasi hindi sila OFW,” said Cacdac in a TV interview.

He said the recruitment agency should have arranged for the flights home by the job applicants. The case will be reported to the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration for proper action against the recruiter.
Many had gone to the airport, only to be told at the last minute that their flights were cancelled (GMA News photo)

But not all who were at the airport were there for free flights.

Myra Demesa said in her post on the Facebook page of NAIA that her group had gone to the airport with confirmed tickets via AirAsia for Jun 1. But when they got to the airport, they were told that their flight had been canceled.

“On the day of our supposed flight, di na kami umalis ng airport. Kasi nga sabi Jun 3, Jun 1 po dapat ticket naming. So imbis suungin na naman namin yung pabalik sa boarding house – mind you, two hours kaming naglakad kasi walang masakyan – nag stay kami, hoping na matutuloy yung Jun 3.”

But there was no flight again on Jun 3, so they went to terminal 3 to try to talk to an airline representative, but they were barred from entering.

They managed to speak with the airline supervisor when the airport authority heard of their plight, and they have been rebooked for tomorrow, Jun 6. But even that came with a warning that it could be cancelled again.

In a separate post, she said: “Kami na bumili ng sarili naming ticket para makauwi lang. Kahit gaano ka mahal, sige binayaran namin. Pero parang wala kang maaasahang tulong sa government. Guards nga lang ng NAIA, kung tingnan kami parang basura... tsk.”

Other people who commented on the same thread said their relatives also had confirmed tickets but arrived at the airport way ahead of time to make sure they wouldn’t miss their flights, and were not allowed inside.

Someone named Jessa said she was hurt on hearing that her parents were barred entry just because they decided to leave their house in the province early for their midnight flight, worried about the curfew.

They arrived at the airport at around 2pm but were told that they could not enter yet. Her father is a senor citizen and her mother has hypertension.

“Okay may protocol, pero ang init init sa labas. Wala pang mabilhan ng makakain. Safety purposes gets ko, pero yung comfort ng passengers isipin din sana. Nakakalungkot at masakit sa dibdib na ganun aabutin nila. Gutom at init,” she said.

Maribel Dayag Luyun chimed in: “Same with my husband. Hatinggabi nakarating sa NAIA terminal 1. Hindi pinapasok kasi kailangan daw 3 hours before departure puwedeng pumasok. Para na siyang pulubi at sobrang pawis na siya na sa labas lang ng NAIA nakaupo. Wala man lang kunsiderasyon.”
Some had confirmed flights but could not get in until 3 hours before their departure time

Another commented that the mess was the result of the lack of planning and coordination within the government on how to properly respond to the easing of the lockdown.

Brenda Escalante said, “Why blame the people who go to the airport with confirmed tickets not knowing their flights are to be cancelled. It is not easy just to say leave the terminal when the people do not have the funds to sustain their needs in the city po. Sana maisip din ang kalagayan ng mga tao.”

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade earlier announced domestic flights would resume starting today in areas under general community quarantine.

But he was not able to foresee that the airlines would be forced to cancel flights because some local government units would not allow them to land.

As of tonight, at least four scheduled flights going to Cebu from NAIA were canceled throughout the day for this reason. At Clark International Airport, flights to Cebu and Davao were also canceled at the last minute.

Budget carrier Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, managed to go ahead with their special flights to  General Santos, Cagayan de Oro and Naga to bring home stranded passengers from Metro Manila.

More than 7 million Filipinos now without jobs, Dole says

Posted on 05 June 2020 No comments
By The SUN

The lockdown of Luzon, including Metro Manila, accounted for much of the record drop in unemployment

The coronavirus pandemic and the community lockdown to keep the contagion in check have left 7.3 million Filipinos jobless, resulting in the country’s highest unemployment rate ever of 17.7%, Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said today, Jun 5.

The lockdown during the community quarantine from March to May also caused a huge 55.6% drop in the labor force participation rate, the biggest fall in the history of the Philippine labor market, Bello said.

Commenting on the Department of Labor and Employment’s April Labor Force Survey, Bello said that the unemployment rate this time surpassed the 10.3% rate during the 1998 recession in the Philippines.

It also surpassed the previously highest unemployment record of 14.4%, posted in the second quarter of 1991.

“The lockdown during the community quarantine from March to May, which is supposed to be the period for job hunting of our fresh graduates, has put the labor force at a standstill as two-thirds of the economy is shut down,” Bello said.

According to National Statistician Dennis Mapa, unemployment was only at 5.3% in January 2020, or 2.4 million people, and 5.1% in April 2019, or 2.3 million

After January 2020, an additional 4.9 million people became jobless. This was in line with Dole's estimate that 5 million more jobs would be lost due to the pandemic.

The community quarantine forced hundreds of thousands of establishments to resort to temporary closures or flexible work arrangements, while the global economic decline left hundreds of thousands of Filipino overseas without jobs.

As a result, millions of workers were affected in the formal, informal and overseas sectors, Bello said.
OFWs who lost their jobs because of the pandemic also contributed to the steep rise in the jobless rate

The Philippine Statistics Authority placed the figure of employed workers who had to stop working due to the lockdown at 38.4%.

Metro Manila, where more than 65% of the nation’s economy is concentrated, ground to a halt as the public transport system shut down. 

The country’s employment rate fell to 82.3%, from 94.7% in January 2020 and 94.9% in April 2019.

Underemployment, or people who have jobs but are looking for more to meet their needs, rose to 18.9% in April from the 13.4% in the same month last year. This represents 6.4 million workers or an additional 781,000 people looking for more jobs.

The labor force participation rate among Filipinos 15 years and older is estimated at 55.6%, the lowest since 1987, when data was first available.
All regions reported double-digit unemployment rates in April 2020, with the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao suffering the worst at 29.8%.

The arts, entertainment, and recreation sector was hit the most, where 54% of workers lost their jobs. From 436,000 in April 2019, the number of workers in the industry fell to only 200,000 workers in April 2020.

The second highest decline was in the electricity, gas, steam, and air-conditioning supply sector, which recorded a 43.1% drop. From 108,000 workers, only 61,000 were employed in April 2020.

Employers of OFW in Shenzhen death fall still no-show in court

Posted on No comments
By Vir B. Lumicao

Nearly 3 years since Lorain fell to her death in Shenzhen, her employers have avoided any responsibility for her death

A Chinese mainland couple who employed Lorain Asuncion, a Filipina domestic helper who plunged to her death nearly three years ago from a residential tower in Shenzhen, has disappeared.

This became apparent when a compensation claim brought by Asuncion’s family against Gu Huaiyu and his wife, Ms Liu, resumed in District Court today, Jun 5.

Solicitor Patricia Ho, who represented the Asuncion family, said that for the past several months, her office had been trying to find Gu, 49, and Liu, 34, but to no avail.

“We’ve been trying to contact them, but we have not found them. They simply disappeared,” Ho said at the hearing of the employee compensation claim filed by Asuncion’s elder sister, Jenevieve A. Javier.

Gu and Liu have not been heard from since Asuncion fell to her death a day after she was told by her employers to follow them to Shenzhen in July 2017.
“As it is, we can’t move forward with the case because the employers are not around,” Ho said.

However, a representative from Blue Cross Insurance Co, with whom Asuncion was apparently insured by her employer, was in court.

The District Court in Wanchai will hear the case again on Jul 24

Judge Katina Levy adjourned the hearing until Jul 24 to give Ho and the insurance company time to prepare documents relating to the compensation claim.

The case has been stuck in District Court for the past several months because the employers have not surfaced. The couple was also not in court in the previous hearing in January.

Gu and Liu had lived in Hong Kong where they signed the employment contract with Asuncion, but crossed the border on long weekends to spend time with Liu’s father in Longgang, a district of Shenzhen.

It was from the 22nd floor flat of Liu Heping that Asuncion fell to her death on Jul 23 or 24, according to Shenzhen police.

Gu and Liu were arrested on Aug 17, 2017 and held on a charge of conspiring to defraud Hong Kong Immigration by claiming Asuncion would work only in the territory.

But nearly a year later, on May 7, 2018, they were released after investigators said there was not enough evidence against them.

This was even after the police discovered that the couple had taken Asuncion across the border four times in the nine months that she had served them.

The Hong Kong Labour Department has not conducted its own investigation, citing lack of jurisdiction, as the maid died outside Hong Kong.

The authorities’ inaction prompted militant OFWs and local labor unions to stage a rally at the Labour Department last year to urge the government to stop employers from taking their helpers to work in China.

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