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14 OFWs held at China border after tour group member disappears

30 January 2017

The group poses for picture before the start of the tour
(UPDATED)
By Vir B. Lumicao
Consulate officers are negotiating with the Hong Kong Immigration Department for the release of 14 Filipina domestic workers who were detained at Lowu last night, Jan. 29, after a member of their tour group went missing.
The missing member of the group was identified as Josephine Escamillan, who failed to return to the bus pickup point by around 6pm, after the three-hour tour of Window of the World, a popular tourist attraction in Shenzhen.
Deputy Consul General Christian de Jesus told The SUN: “We’re working on it (the case) now”.
Lunch in Shenzhen just before the Window of the Workd tour
Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, head of the assistance to nationals section said separately:  “We are in touch with the HKID (Immigration Department). Our workers must be released. Perhaps after questioning.”
He said the Consulate also contacted the Philippine Consulate in Guangzhou to talk with Chinese authorities about the plight of the OFW tourists.
By mid-morning today, an ATN officer had reportedly left for Guangzhou, along with the owners of Kathy Travel, which booked the group for the Shenzhen tour.
Regina de Andres, leader of group OFWs in Hong Kong which organized the tour, confirmed that an ATN officer had been in touch.
Before midnight on Sunday, De Andres and 13 members of her OFWs in Hong Kong organization were frantically contacting friends in Hong Kong urging them to seek help from the Consulate.
Josie Escamillan, the missing OFW
Escamillan reportedly stayed with the group until after lunch, when they were all allowed to roam Window of the World on their own. Escamillan was reportedly lugging a suitcase, but gave no indication that she was planning to run away.
Reports say she moved to Hong Kong only recently, after working in Shanghai for a while.
Escamillan was among 27 members of the OFWs in Hong Kong group. They joined 18 other tourists who left Hong Kong on a train to Lowu Sunday morning for a one-day shopping and sightseeing tour of Shenzhen. 
On reaching Shenzhen their group was split into two, with De Andres leading the group of 14 that included Escamilla.
Because of the split, the other 13 members of the group managed to return to Hong Kong as scheduled last night.
One of the lucky ones who managed to get back told The SUN in a Facebook chat that the early part of the tour went on smoothly.
 “In the first two destinations we visited, we were intact because the tour guide was watching us and there was little time to wander away from the group,” said Rosalia Filipino Rodrigo.
On reaching the third destination, Window of the World, members of the two groups parted after buying their tickets because they had just three hours to go around the park to enjoy the sights and take pictures.
Rodrigo they were told to go to the waiting area next to the KFC restaurant and rendezvous with De Andres after exiting the theme park. They were supposed to wait there for their bus ride back to Lowu where they were to catch their train ride back to Hong Kong at 6:30 pm.
The first group that included Herbas was allowed by Chinese Immigration officers to return to Hong Kong because all 13 people on the list were accounted for, while the group of De Andres  was not allowed to leave because Escamillan was missing.
At 11:35 pm, a group member sent this writer a private message saying De Andres and her group were held at the Chinese border. De Andres was reportedly crying because of fear about what would happen to the helpers if they were not released soon.
Rodrigo however said that the stranded workers had already sent private messages to their employers telling them of their their situation.
The rest of the detained OFWs, aside from De Andres, are Maria Elena Camano, Agnes Cardenas, Gloria Cariaga, Marina Canita, Sharon Cuadrado, Marineth Fernandez, Ana Marie Hervias, Mary Jean Larupay, Cheena Llanura, Maricel Manlapig, Ginalyn Rubio, Erma Patricio and Agnes Pagunsan. - with a report from Marites Palma

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