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PCG, Polo asked for regular updates on HK crisis

10 October 2019

Images like these, from a day of violence across Hong Kong on China's National Day,
 have spooked Philippine government officials


By The SUN

Fears over the worsening political unrest in Hong Kong has Philippine government officials at the edge of their seats, and have ordered their top diplomats in the city to send regular updates on the situation here.

The anxiety escalated recently when foreign domestic worker Joy Palmera collapsed on Oct 6 after inhaling toxic fumes from tear gas hurled by police at protesters in Wanchai.

The news that Palmera was rushed to hospital unconscious reached Manila, and frantic officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs reportedly asked the Hong Kong post to give an immediate update.

Luckily, Palmera recovered and was sent home the next day, but this did not stop the home office from badgering their officers here to keep sending updates as frequently as every hour.
According to the officer-in-charge of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, Antonio Villafuerte, his instruction is to send updates on the “present situation as much as possible daily and hourly.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III is said to be monitoring the situation closely, apparently to help him determine what action to take just in case the welfare of Filipino migrant workers here are put on the line.

But Villafuerte said that as of now, the political crisis has not reached a point where emergency measures such as the mass evacuation of our workers have to be undertaken.
Previously, Bello said in interviews in Manila that he was considering stopping the deployment of workers to Hong Kong because of the tense situation, but this did not happen.

Villafuerte said Bello later told Polo that he would defer to the DFA on how best to respond to the crisis in Hong Kong.

The DFA has already issued an advisory to all Filipinos to avoid traveling to Hong Kong, resulting in a massive drop in the number of tourist arrivals from the Philippines.
This was after Jetro Pioquinto, a Filipino dancer in Hong Kong Disneyland was arrested during a police crackdown on protesters in Mong Kok on Aug. 3.

However, both Polo and the Consulate say the number of Filipinos arriving for work in Hong Kong has remained steady – at least for now.

But with the economy on a downward trajectory, job security, including those of domestic workers, could be in peril.

The situation could deteriorate further in the wake of a ban on the use of masks in public gatherings imposed by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Sept. 29, which led to an unprecedented chaos across Hong Kong.

Many fear the violence could escalate ahead of the resumption on Oct. 16 of the Legislative Council sessions, during which the Chief Executive’s exercise of her emergency powers that led to the mask ban will be reviewed.
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