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PCG tells employers not to bring their workers to China amid coronavirus scare

28 January 2020

Consul General Tejada moves to stop OFWs being taken to China by their employers

By Daisy CL Mandap

The Consulate has warned employers against taking their Filipino workers across the border amid concerns raised by some that they could catch the deadly novel coronavirus there, or be unable to leave should there be a lockdown.

In addition, Consul General Raly Tejada is calling Filipino community leaders to an emergency meeting this Sunday, Feb.  2, , to discuss the coronavirus contamination.

He said he intends to consult on “measures that we as a community can implement to combat the virus.”
So far, no Filipino, whether in Hong Kong or China, has been infected by the rapidly spreading virus that started in the central Chinese city of Wuhan. The number of confirmed cases in Hong Kong remained at 8 today, while China has more than 4,635 cases, and 106 deaths.

Amid the mounting number of confirmed cases in China, Hong Kong has come under mounting pressure to close its border with the mainland. Even the pro-Beijing party, Democratic Alliance for the Betterment of Hong Kong, has joined the call to ban all entries from the mainland.

Hong Kong’s latest response was to call on all civil servants to work from home for the rest of the week, except those providing frontline services. All leisure parks and museums will also close. Many private companies followed suit.
In a separate move, the Mission for Migrant Workers has issued a statement calling on the Hong Kong government to also address the needs of migrant workers amid the coronavirus scare, including issuing advisories in English or their native language.

The Mission also called on the government and all consulates concerned to join hands in ensuring the safety and protection of all migrant workers.

At his own initiative, ConGen Tejada asked Acting Labor Attache Antonio Villafuerte today, Jan. 28, to issue an advisory to employment agencies to ensure that no Filipino domestic worker is taken by their employers to China during these uncertain times.
ALA Villafuerte says agencies face suspension if they fail to stop OFWs being taken to China
ALA Villafuerte confirmed the information, and said he was posting the advisory on the online system, employEasy, which all accredited employment agencies use to communicate with the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

“I will advise the agencies to tell employers to refrain or stop sending their helpers to China because of the current situation,” said Villafuerte.

That will also include sending them back to Hong Kong immediately. “Bawal naman kasi ang dalhin doon ang worker para magtrabaho,” Villafuerte added.

Agencies who violate the directive could face having their accreditation suspended by Polo.

The move comes amid several requests for help from some Filipina domestic workers who say their employers are taking them to China to ride out the storm caused by the coronavirus, or are preventing them from going back to Hong Kong.

Those who are already in the mainland say they have been asked by their employers to stay put until Feb. 2, the end of the 14-day gestation period for the virus from the lockdown on Wuhan and other affected places in China.

One worker posted, “Gustong gusto ko na umuwi. Kami lang ng alaga ko ang pinapunta dito, tapos sila nagpaiwan sa Hong Kong, tapos sabi susunod, di naman sumunod. Gusto pa yatang mag lockdown dito sa Guangdong bago kami pauwiin.”

This was echoed by another: “Gusto ko lang po ipaabot dito (ang) aking kaba at pag-aalala sa pag- uwi ko pabalik Hong Kong. Dito pa po kasi ako sa China kasama mga amo ko. Gusto ko na po umuwi ng Hong Kong kaso pinigilan ako ng amo ko, kaya need ko po ang inyong mga payo, Nag-aalala po ako.”

Another said, “Need ko po ng advice kasi nandito pa kami sa China. Sabi ng amo ko mas safe dami dito sa virus kaysa dyan sa Hong Kong. Baka daw pag umuwi kami dyan malagay kami sa isolation. Gusto nila mag-extend kami kaso, hanggang 6 na lang ng February ang visa ko.”

One was worried that she will be quarantined when she returns to Hong Kong from Shenzhen. “Meron ba dito na umuwi sa Hong Kong galing ng Shenzhen today? Ask ko lang kung nakauwi ba agad kayo kasi may nagsabi na nag-stay raw muna sa shelter bago makauwi ng bahay. Please pm me. Nandito kasi ako sa Shenzhen at nag-aalala.

Their worry was sparked by reports that Hong Kong would shut down some of its border gates with China starting Jan. 30, leaving only the Lowu and Lok Ma Chau corridors open.
HK is under increasing pressure to shut its border with China
Another worry was about catching the coronavirus from their employers who are about to return to Hong Kong from the mainland.

“Mag ask lang ako kung ano ang mabuti kong gawin, kasi yung mga employer ko ay nasa Tsina ngayon. Natatakot po ako kasi baka pagbalik nila may coronavirus silang dala. Ano po ba ang maganda kong gawin?”

The fear is not without basis. A Filipina domestic worker who was put under quarantine on Jan 24 had shared a flat in Ma On Shan with the parents of her employer, who both became sick a few days after arriving in Hong Kong, and were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

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