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Over 200 OFWs set to fly home as PCG pushes for accurate virus tests in Manila

22 April 2021

By Daisy CL Mandap 

The Consulate is appealing to Philippine authorities to ensure credible and accurate Covid-tests

The Consulate has urged the Department of Foreign Affairs in Manila to look into the faulty Covid-19 tests done on departing overseas Filipino workers, seen as the main reason why Hong Kong recently imposed a two-week ban on all flights from the Philippines.

Consul Paul Saret, head of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section disclosed this, along with the announcement that another planeload of stranded OFWs in Hong Kong is set to fly to Manila early tomorrow.


Speaking on The SUN Interviews aired live on Wednesday night, Consul Saret said the Consulate has already made two requests to DFA to coordinate with concerned government agencies to look into the false negative test results given to infected OFWs bound for Hong Kong.

Saret said the first request was made soon after Cathay Pacific’s flight from Manila was suspended on Mar 15 after five of its passengers, all Filipino domestic workers, tested positive on arrival at Hong Kong airport.


Ngayon, dahil sa (total) ban, nag request na naman kami sa DFA na we better coordinate closely with those in charge of monitoring, especially yung mga papunta ng Hong Kong, kasi tayo rin ang naaapektuhan. Yung record natin, nakakapagpaalis tayo ng mga positive sa Covid."  

(Now, because of the total flight ban, we again requested DFA to coordinate closely with those in charge of monitoring, particularly those bound for Hong Kong, because we have acquired a reputation for allowing those infected with Covid to leave the country).

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He said what the Consulate wants is for the DFA to coordinate with the Department of Health and the government’s Inter-Agency Task Force on Covid control on how the testing done in the Philippines could be accurate or fool-proof.

Saret says the appeal for more accurate testing was first made after Cathay's Manila flight was banned

Edwina Antonio, case officer of the Mission for Migrant Workers and executive director of Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, said that the inaccurate test results impact OFWs the most because many lose their jobs as a result.

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Ang epekto nito sa kanila ay perhuwisyo at sama ng loob,” Antonio said. (They go through so much difficulty and suffering because of this).

 While workers who test positive on arrival in Hong Kong cannot be terminated while they’re sick, there would be no stopping employers from giving them a month’s notice after being treated and discharged from hospitals, she added.


On a more positive note, Saret said the Consulate has succeeded in getting an approval from the DFA for an additional 150 seats on a Philippine Airlines flight tomorrow to be cleared for landing at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Under the Philippines’ recently imposed flight restrictions due to the worsening Covid-19 situation in the country, no more than 1,500 travelers from abroad are allowed to enter the country each day.

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Saret said PAL is limited to flying in only 100 people from Hong Kong each day, but the Consulate had asked that its quota be extended to 250 for tomorrow’s flight, to allow about 150 OFWs who need to go home to be accommodated on board.

According to an update he sent at about 9pm today, only 131 OFWs had taken up the offer to join the flight, which means 19 slots were left open after the 3pm cut-off.

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A few had reportedly gone to the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to get themselves booked for the flight after hearing his announcement during the show, but some had backed out.

Combined with the 100 booked by PAL directly, there should be 231 Filipinos on the flight that is scheduled to leave at 11:25am tomorrow.

This is the second group departure arranged by the Consulate for OFWs since the flight ban took effect on Tuesday. The first batch of about 100 left Hong Kong on board PAL on the same day, while coming in, the plane only had cargo on board. 

Saret stressed that the ban only applies to passengers coming from the Philippines, but not those flying there from Hong Kong. Cargoes are also exempted. Thus, all airlines  that come in with cargo from Manila are allowed to fly back there with passengers.

He said the Consulate clarified this with the Hong Kong government directly upon learning about the flight suspension.

Antonio says Mission & Bethune need PCG's help in extending assistance to needy OFWs

Antonio appealed to Saret to help the Mission and Bethune respond to the needs of about 50 OFWs who are either waiting for their new employment visas to be released, or have been denied by Immigration of the chance to remain in Hong Kong.

Siguradong marami na naman ang hihingi ng tulong sa amin dahil dito sa flight ban, kaya kakailanganin namin na lumapit sa Konsulado dahil hindi naming kakayanin mag-isa bilang isang maliit na organisasyon lang kami sa Hong Kong,” she said.

(We are pretty sure that a lot of people would come to us for help again because of the flight ban, so we would need the assistance of the Consulate since we won’t be able to respond to all of them since we are just a small Hong Kong organization).

Saret assured her that all their referrals would be attended do, including those who want the Consulate to give them an endorsement letter to Immigration so they could be allowed to process a new work contract here despite being terminated.

He also said that he has since added to the referral letter the uncertainty of being able to fly to Hong Kong from the Philippines because of the flight ban, in hopes that Immigration would give more consideration to each new employment visa application.

When it was the Philippines that imposed a flight ban on Hong Kong, Saret said the Consulate was immediately asked for help by the SAR government, saying employers needed their helpers to be able to return or take up their jobs here.

This time around, he said Hong Kong might be convinced to return the favor.

But in the meantime, he appealed to all Filipinos to refrain from traveling at this time, unless absolutely necessary.

Kung hindi essential ang travel, hassle ang pauwi, hassle din ang pabalik,” he said. “Pero yung kailangang makauwi pero nahihirapan po, inaanyayahan naming kayo na pumunta sa akin para mabigyan namin kayo ng advice.”

(If travel is not essential, both going home and coming back would be hassle. But for those who need to go home and are having difficulties, I would like to invite you to come to us so we could give you proper advice).


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