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Filipinos welcome lifting of flight ban, reduced quarantine

22 March 2022

By Daisy CL Mandap

Filipino DHs may now come in and go home without worrying too much about the cost

Filipinos have largely welcomed Hong Kong’s decision to lift its 3-month flight ban on nine countries including the Philippines and reduce the hotel quarantine for all incoming travelers to seven days from the previous 14 days, starting next month.

Among those who were ecstatic about the move announced by Chief Executive Carrie Lam on Monday were the thousands of Filipino migrant workers who had been waiting for months to come to Hong Kong.

T.T. said she had hoped to take up her new job as domestic helper in Hong Kong in October last year but because of the difficulty of booking a place in a government-designated quarantine hotel she could not come immediately. Then the latest ban was announced in January this year.


Sa kasamaang palad nagkataon na utang ang aking ginamit na pera para mag-apply. My God! Yung P50k na utang ko ay naging Php100 na,” she said. (Unfortunately I just borrowed the money I used to process my application. My God! My Php50,000 loan has now grown to Php100,000)

She said she was so happy to hear the news about the ban being lifted but due to initial misapprehension of CE Lam’s announcement, her recruitment agency told her only residents were being allowed to come in. She is still waiting for word on when she could come.

Even Filipino workers in Hong Kong were jumping for joy over the news as it meant them being able to go home for a vacation without fear of being stranded, or paying a fortune for hotel quarantine. This was because before the Omicron outbreak, most new arrivals were made to stay for 21 days in quarantine hotels.


Ma Theresa Aquino, president of Radiant Organization of Amiable Drivers, which is made up of Filipina drivers in Hong Kong, was among those who were stranded in the Philippines after the latest ban was imposed in early January.

She spent the Christmas holidays in the Philippines and had intended to return middle of January when the ban was announced. Desperate to get her back in Hong Kong, her employer paid for her to go to Dubai for a 14-day “washout” of her stay in the Philippines, then make her way back in.

Aquino in Dubai where she did her 14-day 'washout' to gain entry to HK

Aquino was still lucky because before the Omicron outbreak, most new arrivals in Hong Konghad to spend 21 days in quarantine hotels. They also needed to stay for at least 21 days in another place to get rid of all traces of having stayed in a banned country beforehand.

Napakagandang balita ito para sa aming mga manggagawa dito sa Hong Kong, lalong lalo na po sa mga kababayan natin na kinakailangan nang mag-umpisang magtrabaho dito, na ang karamihan ay inutang lang ang ibinayad sa gastusin,” said Aquino. “Pati na rin sa mga na stranded dahil nagbakasyon nung Pasko”

(This is great news for all of us migrant workers in Hong Kong, especially those who have been waiting for a long time to start their work here, most of whom just borrowed the money for their expenses. Also for all those who were stranded when they went home for Christmas).


Para naman po sa mga kababayan natin na hindi nakakauwi sa loob ng dalawang taon o higit pa ay posible nang payagan ng mga employer nila dahil nabawasan na ang dating 21day/14day quarantine.”

(For our fellow Filipinos who have not been able to go home for two years or even longer, it is possible their employers may now allow them to go because the previous 21- or 14-day quarantine has now been reduced).

Marites Palma, founder of Social Justice for Migrant Workers, is also happy not only for herself but for many of her compatriots who have been seeking her group’s help because of the many problems spawned by the travel bans and Hong Kong’s strict pandemic restrictions.


Ako ang unang natutuwa sa pag lift ng ban dahil may isasagot na ako sa mga nagtatanong kung kailan makakapasok ang mga baguhang lampas na sa ulo ang utang dahil sa nagastos sa pag-apply nila papunta dito sa Hong Kong,” she said.

(The lifting of the ban makes me particularly happy because I am now able to respond when asked when the newcomers who are over their heads in debts they incurred in securing their jobs, could come to Hong Kong).

Tungkol naman sa pagpapaiksi ng quarantine ay lubos akong natutuwa kasama ang aking buong grupo dahil hindi na maghihirap ang kalooban ng mga baguhan sa pagkakakulong ng 21 araw. Napakahirap na sa unang araw pa lang ng pagdating nila sa ibang bansa ay kailangan nilang mag-isa sa quarantine hotel, at mahirap lunukin ang mga pagkain na binibigay sa kanila.

Salamat din sa Hong Kong dahil pitong araw na lang ang quarantine para hindi na magbayad ng mahal ang mga employer sa hotel, at higit sa lahat, maari na rin kaming makapagbakasyon sa Pilipinas.”

Palma on a mission to deliver relief packs to fellow migrants in distress

(As for the shortened quarantine I am very glad, along with the rest of my group, because the newcomers will be spared the pain of being confined for 21 days in a hotel. It is extremely difficult to be isolated in a quarantine hotel from the first day of your arrival in a foreign land.

(But thanks to Hong Kong for the seven-day quarantine because employers will no longer have to spend a lot on hotels, and most importantly, this will allow all of us to go back home to the Philippines).

The latest ban was imposed in early January, after the Omicron variant was detected among new arrivals in the city. At that time, Omicron was wreaking havoc in many countries including the Philippines, which recorded its highest daily tally since the start of the pandemic two years ago.

Employment agency operators are understandably also relieved that Hong Kong’s flight and quarantine restrictions have been relaxed because it means all their recruits who have been on standby in the Philippines for months can now come in.

Thomas Chan, chair of the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies said: “We in the employment industry absolutely welcome the lifting of the travel ban and the reduced quarantine from 14 nights to seven nights. This will of course reduce the burden on employers. At the same time, quarantine hotels will be able to accommodate more inbound travelers.”

Chan said his group estimates that for the past three months that the latest ban was in force, 2,000 Hong Kong-bound Filipino workers on average were unable to come.

Including the 2,000 others who were unable to leave earlier because of various restrictions, some 8,000 Filipino workers could start coming in over the next few months.

There is a catch, however. With the expected surge in demand after the April 1 implementation of the ban’s lifting, the going rate for hotel rooms has hit the roof.

Previously, the highest amount charged per room by a designated quarantine hotel for FDHs was $800, while others charged anywhere between $500 and $600 per night.

Chan said that the hotel rooms he managed to book for three workers on Wednesday cost $1,350 per night, and that’s even for late May. This prompted the employers to reportedly quip that even when they stay in 5-stay hotels for staycations, they only pay around $800 to $1,000 a night.

But given that the length of stay in the quarantine hotels has now been cut down to a third of the previous period, the amount comes out less than what employers were made to shell out before. More importantly, the door to Hong Kong is now open again.

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