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Filipina worker seeks help to recover lost $5k

Posted on 23 September 2021 No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

Natividad says she realized she had lost her $5k after having lunch at Jollibee in Central

Filipina domestic helper Christchin S. Natividad thought she found relief when she was told about a news report in The SUN about a bunch of thousand-dollar bills being found in an MTR station.

It was because 29-year-old Natividad had just lost $5,000, also in thousand-dollar bills, and she was hoping the money that Herminihilda B. Molina had found was hers.

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Natividad’s cousin, Isa, had reached out to check more information about Molina’s find, and was disheartened to learn that the total amount was just $4,000, and it was found in Kowloon MTR station.

Nevertheless, Isa asked that Natividad’s loss be publicized, just in case an honest

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According to Isa, her cousin was not sure how she lost her money, which was part of her $6,000 salary which her employer had just given her that day. The money was wrapped in tissue paper, as the employer reportedly shirks at handling bills, saying they’re dirty.

From her employer’s house in Mount Pavilla in Sai Kung, Natividad took a taxi to Hang Hau MTR sation. En route, she took out a $1,000 bill from the stash, and put the remaining $5,000 back in her bag, still wrapped in tissue.

 

At the Hang Hau station, she met up with Isa and together, they got off at the North Point interchange, then headed on to Central.

There, they went straight to a clothing shop on the third floor of World-Wide Plaza, then had lunch at a nearby Jollibee outlet. All the while, Natividad said she was using the $1,000 that she took from her salary to pay for her shopping and food.

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It was only after she had lunch and was on her way to remit the $5,000 to her family in Mindoro that Natividad discovered the money missing. She hurriedly retraced her steps, then went back to her employer’s house, hoping she had actually left the money there, but was dismayed to learn that it was really gone.

Natividad's bag where she had put the $5k wrapped in tissue

There were at least two instances when she could have accidentally dropped the money while on the MTR, Natividad said.

Sa North Point MTR nagbukas po ako ng bag ko, kinuha ko po ang powerbank ko dahil naki charge po kasi ang pinsan ko. Tapos sa loob din po ng MTR nagbukas po ako ulit ng bag, kinuha ko naman ang phone ko,” said Natividad.

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(I opened my bag at the North Point MTR station and took out my powerbank because my cousin had asked me to help charge her phone. Then while inside the MTR I opened my bag again to take out my phone).

Asked if it was possible the money was picked while they squeezed themselves into the Sunday crowd at World-Wide Plaza, Isa said it was unlikely, as she took Natividad’s bag while her cousin shopped for clothes, and kept it close to her chest.

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There was, of course, also the possibility that Natividad’s money was taken while they were busy chatting and taking selfies while having lunch at Jollibee. 

But both women say this was not likely, as the money, being wrapped in tissue, would not have easily caught a pickpocket’s eye. Besides, there were three of them there, and it would have been more difficult to pick any of their bags.

Sana po mai post rin ang problema nya para makatulong rin ako sa kanyang sitwasyon,” said Isa. (Hopefully you could also post a story about her problem so I could help her get out of this unfortunate situation).

Natividad chimed in: “Hindi ko man po makita o hindi na maibalik sa akin iniisip ko na lang na dinonate ko na lang sa nangangailangan para magaan sa pakiramdam.”

(If I don’t get to find <my money> again or it is not returned to me, I would just think that I donated it to someone in need so I could my mind at ease).

But the reality of having lost a big chunk of her salary is weighing down on Natividad, who moved to Hong Kong only in December last year, after working for two years in Bahrain. She is now forced to do more work for her employer so she could send a bit of money to her husband and two young children to make up.

Molina says no one has yet come forward to claim the $4k she found in the Kowloon MTR station

Meanwhile, Molina told The SUN in an update that she had reported to the police about entrusting the $4,000 that she found with the MTR staff in Kowloon station. The police in turn, told her to get a reference number for reporting the find.

As of last Saturday, Sept 18, which was her day-off, Molina said nobody had yet shown up to claim the money.

If the cash remains unclaimed for three months, it would be turned over to her in line with the Police Force Ordinance.

(Anyone with good news to relay to Natividad may contact her at telephone number 9082 6924) 

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Migrant workers group presses $6,014 monthly pay

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By Vir B. Lumicao 

The protest was held ahead of the expected announcement of the new MAW for FDWs

The biggest umbrella organization of migrant domestic workers staged a token protest today, Sept. 23, at the Labour Department office in Sheung Wan to demand a “living wage” of $6,014 a month, and a food allowance of $2,600.

The protesters said the cost of living in Hong Kong has risen since the pandemic began in January last year, but migrant workers have been left out of government subsidies to various sectors.

The small-group protest was held in anticipation of the government’s announcement of the new minimum allowable wage for foreign domestic helpers before the end of the month.

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Last year, the government kept the minimum wage at $4,630 and the food allowance at $1,121 amid the economic slump due to the pandemic. 

AMCB spokesperson Dolores Balladares-Pelaez said during the short protest that the minimum salary of MDWs is no longer enough to provide them and their families with their basic needs, especially since the coronavirus spread has raised the cost of living.

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Napapanahon po ang pagbibigay ng living wage, (ang) pagtaas ng ating sahod, at kakabit po niyan ang ating panawagan na pagbibigay ng food allowance na $2,600 sa lahat ng manggagawa na binibigyan ng food allowance,” Pelaez said. (It is high time that we are given a living wage, that our salary in increased, and along with that is our call that a food allowance of $2,600 be given to all who are getting this allowance).

Indonesian worker Sringatin, also an AMCB spokesperson, said migrant domestic helpers deserve the wage increase because they did not get one last year and were shut out of subsidies that the Hong Kong government gave most of its residents.


Pelaez said they are also appealing to the Hong Kong government to ensure that FDWs are given decent accommodation by identifying areas in the employer’s house where the worker should not be made to sleep.

The protesters observing social distancing outside the Labour office

In its petition, AMCB also reiterated a call for the regulation of their work hours, citing a 2020 study by the Mission for Migrant Workers that showed 98% of MDWs suffered from long working hours. The report showed that more than 70% worked 11-16 hours a day while nearly 30% worked more than 16 hours.

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“We demand the HKSAR government to amend the Standard Employment Contract for Foreign Domestic Helpers to include resting hours. Specifically, we demand the HKSAR to implement a continuous 11-hour rest periods between two consecutive workdays plus meal breaks for migrant domestic workers,” the AMCB said.

Historically, the Labour Department gives MDWs a meager salary increase of just about $100 each year.

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In an interview after the protest, Pelaez, who chairs the United Filipinos of Hong Kong, admitted many employers do not seem agreeable to a wage increase.

“But I think our demand for a $6,014 monthly salary is just reasonable, it’s not really too much. With the cost of living in Hong Kong in the present situation, I think it’s reasonable, the employers can afford to give it,” Balladares-Pelaez said.

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In its petition addressed to Labor Secretary Law Chi-kwong, the AMCB said the pandemic has provided many challenges to MDWs.

“The working and living conditions of MDWs have worsened with many workers facing longer working hours and lack of rest, lack of proper food and improper accommodation, lack of mask and sanitizer, and more,” the AMCB said.

To support its petition, AMCB said the helpers’ current salary of $4,630 translates to just $31.15 per hour, or just 56% of the $54.70 hourly rate for a living wage estimated by British charity, Oxfam.

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Filipina DH is sole Covid-19 case in HK

Posted on 22 September 2021 No comments

By The SUN 

The Filipina DH carried the mutated virus on arrival in HK

A 55-year-old Filipina domestic helper who arrived in Hong Kong on Monday is the only confirmed case of Covid-19 in Hong Kong today, Sept 22.

Staff at the government information service said the Filipina arrived from Manila on board Cebu Pacific flight 5J272 on Sept. 20. She tested positive for the L452R mutant strain of the coronavirus on her arrival at Hong Kong International Airport.

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The worker received two doses of the BioNTech vaccine in the Philippines on Jun 22 and Jul 13.

She took Hong Kong’s total Covid-19 toll to 12,167 confirmed cases.

In a press release, the Centre for Health Protection also reminded people who had been to the following places during the specified periods to undergo compulsory testing tomorrow:

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• Valiant Park, 52 Conduit Road, Mid-levels

• Block 6, Peak One, 63 Mei Tin Road, Tai Wai

• 74 Tai Tei Tong, Lantau Island

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• Tung Shun Hing Building, 22 Chi Kiang Street, To Kwa Wan

• Aigburth, 12 Tregunter Path, Mid-levels

• 7 Lyttelton Road, Mid-Levels

The said places were put under a compulsory testing notice because someone who tested positive for mutant strains of the coronavirus had stayed in each of them during the infectious period.

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The CTN obliges relevant residents to undergo testing on days 3, 7, 12 and 19 following the announcement of the confirmed cases.They will also be required to undergo self-monitoring until the 21st day.

The list of places under CTN, along with the specified deadlines can be found here: www.coronavirus.gov.hk/pdf/CTN_Specified_premises_and_Dates_of_Testing.pdf.

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Flu-like outbreaks trigger compulsory testing at 3 kindergartens, primary school

Posted on No comments

By The SU

Po Leung Kuk kindergarten in Tseung Kwan O is included in the CTN

Three kindergartens and a primary school have been placed on the compulsory testing notice following outbreaks of upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) and/or influenza-like illness in those schools with symptoms similar to Covid-19.

The Centre for Health Protection said in a press release Tuesday that anyone who had stayed for more than two hours in the four schools from Sept 8 to 21 should undergo compulsory Covid-19 nucleic acid test by Thursday, Sept 23.

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The four affected schools are:

  • Hong Kong Ling Liang Church Sau Tak Kindergarten Campus 2 at 1/F, West Kowloon Place, One West Kowloon, 873 Lai Chi Kok Road, Kowloon
  • Po Leung Kuk Fong Wong Woon Tai Kindergarten, Unit KG02, G/F, East Wing, TKO Gateway, Hau Tak Estate, 2 Sheung Ning Road, Tseung Kwan O, New Territories
  • Hong Kong Ling Liang Church Sau Tak Kindergarten and its nursery school, Shop 6-8, 1/F, West Kowloon Place, One West Kowloon, 873 Lai Chi Kok Road, Kowloon, and  
  • Chinese International School, 1 Hau Yuen Path, Braemar Hill, North Point. Primary School Year 1 pupils and teachers. The CHP said CIS pupils and teachers, including full-time, part-time and relief teachers who had face-to-face lessons on specified dates must be tested.
Chinese Intl School, where P1 pupils and teachers will also need to be tested for Covid-19

Exempted from the CTN are persons who had undergone testing between Sept 19 and Sept 21.

The CHP did not indicate how many pupils or teachers had been affected by the flu-like outbreak.


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But previously, it reported that URTI struck 29 pupils in a Yuen Long kindergarten, prompting its closure for five days for disinfection and compliance with a CTN

Earlier, a similar outbreak in a kindergarten in Tai Po affected 20 pupils, which also caused the CHP to order compulsory testing on people who had been at the school durng relevant periods.

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In both instances, the patients had cough, runny nose, sore throat and fever. At least 24 had to seek medical attention but no one was hospitalized.

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For HK’s best views, take a spin on the Observation Wheel

Posted on No comments

By Daisy CL Mandap 

You can have three spins on the Observation Wheel for just $20  (Wikimedia photo)

If there is one thing that you should not miss during the pandemic, it is taking a ride on Hong Kong’s Observation Wheel, that giant ferris wheel by the harbour that has become part of the city’s landscape in recent years.

At the greatly reduced price of $20 for adults and $10 for children 3-11 years old (those below 3 are free) and senior citizens, the three-round, 15 to 20-minute ride aboard the 60-metre tall wheel is within the reach of everyone in Hong Kong

With hardly any tourist around and the weather starting to get cooler, this is also the best time for people in Hong Kong to grab at the chance of having a hassle-free ride on the Observation Wheel, then stroll leisurely on the grounds below.

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When it first opened in 2014, a spin on the wheel cost $100 a person, and many people didn’t balk. After all, similar rides in other countries charged far more. But now that the admission price is only a fifth of the original amount, there is more reason not to miss this visual treat.

The London Eye, which towers over the River Thames at 135 meters, charges between 27 and 30 pounds per person (or about $290-$319) for each spin. Singapore Flyer, which at 150 meters is Asia’s largest observation wheel, charges the equivalent of HK$190.

When on the HK Wheel, one could have unobstructed views of Victoria Harbour, and all surrounding areas, including the iconic HSBC and Bank of China headquarters on the other side, and even the Kowloon Peninsula.

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The ride is comfortable as all its 42 gondolas are air-conditioned and wide enough for non-stop selfies and bloggings, with Hong Kong’s spectacular views as backdrops.

View of Kowloon from the Wheel

Each gondola can sit up to eight people, but the ride attendants are trained not to squeeze in people who do not know each other, so even if there are only two of you together, they will let you occupy one carriage so you can have all the space that you want during the ride.

The company’s website mentions a VIP gondola which has leather seats and clear glass-bottom floor and which takes in a maximum of five people, but it does not appear to be on offer to the public.

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After the ride, one can walk over to the adjacent Vitality Park which offers health drinks and snacks, and hosts a variety of classes including yoga, kickboxing and swing dancing; and events like comedy shows and wine-tasting.

Central's iconic buildings can be seen from the other side 

But this would not have been all possible had a rift between the previous owner, Swiss AEX and current management, The Entertainment Corporation Limited, not been resolved in time.

The Wheel was closed to the public in August 2017 when a dispute over the transfer of ownership resulted in a deadlock. The government then issued a statement that the Wheel could be dismantled and closed for two years until a replacement was built by TECL.

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Fortunately, the warring companies struck a deal on Sept 6 that year, which saved the Wheel from demolition. It reopened to the public in December 2017, with the new owners promising to make the Wheel experience more affordable for everyone.

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Filipinos swamp Consulate in bid to beat deadline for voter registration

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By Vir B. Lumicao 

Registrants on Sunday had to wait 7 hours to get up to the Consulate offices

Filipinos trying to beat the Sept 30 deadline for overseas voter registration for next May’s general elections have swamped the Consulate in large numbers for the second Sunday in on Sept 19.

Consulate staff and volunteers also had their hands full the past two Saturdays as hundreds of OFWs also took a time out from other activities to register.

Tomorrow being a statutory holiday, would have given a chance to many other Filipino domestic workers to register, but the Consulate will be closed. That means there is only one other weekend before the deadline when other Filipino migrant workers can register.

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Consul General Raly Tejada says it is regrettable that the pandemic has limited the chances of Filipinos to go to the Consulate to register.

“Am sure kung di lang dahil sa pandemya ay lahat sana ay naka rehistro ng maayos noon pa,” ConGen Tejada said.  (Am sure were it not for the pandemic, everyone should have been registered smoothly back then).

He said that about 600 registrants had turned up last Sunday, and even if a big number were still in the queue when the Consulate closed for the day at 4pm, the Overseas Voters Registration Team was still able to register everyone.

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Amid the weekend deluge, Congen Tejada called on those who have yet to register to exercise their right to vote.

 “I continue to appeal to all to exercise their civic duty and register to vote,” he said. Again, I wish to remind everyone that weekdays are less crowded.”

But he assured that everyone who turns up, even during the coming weekend when another deluge is expected, will still be listed up.

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“Uubusin pa din namin ang sinumang nakapila sa darating na Sabado at Linggo. Homestretch na po dahil hanggang ngayong buwan na lamang ang registration period.

(But, like today, we will finish anyone on the queue this coming Saturday and Sunday. It’s the homestretch because the registration period will be only until the end of the month.)

The queue extended all the way to the bridge linking United Centre to another building

At around 3:30pm Sunday, a queue formed by two to three persons abreast, still snaked around the second floor of United Centre, where the lifts going up to the Consulate’s 14th floor offices are located.

Unlike in previous Sundays where as many people as could fit in the Consulate’s service area were allowed in, only 10 people at a time were cleared to go up the lifts this time around.

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Those at the head of the queue said they had arrived at 8am that day, and were told to line up at the bridge connecting United Centre to other nearby buildings. It took them another hour and a half before they managed to set foot in the building housing the Consulate.

 "Yung iba po siguro mga 5 or 6am pa pumila, kasi marami nang tao noong dumating kami,” said a tired-looking Filipina who had lined up with a friend. “Yung ibang kasabay namin umalis na lang.”

(I think there were others who came as early as 5am or 6am just to line up, because there were already a lot of people when we came. Those who came at the same time decided to just leave).

A corner away, people were complaining why the line was hardly moving. They said they had been in the queue since 1:30pm and were tired and hungry. A few of them risked incurring the ire of some eagle-eyed security personnel and sat on the floor to wait.

Asked why they did not take the chance to register earlier, they said it was only now that they had the time to do it.      

A volunteer marshalling the queue said there were more people the previous Sunday, when the triple line stretched from the corner near Metro Remittance to the northern escalator, almost ringing the lift lobby.

The record Saturday crowd at the Consulate on Sept 18

Last Saturday a record number of people also turned up to register. One of them, Ever Ramos from the Domestic Workers Corner Saturday group, said she and some friends lined up in the public hall at 11:30am and completed the process only at 5:50pm. 

She said the huge turnout was partly due to the misunderstanding that Saturday was the only day in the week when Filipinos could register. Even those whose day-off was Sunday asked permission from their employers to go out so they could register

"Kasi ang pagkakaalam nila ay wala nang ibang araw. Kaya dumagsa talaga ng tao. Sabi ko sa kanila pang-Saturday na off lang. Ang iba nakikipagtalo pa eh, wala daw ibang araw, Sabado lang daw,” Ramos said.

(They thought there was no other day. So, a big crowd came. I told them it was only for those who have their day off on a Saturday. Others argued it was only on Saturday.)

Some volunteers, however, blamed the overcrowding on other people’s penchant for procrastination. They observed that in the early days of the OVR, only about eight or 10 people would come to register on a Sunday.

This was confirmed by Cherry Ann, a migrant worker who is thankful that she took the advise to register after she submitted her new employment contract in September last year.

"Walang katao-tao,” she recalls, as she was there on a weekday. (There was no one else around).

But her attitude was rare. The volunteers said that most OFWs who were encouraged to register while they were at the Consulate for other businesses often said, “Saka na lang, matagal pa naman ang eleksiyon.”  (Later on, the elections are still far away).

Registrants are herded into the lift 10 at a time after hours of waiting in the lobby

Voting interest is high among the more than 200,000 Filipinos in Hong Kong, as the May 9, 2022 general elections will include the election of a new president to replace the incumbent, Rodrigo R. Duterte.

On Sunday, boxing star Manny Pacquiao heightened overseas Filipinos' interest in the elections when he announced he will run for president. Pacquiao, who is popular among migrant workers, especially the men, will be running against several other candidates, including fellow Senators Ping Lacson and Bong Go, and possibly Vice President Leni Robredo.

Duterte, who cannot run for a second term, has announced he will run as Go’s running mate, but there is speculation he could just be warming the seat for his daughter, Sara, who is being pushed by his own party as their choice for president.

Another candidate who could win the OFs' nod is Manila Mayor Isko Moreno, a former actor who is banking on his high visibility on social media to win votes. He is running alongside Dr Willie Ong, another popular social media personality who, however, lost in his previous bid to become a senator.

Apart from electing a new president and vice-president, Filipino overseas voters will also elect senators and a party-list, whose nominee/s will sit in the House of Representatives if it gets enough votes.

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