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PCG secures release of 14 OFW tourists held in Shenzhen

30 January 2017

The rescued group in Shenzhen, just before returning to HK.
With them is ATN's Cayabyab (in black jacket and white shirt)
By The SUN team
Philippine Consulate officers in Hong Kong have secured the release of 14 Filpina domestic workers who were detained at the Chinese border in Lowu yesterday night (Jan 29) after a member of their tour group went missing.
The OFWs arrived in Hong Kong shortly afrer 9pm tonight, accompanied by Hermogenes Cayabyab, Jr of the Consulate’s assistance to nationals (ATN) section, and the owners of Kathy Travel agency from which the group bought their tour package.
Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, who heads ATN, said the missing Filipina, Josephine Escamillan, is confirmed to have run away.
Social media posts said she had served notice of termination to her employers shortly before joining the Shenzhen tour organized by the social media group OFWs in Hong Kong. Escamillan reportedly arrived in Hong Kong only recently, and had previously worked in Shanghai.
Vallespin said Cayabyab went to Shenzhen at around 1:30pm after the Consulate obtained help from Hong Kong immigration in facilitating his entry. But the detained Filipinas could not be released immediately because of an ongoing investigation.
“The tour agency in Shenzhen is still under investigation.  This somehow delayed their departure from Shenzhen”, said Vallespin.
He gave assurance that the Filipinas were not detained for any violation of China’s laws, not even for overstaying, as the visa they were issued on their arrival yesterday was valid for six days.
“Even if their visas expired, they couldn’t be charged for overstaying because it’s the Shenzhen authorities that prevented them from leaving,” he said.
Vallespin said that at their request, the Philippine Consulate in Guangzhou sent a note verbale (a diplomatic note that is similar, but more formal than a memorandum) to Chinese authorities in the city to ask for the Filipinas’ release.
Back in HK: De Andres (in white jacket) with Cayabyab
Among those who just returned to Hong Kong was Regina de Andres, a moderator of OFWs in Hong Kong. In a post in her group’s FB page, De Andres thanked the Consulate and Kathy’s Travel for their help in getting them back to Hong Kong.
Before midnight on Sunday, De Andres and the other detained members of her group were frantically contacting friends in Hong Kong urging them to seek help from the Consulate.
They said they had no money or clothes with them. Some were also worried about being fired by their employers because they failed to return to Hong Kong as expected.
It took another 26 hours since their detention at Lowu before the group was allowed to return to Hong Kong.
Aside from De Andres, the other detained OFWs were Maria Elena Camano, Agnes Cardenas, Gloria Cariaga, Marina Canita, Sharon Cuadrado, Marineth Fernandez, Ana Marie Hervias, Mary Jean Larupay, Cheena Llanura, Maricel Manlapig, Ginalyn Rubio, Erma Patricio and Agnes Pagunsan. 
Earlier reports said Escamillan stayed with the group until after lunch, when they were all allowed to roam Window of the World, a popular tourist spot in Shenzhen. Escamillan was reportedly lugging a suitcase, but gave no indication that she was planning to run away.
Escamillan was part of a bigger group that joined the tour. On reaching Shenzhen, the group was split into two, with De Andres leading the group of 15 that included Escamillan.
Because of the split, 13 other members of the group managed to return to Hong Kong as scheduled on Sunday night.
One of the lucky ones who managed to get back on time told The SUN in a Facebook chat that the early part of the tour went on smoothly.
 “In the first two destinations we visited, we were intact because the tour guide was watching us and there was little time to wander away from the group,” said Rosalia Filipino Rodrigo.
On reaching the third destination, Window of the World, members of the two groups went their separate ways because they just had three hours to go around the park to enjoy the sights and take pictures.
Rodrigo said they were told to go to the waiting area next to the KFC restaurant and rendezvous with De Andres after exiting the theme park. They were supposed to wait there for their bus ride back to Lowu, from where they were to catch the train to Hong Kong at 6:30 pm.

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