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Stay away from protests and fly from Macau if you must, Pinoys told

15 August 2019

By The SUN

The Consulate has reiterated its advice for Filipinos in Hong Kong to stay away from anti-extradition protests to avoid getting hurt, in the wake of escalating tensions between the protesters and the police.

Those who need to fly out should do so in Macau if they can buy tickets to leave from there, said Acting Head of Post Germinia Usudan.

Her advice came in the wake of an unprecedented shutdown of Chek Lap Kok Airport on Aug 12, after tens of thousands of protesters swarmed the massive facility.

Most flights in and out of Hong Kong were again cancelled the next day as protesters stormed the airport anew, and physically tried to stop some of the passengers from leaving.

Amid the sporadic chaos, the Philippine government advised its nationals to put off traveling to Hong Kong in the meantime.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said in a news conference on Aug 13 that it was “not the right time”, given the cancellation of flights to and from Hong Kong, a popular international destination among Filipinos.

“Avoid muna going there. That’s the advice kasi you’re not sure whether you’re going to reach Hong Kong in the first place,” Panelo explained.

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But he reiterated that the government has no plans to issue a deployment ban to Hong Kong, where there are 210,000 Filipinos employed as domestic workers.

Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III earlier said he had ordered a slowdown in the processing of contracts of Hong Kong- bound domestic workers, but stopped short of calling for a halt in their deployment.

Usudan said OFWs who are due to take a vacation in the Philippines should ask their employers to rebook their tickets to a later date, or allow them to fly out of Macau.

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At least one Filipino traveling to the US took this route on Aug 12, when he needed to fly out urgently but his flight out of Hong Kong was cancelled due to the rally.

Usudan said she had sought the help of Consul General Lilibeth Deapera in Macau and she agreed to provide Consulate assistance to passengers who are forced to fly out from there because of flight cancellations at Chek Lap Kok.

On the second day of the massive protests at the airport on Aug 13, some 160 outbound and 150 inbound flights were again cancelled but, fortunately, all Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific flights arrived as expected before lunch, Usudan said.


But she said the Consulate’s primary concern is the welfare of the workers here.

“We have been consistent in our advisory to stay away, huwag sumali para sa kapakanan or safety,” Usudan said in an interview on Aug 13.

But she said the Consulate is not concerned about their political inclinations, just their safety.

“Nandito lang sila para magtrabaho, so iwasan na lang nila ang makasama sa mga ganung protesta, kasi welfare ang aming concern, hindi yung political inclination nila,” she said.

Usudan said the Hong Kong government has not asked the Consulate for assistance to stop the Filipinos, who number around 250,000 here, from joining the protests.

But she said that it is to everyone’s best interest that Filipinos stay away from the protests as the situation is very fluid with the rally organizers unknown, and the Hong Kong government’s next moves cannot be predicted.

“So, to subject our nationals to a very fluid situation is very dangerous … kaya huwag na muna tayong makisali,” DCG Usudan said.

So far, none of the Filipinos here, except for the Hong Kong Disneyland employee who was arrested in a Mongkok rally two weekends ago, have been caught in protest-related skirmishes, she said.

She said this is because OFWs here are very careful, intelligent and very much aware of what’s been happening because of social media.

Fortunately, except for the US-bound traveler, no other Filipinos stranded at Chek Lap Kok had to seek their help.

But with thousands of flights halted during the two days of protests at the airport, there was bound to be several Filipinos affected, including a former domestic worker who was due to be flown home by a relative after suffering a mental breakdown two days earlier.

At least one prominent member of the Filipino community was also unable to take her connecting flight to Manila from the US because of the lockdown.

Meanwhile, fierce clashes continue to erupt sporadically between police and protesters fighting off an extradition bill that could pave the way for accused people in Hong Kong to be sent to China for trial.

Some of the violence also involved suspected gangsters who had used knives and various weapons to launch unprovoked attacks on protesters while police were nowhere in sight.

One of the fiercest clashes happened in North Point on the night of Aug 4, when burly men wielding long poles attacked a group of protesters walking on King’s Road toward the police station.

No police officers were around to stop the fierce attacks which were caught on video by several bystanders.

Another violent encounter happened on Aug 11 when a lone protester was shown on video being pinned to the ground by the police along busy Yee Wo street in Causeway Bay, and hit repeatedly despite bleeding profusely and saying “I am sorry, terribly sorry.”

But the worst incident happened on the same night in Tsim Sha Tsui, where a young woman was shot in the eye with what appeared to be a bean bag round that smashed through her goggles. Online reports said her eyeball had burst and she could end up blind.

The series of violent clashes that occurred across Hong Kong that day led to the occupation of Chek Lap Kok Airport the next day.

More protests are being planned over the next days, including a mass gathering at Victoria Park on Sunday, Aug 18. Organizers, the Civil Human Rights Front, said at a news conference that protesters will march to Chater Road in Central in protest of “corrupt police.”
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