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Agencies call on Duterte to lift travel ban

08 February 2020

By The SUN

The agencies plan to talk to President Duterte to recall the ban on OFWS flying out to Hong Kong

A group of employment agencies is planning to go directly to President Rodrigo Duterte next week to appeal for reconsideration of the travel ban that has resulted in thousands of Filipinos being barred from returning to Hong Kong to work, study, or be with their families.

Francis So, who operates an employment agency named after him, said the agencies have been meeting to assess the situation in Hong Kong and the Philippines, and have suggested that he call on the president or send him an email to relay their concern, as their representative.


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But the ban also prevents So, who said he has been a friend of Duterte for more than 20 years, from flying to the Philippines.

“I want to talk to Duterte personally, but the problem is (even) if I want to go to the Philippines, I cannot go,” he said, citing the Feb. 2 ban on non-Philippine passport holders coming from Hong Kong, Macau or China from entering the Philippines.

So is now considering settling for a phone call or an email to the president and his close advisers.

So (middle, standing up) with fellow agency owners attend dinner hosted by President Duterte in HK

“I want to explain everything clearly to (Sen.) Bong Go, Duterte and (Labor Secretary Silvestre) Bello, for them to reconsider, to let them consider lifting the ban on helpers.”

After all, he said, the situation in Hong Kong is “not so serious, especially if you don’t go out to a crowded area.”
He said domestic helpers, who were either caught by the ban while vacationing during the Chinese New Year or are newly-hired, are suffering. “They can’t afford to wait two months, three months, without earning (money),” he said.

The new hires are in worse situation. “They resigned from their jobs in order to come to Hong Kong to work, and their visa expires in three months and then they will have nothing,” he added.

The Philippine government appears well aware of the impact of the travel ban as it has directed the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to distribute Php10,000 each to the stranded workers destined for Hong Kong, Macau and China.


OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac told The SUN that Php300 million was set aside “kasi we are expecting 20,000 claimants in a span of two weeks.”

About 1,500 stranded OFWs received the cash handout in the first two days of distribution alone, which began on Feb. 4. (read full story: http://www.sunwebhk.com/2020/02/owwa-says-p300m-set-aside-for-ofws.html).


Victims of travel ban flock to OWWA's makeshift counters to claim the financial aid

So warned employers are worried about the uncertainty and may look elsewhere for help if the Filipino maids don’t arrive soon. “They may employ local maids, they may put their parents under local maids’ care for the meantime, or they may back out,” he added.

But he claimed that he was concerned more for the helpers and their employers, not so much the agencies.

“The agents I don’t mind. While both parties suffer, the agencies suffer only less business and no loss because we already collected money from them. They don’t have to refund. It’s not them that did not let you go. It’s the government,” he added.

The approach may test So’s friendship with Duterte. So said he has been a friend of Duterte since he was still the mayor of Davao City, and has hosted the president during his visits to Hong Kong.

The agencies’ call echoes an earlier appeal by the Hong Kong government to the Philippines to allow its nationals to return to the city.

Labour Secretary Law Chi-Kwong formally relayed Hong Kong’s concern to Philippine Consul General Raly Tejada during a meeting at the Legislative Council on Feb. 4. Tejada said Secretary Law “made strong representations for the Philippine government to allow Filipinos to return to HK.” (read full story:http://www.sunwebhk.com/2020/02/allow-filipinos-to-return-hk-asks-phl.html).
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