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Allow Filipinos to return, HK asks Phl government

04 February 2020

By The SUN
Secretary Law with Congen Tejada

Hong Kong has urged the Philippines to allow its nationals to return to the city.

The call was formally communicated this afternoon, Feb. 4, to Consul General Raly Tejada by Hong Kong Labour Secretary Law Chi-Kwong, during a meeting at the Legislative Council that lasted about 45 minutes.

ConGen Tejada said Secretary Law “made strong representations for the Philippine government to allow Filipinos to return to HK.”

The appeal came in the wake of chaos that followed the Philippine government’s sudden decision to restrict flights to and from China, Hong Kong and Macau starting Feb. 2, as part of measures to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. 

As part of the restrictions, Filipinos traveling to these places, including migrant domestic workers, students and residents, have been barred from leaving Manila and other international airports in the Philippines.

As a result, hundreds of Filipinos, many of them domestic workers in Hong Kong, have been stranded in airports across the Philippines.

A similar number of outbound travelers were also affected, as the two major airlines that fly several times daily to the Philippines, cancelled all their flights on both routes.


According to the Hong Kong Union of Employment Agencies, about 500 workers deployed by its members have been affected by the ban. Another big agency group said 300 of their recruits have been stranded.

Both Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific said they will resume flights to Hong Kong on Feb 29, while Cathay Pacific continued flying to Manila, but did not accept bookings from Filipinos flying out to Hong Kong.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.
Not all Philippine government departments have supported the move. At a Senate hearing earlier today, Secretary of Foreign Affairs Teodoro Locsin, Jr. vigorously urged for the lifting of the ban on Filipinos leaving for China and its two administrative regions. But Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, who recommended the strict measures, stood his ground.

In calling for the recall of the ban on returning Filipinos, Law reportedly assured the Manila government that Hong Kong continues to undertake vigorous measures to combat the spread of the disease.

In the meantime, the Immigration Department will give special consideration to workers and other travellers affected by the situation.

Chief Executive Carrie Lam gave the same assurance about Hong Kong’s unrelenting effort to combat the disease at a news conference held on Feb. 3, and in a letter addressed to consuls general a day earlier.

She also promised "compassion" in handling immigration and labour problems faced by Filipino migrant workers affected by the ban.

CE Lam at the press conference where she addressed the Philippine travel ban

The Philippines is one of only four countries that have included Hong Kong in the travel restrictions to China in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. The others are Italy, Kuwait and North Korea. Vietnam initially took the same move, but backtracked on the same day after being told how Hong Kong has been battling the disease.

ConGen Tejada promised to immediately convey the Hong Kong government’s request to Manila.

He was accompanied to the meeting by Consul Paulo Saret and Philippine Overseas Labor Office head Antonio Villafuerte.

On the same day, one of the biggest migrant workers groups in Hong Kong sent a letter to ConGen Tejada, asking for the same restrictions on returning Filipinos to be lifted.

The letter from United Filipinos in Hong Kong said in particular that the ban could lead to loss of jobs for many Filipino domestic workers.

“As domestic workers we do not have the luxury of time. We are also not afforded job security. We work at the whim of our employers,” said the letter. If the workers don’t get back to work on time, they could be terminated, it added.

ConGen Tejada said he had yet to receive a copy of the letter but promised to act on it immediately.

The Philippines has 70 suspected coronavirus cases, but only two have been confirmed, including a man from Wuhan who was reported to have died from the disease 24 hours before the travel ban was imposed. He was the first person to die from the disease outside of China.

Hong Kong today reported the second death of a patient outside of the mainland, and the first in the city. Two more confirmed cases were reported, bringing the total tally to 17.

The last two cases have raised alarm as the source of infection could not be traced, leading to the suspicion that they had been transmitted locally.

Across China, the total number of cases have exceeded 20,000 with more than 420 deaths.

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