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Fears rise that Phl travel ban to HK will be extended to Mar 28

12 February 2020

By The SUN

PAL, Cathay and Cebu Pacific now say they will resume their HK-Manila flights on Mar 28

There is growing fear that the travel ban that prevents thousands of Filipinos from returning to Hong Kong to work, study and live with their families, ostensibly to protect them from the coronavirus outbreak, will be extended for another month.

This is the result of new advisories from major airlines that fly from Hong Kong to key cities in the Philippines that moved the resumption of their flights from Feb 29 to Mar 28.

However, Consul General Raly Tejada said there has been no official word from Manila on when the temporary travel ban imposed on Feb. 2 might be lifted.

Neither has there been a reply to Hong Kong’s formal request for Filipinos to be allowed back in the city.

ConGen Tejada reiterated that the Consulate, along with the Department of Foreign Affairs, supports the call for the ban to be lifted, especially for Filipino migrant workers and residents in Hong Kong.

Philippine Airlines, Cathay Pacific and Cebu Pacific all issued the uniform advisory today, Feb 11, as Taiwan was added to the list of banned destinations for Filipinos departing from Manila and other international airports. (see the PAL advisory here:
According to Philippine immigration officials, Taiwan should have been included in the original ban imposed on Feb 2 that prohibited Filipinos traveling to China, Hong Kong and Macau, because the city state is part of “greater China”.

Taiwan had tried to protest the ban, but after a day of conflicting statements from Philippine government officials, it was kept in place.
HK-bound passengers were shocked by the ban which came into immediate effect on Feb 2
To date, only the Philippines has barred its own nationals from leaving the country for destinations apart from China, although several governments have raised travel alerts for countries heavily affected by the new coronavirus outbreak.

United Filipinos in Hong Kong, which has been leading the campaign for the immediate lifting of the ban, calls the airlines’ announcements worrying.
Unifil chairperson Dolores Balladares said that if the travel ban is prolonged, “mas maraming maapektuhang OFWs , residents and their families, at lalong mabibingit sa peligro ang trabaho ng mga migrante, new and old, kahit pa nga matatagal na sa amo.”

She said it is highly likely that employers will not be able to wait for a long time for their much-needed helper to return, and will just opt to terminate their contract.

“Ang epekto nito sa OFWs, mawawalan sila ng siguradong income at mababaon sa utang dahil hindi naman pwedeng kumain, pag-aralin ang mga anak at magbayad ng bills."

In Taiwan alone, she said 200 OFWs were immediately affected by the last-minute ban.

The same is true with returning residents stranded in the Philippines now, she said.  Their income could be cut at the very least if they’re unable to get back to work for a long time.

On top of this, those who don’t have their own place to live in the Philippines also face shelling a lot of money for food and accommodation while waiting to be allowed back to Hong Kong.

“Maling mali ang blanket ban na ginawa ni Presidente Duterte, hindi masusing pinag-isipan kung ano ang epekto sa tatamaan ng ban.”
Balladares says Migrante is inviting those affected by the ban to speak at a press conference on Feb 17
Unifil-Migrante is now working closely with Migrante International in Manila in organizing a press conference scheduled on Feb 17, during which those stranded by the ban are encouraged to speak about how it has impacted their life and work.

The move is aimed at showing a united front among various sectors affected by the travel ban, and also make the problem more real and immediate for those who are in the Philippines, who may have been made to believe that it’s a necessary health measure.

The press conference will be held at Migrante International, Episcopal Mission Center compound, 275 E. Rodriguez Sr. Avenue, Brgy. Kalusugan, Quezon City, Metro Manila. Their mobile hotline in the Philippines is (63) 921-2709079. In Hong Kong, the number to call is 9747 2986

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