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New Labatt also asked to sign risk awareness declaration at NAIA

24 February 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

New Labor Attache Mel Dizon pays courtesy call on Consul General Raly Tejada before buckling down to work 

If you think only OFWs flying to Hong Kong are required to sign and submit a declaration that they are aware of the coronavirus risk before they can fly out, here’s what the new Philippine labor attaché says about his pre-departure experience.

Labatt Melchor B. Dizon said during an interview on his first day at work on Sunday, Feb 23, that he himself was asked for his declaration form at the immigration counter of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

He said there were no exemptions for diplomats like him and his papers were checked by the officer to find out if he was indeed allowed to travel.

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Labatt Dizon said he personally felt the impact of the epidemic that began in Wuhan City in China when he could not leave Manila soon after receiving his visa in the first week of February because he was overtaken by the travel ban to Hong Kong.

“Noong nagkaroon ng partial lifting, doon lang nakasama ang diplomats at kami nga hinihingian din…tinitingnan nga kung kami ay talagang authorized na mag-travel. Minsan nga ay hinihingian pa rin kami ng declaration,” he said.

“Buti na lang dala-dala ko lahat ng documents, ang resolution pa ng Interagency (Task force on Emerging Infectious Diseases), which is the basis ng aming exemption,” he said.

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He dismissed reports that the declaration form that all overseas Filipino workers must accomplish before being allowed to fly to Hong Kong and Macau must be notarized and approved by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

“Actually, hindi naman kailangan ang notarized, hindi naman kailangang magbayad… Kasi kapag sa POEA ang nag-notarize, wala namang bayad iyon. Gusto lang nilang pumunta roon para makita na sila ang nag-declare,” he said’

He said it was the Interagency Task Force’s decision to require the declaration, in which a departing worker states he is aware of the coronavirus epidemic in his destination. He described the declaration as a “safeguard” for the partial lifting of the ban.
“Pero hindi ibig sabihin niyon ay wini-waive na ng government ang kanilang responsibility, kasi…talagang tutulungan ng gobyerno ang ating mga kababayan because that is our responsibility,” Labatt Dizon said. 

The labor official received his marching orders to come to Hong Kong around November last year while he was the labor attaché in Greece. But he said he had to wait for his replacement before he could leave.

As the top labor representative in Athens, his jurisdictions covered the whole of Greece with some 20,000 Filipino workers, and the Greek half of Cyprus, which has about the same number of OFWs.

He said he conducted outreach missions for Filipinos in Cyprus all by himself.

Labatt Dizon buckled down to work on his first day in office.
 
Congen says he also briefed Labatt on the Consulate's priorities
After a courtesy call and lunch with Consul General Raly Tejada, who heads the Philippine mission in Hong Kong, he toured and observed activities in Polo and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Congen Tejada later told The SUN that Labatt Dizon is “surely capable and experienced. An asset to us all.”

Labatt Dizon also spent some time helping Assistant Labor Attaché Tony Villafuerte clear workers’ contracts piling up on the latter’s desk then squeezed in this interview before meeting with the Polo/OWWA staff.

He said his visit to PCG coincided with a meeting presided over by Congen Tejada to update officers on the latest developments in the Hong Kong contagion, and touched on the case of OFWs still stranded in the country.

He said he had no qualms about taking up his new post at this inauspicious time when Hong Kong is reeling from the new coronavirus infection.
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