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Notarized forms and other questions that plague HK-bound OFWs

21 February 2020

By The SUN

Filipino travelers at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport  (DWC photo)

Notarized or not? Medical certificate or barangay clearance? Self-quarantine or total isolation?

These are among the questions that have been fueling debates on online chats among stranded Filipinos preparing to return to their Hong Kong homes and jobsites after the partial lifting of the travel ban from the Philippines  on Feb 18.

The biggest debate among overseas Filipino workers was whether the declaration form they are made to sign to indicate their willingness to proceed to Hong Kong despite the spread of the coronavirus or Novid-19, should be notarized or not.
Despite reports from those who have successfully made it back to Hong Kong that the declaration or waiver form  can be secured at the airport at no cost, and with no need of being notarized, talks persist otherwise.

Several frazzled OFWs have even posted pictures of their notarized forms, insisting that one needs to get this done before proceeding to the airport. 

They based their information from staff at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration which has been tasked to distribute the form.
An OFW from Davao who was frantically trying to book a flight back to Hong Kong said she had called the POEA office in her area and was told that she needed to pick up the form from their office.

“Need po kumuha ng declaration at ipapa notaryo po. Then ipapadala nila sa Manila, then ibabalik sa yo (at) iyon ang dadalhin mo sa airport,” she said.

“May dalawa akong kasama nakapagpa notaryo na kanina.”

She would not listen even when told that she didn’t have to go through the trouble as many of those who had flown out had reported.

Another OFW named Daphne said that even after seeing on a TV news report that the form could be filled right at the airport, she was still confused as to what was right.

Sample of a notarized declaration shared by a confused OFW
“Kasi may form yung friend ko. Sabi nya ipapa xerox, then ipapapirma sa attorney. Kaya nalilito na ako kung ano ba talaga ang dapat gawin, kasi sa Monday na flight (ko). Kailangang maihabol ma process bukas.

A cursory check of posts made by several OFWs who have already flown back to Hong Kong show, however, that nobody had any trouble picking up the form at the POEA counter at the airport, and signing it right there.

But the trouble may have been due largely to the form being set out to look like a notarial declaration, with spaces for a notary to fill and sign. Add to this the lack of guidance or information for the OFWs from the websites of POEA or even the Department of Labour and Employment.

Asked to explain the confusing signals, Administrator Hans Cacdac of the Overseas Employment Administration said in a short message: "The DOJ (Department of Justice) and POEA say it should be notarized, Ma'am. This goes jnto the substance of the document."

He did not reply when asked why no advisory has been issued to this effect, and why many OFWs have been allowed to fly even without having the declaration form notarized. 

The inbound travel restrictions which remain in place have also caused confusion to many, particularly because of the 14-day self-quarantine period required of Filipinos arriving from Hong Kong, Macau and China.

Many OFWs are particularly concerned about the 14-day requirement as only a few are being allowed home leaves for that length of time. They also worry about whether they could get out of the house, or even go near their family members.


The quarantine form to be signed by every Filipino arriving in the Philippines from HK

Many inquiries online were from OFW parents anxious to attend their children’s upcoming graduations but have permission to stay in the Philippines for only a few days.

Many were disappointed on being told that they need to stay in the country for the entire 14-day quarantine as they will not be allowed to depart back to Hong Kong otherwise.

Others were worried that they would not be allowed to go onstage to be with their graduating child because they're supposed to be on self-quarantine.

Another question was the offshoot of several unfounded claims: that Filipinos who entered the Philippines from Feb 2 onwards should get either a medical or a barangay clearance being allowed to board their flights back to Hong Kong or Macau.

The reason cited was that the clearance was needed to prove that the passenger was free of any symptoms after undergoing self-quarantine for 14 days. This was not among the instructions given them when they flew into the country, but many were still bothered by the persistent talks that they needed to do this.

Again, the only way this was disproved was through a first-person account by an airline crew. Her colleague recounted: “We have a crew who went to the barangay but even the staff there don’t know what to give them. LOL. In the end, she went to the airport na lang and managed to get on the flight. From passport entry stamp it was obvious naman na more than 14days na sya.”

After being stressed out for 16 days because of the travel ban, it is time for the affected Filipinos to get a break.


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