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Online petition for lifting travel ban on HK-bound Filipinos gains ground

10 February 2020

By Daisy CL Mandap

Some of the estimated 25,000 OFWs stranded because of the travel ban to HK

A petition to get the Philippine government to lift a ban on Filipinos traveling to Hong Kong has gained widespread support after it was posted today, Feb 10, on the social media platform, change.org. (https://www.change.org/p/president-duterte-allow-filipino-hk-residents-ofws-to-return-to-hong-kong)

The petition titled “Allow Filipino residents and OFWs to return to Hong Kong” already had more than 1,500 signatories, less than a day after it was put up online and shared through social media

The petition was addressed to President Rodrigo R. Duterte, Health Secretary Francisco Duque, Foreign Affairs Secretary Tedoro Locsin, Jr., Senator Christopher “Bong” Go, and Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
Although he was not included in the list of recipients, Consul General Raly Tejada said he would send it on to the Department of Foreign Affairs.

He also assured that the DFA continues to push for the lifting of the ban, imposed at the recommendation of the Department of Health.

Cited as reasons for the petition were:
(1)   Hong Kong provides adequate health care to all HK ID card holders, whatever the profession. In addition, some professional and skilled workers are covered by private health insurance, which they cannot access if they were in the Philippines

(2)   The ban has endangered the job security of many Filipinos, residents and OFWs alike

(3)   Forcing HK residents and workers to remain in the Philippines deprives them of their income, which they badly need to pay for expenses, including rent and bills, even if they’re not in Hong Kong

(4)   “Beyond money, life for us is in Hong Kong”, said the petition. Here is where their family lives, and where they have to be present to attend to important commitments like going for medical treatments and taking care of kids


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Screenshot of the online petition
The petition was posted just as several Filipino community organizations in Hong Kong began talking of making a unity statement to drive home the message that the ban has hurt so many people unnecessarily.

Another plan of action raised by United Filipinos in Hong Kong is to hold a press conference in Manila where some of those stranded will be gathered so they can personally explain how the ban has thrown their lives in disarray.

Among those unable to fly back to Hong Kong as a result of the ban that was imposed without a warning on Feb 2 are Katherine de Guzman, chair of the Philippine Association of Hong Kong; Saturnino Tiamzon of the UP Alumni Association in Hong Kong; and thousand of overseas Filipino workers, many of them new hires.
According to the Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (Sharp), the biggest group of recruitment agencies in Manila, around 25,000 overseas Filipino workers have been affected by the travel ban. More than half, or 15,000 are newly hired.

The number of residents, skilled workers and students stuck in the Philippines is not known, but it is likely higher than usual because the ban came during the long Chinese New Year holiday in Hong Kong.

Many of those who signed the change.org petition said it made no sense because they have already made Hong Kong their home, and have their jobs and family here. Further, they prefer to be in the city at the time of the contagion because of its superior health care system.

Others pointed out that in Hong Kong, they are assured of free medical care while they worry about the cost of getting sick and hospitalized in the Philippines as they have no medical insurance there.

A few said they are willing to sign a waiver that will release the Philippine government of any liability should they fall ill on their return to Hong Kong.

Among those who immediately signed the petition were leaders of Filcom organizations like the Global Ministers Association, Hong Kong Musicians Union and Unifil-Migrante Hong Kong who all pledged to circulate it among their members for signatures.

Below are some of the replies posted on the site when prompted to complete the following sentence: “I am signing this petition because…”

JOMS ORTEGA
Because my life is in HK and not here. I feel safer there despite the higher confirmed cases because of the better health care system.

MA THERESA MAILIM
Pag dating sa health care mas safe ang Pinoy dito (SA) Hong Kong kumpara sa Pinas 

CHARI SEVILLA
Our HK employers have controls in place to ensure the spread of the virus is mitigated and the healthy and safety of its employees are made top priority (providing comprehensive health insurance, access to protective gear and supplies, making available flexible working arrangements within HK, to name a few benefits offerred).

Not allowing us to go back has put our jobs, livelihood and personal reputation at risk which the Philippine government so far has not demonstrated how they can help manage.

The uncertainty of the situation posed by the travel ban negatively impacts our mental and emotional wellbeing. We would be happy to work with the PH Consulate in HK and relevant agencies to ensure PH workers and residents are accounted and cared for in HK!

We hope the authorities would listen and work with us in coming up with a more appropriate solution because we also want to help fight 2019-nCoV!

PAM CASEQUIN-SMITH
This travel ban has put our lives on hold. Give us a chance to sign a waiver. We need to go back to our jobs, families and life in Hong Kong.

EDISON BAUTISTA
Let us go home! We don't belong here. Our livelihood is in hk our true home!

ANTONIO SERRANO, JR.
My wife and son are stranded. We live in HK.

VIOCARLO NIKKO BANGUD
I'm a permanent resident in Hong Kong and currently unable to go home due to the travel ban.
I'm afraid i might lose my full time job due to this travel ban

SOPHIE CARAAN
It makes absolutely no sense barring HK PRs and migrant workers from returning to their families and livelihoods. Most if not all of us have healthcare in Hong Kong and not in the PH, meaning if we get sick while we're stranded, we will have to pay the full costs — and we know hospitalization in the PH is not cheap. Moreover, the government will not provide us with enough monetary compensation for the No Work, No Pay days we are taking due to the ban (10,000 pesos is only a day and a half's worth of work) nor will it provide us with new jobs in the event that we get fired. We love to visit family and friends in the PH but this administration needs to understand that our lives are in Hong Kong and NOT in the PH.

BELLA GARCIA
Help the Stranded OFWs. Help them to get (to) their destinations.

JUANITA BULAON
They need to be back here to continue to work to support their families..thank you..
 
Aquino: Ban makes no sense
 ALEX AQUINO
The ban makes no sense

ERLINDA PALACIO
If we want to stay/ leave HK, it’s our choice. The Phil. govt. cannot decide for us.
ERICKSON DIZON
May mas maiging paraan pa bukod sa ganitong travel ban!

CRIS FLORES
They have the right to come back to work.

DENISE HABANA
My family needs to get back to HK where they live.

CHERRY MAE NATIVIDAD
I am a Filipino and HK resident myself. What if this happens to me. How about my job, no pay leave vacations leave, and I still got bills to pay. My colleagues and friends are in this situation right now and I truly understand what they are going through.

ANA RAQUEL ALTRES
Because I'm one of those OFWs affected by the travel ban to hk. And I need job to support my children.

LETECIA MATECYENG
Because I'm one of them stranded here in the Phil. My Job is in HK.and because of this ban I can't see my ward leaving HK and it’s really crazy and makes me crazy too. Pls. lift this ban. Thank you

JENNIFER LOPEZ
Dahil hndi makapunta dito kapalit ko

Bultron: Don't deprive us
of right to travel
RAMON BULTRON
Lift the travel ban!
Do not deprive us of our right to travel!

GILBERT CASELIS
My wife, daughter, and niece are stranded in the Philippines. Wife and niece have their respected work and daughter has school.

FAE MUELLER
They might lose their jobs if they won’t come back to HK soon.

NORA CRUZ
So people can go back to work. Their employment is their source of income.

JOSELINE TANGUID
Allow OFWs to return to Hong Kong & Macau

KAREN DOGUIL
Be a little bit considerate. Not all of them had any contact on a person who have ncov.. Check their health status and allow those who are well enough to work.

NOEMI ALOS
What if employers can't wait for their helper until the ban is over? Can the Phil. gov't give them jobs when they cant come back?

LEE ANN SAMPING
Pls allow those OFWs who want to go back, let us sign a waiver if needed

DIVINA LIM
Travel ban for ground zero (China) not for Hongkong please, Mr President!

VICKY MACARAIG
It’s their right to come back to their jobs, for goodness!
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