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Stranded OFWs queue up early for PCG-arranged flights to Manila

09 July 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao

Santos shows her delight at being told by Owwa's Tamayao that she can sign up for the next flight home
At 8:20am today, Jul 9, Lovenrose Santos joined several stranded Filipino domestic workers who lined up for a slot on future group flights to Manila being arranged by the Consulate with Hong Kong carrier Cathay Pacific.

Santos, 43 and widowed, said before the 9am opening of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office, the line of prospective registrants on the side of YF Life Tower on Lockhart Road, Wanchai, had already lengthened to more than a dozen.

The queuing continued when Polo opened its service counters on the 16th floor, where the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration office is located, this time for numbers. A treat of biscuits and instant coffee served by Polo staff enlivened the workers, some of whom said they had not yet had breakfast. 

Pindutin para sa detalye

The registrants who gathered in the conference room said they or their employers had bought them tickets on Cathay Pacific flights, but their bookings had been cancelled. They had booked and rebooked, but to no avail.

One female worker said she missed the flight that left yesterday, Jul 8, and had to register for the next one as her visa would lapse on Jul 18. The woman beside her quickly said hers would expire on Jul 17.

Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao said the flights are special sorties on Cathay flights that Consul General Raly Tejada arranges with the carrier once enough passengers have listed up.
“We cannot tell when the next flight will be. It depends on whether we get enough number of workers who want to go home. When we have a hundred, or 300, then the Consulate will arrange the flights,” Tamayao said.

She said the criteria for selecting those eligible to join the flights are: the workers have lost their jobs and found no new employers; they have valid air tickets, and they are willing to fly home.
Some of the stranded OFWs  are treated to a snack while waiting to sign up for the next PCG-arranged flights

Santos, who is suffering from a voice defect called spasmodic dysphonia, approached Tamayao and explained she has been stranded in Hong Kong since March.

Penniless and staying with her elder sister who works in Pokfulam, the 43-year-old widow said she wants to go home but her booking on Cathay had been cancelled twice, the first for July 8 and the second for Jul 27.

“My two children are worried. They’ve been asking me when I can go home,” she said, her voice quivering.

Santos said her French male employer lost his job at a financial house in March and went back to France with his family for an indefinite vacation. He plans to return to the city and call back Santos when he finds a new job.

The maid said she agreed to a “no work, no pay” arrangement. This means, her employer has kept her employed so she could retain her visa, which is valid until July 2022. In the meantime, she agreed to go home and wait out the crisis until December, at least.

Tamayao advised Santos to rebook her flight and attach a letter or email from her boss explaining her situation. These would be attached to her registration form for the flight.

The OWWA officer also advised her to apply for the labor department’s DOLE Akap financial aid for displaced OFWs.

To Santos, there is hope at last that she will be home soon.


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