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OFWs protest lack of govt support for quarantined workers

16 November 2020

By Vir B. Lumicao 

The speakers at the press conference hold up banners showing their grievances

Migrant workers have blasted what they called as the lack of support from the Hong Kong and Philippine governments for workers who are suffering from the impact of the coronavirus crisis.

The workers voiced out their concerns in a press conference on Chater Road Sunday, Nov. 15, called by the Rise Against Government Exaction (Rage) and United Filipinos in Hong Kong.

Speakers decried what they see as the apathy of the Duterte government to difficulties faced by the workers and their families, especially in the times of contagion and natural calamities.

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“Today we are here not only to show the difficult situation of the Filipino workers but also to protest against the aggravating condition of OFWs during the pandemic and the lack of support we receive from both Hong Kong and Philippine governments,” Unifil chair Dolores Balladares said.

Among the issues brought up was the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corp, where $15 billion was said to have been misappropriated by officials appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Other issues raised were the exclusion of migrant workers from cash handouts by the Hong Kong government, and the selective giving of the Department of Labor and Employment’s US$200 “Akap” cash aid to workers affected by the pandemic.   

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Apart from Balladares, the speakers were Ludy Guinaban of Abra Tingguian Ilocano Society, Marites Palma of the Social Justice for Migrant Workers, and Jocelyn Oriel of Silent Majority.

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Balladares hit out at the failure of the government to take action against those involved in the Php15 billon corruption in PhilHealth. She said that in the wake of the scandal, Duterte replaced the top officials of the state insurer, but they were his own men, so nothing has changed.

Guinaban of Atis said that despite the scandal, and the widespread protest against the mandatory collection of jacked-up PhilHealth contributions, the Duterte regime has done nothing to allay OFWs’ concerns.

In addition, Balladares blasted Dole for saying Hong Kong is a place where OFWs will get priority in the US$200 dole-out, but only gave enough funds for 2,100 claimants.


The latest word from the Philippine Overseas Labor Office is that the money has dried up, and they do not know whether additional funds will be sent for distressed OFWs.

Palma lambasted the inadequate assistance that the government, through Polo, is giving the estimated 3,000 OFWs who are now in quarantine in various hotels in Hong Kong.

She urged the POLO to require the agencies and employers to face up to their responsibility of providing for the needs of the quarantined workers and take action against the agencies and employers that do not perform their role.

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For the past three months, Palma’s group and their donors have provided food, water and basic hygiene kits to about 300 newly arrived helpers who were mostly given just a small bottle of water, a cup of noodles and a can of soft drink for each day of their 14-day quarantine.

Social Justice has also given financial aid to terminated workers who had run out of money renting a room and buying their own food while waiting for repatriation or for a new employer to take them.

Palma also cited the case of the four newly arrived Filipinas who tested positive at Hong Kong airport and were removed by Immigration after they had recovered allegedly because the employers had changed their minds about the workers.

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She said apart from providing them food, water and basic amenities, her group also gave them financial help.

“We raise these issues because we believe it is the responsibility of the recruitment agencies and the Philippine government to ensure that the Filipino workers are given enough and nutritious food while in quarantine,” Palma said.

She said the government, through Polo, should be responsible because it has the data on all Filipino migrant workers who come to Hong Kong, as well as the agencies that deployed them here, and their employers.

“Finally, we also reject the idea of silencing the migrant workers from expressing our views on the incompetence and neglect of the Philippine government on this issue and instead put the blame on the OFWs and those who are helping the workers,” she said.

Oriel said the workers were hurt by their exclusion from the “ayuda” or financial aid from the national government just because Philippine officials thought that as OFWs, they were financially better off than their neighbors.

But of the Php2.4 billion fund set aside for the Dole-Akap fund, only a small fraction of about 15,000 OFWs who were terminated and sent home received the USD200 aid.

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