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PCG to ensure employers provide food, other needs of quarantined OFWs

12 November 2020

 By Vir B. Lumicao 

PCG meets with Filcom leaders on how to respond to the needs of quarantined workers

Newly arrived Filipino domestic workers who are under quarantine will no longer have to appeal for food, water and services from well-meaning compatriots, under an agreement struck today, Nov 11, at the Consulate.

Consul General Raly Tejada, his key officials and several community leaders all agreed to create a mechanism that will ensure newly arrived FDWs who are under the compulsory 14-day hotel quarantine are given enough provisions by their employers.

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This involves creating a chat group where distress calls from FDWs who are in quarantine can be reported for quick action.

Congen Tejada called the meeting at the request of Filipino community leaders who complained that employers and employment agencies have been shirking their responsibility of looking after the needs of the workers.

CG Tejada, center, is flanked by Consul Saret and Labatt Dizon

As a consequence, several groups, notably the Social Justice for Migrant Workers and the Bethune House Migrant Women’s Refuge, and private individuals like Gail Hills of Pintura Circle, have been taking on the task of providing food to quarantined workers.

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This was despite a categorical advisory from the Hong Kong Labour Department that employers should bear the cost of the food and accommodation of their FDWs during the compulsory quarantine.

A separate memorandum issued by Labor Attache Mel Dizon in March obliged employment agencies to advise employers to ensure that all the needs of the quarantined workers were met. This includes not only food, but also masks and disinfectants.

A volunteer presents each food pack to the hotel staff for checking

Minsan hindi nakikita ng mga agency at employers ang pinagdadaanan ng mga nasa quarantine. They’re eating only noodles,” ConGen Tejada said as he cited the efforts of charitable community members who have been delivering provisions to the workers.

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He directed Consul Paulo Saret, head of the assistance to nationals section, to form a  chat group where the community leaders can report urgent cases.

Aside from ConGen Tejada and Saret, the meeting was attended by Labatt Dizon,  Assistant Labor Attaché Angelica Suñga, and Welfare Officer Virsie Tamayao from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

The community leaders present included Cynthia Abdon-Tellez, general manager of Mission for Migrant Workers; Edwina Antonio, executive director of Bethune House; Dolores Balladares, chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong; Gail Hills, president of Pintura Circle; and Baby Jean de Leon, administrator of Domestic Workers Corner.

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Also present were Daisy Mandap and Leo Deocadiz, editor and publisher, respectively, of The SUN

The leaders brought up their concern about the urgent needs of the workers, many of whom reportedly get only 14 small bottles of water and the same number of cup noodles and soft drinks for their two-week quarantine.

A message sent by SJMW founder Marites Palma, who couldn’t attend the meeting, said her group has assisted about 500 quarantined workers since compulsory quarantine for new arrivals was imposed in early March.

Each lunch pack comes with a 1 litre of bottled water

Bethune House has also been getting its share of the burden, despite its own needs to look after distressed workers in its shelter.

Lately, Hills has, on her own, been responding to the calls for help. She has so far made five food runs, delivering around 20 food packs each time to hotels located in as far away as Tsuen Wan and Yau Ma Tei.

But despite such efforts, many more newcomers are not reached nor heard of, since they presumably don’t know who to ask for help.

Mandap cited Immigration statistics showing that from Sept 1 to Oct 31 alone, more than 3,000 FDWs have arrived in Hong Kong, and should have gone through the mandatory quarantine.

In time, she said the limited resources of the volunteers would have been exhausted, when it is the employers who should be doing the task of feeding the workers.

“Bakit sa community napupunta ang burden?” said Mandap, who also asked why the Philippine Overseas Labor Office is not following up on its own directive to agencies to ensure the employers assume their contractual responsibility.

In reply, Labatt Dizon said he would seek advice, and then issue a directive to the agencies to respond to the problem, or face sanction.

“Basically, we are one in making sure na ang ating mga kababayan are protected and their welfares are upheld,” said ConGen Tejada.

He said the Consulate shared the community’s concern about the quarantined workers’ situation but the matter had not been reported to him on time, otherwise, immediate action would have been taken.

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