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Laid off & stranded Pinay resident joins clamor for HK to open up

22 August 2021

By The SUN


Castro was laid off from her work at the Cathay Pacific lounge in November last year

A Filipina permanent resident of Hong Kong has joined the call by thousands of migrant workers stuck in the Philippines to be allowed to come in.

Pearl Castro, who has been stranded in the Philippines for nine months, is anxious to take up a new job offer and reunite with her 21-year-old daughter whom she has left behind in Hong Kong.

Castro, 58, said she decided to fly to Manila on Nov 25 last year along with a friend and colleague after they were both laid off from their jobs at the Cathay Pacific lounge at Hong Kong International Airport due to economic fallout from the pandemic.

“After February, babalik na sana ako diyan sa Hong Kong, tapos naging 21 days ang quarantine. Sabi ko, hintayin kong bumaba nang 14 days.”(After February I decided to return to Hong Kong, but the hotel quarantine was extended to 21 days. I told myself I’d wait until it went back to 14 days).

To her dismay, things only got worse when as a result of the big number of people flying in from the Philippines with Covid-19, Hong Kong decided to stop all passenger flights from there starting on Apr 20.

Castro realized then that her indecisiveness had resulted in her being unable to fly back to Hong Kong.

She said she has defaulted on her rent for nine months now and is worried her landlord would throw out her things and drive away her daughter.

Things started to look up when Hong Kong officials announced early this month that the flight ban on high-risk countries like the Philippines would be lifted starting Aug 9 for vaccinated residents, but there was a catch. 

Only vaccination records issued in Hong Kong, China or Macau, or a place whose issuing authority is recognized by the World Health Organization, would be accepted for all travelers from high-risk places. 

With vaccination records in the Philippines not among those recognized by Hong Kong, most of those aching to come back here like Castro still face a blank wall.

Flights from Manila are now open but HK still has to accept Phl vaccination records

The distraught mother says she has a video showing her being inoculated twice, along with a city hall certificate of vaccination with QR code to show proof of inoculation, but realize these are not what Hong Kong wants.

"Baka lang po kasi pwedeng mapasama ako sa mga HK residents na na-vaccine sa HK bago umuwi ng Pinas tapos allowed silang makabalik,” she asked in desperation. (Is there a chance I could be accommodated along with HK residents who had themselves vaccinated there before coming home to the Philippines).

The Filipina said she can’t continue living in the Philippines without money, and work there is a lot more difficult to come by given her age. If she were back in Hong Kong, she said she would already be back at work now.

Her frustration is shared by thousands of migrant workers who have been issued work visas for Hong Kong but are still waiting to be given the all-clear to leave just because their vaccination records are not recognized by the city’s government.

The longer they wait, the more they regret having pinned their hopes on being able to come here and work, never mind if they have to spend a mind-numbing 21 days quarantined in a tiny hotel room.

But the long wait may soon be over, with both the Philippine Consulate and Hong Kong officials saying that they are nearing agreement on getting vaccination records issued in the Philippines accepted here.

A deal, said some reports, may be struck as early as next week.

But even with the issue of recognition out of the way, those hoping to fly out to Hong Kong soonest are well-advised to ensure they have obtained the yellow-colored international vaccination certificate issued by the Bureau of Quarantine. According to Consul General Raly Tejada, this is the vaccination record that Hong Kong authorities are inclined to accept because it contains all the data that they are looking for.

In addition, Hong Kong-bound travelers should book their tickets as soon as the all-clear is given since there are thousands of other people eager to get on the first flight out as soon as they are able to.

Another reason is that quarantine space in Hong Kong is currently difficult to come by, given the recent tightening of restrictions for all inbound travelers.


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