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Showing posts with label Column. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Column. Show all posts

Scourge of our time

Posted on 06 April 2020 No comments

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

What a difference a month makes. If someone told me last month that the novel coronavirus would leave the entire world on bended knees I would have thought that person crazy.

That time, Covid-19 was something thought of as just another disease that started in China, and would dissipate as soon as temperatures rose – much like the way Sars did 17 years ago.

We in Hong Kong were more naturally wary, as we still remember the fear and the pain brought on by Sars. We were the epicenter then, like Wuhan was for the coronavirus.


We took precautions guided by that grim experience, but as it turns out now, not nearly well enough.

Once again an unseen enemy, a new, more ferocious virus, is just outside our door. It is knocking, but we are best advised to stay indoors. Go out only if you must, and always arm yourself, not with a gun, but with a mask and a hand sanitizer.

Not even in our wildest dreams did it cross our minds that we could be fighting a one-sided battle with an enemy that moves like the wind, strikes like a knife, and is not afraid of anyone, be it a prime minister, a king-in-waiting, or a Hollywood star.

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While we were debating whether to lock our borders with China, or shut offices or schools, the enemy decided to move elsewhere.

Down came dozens of tourists aboard two luxury cruise ships in Japan and the United States. At the same time, hundreds of people belonging to a secretive sect in South Korea were virtually mowed down, one after another.

Without a warning, it again reared its deadly head in Europe. First destination was Italy, where the elderly became its easy prey. By the hundreds they fell, that in just about two weeks, the death toll had passed 10,000, a grim reminder that this enemy knows no mercy.

Tunghayan ang isa na namang kwentong Dream Love.

Then it swooped on the mighty countries that were once protagonists in many of the world’s epic battles.

First, Spain, then France, Netherlands, Germany, and finally, the United Kingdom, where the coronavirus lingered to make a point.

Both the country’s prime minister and the second-in-line to the throne were stricken, with neither knowing where the blow had come from.

The onslaught continued, until the high-and-mighty, the one claiming to be the remaining superpower in the world, has been brought to its knees. Its president, who boasted just a few days ago that the United States would be back on track in a matter of days, has completely changed his tune.

Yes, he admits, the virus could kill as many as 100,000 Americans, and this could well be two million if we didn’t take more stringent measures now, like locking up everybody in their homes for another full month, until the enemy withdraws.

In Britain and other more cautious countries, the forecast for when citizens might be allowed to emerge from beneath the trenches is longer, like another six months, even longer.

Just about anywhere, the picture is grim. More frighteningly so in countries which do not have much to spare in terms of funds and other resources, or lack officials who appreciate the danger that stares them in the face, as the Philippines.

Hong Kong, Singapore or even China are not off the hook, either. They may have managed to stave off the enemy because they were better prepared from the Sars experience, but they, too, now face the prospect of squaring off with it again, after it has piggybacked on many of their residents arriving from overseas.

For many of us, the battle for survival continues. Not only in terms of keeping our mortal bodies alive, but also in ensuring we get to hold on to our jobs, our security, and our sanity.

We may be in this for the long haul, but if we do as we’re told by the experts, we will survive. Stay safe, healthy and wise. Remain indoors as much as possible. If all else fails, pray.

We have to believe — that this, too, shall pass.

Mga amo ang naghahawa ng Covid-19 sa DH

Posted on 22 March 2020 No comments

Ni Vir B. Lumicao

Dumarami ang bilang ng mga kasambahay na Pilipinang nahawa ng kinatatakutang sakit mula sa novel coronavirus, o Covid-19, sa kanilang mga amo.

Patunay lamang ito na mali ang panawagan ng Hong Kong Labour Department sa mga dayuhang katulong na huwag silang lumabas sa araw ng kanilang pahinga upang makatulong diumano sa pagpigil sa paglaganap ng naturang sakit.

Mali ang pagkakaintindi ng mga among Intsik taga-Hong Kong sa nasabing suhestiyon ng Labour Department. Inisip nila na ang mga dayuhang katulong ay maruruming nilalang na nag-uuwi ng mga sakit sa kanilang mga pamamahay.


Dahil sa paghihimok na manatili sila sa bahay tuwing araw ng pahinga may isang buwan na ang nakalilipas ay sari-saring pagmamaltrato, diskriminasyon at paglabag sa kanilang karapatang pangmanggagawa at pantao ang dinanas ng mga katulong.

Nang mapabalitang may Pilipinang na nahawa sa sakit na Covid-19 ng among matanda, lalong pinandirihan ng mga taga-Hong Kong ang mga katulong na Pilipino.

May isang Pinay na nagpilit umalis isang araw ng Linggo upang magpadala ng pera sa kanyang pamilya. Pag-uwi ay sinalubong siya ng nagbubungangang amo, hinarang sa labas ng tarangkahan at pinagkuskos sa buong katawang ng tubig na may halong bleach.

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Malamig noong araw na iyon ngunit pinahubad ng amo ang balabal at sumbrero ng Pilipina at ipinatapon ang mga ito sa basurahan. Pagpasok sa bahay ay pinadiretso siya sa banyo at pinapaligo ng tubig na may halong pamatay ng mikrobyo.

May iba pang mga katulong na lumabas din ng bahay at pagbalik ay ayaw palapitin ng mga amo sa kanilang mga kapamilya. Mayroon pang sinabihan na tumabi kapag dadaan ang mga amo dahil baka madikit sila sa katulong.

Isang katulong ang nagkuwentong pati ang buong sapatos niya ay pinapupunasan ng alcohol at baka nga raw may dalang virus.

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Minsan, isang Pilipina ang nataunan namin sa isang mall na nakasuot ng pamprotektang kasuotan sa buong katawan habang nagpapadala ng pera sa kanyang pamilya. Pati ang salaping padala sa pamilya ay nakasilid sa isang plastic na supot.

Ang pinakamasaklap ay, dahil sa sobrang takot o pandidiri, ilang among Intsik ang nagtanggal sa kanilang mga katulong na nagpilit mag-day off.

 Ang mga amo naman na nagtagumpay na hindi pinalabas ang mga katulong nila ay sinamantala ang pagkakataon para utusan silang gumawa sa loob ng bahay kahit pa araw iyon ng kanilang pahinga.

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Sa ganitong mga sitwasyon, walang magawa ang pobreng katulong kundi tumalima, dahil ang marami ay walang sariling kuwarto at ang iba ay nahihiyang magkulong o matulog lang maghapon.

Inilantad ng nasabing panawagan ng Labour ang mga paglabag ng di-iilang amo sa nakatadhana sa kontrata na bigyan nila ang katulong ng sariling kuwarto o disenteng lugar na matutulugan.

Marami sa mga katulong ang umangal na wala naman silang kuwarto at sa salas, kusina, bodega o banyo lamang sila natutulog.

Sa gitna ng di-makatarungang pagtukoy sa mga katulong bilang mga tagapagdala ng virus at di-pagpayag sa kanilang paglabas kapag araw ng pahinga ay patuloy naman sa paggala sa labas, pagsi-shopping at pagkain sa mga restoran ang mga amo nila. 

Ilang araw pa lang matapos na bawalan ang kanilang mga katulong na umalis ng bahay ay napapatunayang ang mga gawaing sosyal ng mga among Intsik ang siya mismong dahilan sa pagkalat ng sakit na Covid-19.

Habang sinusulat namin ito ay limang Pilipinang katulong na napatunayang nahawa ng sakit na Covid-19 sa mga amo. Samakatwid, hindi ang mga abang katulong ang nag-uuwi ng sakit kundi ang mismong mga amo nila.

Hindi pa ba sapat iyon para payagang mag-day off muli ang mga katulong?
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COVID-19 and its impact on OFWs

Posted on 10 March 2020 No comments

By Cynthia Tellez

The novel coronavirus that started in Wuhan, China in December last year has spread fast, and contaminated many people across the globe. The number of affected persons within China alone has now gone up to more than 60,000 with more than 1,000 dead.

There are several advisories from the Centre for Health Protection of Hong Kong’s Health Department in their website about the deadly virus, now known officially as Covid-19. The Immigration and Labour Departments have also published relevant advisories on how to handle the contagion, thus, I will not deal with that in this column.

It is the reaction of several countries implementing stricter immigration controls, banning the entry of people coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau that is our concern. So far, the country that has imposed the most stringent travel requirements for Hong Kong is the Philippines. From Feb. 2, foreigners from any country were barred from entering the Philippines from any of these places. Lately, even Taiwan was added to the list. Only Philippine passport holders can enter but they will be subjected to 14 days’ self-quarantine.


But what is more worrying was the complete travel ban imposed by the Philippine government on its constituents. This means that no Filipinos touring, working or residing overseas will be allowed to leave the country if their destination is China, Hong Kong, Macau or Taiwan. This is puzzling because not one of these destinations has a policy preventing the entry of Filipinos, or in particular, overseas contract workers coming from sending countries like the Philippines.

As a result, tens of thousands of Filipino overseas workers who are on vacation or emergency leave, or are about to leave the Philippines for the first time, have been left stranded in several countries across the country.

We strongly suggest that those affected by the Philippine travel ban should communicate with their employers immediately and ask them for compassion and understanding so they will not terminate your contracts with them, this situation being not your fault – or theirs.

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 Some employers may not terminate the contract but may impose unpaid leave. You should not agree to this because, again, it is not your fault. Encourage your employer to check the insurance policy they were required to take for you because it might just allow them to collect compensation to cover your salary. Some of these insurance policies allow an employer to temporarily hire domestic worker locally (anyone with permanent residency in Hong Kong) for up to three months, and the insurance company will shoulder a substantial portion of the temporary worker’s monthly salary.

 There are those who are encouraged to resign: DO NOT RESIGN! This is but a temporary situation.

 Those who are asked to take a vacation should also think twice because it will be difficult for you to book a flight home, plus you will not be able to return to Hong Kong while the travel ban is in force. You might just end up worrying about your job if the ban lasts far longer than expected.

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 Recently, the HK Labour Department also gave an unsolicited advice to migrant workers, that they should avoid going out on their rest day to prevent being contaminated by the deadly virus. Do not heed the call if you feel you must go out because that is your right. Stay home only because you want to, but remember that you are not supposed to work during this day.

The Mission has received reports that some employers have taken this advice to mean that they can prevent their domestic workers from taking a day off. This is not right. Let us remember that this is just an advisory – an advice- by the Labour Department. It has not changed the Labour Ordinance provision that allows you to have a rest day once every week, or during a statutory holiday.

As a matter of law, there should be a definite rest day for all domestic workers: one day in a week, a continuous 24-hour day-off. This cannot be taken back by the employer without the consent of the domestic worker. And even if there is, there should be a clear agreement, and the unspent rest day must be replaced by another day within 30 days.

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If your employer offers to pay you for that unspent rest day, you should not accept it because that is unfortunately illegal. The rest day cannot be replaced with monetary pay as it is the worker’s right to rest and replenish spent energy.

In some instances, when out of fear of termination of contract, a worker accedes to employer’s instruction not to go out during a rest day. Document this. Keep a diary and write the circumstances in detail.

To many domestic workers, the problem is beyond what is legal or not. Many have problems with their accommodation. They have no room of their own. They sleep in the living room or anywhere in the flat without privacy. It is difficult for them to rest even during rest days. How much more in this particular time when almost all members of the family are around?  They cannot just sit in the living room the whole day and watch their employer do everything “because it is their rest day”.

In this situation, it is understandable that domestic workers will find it strenuous to stay in the house twith their employers. The awkward feeling of seeing the employer does the chores while the domestic worker is “just sitting” is so uncomfortable that it creates more stress than real rest. The natural thing to do is to assist. But before you know it, you are already working even without being asked by the employer.

It is entirely different if you have your own room where you can really rest - an ideal situation in times like this.

In the event that your employer terminates your contract because you refused to work on your rest day, they will be liable to breach of the Employment Ordinance and you can file for compensation with the Labour Department.

For those who are stranded in the Philippines due to the travel ban, it is indeed horrifying to imagine yourself unemployed with the rest of your family depending on you. The Php10,000 in financial aid that you could get from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration, while appreciated, will not be enough to pay for your lost job and the bills that you need to pay, especially if you remain unemployed for months.

There are many more unfortunate situations created by the current condition, complaints that were not covered in this article. Should you wish to consult for more information and suggestions, do not hesitate to contact the Mission for Migrant Workers at this number – 2522-8264 or call Ester at 9711 1673 or Cynthia at 9740 9406 or Edwina at 9488 9044.

This is the monthly column from the Mission for Migrant Workers, an institution that has been serving the needs of migrant workers in Hong Kong for over 31 years. The Mission, headed by its general manager, Cynthia Tellez, assists migrant workers who are in distress, and  focuses its efforts on crisis intervention and prevention through migrant empowerment. Mission has its offices at St John’s Cathedral on Garden Road, Central, and may be reached through tel. 2522 8264.
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Diskriminasyon na lalong nararamdaman ngayong may Covid 19

Posted on 08 March 2020 No comments

Hindi na bago ang ngayo’y nangyayaring diskiminasyon laban sa mga dayuhang manggagawa, na kung tawagin ng mga taga Hong Kong ay kunyang.

Sila ngayon ay iniiwasan at, kung maari, pinagbabawalang lumabas ng bahay tuwing day off nila upang hindi mag-uwi ng coronavirus. Pero bakit sa araw-araw, sila naman ay pinalalabas upang mama-lengke?


Malawakan ang suporta ng mga taga-rito sa hiling ng gobyerno na huwag nang lumabas ang mga DH sa kanilang day off. Pero para sa mga DH, ito ay malaking dagok sa kanila dahil ang kahulugan nito ay legal na silang mapapagtrabaho sa kanilang araw ng pahinga.

Makikita rin na may pagtatangi sa kaitaasan ng pamahalaan, dahil ayaw nilang baguhin ang kahilingan —gaya ng pagbabawal sa mga amo na gamitin ito upang ilegal na pagtrabahuin ang kanilang DH. Ang dahilan nila ay ito ay para din naman sa kabutihan ng mga DH mismo.

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Kabutihan bang maituturing kung, dahil bawal kang lumabas, hindi ka na rin makpagpapadala ng pera sa iyong pamilya? Hindi ka na makakapasyal kasama ang mga kaibigan? Hindi ka na makakabili ng mga kailangan mo sa bahay?

Sa sobrang takot sa sakit, maraming mga employer ang naging OA sa pagbabantay-sarado sa kanilang DH. Dapat, kapag galing sa labas, anila, maligo agad at ang mga damit ay idiretso sa labahan. Mayroon pa nga na nakahanda na ang alcohol at disinfectant upang i-spray sa kanila kapag umuwi. Pero madamot naman sa face mask.


Saan batay ang mga gawaing ito? Siyempre hindi sa syensya. Ayon sa mga eksperto, kailangan mo lang na magsuot ng face mask, madalas na maghugas ng kamay, at panatilihing isang metro ang layo mula sa kausap.

At hindi naman lingid sa lahat na dalawang Pinay lang, sa populasyon na 210,000, ang nagkasakit, at nahawa sila sa kani-kanilang mga amo.

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Kahit noon pa man, nakakapansin na tayo sa liit ng pagtingin ng mga taga-rito sa mga taong nagsisilbi sa kanila.

Isang halimbawa ang isang kainan sa Central na, kung ordinaryong araw, ang kubyertos na ipinagagamit sa mga kumakain ay metal. Kung Linggo, kung kailan ang karamihan ng parokyano ay Pilipino, plastic ang gamit.
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Scrap the travel ban

Posted on No comments

By Daisy Catherine L. Mandap

It has been nearly a month since the Philippine government slapped an ill-conceived and oppressive travel ban to and from Hong Kong. Although it has been partially lifted to allow stranded OFWs and HK residents to return to their homes and jobs, the ban continues to make life miserable for many, especially our migrant workers.

A case in point is the 14-day requirement for all Filipinos to stay in the Philippines for self-quarantine. Without adequate health personnel and facilities to enforce an honest-to-goodness check on every Filipino who has arrived since Feb. 2 when the ban was imposed, this self-quarantine has meant absolutely nothing. And yet it remains, and continues to worry many OFWs planning on taking a home leave soon.

Compounding the problem is the lack of clear guidelines from the government, which leaves the public to rely solely on the direct testimonies of those who have gone home from the time the ban was imposed. But as is often the case in such situations, the story could vary from person to person, and all because enforcers are not themselves sure of what is expected of them.


Our Consulate, which should be explaining the government’s actions, has been left without much to base their statements on, either. Thus, it has refrained from explaining how the so-called self-quarantine, Philippine-style, works.

Like everybody else, the country’s top representatives in Hong Kong know that the quarantine should last for 14 days. But how this period is supposed to be determined, or whether any exemptions could be given in emergency cases, is still anybody’s guess.

Mainly from direct testimonies, one learns that new arrivals are able to leave their houses from day one, and mingle as they wish. Most don’t find the need to keep a daily temperature check as was told them on arrival at the airport because nobody checks on them.

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But this is how it should be, considering that Hong Kong’s rate of infection has remained steady and comparatively low, and the government has maintained a very transparent and efficient system of managing the contagion.

Still, the quarantine requirement is there, ready to be used by zealots like Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia who has forcibly detained arriving passengers from the banned areas, but only if they’re not local residents. Those from Cebu were allowed to quarantine at home. Now, what could possibly justify such a crazy and highly irregular move?

Because of such paranoia, one OFW mother who lived in nearby Bohol was not able to rush to the bedside of her dengue-stricken daughter, the only reason why she decided to go home. With her on the plane from HK were two fellow OFWs who were also prevented from going home, and attending the funeral of a family member.


The partial lifting of the ban sparked the hope of many OFWs that they could now pursue plans of going home, mostly to attend their children’s graduation. But the overwhelming concern now is that they are allowed by their employers only a few days’ leave, which means they cannot complete the 14-day requirement for the mock quarantine.

It makes one feel bad to tell them that they must remain in the Philippines for two weeks, otherwise, they can’t leave. Worse is having to deal with the question of whether they can be granted exemption because all they want is a quick exit to attend a family member’s funeral.

The answer is inevitably a no. Not while the oppressive ban remains in place.

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Another cause for concern is the dearth of flights from Manila to Hong Kong, which has driven up the price of a return air fare, further adding to the distress of stranded passengers. Our two local airlines have been routinely blamed for this, as they have stuck to their announcement of resuming flights only on Mar 28 at the earliest.

It turns out, Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific can’t resume flights because their all-Filipino crew will be decimated after just one day of flying because of the quarantine, and them not being in the list of Filipinos allowed to fly out. No amount of explanation or appeal to the government appears to have worked, to the detriment not just of the airlines, but also their passengers.

But the worst thing to have emerged from this haphazardly crafted travel ban is the requirement that OFWs flying to Hong Kong must sign a declaration or waiver indicating that they chose to leave while knowing the risks involved in flying to Covid-infested HK. Non-OFWs are spared the humiliation, but why?

Why make hardworking Filipinos who make up the backbone of our economy execute this utterly useless and demeaning declaration? As Filipinos, aren’t we all entitled to protection - however little it may mean under this dispensation- from our government?

To add salt to the wound, the bright boys who crafted this useless piece of paper made it a notarial document, so wolves began preying on frazzled OFWs again, making them pay for the form and its notarization - when it’s supposed to be free, and could be accomplished right at the airport before they leave.

Now comes another indication that Hongkongers have been given the short end of the stick in the government’s frantic but belated effort to cobble up a containment policy after the death in Manila on Feb 2 of a Chinese man from Wuhan.

With South Korea reeling from a rapidly accelerating rate of cases – more than a 1,000 now after less than a week – the Philippine government has decided to impose travel restrictions. Filipino tourists are no longer allowed to fly to the virus-plagued country, but residents and OFWs remain free to come and go as they want.

Flying in, the ban was imposed only on those coming from South Korea’s worst infested region, as if there is no way for them to just simply move to another place, and fly from there to the Philippines.

Most unfair of all to Hong Kong travelers is that there is no quarantine being imposed on anyone arriving from the country now seen as the new epicenter of the contagion.

If our government cannot apply our laws uniformly, it should stop hanging on to the vestiges of a ban that now looks more like it was put in place so as not to isolate China, which has become a virtual no-man’s land since the new global epidemic was traced to one of its key cities.

Hong Kong does not deserve to be isolated and its Filipino residents used as pawns in this political game. The oppressive ban must be chucked out in full. Now.
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