Over 15,000 newly hired domestic helpers and 10,000 on vacation overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are stuck in the country after the administration has placed a temporary travel ban to prevent the entry and spread the novel coronavirus in and out of China, Hong Kong, and Macau.
The newly hired domestic helpers and vacationing OFWs are scheduled to fly to Hong Kong in two to three weeks, according to the Hong Kong Society of Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (Sharp).
Typically, new hires only have up to three weeks to show up to their employers.
“Filipino domestic helpers from Hong Kong and Macau may lose their jobs if the travel ban and lack of flights to those regions is not resolved by the end of February,” Sharp President Alfredo Palmiery, who is currently in Japan, said in a statement.
Recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said the travel ban could become counterproductive as Filipinos in Hong Kong, Macau and China would hesitate to return to the Philippines now since they know they won’t be allowed to go back.
“The government should issue an exemption for them to return to their jobs or [else they may] lose it if the government insists on the general order on all Filipinos traveling to China and the special administrative regions,” Geslani said.
“The Bureau of Immigration should reconsider and study the implications of our OFWs who only want to work and have been properly recruited and documented by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration to work in Hong Kong and Macau,” he added.
Because of the ban, frustrated OFWs are playing a cat-and-mouse game with immigration officials bent on enforcing a temporary travel ban to China and its special administrative regions.
Others would buy tickets to two different Southeast Asian cities, then there, they would take another flight bound to Macau or Hong Kong.
“Contract workers like me, those with return tickets, should be allowed to leave. We understand that there’s a health emergency. But there are health authorities here and in Hong Kong to check us if we’re fit to work,” an OFW said.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. disagreed with the decision of the government to stop Filipinos from leaving Hong Kong amid China’s coronavirus outbreak.
Locsin said he already appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to allow domestic helpers and other OFWs to go back to their employers who want them to return.