By Genalyn Kabiling
Filipino workers returning to China and its special administrative regions will be prohibited from leaving the country amid the threat posed by the 2019 novel coronavirus acute respiratory disease (2019 nCOV ARD), an immigration official said Monday.
Bureau of Immigration (BI) Spokesperson Dana Sandoval said these Filipino workers are covered by the temporary ban to China and its territories as ordered by President Duterte.
“Temporarily po due to the travel ban hindi po muna, because wala pong distinction between visa types doon sa lumabas po ng direktiba doon sa travel ban (Due to the travel ban, they are temporarily not allowed to leave because there is no distinction between visa types in the travel ban),” Sandoval said in a Palace press briefing when asked whether vacationing OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) will be allowed to return to China.
“So lahat po ng Pilipino (So all Filipino) nationals who are in the country will not be allowed to depart for Hong Kong, China, and Macau,” she added.
She explained that the travel restriction is one of the government’s measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Filipinos.
“Given the situation, I’m sure everyone understands that each country has been conducting their own restrictions when it comes to travel because dito nga sa kumakalat na sakit na ito (because of this illness). So I’m sure that people will understand that we are doing this, the government is doing this for the protection of everybody,” she said.
Concerned government agencies are expected to provide assistance to Filipino workers affected by the travel restrictions due to the coronavirus threat, Sandoval said.
“We fully understand po, because eh kung iyon ang talagang ikinabubuhay nila, but I believe po, the POEA and the OWWA will be doing their part po in ensuring na itong mga trabaho po nitong ating kababayan abroad ay mananatili despite this travel ban (We fully understand because that’s their livelihood. but I believe the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will be doing their part to ensure they can keep their jobs despite this travel ban),” she said.
In the wake of the global outbreak of the nCoV, the Philippine government has temporarily prohibited Filipinos from traveling to China and its special administrative regions.
As precautions against nCoV, foreigners coming from China and its special administrative regions are also barred from visiting the Philippines, while Filipinos are allowed to return home but must undergo a two-week mandatory quarantine.
The respiratory virus has rapidly spread in China and other countries, infecting hundreds of people and killing more than 300 people in China. The first death outside China was reported in the Philippines.