By Leslie Ann Aquino
Thousands of Filipino domestic helpers from Hong Kong and Macau may lose their jobs if the travel ban and lack of flights to the two regions are not resolved within the end of February.
“Ten thousand household service workers (HSW)who are on vacation and have travel documents from the POEA as Balik-Mangagawa OECs (overseas employment certificate) will lose their current jobs with HK employers if they cannot return on time as they have only two weeks vacation given to them by their employers,” said Alfredo Palmiery, President of the Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (Sharp).
Palmiery said 15,000 HSWs with new contracts from their employers in Hong Kong only have two to three weeks to fly to Hong Kong to start their work.
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III had earlier ordered the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration to give monetary assistance and accommodations to the stranded workers until the ban is lifted and flights are resumed by major carriers Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific.
However, recruitment consultant Emmanuel Geslani said workers have complained that they only want to go to the jobs waiting for them in Hong Kong and Macau.
“The 250,000 Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong and Macau are very much worried about losing their jobs if the Philippine government stops them from returning to their jobs in Hong Kong and Macau over a travel ban imposed on all Filipinos traveling to the two Special Administrative Regions (SARs) of China because of the novel coronavirus now spreading to all of Asia and in some parts of the world,” he said.
“The vacationing Filipino workers have only two weeks’ worth of vacation leave from their employers and the government should issue an exemption for them to return to their jobs or lose it if the government insists on banning the travel of all Filipinos to China and the two SARs,” added Geslani.
In Hong Kong where there are about over 200,000 Filipino domestic workers, majority have expressed that they would not go back to the Philippines due to the new travel ban.
“This is similar to a survey conducted in Hong Kong last year at the height of the government protests wherein 95 percent of Filipinos would not return to the country despite the call of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to come home because of the violent protests in the city,” he said.
Around 300 OFWs, mostly bound for Hong Kong and Macau, were stranded in the airports on Monday following the travel ban imposed by President Duterte over the weekend due to the threat of the 2019-nCoV ARD.