By Genalyn Kabiling
Filipino workers may be allowed to return to China and its special administrative regions only if their safety and health are guaranteed amid the coronavirus threat, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said.
But for now, Nograles said the government’s restriction on Filipinos against traveling to China will stay because of concerns for the safety and protection of Filipinos. A daily assessment of the situation will be conducted to determine if it would be safe to allow Filipinos to return to their jobs in China.
The decision was reached following an “intensive discussion” on the issue during the Cabinet meeting convened by President Duterte in Malacañang last Tuesday.
“We realize the need for them to start work immediately. We realize the concern about their jobs there, but we have to balance that also with public health, public safety, and safety of those Filipino workers,” Nograles said in an interview with reporters at the Palace.
“We will assess it day by day and the President will decide kapag nakita na niya na stable na, kapag safe na at puwede na i-lift yung (if he sees the situation is stable, if it’s safe to lift the) ban of Filipino workers who want to go back and work in Hong Kong or China.”
As part of the precautions against the spread of the 2019 novel coronavirus, the President recently prohibited from Filipinos from traveling to China, Macau, and Hong Kong for the meantime.
Duterte also temporarily prevented travelers from China and its territories from entering the country amid the outbreak of the virus. To date, the country has three confirmed cases of coronavirus, including a death of a Chinese patient.
Nograles said they are also waiting for China’s official pronouncement guaranteeing the safety of Filipino workers before Manila resumes their deployment.
He said Chinese officials have offered assurances to guarantee the health and safety of the Filipino workers in a “private exchange” with Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. However, the details of such a guarantee have yet to be released.
READ MORE: China virus death toll rises to 490: govt
“When you say you guarantee it, what does it mean? How do you guarantee it? Wala pa ‘yung details (There are no details yet) so that’s why we take it day by day, it’s going to be a day-to-day assessment of things, the guarantees, the protocols, and everything,” Nograles said.
“The bottom line is ma-secure natin ang (we secure the) safety nila and their health and it makes the President more comfortable na he’s sending our Filipino workers abroad under those guarantees. Then i think he’ll be more comfortable to lift it by that time. Unless we get that, then otherwise nandun pa rin ‘yung temporary ban (the temporary ban stays).”
To Filipino workers affected by the travel ban on China, Nograles said the Department of Labor and Employment has prepared a package of assistance. The government aid includes cash, livelihood aid, and redeployment to another country.
READ MORE: DOH confirms third case of nCov in the PH