By Raymund Antonio
The request of stranded Hong Kong-based overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Manila to return to China’s special administrative region will be taken up by the government’s inter-agency task force when they convene on Feb. 17.
In a radio interview on DZMM, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed their scheduled meeting on Monday to discuss the “possible consideration” of the OFWs’ request to sign a waiver and be allowed to return to Hong Kong.
The inter agency task force on the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) is headed by the Department of Health (DOH).
“Walang sisihan kung sakaling magkaroon kayo ng risk sa Hong Kong, kasi po ang Hong Kong napag-alaman na mayroong local transmission ng COVID-19,” Duque said.
(You should not blame us in case someone becomes at risk in Hong Kong because we learned there is local transmission of COVID-19 in Hong Kong.)
Duque made an appeal to the stranded Filipino workers to be patient, pending their next week’s meeting.
A group of 1,000 OFWs signified their intention to sign a waiver should they be allowed to return to Hong Kong despite the risk of being infected with the deadly virus.
A travel ban covers visitors coming from mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau, and also restricts Filipinos from traveling to those countries amid the COVID-19 threat.
The Health secretary noted the task force was given two weeks upon the order by President Duterte to make risk assessments on Hong Kong.
Aside from a waiver from the OFWs, Duque said their foreign employers should likewise ensure their safety.
“Pati ‘yung inyong employer, dapat magbigay din ng undertaking na ‘di kayo pababayaan at kayo ay pangangalagaan at ilalayo sa kapahamakan,” Duque said.
(Your employers should give you an undertaking that you will not be abandoned, they will take care of you, and keep you safe from harm.)
In a tweet he posted on Saturday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. reiterated that it’s about time to allow the return of OFWs to their respective employers in Hong Kong.
“Eagerly awaited. HK has better facilities to contain virus. I promised that in two weeks we will reconsider,” he wrote.