Filipino workers can’t return to China, HK

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MANILA (Philippine Daily Inquirer) — Overseas Filipino workers or OFWs who are presently in the Philippines for a vacation will not be allowed to go back to their places of work in China, Hong Kong and Macau amid the novel coronavirus or 2019-nCoV threat.

The Bureau of Immigration on Monday explained that President Rodrigo Duterte’s ban on Filipinos bound for China and its special administrative regions also cover OFWs based there.

“Temporarily, due to the travel ban, they will not be allowed [to go there]. Because there is no distinction between visa types in the directive for a travel ban,” Bureau of Immigration spokesperson Dana Sandoval said in a press briefing.

“So all Filipino nationals who are in the country will not be allowed to depart for China, Hong Kong and Macau,” she said.

Sandoval issued the clarification a day after President Duterte imposed a travel ban preventing Filipinos from visiting China, Hong Kong and Macau where cases of 2019-nCoV infection were recorded.

Duterte also implemented an entry ban against all foreigners coming from China, Hong Kong and Macau, except for Filipinos and Philippine permanent resident visa holders.

Filipinos and permanent resident visa holders who have been to those places will be required to observe a 14-day self-quarantine period as a containment measure against the spread of the virus.

The President issued the directive as the Department of Health confirmed the country’s first 2019-nCoV death, which was also the second confirmed 2019-nCoV infection in the Philippines.

Passengers, some wearing protective masks, wait for their flights at Manila’s international airport on Monday.  AP

While the government understands that it is the OFWs’ employment at stake, Sandoval assured the public that concerned agencies will be extending the necessary assistance to the OFWs to be affected by the travel ban.

“I believe the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration will be doing their part in ensuring that our countrymen will still keep their jobs despite the travel ban,” Sandoval said.

She said concerned agencies would be coordinating to protect the OFWs’ job security, given the situation.

“I’m sure everyone has been conducting their own restrictions when it comes to travel because of this illness. So I’m sure that people will understand that the government is doing this for the protection of everybody,” Sandoval said.

The entry ban on foreigners has also resulted in more than 300 Chinese nationals stranded in the country, since they were not allowed entry and most of the airlines have already canceled flights to and from China.

Sandoval said the Bureau of Immigration is coordinating with the Chinese embassy in Manila, which had pledged to arrange an aircraft to fetch the Chinese nationals stranded in the Philippines.

“Maybe today or the next few days, we’ll find out the details of these flights that the Chinese embassy will be arranging,” she said.

The figure includes those stranded at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila as well as Chinese nationals who are in different parts of the country but expressed the willingness to go back to their homeland.