Hong Kong flight ban seen affecting OFWs

Returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) line up at the Ninoy Aquino Inernational Airport Terminal 2 on August 11, 2020, to return to their provinces after finishing the mandatory 14-day quarantine. Photo by KD Madrilejos/Rappler

The flight ban that Hong Kong will impose on the Philippines will affect about 1,300 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

“Since there will be a two-week temporary suspension on the deployment, their border will be closed due to the pandemic. So half of 2,600, more or less 1,300 workers to be affected,” Philippines Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) chief Bernard Olalia said in a virtual forum.

Hong Kong has banned flights from the Philippines, India and Pakistan for two weeks starting April 20 as a new mutant strain of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) was discovered in the Asian financial hub.

Hong Kong classified the Philippines and the two other countries as “extremely high risk” because of the confirmed infection from new Covid strains there.

Olalia added that most of the affected workers are household service workers (HSWs). Hong Kong is the fourth top destination for OFWs, next to Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Singapore.

“The biggest bulk of our deployment in Hong Kong just like our fellow Filipinos going to the Middle East, majority of them are domestic workers,” Olalia said.

He, however, assured that the temporary travel ban imposed by the Chinese semi-autonomous region will not stop them from continuously processing the documents of applicants.

“Even if there is temporary closure or temporary suspension of flights to destination countries, our POLO (Philippine Overseas Labor Office), our POEA will continue to process deployment documents. It means that the verification being done by POLO will continue. The accreditation of POEA will also continue,” he said.

At the same time, Olalia reported that prior to the pandemic the country is sending 13,000 OFWs to Hong Kong every month and more or less 168,000 annually.

“On the average, we can say some 13,000 OFWs are being deployed every month. This is before the pandemic, in 2019 and prior years. But last year, the deployment dropped by almost 80 percent, only 32,000 deployments, and only 2,600 plus monthly,” he added.



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