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Stranded OFWs appeal travel ban

Task force to meet Monday to address issue

An official Philippine government ban for Filipinos stranded at home to return to their previous posts overseas has encouraged Hong Kong-based Filipinos to ask the international court to appeal to Manila to let them return to the special Chinese administration region.

Stranded OFWs appeal travel ban
HEALTH PROTOCOL. Overseas Filipino workers from Kaoshiung, Taiwan line up for a medical check as part of health security measures amid the COVID-19 outbreak. Che Santos
Joms Ortega, a kindergarten teacher in Hong Kong, said their Facebook group #StrandedPH sent an appeal before the International Court of Justice in the Hague on Thursday.

“Some of our group administrators and moderators... created the letter, and pinaedit sa aming advisers (we asked our advisers to edit),” he told ABS-CBN News, read nationwide.

The group claims to have 1,000 overseas Filipino workers employed in Hong Kong.

“We sent it (to the) International Court of Justice (so the information would spread in the) international community. The ban that was imposed was quite unfair,” he said, in a mix of English and Filipino.

#StrandedPH has also written to foreign media about their plight, he added.

At the same time, the Philippine government is ‘looking into’ removing the travel restrictions imposed on visitors from China’s special administrative regions as protective measure amid the novel coronavirus health threat, a tourism official said Saturday.

“Yes, we are looking into (removing the travel ban on Hong Kong and Macau) as long as stricter protocols are imposed,” Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat told CNN Philippines’ Newsroom Weekend.

Required protocols

Romulo-Puyat said at present, Hong Kong and Macau have yet to meet the required protocols.

In related developments:

• Rep. Bernadette Herrera of the party-list group Bagong Henerasyon said the Philippines had so far been able to control the spread of COVID-19 because of the government’s unified efforts to educate the public on the disease.

Available data from the Department of Health indicate that the authorities have been gaining the upper hand against the disease.

“They have done a good job so far at managing the spread of COVID-19. They did not allow themselves to become distracted by the public’s irrational panic and by baseless criticism from unknowledgeable armchair pundits,” Herrera said.

At least 261 patients under investigation were discharged from hospital confinement after testing negative and recovering from the illnesses that were not COVID-19.

Herrera added: “Since the last confirmed third case on February 5, which was over a week ago, we have not had any new confirmed cases. In fact, the first case has been discharged from hospital after testing negative in post-recovery from COVID-19.

“On top of that, over 250 patients under investigation have tested negative and the first patient has recovered and was discharged from hospital confinement.

“Only 191 admitted patients under investigation as of February 14 remain. I stress that these PUIs are not confirmed cases. They are all isolated in quarantine facilities of hospitals.”

She appealed “to the people who share about COVID-19 not to spread alarming ‘fake news’. The total number of cases does not paint the accurate picture of the COVID-19 situation.

“Please go into the details of the numbers. More PUIs tested negative, the number of pending cases decrease daily and many have been discharged.”

She added: “All these indicators point to clear progress. Test results on less than 200 patients are pending. The rise in the number of negative results continues to gives us hope the country’s efforts to contain the spread of the virus are succeeding.”

Zero local transmission

The Department of Health earlier reported there had been zero local transmission so far. The only confirmed cases were the three Chinese tourists.

• Two lawmakers welcomed the government’s decision to remove Taiwan from the list of areas covered by the country’s travel ban, saying the move would benefit the 120,000 overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan and help lessen the virus’ impact on the economy.

READ: Taiwan takes offense at PH travel ban, plans to strike back

“This is good news for the thousands of our kababayans working in Taiwan, particularly those who regularly travel to and from Taiwan,” Minority Leader Rep. Bienvenido Abante Jr. said.

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro’s second district echoed Abante’s view.

Rodriguez said the lifting of the travel ban was justifiable as “the World Health Organization report of countries with reported infections did not include Taiwan as of last Wednesday, Feb. 12. There is no single case in our friendly neighbor in the north.”

Rodriguez.earlier said the travel ban also covered overseas Filipino workers in Taiwan.

He added that OFWs who wanted to go home could not do so, while those here for a short vacation or to visit their families could not return to their jobs due to the travel restriction.

Abante, the minority bloc leader, said: “I understand that our health officials want us to take every precaution to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in our country, and I commend them for the steps they have taken to monitor and contain the disease.”

Economic effects

“However, the measures we take must also take into consideration the initiatives made by other governments to take similar precautions, as well as the advisories from WHO,” added the solon.

“When it is determined that travel restrictions are not necessary, then we should not impose them so as not to further exacerbate the adverse economic effects of the outbreak.”

Abante earlier questioned the imposition of travel restrictions covering Taiwan, pointing out in the joint hearing of the House committees on Economic Affairs and Tourism that a travel ban covering Taiwan had not been included in any World Health Organization advisory.

•  The Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in the Philippines welcomed the announcement made by the Philippine government to remove Taiwan from the travel ban, which was enforced by the Bureau of Immigration for five days.

Taiwan assured it was implementing all measures needed to contain the spread of COVID-19 and would continue to work closely with the international community, including the Philippines, to fight against the COVID-19 to safeguard the health and welfare of humanity.

“The Republic of China (Taiwan) attaches great importance to its long-standing relationship with the Republic of the Philippines. We are determined to strengthen our bilateral ties and promote our people-to-people connectivity,” TECO said in a statement.

TECO also expressed deep appreciation to all Filipino friends who have voiced their sincere support for removing Taiwan from the temporary travel ban.

MECO commended

“We especially commend the Manila Economic and Cultural Office for its tireless efforts to help remove Taiwan from the travel ban,” it added.

* The group of licensed recruitment agencies deploying to Taiwan PILMAT (Philippine Manpower Agencies Accredited to Taiwan) is elated over the lifting of the travel ban which unduly delayed the departure of 5,000 OFWs for their jobs in Taiwan.

Aida Gerodias, Pilmat president, in a statement Saturday, thanked the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19 for recommending the lifting of travel ban in view of the absence of local transmission of COVID-19 in Taiwan as well as the low volume of travelers coming from that country.

Gerodias praised the persistent efforts of  Manila Economic and Cultural Office Chairman Lito Banayo in coordinating with Taiwan’s Council of Labor Affairs in assuring Taiwan that the Philippines was cooperating in the lifting of the ban and considering the adverse effects of the prolonged ban on the future of the Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). 

“The untiring efforts of Department of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III in convincing the IAFT on the importance of keeping Filipino jobs secure with their Taiwan employers was given credit by PILMAT and the remittances of the Taiwan OFWs major contribution to the Philippine economy of one US billion dollars annually,” said Gerodias.  

PILMAT said that they would closely cooperate with DOLE and MECO in ensuring the safety and security of Filipino workers in Taiwan in the fight against COVID-19.

Major commercial carriers like Cebu Pacific Air and Philippine Airlines resumed their flight operations to and from Taiwan on Friday night following the official announcement from the Office of the President about the lifting of the travel ban.

Travel restrictions lifted

Bureau of Immigration chief Jaime Morente said he had instructed all port personnel to allow the entry of arriving foreign nationals and Filipinos from Taiwan.

“We have received an order from the Office of the President lifting the travel restrictions,” said Morente.

“This follows the resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Infectious Disease (IATF), which we are bound to implement immediately. Hence, travel may now be made by any foreign national to Taiwan from the Philippines and vice versa,” he said.

Also included in the lifting are members of the diplomatic corps, regardless of nationality.

“We believe there are studies being done by the IATF to possibly lift the travel ban in other jurisdictions. We are on standby, ready to implement any policy change as deemed appropriate by the IATF,” said Morente.

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READ: Public warned: No cure for n-CoV; only hygiene

Topics: Hong Kong , ban. #StrandedPH , International Court of Justice , overseas Filipino workers
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