POEA: Roughly 1,300 OFWs will be affected by 2-week Hong Kong travel ban

MANILA, Philippines — Approximately 1,300 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will be affected by Hong Kong’s 14-day travel ban on the Philippines due to a new coronavirus strain, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) said Monday.

POEA administrator Bernard Olalia said the country deploys an average of 2,600 workers to Hong Kong per month, and half of this will be affected by the travel restriction.

Hong Kong said over the weekend it will suspend flights from India, Pakistan, and the Philippines starting April 20 for two weeks after it detected for the first time the N501Y mutant COVID-19 strain.

“Magkakaroon ng dalawang linggo na temporary suspension of deployment dahil nga sarado ‘yung kanilang border dahil sa pandemya,” Olalia said in a press briefing.

(There will be a two-week temporary suspension of deployment because their borders are closed due to the pandemic.)

“So kalahati ng 2,600 ay hindi makakaalis. More or or less nasa 1,300 ang apektado doon sa pagpunta sa bansang Hong Kong,” he added.

(So, half of the 2,600 will not be able to leave the Philippines. More or less 1,300 OFWs are affected by the ban.)

Despite the ban, however, POEA and the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) will continue processing and issuing overseas employment certifications, according to Olalia.

“Ang POLO tuloy po yan. Ang accreditation sa POEA tuloy po yan, kasi may 60 days na validity period ang OEC so kahit may temporary suspension mag-hihintay sila kapag na-lift ‘yun. Kapag na-lift in two weeks time, valid pa rin ‘yung OEC na na-issue,” he said.

(POLO and POEA will continue processing documents because OECs have a 60-day validity so even if there’s a temporary suspension, they can just wait for it to be lifted. In two weeks’ time, their OECs will still be valid.)

OFWs with canceled flights due to the Hong Kong travel ban should coordinate their concerns with their respective private recruitment agencies, Olalia said.

Olalia noted that Hong Kong is the fourth top destination for OFWs. Before the pandemic, the Philippines was able to send about 160,000 workers to Hong Kong in a year. This dropped to 32,000 in a year or about 2,600 a month due to the pandemic.

Hong Kong said the Philippines, India, and Pakistan will be classified as “extremely high risk” following multiple imported cases carrying the new coronavirus strain into the Asian financial hub in the past 14 days.