Health waivers mandatory for Filipinos leaving for Hong Kong, Macau

Marje Pelayo

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino household helpers may now return to their employers in Hong Kong after the Philippine government ordered a partial lifting of the travel ban amid the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Brigido Dulay confirmed the order on Tuesday (February 18) as Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo noted that the partial lifting was in response to the mounting requests from returning workers to Hong Kong.

“There had been persistent requests from the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) themselves,” he said.

“In fact, I received one call that he was fired from that position because he has not gone back, maybe that’s the reason why,” he added.

However, confusions emerged over the terms and conditions for their return, specifically the government’s requirement that they sign a written declaration acknowledging the risk of coronavirus infection if they head to the administrative territory.

But the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) stressed that such declaration is mandatory.

“With the exemption, OFWs returning to Hong Kong and Macau shall be required to execute a declaration which states that they are aware of the risks involved,” the DFA said in an advisory.

“Newly-hired Filipino employees are likewise exempted from the ban as long as they also sign the form that can be obtained from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA),” it added.

Nonetheless, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teddy Locsin assured that despite the risk, the government will always be ready to provide them assistance even as one Filipino maid has been confirmed positive for the virus.

“Don’t worry, they’ll sign health waivers but we won’t waive our obligation to take care of them wherever they are,” Locsin said.

Aside from the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), Filipinos with permanent residency status in Macau and China are also allowed to depart as well as Filipino students enrolled there.

Meanwhile, Filipino travelers from China with foreign spouses and their children will also be allowed entry to the Philippines as well as all holders of diplomatic visas subject to a 14-day quarantine period upon arrival.

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