MANILA – Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are growing worried following the Hong Kong government's suspension of visa-free access of Philippine government officials and diplomats.
"What we are more anxious about is if this will further escalate. Then, eventually, the more than 150,000 Filipino domestic workers here in Hong Kong will also be affected and also the rest of the Filipino community here," said Emman Villanueva, secretary general of the United Filipinos in Hong Kong.
Villanueva said the issue would have been resolved and not dragged on if only the Philippine government had issued a formal apology to the victims and survivors of hostage-taking incident in Manila in 2010. Eight Hong Kong nationals were killed in the incident.
"We believe the government has nothing to lose by apologizing to the victims and survivors. I think that will put closure to the issue and move forward from it," Villanueva said.
Hong Kong resident Gloria Taripa also urged the Philippine government not to disregard the issue. She pointed out that Filipinos working in Hong Kong bring in millions of dollars to the economy and that many families depend on it.
"We have a lot to gain from this issue being resolved very quickly," she said.
OFWs not affected by visa sanction
The Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong clarified that the sanction is only applicable to diplomatic (blue passport) or official (red passport) holders.
"Regular Philippine passport holders (green and maroon) are not affected and can still enter Hong Kong for 14 days visa-free," the consulate said.
The suspension of the 14-day visa-free arrangement by the government of Hong Kong will take effect next Wednesday, February 5, 2014.
"This policy will also not affect Filipinos carrying regular passports currently residing and working in Hong Kong," the consulate said.
But even with the clarification, many Filipinos are still concerned of the issue.
"We are worried about what the next sanctions would be because they did say that this is just of the firsts," said Pinoy expat Lappy Capistrano.
She added, "What's next? I'm afraid for our OFWs because there is a huge community of OFWs here in Hong Kong. There is a huge community of Filipino residents here in Hong Kong, and it will affect the livelihood. It will affect our everyday lives and it will affect our families back home".