Duterte wants safety guarantees before lifting China travel ban for OFWs: Palace exec

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 05 2020 05:57 PM

Passengers arriving at the NAIA Terminal 1 in Parañaque City wear face masks as a precaution on Jan. 23, 2020. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- President Rodrigo Duterte wants to ensure that safety measures are in place for Filipino migrant workers before he considers lifting a travel ban to China and its territories in light of the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak, a Palace official said Wednesday.

The Philippine government will make a day-to-day assessment of the situation in China, Macau and Hong Kong before allowing Filipino migrant workers to return there, Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles told reporters in Malacañang.

"The President will decide kapag nakikita na niya na stable na, safe na, at puwede nang i-lift 'yung ban of Filipino workers who want to go back and work in Hong Kong and China," Nograles said.

(The President will decide when he sees that the situation is already stable, safe and the travel ban for workers can already be lifted for those who want to return to work in Hong Kong and China.)

"Everything’s on a wait-and-see right now, but I’m sure the public understands why. It’s still very early to finally determine and ensure the safety, kasi (because) right now, all countries are dealing with the situation,” he added.

Manila would like an "official statement" from Beijing guaranteeing the protection of Filipinos from the virus, believed to have originated from Wuhan City in the Chinese province of Hubei.

“Of course, we realize the need for them to start work immediately, we realize the concern about their jobs there but we have to balance that with public health, public safety and the safety of those Filipino workers,” Nograles said.

“The bottomline is, ma-secure natin 'yung safety nila (we secure their safety) and their health. It makes the President more comfortable that he is sending our Filipinos abroad under those guarantees," he added.

The Philippines earlier imposed a temporary travel ban to China, Hong Kong, and Macau as it sought to contain the spread of the virus.

As of Wednesday, Manila already had 3 confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, all travelers from Wuhan.