Rights group: Reports of COVID-positive OFWs being ditched in Hong Kong are real

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 22 2022 01:35 AM | Updated as of Feb 22 2022 01:50 AM

Reports of Filipino workers being abandoned by their employers in Hong Kong upon testing positive for COVID are real, a labor rights group says. AFP/file
Reports of Filipino workers being abandoned by their employers in Hong Kong upon testing positive for COVID are real, a labor rights group says. AFP/file

MANILA—Reports of Filipino workers being abandoned by their employers in Hong Kong upon testing positive for COVID are real, a labor rights group says.

Eman Villanueva of BAYAN Hong Kong and Macau said his office has informed the Philippine Consulate in Hong Kong of Filipino workers being abandoned by their employers upon testing positive for COVID-19.

"Unfortunately, totoo siya. Sana nga hindi totoo. 'Yung unang-una na mga 3 hanggang 5 na mga kababayan natin na ganyan ang nangyari. Alam 'yan ng Consulate," Villanueva told Teleradyo Monday.

(Unfortunately, it's true. I wish it were not true. The first 3 to 5 cases of our fellowmen who were abandoned, we have reported it to the Consulate.)

He said some of those who were abandoned by their employers have also been dismissed from service.

"Mayroon nga tayong mga kababayan na nag-positive sa COVID but because asymptomatic or 'yung iba mild ang symptoms, hindi sila ina-admit sa hospital kasi overwhelmed 'yung mga public hospitals. Siyempre marami sa kanila, dinismiss na sila along the way," Villanueva added.

(We have fellow Filipinos who tested positive for COVID, but because they are asymptomatic or some have mild symptoms they are not admitted at hospitals because the public hospitals are also overwhelmed. Many of them have been dismissed along the way.)

According to Villanueva, these incidents happen because the employers worry about getting infected as well.

"I'm not saying na mga salbahe talaga ang mga employers, mga Hong Kongers, but I think sa mga ganoong situation, ano lang sila, namimili. 'Yun ang problema. ‘Teka, positive, kaysa kapag pinatuloy, lahat tayo mahawa.’ ’Yung ganoon, ang immediate reaction, 'wag tanggapin," he said, adding that other migrant workers, such as Indonesian workers, are also being abandoned.

(I'm not saying that these employers, Hong Kongers, are bad, but I think in that situation they choose to protect themselves. That's the problem. When they test positive, if I let them in, we might also get sick. That's the immediate reaction, to not let them return.)

Villanueva said his office is helping other workers stranded at airports due to the backlog in the release of RT-PCR test results, a requirement to go back to the Philippines.

May Padawan, an overseas worker in Hong Kong, said the incidents of workers being abandoned by their employers are also on the news in Hong Kong.

"Pero 'yung last 3 days ago, nasa news 'yun eh, 'yung pinalabas siya ng amo niya kasi positive siya. Totoo po 'yun, kasi all over Hong Kong, nasa news po 'yun. Kahit employer ko nagsasabi na ganoon po," she said.

(Three days ago, it was in the news, where an employer refused to let the worker return because of being COVID-19 positive. That's true, because it's in the news, all over Hong Kong, Even my employer is aware of that.)

Padawan said she was lucky that none of her friends has had the same experience.

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The Philippines' Consulate General in Hong Kong earlier said it would hold employers liable for firing Filipino workers who test positive for COVID-19 as the Chinese city faces a surge in infections.

Consul General Raly Tejada said the Philippines will "blacklist" employers that terminate contracts with Filipino workers who contracted the respiratory illness.

"'Yong mga walang pusong employer na nagkasakit na nga 'yong ating mga kababayan, tinerminate pa, pananagutin natin sila sapagkat labag sa batas ng Hong Kong 'yong mag-terminate ng empleyado. Sa madaling salita, hahabulin natin sila," Tejada told ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo.

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello's earlier said there are no Filipino workers who have been dismissed due to testing positive for COVID-19, but Tejada said the consulate has rescued up to 10 Filipino workers who were forced to sleep outdoors after being sacked by employers for testing positive for COVID-19.

Hong Kong is currently in the throes of its worst-ever COVID-19 outbreak, driven by the highly contagious omicron variant. The financial hub is registering thousands of confirmed cases a day, with hospitals reaching a breaking point.