PH top diplomat in Hong Kong opposes forced jabs for domestic helpers

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 01 2021 10:10 PM | Updated as of May 01 2021 11:10 PM

People wear protective masks as they walk outside a shopping mall at Causeway Bay, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China February 21, 2020. Tyrone Siu, Reuters

MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Raly Tejada said the city’s government should not force domestic workers to get COVID-19 vaccines, citing that the measure should apply to all foreign workers so that it will be "non-discriminatory".

"We were not directly consulted on this new measure. It would have been better if concerned Consulates like the Philippines, Indonesia and other countries of origin were consulted on this matter as it involves the substantive (human) rights of our nationals," he said in a statement to reporters.

"The Consulate has been supportive of HK’s 'free and voluntary' vaccination program and have actively campaigned for this. However, our nationals need not be forced to take the vaccine since I am confident that they will do the right thing."

Tejada aired his concern after Hong Kong announced plans to require all 370,000 domestic workers, including overseas Filipinos, to get vaccinated as a requirement for the renewal of their work contracts.

Hong Kong authorities also said that all domestic workers in the city should undergo testing before May 9. Two domestic workers had earlier been found to be infected with mutated strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Tejada said that if vaccination becomes a requirement for work in Hong Kong, then it should be "non-discriminatory."

"If vaccination becomes a condition to work in HK then its application should be non-discriminatory so that there is no feeling among our FDHs that they are being singled out. Maraming non-residents din na similarly situated at pareho ang linya ng trabaho so bakit FDH lang?" he said.

"Wala pang date of implementation ang mandatory vaccination sa mga mag renew ng visa or mag transfer so we will work hard na kausapin sila para sana di na ito maituloy."

Hong Kong migrant worker groups also hit the measure, labeling the move "discriminatory and unjust".

"This is clearly an act of discrimination and stigmatisation against migrant domestic workers," Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chair of United Filipinos in Hong Kong. 

"Again, we are being singled out and targeted."

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Hong Kong labor secretary Law Chi-kwong defended moves to make the vaccination a work visa requirement. 

"Of course they can choose not to work in Hong Kong as they are not Hong Kong residents," Law said.

But Eni Lestari, chair of the International Migrants Alliance, described such comments as "unfair and shocking" since some employers also refused to get vaccinated. 

"A lot of employers also do not get vaccinated because of health, personal or even political reasons, so they won't force their workers to be vaccinated," she said. -- with a report from Agence France-Presse

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