Coronavirus chaos leads to job loss for some Filipinos in Hong Kong

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 04 2020 09:09 AM | Updated as of Mar 04 2020 01:39 PM

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MANILA (UPDATE) — Some Filipinos domestic workers lost their jobs in Hong Kong due to increasing cases of the novel coronavirus from China, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration said Wednesday. 

Sixteen Filipinos had their labor contracts terminated by employers who left the Chinese special administrative region in fear of the virus, said OWWA Administrator Hans Leo Cacdac. 

The law allows the Filipinos to stay in Hong Kong and find a new employer by presenting a referral, he said. 

Twelve other domestic workers lost their jobs due to disputes with employers who barred them from leaving the house during rest days to avoid catching the disease, Cacdac told DZMM. 

Philippine representatives are coordinating with Hong Kong authorities over the incident, he said. 

"Malungkot na nangyari pero kung titingnan natin ang kabuuang bilang, hindi naman significant dahil 220,000 ang bilang ng mga Pilipino sa Hong Kong," he said. 

(It's sad that this happened but if we look the total number of Filipinos in Hong Kong, this is not significant because there are some 220,000 OFWs there.) 

A woman wearing protective mask takes a photo in front of skyline building inside a restaurant, following the outbreak of the new coronavirus, in Hong Kong, China Feb. 24, 2020. Tyrone Siu, Reuters/File

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr said Tuesday his agency will prepare the repatriation of the sacked workers "pronto." 

“Deeply disgusted with HK which begged us to let domestic workers return to work," he said in a tweet.

"I extracted promise from Chinese ambassador that they'd be given same protection from COVID-19 as HK residents. I shoulda specified 'from Hong Kongers.'” 

Authorities are also working to repatriate 48 other Filipinos in China's special region Macau and about 15 to 20 OFWs in the mainland who want to go home, said Cacdac. 

Around 90,000 people have been infected and 3,100 killed -- mainly in China -- since the first virus cases emerged in the Chinese central province of Hubei late last year.

The Philippines initially banned travel to China, Hong Kong and Macau due to the virus. It relaxed the restriction and allowed migrant workers to fly to the Chinese special regions in mid-February.