Filipino workers in Hong Kong who bought fake tickets from a travel agency will now be able to spend Christmas with their loved ones in the Philippines after Malacañang agreed to shoulder the roundtrip travel fares of affected workers, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday.
"Our kababayans in Hong Kong and other parts of the world have a very special place in President Duterte's heart and it is just right that we make their Christmas wishes come true by doing what we can to bring them home,"Cayetano said.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment will split the cost of roundtrip air travel of the affected workers, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said.
Cayetano said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also placed the Philippine Air Force on standby in case air assets would have to be flown to Hong Kong to ferry the workers home.
He also instructed the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong to file criminal charges against PEYA Travel, the Filipino-owned travel agency that defrauded the workers.
"We also will pursue a civil suit against PEYA Travel to compensate our kababayans for the damages they suffered," Cayetano said.
Arriola said affected workers will be asked to issue an undertaking assigning the refund of their tickets bought from PEYA Travel to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.
Arriola said Philippine Airlines and Cathay Pacific have offered discounted airfare and will also dispatch bigger aircraft to accommodate the stranded workers to ensure they will be home before Christmas.
Cebu Pacific has also offered 50 complimentary return tickets for the affected Filipinos who are mostly household service workers, Arriola said.
Acting Consul General Roderico Atienza said approximately 160 victims have approached the Consulate to seek assistance but he expects the number of victims seeking assistance to go up.