Protect OFWs with COVID in Hong Kong, Villanueva urges

Sen. Joel “TESDAMAN” Villanueva is calling on the Department of Foreign Affairs, Overseas Workers Welfare Authority, and Department of Labor and Employment to verify alarming reports of employers in Hong Kong abandoning or firing Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) who tested positive for COVID-19.

“Parusa po sa OFW may sakit na OFW ang tanggalan siya ng trabaho. Labag po ito sa karapatang pantao at common decency, anumang panig ng mundo. (Terminating the contract of a sick OFW is cruel punishment. This is against human rights and common decency in any part of the world),” the senator said. 

The chairperson of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources called on the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong to be proactive and thorough in monitoring these reports. 

“Maraming buhay po ang nakataya dito. Kung may mawalan man ng trabaho, repatriation nila ang kailangang pagtuunan, pati na rin ang COVID-19 treatment ng mga may sakit na OFW.  Kailangan din pong panagutin ang mga employers na mag-aalipusta o mag-abandona sa ating mga OFW, lalo na ngayong panahon ng pandemya,” the senator said. (Lives are at stake here. If an OFW loses a job, we need to focus on their repatriation, as well as their treatment if they have COVID-19. Employers who abuse and abandon OFWs should take responsibility and be accountable especially during this pandemic.)  

Villanueva added that the incoming Department of Migrant Workers should be ready for the immediate and appropriate response for situations like this once the next administration appoints its first secretary. 

The senator said that the new department will have an Undersecretary for Foreign Employment and Welfare Services and an Undersecretary for Policy and International Cooperation to swiftly address the needs of our OFWs. 

Villanueva is the sponsor and principal author of the Republic Act 11641 creating the Department of Migrant Workers 

“Our response to situations like these will be further streamlined under the new department. The new agency should learn from the experiences of our OFWs during this pandemic, as the Department of Migrant Workers will be part of our new normal,” he said. 

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