Recruiters: We will require employers to give FDH face masks

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People line up to order face masks in Tai Po

Recruitment agencies asked the labor department in the Philippines to allow thousands of Filipina domestic helpers affected by the travel ban to fly to Hong Kong, saying that they will make sure safety precautions will be taken by the employers, including providing domestic helpers face masks.

Alfred Palmiery, president of the Society of Hong Kong Accredited Recruiters of the Philippines (SHARP) wrote the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration on Feb. 5, where he said that their member-agencies will work hand-in-hand with their counterpart foreign recruitment companies to make sure that employers will give domestic workers face masks.

Palmiery said this as the Philippine government continues to bar Filipinos – including overseas Filipino workers – from flying to mainland China and its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a travel ban following the death of a Chinese national infected with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) on Feb.2. The said virus has affected over 31,000 people in 28 countries and territories, with majority of the infections reported in mainland China.

The temporary ban prohibits the entry of foreign nationals from China and its SARs to the Philippines. Filipinos and Permanent Resident visa holders will be allowed to go, but they will be quarantined for 14 days.

“Jointly with our counterpart FRAs (foreign domestic agencies) and employers, we will ensure their safety and protection from the virus and will monitor their situation regularly,” Palmiery wrote.¬† “We will require their employers to provide them with face masks and limit their going out from the house to very necessary and important errands only.”

Migrant workers’ groups have said they have received reports of foreign domestic helpers lacking access to face masks, alcohol and hand sanitizer.

Johannie Tong, community relations officer of the Mission for Migrant Workers, said in a press conference on Feb.5 that they gathered accounts where some even “reuse masks for 2-3 days.”

Sringatin from the Network of Indonesian Migrant Workers, meanwhile, said their organization distributed free masks to domestic helpers, but said that the provision of masks should mainly be the job of the government and should not be passed to others, including agencies.

“Don’t give this responsibility to agencies,” she said.

The Indonesian consulate has started to give free six face masks for each Indonesian, while the Philippine General Consulate is in the process of procuring masks to be given to Filipinos in Hong Kong.

Tong said they are aware though that employers are also having a difficult time in accessing face masks themselves, with thousands of Hongkongers queuing to buy face masks from pharmacies and stories becoming a common sight as cases of infection increase in the city. Hong Kong has recorded at least 22 cases of people with 2019-nCoV, with one casualty.

She said the Hong Kong government should then do something to address that problem and include foreign domestic helpers in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“The government must ensure that there will be additional masks, alcohol for everyone in Hong Kong,” she said. “Act on that shortage.”