HK OFWs advised: Change day off to a weekday

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Anti-riot policemen try to stamp out the flames lit by protesters in Wan Chai on Sept. 29.

TO avoid anti-government protests on weekends, Filipino domestic workers could ask their employers if they could take their day off on a weekday, the acting chief of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) said.

Assistant Labor Attache Antonio Villafuerte said that Filipino workers, particularly those who do not have young wards who go to school on weekdays, could ask for a change in their day off so that they can still enjoy their rest day while avoiding the demonstrations.

Many domestic workers have complained that they could not go out on their day off on Sunday because of the protests.

“I-arrange nila with the employer na, halimbawa Sunday is their day off at merong rally, puwedeng kausapin yung employer na ibang araw na lang magday off,” Villafuerte said in an interview.

“Pag-usapan nila so magiging internal arrangement nila ito. Basta sa loob ng isang linggo, dapat meron silang isangaraw na day off,” he added.

Villafuerte said this was one of the measures that were discussed when POLO officials met with the associations of employment agencies here in Hong Kong on how to protect Filipino domestic workers as the protests intensified.

“Kung may agency sila, pwede silang tulungan para maipaliwanag sa employer. Yung wala, puwedeng kausapin nila na ilipat yung day off at huwag sa araw na may rally,” he said.

Hong Kong had been racked with intensifying anti-government protests since June but Philippine Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III clarified that there was yet no order for a mandatory repatriation or deployment ban for Filipino workers in Hong Kong.

Bello issued the clarification amid viral social media posts claiming that Manila had imposed a mandatory repatriation for overseas Filipino workers in HK due to the escalation of violence and protests.

Bello said the Department of Labor and Employment had yet to receive an advise from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on the alert level that would warrant a mandatory repatriation of Filipino nationals.

“Right now, there is no communication from the DFA and even from the consulate of Hong Kong regarding the possibility of repatriation, either voluntary or mandatory. We are in close coordination with the DFA for any development,” Bello said.

He added that the labor attaché in Hong Kong was “updated on the date, time, and venue of the protests on a 24/ 7 basis and immediately issues a weekly advisory for public awareness.”

Bello encouraged the public to ignore the proliferation of fake news on social media and in other web pages and to rely only on the advisories and news bulletins issued by the Philippine consulate and by DOLE.

“I urge the public to ignore this fake news on the internet. For those spreading it, please stop and let us not aggravate the situation and endanger our OFWs. We should help our OFWs there by not giving them false news about (mandatory) repatriation,” Bello added.

He also said that despite the protests, no OFW in Hong Kong had expressed willingness to come home or seek assistance for repatriation.

The protests began in June when the government pushed for an unpopular extradition bill that would have allowed the extradition of people in HK to mainland China.

Lam eventually scrapped the bill but the protest movement had burgeoned into a prodemocracy movement with demonstrators calling for universal suffrage, an independent inquiry into alleged police brutality, the release of arrested protesters, and the removal of the designation of the June 12 protest as a “riot.”

The demonstrators have insisted that all their five demands should be addressed by the HK government.

But instead of going down, the number of Filipino domestic workers in Hong Kong has increased by nearly 3,000 amid the anti-government protests, according to data from the Immigration Department.

The number of Filipino helpers rose from 216,052 in June–when the protests began–to 216,375 in July; 217,961 in August; and 218,883 in September, or an increase of 2,831 workers during the four-month period.