Labatt: 61 OFWs died in HK in 2018
A total of 61 Filipinos died in Hong Kong last year and most of them died after they had fallen ill, outgoing Labor Attache Jalilo Dela Torre said.
Speaking at a gathering of friends and supporters who were calling for his retention on March 25, Dela Torre said the issue of “poor health” of many OFWs should be seen through the “context of their stressful working conditions.”
He had said that Project HealthWise, the free medical check up for OFWs, showed that 7.63 percent of those who sought medical assistance were diabetic while 17 percent were hypertensive.
“I would have wanted to stay longer to fight a little bit longer but there are things in this world that are simply not for wishing,” Dela Torre said.
“Our Project Healthwise has uncovered the fact that far too many of our workers are either diabetic or hypertensive, higher than our national average in both respects,” he added.
Dela Torre said that of the 61 OFWs who died in Hong Kong in 2018, 75 percent passed away due to sickness.
“There has to be a way out of this either thru mandatory health checks that even the Indonesian Consulate General has seen fit to require or stronger enforcement and statutory working conditions of 350,000 foreign domestic helpers in Hong Kong,” Dela Torre said.
“The matter of the poor health of many of our workers should not be treated as an isolated issue. It has to be understood in the context of their stressful working conditions,” he said.
Dela Torre is set to be reassigned to Saudi Arabia, leaving behind Hong Kong with its more than 214,000 Filipino domestic workers. However, members of the Filipino community and other stakeholders are calling for his retention.
“I therefore say goodbye to Hong Kong comfortable with the thought that I have given it my best shot and, in the process, gained so many friends,” he said.
The Philippine Consulate General had been asking the Hong Kong government to require annual medical exams for foreign domestic workers.
According to data from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), the illnesses of OFWs hospitalized here in Hong Kong included stroke (36 percent), cancer (27 percent), tuberculosis/ lung problems (13 percent), mild depression (21 percent), and fracture/ spinal problems (three percent).
“Caring for and fighting for worker’s rights here in Hong Kong is never an easy one as many of you present here tonight can attest. The numbers are simply overpowering, the issues intractable, the adversaries strong,” Dela Torre said.
“But we should never give up because along the way there are little triumphs, little victories and big lessons which makes the fight worth waging,” he said.
Dela Torre said the community’s “small victories against window cleaning, against human trafficking, against rogue agencies and abusive employers were worth fighting for.”
“I can only express my gratitude for the whole community for their working hands,” he said.
“There is still plenty of items on the reform agenda–working hours, suitable accommodations, food. (These are) very basic issues which I would have thought we never had to fight for. But we do and it is sad that we have to,” he added.