Palace advises Filipinos to avoid traveling to Hong Kong amid protests

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2019   •   623

Tear gas fired against anti-government protesters in Hong Kong | Courtesy: Photoville International

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Tuesday urged Filipinos to postpone any plans of traveling to Hong Kong amid ongoing anti-government protests that even led to suspension of flights and temporary closure of its international airport.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said this is not the right time to visit following cancellations of flights to and from Hong Kong, a special administrative region of China.

“Avoid muna going there, that’s the advice kasi you’re not sure whether you will reach Hong Kong in the first place,” Panelo told reporters in a press briefing.

READ: Passengers share frustration over Hong Kong flight cancellations, not protesters

Chinese aviation data firm VariFlight earlier reported that about 190 flights were affected by the abrupt closure of the HK airport on Tuesday due to public protests.

READ: LIST: Flight cancellations August 13 due to Hong Kong protests

Hong Kong authorities said airport operations and flights have since resumed following the suspension.

Hong Kong has faced months of sometimes violent protests that began with opposition to a now-suspended extradition bill, and which have evolved into a direct challenge to the government of embattled leader Carrie Lam and calls for full democracy.

The protests are mainly aimed at police stations and government offices, in different districts of the financial hub, and several residential districts.

Despite the ongoing pocket protests in the city, Malacañang maintained it has no plans of issuing a ban on workers deployment to Hong Kong. (with details from Rosalie Coz)

HK closely monitors COVID situation in PH; to accept vax records starting Sept. 1

Marje Pelayo   •   August 31, 2021

The government of Hong Kong announced on Monday that it will accept vaccination records of inbound travelers coming from the Philippines effective September 1.

In a press release, the Hong Kong government said it has updated its list of places with recognized vaccination records adding the Philippines and Indonesia.

“Hong Kong residents who hold vaccination records affirmed by the relevant authorities of these two countries can board a flight for Hong Kong from Group A specified places,” it said.

As for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs), they need to go through standard health procedures upon arrival.

“Foreign domestic helpers holding vaccination records that have been affirmed by the relevant authorities of Indonesia or the Philippines must follow the quarantine arrangements as announced by the Government on August 26, including undergoing 21-day compulsory quarantine in a designated quarantine facility. As for other Hong Kong residents, they can undergo compulsory quarantine in regular designated quarantine hotels,” said Hong Kong’s Secretary of Labor and Welfare Dr Law Chi-kwong.

The updated policy applies to countries considered as ‘Group A’ places in Hong Kong’s travel list.

Hong Kong labels countries/territories with ‘high risks’ of COVID-19 infection as Group A places.

These are Bangladesh, Brazil, Cambodia, France, Greece, India, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Malaysia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America.

Dr Law Chi-kwong added that while the Hong Kong government recognizes the high demand for foreign domestic helpers (FDHs) in the country, they have to impose strict measures because of the COVID-19 variants, particularly the Delta that has been spreading very rapidly.

“We have to ensure that we will not be allowing the virus to infiltrate into our community. Thus, we on one hand have to strike the balance between the demand of the families needing to employ FDHs and, on the other hand, we have to reduce the risk of having the virus coming into our community. Thus, we have to do it steadily and step by step,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said, in case the number of COVID positive cases spikes, they have existing mechanism to stop flights coming to Hong Kong.

Hong Kong has recently issued a two-week temporary ban on flights from Philippine Airlines after three of its passengers tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival at the airport.

“We have to monitor it closely,” Dr Law added.

“It depends on the progress, the risk we are facing and the whole situation at these places of origin for FDHs. You would probably be aware that in the Philippines, the number of cases has been increasing very rapidly recently. So, we have to basically monitor the situation day after day,” he said.

Hong Kong imposes two-week ban on PAL flights

Marje Pelayo   •   August 31, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Hong Kong government has imposed a temporary ban on flights from Philippine Airlines (PAL) until September 11 after three of its passengers tested positive for COVID-19 upon arrival to the territory.

PAL confirmed the suspension in a statement adding that passenger flights from Hong Kong to Manila will remain operational during the said period.

“Philippine Airlines passenger flights from Hong Kong to Manila continue to operate every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, according to our planned schedules. In the other direction, while PAL will not be able to carry passengers from Manila to Hong Kong up to Sept. 11 to comply with the restriction, we will continue to operate all-cargo flights into Hong Kong,” the airline said.

PAL stressed that it is consistently complying with industry protocols both in the Philippines and abroad as it considers the health and safety of passengers its top priority.

“Please note that all our three passengers (2 Filipinos and 1 Chinese national) presented negative Covid-19 test results when they checked in for their PR300 flights,” it said.

On Sunday (August 29), the Hong Kong government reported the detection of COVID-19 positive travelers from PAL flight PR300 during the arrival testing which prompted the two-week ban on PAL flights.

“Separately, as two passenger flights arrived in Hong Kong on August 27, namely PR300 operated by Philippine Airlines arriving from Manila, the Philippines to Hong Kong, and TK083 operated by Turkish Airlines arriving from Istanbul, Turkey to Hong Kong, each had three passengers confirmed to have COVID-19 by arrival testing,” Hong Kong’s Center for Health Protection said in a press release.

“[This] invoked the Prevention and Control of Disease (Regulation of Cross-boundary Conveyances and Travellers) Regulation (Cap. 599H) to prohibit the landing of passenger flights from Manila and Istanbul respectively operated by the above airlines in Hong Kong from August 29 to September 11,” it added.

PAL said all passengers affected by the ban may rebook, refund or convert their tickets into a travel voucher with rebooking and refund service fees waived.

DFA seeks HK recognition of PH vaccination cards

Marje Pelayo   •   August 11, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Wednesday (August 11) assured that the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong is currently ironing things out regarding the issue of unaccepted vaccination cards of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) returning to the territory.

On August 9, the Hong Kong government lifted its travel ban against the Philippines, opening opportunities for thousands of Filipino household service workers to travel to Hong Kong.

They just need to present a negative RT-PCR result and a proof of vaccination.

“Wala naman silang pine-prefer na brand. Ang kailangan lang nila kasi iyong documents from the Philippines na verifiable pero based on IATF resolution meron yatang agency,” noted Labor Attache Melchor Dizon of the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) in Hong Kong.

However, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. in a tweet said OFWs are being rejected because the Hong Kong immigration does not recognize the vaccination card from the Philippines.

“Our vaccination cards are not accepted in Hong Kong because they are not connected to a single source. Poor OFWs going to their jobs in Hong Kong even if jabbed,” Locsin said.

In response to the Secretary, DFA Spokesperson Assistant Secretary Ed Meñez said the Philippine Consulate General’s Office is already working on ways to provide OFWs with internationally-recognized vaccination cards.

“Kasalukuyang nag-mimeeting ang mga ahensya tungkol sa issue na ito. Ang masasabi lang ngayon ay inaayos ng konsulado natin sa [Hong Kong] na magkaroon ng recognition ng BOQ international vaccination certificate for COVID-19 para maka-biyahe ang mga Filipino papuntang [Hong Kong],” he said in a statement.

In another tweet, Locsin said he is expecting the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) to settle the problem.

“Honasan’s DICT will get the job done right. I have known this guy for a long time, not in the Biblical sense; we fought each other as friends,” Locsin stressed.

Currently, there are about 220,000 OFWs in Hong Kong, half of the number are already vaccinated, the POLO – Hong Kong reported. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

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