Presenting their appeal for a travel ban exemption, OFWs from Mainland China attended the Committee meeting on Health at the House of Representatives on Wednesday morning, 11 March 2020. They were accompanied by Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion and House Rep. Arlene Brosas of Gabriela Women’s Partylist.
Marjorie Reyes, an OFW who works as an Electronics Engineer in a factory in Zhuhai, China was among the panelists who raised the group’s concerns to the Department of Health, represented by Secretary Francisco Duque III. Marjorie Reyes said that OFWs have already been asked by their companies to return to work. Reyes likewise mentioned that there have been zero cases in the past few weeks in Zhuhai and the last two cases have already been discharged after their healthy recovery.
“There are no new recorded cases, and we’re not just talking about days of no new recorded cases. It’s [been] more than three weeks already…China is so big. We don’t need to generalize it to Wuhan,” Reyes said.
DFA-OUMWA Senior Special Assistant Olivia Palala stated that they will carefully study whatever information they will get from their posts in Mainland China and they will then raise it to the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID). Health Secretary Francisco Duque III revealed that the OFW group’s appeal will be discussed tonight in his meeting with the Chinese Ambassador and President Duterte. The IATF-EID is scheduled to hold another meeting on Tuesday, next week.
Deploring the poor state of health care and public services in the Philippines and the impact of COVID-19 to ordinary Filipinos, Gabriela Rep. Arlene Brosas said, “It’s a bigger problem for us if the people will be deprived of their livelihood. No wealthy person will ever share even a bottle of alcohol…we are all seriously affected but most of all, the poor.”
Migrante International Chairperson Joanna Concepcion aired the same sentiment on Monday during a press conference held for OFWs from Mainland China. Concepcion said, “the livelihood of OFWs is at risk. The government should have looked at the impact of the travel ban to our dear OFWs. We have heard how hard it is for OFWs and their families. They are calling for a travel ban exemption for OFWs who are employed outside of Hubei province. They have been deprived of income for more than a month and they are seeking additional financial assistance because of the protracted travel ban period.”
The OFW group also called for higher budget allocations for health services. “The Duterte government needs to ensure the welfare of OFWs in terms of health and job security. Now that travel restrictions have already been imposed by Qatar and Kuwait, it is essential that the budget for public health and medical services be increased instead of getting slashed further as what has been happening under the Duterte government,” Concepcion concluded.