The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Tuesday clarified that the agency is supporting Hong Kong’s policy to impose the mandatory Covid-19 vaccination of overseas Filipino workers “as long as it’s free of any charge.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III said in a broadcast interview that he has no opposition the policy to require OFWs to be inoculated, saying that Hong Kong authorities are not singling out OFWs.
“Sa tingin ko okay naman ’yung [In my view, I think the] mandatory vaccination kasi libre [it’s free of charge]. Sayang [We should not miss the opportunity],” Bello said, adding that he doesn’t think the move is discriminatory since the mandatory vaccination applies to all workers and not just OFWs.
“Lahat naman workers e [workers of all nationalities will be covered]. Di naman limited sa [it’s not limited to our] HSWs [household service workers] natin,” the labor chief said.
Hong Kong is currently one of the top destination for OFWs, especially those who work as HSWs.
However, Bello said, the Consulate General and Labor Attaché of the Philippines to Hong Kong expressed concern that they were not consulted on the new policy.
“Ang medyo inano lang ng con gen [It was a matter taken up by the consulate general and labor attaché] ay di man lang dumaan sa consultation [the issue may not have undergone prior consultation]. I can understand their feeling naman na dapat nga tinimbre naman [there should have been prior notice],” Bello explained.
Despite this, he said, there is no need for the Philippines to discuss the matter with Hong Kong authorities given the suspension of OFW deployment to the country, which is currently under lockdown.
“Hindi na siguro kasi una [We could hold it in abeyance because of a prevailing] lockdown naman, wala din [there’s no] deployment. Kung magdeploy na tayo [if we have to deploy], kailangan na mag [we may need to impose] quarantine [rules], di natin kaya dahil wala pa tayong [which we can’t afford to do since there’s no available] vaccine. So [we are] compelled…[to] suspend deployment,” he said.
Aside from DOLE, Malacañang earlier said the policy should be applied not only to OFWs but also to other foreign nationalities as well.
Last week, Hong Kong officials said they are planning to start the mandatory inoculation of HSWs, who are mostly from the Philippines and Indonesia.