PHL government lobbies OFWs’ host countries to accept vaccination cards


PHILIPPINE government officials are scrambling to get foreign governments to accept the vaccination cards of overseas Filipino workers following reports that some of those workers’ cards faced rejection in Hong Kong and Bangkok.

The bad news was first relayed by Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin Jr., who said last Tuesday the vaccination cards issued by the Philippine government to OFWs will not be honored by Hong Kong authorities.

Some 3,000 stranded OFWs are expected to be affected by the ban after they were set to fly back to their employers as soon as the Hong Kong government announces the lifting of the travel ban on the Philippines.

Locsin said they learned the reason for the rejection: Philippine-issued vaccination cards do not come from one source, which is why Hong Kong authorities do not honor them. Vaccination rollouts are mainly handled by local government units (LGUs), which issue their respective cards, unlike in many other countries that have a uniform format with security features against fraud, making them less doubtful.

On Wednesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said in a radio interview that he was confident that Philippine officials now making representations on behalf of the OFWs could be able to persuade host government authorities to accept the OFWs’ vaccination cards.

Some critics said the government should have heeded early on the suggestions for a digital vaccine passport of some sort, but this was not followed.

Sen. Grace Poe was among those who suggested this.

“Poor OFWs going to their jobs in Hong Kong even if jabbed,” Locsin said in a post on Twitter on Tuesday. Locsin tweeted that he would inquire from Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam about the Special Administrative Region’s (SAR) decision.

However, the Secretary expressed optimism that Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) Secretary Gregorio Honasan II “will get the job done right” in working on the issuance of credible vaccination certificates to OFWs.

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) earlier said it was working on a standardized vaccination digital ID with QR code, as provided under the Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.

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