PH gov’t considering lifting ban on Macau and HK
Location: Metro Manila, Philippines
Date Published: February 17, 2020
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat reported on Saturday, February 15, that the government is ‘looking into’ removing the travel restrictions imposed on visitors from China’s special administrative regions as protective measure amid the novel coronavirus health threat
According to the tourism chief, the travel restrictions are based on how a country or a territory implements protocols on how to address the new viral infection, officially named as COVID-19, which started in Wuhan, China.
Romulo-Puyat made the statement following the consensus among infectious diseases task force members to scrap their order to bar the entry of tourists coming from Taiwan, citing the self-administered state’s implementation of “very strict and excellent protocols in handing travelers.”
Authorities have started imposing travel restrictions on tourists from China, including its special administrative regions Hong Kong and Macau, two weeks ago to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, officially named COVID-19.
“Before, there was a question [on whether] people from China could go to Taiwan and come to the Philippines without detection. Now before they come here, we already know if they have been to China or not,” Romulo-Puyat said.
In the case of Hong Kong and Macau, they have yet to meet the condition set by the Philippines’ Inter-agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, the official said.
Romulo-Puyat said early this week that the Philippines' tourism industry stands to lose ₱42.9 billion in revenue because of the restrictions imposed on travelers heading to or from China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan. The secretary said the huge loss is assuming the travel ban will last for three months.
To cushion the blow, Puyat said they are working to boost domestic tourism. Some airlines, including Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific and AirAsia as well as hotels have agreed to come up with multiple promotions to help address the drop in their income.
Mainland China has more than 66,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with almost 1,500 deaths. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has reported 56 confirmed COVID-19 cases with one death; Taiwan recorded 18 cases and Macau, 10 cases.
Meanwhile, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. agreed to allow overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) affected by the Philippine government’s Hong Kong travel ban to return to their employers as there are no new confirmed coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases.
“Time to allow our domestic workers to return to their employers in Hong Kong. Eagerly awaited,” Locsin posted on Twitter yesterday. “HK has better facilities to contain virus. I promised that in two weeks we will reconsider.”
Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said OFWs with work in Hong Kong were granted extended vacations due to the travel ban.
Recruitment consultant and migration expert Emmanuel Geslani said thousands of Filipino domestic helpers in Hong Kong and Macau fear to lose their jobs amid the travel ban imposed by the Philippines.
He said there are 250,000 household service workers in the two SARs, and the travel ban imposed to stop the spread of COVID-19 may affect their employment.
There had been a previous report that some OFWs had sent an appeal to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague to lift the Hong Kong travel ban.
However, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra clarified that only the Philippine government has the sole authority to impose or remove the foreign travel ban.