Malacanang on Monday called on Hong Kong to refrain from separating Filipinos in its plan to require foreign workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Equal protection applies under both the Philippine Rights Act and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights covering Hong Kong, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque, a former law professor.
“I hope that we will not single out our Philippine OFVs, although we recognize your sovereign privilege that you need a vaccine,” Roque said at a press briefing.
(We hope that our overseas Filipino workers will not be singled out, although we recognize the sovereign privilege of requesting the vaccine.)
Hong Kong health officials said they plan to introduce mandatory vaccines for 370,000 domestic helpers in the city, mostly low-paid women from the Philippines and Indonesia.
Those who want to apply for work visas – or renew current ones – will have to show they have been vaccinated, officials said on Friday.
If the plan continues, it would be the first time that Hong Kong has directly tied labor rights to foreigners to vaccines.
“This is obviously an act of discrimination and stigmatization of domestic migrant workers,” Dolores Balladares Pelaez, chairwoman of the United Philippines in Hong Kong, told reporters.
Workers’ groups representing domestic workers said they were angry that other foreigners and locals working in areas such as nursing homes did not have to be vaccinated.
“We are singled out and targeted again,” Pelaez added.
Health officials announced a vaccination plan after it was determined that two domestic helpers were infected with one of the more virulent strains of coronavirus.
All domestic workers were also ordered to be tested in the following days – a measure that did not apply to the families they work for.
Officials said domestic workers are considered “high risk” because they enter from overseas and often gather in large numbers on open Sundays – which is one day off a week.
They also tend to care for the elderly and vulnerable.
Hong Kong Labor Secretary Chi-kwong has defended linking domestic workers’ visas to vaccinations.
“Of course they can choose not to work in Hong Kong because they are not Hong Kong residents,” Leo said.
Annie Lestari, chairwoman of the International Union of Migrants, described such comments as “unfair and shocking”.
“Many employers are also not vaccinated for health, personal or even political reasons, so they will not force their workers to be vaccinated,” she told AFP.
Migrant groups also pointed out that wealthier foreign migrants – such as city financial workers – are not forced to receive vaccines.
Wealthy Hong Kong has provided enough doses of the vaccine, but there is reluctance to take them.
So far, only 12 percent of the city’s 7.5 million residents have received one or more doses, which is far from the 60-70 percent needed for herd immunity.
Thanks to strict quarantine measures and economically painful rules of social exclusion, the city has kept the infections at just over 11,000.
– A report from France-Presse
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