Filipino workers opt to stay put in Hong Kong amid worsening crisis


Posted at Nov 19 2019 09:13 PM

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MANILA - The Filipino community in Hong Kong is still coping well despite the worsening crisis in the city as pro-democracy rallies continued, with clashes between police and protesters growing increasingly violent.

Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, said overseas Filipino workers in the city were, so far, doing well amid the protests.

"Many of the usual converging areas where we used to gather during Sundays are now also the areas where protest actions are happening," he told ANC Tuesday.

"But I think the Filipino community is, I would say, we're able to cope with the situation quite well. The protest action has been going on for nearly 6 months, and I think only one or two Filipinos were caught in the middle of the protest, but other than that, there weren't any news of any Filipinos hurt or arrested," he added.

Though Filipinos are still unaffected in terms of job security, Villanueva admits the employment of migrant workers may be affected should the crisis worsen.

"If this political crisis continue for much longer, eventually it would hit the jobs of the migrant domestic workers, especially if there would be serious economic impact," he explained.

With no end in sight to the anti-government protests, Villanueva said the general sentiment among OFWs is to stay put in the city for now.

"I think the general sentiment is to stay put. First is that, despite the escalation of the protests and the violence, I think it is still a place where most Filipinos consider as safer, than, let's say, going somewhere, some countries in the Middle East or in other Southeast Asian countries where there is no labor protection for migrant domestic workers," he said.

"Even the consulate agrees with us, that the situation doesn't merit any mass repatriation at the moment. So I think the best thing to do for now is to stay away from the confrontations and to make sure that our community is safe," Villanueva added.

Villanueva also said they have been reminding migrant workers to keep themselves safe and steer away from protest actions for their own good.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) earlier said there is no need to evacuate Filipinos in Hong Kong at this time even as protests in the city were growing violent. 

Some 230,000 Filipinos, mostly domestic workers, live and work in Hong Kong. 

Hong Kong's protests started in June in opposition to a now-shelved bill that would have allowed extraditions to China.

But the demonstrations quickly spun out into a wider pro-democracy struggle, and angry calls for police accountability.

Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU), which boasts a Zaha Hadid-designed tower and a reputation for advancing working-class students, has in the past two days staged the most sustained and intense clashes seen in nearly half a year of unrest.

- with a report from Agence France-Presse