MORE than a thousand stranded overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong who were defrauded by a travel agency received a Christmas gift from President Rodrigo Duterte after Malacañang approved the proposal of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) to bring them home in time for the holidays.
“Our kababayans in Hong Kong and other parts of the world have a very special place in President Duterte’s heart and it is just right that we make their Christmas wishes come true by doing what we can to bring them home,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter S. Cayetano said.
Cayetano added that President Duterte approved the plan he and Bello put together on Wednesday to assist the approximately 1,000 Filipinos who found themselves stranded in Hong Kong after they were defrauded by the travel agency they bought their tickets home from.
Cayetano, co-chair of the Cabinet Cluster on Overseas Workers, said the DFA and the DoLE, through the Office of Migrant Workers Affairs (OMWA) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), will shoulder the cost of roundtrip travel of the affected workers.
He said Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana has also placed the Philippine Air Force on standby in case air assets would have to be flown to Hong Kong to ferry the workers home.
At the same time, Cayetano said he has instructed the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong to file criminal charges against PEYA Travel, the Filipino-owned travel agency that defrauded the workers.
“We also will pursue a civil suit against PEYA Travel to compensate our kababayans for the damages they suffered,” Cayetano said.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said that under the arrangements with OWWA Administrator Hans Cacdac, the two agencies will split the cost of roundtrip air travel of the affected workers.
Arriola said affected workers will be asked to issue an undertaking assigning the refund of their tickets bought from PEYA Travel to the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong.
The Undersecretary said Philippine Airlines and Cathay Pacific have offered discounted airfare and will also dispatch bigger aircraft to accommodate the stranded workers to ensure they will be home before Christmas.
Arriola said Cebu Pacific has offered 50 complimentary return tickets for the affected Filipinos, mostly household service workers.