Is wearing PPE a travel requirement for some OFWs?
Privilege speech of Senator Pia Cayetano
Madam President, I have two photos to show. One I just grabbed from the Instagram account of Sam YG [shows photo from Sam YG’s IG post]. It’s a better photo than mine, which is why I showed it first. And I’ll just share my photo as well. That’s mine [shows another photo of OFWs wearing personal protective equipment, taken at NAIA 3 on August 23, 2022]. Siguro mas maaga ang dating ko, or not the same day, actually, because my photo was taken a few weeks ago. But I was not able to deliver a speech on this as there were other matters on the floor at that time.
Anyway, your honors, [these photos were taken] in our airports, and I was shocked to see groups of Filipinos in complete PPEs. So I asked around, and I was also rushing to line up and get to my gate on time. So I was not able to converse with them. Sometimes we have time to take pictures, chat with them. But unfortunately, that wasn’t one of those days.
So I just asked around and was told later on that they are OFWs. Your honor, I’d like to point out that they are in complete PPE, including the footsies [shoe covers] that you only see in operating rooms. It’s like the height of ridiculousness that you have to wear those footsies because they are walking around the whole airport where thousands of people enter, walk around every day, so there is nothing hygienic about being in footsies, as opposed to being in their regular rubber shoes or walking shoes.
So the first thing that came to my mind was to inform Sec. Toots Ople [Department of Migrant Workers]. She’s a friend and so I messaged her and asked her if she is aware of any requirement for our departing OFWs to be in PPE. Sabi niya parang wala naman, but she will check and I sent her these photos.
Tingnan niyo naman, Madam President, may gloves pa. Nakakaiyak. And then may face shield pa.
You know, your honors, I’d like to put context here. I attended my very first conference since the pandemic started, when I represented the Senate in November  in the IPU that was held in Spain. And if I am not mistaken, I hope I’m not confusing the dates, but on my way back, the airline was handing out face shields to me and all other passengers, and I had to tell the airline attendant, this was November, your honor, so I hope my dates are right, I am happy to be corrected if I am wrong. There is no longer any face shield requirement, if I am not mistaken, that was November of last year. And they were not properly informed. Kaya they were handing the passengers, including me, anyone returning to the Philippines. So hindi maganda ang communication sa kanila na wala nang face shield requirement. In fairness to the airline, they were I guess kind enough to provide us with face shields, thinking it is a requirement.
Madam President, that was at the end of last year [shows another photo of OFWs in PPE from 2021], mag-iisang taon na, and here we have our OFWs naka-full PPE, with face shields, footsies, and gloves. It’s ridiculous, your honors. I feel so bad for them because it is not comfortable wearing those. And that’s why tayo, hangang-hanga tayo sa mga doktor, they had to wear those and I am not sure what the protocols are now, but our OFWs are wearing it when they travel. Ang hirap kaya magbanyo na ganyan ang suot mo. isipin na lang natin yun, dun pa lang. And I wonder how much they were charged to comply with whoever’s requirement this is.
So, I move on. I’d like to put on record some information that I’ve gathered on the requirements in different countries. In the UAE, the requirement is as follows: vaccination certificate containing a QR code. They are not required to present a negative result of an RT-PCR test for COVID.
Wala na ngang PCR test na required ipakita, tapos may PPE papunta doon. To be clear, hindi po ako 100 percent sure kung saan sila papunta, but I am sure most of our OFWs go to these areas. So you know, we can kind of assume that some of these pictures I have shown, their [OFWs] destination, is one of these areas.
For Kuwait, travelers are no longer required to get tested for COVID-19 before traveling to Kuwait. The pre-departure testing requirement has been removed.
And then, for Riyadh, all non-Saudis who have not been vaccinated against COVID must abide by the following institutional quarantine procedures for 7 days. So there’s quarantine. All non-Saudis who are immunized are allowed to enter Saudi without the need for a quarantine period, provided that they present an official vaccination certificate and submit a negative PCR.
Wala akong nakikitang nakalista dito na naka-full PPE sila, your honor.
Meron din akong Hong Kong. I am just assuming because my photos at least were taken in the evening, so usually ang palabas noon were the countries I’ve mentioned. But in Hong Kong, there are quarantine measures, negative PCR, confirmation of a room reservation. Kasi as you know sa HK, may quarantine requirement, although I just read in the papers that they are planning to make it home-based. Again, there is no PPE requirement, your honors.
So just to complete the information. Not just information but I’d just like to spread into the record one more thing, bear with me, your honors, I am going through these lengthy notes that I have.
The record will reflect, your honors, that I’ve had the opportunity to interpellate when our colleague, Sen. Tulfo, had a privilege speech on migrant workers. And at that point, I mentioned the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and their Families. I’d like to include in this speech Article 7 of the said convention, which states:
“States Parties undertake, in accordance with the international instruments concerning human rights, to respect and to ensure to all migrant workers and members of their families within their territory or subject to their jurisdiction the rights provided for in the present Convention without distinction of any kind such as to sex, race, colour, language, religion or conviction, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, nationality, age, economic position, property, marital status, birth or other status.”
I believe, your honor, that this is discrimination, if in fact there is such a requirement. I am not saying there is a requirement, but I am just putting on record that we are protected by this convention. That if based on the rules for entering the countries that I mentioned as I gathered from the websites are correct, I didn’t see anything about Filipinos, OFWs, or any other nationality entering their countries [are required] to be in full PPEs.
So, either there is discrimination against our own nationals or may rumaraket, merong nakikinabang, may nagte-take advantage ng COVID situation na pinipilit ang ating mga OFWs na maghirap. Kasi hindi ho madali na magsuot ng ganyan, at malamang magbayad.
Wala na ata akong idadagdag. Actually, let me put on record, Article 16 of the International Labor Organization, on Occupational Safety and Health Convention, states: “Employers have duties concerning the provision and use of PPE at work; PPEs should only be used as a last resort; If PPE is still needed after implementing other controls, employers must provide this for their workers free of charge.”
So, I am just putting all of this on record para kung may marinig akong mga palusot at dahilan, requirement yan, ng kahit anong bansa, o kahit anong kumpanya na nag-recruit ng ating mga OFWs, nilalagay ko na po yan sa record para klaro.
Finally, I think that is what I have for today, your honor. So I leave this to our better, more in depth scrutiny. I hope we can help out our OFWs so that they won’t have to pay extra to travel for work, and they don’t have to travel in this kind of discomfort.