PH welcomes HK move to suspend mandatory vaccination for foreign domestic workers

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 4) — The Philippines welcomed Hong Kong's decision to halt and review its plan to mandate all foreign domestic workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, after the policy drew criticism for alleged discrimination.

In a media briefing on Tuesday, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said Malacañang "appreciates the gesture" of Hong Kong leader Carrie Lam, who asked the nation's labor chief to review the policy. This came after objections from workers' groups and Philippine officials, among others, who questioned why only its 370,000 foreign domestic helpers – a significant portion of whom are Filipinos – are forced to get the shots.

On Monday, the Palace said it supports Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr.'s statement that the mandatory vaccination should cover all foreign workers. Philippine Consul General to Hong Kong Raly Tejada has made the same call.

"It must be done in a manner na lahat po ng tao ay sasakupin. 'Wag naman pong magkakaroon ng singling out [It must be done in a manner that all persons are covered by the policy. There shouldn't be any singling out]," Roque had said.

Meanwhile, Locsin thanked Hong Kong for pausing the plan, which he earlier said "smacks of discrimination" despite the positive effect it may have on public health and safety.

"I AM SO PROUD TO KNOW CARRIE LAM. Her responses are always quick yet wise. Hong Kong's best leader since China lost the island in the Opium War. Thank you, Ma'am," Locsin said in a tweet, commenting on a news article on Lam's decision.

The Hong Kong government has also required all domestic workers to get themselves tested for COVID-19 by May 9 - another controversial order denounced by rights' groups as discriminatory. However, Roque said Malacañang has no issue with this policy.

"Of course, we welcome also the mandatory testing. In fact, we are also ramping up our own testing here in the Philippines, because talaga naman pong pag hindi mo tinest, hindi mo alam kung nasan ang ating kalaban [it is true that if you don't test people, you won't know where the enemy is]," he said.

Hong Kong media reported thousands of domestic helpers have lined up on their supposed days off to complete the required testing by the May 9 deadline. Violators of the policy may be fined or imprisoned.