Filipino workers in Hong Kong who were issued tickets by a local travel agency will now be able to spend Christmas with family and loved ones in the Philippines after Malacañang agreed to shoulder the round-trip travel fares of affected workers, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said Friday.
“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,”Cayetano said.
According to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Migrant Workers Affairs Sarah Lou Arriola said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment will split the cost of roundtrip air travel of the affected workers.
In addition to the offer, the DFA chief 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.
Cayetano also instructed the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong to file criminal charges against Peya Travel, a Filipino-owned travel agency that apparently defrauded passengers with tickets that were not honored at the airport.
“We also will pursue a civil suit against PEYA Travel to compensate our kababayans for the damages they suffered,” Cayetano said.
Affected workers, Arriola said, 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.
Other airlines have offered gesture of goodwill to affected passengers.
In a statement, Philippine Airlines would switch to larger aircraft in its Hong Kong-Manila flight segment on Dec 22 and 23 to accommodate the stranded travelers.
According to South China Morning Post, Cathay Pacific has offered so-called “distress fares” to fill the few remaining seats it had available after many were left out of pocket following the travel agency fiasco.
Cebu Pacific has also offered 50 complimentary return tickets for the affected Filipinos who are mostly household service workers, Arriola said.
Acting Consul General Roderico Atienza said approximately 160 victims have approached the Consulate to seek assistance but he expects the number of victims seeking assistance to go up.