PH Embassy considers special flight from SG to PH on May 20 for interested Filipinos

Marje Pelayo   •   May 12, 2020   •   369

SINGAPORE — The Philippine Embassy in Singapore is gathering information from Filipinos who are interested in returning home to the Philippines and are looking for a special flight.

A special flight is being arranged for May 20, Wednesday, with an estimated departure time of 10:30 AM, the Embassy said in a Facebook announcement.

The all-in fare will cost SGD 423 (P15,000) inclusive of taxes and fuel surcharge.

It will be a one-way fare that includes 30 kg check-in baggage allowance and one piece 2 kg hand-carried item.

Thus, the Embassy encourages those who are interested to accomplish the survey form provided here or the QR code below.

According to the Embassy, this special flight will only push through if they get enough passengers. 

The survey will automatically end on Wednesday (May 13) at 4:00 p.m. and all information provided will be kept confidential.

Upon arrival in the Philippines, all passengers are subject to health screening and quarantine procedures mandated by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-MEID).

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Singapore scientists to start human trials of COVID-19 vaccine in August

UNTV News   •   June 16, 2020

Singapore scientists testing a COVID-19 vaccine from U.S. firm Arcturus Therapeutics plan to start human trials in August after promising initial responses in mice.

The vaccine being evaluated by Singapore’s Duke-NUS Medical School works on the relatively-untested Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which instructs human cells to make specific coronavirus proteins that produce an immune response.

“The most optimistic case is that it’s about this time next year, that we will have a vaccine,” Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the school’s emerging infectious diseases programme, told Reuters on Tuesday (June 16).

The mRNA approach has not yet been approved for any medicine so its backers, which also include U.S. biotech firm Moderna, are treading uncharted territory.

More than 100 vaccines are being developed globally, including several already in human trials, to try and control a disease that has infected more than 8 million people and killed over 430,000 worldwide.

Ooi is also working on a monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19 with Singapore-based biotechnology firm Tychan, and will begin safety trials on healthy people this week, before testing on COVID-19 patients in the coming months. Ooi said potential deployment of the treatment could be faster than the vaccine, without giving an exact timeline.

Antibodies are generated in the body to fight off infection. Monoclonal antibodies mimic natural antibodies and can be isolated and manufactured in large quantities to treat diseases.

Tiny city-state Singapore has one of the highest infection tallies in Asia, with more than 40,000 cases, largely due to mass outbreaks in dormitories for its migrant workers. (Reuters)

(Production: Joseph Campbell)

PH Embassy in South Korea assists Filipinos with special flights to Manila

Marje Pelayo   •   June 10, 2020

SOUTH KOREA — The Philippine Embassy in Seoul assisted a total of 148 passengers who boarded the special Korean Air flight KE 623 to Manila, Sunday afternoon (June 7).

All 148 Filipinos were stranded in South Korea due to intermittent schedules and frequent cancellations of international flights to Manila brought about by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The special flight was arranged by the Philippine Embassy in Seoul and was made possible through the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Transportation (DOTr), Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Manila International Airport Authorities (MIAA), and the Inter-Agency Task Force on COVID-19, in cooperation with Korean Air.

“Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Embassy has assisted 270 stranded Filipinos in Korea, both residents and transiting passengers at Incheon International Airport,” said Charge d’affaires Christian de Jesus.

“The special flight was initiated by the Embassy following our survey of Filipinos in Korea who were looking for a special passenger flight. Many have already finished their employment contracts but could not go home because their flight bookings have been cancelled for as many as three to six times,” he added.

CDA de Jesus assures that the Embassy will continue to respond to the needs of Filipinos in Korea whose lives and employment are affected by the pandemic.

Singapore’s migrant workers fear financial ruin after virus ordeal

UNTV News   •   June 9, 2020

As Sharif Uddin begins to dream about leaving the cramped Singapore dormitory where he has spent weeks under coronavirus quarantine, fears about his future are creeping in.

The 42-year-old Bangladeshi construction site supervisor is one of the thousands of low-income migrant workers trapped in packed bunk rooms that have been ravaged by the coronavirus, accounting for more than 90% of Singapore’s 38,000 infections.

As Singapore began easing its lockdown measures this month, migrants like Uddin started to think about returning to the outside world, bringing to the surface worries about jobs and debts as Singapore braces for its deepest-ever recession.

“The fear of losing jobs is worrying everyone at the moment,” said Uddin, who sends the bulk of his wages to his family in Bangladesh, like many of the South Asians working in manual jobs in Singapore.

For most migrant workers, at least part of their salaries is used to pay off the steep fees of the agent who helped procure the job.

Reuters has interviewed over a dozen migrant workers in Singapore in recent weeks. While many said they were still being paid, they were unsure if they will retain their jobs when the quarantine is lifted.

The Singapore government has given companies tax breaks to try and ensure migrants get paid while under quarantine and introduced measures to help laid off workers find new positions without having to first travel back to their home country, a core complaint of many labourers.

Lawrence Wong, the co-head of Singapore’s virus task force, told Reuters that the government had taken steps to help alleviate the concerns of workers around job security, but added that layoffs were possible given the grim economic outlook.

“There may be some contractors who might decide – well despite all the government measures, with the new arrangements, the new additional requirements in construction, it is very difficult and I might not want to continue in this industry – and then indeed they might release some of their workers,” said Wong, who is also the minister for national development.

He added that some workers may remain quarantined in their dormitories until August, or possibly beyond, as the government completes mass testing.

The pandemic has drawn attention to the stark inequalities in the modern city-state where more than 300,000 labourers from Bangladesh, India and China often live in rooms for 12 to 20 men, working jobs that pay as little as S$20 ($14.30) a day.

That is higher than they would make at home. But the median salary for Singaporeans in 2019 was S$4,563 per month, according to the manpower ministry.

The bigger worry for many migrants like Uddin is the debts they have racked up securing jobs in Singapore.

Migrants will usually be charged S$7,000-10,000 in fees by a recruitment agent in their home country, equivalent to more than a year of their basic salary, according to rights groups. If they lose their job, this debt could haunt their families for years.

“An indebted worker is a more compliant worker and that is what the employers like. That is one reason too that employers prefer to have new workers, than to retain old workers,” said Deborah Fordyce, president of Singapore NGO Transient Workers Count Too.

Wong, the minister, said the government will continue to work to improve migrants’ lives in Singapore, but tackling issues like fees is difficult because many agents operate in the workers’ home countries outside the city-state’s jurisdiction.

Singapore’s government has pledged to improve living conditions for migrant workers in the short-term and build new, higher-spec dormitories over the coming years. (Reuters)

(Production: Pedja Stanisic, Joseph Campbell, Edgar Su, Travis Teo)

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