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Asia Minute: Philippines Faces Overseas Challenge with Coronavirus

AP Photo/Aaron Favila
Passengers wear masks as they arrive at Manila's international airport, Philippines, Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020.

As concerns about the coronavirus continue, countries face varying challenges. In the Asia Pacific, that includes the Philippines.

The Philippines has had a relatively low number of cases of the coronavirus — still in the single digits over the weekend. But concerns about COVID-19 linger in a different way there, in part because of the nature of work done by many citizens of the Philippines.

According to the latest government figures, more than two million Filipinos live outside their country as migrant workers. Add in temporary and contract workers, students and permanent residents of other countries and estimates soar to more than 10 million Filipinos overseas.

They work in electronics factories in South Korea and as domestic help in Hong Kong and Singapore.

It’s a significant enough part of the population that there’s a government agency dedicated to their well-being: the Philippine Overseas Labor Office.

The coronavirus has added a unique level of concern for these people.

The Philippine government has repatriated hundreds of workers — including some from Wuhan and elsewhere in China, as well as Hong Kong, Macau and other affected areas.

That cruise ship docked in Japan? 445 of the crew members of the Diamond Princess were Filipinos. Now they’re all in quarantine on a military base in the Philippines, but authorities report no infections in the group.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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