Rodrigo Duterte

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to visit Hong Kong in April following sudden recall of labour attaché

Consulate announces visit will take place on April 12, with the venue yet to be decided

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 27 March, 2018, 7:35pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 28 March, 2018, 10:33am

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will visit Hong Kong next month for the second time in just 10 months, the Philippine consulate announced on Tuesday, following the sudden recall of the country’s labour attaché who has been fighting against human trafficking.

But strident domestic helpers’ leaders have vowed to greet Duterte, 72, with protests over a host of issues, expecting the president to say he would clamp down on human rights violations and create jobs.

Duterte, the tough-talking president whose brutal campaign to kill people linked to drugs has divided the country, will be “meeting with the Filipino community on April 12”, with the venue yet to be announced, the consulate said.

The programme will start at 3pm and end at 9pm on the Thursday, despite most Filipino domestic helpers only having Sundays off work.

Philippine labour chief ‘personally recalled’ his man in Hong Kong

Those who want to meet Duterte, who is entering the third year of his six-year term on June 30 this year, were advised to register no later than April 2.

According to the latest poll by Pulse Asia Research released in February this year, the president enjoys an approval rating of 80 per cent and had the trust of 82 per cent of those polled in December last year.

The visit comes as the Philippine labour attaché, Jalilo Dela Torre was recalled last Friday with immediate effect in a move that the consulate has not seen in at least 20 years.

Dela Torre, sent to Hong Kong by the Philippine Secretary of Labour and Employment Silvestre Bello on a three-year stint, told the Post he was a “bit surprised” by the sudden recall although rumours of his impending departure had been swirling in the city’s 217,000-strong Filipino community, of whom about 203,000 work as domestic helpers.

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Dela Torre told the Post he received the news of his recall by email from his boss, Bello.

The move came only weeks after Bello dismissed rumours of an imminent recall for the much-respected Dela Torre as “fake news” during a visit to Hong Kong.

Bello has not responded to queries filed by the Post by fax, email and phone, on the recall and why it was so sudden.

Manila newspapers are rife with speculation that Bello is set to run for the Philippine Senate next year, the upper chambers of the bicameral legislature.

Eman Villanueva, chairman of Bayan Hong Kong and Macau, an umbrella group of Filipino migrant workers based in Hong Kong, said he was not so excited about the president’s visit and was planning protests with other groups against a host of issues.

“What we want him to say is to stop human rights violations and to improve job creation in the country,” Villanueva said.

He was referring to the president’s controversial war on drugs, which he believed that untold numbers of poor suspected drug traffickers had been killed but drug lords had not been convicted.

He said the president also promised them there would be more jobs, but instead he was asking other countries to absorb Filipino migrant workers.

Instead of lowering their financial burden, Duterte introduced new fees that Villanueva said would charge them more.

Hong Kong is home to 217,303 Filipinos, of whom 203,616 work as domestic workers, according to the latest Immigration Department figures.

In May last year, Duterte met with the Filipino community at an airport hotel on his way to a summit in Beijing.