ALFREDO P HERNANDEZ
THE Philippine Embassy in Port Moresby has vehemently denied the alleged presence of 16,000 illegal Filipino workers in Papua New Guinea as reported by the Post-Courier yesterday.
Describing the front-page report as “unfounded, baseless and far from the truth”, the embassy has demanded that Post-Courier retract the story or face legal action.
“It has no factual basis,” Ambassador Shirley Ho-Vicario told The National yesterday.
“The headline story is unfounded, baseless and far from the truth, as I was never interviewed on that matter nor present at the Bipartisan Parliamentary Inquiry (last Friday).
“I never appeared on the said committee hearing on that day to give evidence on this matter.”
Post-Courier had quoted Madame Ho-Vicario as telling the inquiry that of the 19,000 Filipinos living and working in PNG, about 16,000 were doing so illegally.
The ambassador stressed that she was invited to a parliamentary hearing last Thursday but when they arrived on the scheduled time, they were refused entry and were informed that the said time had been allocated for members of IPA (Investment Promotion Authority) to give evidence.
“We were advised that we would be called and informed as to when the new schedule for me to appear … until now, no such call or advice has been received by the embassy.”
Asked to comment last night, Post-Courier editor Blaise Nangoi told The National: “We stand by our story.”
Mr Nangoi said their report yesterday on the alleged illegal Filipinos in PNG was based on information their reporter obtained from a source who was at the parliamentary committee hearing when Madame Ho-Vicario purportedly gave evidence last Friday.
But Madame Ho-Vicario emphatically denied this.
“I was never at the Parliament last Friday,” the ambassador said.
In its report, Post-Courier also said these illegals were constantly approaching the Philippine Embassy for assistance.
According to the embassy, there are only 10,120 Filipinos in PNG as of June this year.
About 670 of them are permanent residents, 6,600 are temporary migrants and 2,850 are considered “irregular or undocumented”.
“There could never be 19,000 Filipinos living and working in this country,” Madame Ho-Vicario said.
She said most of the Filipinos working in PNG were professionals with valid work permits and working visas.
Meanwhile, the Filipino community in Port Moresby and in the provinces has expressed grave concern over their safety following the Post-Courier report.