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MANILA, Philippines – Just two weeks before he steps down from the highest public seat of the land, President Benigno Aquino III rejected a bill seeking to hike the pay of entry-level nurses.
Will this drive more nurses out of the country?
In an interview on dzRB on Saturday, June 18, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr defended Aquino’s decision to veto the bill. He also expressed doubts on the claims of several nurses groups that it will force Filipino nurses to seek jobs abroad.
According to Coloma, Filipino nurses, before applying for jobs abroad, need to get experience in the country.
“Ang in-demand sa ibang bansa na nurses ay ‘yung mga may karanasan na at may kaalaman sa spesyalidad….Dahil dito, kailangan pa rin magtrabaho muna sa Pilipinas upang magkaroon ng sapat na karanasan bago makapag-apply sa ibang bansa,” Coloma said.
(Filipino nurses who are in demand abroad are for those with enough experience and know-how in a specialized field. Because of this, they need to work first in the country before they can apply abroad.)
Aquino has defended his move to veto thet bill, citing “dire financial consequences” – both for the government and private and non-government health institutions.
Having rejected more than 80 bills in a span of 6 years, Aquino ranks first among a presidents after Martial Law in terms of the number of rejected bills. He is followed by former President Fidel V. Ramos with 51 measures.
Malacañang earlier explained that of the vetoed bills, 60 are local bill, including 58 bills on road conversions from local roads to national roads “that would have ended up unfunded because these were deemed technically deficient and should not have been converted in the first place.”
Aquino had said that the increase in nurses’ pay is already mandated by Executive Order No. 201, series of 2016. Through the EO, Aquino said entry level nurses have a “guaranteed compensation” of P344,074, from an annual salary of P228,924. This excludes other benefits and allowances granted under the Magna Carta of Public Health.
In the interview, Coloma added that since the administration follows a performance-based compensation for government employees, nurses could expect higher pay through hard work.
“Tinutugunan na ng pamahaalan ang pagpapataas sa sahod ng mga nurses, guro at iba pang kawani. Maaring maabot ‘yung inaasam na mas mataas na sahod kung maayos ang trabaho dahil sa bagong oryentasyon sa pamahalaan na performance-based compensation,” Coloma said.
(The administration is already fulfilling the demand for higher pay for nurses, teachers, and other government employees. They can get their desired higher pay if they work well under the administration’s new orientation towards performance-based compensation.)
Implications on the health sector
The move, however, was widely criticized by citizens and several nurse groups.
In a statement, the Alliance of Young Nurse Leaders and Advocates, Incorporated (AYNLA) said that the non-passage of the Comprehensive Nursing Law of 2016 (CNL) – which could have been Aquino’s farewell gift – “is a real letdown to the nursing sector.”
In his veto message, Aquino said “the additional costs that this salary increase would entail may cause unintended repercussions, such as possible downsizing of hospital personnel and consequent increase in health care costs. This may similarly discourage continued private investments in the healthcare sector.”
AYNLA said this argument is purely “speculative,” given the lack of evidence backing up the claim.
“This action of the President also reflects that spending for nurses’ welfare is viewed as a cost rather than an investment,” AYNLA added.
Many Filipino nurses leave the country to work abroad. The latest country migration report of the International Organization for Migration showed that in 2012 alone, 15,655 out of 458,575 deployed newly-hired, land-based overseas Filipino workers are nurses. (READ: PH migration report: Number of OFWs increasing)
Representing the largest group of health service providers in the country, the nurses have been traditionally regarded as the “backbone” of the country’s health service delivery. – Rappler.com