MANILA, Philippines – After fierce public outcry, the Philippine government is set to ease restrictions on the deployment ban against overseas Filipino health workers, allowing those with existing contracts to leave the country for work abroad.
Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr announced the development on Monday, April 13, 3 days after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) suspended the deployment of health care workers abroad as the country struggles to contain the rising number of coronavirus patients.
“DONE. NURSES, other health workers with existing contracts of work abroad can leave,” Locsin said Monday on Twitter, adding health workers with future applications would be on hold “until further notice.”
DONE. NURSES, other health workers with existing contracts of work abroad can leave. Future applications frozen until further notice provided all our 450,000+ nurses—exceeding by 250,000 ideal WHO ratio of people-to-nurses—must be given employment. Ty Sal Panelo and Jun Esperon. https://t.co/S2mHyqrz87
DONE. NURSES, other health workers with existing contracts of work abroad can leave. Future applications frozen until further notice provided all our 450,000+ nurses—exceeding by 250,000 ideal WHO ratio of people-to-nurses—must be given employment. Ty Sal Panelo and Jun Esperon. https://t.co/S2mHyqrz87— Teddy Locsin Jr. (@teddyboylocsin) April 13, 2020
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo, whom Locsin thanked in his tweet, likewise confirmed this, saying the government’s coronavirus task force passed a resolution allowing nurses with existing contracts to leave.
“Earlier, we passed the resolution. The meeting is still ongoing,” Panelo said in a text message to Rappler.
President Rodrigo Duterte will still need to approve the resolution of the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on the coronavirus. But Panelo said the new measure is all but a “foregone conclusion,” considering Duterte “has not disapproved any recommendation made by the IATF.”
Locsin earlier voiced his opposition to the POEA’s deployment ban which caught Filipino health workers working abroad by surprise. Nurses and other health workers quickly expressed outrage against the measure and pleaded for Locsin to intervene.
Locsin vowed to help the affected health workers, calling the deployment ban an “abomination” and a violation of the Constitution.
“We will fight the ban in the IATF. We will fight the ban in Cabinet. We will fight shit for brains. We will never surrender our constitutional right to travel and our contractual right to work where there is need for our work,” Locsin earlier said.
The POEA had said in its resolution that the deployment ban aims to “prioritize human resource allocation” in the country’s health care system. Health workers covered by the ban were initially barred from being deployed “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination country.”
Aside from nurses, the following were also covered by the POEA’s memo:
- medical doctors
- molecular biologists
- clinical analysts
- respiratory therapists
- laboratory technicians
- X-ray/radiologic technicians
- nursing assistant/nursing aides
- operators of medical equipment
- supervisor of health services and personal care
- medical-hospital equipment repairmen
For decades, Filipino nurses have also opted to work abroad due to low wages and poor working conditions in the country.
As of Monday, the Philippines has 4,932 coronavirus cases, with 315 deaths and 242 recoveries. Worldwide, the deadly virus has infected over 1.8 million people and killed at least 114,000. – with a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com