Duterte lifts deployment ban on healthcare workers

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the government's coronavirus task force to lift the deployment ban on nurses and other healthcare workers, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III confirmed on Saturday, November 21.

"Confirming the approval by the  President of the IATF reso lifting the temporary suspension of deployment of nurses and other medical workers," said Bello, as quoted by CNN Philippines.

The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Emerging Infectious Diseases recommended the lifting of the deployment ban last week.

As provided in the IATF resolution, there will be a cap of 5,000 healthcare workers deployed every year so that that there will be enough medical professionals left in the Philippines during the COVID-19 pandemic. (READ: Bello says Duterte allowed more health workers to work overseas)

The cap is less than half of the 13,000 medical workers who leave the country every year for greener pastures.

Netizens who apparently belong to the medical community were quick to call out the government over the 5,000-cap. In the ANG NARS Party-list Facebook page, some pointed out that the ban was not totally lifted if there is a limit to the number of healthcare workers who can leave the country.

The government imposed a deployment ban on nurses and other health workers in April “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination country.” This sparked an outrage among health workers who called the policy "involuntary servitude."

The government first eased the travel restriction on medical workers was on September 21 when health workers with complete documents as of August 31 were allowed to leave the country for work abroad.

Before this, only health workers with overseas employment certificates issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and verified contacts as of March 8 were allowed to leave.

In September, Senators Risa Hontiveros and Joel Villanueva urged the government to lift its overseas deployment ban on health workers, saying it is unfair to those who have worked hard and invested much in applying for jobs abroad when no practical options are available to them in the Philippines. (READ: Senators urge gov't to lift overseas deployment ban on health workers)

During the earlier months of the pandemic, Duterte also said that although he was "okay" with the decision of health workers to leave, he appealed to them to stay in the country during the coronavirus outbreak.

Nurses' groups, in particular, had said if the government wants nurses to work in the country, they should be offered competitive salaries and benefits. (READ: Cainta nurse gets P60 daily hazard pay and dies of COVID-19 before receiving it) – Rappler.com

Pauline Macaraeg

Pauline Macaraeg is part of the Rappler Research Team’s fact-checking unit. Aside from debunking dubious claims, she also enjoys crunching data and writing stories about the economy, environment, and media democracy.