coronavirus frontliners

Roque defends deployment ban on health workers: ‘Charity begins at home’

Sofia Tomacruz
‘Konting tiyaga na lang po. Take advantage of the opportunity to prove your worth in the Philippines as clinical nurses,' says Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Monday, August 24, defended the Duterte government’s decision to keep a deployment ban on health workers during the pandemic, calling once more on their “patriotism” to serve the country during the national emergency. 

In a press briefing at Malacañang, Roque appealed to Filipino health workers for patience as he said President Rodrigo Duterte was first and foremost concerned with their “safety” abroad during the pandemic. 

“On the part of the President and IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), the first consideration is the health of our health workers since they’re going to places where there are more coronavirus cases,” Roque said in Filipino. 

Roque then urged health workers to stay in the Philippines, saying this would make them more attractive to foreign recruiters looking for Filipino nurses and doctors for their experience. 

“Charity begins at home,” Roque said. 

“And speaking as someone with experience in the recruitment industry of nurses, fresh graduates and those with no experience who want to work abroad will need clinical experience here,” he added in Filipino. 

“If you apply to the emergency recruitment (program) of the government and work while there is COVID, naku po (my goodness)…. you will become the subject of headhunters,” Roque said in a mix of English and Filipino. 

Konting tiyaga na lang po (Just a little more patience). Take advantage of the opportunity to prove your worth in the Philippines as clinical nurses,” he said. 

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Stranded in the Philippines

But the Duterte administration’s argument is one that has long been rejected by health workers. For decades, Filipino nurses have also opted to work abroad due to low wages and poor working conditions in the country.

Duterte earlier mentioned his “concern” for Filipino nurses last May, saying he would meet with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and officials of the government’s coronavirus task force to discuss whether or not his administration can ban the deployment of health workers. 

In issuing a temporary deployment ban on health workers last April, the  Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) also cited a shortage of workers in the Philippines and the “safety” of Filipino frontliners overseas.  

Health workers who were affected by the ban had said they were fully aware of the risks involved in going overseas but wanted to provide for their families especially during the crisis.

Health workers who already had contracts overseas and were affected by the ban, have also been pleading with the government to lift this, saying they risked the possibility of facing cases from employers and had spent thousands of pesos to secure jobs overseas.

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‘Underpaid, overworked, unappreciated:’ PH deployment ban scars nurses during pandemic

‘Underpaid, overworked, unappreciated:’ PH deployment ban scars nurses during pandemic

After a push back from health workers, the government coronavirus task force eased restrictions to allow health workers with overseas employment certificates and valid contracts as of March 8 to leave the Philippines. 

However, other health workers who do not have these necessary documents will be covered by the POEA’s deployment ban as the country struggles to contain the rising number of coronavirus patients. – 

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Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers defense and foreign affairs. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz.