Duterte allows more health workers to leave
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said health workers with complete documents and employment contracts as of Aug. 31 are now allowed to leave for work in other countries.
Miguel De Guzman, file
Duterte allows more health workers to leave
Alexis Romero (The Philippine Star) - September 22, 2020 - 5:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — More healthcare workers may work abroad as the government has eased the ban on the deployment of health professionals.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said health workers with complete documents and employment contracts as of Aug. 31 are now allowed to leave for work in other countries.

Previously, only those with contracts and travel documents on or before March 8, 2020 were exempted from the ban.

“The President listened to the concerns of the nurses. So those who have papers and complete documents as of Aug. 31, 2020 are now allowed to leave,” Roque said at a press briefing in Cagayan de Oro yesterday.

“About 1,500 nurses and health professionals will benefit from this,” he added.

Various labor groups have assailed the deployment ban, saying it violates the right to travel and promotes involuntary servitude.

Officials say the policy is meant to ensure that the Philippines has sufficient manpower as it combats the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Migrant Workers and Overseas Filipinos Act of 1995 states that “the government, in pursuit of the national interest or when public welfare so requires, may, at any time, terminate or impose a ban on the deployment of migrant workers.”

Despite the partial lifting of the deployment ban, the local recruitment industry yesterday claimed that many healthcare workers may still not be able to leave the country to work abroad.

Recruitment leader Lito Soriano said most of the healthcare workers who have secured employment overseas still do not have the overseas employment certificate (OECs) required for departing overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and thus would not be able to leave the country.

Though the healthcare workers have employment contracts, Soriano said they were unable to apply for OECs because the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) offices are closed and even the recruitment agencies are also forced to temporarily suspend operations due to the pandemic.

“When the POEA finally opened it decided to do manual processing for (healthcare workers) so it would take a while before the departing workers could secure the required documents,” Soriano explained.

Soriano called on the POEA to return to online processing of OECs and to completely lift the ban on deployment of healthcare workers.

POEA chief Bernard Olalia said the agency purposely adopted manual processing to limit the deployment of healthcare workers overseas.

Olalia said POEA would resume online processing when the ban is lifted completely.

But Soriano said a deployment ban is not necessary since the country has a sufficient supply of healthcare workers.

Over 200,000 licensed nurses, Soriano said, are unemployed or not practicing their profession due to lack of available work here in the country.

Soriano said the government should not restrain them, and to let the healthcare workers decide on their own whether to work here or overseas.

A group of nurses yesterday expressed their gratitude for the easing of the deployment ban, but still wanted the President to completely remove the travel restriction.

The group, PrisoNurses, conceded that extending the exemption would allow more healthcare workers to process their applications and finally pursue their careers abroad.

“However, the deployment ban which has been existing for more than six months already has brought numerous sacrifices and struggles for most of our nurses and their loved ones,” PrisoNurses said in a letter to President Duterte.

“So we implore your help and beseech you to lift the ban totally, so the rest of those who are still affected can start with their lives anew,” the group added.

Meanwhile, some 1,075 registered nurses bound for Germany are among the 4,000 stranded in the country caught by the deployment ban.

The 1,075 Filipino skilled nurses who have been accepted for work in German hospitals are still stranded in the country due the deployment ban on health workers by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infecious Diseases since April 2, 2020.

Since these nurses have been out of work for the past two years and out of the national healthcare system in preparation for their German job offers, finances of the nurses have virtually dried up.

Their German language proficiency is slowly going down and their German employers who funded their language studies have also sent allowances to the nurses to tide them over while waiting for the government to lift the deployment ban to Germany.

The nurses have been studying the German language for the past year and have been issued visas for Germany. However, with the onset of the deployment ban the nurses could no longer pursue their travel.

Nurse Mark del Rosario of Malabon City told recruitment society that he should have left last April but unfortunately was held up by the ban.

The Philippines and Germany have a government-to-government agreement for the deployment of skilled and qualified nurses to Germany with the participation of the private sector.

Nurses in Germany earn at least 2,700 euros monthly, or the equivalent of P160,000 – a substantial sum that will help their families in the country. – Mayen Jaymalin, Rudy Santos

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