Duterte hopeful Filipino health workers will stay to fight COVID-19
The National Kidney and Transplant Institute sets up a tent which was converted into a receiving area for medical workers to screen possible COVID-19 patients in Quezon City on April 2, 2020.
The STAR/Miguel de Guzman

Duterte hopeful Filipino health workers will stay to fight COVID-19

Alexis Romero (Philstar.com) - September 22, 2020 - 5:46pm

MANILA, Philippines — Despite relaxing the deployment ban on healthcare professionals, President Rodrigo Duterte is hopeful that Filipino health workers will stay and help in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Duterte has allowed nurses and other health workers with complete travel documents and employment contracts as of August 31 to leave the country to work abroad.

His decision eased the deployment ban, which originally allowed only those with travel documents and contracts on or before March 8, 2020 to seek work opportunities in other countries.

"But you know, this is not really to offend those health workers of ours, doctors, nurses who want to go abroad to earn good money... I do not have anything against you but I hope others will have the... spirit and the fervor to serve the Filipino people because we also need help and we have a crisis also to deal with," Duterte said in a televised public address last Monday.

"I don't underestimate, nothing at all, nothing at all. I have but respect for all of you. But for those who want to go out, you can do so. For those who remained, I hope you will stay long, until after this COVID-19 will pass. It will come to pass. I am sure of that," he added.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration suspended the deployment of health care workers to other countries to ensure that the country will have enough human resources as it grapples with the pandemic. The ban will remain “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until the COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”

Labor groups are opposed to the restriction, saying it violates the right of health workers to travel and promotes involuntary servitude. Officials have defended the ban, saying the government can impose such a policy to serve national interest or public welfare.

While Duterte has agreed to ease the deployment ban, presidential spokesman Harry Roque admitted that it may be difficult to lift the restriction totally.

"It is clear to the president, while we have a state of calamity because of COVID-19, it may be difficult to lift that ban. While nurses are going to countries with higher (COVID-19) cases, the president will take care of the health of our frontliners," Roque said at a press briefing Tuesday.

Roque also expressed support for the bill of Deputy Speaker Paolo Duterte seeking to raise the salary of nurses in the private sector.

"I am not sure if it would be certified as urgent but of course the president supports his son. The bill is right because we need to increase the salary of nurses in private hospitals and make it at par with those working for public hospitals," the Palace spokesman said.

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