MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte said he could not blame Filipino nurses and other health workers for wanting to work abroad following an increased global demand for them due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) health crisis.

“Hindi ko sinisisi, hindi ako galit, wala akong emotions actually about this. But kung gusto ninyong kayong mga nurse na Pilipino gusto ninyong magsilbi sa ibang bayan, sa ibang tao, okay lang sa akin (I don’t blame them, I’m not angry, I don’t have emotions about this. But if you Filipino nurses wanted to serve the country or other people, it’s okay with me),” he said in a televised meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) late Monday night.

Duterte, however, expressed concern that the country might run out of medical professionals to treat local Covid-19 patients.

He criticized the US for causing problems by aggressively recruiting nurses instead of relying on their own human resources.

“Dapat kayo umasa sana sa sariling mga tao ninyo. Eh ngayon kinukuha, kinakaltasan mo ang Pilipinas pagdating ng panahon magkulang, sorry na lang tayo (You should rely on your own people. Now you’re getting them away from the Philippines. If there will be a shortage, we’ll be sorry),” he said.

He admitted that it was tempting to work in the US because nurses were paid with higher salaries there.

“So ngayon nangangailangan kayo ng nurse, express. Kami naman dito nakakabahan kasi wala kaming pangbigay kasing laki so ang mga nurse natin — eh naintindihan ko ‘yan eh self-preservation ‘yan. So kailangan magtrabaho sila. May trabaho ngayon sa Amerika, eh ‘di nagpupuntahan sila (Now you need nurses, and we will be the one who will lose them because we cannot give them as much. I understand that is self-preservation. You have to work. They have job offers in the US, so they go there),” he added.

Duterte said the US even made it easier for Filipino nurses to secure visas.

“Nananawagan sila basta ‘yung nurse, mga nurse sige punta kayo sa embassy, i-process nila ang visa one day, kinabukasan lipad ka na (They are calling on everyone, all nurses, to go process their visa. The next day, they can leave),” he said.

Unlike the Philippines, he said China could easily require their citizens to stay in the country by demanding total obedience.

“Dito hindi ko magawa ‘yan kasi demokrasya, papasok ang human rights [advocates] (I cannot do that here in the Philippines because of human rights advocates),” he said.

He also bared that the IATF-EID expressed hope that not all Filipino nurses would leave the country amid the rising number of cases.

“There’s no end in sight, anong katapusan nito (how this will end),” he said.

As of Monday (April 12), there are 4,932 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 315 deaths.

Globally, there are at least 1.8 million confirmed cases and 116,000 fatalities.

Over the weekend, the US surpassed Italy as the country with the highest reported Covid-19 death toll, recording more than 20,000 deaths since the outbreak began.

Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the IATF-EID has recommended the lifting of the temporary deployment ban on Filipino health workers with existing contracts abroad.

He said the resolution is subject to Duterte’s approval, but “foregone conclusion” since he has never disapproved of any recommendation made by the IATF.

Early this month, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued Resolution No. 09, temporarily suspending the deployment of all health care workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until Covid 19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries”.

The order was issued to ensure that the country has enough health workers amid the public health emergency. (PNA)

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