MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) is studying the plan to limit the migration of Filipino health workers to countries with a high incidence of coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) before making a recommendation to President Rodrigo Duterte.
Justice Undersecretary Markk Perete said on Wednesday they would consider the health workers’ right to travel and seek livelihood outside the country as well the health situation in the country.
“Kasama sa pinag-aaralan dito ng DOJ ay ang right to travel at right to seek livelihood. Ganun din ang pangangailangan ng ating mga ospital para sa mga medical professionals sa panahon na higit ng pangangailangan ng kanilang serbisyo dito sa atin (We are considering the medical professionals’ right to travel and seek livelihood and our hospitals’ great need for their services at present),” Perete said in a message to reporters.
Duterte earlier clarified that the reason he wanted to stop Filipino nurses, physicians, and technicians from leaving the country was that he did not want them to become casualties of Covid-19.
“But this one if I send you to a war front, the enemy is the Covid, the microbes, eh parang maawa ako (it’s like I feel pity). Please do not misunderstand me. I am making it clear now. I do not want you to go there and come back in a coffin. That’s my only argument, if you may, because you are Filipinos at mahal ko ang mga buhay ng kababayan ko (and I love the life of my fellow citizens),” he said.
The President said his concern over their health and safety is a “more valid reason” to stop them from migrating compared to what he initially said was his fear that the country would be deprived of health workers.
“The Covid is here to stay. That is how dangerous it is for our health workers,” he added.
Last April 13, Duterte expressed concern that the country might run out of health workers to treat Covid-19 patients if they went abroad.
He criticized the US for aggressively recruiting Filipino nurses instead of relying on their own human resources.
However, Duterte also said he could not blame Filipino medical professionals for wanting to work abroad following the increase in global demand for them due to the pandemic.
Earlier, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued Resolution 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 Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) reviewed the temporary deployment ban after nurses of the United Kingdom’s National Health Service were barred from catching their flight at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).
Upon review, the IATF allowed health workers with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8 to be deployed abroad.
However, other health workers who do not have signed contracts as of March 8 would be covered by the POEA’s deployment ban.
Health workers who will leave for abroad will need to execute a declaration signifying they know the risks involved in their departure.
To date, global Covid-19 cases have surpassed 3.5 million and deaths are now almost 250,000. (ia/PNA)