Senator Risa Hontiveros on Wednesday urged the Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) to lift the deployment ban on health workers as their labor contracts abroad will be affected.
Hontiveros said that while she understands the need to prioritize the country’s health care system, she empathizes with the plight of health workers who, after going through the tedious process of trainings and securing necessary documentary requirements and permits, will only be barred from leaving the country.
“Together with labor groups and nurses organizations, I reiterate their request that the deployment ban be lifted,” Hontiveros said in a letter addressed to IATF Chairperson and Health Secretary Francisc Duque III and co-chair Secretary Karlo Nograles.
“Hayaan nating makalipad ang health workers na ilang buwan nang hindi makapaghanapbuhay (Allow our health workers to go abroad since they have been out of work for months now),” the senator said.
“Hindi lang oras ang inilaan ng ating mga kababayan para lang makapag-abroad. Marami ang nangutang, nagbenta ng ari-arian para lang masuportahan ang pangarap (They didn’t just waste the time just to go abroad. Most of them secured loans, sold off properties and assets just so they can support their dreams). They must be allowed to leave,” she added.
Instead of implementing a deployment ban, Hontiveros said the government should put in place higher wages and better working conditions for the country’s health care workers to encourage them to stay and work locally.
Citing data from the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the lawmaker pointed out the entry level for nurses in the country is only at P8,000 to P13,500 per month, the lowest salary for nurses in Southeast Asia.
“Kaya hindi pwedeng pipigilan natin silang umalis na hindi sila binibigyan ng dahilan para mag-stay, (That’s why we can’t forcibly stop them from leaving, unless we give them enough reason to stay),” Hontiveros said.
While the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act provides employment and additional benefits for health workers, she said this should not restrict them from working overseas especially if they have already been hired, complied with requirements, and are just waiting to be deployed.
“While the reasonable amount of P13.5-billion was allocated for the continuous employment of Human Resources for Health (HRH) and additional benefits for all health care workers under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act, I believe the law should also allow health care workers who have already secured employment abroad to be deployed,” she said.