Senator Joel Villanueva said the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) should raise its coordination efforts with the Department of Health (DOH) in facilitating the hiring of healthcare workers whose overseas deployment was suspended indefinitely by the government due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.
Villanueva, chairman of the Senate labor committee, explained that healthcare workers were caught in a bind when the ban was implemented in April. Aside from their incomes, healthcare workers also spent for other employment requirements such as language proficiency and other relevant certifications that would eventually expire.
“While we understand that the intention was clear, the ban impacts the ability of healthcare workers to provide for their families. The government should make good on its commitment to hire healthcare workers, especially those affected by the ban,” the veteran legislator said.
“If we cannot follow through our commitment, we might as well just lift the ban altogether.”
“We must understand that our healthcare workers have spent significantly on their requirements. There is no guarantee that our government would reimburse them for their expenses, so the least it can do is facilitate and expedite their hiring in our healthcare system,” the seasoned lawmaker continued. “Otherwise, if we cannot follow through our commitment, we might as well just lift the ban altogether.”
The senator also sought clarification from the labor department on the supposed coverage of affected healthcare workers under its Abot Kamay sa Pagtulong (AKAP) financial assistance program for overseas Filipino workers.
Under the program guidelines, qualified OFWs must either be displaced due to their host country’s imposition of lockdowns or community quarantines; must either be overseas or are about to return abroad as “balik manggagawa;” and must not receive any financial support from employers or their host country.
“The DOH should specify how many healthcare workers it needs for the public health system.”
He also called on the health department to specify how many healthcare workers does the public health system needs so labor authorities can also “assess how long this ban could be enforced.”
In April, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued a temporary deployment ban on healthcare workers such as doctors, nurses, and allied health professions “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”
POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 9 also suspended bilateral labor agreement for government-to-government deployment of healthcare workers while the state of national emergency remains in effect.