Press Release
September 8, 2020

Villanueva: Offloading of UK-bound Filipino nurses show disjointed policy on healthcare workers' deployment ban

The incident involving seven Filipino nurses bound for the United Kingdom who were offloaded by the Bureau of Immigration (BI) Sunday night due to the deployment ban on healthcare workers highlights how disjointed this policy is, to the detriment of our own people, according to Senator Joel Villanueva.

Villanueva called on authorities, particularly the Department of Labor and Employment, to immediately sort out the misunderstanding so that no other healthcare worker suffers the trouble caused by the wrong interpretation of government policies.

"Malinaw po sa kasalukuyang polisiya na maaaring umalis ang mga healthcare workers na may kontratang pinagtibay bago ang cut-off na March 8. Hindi na po kasama sa usapan kung kailan nabigyan ng visa ang ating manggagawa," Villanueva said in a statement. "Mali po ang interpretasyon ng BI sa umiiral na deployment ban, at patunay dito ang memo na kanilang pinalabas noon Aug. 20 na nagsasaad na bawal umalis ng bansa ang mga healthcare worker na binigyan ng visa matapos ang March 8."

(It is clear that the current policy allows healthcare workers with contracts perfected as of March 8. The date when the visa was issued is not part of the discussion," Villanueva said. "The BI's interpretation of the deployment ban is clearly wrong as seen in its memo issued on Aug. 20, which states that healthcare workers whose visas were issued after March 8 are not allowed outbound travel.")

The lawmaker, who chairs the Senate labor committee, also reiterated his call to lift the deployment ban on healthcare workers citing the need to balance the regulation with realities on the ground.

Most of the affected workers are their families' breadwinners, have left their jobs to pursue overseas employment, and have spent considerable time and money to train and prepare for deployment, he explained.

Villanueva also pointed out that during the recent labor committee inquiry, health officials said the country only needed 16,500 healthcare workers to join its ranks. In particular, of the 10,468 slots waiting to be filled, only 7,850 healthcare workers have been filled up.

"What DOH should do is to make the terms of employment enticing enough for our healthcare workers to consider working for the government. Aside from the low pay and unclear guidelines on the grant of hazard pay, the employment under the emergency hiring program lasts only three months. I don't think this pandemic will end in the next three months, that's why the terms should be longer," Villanueva said.

(Dapat gawing mas maganda ang terms of employment sa ilalim ng emergency hiring program ng DOH para ma-enganyo ang ating mga healthcare workers na magtrabaho. Maliban sa mababang sahod at malabong panuntunan sa pagbibigay ng hazard pay, tatlong buwan lang ang ibinibigay sa kontrata. Hindi po matatapos ang pandemya sa loob ng tatlong buwan kaya po dapat mas mahaba ang kanilang termino," Villanueva said.)

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