Press Release
February 24, 2021

Drilon hits DOLE's 'nurses for vaccines' policy

"Bakit tayo umabot sa ganito?"

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon asked this question as he hit the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for its offer to the United Kingdom and Germany of deployment of more Filipino nurses in the two European nations with the highest number of cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in exchange for COVID-19 vaccines.

"It's a sign of desperation. Ganito na ba tayo kadesperado? said Drilon, saying that policy is borne out of the growing exasperation over the lack of COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

Drilon said DOLE's "palit bakuna" initiative "is a wrong policy and sets a bad precedent."

"Our health care workers are not commodities they can trade off," he added.

An official of the labor department, Alice Visperas, revealed that Secretary Silvestre Bello III has asked the UK and Germany to provide the Philippines with at least 600,000 vaccines in exchange for the deployment of more Filipino nurses and other health care workers. "For the government to go this far as trading off its Filipino health care workers in exchange for vaccines means something is not right in the government's coronavirus vaccination strategy," he added.

The former labor secretary advised DOLE to abandon the policy.

"Hindi po kasama sa mandato ng DOLE ang 'palit bakuna'. Our focus should be on protecting the rights and welfare of our overseas Filipino workers especially during these trying times," Drilon said.

Drilon said it only highlights the need for the government to fast-track the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Senate passed on Tuesday a measure that will help expedite the purchase and administration of the much-needed vaccines in the country as the Philippines lags behind in coronavirus vaccination among its Southeast Asian neighbors.

With the passage of the measure, Drilon said there will be no more excuses for delays in COVID-19 vaccination plan.

"There should be no more excuses. But I am holding my breath for the next excuse and finger pointing," he said.

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