MANILA — The inter-agency task force leading the country's COVID-19 response said on Friday it raised the annual cap on the deployment of nurses and other health care workers who want to work abroad.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration earlier this month suspended the overseas deployment of newly hired medical professionals after the 5,000 annual ceiling for new hires was breached on June 1.
The IATF, in a meeting on Thursday, "increased the annual deployment ceiling of new hire healthcare workers (HCWs) for Mission Critical Skills (MCS) to 6,500," said task force and Malacañang spokesman Harry Roque.
"HCWs falling under MCS with perfected contracts as of May 31, 2021, shall form part of the adjusted ceiling," he said in a statement.
"Healthcare workers under government-to-government labor agreements shall, however, be exempted from this adjusted ceiling," added the official
The Philippines is one of the world's biggest sources of nurses, who are among some 10 million Filipinos who work and live overseas, with annual remittances in excess of $30 billion, a key driver for the country's consumption-driven economy.
"There are reasons to allow health workers to seek good jobs abroad," Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello told a news conference. "We will make sure we will not run out of nurses and doctors."
More than 200,000 nursing graduates have chosen to work in other industries because of meager compensation and benefits in the healthcare sector, Jocelyn Andamo, secretary-general of the Filipino Nurses United, told Reuters.
"This is a positive development, but hopefully the deployment ban will be fully lifted," Andamo said.
At least 4,000 nurses intending to work in Germany, the Middle East, Scotland, Japan, Singapore, the United States and Australia were barred from leaving after the cap of 5,000 was reached this month, data from the nurses group show.
President Rodrigo Duterte lifted a deployment ban on healthcare workers in November, but limited the number allowed to leave to ensure there would be enough at home as the Philippines battles one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in Asia.
In 2019, almost 17,000 Filipino nurses signed overseas work contracts, government data showed.
– With reports from Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News; Reuters