MANILA — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on Thursday vowed "changes" in the situation of Filipino nurses and additional transparency in the COVID-19 response.
In his inaugural address, Marcos paid tribute to nurses, who he called "the best in the world."
"They acquitted themselves with the highest distinction abroad, having suffered even the highest casualties," he said.
He also acknowledged the ongoing brain drain among Filipino nurses, as more of them are lured by higher wages abroad.
"They are out there because we cannot pay them for the same risk and workload that we have back here," Marcos said.
"There will be changes, starting tomorrow," he continued, without giving additional details.
Instead, he said he was "confident" because Susan "Toots" Ople would head the Department of Migrant Workers.
Ople, the daughter of the late labor minister Blas Ople, is known for her advocacy for overseas Filipino workers' (OFW) rights and welfare.
Staff resignations hit some hospitals last year, as health workers complained of low pay and poor working conditions.
Some hospitals offered perks to both their new and current nurses to entice them to stay in the Philippines for work.
'NO MORE SECRETS IN PUBLIC HEALTH'
In his inaugural address, Marcos also vowed for a more transparent COVID-19 response to address the perceived "shortcomings" in the past.
"There were shortcomings in the COVID response. We will fix them out in the open. No more secrets in public health," he said.
Marcos noted that this resolve is based on his own experience, as he was among the first to contract the coronavirus in 2020.
"It was not a walk in the park," he said.
In 2020, some experts gave Marcos's predecessor Rodrigo Duterte a failing mark for how he addressed the pandemic.
"Makatao kasi tayo so hindi numerical grade, ang ibibigay ko ay letter grade na F as in fail, F as in falfak," former UP Diliman Chancellor and Professor Emeritus Michael Tan had said.
The previous administration also faced questions over its pandemic deals with Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp, which allegedly supplied overpriced and substandard equipment to the government. Duterte denied this, saying the transactions were aboveboard.
"Kung sasabihin ninyo ako ay nagkulang, eh sorry. Ginawa ang lahat ko," Duterte said of the pandemic response last year. "Kung ang lahat ko ay kulang pa, patawad po. Iyan lang po talaga ang kaya ko."