MANILA — Filipino healthcare workers are being held hostage by a deployment ban imposed by the country's pandemic task force, Sen. Nancy Binay said Thursday, adding the government has "no right" to block them since it has failed to give them "competitive compensation."
According to Binay, the government has no right to prevent healthcare workers from working abroad to provide for the needs of their families.
"For healthcare workers, the struggle to survive is real in the midst of risks and trying to feed a family... 'Yung travel ban hostages their chance to have a decent work-life balance and give their families a better future," Binay said in a statement.
The Philippines, a key exporter of nurses and other medical workers, had sought to keep a reserve force of medical workers as it battled an increasing number of COVID-19 infections.
The inter-agency task force (IATF) on pandemic response limited the deployment of health workers abroad to those with overseas employment contracts as of March 8.
Only nurses and other medical professionals who already have existing contracts, or those who completed all their requirements before March 8 this year are exempt from the deployment ban, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III had said.
Binay then urged the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and the IATF to recall its deployment ban on healthcare workers.
"Sana maunawaan din ng POEA at ng IATF ang kalagayan ng ating mga nurse na 'di lang naman sila full-time sa ospital. Sa totoo lang, mas mabigat ang pressure kung paano maitatawid ang kanilang mga pamilya sa gitna ng pandemya," the senator said.
Should the POEA insist on continuing the deployment ban, Binay suggested the government must ensure that healthcare workers in the country are given competitive compensation.
"They have long been neglected. Kung itutuloy nila ang deployment ban, at the very least the government should provide our healthcare workers with compensation sufficient enough to provide for their families... May pandemya po at sino ba naman ang gustong mawalay sa kanilang mahal sa buhay sa panahon ngayon?"Binay said.
Allaying fears of manpower shortage, Binay cited 2017 data from the Department of Health showing that there were over 750,000 licensed medical professionals in the country.