MANILA - The 5,000-deployment cap on healthworkers is applicable only to new hires, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello said Tuesday after a nurses group urged government to remove the limit.
Medical workers returning to their jobs abroad are allowed to leave the country, he said.
"'Yang cap na 'yan ay subject to regular review. Pagka halimbawa bababa ang insidente ng pandemya, pwede naman natin increase 'yan. Gusto lang natin matiyak na di tayo darating sa panahon na lumala ang COVID-19 pagkatapos ang nurses at medical workers nasa ibang bansa," he told ABS-CBN's Teleradyo.
(The cap is subject to regular review. For example, if the pandemic slows, we may increase it. We just want to make sure the time won't come when COVID-19 worsens and our nurses and medical workers are abroad.)
"Ang kinukuha ng mga dayuhan highly-skilled and experienced, naiiwan lahat sa'tin mga baguhan."
(Foreigners get our highly-skilled and experienced nurses, we are left with inexperienced ones.)
Bello said he agrees a salary hike would encourage nurses to remain in the country, adding that there's a pending measure in Congress seeking to increase pay of private hospital nurses to the level of the public sector.
"Private sector ang napapabayaan, nagiging victim pa sila itong malalaking hospital ang baba magpasuweldo," he said.
(Nurses in the private sector are neglected, they are victimized by big hospitals that pay little.)
Nearly 30,000 healthcare workers have yet to receive several months of salary, hazard pay and special risk allowance, according to Maristela Abenojar, national president of Filipino Nurses United.
"Tingin ko po ang nangyayari ngayon ay killing me softly. Unti-unti kaming pinapatay. Pinapatay kami sa pagiging exposed, nang di nabibigyan ng sapat na proteksyon sa COVID-19. Pinapatay din kami sa gutom," she told Teleradyo Monday.
(I think what's happening now is 'killing me softly.' We're slowly being killed by being exposed due to inadequate protection against COVID-19. We're also being killed by hunger.)
"Panawagan po namin, malapit na ang Pasko, maawa naman po kayo sa ating nurses at iba pang healthworkers. Ngayon po namin kayo kailangan magpatupad ng mabilisan na pagkilos dahil pera naman po 'yan ng sambayanang Pilipino so sana po gawin niyo po ang dapat niyong gawin para sa amin."
(We call on government this Christmas to be compassionate with our nurses and health workers. We need you to enforce actions quickly because that's the people's taxes so we hope you do what you need to do for us.)