'Hindi ko sinisisi': Duterte says he can't stop Filipino nurses from working abroad

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Apr 14 2020 01:16 AM | Updated as of Apr 14 2020 04:14 AM

MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday admitted he cannot stop nurses and other healthcare workers from leaving the country to work abroad as the demand for them increases worldwide due to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

In a televised briefing, Duterte said with the increasing COVID-19 cases in the US, the American government is now making it easier for foreign nurses to get a job in their country.

"America is part of the problem of Filipinos now, kasi sa karaming tinamaan sa kanila, marami nang patay, maski sino na lang, nananawagan sila, 'yung mga nars, basta nars, sige, punta kayo sa embassy, i-process nila ang visa, one day, kinabukasan lipad ka," he said.

(America is part of the problem of Filipinos now, because they have a lot of cases, a lot have died, so they are calling on everyone, all nurses, to go process their visa. The next day, they can leave.)

However, he warned that the Philippines may experience a shortage in nurses and healthcare professionals if the crisis worsens.

"Ngayon nangangailangan kayo ng nurse, express. Kami naman dito ang kakabahan, kasi wala kaming pambigay kasinglaki, so ang mga nurse natin. Naintindihan ko 'yan eh, self-preservation 'yan eh. Kailangan magtrabaho sila, may trabaho ngayon sa Amerika, 'di pupuntahan sila," Duterte said.

(Now you need nurses, and we will be the one who will lose them because we cannot give them as much. I understand, that is self-preservation. You have to work. They have job offers in the US, so you go there.)

Duterte also said it would have been better if the US relied on its own citizens instead of looking for workers elsewhere.

"Ang problema ngayon itong Amerikano. You could have relied on your own human resource. Ibig sabihin, dapat kayo, umasa sana sa mga sariling mga tao ninyo," he said.

(The problem now is the Americans. You could have relied on your own human resource.)

"Ngayon kinukuha, kinakaltasan mo ang Pilipinas, pagdating ng panahon magkulang, sorry na lang tayo," Duterte added.

(Now you are taking them away from Philippines. When the time comes, we'll be sorry.)

Despite this, Duterte said he is not stopping healthcare workers who want to work abroad.

"Hindi ko sinisisi, hindi ako galit. Wala akong emotions actually about this but kung gusto ninyong kayong mga nurse na Pilipino gusto ninyong magsilbi sa ibang bayan, sa ibang tao, okay lang sa akin," he said. "Ito lang ang tandaan mo, pagdating ng panahon kung maghirap kami, hindi natin alam ngayon, pa-increase ng increase, first wave pa ito. Kayo na lang ang mag-intindi."

(If Filipino nurses want to serve in other countries, serve other people, it's okay. But you have to remember, there will come a time that the country will suffer. The cases are increasing. You be the ones to understand.)

Duterte also said that he cannot force everyone to stay, since unlike China, the Philippines is a democratic country.

"Dito hindi ko magawa 'yun kasi demokrasya, papasok ang human rights ( I cannot do that here because of human rights advocates)," he added.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration earlier released a memorandum suspending the deployment of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers abroad in the hopes of preserving the local frontline force against the novel coronavirus pandemic.

On Monday, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. clarified that those with existing contracts abroad can leave the country.

Locsin described as unconstitutional the POEA governing board’s resolution temporarily suspending the deployment of all healthcare workers until the national state of emergency due to COVID19 is lifted and “until COVID-19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries.”

He added the ban will only make sense if “we pay them foreign rates” and if the country negotiates “first class work contracts for them.” - with a report from Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News