“If you Filipino nurses wanted to serve the country or other people, it’s okay with me.”
President Rodrigo Duterte said this during the televised meeting with members of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) late Monday night.
Duterte made the remark after nurses and health workers expressed their disagreement with the POEA order of temporary deployment ban for working abroad while the country is battling coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic.
The President said that he could not blame them for wanting to work abroad following an increased global demand for them due to the health crisis.
Duterte, however, expressed concern that the country might run out of medical professionals to treat local Covid-19 patients.
He criticized the US for causing problems by aggressively recruiting nurses instead of relying on their own human resources.
“You should rely on your own people. Now you’re getting them away from the Philippines. If there will be a shortage, we’ll be sorry,” he said.
He admitted that it was tempting to work in the US because nurses were paid with higher salaries there.
“Now you need nurses, and we will be the ones 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 they go there,” he added.
Duterte said the US even made it easier for Filipino nurses to secure visas.
“They are calling on everyone, all nurses, to go process their visa. The next day, they can leave,” he said.
He also bared that the IATF-EID expressed hope that not all Filipino nurses would leave the country amid the rising number of cases.
“There’s no end in sight, how this will end,” he said.
As of Monday (April 12), there are 4,932 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country and 315 deaths.
Globally, there are at least 1.8 million confirmed cases and 116,000 fatalities.
Over the weekend, the US surpassed Italy as the country with the highest reported Covid-19 death toll, recording more than 20,000 deaths since the outbreak began.
Earlier, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the IATF-EID has recommended the lifting of the temporary deployment ban on Filipino health workers with existing contracts abroad.
He said the resolution is subject to Duterte’s approval, but “foregone conclusion” since he has never disapproved of any recommendation made by the IATF.
Early this month, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued Resolution No. 09, temporarily suspending the deployment of all health care workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted and until Covid 19-related travel restrictions are lifted at the destination countries”.
The order was issued to ensure that the country has enough health workers amid the public health emergency. (PNA)