On Migrant Workers Day, Ban or Bane: Duterte government’s 5K ceiling on deployment of health workers overseas

Press Release, 7 June 2021

“It is deplorable for the Duterte government to announce its decision to stop the deployment of health workers on the commemoration of National Migrant Workers Day today.” This was declared by Migrante International Joanna Concepcion in reaction to DOLE Secretary Bello’s statement POEA advisory dated June 1 that the annual deployment ceiling of 5,000 new hires ceiling for medical workers had been reached.

“What a nerve for this administration to celebrate this occasion in recognition of the valuable contributions of our modern-day heroes when it continues to ignore the plight of overseas Filipino workers especially frontline health workers risking their lives amidst the pandemic!” she laments.

“If the concern of the Duterte government is to ensure that there are enough medical workers to cater to the country’s health welfare considering that COVID cases have reached 1,269,478 with 21,898 deaths as of yesterday June 6, 2021, then all it has to do is to prioritize their urgent calls, which include immediate provision of just wages comparable to international wage standards, overtime pay, good benefits, security of tenure among others, Concepcion stressed.

“We cannot blame our nurses and other healthcare workers who want to seek better paying jobs abroad despite the risks to their own health and anxieties of leaving their own families behind because our government leaders have clearly proven that their labor, remarkable contributions, sacrifices and voices are not valued.

The Duterte government has failed our healthcare workers and it has shown that its priority is centered on its own selfish interest to stay in power by providing more hefty salaries and benefits to the AFP-PNP who are only known for killing hapless civilians and not the health and welfare of the Filipino people who are in urgent need of financial aid, medical attention and more during this unprecedented economic and health crisis” she stated.

Migrante International supports and echoes the demands of the Filipino Nurses United (FNU) and our healthcare frontliners to:

1) Strengthen public health system to provide free, quality, comprehensive tax-funded health care services unified from the barangay to the national level;

2) Implement a pro-active, efficient, compassionate, comprehensive COVID-19 response:
a. Ensure comprehensive and people-centered health measures;
b. Institute an efficient surveillance system – free mass testing, aggressive contact tracing, scientific, reliable and accountable health information system;
c. Free  vaccines to the prioritized and eligible population using public funds, utilizing national and local sources; NO to onerous loans detrimental to the national economy and recovery;
d. Unhampered health services to non-COVID patients;

3) Protect health care workers and uphold their rights and welfare, both in public and private health facilities;

4) Allocate 10% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as minimum Budget for Health and COVID-19 Response; and

5) Ensure sustained and comprehensive socio-economic response; and
6) Institute changes in leadership and governance by overhauling the IATF-EID and designate public health experts, social scientists, etc. and by re-orienting and re-organizing government structures for pandemic response.

Lastly, we challenge the Duterte administration to immediately certify urgent the legislative bill that provides for immediate cash relief to all including our OFWs who are tagged as economic heroes but are continuously abandoned and neglected. It is high time for this administration to provide OFW families with P10K cash relief without exemptions, USD200 cash assistance to OFWs working abroad without restrictions, P20K livelihood program for those who were forced to return home due to the pandemic on top of the current DOLE-OWWA benefits, P30K budget to each displaced OFWs returning home for their swab tests, quarantine requirements and local transportation and immediately provide temporary shelters to OFWs displaced overseas who were terminated by employers due to the pandemic.

Enough with the political gimmick! This is about people’s lives and we want nothing less. ###