On Prince Philip’s “half-empty” remark

“If we Filipinos are going to be sensitive, it should be out of disgust for a system that drives away at least one-third of our population abroad.”

This was the reaction of Migrante Partylist to Britain’s Prince Philip’s remark during his last visit to Luton and Dunstable Hospitals in the United Kingdom. “The Philippines must be half-empty – you’re all here running the NHS (National Health Service),” the prince was quoted as telling a Filipina nurse.

“Prince Philip’s remark may have been a cheeky retort or simply an obvious observation,” said Connie Bragas-Regalado, chairperson and first nominee of Migrante Partylist.

Of present, some 15 million overseas Filipinos are scattered in at least 239 countries in six continents. About 30 to 40 percent of the Filipino population is remittance-dependent. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) places the Philippines as the fourth leading migrant-sending country in the world, next only to China, Mexico and India.

According to data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), 1.5 million Filipino workers were deployed abroad in 2010, about 50,000 or 3.4 percent higher than the deployment rate in 2009. This figure further ballooned in 2011 and 2012. Most are working as domestic workers, hotel and restaurant staff, caregivers, factory workers, teachers and nurses.

Bragas-Regalado said that what should be more lamentable is “the truth that our Filipino nurses are forced to seek greener pastures abroad when our own national health system is deteriorating.”

She blamed this on the Philippine government’s focusing on catering to the demands of labor export and privatization despite the worsening state of the Philippine health system and lack of benefits for public nurses, doctors and health workers.

Dito sa atin, walang sapat na benefits, mababa ang sweldo at kulang na kulang ang pasilidad para sa mga nurses, doctor at health workers. These factors are driving our nurses away. These are facts that we should be more sensitive about,” Bragas-Regalado said.

Migrante Partylist said that Filipino nurses in the United Kingdom and elsewhere deserve recognition and respect. “The Philippine government should ensure that they are treated well in the workplace, are not discriminated against and provided the same benefits as their counterparts in their host countries.” ###