Duterte contradicts Locsin’s opposition to ban on health workers’ deployment abroad
MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has taken a contrary view to that of Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who is against the deployment ban of healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In his briefing late Monday night, Duterte said that Locsin’s view would be right only during ordinary circumstances — when the country is not facing a pandemic.
Locsin recently decried the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) directive to ban health workers from going abroad and instead serve the Philippine government first.
Noting that Locsin cited the obligation of Filipino workers to honor contracts they might have abroad and their right to travel Duterte said: “Ako, I’d like to take the opposite view… Sa ordinaryong times, talagang hindi kayo mapigilan, at walang makasabi sa inyo na umalis kayo, ‘wag kayong umalis.”
[Me, I’d like to take the opposite view… In ordinary times, we really can’t be stopped, and nobody can say leave or don’t leave.]
But in an emergency, Duterte implied that making health workers stay would be the proper course. He pointed out that China was able to reopen Hubei province, where the COVID-19 virus originated, because its government prevented its health workers from leaving so that they were able to contain the viral outbreak.
The issue surfaced after Locsin revealed in a tweet that nurses working for the United Kingdom’s National Health Service were stopped from leaving the Ninoy Aquino International Airport due to the POEA directive.
This got mixed reactions from health workers seeking better opportunities abroad and those who have obligations with foreign hospitals.
Earlier, the Commission on Human Rights asked the government to clarify its rules on the deployment ban, saying that it should consider the rights of these people.
However, Duterte assured that he has no ill feelings towards health workers who would want to leave the country to continue with their jobs — although he left a cryptic message for them:
“Hindi ko sinisisi. Hindi ako galit. Wala akong emotions actually about this. But kung gusto ninyong magsilbi sa ibang bayan, sa ibang tao, okay lang sa akin. Ito lang tandaan mo: Pagdating ng panahon kung maghirap kami — hindi natin alam ngayon eh, pa-increase nang pa-increase, first wave ba ito? — kayo na mag-intindi.”
[I don’t blame them. I’m not angry. I have no emotions, actually, about this. But if you want to serve another country, other people, that’s okay with me. Just remember this: When the time comes when we suffer — we’re don’t know now but it’s increasing and increasing, is this just the first wave? — it’s up to you to understand that.]
As of Monday, the entire Luzon was still under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) that is scheduled to end on April 30 due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
Department of Health officials said that there are now 4,932 infected patients — 315 of whom have died and 242 have recovered.
Worldwide, over 1.8 million individuals have been infected, of whome 114,063 have died and 421,500 have recovered.
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