After backlash, DOLE clarifies: No intention to treat nurses as commodity
MANILA, Philippines — After receiving rebuke for asking a “nurses-for-vaccine” plan with the United Kingdom and Germany, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) on Wednesday made some “clarification” on their request.
According to DOLE’s Information and Publication Service director Rolly Francia, the request of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III was only meant to ensure that health workers who will be sent to the UK and Germany are already vaccinated against the new coronavirus before deployment.
The call for the two countries to provide Covid-19 jabs to the Philippines was part of the condition of DOLE to lift its deployment limit on nurses and other health care workers to the UK and Germany.
“Ang gusto lang po tiyakin ay ‘yung mga ipapadalang mga nurses ay nabakunahan na and the vaccine should come from the requesting countries,” Francia said in an online media forum.
(We just wanted to make sure that the nurses who will be sent are already vaccinated and that the vaccines should come from the requesting countries.)
On Monday, International Labor Affairs Bureau Director Alice Visperas said Bello is considering lifting the cap on the deployment of healthcare workers to the UK and Germany if the requests made by the Philippine government are met. Visperas also said Bello has already spoken with the UK ambassador to the Philippines regarding the matter.
Apart from providing vaccines against the new coronavirus, Visperas said Bello likewise requested renewal of the 2002 and 2003 bilateral labor agreements between the UK and the Philippines.
Francia said DOLE wasn’t intending to treat Filipino healthcare workers as commodities to swap for Covid-19 vaccines.
“Hindi po intensyon ng department na ituring na materyal upang i-trade ang ating mga nurses para lang makakuha ng vaccines. Hindi rin po intensyon na ituring na commodity ang ating mga nurses para i-barter with whatever material that we may have,” he said.
(The department does not intend to treat our nurses as materials that could be traded in exchange for vaccines. It is not our intention to use the nurses as commodities to barter with whatever material we may have.)
“There is never and will never be such intention on the part of the government,” he stressed.
Nevertheless, Francia said it would be better if the UK government would provide more vaccine doses than those allotted for healthcare workers to be deployed to the European country.
“Now considering na napakagalante naman or generous ng pamahalaan ng UK, baka sakali— ‘di ba, request lang naman ‘yun—baka sakali na kung magbibigay man sila eh ‘di dagdagan na. Magbibigay din lang eh,” he said.
(Now considering that the UK government is so generous—and this is just a request—maybe they can add more to the vaccines that they will provide.)
“Halimbawa kung 5,000 ‘yung request nilang nurses, alangan namang for 5,000 nurses lamang ang vaccine na ibibigay nila, or kaya kung 10,000 nurses, alangan namang for 10,000 [lang].
(For example, if they are requesting 5,000 or 10,000 nurses, it would be off if they will only provide vaccines for the said number.)
“Baka kaya naman nilang magbigay ng (Maybe they can give) more than that to cover other OFWs who have returned or who have been repatriated to the Philippines so that they would be capable of facing their workplaces once they are redeployed in other host countries,” Francia added.
Bello earlier said that the UK and Germany are seeking an exemption from the 5,000 per year limit on deployment of Filipino nurses and other health care workers, with Germany hoping to hire some 15,000 Filipino medical workers.
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