By Genalyn Kabiling
Filipino workers will remain in demand abroad especially in the health and information and communication technology (ICT) sectors even as the coronavirus pandemic has changed global economic activities, a Palace official said Friday.
Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles said, however, that the government must still take steps to prevent “brain drain” in the country in the face of the availability of employment opportunities in foreign countries.
“Because the market is changing, the world is changing and adjusting because of the COVID-19 (new coronavirus disease) ang demand for overseas Filipino workers will be on industries that are still operating and being given priority by the respective countries. Kaya iyong health sector will play a key role dito. IT sector will play a key role here,” he said during a virtual press conference Friday.
“Some industries will flourish, some industries will go down, so whatever it is, there will still be a demand for overseas Filipino workers out there,” he added.
He said Southeast Asian nations and their dialogue partners China, Japan and South Korea have also recognized that trade and people-to-people exchange must continue even in the face of the pandemic.
Nograles pointed out that the government must still balance the overseas deployment of workers with the concern over brain drain. He said the country would still need enough talented and capable workers in the continuing battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The skills of the Filipino workers will still be in demand overseas. But now, we have to contend with balancing it na hindi naman tayo magkaroon ng brain drain din dito, because we also need Filipinos in the forefront of this battle,” he said.
“In fact, kita ninyo naman ‘di ba, iyong nurses, doctors, healthcare workers na Filipino ay in demand na ngayon abroad so we had to make a decision,” he said.
Lockdowns in virus-hit countries have forced various business to temporarily shut down or scale down operations, leaving many people stuck at home and unable to return to their jobs. The pandemic has also compelled thousands of Filipino workers, including seafarers, to return to the country.
Recently, the government decided to allow Filipino medical and allied healthcare professionals with overseas contracts as of March 8 to leave the country.
These health workers must complete a declaration signifying their knowledge and understanding of the risks involved in returning to their work abroad, Nograles said, in relaying the resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) last Tuesday.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) earlier issued a resolution temporarily suspending the deployment of all health care workers amid the latest public health emergency.
President Duterte expressed hopes that not all health workers will leave the country during the coronavirus outbreak. He asked them to stay, saying the country needs them amid the rising cases of infections in the country.
He admitted though that he could not blame health workers if they want to work abroad for better compensation.