Refer healthcare workers affected by deployment ban to emergency hiring program -- Villanueva

Healthcare workers affected by the deployment ban should be referred to the ongoing emergency hiring program of the Department of Health (DoH), Sen. Joel Villanueva said Friday.

Sen. Joel Villanueva (Senate of the Philippines / MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, said this is contained in the Bayanihan 2 bill that the Senate ratified Thursday.

The bill, according to Villanueva, also expands the coverage of assistance programs of the government to include healthcare workers affected by the deployment ban.

“Umaasa po tayo na mabibigyan natin ng kaunting ginhawa ang ating mga healthcare workers na lubos na apektado ng deployment ban na umiiral ngayon. Matagal na po natin hiniling ang magbalangkas ng mekanismo para sa mga healthcare workers na saklaw ng deployment ban,” Villanueva said in a statement. (We are hopeful that we could give respite to our healthcare workers who are affected by the current deployment ban. We have been seeking discussion on a mechanism covering healthcare workers affected by the deployment ban)

“Despite its noble intention of beefing up our health human resource, the deployment ban fell short of providing alternative employment opportunities for our workers. We’ve raised this concern with the IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force), but it fell on deaf ears,” said the lawmaker from Bulacan, who brought the issue to the agency’s attention in a letter in June.

"With this provision in the Bayanihan 2, we expect that our healthcare workers will have ample opportunities to work and earn a living while the deployment ban is in effect,’’ he added.

Villanueva pointed out that while the rationale was reasonable, the government should also consider the realities faced by healthcare workers here.

“Most of them are breadwinners, and have left their jobs for their deployment abroad. They’ve also spent a lot to be trained and certified to fulfill the requirements,” Villanueva said, noting that some healthcare workers spent at least P200,000 and invested two years of their time in training and preparing for overseas deployment.

The bill also includes healthcare workers affected by the deployment ban in the provision on unemployment or involuntary separation assistance for displaced workers which amount ranges from P5,000 to P8,000.

This involuntary separation assistance is likewise separate and distinct from the benefits that the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) provides to its overseas Filipino workers (OFW) members, Villanueva explained.

Returning OFWs who are healthcare workers would also be included in the referral system, he added.

Villanueva expressed gratitude to his colleagues who considered the provisions he proposed during the bill’s deliberation in the plenary.

“We’re thankful to our colleagues, especially our chair of the bicam panel, Sen.  (Juan Edgardo) Sonny Angara, for helping us protect the interest of our workers,” he added.