Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. on Tuesday said Europe “appreciated” the offer of Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III to Germany and the United Kingdom to provide the Philippines with COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019) vaccines in exchange for the deployment of Filipino health care workers (HCWs) in those countries.
“Europe appreciated the offer. Thank you Bebot. You da man. Will save us. He also never gives up on Commie peace talks. He the man. Period,” Locsin said in a tweet.
Locsin’s comment came in the wake of reports that Bello has conveyed to both Germany and the UK governments that the Philippines is willing to grant exemption from the deployment cap of Filipino health care workers should they agree to the vaccine request.
Also part of Bello’s offer is the renewal of previous bilateral agreements with the two countries that cover the protection of Filipino workers.
Bello, according to the report, had informed Germany and the UK that the Philippine government may exempt them from the deployment cap if they would agree to the agency’s requests, which include the renewal of previous bilateral agreements protecting OFWs.
The issue of placing a cap on Filipino nurses and HCWs seeking jobs abroad came to the fore at the height of the pandemic last year when the Philippines implemented a deployment restriction, especially on nurses to ensure a sufficient supply of health care professionals in the country.
Demand for healthcare workers has increased over the years in some European countries and even in Japan due to their aging population.
Meanwhile, the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) called on the government to include the nurses in their negotiations with the labor-receiving countries to ensure that their welfare and interests are amply protected.
PNA President Melbert Reyes also cautioned the government not to make it appear that Filipino nurses and health care workers are “mere commodities” that could be traded in exchange for the vaccines.
“We would like to be part (of the negotiation). If there is such negotiation, there should be policies and guidelines to protect our nurses because we cannot just trade or send them in those countries,” Reyes told the Manila Bulletin in an interview.
If carefully handled, Reyes said the offer of Bello could turn out to be a “win-win” situation for the Philippines since it would be able to help the country hasten its vaccination program that has been delayed already.
He likewise appealed to the government to put the nurses and other healthcare workers on the vaccine’s priority list.
“Of course we are concerned with our members. We are the frontliners and in direct contact with the patients,” he said.