Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Sec. Silvestre Bello III took a shot Thursday, Feb.25 against those criticizing him and the department for allegedly attempting to trade the deployment of Filipino nurses to the United Kingdom (UK) in exchange for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccines.
“Kahit papano ay maipapaliwanag natin yung buong istorya. Kasi yun namang mga nagsasalita hindi naman nila alam kung ano namagitan sa amin ni ambassador ng UK (Now I’ll be able to tell the whole story. Those who have been talking don’t even what I and the UK ambassador spoke about),” Bello said in an interview over DZMM Teleradyo.
“Ang daming nagsasalita hindi naman nila alam kung ano nangyari eh (So many people are talking and yet they don’t know what happened),” added the Cabinet official.
Various lawmakers have criticized DOLE after news came out Tuesday that Bello was negotiating for a “trade” with the UK government wherein the Philippines would send its nurses there in exchange for the sought-after vaccines. But there’s no such trade or bartering of that nature, he said.
According to Bello, it was the UK Embassy that first wrote and asked DOLE if the foreign nation could be exempted from the Philippine government’s deployment cap on Filipino healthcare workers so they get the services of local nurses. The deployment limit is set at 5,000 nurses a year, Bello said.
“Pero maliwanag po na yung cap na yan does not apply sa mga balik-manggagawa…Bagong deployment lang (But it’s clear that the cap doesn’t apply to returning owners…it’s only for new deployments),” he said.
“Ang sabi ko kay (UK) ambassador (Daniel Pruce), kung sakaling mag-recommend ako, ang gusto ko yung mga nurses bago namin i-deploy eh nakatitiyak tayo sa kanilang kaligtasan. Ang the best way is ma-vaccinate na sila bago pumunta doon…kaya nga humingi ako. Kako, para sigurado tayo, bigyan mo ko ng vaccine, ma-vaccinate namin sila (I told the ambassador that in case I would recommend deployment, I would like that the nurses’ safety be assured beforehand. Ang the best way to do it is to vaccinate them before going there…that’s why I requested for vaccines. I said, to be sure, give me vaccines so we can vaccinate the nurses),” the labor chief said.
Radio anchor Noli de Castro agreed that the “vaccine-for-nurses” angle was just a result of a misinterpretation of Bello’s intentions. “Hindi naman nila alam ang tunay na nangyari (They don’t know what really happened),” the latter said, again taking a dig at critics.
Moreover, Bello said that President Duterte himself was aware of the talks with the UK government.
“Alam po niya, nagpaalam po ako sa kanya na may negotiation kami, eh sabi niya sige basta tiyakin mo lang ang kaligtasan ng mga nurses natin (He knows, I informed him about the negotiations, and he said just ensure the safety of our nurses),” he shared.