Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III has left the door open for the possible lifting of the annual limit for Filipino nurses that are sent to work abroad.
Bello, in an online press briefing on the occasion of Migrant Workers' Day Monday, June 7, said the proposal to do away with the deployment cap on Filipino nurses is currently being studied.
"Pinag-aaralan din namin kasi ayaw naman namin na yung right of the nurses and healthcare workers to go abroad will be limited (We're also studying it because we don't want to limit the right of nurses and healthcare workers to go abroad)," Bello said.
Over the weekend, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) issued advisory no.71 series of 2021, which temporarily suspended the processing of the deployment of "new hire" nurses abroad.
"Mayroon kasing deployment cap. Ibig sabihin hanggang 5,000 lang tayo sa year 2021. Ang kaso umabot na tayo...Kaya hininto muna (It's because we have a deployment cap. This means that the limit for deployment in 2021 is 5,000. But we've already reached the limit...that's why we've temporarily halted processing)," Bello said, explaining the POEA order.
The POEA is a subordinate agency of DOLE. The POEA advisory has reportedly been met with anger and frustration by Filipino nurses since it effectively prevents them from seeking "greener pastures" abroad.
To this, the DOLE chief said: "Kung kaya ng ating bansa (If the country cam handle it), we will consider lifting the limitation." He quickly added: "Pero kung medyo alanganin, mahirap naman kung ipadala natin lahat ng nurses natin eh mayroon pa tayong COVID problem. Pagdating ng panahon wala na tayong nurses (But if things are uncertain, it would be a bad idea for us to deploy all our nurses while dealing with our COVID problem. A day might come that we won't have any nurses left)," he said.
"Hintay-hintayin lang, pinag-aaralan na itong mabuti ng IATF (Inter-Agency Task Force) at DOH (Department of Health) and of course ang DOLE (Please be patient, the IATF, DOH and of course the DOLE are looking into it)," added Bello.
The directive on the 5,000 annual deployment cap on nurses was issued by the IATF.
The figure is reportedly less than half of the annual deployment of Filipino nurses abroad pre-pandemic.