Bello wants healthcare workers' deployment cap raised to 10,000 per year

Published June 16, 2021, 3:28 PM

by Ellson Quismorio

Here’s potential good news for Filipino healthcare workers who are still aspiring to work abroad amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

(Kevin Tristan Espiritu / The Medical City / File photo /MANILA BULLETIN)

Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Silvestre Bello III bared on Wednesday, June 16 that he has recommended adding another 5,000 individuals to the annual deployment cap that’s being imposed on healthcare workers such as nurses.

Bello said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) held a technical working group (TWG) meeting earlier Wednesday to discuss whether or not to adjust the deployment limit, which had been set to 5,000.

“Sinabi ko doon sa aking representative na kung maaari, i-recommend niyo na taasan yung cap. Dahil naubos na, pwedeng dagdagan. Kung kaya niyo gawin niyong 5,000 (I told my representative in the meeting to recommend an increase to the cap. Since it has been exhausted, it should be increased. Let’s add 5,000 if it’s possible),” he said during a virtual press briefing that same afternoon.

“Pero mukha naman sigurong iko-consider yung position natin na baka dagdagan yung cap (It looks like they will consider our position to increase the cap),” he said. If DOLE would get its way, then the yearly deployment cap–which only covers new hires–would become 10,000.

Bello said the IATF, which would ultimately decide on the matter, could give a recommendation as early as Thursday.

The TWG meeting was attending by representatives from DOLE, the Department of Health (DOH), and the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA).

Earlier this month, 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. This was after the 5,000-limit was reached at the midway point of the year.

Bello acknowledged that Filipino healthcare workers desire to go abroad in their search for “greener pastures”.

He noted that in Germany, the salary of a nurse is $6,000–equivalent to around P300,000. The amount is higher than what he earns as labor chief, he jokingly claimed.

“My personal assessment is we have enough healthcare workers…we have around 400,000. With this number I think we can afford to deploy nurses pa. That’s why I’m willing to recommend [an increase in the] deployment cap,” he said.

Bello said that if the additional 5,000 is too much, the IATF could increase the cap by installment.

“Maybe 1,000 or 2,000 muna (for the meatime)…para mayroon pa ring chance ang ating mga nurses to go abroad and earn a living for their families (so that our nurses will still get a chance to go abroad and earn a living for their families),” he said.

“What’s important is we ensure that we won’t run out of nurses and healthcare workers,” the Cabinet member pointed out.

Bello spoke earlier this month about a proposal to lift the deployment limit entirely, but he wasn’t as keen on it compared to simply increasing the cap.