SEN. Joel Villanueva deplored on Tuesday the offloading of seven Britain-bound Filipino nurses by Bureau of Immigration (BI) authorities over the weekend.
Villanueva, chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, denounced the deployment ban invoked by BI officers to offload the nurses, asking concerned authorities to quickly sort out the matter.
The lawmaker lamented the incident involving the seven Filipino nurses bound for the United Kingdom who were offloaded by BI authorities Sunday night purportedly due to the deployment ban on health-care workers, noting it “highlights how disjointed this policy is, to the detriment of our own people.”
Villanueva prodded concerned officials of the Department of Labor and Employment to promptly “sort out the misunderstanding so that no other health-care worker suffers the trouble caused by the wrong interpretation of government policies.”
He asserted that it was “clear from the current policy that health-care workers can leave with a contract ratified before the cut-off of March 8.”
“It is no longer included in the discussion when our workers were granted visas,” Villanueva said.
In a news statement, the lawmaker lamented that the BI “misinterpreted the existing deployment ban, and the memo they released last August 20 is proof of this, stating that health-care workers who were granted visas after March 8 are not allowed to leave the country.”
According to Villanueva, it is clear that the current policy allows health-care workers with contracts perfected as of March 8, noting that “the date when the visa was issued is not part of the discussion.”
Moreover, he noted that “the BI’s interpretation of the deployment ban is clearly wrong as seen in its memo issued on August 20, which states that health-care workers whose visas were issued after March 8 are not allowed outbound travel.”
At the same time, Villanueva pressed his call to lift the deployment ban on health-care workers invoking the need to “balance the regulation with realities on the ground.”
The senator pointed out that most of the affected workers are their families’ breadwinners, who left their local jobs to pursue overseas employment, and have spent considerable time and money to train and prepare for deployment. Villanueva recalled that during the recent labor committee inquiry, health officials testified the country only needed 16,500 health-care workers to join its ranks, citing in particular, that of the 10,468 slots waiting to be filled, only 7,850 health-care workers have been filled up.
Villanueva suggested that what DOH should do is to “make the terms of employment enticing enough for our health-care workers to consider working for the government,” adding that “aside from the low pay and unclear guidelines on the grant of hazard pay, the employment under the emergency hiring program lasts only for three months. I don’t think this pandemic will end in the next three months, that’s why the terms should be longer.”