Bello clarifies ‘nurses-for-vax’ issue; says UK asks exemption from PH deployment cap on nurses

Marje Pelayo   •   March 1, 2021   •   318

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III cannot put in detail yet the response of the British government on the conditions the Philippine government has offered to allow the deployment of more Filipino health workers to the United Kingdom.

But Bello has high hopes that the negotiations will yield positive results for the benefit of overseas Filipino workers.

“Positive naman ang reaction ng Ambassador. Sabi niya, I can go back to his principal and he will come to me after 10 days which he did. Bumalik siya noong February 24 at meron siyang sulat,” Bello explained.

“Kaya lang hindi pa ko at liberty na i-public ang content ng sulat because I will first submit it to the President,” he added.

Secretary Bello said it was the UK government who requested not to include them in the Philippines’ list of countries with deployment caps for health workers.

The said deployment cap allows only 5,000 Filipino health workers to go abroad each year.

Bello clarified on the matter after a group of nurses expressed disappointment over reports of alleged ‘nurses-for-vaccine’ in which DOLE appeared to be bargaining Filipino nurses for COVID-19 vaccine supply from the UK.

“Nasaktan kami and we think na hindi yun tama dahil ang mga nurses ay matagal nang nagsasakripisyo at tumutulong sa pandemyang ito pero hindi magandang pakinggan na parang kami ay barter commodity na kapalit noong bakuna,” said Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of Filipino Nurses United.

Bello explained that the UK is sixth among countries in the world with the fastest infection rate for COVID-19. 

He said they just want to make sure that the nurse will be protected first before they are deployed to the UK.

“Gusto ko bago sila ma-deploy ay naka-vaccine na sila para ligtas sila,” Bello noted.

“Hindi ko sinabing bigyan nyo ako ng vaccine tapos kapalit ng nurses,” he stressed.

The FNU opposes the deployment cap saying the country has enough nurses.

In fact, the group said, there are about 800,000 to 900,000 registered nurses in the country. 

Over 250,000 of them are deployed in different countries; over 220,000 works outside of the field of medicine; and only about 90,000 are practicing their profession.

“Ang shortage ng nurses sa tingin namin ito ay acute or even false shortage because we have enough nurses in the Philippines,” Adamo argued.

“Hindi lang sila maximized, tapped or encouraged to work in that nursing profession or maglingkod within the healthcare system dahil nga sa sobrang kababaan ng sahod at hindi magandang work conditions,” she added.

It can be recalled that the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 imposed a deployment cap on nurses to ensure that the country has enough number in case the COVID-19 situation worsens in the country.

Bello confirmed that aside from the UK, about 50,000 nurses are also needed in Germany though there is no negotiation yet between Berlin and Manila on the matter. MNP (with input from Rey Pelayo)

UK declines PH offer to deploy more Filipino nurses in exchange for vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The United Kingdom (UK) government has declined the offer of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deploy more nurses to the UK in exchange for vaccines.

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said the recruitment of nurses and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are two separate issues.

“We’ve got no plans to link vaccines with those conversations around the recruitment of nurses. You know those two strands of conversation I think continue but as I’ve said again we have no plans to link those two issues,” he said during a virtual conference.

DOLE Silvestre Bello III proposed forming an agreement with the UK to lift the deployment cap of healthcare workers, provided the UK would allocate vaccines for them. Bello also made the same proposal with Germany.

DOLE Information and Publication Service (IPS) Director Rolly Francia clarified the proposal was to make sure the nurses are safe when deployed abroad and not for the country to have additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines. This was after the proposal drew ire for making nurses look like ‘commodities’ to be exchanged for vaccines.

“What Secretary Bello wants is to ensure that the nurse gets vaccinated if ever the request for an exemption in the cap would be granted by the President,” Francia said.

Nevertheless, Ambassador Pruce said he will meet with Bello in the coming weeks to further discuss the issue. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

POLO-OWWA London warns Filipinos against recruitment scam

Marje Pelayo   •   January 4, 2021

LONDON, United Kingdom — The Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) – Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) in London warned Filipino jobseekers against fake entities posing as recruitment agencies supposedly authorized by the agency.

In a statement, POLO – London said they have received a report against a certain company named Cornerstone Employment Agency (CEA) Ltd, that has been offering partnerships with Philippine recruitment agencies to recruit Filipino workers for jobs in the UK.  

The dubious agency has been using an email address that resembles the official email address of POLO, and presenting documents with fake verification stamps and forged signatures to make them appear legitimate.

POLO clarified that it “has never emailed any document to CEA nor has it sent any document to that agency.”

Applicants who were recruited by CEA also reported that they were asked to pay a fee of $800 USD for the processing of a work visa.

POLO stressed that the activity is definitely a recruitment scam and advised the public to stop any dealings with the said agency. MNP / Raymund David

Duterte OKs ban on travelers from UK, 19 other countries over new COVID-19 variant – Palace

Robie de Guzman   •   December 29, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommended expansion of the country’s entry ban on travelers coming from the United Kingdom to cover 19 other countries amid reported cases of a new variant of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in these areas, Malacañang said Tuesday.

In a statement, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said travelers from the UK are temporarily barred from entering the Philippines until January 15, 2021.

The travel ban has been extended to cover those coming from 19 other countries:

  • Denmark
  • Ireland
  • Japan
  • Australia
  • Israel
  • The Netherlands
  • Hong Kong, SAR
  • Switzerland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Lebanon
  • Singapore
  • Sweden
  • South Korea
  • South Africa
  • Canada
  • Spain

Roque said the expanded travel restriction takes effect on December 30, 2020, 12:01 AM until January 15, 2021, covering all foreign travelers coming from, or transiting through, the said countries.

Passengers who are already in transit and are expected to arrive before December 30, 2020, 12:01 AM, from the 19 countries/areas listed above shall not be prohibited from entering the country but will be required to undergo an absolute facility-based 14-day quarantine period, notwithstanding a negative RT-PCR test result

“The Office of the President, upon the joint recommendation of the Department of Health and the Department of Foreign Affairs, may impose restrictions to travelers coming from other countries that report the presence of the new variant of COVID-19,” Roque said.

Outbound travel to countries with reported new variants shall be subject to exiting protocols of the Philippines and the entry protocols of the respective countries, he added.

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