Over 136k OFWs sent home, DOLE says

Robie de Guzman   •   August 13, 2020   •   526

MANILA, Philippines – More than 136,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFW) have been transported to their respective home provinces, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) said.

In a statement on Wednesday, Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III said that the latest batch of 2,667 OFWs who were cleared of coronavirus disease was sent home on August 11.

This brings the total to 136,509 OFWs provided with a package of DOLE assistance since it started transporting OFWs en masse in May after undergoing tests and quarantine, Bello said.

The labor chief added that the department, with the help of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) and other government agencies, have been providing OFWs with assistance including accommodation, food, transportation and coronavirus testing upon their arrival in the country.

This is aside from a one-time P10,000 or $200 aid under its Abot Kamay ang Pagtulong (AKAP) program to OFWs affected by the pandemic, both on-site and stranded in the country.

Bello recently welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval of an additional P5 billion fund for its assistance program which will benefit more OFWs.

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)

UK, Germany requesting more health workers from the Philippines

Marje Pelayo   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has increased the demand for health workers all over the world.

In the Philippines, the national government put in place a deployment cap of 5,000 health workers for 2021 to make sure that the country will have a sufficient number in case the COVID-19 infection worsens.

But the governments of the United Kingdom and Germany appealed to the Philippines to deploy more health workers given that the country is one of the top exporters of this field and expertise.

According to the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), there is an ongoing negotiation on this request.

The Philippine government, however, has several conditions before approving the matter.

One is that the requesting countries, in return, should give the Philippines COVID-19 vaccines.

“Ang nire-request ni Secretary Bello ay para sa ating mga OFWs. So ito ang mga OFWs na na-repatriate na dito including yung mga OFWs din na papaalis,” explained DOLE Director for International Labor Affairs Alice Visperas.

The official said there are around 600,000 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were repatriated and some of them were redeployed.

“Karamihan sa mga bansa ngayon na kumukuha ng workers. Gusto nila may vaccine na yung kukunin nilang workers. Darating din ang panahon baka hindi na sila kukuha pag hindi pa nabibigyan ng vaccine,” Visperas noted.

Another condition is the renegotiation for Labor agreement in favor of OFWs in the said countries.

DOLE said the matter is now on the ministerial level and is, so far, receiving a possible response.

But the Filipino Nurses United seemed offended with the way the government is treating the country’s nurses.

“Sa FNU na turn off kmi, disgusted na parang commodities o export products trato sa amin ng gobyerno,” the group said in a statement.

“Two separate issues iyon. Kung gustong mag-abroad ng nurses karapatan nila iyon. Huwag gamiting trade off. Kung kailangan natin ng bakuna, mag procure,” it added.

The Philippine Nurses Association, on the other hand, supports the government on the matter but as for the number, there should be a careful study first as to how many nurses will be allowed to leave.

“Kung manggagaling yan sa government and merong benefit ang Pilipinas with that I think we should welcome yung idea,” noted PNA President Melbert Reyes.

“But it should make sure sana na may maiiwan dito sa Pilipinas to take care of our people,” he concluded. MNP (with reports from Rey Pelayo)

DOLE urged to speed up distribution of Bayanihan 2 cash aid for displaced teachers

Robie de Guzman   •   February 23, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Sherwin Gatchalian on Tuesday called on the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to fast-track the distribution of financial aid allotted for teachers and non-teaching personnel under the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan 2 Law).

Gatchalian made the call as he lamented the slow pace of distribution of aid for teachers who were displaced by the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

The senator pointed out that the education sector should have been prioritized because it is one of the most battered by the public health crisis.

“Bakit inabot ng ganitong katagal ang ayuda para sa mga guro?” said Gatchalian who chairs Senate committee on basic education, arts and culture.

“Ang ayudang nakalaan sa ilalim ng Bayanihan 2 ay matagal nang hinihintay ng mga guro at mga non-teaching personnel na nawalan ng trabaho. Ngayong tuloy tuloy pa rin ang tanggalan sa maraming opisina at mayroon nang bagong variant ang COVID-19, marapat lamang na maipaabot na sa kanila ang ayudang matagal nang ipinangakong magpapaluwag sa kanilang mga pasanin,” he added.

The Bayanihan 2, which was signed on September 2020, allotted P300 million for the provision of a one-time cash assistance to displaced teaching and non-teaching personnel in private and public elementary, secondary, and tertiary education institutions.

Part-time faculty in State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) who have lost their jobs or who have not received their wages are also entitled to receive these subsidies.

In the basic sector education, Gatchalian said that some 4,488 teachers are affected by the suspension of operations in 865 private schools, as reported by the Department of Education (DepEd) last September.

The Commission on Higher Education (CHED) also reported last May that some 50,000 part-time lecturers of private colleges and universities working on a “no work, no pay basis” need financial aid.

While Gatchalian admitted that the funds are not enough to ease the burden of displaced teachers and non-teaching staff, he urged DOLE to iron out the final guidelines with CHED and DepEd to avoid the same woes as the distribution of aid under the Social Amelioration Program.

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