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President Rodrigo Duterte

Health workers allowed to work overseas again

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President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted the travel ban on health workers, his labor secretary confirmed in a report by Philippine Star. 

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III told Reuters that the chief executive "approved the lifting of the temporary suspension of deployment of nurses and other medical workers."  

This comes a little over a week week after the COVID-19 task force, comprised of Duterte's Cabinet members, recommended lifting the travel ban on health workers amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

On November 11, Bello said the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) passed a resolution allowing some nurses and other medical professionals to leave the country for overseas employment which was pending Duterte's approval. 

"The resolution contains provision before lifting the suspension. There is a cap, meaning we can only deploy at most 5,000 nurses or medical workers every year,” he said.

The travel restriction was first eased by Malacañang on September 21 when the cut-off for the ban was moved from March 8 to August 31. Since then, only around 600 frontliners have left the country, according to Bello. 

Lawmakers and recruiters alike have been urging the government to lift the restriction on deployment, citing the numerous health workers who are out of work in the country.

In September, Sen. Joel Villanueva said 2,000 nurses were affected by the ban, citing data from a nurses' group. 

Villanueva, who chairs the Senate labor committee, noted that between 2012 to 2018, there were 148,832 nurses who passed their licensure exams.

"This is more than double the total 65,108 nurses currently employed in private and public health facilities," he said, citing health department data.

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