Palace: 'Difficult' to totally lift deployment ban on health workers by next year

Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 22 2020 03:48 PM | Updated as of Sep 22 2020 04:18 PM

Health workers extract blood samples from motorists at the COVID-19 drive-thru testing center in front of the Andres Bonifacio Monument along Taft Avenue in Manila City on Aug. 3, 2020. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA-- It will be unlikely for President Rodrigo Duterte to fully lift the deployment ban on Filipino health workers by next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Malacañang said Tuesday after the government partly eased the restrictions.

Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said it would be difficult for the country to allow all health workers to seek overseas employment while the Philippines remains under a state of calamity due to the coronavirus crisis.

Duterte last week extended the declaration of a state of calamity in the Philippines until September 2021 to afford the government more leeway in the use of funds to respond to the pandemic.

"Malinaw po ang Presidente, habang mayroon po tayong state of calamity dahil sa COVID-19, mahihirapan pong i-lift iyang ban na iyan," Roque said in a Palace press briefing.

(The President is clear, as long as there is a state of calamity due to COVID-19, it would be difficult to lift that ban.)

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration suspended the deployment of doctors, nurses and healthcare workers abroad to preserve its frontline force against the pandemic.

The ban, which took effect April 2, was aimed to "prioritize human resource allocation for the national health care system at the time of the national state of emergency," the POEA said in a memorandum.

It was later revised to allow health workers with existing employment contracts as of March 8, 2020 to leave the country.

This week, the government expanded the exemption to the deployment ban to include health professionals with complete overseas employment documents as of Aug. 31, 2020.

"Habang ang mga nurses po ay papunta sa mga bansa na mas maraming kaso kaysa sa Pilipinas eh pangangalagaan pa rin po ng Presidente ang kalusugan ng ating mga frontliners," Roque added.

(While nurses are going to other countries with more COVID-19 cases than the Philippines, the President will continue to care for our frontliners.)