Philippines allows more health workers to work abroad

The Philippines increases the annual deployment cap of health workers to 6,500 – much less than the 10,000 ceiling being eyed by Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III

The Philippines has allowed more health workers to work abroad as it raised the annual deployment ceiling from 5,000 to 6,500.

“The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) on Thursday, June 17, 2021, increased the annual deployment ceiling of new hire healthcare workers (HCWs) for Mission Critical Skills (MCS) to 6,500,” announced Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque on Friday, June 18.

Those who can work abroad under the adjusted rules are health care workers who fall under MCS with perfected contracts as of May 31, Roque said.

Health care workers for overseas deployment under government-to-government labor agreements will not be counted in the new 6,500-ceiling.

Nurses lobby

The new deployment ceiling is a far cry from the 10,000 slots Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III had said he would propose to the national pandemic task force. He had been mentioning the 10,000-figure in media interviews since late last year.

After lobbying from nurses groups, Bello said he would ask the task force to allow 5,000 more health workers to be deployed abroad in 2021 after the annual ceiling was reached in June.

The Philippines is one of the world’s major sources of nurses. Filipino United Nurses told Reuters that at least 4,000 nurses intending to work in Germany, the Middle East, Scotland, Japan, Singapore, the United States, and Australia were barred from leaving after the government’s cap was reached.

In 2019, almost 17,000 Filipino nurses signed overseas work contracts, according to government data.

The government barred Filipino healthcare workers from taking jobs abroad in April 2020, as President Rodrigo Duterte said they were needed to address the pandemic in the country.

But after a few days, the government allowed the departure of workers with perfected contracts as of early March 2020. In subsequent months, around a thousand more were permitted to leave. The government eventually set a yearly deployment cap of 5,000.