President Rodrigo Duterte is considering to stop the migration of Filipino health workers to other countries during the COVID 19 pandemic, saying he would consult the Department of Justice on the legality of preventing them from leaving the country.
In a late-night public address, Duterte said he would meet Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra whether it was legal to stop the migration of health workers simply because they were being taken in a place wherein there was so much danger.
“We’ll have to meet again in two days or so and consult with Secretary Guevarra whether or not it would be legal for us to just stop the migration of health workers,” Duterte said.
“Please do not misunderstand me. I am making it clear now. I do not want you to go there and come back in a coffin. That’s my only argument, if you may because you are Filipinos and I love the lives of my countrymen,” he said..
The President said the reason he wanted to stop them from leaving the country was that he did not want the workers to return to the country as among the Covid-19 fatalities.
He said he was concerned over their health, and their safety was a “more valid reason” to stop them from migrating compared to what he initially said was his fear that the country would be deprived of health workers.
“The COVID is here to stay...that is how dangerous it is for our health workers,” he said.
Duterte said he could not blame Filipino medical professionals who wanted to work abroad following an increased global demand for them due to the prevailing pandemic.
“I don’t blame them, I’m not angry, I don’t have emotions about this. But if you Filipino nurses wanted to serve the country or other people, it’s okay with me,” he added.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) temporarily banned the deployment of nurses, and other health workers from leaving to work abroad as the country grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The controversial deployment ban was later lifted, allowing healthcare professionals with existing overseas employment contracts as of March 8 to leave the country to work abroad.
The number of healthcare workers infected with the coronavirus disease is now at 1,772. This constitutes 18.68 percent of the total number of infections in the country, which is at 9,485.
Meanwhile, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has approved the temporary suspension of all international flights to and from the Philippines until 11:59 of May 8.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque made this announcement during a virtual presser on Tuesday, a day after saying that the government was lacking quarantine rooms for returning overseas Filipino workers.
Flights which will continue to be allowed include official, emergency, cargo ambulance, and medical supply, weather mitigation, maintenance flights, and international flights for stranded foreign nationals, Roque said.
On Sunday, Presidential Peace Adviser and National Task Force (NTF) Against Covid-19 chief implementer Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. said the National Task Force Against Covid-19 decided to temporarily restrict flight operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila and all other international airports in the country.
Galvez said the decision was meant to decongest quarantine facilities and to ensure that OFWs were well taken care of when they arrive from abroad.
All OFWs are all required to undergo a 14-day mandatory, facility-based quarantine and undergo Covid-19 tests.
National Task Force Against Covid-19 deputy chief implementer and Trace, Treat and Test program chief Vivencio Dizon said the goal was to test 25,000 OFWs in Metro Manila and Greater Manila by end of May.
As of Monday, the Department of Foreign Affairs reported 68 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 among Filipinos abroad, bringing the total number of positive cases to 1,819.
The total number of recovered cases among overseas Filipinos worldwide rose to 475 while the death toll climbed to 214.
At the same time, Duterte urged local government units to accept returning OFWs who hade been cleared after undergoing mandatory 14-day facility-based quarantine to rule out Covid-19.
Duterte warned LGUs against discriminating against OFWs who were already cleared of Covid-19 infection by barring them from returning to their own homes for fear that their communities would catch the virus.
“Makinig kayong (Listen, you) local executives --- the national government will insist that you accept the OFW. Magkakaroon ho tayo ng problema (We will have a problem) if you resist because then as a worker of government, it falls upon my shoulders to see to it that everything is done fair,” he said.
He issued his warning after the travel of 100 OFWs to Iloilo province scheduled last month got canceled.
Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr. gathered the signature of the local chief executives asking the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) not to allow the flight.
Defensor and the local chief executives in the province were concerned that the return of the OFWs increases the risk of the spread of Covid-19, after one of the first batches of OFWs, who initially returned to Iloilo tested positive for Covid-19.
Meanwhile, at least 4,559 OFWs working aboard cruise ships were expected to disembark by May 17 at the country’s main seaports, the Bureau of Immigration said.
Commissioner Jaime Morente said the BI’s Seaport Operations Section and Immigration Regulation Division had monitored the scheduled disembarkation from 14 cruise ships – from Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, and Japan—undergoing quarantine anchorage at the Manila Port. With PNA