The first resolution issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases was a COVID-19 travel advisory for China, not a ban on the foreign deployment of nurses as claimed by presidential candidate Jose Montemayor Jr. in a recent debate.
IATF Resolution No. 1, released on Jan. 28, 2020, cautioned Filipinos against nonessential travel to China and restricted granting visas to travelers coming from the province of Hubei where COVID cases were first detected. The resolution also introduced an evacuation and quarantine plan for overseas Filipino workers in the country.
Responding to a question about the country’s pandemic response during the March 17 Commission on Elections presidential debate, he said at the 56:14 mark:
IATF dapat i-abolish yan… From the very start of Resolution No. 1 nila banning all nurses lalo na yung may mga live contracts, maling-mali na (IATF should be abolished. From the very start, their Resolution No. 1 banned all nurses which is very wrong especially for those with live contracts).
What Montemayor was referring to is a resolution from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, not the IATF. General Board Resolution No. 9 issued on April 5, 2020 halted Filipino healthcare workers, including nurses, from leaving the country to “prioritize human resource allocation for the national healthcare system” during the pandemic.
A week later, the IATF released Resolution No. 23 instructing the POEA to exempt from the deployment ban all newly hired medical and allied health professionals who signed their contracts and secured their Overseas Employment Certificates (OEC) on or before March 8, 2020. Rehires, upon getting their OEC exemption certificates, will also be spared from the moratorium.
OECs are exit or clearance passes issued by the POEA or Philippine Overseas Employment Offices that prove the “regularity of the recruitment and documentation” of OFWs, dispensing them from paying travel taxes and airport terminal fees.
A September 2020 POEA advisory extended the contract cutoff date, allowing newhire health professionals who signed their contracts until Aug. 31 to go abroad.
The moratorium was lifted for nurses, nursing assistants and nursing aides in December 2020, but the government imposed a 5,000 annual deployment limit. This cap was increased to 6,500 in June and 7,000 in December 2021, but is still way below the estimated 13,000 healthcare workers who go overseas yearly.
Meanwhile, other healthcare professionals who are not rehires or under a government to government labor agreement are still banned from leaving the country.
Montemayor was also corrected by a fellow presidential candidate after erroneously claiming in the same debate that the IATF is composed only of lawyers. (RC)