Declaring Filipino health care workers as mission critical skills (MCS), the the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) temporarily suspended their deployment abroad until the lifting of the national state of emergency and the COVID-19-related travel restrictions. Only recently, a public figure in the United Kingdom acknowledged the contribution of Filipino medical workers in their national health system, and some foreign recruitment agencies ramped up efforts to replenish the depleted number of medical workers in the fight against the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). But Filipino health workers cannot yet leave the country (see also financial aid for displaced OFWs).
The temporary ban is contained in POEA Governing Board Resolution No. 09, series 2020. [Update: On 15 April 2020, POEA Administrator Bernard P. Olalia issued a statement that the IATF affirmed the POEA Resolution, with a notable exception — healthcare workers with perfected and signed contract as of March 8 will be allowed to leave.] The temporary suspension of deployment covers the following health professionals:
- 1. Medical Doctor / Physician
- 2. Nurse
- 3. Microbiologist
- 4. Molecular biologist
- 5. Medical technologist
- 6. Clinical analyst
- 7. Respiratory therapist
- 8. Pharmacist
- 9. Laboratory technician
- 10. X-ray / Radiologic technician
- 11. Nursing assistant / nursing aid
- 12. Operator of medical equipment
- 13. Supervisor of health services and personal care
- 14. Repairman of medical-hospital equipment
The suspension covers negotiations of bilateral labor agreements for government-to-government deployment of health care workers, for the duration of the national state of emergency.
Why is there a need for the temporary ban? The POEA recognized that “the country’s health facilities, personnel and other resources are under severe strain due to the rising number of persons affected by the COVID-19, including those deemed Persons Under Investigation (PUI), and Persons under Monitoring.” It is, therefore, “of paramount national interest to ensure that the country shall continue to have, sustain and supply, and prepare sufficient health personnel to meet any further contingencies, especially to replace, substitute or reinforce existing workforce currently employed, deployed or utilized locally.”
The professions listed above are mission critical skills (MCS), or “those skills that reflect the primary function of the organization without which mission critical work cannot be completed and which skills are internally developed and require extensive training, thus, not easily replaceable.”
What are the legal bases for the temporary ban? Republic Act No. 8042 provides that “the government, in pursuit of the national interest or when public welfare so requires, may, at any time, terminate or impose a ban on the deployment of migrant workers” (Sec. 5). The President declared a State of Public Health Emergency (Proclamation No. 922) and State of National Calamity (Proclamation No. 929) by reason of COVID-19. Republic Act No. 11469, also known as the Bayanihan to Heal as One Act, provides emergency powers to the President, including the power to “engage temporary Human Resource for Health (HRH) such as medical and allied medical staff to complement or supplement the current health workforce or to man the temporary medical facilities to be established” (Sec. 4[m]).