Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque 

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte might lift the deployment ban on health care workers who opt to work overseas once the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) crisis ends in countries where they would go, Malacañang said on Tuesday.

“Kapag humupa na siguro ‘yung banta ng Covid-19 sa mga lugar na nais nilang puntahan (Once the threat posed by Covid-19 is addressed in countries where they would be employed),” Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque replied during a virtual presser aired on state-run PTV-4 when asked what would make Duterte lift the ban on health workers who want to work abroad.

On May 13, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) issued Resolution 36, which still prohibits medical professionals from leaving the country.

The deployment ban, adopted by the IATF-EID, was issued by the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Roque clarified that only health care workers with new contracts are barred from leaving the country.

“‘Yung perfected contracts po, dapat napaalis. Ang sakop lang ng ban ay yung mga bagong mga kontrata na ipinasok matapos pong mag-issue ng ban ang POEA (Those who have perfected contracts are allowed to leave. The ban only covers those who have new contracts after POEA issued the ban),” he said.

The POEA earlier released Resolution 9, which temporarily bans the deployment of all health care workers “until the national state of emergency is lifted.”

Labor groups, however, expressed strong opposition to the deployment ban, prompting the IATF-EID to review the order and eventually permitted medical professionals with perfected and signed overseas employment contracts as of March 8 to work abroad.

Duterte on May 4 said he would discuss with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra the legality of stopping health workers from leaving the country since he was worried about their health and safety.

Malacañang earlier said Duterte has the authority to wield his police powers to prevent Filipino health workers from migrating since the primary basis for the President’s concern is their health and safety.

The Department of Justice said they would consider the health care personnel’s right to travel and seek jobs abroad, as well as the health situation in the country.

The Department of Health (DOH) on Tuesday reported that the total number of Covid-19 cases among health workers has reached 2,420 as of May 25. (PNA)