UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce 

MANILA – The United Kingdom government has no plan to accept proposals that would deploy more Filipino medical professionals to Britain in exchange for coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccines, UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said Wednesday, describing the two subjects as "separate issues".

"We've got no plans to link vaccines with those conversations around the recruitment of nurses," Pruce told reporters in a virtual conference. "You know those two strands of conversation I think continue but as I've said again we have no plans to link those two issues."

The statement comes in the wake of a proposal by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to form an agreement with Germany and the UK to lift the cap on the deployment of healthcare workers, provided they would allocate vaccines for displaced overseas Filipino workers, including those about to be deployed.

Pruce confirmed that the proposal was discussed during his recent meeting with Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III but declined to go into detail.

While seemingly opposed to the offer, Pruce said he would be meeting with the Labor chief in the coming weeks to "continue our wider discussions."

READ: PH asks UK, Germany to provide vaccines for OFWs

Pruce acknowledged that the thousands of Filipino healthcare workers in Britain have made a significant contribution to the Covid-19 response of the National Health Service (NHS). This said, the NHS is "keen" to sustain the continuous flow of these professionals from the Philippines into the UK.

"So yes, in common with our practice in previous years, we continue to discuss with the government of the Philippines the arrangements whereby Filipino healthcare workers can continue to work in the UK, primarily in the NHS," he said.

He noted that the British government and him, personally, are "very heavily engaged" to support Manila in its efforts to secure access to vaccines that are safe and effective and are developed transparently.

"As you know, the UK has made a very emphatic commitment that any surplus vaccines that it may have as we go through the rollout of our own vaccine deployment plan will be passed on to the WHO (World Health Organization) COVAX facility and it will be through the COVAX facility that distribution of surplus vaccines to developing countries will be managed in a fair and equitable way,” Pruce said.

COVAX, co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the WHO, is a facility aimed at guaranteeing fair and equitable vaccine access across the world, especially for low- and middle-income economies.

DOLE-International Labor Affairs Bureau Director Alice Visperas earlier clarified that the proposed vaccine condition was for OFWs, especially those who are set to leave since many countries hiring migrant workers want workers who have been vaccinated.

Both UK and Germany are seeking to be exempted from the 5,000 cap on the deployment of nurses being implemented by the government to ensure there is an adequate number of nurses in the country in case the need arises. (PNA)