PH extends UK travel ban to Jan. 14, 2021

Marje Pelayo   •   December 28, 2020   •   490

MANILA, Philippines — The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte, has extended the travel ban for flights coming from the United Kingdom (UK) for two more weeks after December 31.

“Consequently, all passengers who have been to the UK in the last 14 days prior to arrival in the country are still restricted entry until January 14, 2021,” according to Bureau of Immigration (BI) Commissioner Jaime Morente.

The ban follows reports of a new strain of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the UK, which is reportedly 70% more infectious.

READ: PH announces entry ban of all UK flights starting Dec. 24

Currently, the BI is implementing a strict 100% passport inspection to determine the travel history of arriving passengers in the last 14 days.

Meanwhile, the BI vowed to expedite the Implementing Rules and Regulations for Executive Order No. 122 or the Strengthening Border Control Through the Adoption and Implementation of the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS).

The APIS is an electronic communications system that collects biographic data on passenger or crew, which is transmitted to the BI prior to arrival, and allows for early vetting on the admissibility of an arriving alien.

“The API system is very timely, as apart from protecting the country from aliens with derogatory records, it would allow us to deny the boarding of passengers who have a travel history to the UK in the last 14 days, instead of having to detect them upon arrival in the country,” Morente said.

Bello clarifies ‘nurses-for-vax’ issue; says UK asks exemption from PH deployment cap on nurses

Marje Pelayo   •   March 1, 2021

MANILA, Philippines — Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III cannot put in detail yet the response of the British government on the conditions the Philippine government has offered to allow the deployment of more Filipino health workers to the United Kingdom.

But Bello has high hopes that the negotiations will yield positive results for the benefit of overseas Filipino workers.

“Positive naman ang reaction ng Ambassador. Sabi niya, I can go back to his principal and he will come to me after 10 days which he did. Bumalik siya noong February 24 at meron siyang sulat,” Bello explained.

“Kaya lang hindi pa ko at liberty na i-public ang content ng sulat because I will first submit it to the President,” he added.

Secretary Bello said it was the UK government who requested not to include them in the Philippines’ list of countries with deployment caps for health workers.

The said deployment cap allows only 5,000 Filipino health workers to go abroad each year.

Bello clarified on the matter after a group of nurses expressed disappointment over reports of alleged ‘nurses-for-vaccine’ in which DOLE appeared to be bargaining Filipino nurses for COVID-19 vaccine supply from the UK.

“Nasaktan kami and we think na hindi yun tama dahil ang mga nurses ay matagal nang nagsasakripisyo at tumutulong sa pandemyang ito pero hindi magandang pakinggan na parang kami ay barter commodity na kapalit noong bakuna,” said Jocelyn Andamo, secretary general of Filipino Nurses United.

Bello explained that the UK is sixth among countries in the world with the fastest infection rate for COVID-19. 

He said they just want to make sure that the nurse will be protected first before they are deployed to the UK.

“Gusto ko bago sila ma-deploy ay naka-vaccine na sila para ligtas sila,” Bello noted.

“Hindi ko sinabing bigyan nyo ako ng vaccine tapos kapalit ng nurses,” he stressed.

The FNU opposes the deployment cap saying the country has enough nurses.

In fact, the group said, there are about 800,000 to 900,000 registered nurses in the country. 

Over 250,000 of them are deployed in different countries; over 220,000 works outside of the field of medicine; and only about 90,000 are practicing their profession.

“Ang shortage ng nurses sa tingin namin ito ay acute or even false shortage because we have enough nurses in the Philippines,” Adamo argued.

“Hindi lang sila maximized, tapped or encouraged to work in that nursing profession or maglingkod within the healthcare system dahil nga sa sobrang kababaan ng sahod at hindi magandang work conditions,” she added.

It can be recalled that the Inter-Agency Task Force against COVID-19 imposed a deployment cap on nurses to ensure that the country has enough number in case the COVID-19 situation worsens in the country.

Bello confirmed that aside from the UK, about 50,000 nurses are also needed in Germany though there is no negotiation yet between Berlin and Manila on the matter. MNP (with input from Rey Pelayo)

UK declines PH offer to deploy more Filipino nurses in exchange for vaccines

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 25, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—The United Kingdom (UK) government has declined the offer of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) to deploy more nurses to the UK in exchange for vaccines.

UK Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said the recruitment of nurses and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are two separate issues.

“We’ve got no plans to link vaccines with those conversations around the recruitment of nurses. 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,” he said during a virtual conference.

DOLE Silvestre Bello III proposed forming an agreement with the UK to lift the deployment cap of healthcare workers, provided the UK would allocate vaccines for them. Bello also made the same proposal with Germany.

DOLE Information and Publication Service (IPS) Director Rolly Francia clarified the proposal was to make sure the nurses are safe when deployed abroad and not for the country to have additional supply of COVID-19 vaccines. This was after the proposal drew ire for making nurses look like ‘commodities’ to be exchanged for vaccines.

“What Secretary Bello wants is to ensure that the nurse gets vaccinated if ever the request for an exemption in the cap would be granted by the President,” Francia said.

Nevertheless, Ambassador Pruce said he will meet with Bello in the coming weeks to further discuss the issue. AAC (with reports from Janice Ingente)

Pasay LGU supports Metro Manila mayors’ decision to defer reopening cinemas

Aileen Cerrudo   •   February 15, 2021

MANILA, Philippines—Pasay City Mayor Emi Calixto-Rubiano said she supports the decision of other Metro Manila mayors to defer the reopening of cinemas in areas under General Community Quarantine (GCQ).

The Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) had previously eased restrictions and has allowed the reopening of cinemas, theme parks, arcades, and museums.

Rubiano said she understands the need to reopen, however, she raised concerns over the safety of the public.

“While we support the decision of IATF to open some tourism-related businesses to help revive our economy, however, I believe that it is not yet the perfect time for theaters to reopen,” she said.

The Pasay City Mayor said that enclosed areas may increase the risk of spreading the coronavirus disease (COVID-19). She, instead, suggested to reopen cinemas once the nationwide immunization program is done.

“Kapag napatunayang mabisa nga ito laban sa virus, ay saka natin largahan ang lahat ng mga negosyo kabilang ang mga sinehan (Once the vaccine is proven to be effective against the virus, that’s when we can reopen businesses including cinemas),” Rubiano said. AAC

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