Health workers with complete employment papers as of Aug. 31 now allowed to leave the country

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(FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 21) — President Rodrigo Duterte has allowed health workers with complete employment documents as of August 31 to leave and work abroad, his spokesman Harry Roque said Monday.

The Presidential spokesman said Duterte is now letting healthcare professionals work overseas, provided that they have perfected contracts and a visa as of end-August.

The policy will benefit 1,500 nurses, who have long lamented the policy of the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Duterte said the government is still calibrating the rules to allow those not covered by the specified period to leave the country. Despite this, he appealed to medical professionals to choose to serve the Philippines first.

"Those who want to go out, puwede na ho. Pero naiwan naman, sana tagal-tagalan na lang muna ninyo until after this COVID-19 will pass... Sana ‘yung iba naman will have the spirit and the fervor to serve the Filipino people because we also need help and we have a crisis also to deal with," he said in his address to the nation on Monday.

[Translation: Those who want to leave, you can leave. But those who are staying, I hope you stay here longer, at least until after the COVID-19 pandemic. I hope some of you will have the spirit and the fervor to serve the Filipino people because we also need help and we have a crisis also to deal with.]

The President's decision is a reversal of the IATF's rule that only allowed healthcare professionals to leave if they have completed requirements to work abroad as of March 8, hoping to keep them in the country to boost the local fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

READ: How the Philippines became the biggest supplier of nurses worldwide

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin, Jr. has also advocated to allow more healthcare workers to get jobs overseas again, saying it was unconstitutional to keep them from traveling and earning a living abroad. Nurses also aired their own appeal to lift the measure.

READ: Locsin pushes IATF to lift deployment ban on nurses or 'pay big money'