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Health care workers‘ travel ban legal

Francis Wakefield

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President Rodrigo Duterte could legally exercise police powers to stop Filipino health workers from leaving the Philippines as he expressed his concern to their health and safety, Malacañang said Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque made this remark after the Chief Executive, in a taped public address aired Monday night, said he would discuss with Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra the legality of stopping health workers from migrating.

“Perfectly legal. In fact, that’s pursuant to the general welfare laws. It is an exercise of police power because the primary basis for the President’s concern is that these people are going to the most dangerous places as far as COVID-19 is concerned,” Roque said in a television interview.

The Palace official was referring to Section 16 of the Local Government Code or the “General Welfare Clause” which mandates local government units to exercise the powers expressly “which are essential to the promotion of the general welfare.”

He also noted that a shortage of medical professionals in the country is also being considered as a basis for stopping their migration.

President Duterte earlier admitted that the government cannot afford to pay health workers at par with their wages overseas, but appealed to their sense of patriotism for them to stay while the country is combating a health crisis.

The Department of Health has launched an Emergency Hiring Program of health care professions to work in local hospitals amid the threat of COVID-19 to address the lack of manpower.

Last month, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration issued a resolution which temporarily suspends the deployment of all health care workers until the national state of emergency is lifted, but criticisms from labor groups prompted the government to lift the suspension.

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