THE GOVERNMENT is studying a proposal to relax its deployment ban for health workers by allowing those whose contracts were signed as of August to leave the country.

Presidential spokesman Harry L. Roque told an online news briefing on Thursday he would bring this up to an inter-agency task force on the coronavirus and President Rodrigo R. Duterte himself.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III this week said he wanted to ease the ban.

In an order dated April 2, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) suspended the deployment of doctors and nurses while the country was in a state of national emergency.

Also covered by the ban were microbiologists, molecular biologists, medical technologists, clinical analysts, respiratory therapists, pharmacists, laboratory and X-ray technicians, nursing aids, medical equipment operators, health supervisors and hospital equipment repair men.

POEA also suspended negotiations for government-to-government deployment of health workers.

It said the country’s health facilities, personnel and other resources were under severe strain due to the rising number of persons affected by the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), according to the order signed by Mr. Bello, who heads the POEA board.

Only medical professionals whose contracts were signed on or before March 8 were allowed to work overseas.

The Philippines was 290,000 short of health workers last year, which was aggravated by the migration of 13,000 health professionals, POEA said earlier, citing a Human Resources for Health Network report.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. had said the deployment ban violates citizens’ right to travel. — Gillian M. Cortez