Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon  expressed disappointment at  the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) for its offer to the United Kingdom and Germany in deploying more Filipino nurses in the two European nations with the highest number of cases and deaths related to COVID-19 in exchange for vaccines. 

“Are we this desperate?” asked Drilon, saying that policy is borne out of the growing hopelessness over the need for COVID-19 vaccines in the country.

He said DOLE’s “palit bakuna” initiativeis a wrong policy and sets a bad precedent.”

“Our health care workers are not commodities they can trade off,” he added.

Alice Visperas, an official of DOLE revealed that Labor Sec. Silvestre Bello III asked the UK and Germany to provide the Philippines with at least 600,000 vaccines in exchange for the deployment of more Filipino nurses and other health care workers.

The former Labor secretary advised DOLE to abandon the policy.

“The exchange for vaccines is not included in the mandate of DOLE. Our focus should be on protecting the rights and welfare of our OFWs especially during these trying times,” Drilon said.

Drilon said it only highlights the need for the government to fast-track the procurement of COVID-19 vaccines.

The Senate passed on February 23 a measure that will help expedite the purchase and administration of the much-needed vaccines in the country as the Philippines lags behind in coronavirus vaccination among its Southeast Asian neighbors.

With the passage of the measure, Drilon said there will be no more excuses for delays in COVID-19 vaccination plan.

Meanwhile, former vice-president Jejomar Binay branded the DOLE proposal as “insensitive and dehumanizing.”

Binay said the government keeps insisting it has enough money to pay for vaccines, so why even consider nurses to secure donations from the UK and Germany? If it wants to, government can even use discretionary fund, and re-align the billions it has allocated to the NTF-ELCAC to purchase more vaccines.