PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Monday said the Philippine government has taken all measures to prevent the entry of the Ebola virus which has claimed more than 4,000 lives worldwide.
Speaking at the opening of the World Health Organization (WHO) Western Pacific regional committee meeting in Pasay City, Aquino admitted that the Philippines is vulnerable to the entry of Ebola and other viruses because of the millions of Filipino workers abroad.
The killer virus has not yet reached the Philippines. Aquino said the government is prioritizing efforts to prevent the disease from reaching the country.
“For the Philippines, specifically, the fact that we have 10 million of our countrymen living and working abroad makes these kinds of outbreaks a paramount concern,” the President said.
Aquino recalled that when the MERS Corona virus spread in the Middle East earlier this year, the government’s “first thought immediately went to the more than a million Filipinos living and working in the oil rich kingdom.”
According to Aquino, the incident gave the Philippines a chance to examine and improve its health systems. It also led to his signing of an executive order forming an inter-agency task force to manage emerging infectious diseases in the country.
Also on Monday, the British government asked the Philippines to deploy health volunteers who will join some 500 medical volunteers to West Africa to fight the spread of the Ebola virus there.
British Ambassador to Manila Asif Ahmad said Prime Minister David Cameron made the appeal through a letter to President Benigno Aquino 3rd. The President has yet to respond to the request.
Ahmad said Filipino volunteers will join the British contingent in West African countries such as Sierra Leone, Liberia and Nigeria. He said Health Secretary Enrique Ona was open to the idea of sending a small group first “to actually look at what is possible.”
Health Undersecretary Teodoro Herbosa just came back from a trip to London to check the requirements set by the British government for Filipinos to participate in this mission.
“We’re engaging with the Philippines because our national definition as a country is interlinked with international affairs. You’re not a country that can just ignore what’s going on around the world,” Ahmad said in an interview.
“No matter what happened anywhere from an event to war, disease to air traffic disruption, you name it there is a Filipino angle,” he added.
Although no one can ensure the safety of volunteers, the envoy gave assurances that the British government will draw up a scheme to address training and compensation needs.
“What promise that we have been able to make is that whatever position we make for our own citizens, we would offer to the Philippine contingent,” Ahmad said.
Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz meanwhile warned professional health workers not to accept job offers from Ebola-affected countries.
Baldoz said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) has banned the deployment of Filipino workers to Ebola-hit countries Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone since July.