The Department of Health (DOH) has suspended implementation of a blanket licensing requirement for all massage therapists in the country while working out a system of accreditation with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).
The licensing order will be deferred for three years, or until December 2017. If it were enforced according to the original plan, it would have thrown many blind therapists out of work.
Health Secretary Janette Garin and TESDA Director General Emmanuel Joel Villanueva signed on February 11 Joint Memorandum Circular 2015-001, declaring a three-year moratorium on a section of DOH Administrative Order 2010-0034.
Signed in 2010, the AO aims to improve the Philippine massage industry by requiring all therapists, blind or sighted, to have a certificate of training from a DOH-accredited provider and then to take a licensing exam.
Blind massage therapists and advocates opposed the AO, saying it violated the law and would harm the livelihood opportunities of members of the sector who look to the profession as their source of income.
The joint circular provides that from January 2015 to December 2017, the minimum requirement for massage therapists in order to practice their profession shall be the possession of a valid certificate from TESDA instead of a license as required by the AO.
“[The] moratorium will help the [two]agencies iron out what really need to be done,” said TESDA Director Patti dela Rama, the focal person on discussions with DOH regarding massage therapists.
Ronneldel Rio, president of the Philippine Chamber of Massage Industry for the Visually Impaired, welcomed the development but said the joint order was proof that there was no proper consultation before implementation of the order.
“Talagang it was a hasty measure na dapat i-recall [It was a hasty measure that needs to be recalled],” he said.
Noting that the moratorium does not fully address the concerns of blind massage therapists in the country, del Rio added that they would still push for an inquiry in Congress and question the order before the Supreme Court.