Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Ejercito Estrada has lambasted the director of the New Zealand Nursing Council for belittling Filipino nurses and said the official should be slapped with a diplomatic protest if no public apology is made.
"We should defend our countrymen, especially our OFWs, against this affront," Estrada, chair of the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development, and the joint Congressional Oversight Committee on Labor and Employment, said during his Friday nationwide program "Boses ng Masa (Voice of the Masses)" aired over DZRH radio.
Estrada particularly denounced New Zealand Nursing Council Director David Wills, who questioned the quality of nursing qualifications and training programs in the Philippines based merely on the observation that the number of nursing students in the country boomed from 30,000 in 2004 to 450,000 in 2008.
Wills said that New Zealand as well as other overseas nursing authorities have stopped registering Filipino nurses because of concerns over their qualifications.
Estrada said his office received a letter-complaint from a Filipino nurse who spent at least $8,000 to process her application and deployment in New Zealand but was eventually denied registration by the Council, thus resulting to her current status as unemployed and overstaying alien in that country.
During the radio program, Estrada interviewed Philippine Ambassador Bienvenido Tejano by phone in Wellington , New Zealand , who reported there are now about 50 "distressed" overstaying Filipinos in New Zealand , many of them nurses who were denied registration by the Council.
Tejano feared that the number of distressed Filipinos in New Zealand would arise following the disenfranchisement of Filipino nurses from registering thru its Council.
Wills was quoted in news reports with his remark, "It is easier to get a fresh graduate from Kenya registered than someone from the Philippines."
"Hindi naman ako papayag sa ganyang maling pagturing sa ating mga nurse, with due respect sa mga nurse mula sa Kenya," Estrada said, declaring that the mere increase in the number of students taking up nursing course does not in any way translate to a decrease in the quality of nursing studies in the Philippines.
Estrada urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to immediately file a diplomatic protest against Mr.Wills and demand a public apology from the New Zealand Nusing Council director.
According to Estrada, his office also received a letter from New Zealand national, Mr. Bill Marshall, who said: "Based on my personal experience, having been a patient in Middlemore Hospital heart ward, I can say Thank God for nurses from the Philippines. It has occurred to me that our hospital system (in New Zealand) could risk collapse without the contingency of Filipino nurses that we have. Filipino nurses deserve our respect."
Estrada said the Philippine government should immediately resolve the issue with the New Zealand Nursing Council and push for fair treatment of Filipino nurses by New Zealand as part of its "due recognition" of the OFWs' contribution to its healthcare system and its economy.