By Veronica Uy
First Posted 13:25:00 07/01/2008
MANILA, Philippines -- The government is seeking a bilateral labor
agreement with Belgium that would allow the employment of 3,000
Filipino nurses, particularly those specializing in geriatrics and
pediatrics, in the European nation, said a former labor attaché there.
In an interview, Ciriaco Lagunzad III, former Philippine labor
attaché to Brussels and now executive director of the National Wages
and Productivity Commission (NWPC), said he hopes that talks on the
agreement will move forward during the Second Global Forum on
Migration and Development, which the Philippines will host in October.
Lagunzad said previous talks with officials of Charleroi, a semi-
autonomous city in Belgium, are already at the level of the other
party's agreeing to recognize the qualifications of Filipino nurses
with, perhaps, some additional training.
"Our nurses need to be trained in the language, and not simply the
French or the Flemish, but the language used in the hospital setting,
which is technical," he said.
"Our nurses need to be trained in the values, culture, and laws of
Belgium too," he added.
Lagunzad has not been able to follow up on the talks after being
recalled back to the Philippines to head the NWPC, which among other
functions, oversees the tripartite negotiations on minimum wages.
One of the organizers of the forum, Lagunzad said the future
deployment of nurses to Belgium follows that of some 50 Filipino
nurses employed in hospitals in Belgium almost 40 years ago.
Lagunzad said that, unknown to many Filipinos, Line 1 of the Light
Rail Transit from Baclaran in Parañaque to Monumento in Caloocan is
Belgian-made, part of a bilateral agreement between the two countries
negotiated by King Albert in the 1970s to exchange trains for nurses.
He said most of the original nurses are retired or retiring and the
hospitals that hired them want to hire more Filipinos.
"They like Filipino nurses because they are more attentive and in
their view the personal touch promotes healing. Some patients even
say they don't want to be treated if they could not have a Filipino
nurse," he said.
"Filipino nurses can communicate and connect easily with people. We
are more adaptive and flexible," he added.
The labor official said he arrived at the number of 3,000 by
calculating the number of beds in existing hospitals and hospitals
being constructed and to be constructed in the next three to five
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