Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Xenophobia in the Land of OFW's?

Also making a comeback in the local blogosphere is the topic of foreigner access to local professions courtesy of Torn & Frayed's post. When i blogged about this topic a few months back, it was in the context of admitting foreign doctors to support our local healthcare needs. At that time, my discussion over at mlq3's blog was mostly with fellow commenter Justice League. It was clear that his initial reaction at that time was from the gut, and is worth quoting in full:

"Regarding Cuban doctors for the Philippines; I can’t put my finger on it but it reads so bad.

I watched the movie “Milan”. I read a comment about the movie somewhere in the net that Filipinos were working as domestic helpers in Italy so the Italians can leave their country to work as domestic helpers elsewhere. I don’t know if that’s true but I’m reminded of that in this issue.

There are actually more than a hundred Indian and Pakistani physicians waiting in the wings for acceptance to practice Medicine here in the Philippines. One of the problems (and I guess there are many) is that there is no reciprocity. If it is to be allowed for one profession (without reciprocity as in not allowing our professionals to work the same in their country) shouldn’t it be allowed for all?

The government is currently thrusting the program of “Medical Tourism” wherein a package of “health” and recreation are being offered to “rich” foreigners.

It is a joint project of at least 2 government departments and aims to get a “slice” of the pie being enjoyed by other SEA countries. It is sold on the idea that it is still cheaper to have medical/surgical workups/management done overseas than in their own countries. In many instances, the foreigners health coverage covers their hospitalization. There is also the benefit of not being on a long queue in their own country. With a recreation tour to boot.

So in a sense the Filipino government is gearing a health care system to be delivered by Filipino doctors to “rich foreigners” while the government is being advocated/or advocates foreign doctors to treat the “non-rich Filipino patients”.

It seems embarassing for Filipino doctors and unfair to both Foreign doctors (esp. if we will ask Cuba for humanitarian assistance for their doctors) and non-rich Filipino patients.

Like I stated, I can’t definitely put my finger on it but it reads so bad!" - Justice League March 5th, 2007, 9:26 pm

Unfortunately, the subsequent discussion was sidelined by matters of law so the topic shifted away from the merits/demerits of the idea itself. It's a pity because it would have been good to get to the bottom of his visceral and (imho) illogical reaction. The emotional part of the reaction is in itself not bad as it could be a sign of some deeper logic but at the moment it remains unexplained.

This type of reaction is not an isolated case since i got more or less the same from Resty Odon last year in his Expectorants blog, although in a post one year later, he eventually acknowledged that hiring Indian doctors may indeed be an inspired (though still ridiculous-sounding) idea.

One valid objection is that inward foreign labor will take jobs away from the locals which is the line of reasoning that fellow commenter Fencesitter told me last year.

"cvj, with all due respect, how can we possibly encourage inward labor from neighboring countries if this country is bereft of respectable job opportunities, which is the reason why most of our countrymen are going abroad." - Fencesitter at January 26th, 2006, 12:38 pm

I responded that the matching of jobs should be at the sectoral level and is a decision that should be made by individual organizations and not at the level of legislation.

"fencesitter, the countries where Filipino OFW’s work in do not have zero unemployment but we are still hired because we are needed. Back home, there is unemployment, but there are also labor shortages in specific sectors. It’s a matter of matching required experience and skills versus available supply, and in this case, the relevant unit for making decisions is at the institutional level, be it a for-profit businesses, quasi-public or public sector organizations.

With India, a real case can be made for synergy between IT talents of both countries. In my work, we’ve brought in specialists from India and in turn i’ve also been assigned to India to do work there as well. In case of China, we can benefit from the infusion of entrepreneurial spirit and closer commercial links with China. We know form our own experience that those who uproot themselves usually do so to actively seek a better life. Having more motivated people working in our islands will have a beneficial knock on effect to the entire system. In the near future, when we become a stable democracy, we will be a destination of choice by the Chinese and other Asian nationals who would seek to escape the restrictions of the mainland.

Among the qualities that the Filipino should cultivate, i hope that xenophobia won’t be one of them. Considering 10% of us are living as guests in some other host country, that would be way too ironic."- cvj at January 26th, 2006, 10:39 pm

As i stated in my last paragraph above, i hope that objections to foreign labor has more to do with a simple misunderstanding of what is truly in our interest as far as matters concerning supply of labor is concerned, rather than an underlying xenophobia among us Pinoys. As Torn has commented along the same lines:

"the world’s largest exporter of labor might want to consider practicing a little reciprocity—for reasons of self interest, if nothing else" - Torn at June 5th, 2007, 8:10 am

Update 06-06-2007 6:19pm: Justice League has posted his response in the comments section as well as over at mlq3's. I accept that his position is indeed logical if his conception of fairness would be used as a framework. However, fairness at the expense of availability of medical care still seems too high a price to pay.

1 comment:

justicialiga said...


I think my first statements that you quoted said a lot about the issue.

I hope you remember that the idea of getting Cuban doctors didn't come from me and that I discussed this part along with the "medical tourism" attempt.

You were the one who advocated that as part of Cuba's humanitarian program; the Philippines should ask Cuba to assign some of their doctors to the Philippines.

Yes, I have to admit that it was a gut reaction.

Without bringing up the relevant laws and provisions of the Constitution (except for reciprocity which in the case of a humanitarian effort would hardly be an issue), I immediately stated my reservations of the recommendation.

Near the end, I stated that it was unfair.

If Cuba would actually send their doctors, how much would these doctors receive in their "humanitarian effort" in treating the poor?

I would presume that they would be paid a pittance.

And as the government gears the Filipino physicians for medical tourism; how much would those Filipino doctors involved in the program be paid?

I imagine a lot.

In essence as a dual program, those Filipino physicians could treat a lesser number of foreigners yet be paid much much more while the foreign doctor would definitely treat more Filipino patients but end up being paid much much less.

Looking at it in its face, I definitely find it "unfair" from the bottom of my gut.

Yet somehow you found my reaction illogical.

Very well, I believe that the best way for you to show that it is illogical is to explain why such scenario is "not unfair".