Monday, March 10, 2008

More activities: Prayer Service for Truth and Justice

Please join us.

Prayer Service for Truth and Justice followed by a multisectoral program on March 14, 2008 at the Liwasang Bonifacio. Assembly : 1:30 pm Philippine National Bank(PNB) near UP-POGH main entrance, along Taft Avenue, Manila

Spratlys probe, JPEPA vote set on April 28--Santiago

By Veronica Uy
Posted date: March 09, 2008

MANILA, Philippines--The Senate inquiry into the controversial Spratlys agreement among the Philippines, China, and Vietnam, as well as the committee report on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, will be taken up on April 28, when Congress resumes its session after the Holy Week break.

This was revealed by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairperson of the Senate foreign relations committee, in a press statement sent by e-mail to media outfits Sunday.

Congress is set to adjourn for its Holy Week break this week.

At the same time, Santiago warned against turning the protests against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo into protests against China. She said that Philippine-China relations should not be dragged into the political fray.

She pointed out that China has extended preferential loans to the Philippines for various development programs, and is now the main financial provider for Southeast Asia, ahead of the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, and aid programs from the United States and Japan.

"The anti-Arroyo campaign should not be turned into an anti-China campaign. We should consign power plays to the domestic arena. International relations and diplomacy are too important to our national interest to be used as partisan political ploys. It takes decades to build up good interstate relations," said the senator.

Santiago, who has just arrived from her campaign for the post of judge of the International Court of Justice, said the Senate inquiry into Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) signed in 2005 will probably be assigned to her committee and the blue-ribbon committee.

She said that while the JMSU raises the issue of possible violation of the constitutional provision on Philippine sovereignty or jurisdiction over defined national territory, "a mere scientific or technical cooperation agreement, which does not diminish or threaten Philippine sovereignty or jurisdiction, is constitutional."

The JMSU will collect data and information on the potential oil and gas reserves in the area, planned to last for three years, at the cost of $15 million.

Citing the 1992 ASEAN Declaration on the South China Sea, she said ASEAN foreign ministers resolved, "without prejudicing the sovereignty and jurisdiction of countries having direct interests in the area, to explore the possibility of cooperation in the South China Sea relating to the safety of maritime navigation and communication, protection against pollution in the marine environment."

Santiago said the 1992 Declaration was followed by the 2002 ASEAN-China Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which she said "is merely a political declaration, without binding legal force, seeking to turn a sea of disputes into a sea of cooperation, pursuant to the policy of the late Chinese leader Deng Xiao Ping."

On JPEPA, she said she will release the full committee report recommending conditional concurrence with the treaty also on April 28.

"Ordinarily, a committee report is only two pages, bearing the signatures of committee members. But this time my committee report will be so extensive that it will be a bound volume. JPEPA is an extraordinary treaty, raising significant issues of constitutional and international law," she said.

Santiago said that JPEPA committee report will comprise at least four documents: the standard format with the signatures of nearly all 23 senators who are members of the two committees; the draft Senate resolution setting out the conditions for concurrence; the report on the constitutional and legal issues filed by herself as chairperson of the foreign relations committee; and the report on the trade and industry issues to be filed by Senator Manuel Roxas II as chairperson of the trade and commerce committee.

Explaining the delay in Senate action on the JPEPA, the senator said she finished JPEPA hearings in November last year, but Senator Edgardo Angara requested additional hearings that took another month.

"In January, the Senate could not take up JPEPA because the budget always takes priority. In February, it was overtaken by the NBN [national broadband network] probe. This March, there is an extended Congress break. That is why April, when session resumes, is the earliest date available," she said.

Santiago said she hopes Japan will accept the conditions, without resubmitting the JPEPA to the Japanese Diet or parliament.

"The constitutional issues are paramount. Hence, the Senate should ensure that the Supreme Court will not declare JPEPA unconstitutional. If we do not take scrupulous care in the Senate and the court declares it unconstitutional, such declaration of unconstitutionality will not be a valid defense, if Japan later sues the Philippines for nonperformance of contract obligation. This is a provision of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties," the senator explained.

Santiago said she will be abroad until November this year for her campaign to the ICJ.
But Santiago said she plans to be in Manila when session resumes in April, so that she can deliver her JPEPA sponsorship speech and defend it, as well as preside over the Spratly Islands hearing, before resuming her hectic campaign schedule abroad.

Survey: 46% of hospitals want foreign nurses, but 62% unwilling to train them


Nearly half of large hospitals in Japan want to hire licensed non-Japanese nurses but about 60 percent are unwilling to train foreign workers to become qualified for such work, a recent survey found.
The survey was conducted by a study group at the Kyushu University Asia Center following the government's agreements with Indonesia and the Philippines to accept trainees so they can obtain Japanese licenses as nurses and nursing-care workers.
Indonesia will send trainees to Japan as early as this year.
According to the survey results, 46.2 percent of the hospitals want to hire licensed non-Japanese nurses. Specifically, 21.5 percent said they would hold foreign nurses up to the same recruitment standards as Japanese nurses, while 24.7 percent said they would set aside certain numbers of openings for foreign nurses.
But the survey showed that 62 percent of the hospitals are unwilling or would refuse to accept trainees, compared with 38 percent that would accept them.
The study group sent questionnaires in January to about 1,600 large hospitals that can accommodate 300 or more inpatients. It received valid responses from 522 hospitals by the end of February.
The study group announced the survey results at an international workshop held in Fukuoka on Sunday.
Of the hospitals in favor of accepting non-Japanese nurses, 65 percent, the largest portion, said they want to fill shortages in the nursing staff.
Other reasons cited included expectations that foreign nurses would contribute to promoting international exchanges, building new human relationships at the hospitals or improving the quality of nursing services.
However, 20 percent of the respondents said they do not want to accept non-Japanese nurses, while 33 percent said they did not know.
Those reluctant to accept the foreign nurses cited concerns about providing support, language problems and possible refusal by patients and their families to be treated by non-Japanese.
Under the economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with Indonesia and the Philippines, Japan will accept trainees who will learn the Japanese language for six months and then receive on-the-job training at hospitals.
The trainees are required to pass a national examination within three years to obtain a license. The exam is the same one taken by Japanese applicants.
Those who pass the exam will be allowed to continue staying and working in Japan.
Yoshichika Kawaguchi, a professor at the University of Occupational and Environmental Health who led the survey, said the reluctance of hospitals to accept trainees is partly due to insufficient information about the trainee system.
"The government should decide on details of the system as soon as possible and become more active in disclosing information," Kawaguchi said.
Under the agreement with Indonesia, Japan will accept up to 400 nurse trainees and 600 caregiver trainees over two years.
The procedures to ratify the EPA with the Philippines have been delayed.(IHT/Asahi: March 10,2008)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Medical Tourism: A Critique

Medical Tourism: A Critique
A Brief Outline Prepared by Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD)
02 February 2006, Revised 11 March 2007

I. Overview of the Health Situation

Basic Indicators:
• 7 out of 10 Filipinos die without getting any medical attention.
• Only 30% of the population has full access to essential drugs.
• The price of medicine in the country rank among the highest in the world, mainly due to monopolies in the industry (mostly foreign and TNCs).
• The top 10 causes of mortality and morbidity are mostly communicable and preventable diseases. This list has not changed significantly over the last three decades.
• 10 mothers die daily due to pregnancy- and childbirth-related causes.

Health Care Delivery and State Services
• The average hospital bill is three times the average monthly income.
• The range of waiting time for admission for 89% of patients in 13 public hospitals is 3 days to one month.
• There is a rapid decline in the number of hospitals, both in the private and public sectors.
• Most hospitals, especially the secondary and tertiary level, are urban-based
• Almost all public hospitals lack the basic medical equipment, laboratory facilities, and medical supplies.
• The 2006 budget of the Department of Health (DOH) for 11 government hospitals in Metro Manila is PhP 2.483B but the 2006 budget for the 2 hospitals under the Armed Forces of the Phils. (AFP) (AFPMC and VMMC) is PhP 1.348B.

Health Education and Human Resources
• Health workers and health professionals are largely overworked and underpaid.
• There is a skewed distribution of health personnel in favor of the urban centers.
• There is a critical problem of doctors and nurses leaving in the thousands to work abroad. Around 80% of public sector physicians are taking up nursing.
• The Philippine gov’t allocated only 0.33% of GNP in 2004, 0.21% in 2005, and 0.35% of the projected GNP in 2006 for health (WHO prescribes 5% of GNP).
• The public health care system will imminently collapse if these trends continue.

II. The Privatization of Health Care
• The key thrust of the national government from the 1980s has been to decrease public sector spending in line with structural adjustment programs (SAPs)
• With globalization, the national government instituted the privatization and liberalization of health care and services
• Privatization as a national policy is embodied in the policy papers of DOH: the Health Sector Reform Agenda (HSRA) and recently, Fourmula One
• Priorities of privatization include:
o Integration of public specialty hospitals
o Collection of and increases in “user fees” for services that used to be for free
o Fiscal autonomy  public hospitals are required to have income-generating projects and cost-cutting measures (but essentially abridge the benefits of health workers)
o “Cutting down on the bureaucracy”  laying-off health workers
o Social health insurance as an adjunct (PhilHealth)
o Medical tourism and medical zones

III. Medical Tourism

A. Medical Tourism as a Government Program
By Design
• Has an advisory panel composed of 2 ambassadors, 3 cabinet secretaries (DOH, DTI, DOT) + an individual (private sector?)

• Has 3 clusters: Medical, Tourism-Business, and Accreditation and Licensing Clusters
• The Accreditation and Licensing Cluster is headed by USec. Jade del Mundo and includes:
o 3 DOH directors
o 1 BOI governor
o 1 DOT director
• The Medical Cluster is headed by DOH USec. Jade del Mundo and includes:
o 4 other DOH personnel
o directors of 3 GOCC hospitals (NKTI, PCMC, PHC)
o director of East Avenue Medical Center
o 6 from big private hospitals
o 2 from specialty organizations
o 2 from cosmetic medical groups
o 3 from various health-related groups
• Linked with the creation of the Philippines Centers for Specialized Healthcare (PCSH)
o Merging the existing GOCC hospitals (NKTI, PHC, LCP, PCMC)
o Forming new “specialty” centers:
 Merging PCMC with NCH
 “Merging” Jose Fabella Memorial Hosp with LCP to form the Women’s Medical Center
 Transforming the East Avenue Medical Center into a “Trauma Specialty Center”

By Promotion
o Is being promoted as “one of government’s responses a the exodus of health professionals” (USec del Mundo in PDI, January 10, 2006)
o Is supposed to bring down the cost of health care through “economies of scale and synergy”, including
o Savings in drug procurement through discounted bulk purchase?
o Negotiated lower professional fees?
o Other alleged benefits include:
o Lower laboratory fees because of bigger patient volume?
o Bigger profit = purchase of expensive medical equipment
o For example, USec del Mundo: “PCSH will devote 70% to charity cases and 30% to pay patients”
B. Medical Tourism: Our Critique
Medical Tourism is an outright sale of health services.
• Health services is marketed and promoted as a merchandise or commodity
• Principal market/clientele: foreigners
• Priority use of public facilities, equipment, and expertise on paying (private) patients
• Private patients use government funded facilities primarily meant for charity (service patients. For example: East Avenue Medical Center, Jose Fabella Memorial Medical Center (after it is changed into the “Women’s Medical Center”)
• Main objective is to provide more dollar-denominated revenues for the national gov’t

Medical Tourism will make health care more inaccessible to Filipinos.

• Poor patients will be further marginalized
• Benefits are “loquacious lies to sugarcoat harsh effects” (i.e. patient backlog in PHC, expenses in NKTI, PGH experience in “pay wards”)
• Funds and resources will be siphoned off to hospitals involved in medical tourism. For example, the capital outlay for the current “improvement and infrastructure changes in line with PCSH” is taken from ODA funds.
• Main direction is to cater to needs of primary clientele. Therefore, the trend will be for more specialized, high tech medical facilities
• Expensive, urban- and hospital-based, specialty-dependent, curative health care vs. strong preventive Primary Health Care

Medical Tourism is illusory at best as a solution to the exodus of health workers and professionals
• Big, private hospitals will monopolize new clientele
• Will new doctors and specialists benefit? No! (e.g. insurance requirements)
• Closure/integration of public hospitals will mean loss of employment for health workers
• Will spur, rather than stem, the loss of health personnel in the public sector to the private sector, if not abroad = “internal brain drain”
• Medical tourism does not address core issues and concerns of the health workers and health professionals – wages, tenure, institutional support, peace and order issues, gov’t corruption

Privatization is at the core of Medical Tourism
• Profit, rather than service, becomes the overarching consideration
• Health as a business rather than a state obligation
o Gov’t has abdicated its Constitutional obligation  one of the proposed changes in the Constitution is the removal of the clause pertaining to health as a State responsibility
o “organ trafficking”  promotes the sale or vending of organs (e.g. kidneys) that further exploits poverty in the country (the poor as cheap sources of organs)
o Further marginalizes the poor as paying clientele are prioritized even in public hospitals
• Diverts precious limited resources to services that do not address the needs of the majority of Filipinos  misallocation and wrong prioritization (e.g. building “massage and spa centers” in public hospitals)
• Medical tourism now, medical zones later

IV. Our Position

A nation’s health care system is a reflection of its socio-economic and political system.
• Not surprising to have an elitist, anti-poor, and irresponsive health care system as a product of a corrupt, anti-democratic, and neocolonial political system
• “Globalizing” health care under the framework of GATS and WTO is anti-poor and anti-people
• The framework of medical tourism in particular and the national health policy in general, is addressed to cater to the needs of “client states”, which are mainly developed countries
• The Arroyo government is essentially creating a privatized health care system, which should be exposed and opposed
• Social determinants of health (e.g. poverty, employment, housing and others) are not being addressed and instead, are worsening under the current gov’t

Definitive solutions, both long- and short-term, must be decisively made and genuinely implemented.'
• There is a need to address CORE ISSUES regarding the exodus of health personnel:
o Political uncertainties
o Economic difficulties
o Lack of professional advancement
o Poor remuneration
o Lack of government prioritization
• There is a need to implement immediate reforms or definitive measures
o Provide higher health budget
o Increase wages and improve benefits of health workers and professionals, esp those in the public sector
o Implement existing laws: Nursing Act of 2002, Magna Carta of Health Workers
o Rescind repressive measures: AO 103, EO 366
o Rescind WTO commitments

Options and scenarios

March 5, 2008
Series of 2008

The “critical mass” that can lead to the forced resignation of Gloria M. Arroyo can only rise from the spectrum of diverse groups and personalities agreeing who or what will replace the widely-discredited president.

Most of the 80,000 people who converged at the interfaith prayer-rally in Ayala, Makati City on February 29 supported the call for Arroyo’s resignation or removal. The call was echoed by tens of thousands other rallyers who held similar protest actions during the same week in several cities throughout the country as well as in Hong Kong, the United States, Europe, and other countries.

The Arroyo regime is in red alert - in panic mode, if you will - since the February 29 rallies. The events showed the confluence of major advocacy groups, opinion leaders, and a big number of students in just two weeks following whistleblower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada’s corruption exposes’ with their resounding call for the president’s resignation.[1] It was like the thunderbolt that sent waves of masses taking to Edsa 1 and Edsa 2 – a political combustion that could electrify more mass actions increasing in frequency and in bigger numbers until the final day of reckoning for Gloria M. Arroyo.


In many respects, the resign call is giving birth to a progressive plank even among the moderate groups as well as interfaith, lawyers, and youth sectors that see Arroyo’s resignation or removal as a step toward a deep-going reform in government and in the state’s political institutions. Outside the militant groups, this nuance was never seen before in Edsa 1 and Edsa 2. Seven years of the Arroyo regime have exposed alarmingly the fragility of the country’s institutions on account of the subversion of the electoral system to prolong the president’s rule, the manipulation of the legislature through bribery and tyranny of numbers to block impeachment moves, and military supremacy over the justice system particularly on so-called national security cases. What are claimed to be constitutional processes have succumbed to the use of force, threats, and corruption through bribery as a means of protecting the questionable rule of Arroyo.

Thus, the ground for starting a movement for democratic reform in governance by the people is already present.[2] Having said that, in the short-term, what should be the post-Arroyo replacement? This crucial question remains unresolved among the various and eclectic anti-Arroyo forces at this point. Almost everyone agrees however that some unity should be reached on this matter if the momentum for the resignation of Arroyo is to be sustained and pushed to its desired conclusion. There are various scenarios being floated:

Constitutional succession, with Vice President Noli de Castro assuming the presidency. This option is being pushed by the so-called “La Salle 60” which is composed of the Hyatt 10++ - the resigned members of the Arroyo cabinet – and other past cabinet members.

Except for its constitutionality, this option has drawn no serious appeal not only because De Castro is a lame duck but also because with Noli – an Arroyo protégé - at the helm it will not address the immediate demand to hold the beleaguered president accountable for the various charges of fraud, corruption, and killings thrown against her. Besides, whether De Castro can lead the initiative to reform the government system let alone its electoral process – an increasing demand from the parliament of the streets – also remains a question.

A variation to this option, which De Castro is expected to refuse, is for the provisional president to call for snap presidential elections even before 2010. The unanimous requisite for holding another election is the revamp of Comelec to ensure its independence and instituting effective mechanisms to safeguard the right to vote.

Revolutionary transition

A revolutionary transition government, which has been endorsed by groups aligned with a former university president and some military rebels. This can be the result of a successful ouster move against the seating president with the possibility that it will be backed by military elements. This option, which can result in a civilian-military junta, has no mass appeal as proven in recent opinion surveys, and does not sit well with both moderate and other militant forces in the anti-Arroyo regime struggle. It will face stiff resistance from Congress once the transition government moves to abolish it.

An extreme version of this option, which a few individuals seem to be entertaining, amounts to a virtual anarchy – anything to replace the regime “including chaos and revolution.” What kind of “revolution” they mean is quite murky at this point.

A citizens’ transition council to be headed by a Supreme Court justice. This imminent citizens-led council can also be the result of Arroyo’s forced resignation. The emergence of this caretaker body is essentially a political act done under an extraordinary situation – reminiscent of the revolutionary transition in 1986 under Corazon Aquino – with enough powers while retaining the element of constitutional succession. The trailblazing transition council will be composed of – and staffed by - representatives of people’s organizations, NGOs, and sectors that are struggling for the resignation or removal of Arroyo and are united by a concrete program of genuine social, economic, and political reform. These are the groups and sectors generally left out in Edsa 1 and Edsa 2 where the victories of people’s struggles were hijacked by members of the elite and ruled the country in the old tyrannical and corrupt ways that people power had precisely struggled to demolish.

The citizens’ transition council will address the public clamor for a non-traditional, pro-people political leadership that may likely draw support from other key players such as influential members of the interfaith, business, and the military. For this option to become feasible, however, the pressure that will force Arroyo to resign should be strong and insurmountable in a supreme act of sovereign power by the people allowing them - extra-constitutionally - to entrust powers to this caretaker body.

The short-term and minimum agenda of the proposed citizens’ council is to initiate immediate reforms starting with the electoral system to ensure a clean and democratic election in 2010. So long as this is made clear – alongside with the fact that the council will exist only for a specific duration – then it will likely draw the support not only from the disparate political forces arrayed against the regime but also significant segments of the broad public. Elite and traditional politicians should admit that they have already lost their self-proclaimed right to dominate leadership while the people have begun to realize they should assert their sovereign power if comprehensive reform in governance is to be instituted.

Status quo

Still others – some presidentiables included - would rather see Arroyo finishing her term until June 2010 or roughly for about 800 more days. If this is ruled out, presidential aspirants would scream to high heavens on the day Noli de Castro is sworn into office in place of Arroyo because with government resources at his disposal that would ensure his election in 2010. Some political readers point out, however, that if Arroyo is allowed to stay in office until 2010, what will prevent her from hanging unto power beyond that?

As far as anti-Arroyo forces are concerned, either of these two scenarios would plunge the country deeper into a political turmoil. Better have a minor incision now than be forced to take a major surgery within the next two years.

The search for a political alternative is a communal work in progress. Its shape and configuration will evolve in the process of widening and increasing the momentum for replacing a widely-perceived corrupt and most despicable regime. But the answer for an alternative leadership must soon be cobbled together by all democratic and patriotic forces as it will serve as the bridge toward building the “critical mass” needed to put an end to a regime of greed and fear. The arduous and contentious process of political reconstruction should begin with the first step.


[1] See CenPEG Issue Analysis No. 04, “People Power,” February 26, 2008 at

[2] This should be distinguished from the dynamics of the Marxist-led people’s democratic revolution which seeks the restructuring of the society with a socialist perspective, and with the foundations of a revolutionary government already underway in the rural countryside. Other ideological groups envisage peaceful reform using the parliamentary mode while others are pushing for urban insurrections.

UN sees more people going hungry in Philippines as rice prices soar

by Cecil MorellaFri
Mar 7, 1:25 PM ET
Yahoo News

A UN aid official warned Friday that the Philippines may end up having to feed
people to save them going hungry as the market price of rice soars out of
reach of ordinary households.

With prices of rice and wheat spiking in recent months, World Food Programme
country director Valerie Guarnieri told AFP, "I think there's a possibility
that the government would have to feed more people because of rising prices."

"Price rises mean people who previously were able to meet their own food needs
through the market with their own income have been sort of pushed over that
precipice and are no longer able to feed their families," Guarnieri said.

"So we see people who suddenly now would be eligible for assistance," she
said, adding: "We're seeing it in many countries."

The UN agency now provides food aid to about 1.1 million of the Philippines'
90 million people.

Guarnieri said the UN was unlikely to ramp up its food aid to the Philippines
immediately since it is considered a "middle-income country" with lower priority.

She also warned Manila could be hit in the pocket by having to boost spending
on subsidies just to maintain current prices of the lowest-quality rice that
it sells to the poor.

Guarnieri said rising rice prices and tight supplies could impact most
severely on poor households in the rebellion-torn southern island of Mindanao
because "we're looking at people who already spend 70 percent of their income
on food and are having a real struggle meeting their needs.

"So any increase in the rice price to them is going to put them in a very
difficult situation or make a difficult situation even worse."

Globally, she said the UN has appealed to the food programme donors to make
them "understand that we're going to need more resources just to do what we're
currently doing."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Philippine Heart Center goes global

Rachel C. Barawid
Well Being/Manila Bulletin
March 6, 2008

These days, sick people who have the means would rather seek treatment in the swanky, hotel-like confines of private hospitals which offer state-of-the-art healthcare facilities, than queue in line for hours in hot, dilapidated, and cramped public hospitals.

For them, money is not a factor; quality healthcare under the best doctors and a comfy room are.

Although this is the case for many public health institutions, not all government-owned hospitals are being left out of the game.

The 33-year-old Philippine Heart Center (PHC), for instance, proves that it can compete not only with top private hospitals in the country but also globally with its cutting-edge healthcare equipment and quality patient care.

Showcase for medical tourism

"Of all the government hospitals in the country, it is only the Heart Center (that) is really earning. It is self-sufficient," reveals Dr. Antonio Pascual, a resident physician at PHC specializing in internal medicine, cardiology, and echocardiography.

In fact, the Center is only one of two government hospitals being showcased in the medical tourism program of the Arroyo administration, Dr. Pascual reports.

Medical tourism caters to the new type of tourists who travel to seek treatment in countries with affordable but excellent healthcare services.

He also bared that the PHC is currently undergoing extensive renovation, constructing an annex building for its laboratory, upgrading equipment and hospital processes to meet the global standards for accreditation by the Joint Commission International (JCI). The JCI is the largest accreditor of health care organizations in the United States.

Read more:

Dissenting analysis

Travel for Health: A Sell-out of Philippine Health Care

Medical tourism is but one form of globalization of health care – foreign doctors, foreign owned hospitals and medical facilities catering to foreign clients: a sell-out of the country’s health care system to foreign big business that spells government abandonment of its responsibility to provide much needed health services to the people.

Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VII, No. 50, January 27-February 2, 2008

With a guidebook for medical tourists, which would be released internationally this October, there seems to be no stopping the sell-out of the country’s health industry.

Besides a Medical Tourism Bill being on the legislative agenda, there are subtle indications that the government is bent on getting a slice of the booming medical tourism industry in the Asian region.

The Department of Health (DoH) has been frantic about the dollar-earning potential of medical tourism while purportedly intending to allocate its enormous potential revenue from this for the improvement of the public health care system.
According to the DoH, the “nascent yet promising” medical tourism industry has so far already earned about $300 million since 2006, and is expected to earn as much $1 billion by 2012.

Medical tourism is broadly defined as a health holiday along with a provision for cost-effective private medical care in collaboration with the tourism industry for patients needing surgical and/or other forms of specialized treatment.
The Philippines, since 2004, has been packaged as the next destination for medical tourism. This project is officially known as Medical Tourism Philippines ( MTP). Initiated in 2004, it was only re-launched by the DoH in January 2006. MTP also involves the participation of health management organizations (HMOs).

Services vary from elective procedures like rhinoplasty (nose lift), liposuction, breast augmentation, orthodontics, to more serious and life-saving procedures such as joint replacements, bone marrow transplants, eye surgery, bariatric and cardiac bypass surgery among others.

Foreigners as market

Foreigners who want to avail of cheap surgical procedures are the main target market. For example, the cost of nasal injections is from P7,000 to P10,000 ($171.57-$245.10 ) as compared to a surgical noselift which will cost from P20,000 to P30,000 ($490.20- to $735.29). Besides being cheaper, patients are assured of the best doctors trained abroad while easily recovering in the most exotic spots in the country.

In recent reports according to Health Undersecretary Jade del Mundo, the country's health tourism sector covers 35 hospitals and stand-alone surgical facilities.
Leading private hospitals in the country like the Makati Medical Center, St. Luke’s Medical Center, Metropolitan Hospital, Medical City are pilot centers for MTP. Five other government hospitals, namely Lung Center of the Philippines, Philippine Heart Center, National Kidney and Transplant Institute, Philippine Children’s Medical Center, and East Avenue Medical Center have been included as venues for special procedures like kidney and heart transplant.

Bumrungrad International, the same company that runs the famed Bumrungrad Hospital in Thailand, since 2005 already purchased a controlling interest of 40-percent share of Asian Hospital.

Health officials claim that medical tourism could also alleviate the mass migration of health professionals as the demand for high paying jobs would surge in.
However, these have yet to be seen. In the meantime, hospitals around the country still suffer from lack of doctors and nurses. The Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) says that the government should start addressing the reason health professionals leave – low salary, poor working conditions and lack of job security.

Fundamentally wrong

There is something fundamentally wrong when a government starts offering “world-class” healthcare to foreign clients when it cannot even guarantee health for its people. In fact, more than 60 percent of Filipinos do not have access to primary health care and the leading causes of death are mostly treatable and preventable diseases.

Globalized health care

Under MTP, foreigners will be provided quality health care, while poor Filipino patients are likely to be neglected further. Priority will be given to these foreign patients with money to pay and thus services for charity patients will be decreased significantly.

At the Philippine Heart Center alone, an indigent patient wanting to undergo a heart transplant would have to wait for a grueling six months before he or she can be operated on. In the National Kidney and Transplant Institute, there is a heavy backlog of patients.

The full-scale implementation of MTP is seen to lead to the eventual foreign ownerships of hospitals and most segments of medical services in the country. The present moves of the Arroyo government to overhaul the Constitution would hasten such development.

Medical tourism is but one form of globalization of health care – foreign doctors, foreign owned hospitals and medical facilities catering to foreign clients: a sell-out of the country’s health care system to foreign big business that spells government abandonment of its responsibility to provide much needed health services to the people. Contributed to Bulatlat

Typhoid outbreak hits more than 1,400 in Laguna

March 5, 2008

MANILA, Philippines - More than 1,400 people have displayed typhoid symptoms in less than a month in a city near the Philippine capital, prompting authorities to declare a state of calamity, health officials said Wednesday.

Extra medical teams have been sent to assist doctors and conduct disease surveillance in Calamba, Health Secretary Francisco Duque said.

Of 1,477 people with typhoid symptoms, 436 have been treated in the city's six hospitals and the rest in local community health centers since Feb. 16, said Dr. Dennis Labro, spokesman for the city's health office.

Only 37 of those cases have been confirmed with blood tests because the typhoid test is expensive, Labro said.

"So far there are no reported deaths, thank God," Labro said.

The outbreak was concentrated in five adjacent villages in Calamba, about 55 kilometers (34 miles) from Manila, and the salmonella bacteria that caused the illness may have been spread via the water system, based on the speed at which the outbreak grew, he said.

But Labro was hopeful that the outbreak was under control.

"There are still cases coming in, but these are fewer in number compared to the past few days," he said. "I hope the trend continues. We are somehow able to control it."

Typically, typhoid symptoms include high-grade fever, stomach cramps, diarrhea or constipation and general malaise. In extreme cases, the small intestine could be perforated, leading to death if left unattended or not treated properly.

Labro said the city's 50-bed government-run hospital was so swamped when the outbreak peaked Feb. 25-27 that corridors were used to accommodate patients.

The city declared a state of calamity Monday, allowing it to immediately withdraw emergency funds for antibiotics and intravenous drips, he said. The Red Cross and the health department also sent medicine and doctors. - AP

Lozada at the PGH forum sponsored by the ALL-UP Workers' Union and the White Ribbon Movement, a month after he first surfaced

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Photos: Break the Silence, Act Now Forum

Monday, March 3, 2008

" Break the Silence, Act Now" a forum with Engr. Jun Lozada at the PGH

Everyone is invited to attend a forum with Engr. Jun Lozada, entitled" Break the Silence, Act Now" sponsored by the White Ribbon Movement and the ALL-UP Workers' Union to be held on March 5, 2008, 1-5pm at the Nurses Home of the Philippine General Hospital. A noise barrage and candlelighting activity at the PGH gate will immediately follow after the forum. Please attend.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

NLRC dismisses cases filed by nurses vs Sentosa Recruitment

21 February 2008
Legal Counsel_& Spokesman Sentosa Recruitment Agency
Tel. No. (Office) # 8911 338 & Cell # 09195602835
THE NATIONAL LABOR RELATIONS COMMISSION (NLRC) has dismissed the cases filed by 31 nurses against Sentosa Recruitment Agency and its foreign principals.

The cases were filed by 31 immigrant nurses who are working in various long-term care facilities in New York for alleged illegal dismissal, non-payment of and underpayment of salaries and other money claims.

In a 17-page decision penned by Executive Labor Arbiter Fatima Jambaro-Franco, the NLRC ruled that the complainants did not observe the required notice to the employer when they submitted their resignation letters thus they themselves violated the contract and the Labor Code of the Philippines.

The complainants in NLRC OFW Case no. (L) 06-05-01397-00 were Juliet A. Anilao, Marriet S. Avila, Dulce Corazon M. Bayot, Annabelle R. Capulong, Marites Chan, Maricelle M. Dealo, Marie M. de la Cruz, Maritoni S. De La Rosa, Alipio Esguerra, Claudine B. Gamiao, Carlo Conrad Garcia, Eduardo C. Ilagan, Elmer R. Jacinto, Cecille L. Jayo, Jennifer Lampa, Eileem S. Magnaye, James B. Millena, Rizza P. Maulion, Rhean Kissette Montecillo, Mitzi Ann Ong, Noralyn O. Orteza, Louella R. Paglinawan, Ondon Parungao, Ma. Theresa G. Ramos. Ritchel P. Salve and Ranier Sichon.
On the other hand, the complainants under Case. No. (L) 06-12-03784-00 were Archie Buagas, Ma. Consuelo Gonzales, Rosina Medel, Dinah Caluya and Rhoda Lynn San Jose.
Named respondents were Sentosa Recruitment Agency, Francis Luyun, Bent Philipson and seven long-term health care facilities/ centers located in New York.

The NLRC decision which was made last January 24, declared that under contract, at least two (2) weeks notice of intent to resign is required and under the Labor Code of the Philippines, at least one (1) month notice is required. Either of the required notification was not observed by the 31 nurses, thus constituting a clear violation of the Labor Code, the NLRC said. Arbiter Franco said all the complainants tendered their resignation letters, hence they cannot claim illegal dismissal, either actual or constructive.

On money claims, the Labor Arbiter Franco found out that the payslips of the 31 nurses clearly showed that they were paid a salary rate of US$24 even if their contract only states a minimum of US$22. In fact, one nurse --Carlo Conrad Garcia, was even paid US$40 per hour.

Thus, the salary rate being received by the complainants, the NLRC said, negated their claims of underpayment.

The payslips further showed that the complainants were paid all their holiday overtime, overtime pay and vacation leaves, thus, negating their claims of non-payment, the labor arbiter said.

Finally, the the NLRC decision declared that “the claim for moral and exemplary damages and attorney’s fees being anchored on the charge of illegal (constructive) dismissal must likewise fail. “
The complainants, the NLRC explained, failed to adduce evidence on the fault or malice on the part of the respondents to warrant the award of damages or attorney’s fees in their favor.

On the contrary, the NLRC found that it was the complainants (except for five – Gonzales, Medel, Caluya, San Jose and Chan) who failed to complky with the required prior notice when they tendered their resignation a and left their employment.

Sentosa Recruitment and its principals in the United States employs more than 5,000 employees consisting of doctors, nurses, dieticians and nutririonists, theraphists, staff etc., Of this number, more than 1,00 are Filipinos. Of its 14 long-term care and rehabilitation and nursing centers, the top nursing positions are held by Filipino nursing directors.

The NLRC decision decision is the third consecutive case lost by the nurses against Sentosa Recruitment Agency in the Philippines which include the following:
First loss was a case filed by bthe nurses with Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA for alleged violation of recruitment rules and regulations; regulations implementing the Labor Code, as amended and circulars. This was dismissed for utter lack of merit last September 4, 2007.

POEA also issued an order last June 8, 2006 which granted the motion filed by Sentosa Recruitment Agency for the lifting of the order preventive suspension dated May 24, 2006.

In the United States, the Filipino nurses have also suffered successive losses in cases they filed against the company, as follows:
Indictment issued by the District Attorney of Suffolk County, New York by way of a Sepacial Grand Jury Proceedings against 10 nurses and their lawyer for violation of penal laws, to wit:
State of New York versus Felix Vinluan, the Filipino nurses lawyer, and Elmer Jacinto, et al. for (10 Conspiracy in the sixthth degree (2) Criminal solicitation in the fifth degree (3) Endangering the welfare of a child (4) Endangeringbthe welfare of a diabled person.

A court order from the Supreme Court-State of New York Criminal Term, Suffolk County issued last September 28, 2007 denied the motion to dismiss the criminal indictment of Elmer Jacinto , et al.

Another order from the same court also denied the motion to dismiss the criminal indictment of Atty. Felix Vinluan last September 28, 2007.

United States Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division dismissed a case filed against Sentosa Recruitment last August 31, 2007 for alleged discrimination after it determined that there was insufficient evidence of reasonable cause to believe that the injured parties were discriminated against as prohibited by U.S.C. 1324b.
The Supreme Court-State of New York under Justice Stephen A. Bucaria granted the motion filed by Sentosa Care LLC et al., to dismiss the counterclaims of the 26 nurses and lawyer Fleix Vinluan against the company.

70,000 come for Truth;Cory, Erap lead biggest rally against GMA yet

March 1, 2008

IN their biggest anti-Arroyo gathering so far, sectoral groups yesterday gathered at the Ninoy Aquino Monument in Makati City in an interfaith prayer rally attended by former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Joseph Estrada, who reiterated their calls for President Arroyo’s resignation.

Senate witness Rodolfo Noel "Jun" Lozada, who exposed payoffs and other anomalies in government’s national broadband network deal with a Chinese firm, also briefly addressed the crowd that organizers said peaked at 80,000 at the monument at Paseo de Roxas and Ayala avenues, with the protesters on Ayala reaching the Glorietta area.

Police estimated the crowd at 15,000 at its peak.

"Sobra na, tama na, resign na," Aquino told the crowd.

Aquino said at her age, she thought she was done with rallies but said the times are calling for her to act.

Estrada said the red windbreaker he was wearing symbolizes his desire to be with the people in the continuing search for the truth in the overpriced NBN deal with China’s ZTE Corp.

He said he is with the people’s struggle to search for the "truth" and that President Arroyo should follow the public’s call for her to resign.

"I just want to be remembered as the one who championed the masses," he said when asked if he had publicly decided to go against Arroyo.

He described himself as an "understaying" president and Arroyo as "overstaying." He asked the crowd what should be done to someone overstaying. "Palitan na," said the crowd, to which he said: "Hindi ako ang nagsabi niyan."

Lozada said some P1.47 billion in government funds intended for various projects is missing.

"Pagkatapos ng gabing to, pakitanong sa gobyerno ninyo kung saan napunta yung P1.47 billion na di ninyo nakita," he said.

Lozada criticized the police that reportedly blocked several groups of protesters, including contingents of militant groups from Southern Luzon.

He thanked Filipinos supporting him in the search for the truth, particularly in alleged overpriced NBN-ZTE deal.

"Lahat ng nandito ngayong gabi... iisa lang ang ibig sabihin nito. Mas binigyan ninyo ng halaga ang mga karapatan ng mga biktima ng korapsyon kung bakit kayo nandito ngayong gabi. Kasi marami pa tayong kasama na binibigyan ng pahalaga ang karapatan... ng mga nang-aapi sa atin," Lozada said.

Joining the United Opposition in the rally were leaders of various Church groups, including Jesus Is Lord’s Eddie Villanueva and Archbishop Oscar Cruz and Bishop Teodoro Bacani.

Also among those in the rally were Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, Rep. Risa Baraquel-Hontiveros, former senator Loi Estrada, former Speaker Jose de Venecia’s wife Gina, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, civil society leader Pastor Boy Saycon, and ZTE whistle-blower Joey de Venecia III.

Villanueva asked Arroyo to open her eyes to the Filipinos’ living conditions and to the military to remain the "protector" of the Filipino people.

Bacani, in a moment of sarcasm, said it has become hard nowadays to tell the truth in the country. If someone wants to talk about the truth, he would be sent to Hong Kong, Bacani said, referring to Lozada.

And if that someone already wants to go back to his home in Pasig, he would be transported by government agents to Alabang, Bacani added.

Bacani appealed to former socioeconomic planning Secretary Romulo Neri to come out and tell the whole truth in the ZTE deal.

"Neri, pakiusap ko, magsabi ka na," Bacani said.

Neri has told the Senate he had been offered by former elections chair Benjamin Abalos P200 million for the approval of the NBN project.

The Alliance of Progressive Labor and the Health Alliance for Democracy, which also joined the rally, called on the public to join the continuous expressions of dismay over Arroyo’s insistence to cling to her post.

GMA :Patients shoulder most of health expenditure

Philippine National Health accounts show that almost half of the 165 billion-peso health national expenditure in the year 2004 were out-of-pocket, or from the patient's own money. Government spent only 30 percent, while social insurance's share was only nine percent.

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Ayala Interfaith rally photos

Photo credits :Photos were downloaded from Tonyo Cruz' blog but all these were taken by wire agencies Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France Presse and which they dispatched to newspapers and other media outlets across the world.

Full credit goes to the following photographers: Bullit Marquez, Pat Roque, Cheryl Ravelo, Darren Whiteside, John Javellana and Romeo Ranoco, and their respective wire agencies.

Health workers denounce the govt's evasion on public's demand for accountability; corruption kills like a cancer

Health groups under the Health Alliance for Truth and Justice join today's Interfaith rally at Ayala Avenue to protest Mrs. Arroyo's callousness and her government's systematic manipulation to balk at the serious corruption charges being hurled against her and her cronies.

Dr. Darby Santiago, HATJ's lead convenor said, "she continues to pervert people power, the people's right to know the truth, and the demand public accountability."

Mrs. Arroyo is accountable. Her belated admission proved that she knew about the irregularities of the NBN-ZTE deal but disregarded these and allowed the contract to be formally signed.

Now that she has her hands full, employing every sort of ludicrous gimmickry to divert attention and evade accountability, from despicable and cheaply-scripted unity walks and mass celebrations/prayer sessions within Malacanang to portray her spirituality and immaculateness.

She even floated to review EO 464, which allegedly exercises powers of executive privilege, to appease the some sectors including the Senate, even if the Supreme Court has since declared it to be arbitrary.

Her ploy of cheap acts are signs of desperation, but all a little too late. And the more she does all of these, the more protests hound her.

Corruption kills

According to Dr. Santiago, aside from the attempts to extract kickbacks from the NBN-ZTE deal, billions of pesos are still taken away from state coffers in every form of corruption.

"Corruption kills", said Santiago, "it curtails our people's right to health care."

The cancer of corruption spreads deep and wide. At the very heart of this disease is Mrs. Arroyo.

Funds that are supposed to deliver health and other social services are pilfered to buy political support and sustain loyalty to Mrs. Arroyo's rule. Of late, she has again revived funds for military housing in the hope of neutralizing them or securing their loyalty.

Meanwhile, hospitals' and health centers' logistical deficiencies have become so glaring nowadays that sick people are frustrated in availing these services.

Communicable diseases that are preventable and mostly poverty-related, like tuberculosis, dengue fever, and pneumonia, continue to rise and are not effectively mitigated because funds are usually diverted elsewhere. "The death bed of our country's public health system is a ramification of Arroyo's policy of neglect and incorrigible greed", Santiago ended.

The Power of the People is the Power of Change,The End of Gloria is Inevitable!

Press Release

The so-called personalities who have appropriated for themselves the uprisings known as EDSA 1 and 2 conveniently forget the real meaning, the real power that moved people on those two historic occasions: CHANGE.

It is not merely the calls of these personalities that were heeded by the people. Rather, the people saw for themselves the need to act and institute change that was not forthcoming from a government founded on corruption, self-indulgence, and lies. This is what is happening now.

For the doctors, nurses, and other members of the health sector under Rx Gloria Out Now! (Rx GO Now!), the ecumenical and interfaith rally today at Ayala represent the people's outrage not just against the culture of corruption that is endemic to the current dispensation, but also against Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo herself, who symbolizes an obstinate government hell-bent on robbing the people of its future.

Even the equivocal position taken by the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) does not belie Mrs. Arroyo's lack of moral ascendancy and further reinforces widespread calls for her to step down and be held accountable. Discernment does not replace but guides communal action.

So how can Mrs. Arroyo hope to silence the reverberating clamor for her resignation, when her removal from office is a requisite to instituting any change? She cannot.

People will continue to gather in rallies, in symposia, in religious celebrations, and in various forms of gatherings as the disenchantment for her illusory achievements grows, as dissent becomes more widespread, and as the desire for change and social justice gains headway.

As what was attempted at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines (PUP), where the police tried to prevent students and the academe from hearing ZTE witness Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada Jr. under the pretext of a bomb threat, the Arroyo administration will continue to resort to underhanded and dastardly acts of violence to create a climate of fear. Mrs. Arroyo's insatiable greed is only surpassed by her shameless duplicity.

But the power of the people is the power of change. Whether or not Mrs. Arroyo recognizes this, her end is inevitable. The writings on the wall are clear: Gloria OUT Now!