Healthcare workers in the Philippines staged a protest action on September 1 to demand an end to what they called as government neglect and the release of their unpaid benefits.
Protesters wearing protective medical gear gathered outside the Department of Health building in Manila and held placards demanding for the release of their risk allowances and hazard pay.
They also called for the resignation of Health Secretary Francisco Duque.
Medical staff have been overwhelmed during the pandemic and 103 have died from COVID-19, among about 33,400 coronavirus fatalities in the Philippines.
“It is sad that many of us have died, many of us became sick, and many have resigned or opted to retire early, yet we are still kneeling before the [health department] to give us our benefits,” said Robert Mendoza, president of the Alliance of Health Workers.
President Rodrigo Duterte gave health and budget ministries 10 days from August 21 to pay health workers, following nurses’ threats to resign and unions warning of strikes.
“The government promised it will give the benefits today but up to now, it has not. I pity us because we are the ones begging,” said nurse Nico Oba.
The Philippine Nurses Association held its own protest online to demand better working conditions and more hospital staff.
Many facilities are overstretched as the highly transmissible Delta variant sees deaths climb and cases soar, like elsewhere in Southeast Asia, where vaccination rates are low compared to Europe and North America.
The Philippines was the first country outside China to report a coronavirus death and has since logged nearly 2 million cases.
Duterte has stood by Duque during repeated calls for his resignation as far back as last year, the latest after state auditors flagged “deficiencies” in more than US$1 billion in COVID-19 spending. – with reports from Reuters