Amidst the growing violence and civil unrest that Libya is
experiencing, hundreds of Filipino nurses and other medical workers still choose
to remain in the Middle Eastern country. According to Foreign Undersecretary,
Esteban Conejos, the selfless act of these overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are
appreciated by local Libyan nationals. The fact that the Filipino nurses earned
the admiration and respect in Libya,
the reputation of the Philippines
is also improving in the Middle East.
Conejos who had a brief two-week visit to Libya and Tunisia said, “That's why our
nurses deserve our admiration and also, I guess it's the reason Libyan people
love Filipinos there."
The Undersecretary informed that there are about 1,300
Filipino nurses employed in the largest hospital in Libya,
the Tripoli Medical Center.
There are also 600 Filipino nurses working in the Benghazi Medical
Center. Most of these
nurses decided to stay in Libya
despite the risky situation because of their professional commitment.
There are also at least 70 nurses from the two Libyan hospitals
mentioned who had returned to Manila
for fear that they would be left behind when the conflict grows worse.
According to Conejos, those who chose to remain said, “'Sir,
we cannot go, we are medical personnel. We should be the last ones to leave
hospitals. There are people dying here."
Conejos said that the Libyans are grateful that the Filipino
nurses are still in their country and for continuing to serve the interest of
the Libyan people in the middle of the political conflict.
He added, “Wherever we go, in Libya,
people would wave at us, 'Philippine, Philippine.' Our reputation is good in
that part of the world."
However Conejos also said that monetary reasons is part of
the reasons why many Filipino nurses chose to stay as nurses in Libya get excellent
perks and privileges.
He said, “They'd tell me also, it would be a pity, the
privileges of our nurses in Libya
are so good. The highest paid there would be paid ranging from about a minimum
of USD800 to even as high as USD2,000."
Recently, the Libyan government increased the salary of
the nurses not just twice but three-fold."
Conejos added, “The benefits are even bigger for those who
have been there for 15 years. If they were to leave, “they told me, we stand to
forfeit our gratuities and benefits."