(STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - According to the Agence France-Presse, about 500 Indian doctors have applied to work in the Philippines to ease a chronic shortage. The French news agency reports Health Secretary Francisco Duque in a speech before a medical group said that the Indian doctors were awaiting Manila’s approval to start work but a provision in the Constitution bars foreign doctors from working in government hospitals.

Dr. Duque said the Indian doctors could have filled the vacant posts at various government hospitals due to the large number of Filipino medical professionals who seek work abroad. Dr. Duque called for a review of the constitutional provision… A good reason to cha cha?

That’s interesting. I asked a doctor friend for his comments and his immediate incredulous response is, "is it possible, that we pay our doctors more than India? The operative question is, why on earth do they want to come here? Maybe these 500 doctors are those who couldn’t pass the required exams to go to the usual destinations, e.g. USA, England, etc."

He observed that "most, if not all, countries in the world accept foreign doctors, if they can pass the required exams. Some countries understandably require a working knowledge of the language. Some require a period of post graduate training in the country prior to complete licensing, e.g. Scandinavia."

I guess what we are seeing here, assuming the Indian doctors can pass local examinations, is globalization at work. Goods and services flow where the markets are. Indian doctors, like Polish plumbers have a service to sell. Perhaps government doctors in India are even worse off than government doctors here. I must confess I don’t understand the dynamics driving this phenomenon, given India’s faster economic growth and higher level of technological development.

We do have a problem but we cannot take advantage of an available solution because of our laws. The Philippine Medical Association warned last year that the country’s health system risked complete collapse in a few years due to the large numbers of Filipino nurses and doctors who have found better-paying jobs abroad. If the hiring of Indian doctors is what it takes to prevent that collapse, why not? The human body is the same everywhere.

Actually, we could also attract Japanese retirement communities here if we allowed Japanese doctors to take care of their medical needs. These two examples alone show that constitutional item is out of place in today’s world. My doctor friend thinks we should let them take the local boards and if they pass, let them in.

Indian doctors actually have a good professional reputation abroad. They have taken over positions in American hospitals that used to be held by Filipinos. They are also still accepted in the US as doctors, not nurses! So, why do these 500 Indian doctors want to come here? That, to me, is the mystery of it all.

In the meantime, if we have to cha cha at all let’s cha cha to make our Constitution more globalization proof by allowing a free flow of professionals and workers. Dependent as we are on the hospitality of other countries for our workers, we should be equally receptive to having their citizens come and work here too.

Overseas Pinoys

An expat Pinoy based in New York, gave this reaction to an item in last Wednesday’s column.

Your column about the administration not addressing the immigration-related concerns of US-based Filipinos reminded me of an incident during the last presidential elections. At that time, all the candidates commissioned representatives to campaign in New York. The campaigns culminated in an open forum at the Philippine Center in Manhattan. During the question-and-answer segment, I asked all the representatives why US-based Filipinos such as ourselves should even bother to vote when it seemed that there was nothing the administration could do for us anyway.

Realistically speaking, I knew that foreign governments in general were helpless in protecting the interests of their nationals living in the United States. However, I also thought that if Filipino politicians wanted to treat us as a constituency and court our votes, then they are obliged to at least try to fight for our interests even if the effort may seem futile. Otherwise, there would be no point in us voting.

Nobody, not even Raul Roco’s representative, could give an answer to my question. Only President Arroyo’s representative gave a garbled reply in which she said that "we have to understand that some things are really difficult to accomplish"; the other representatives kept silent.

Their inability to provide a clear answer demonstrated the obvious reality that none of the candidates had a platform addressing the concerns of overseas Filipinos. None of them took the time to listen to our concerns, develop their own coherent policies and weigh the pros and cons. Yet they did not hesitate to ask for our votes.

The silence of the Arroyo administration on the US immigration issue is therefore not surprising and might result in overseas Filipinos losing their trust with politicians campaigning to them for votes. Furthermore, the same silence could be expected if another candidate had won in the last elections.

Tourism news

According to the Freesun online tourism newsletter, Bangkok’s new Suvharnabumi Airport will definitely open this year, even if no precise date has been given by the Airports Authority of Thailand (AOT). The air terminal will be the largest in the world and able to accommodate in its first phase up to 45 million passengers. Two parallel runways will also be able to handle any type of aircraft. A rail link will be completed in 2007, putting the airport at only 15 minutes from the city. The AOT is already working on a second phase, which will include a third runway and a satellite building for an additional 15 million passengers.

On the other hand, the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, both located on Borneo Island, are looking to improve accommodation capacity. Between them they attract over five million visitors a year, of whom 25-30 percent come from abroad.

In Kota Kinabalu (Sabah), Le Méridien, the newest five-star city hotel, will have its soft opening in September. It will offer 306 rooms. At Kota Kinabalu Airport, work will start this year on the extension of the main terminal and a runway upgrading. Sabah’s capital has Malaysia’s second busiest airport with traffic exceeding four million passengers a year.

In Kuching (Sarawak), Accor has started the construction of a Novotel, due for completion in 2008. A second deluxe property is due to open in the new Kuching Tower the same year. The high-rise building will integrate a shopping centre as well as a convention centre for 5,000 delegates. Sarawak is also currently working on upgrading its international cruise terminal in Kuching. The government recently completed the renovation of Kuching International Airport, which now boasts a passenger capacity of 4.5 million.

If you feel like crying, please do. The ceiling in our NAIA3 collapsed even before the terminal could be "soft opened". And yes, Sabah and Sarawak already attract the tourist arrival target we have up to the end of Ate Glue’s term. We are so far behind, we should be all systems go to catch up. But the tourism secretary is already satisfied with what we have.

And to think we wanted to claim Sabah. No wonder they didn’t want to be claimed by us.

Teacher arrested

Picked this one up from our Plaridel e-group. Enjoy.

At New York’s Kennedy Airport, an individual later discovered to be a math teacher was arrested trying to board a flight while in possession of a ruler, a protractor, a setsquare, a slide rule, and a calculator.

At a morning press conference, the Attorney General said he believes the man is a member of the notorious Al-gebra movement. He is being charged by the FBI with carrying weapons of math instruction.

"Al-gebra is a fearsome cult," he said. "They desire average solutions by means and extremes, and sometimes go off on tangents in a search of absolute value. They use secret code names like ‘x’ and ‘y’ and refer to themselves as ‘unknowns,’ but we have determined they belong to a common denominator of the axis of medieval with coordinates in every country."

When asked to comment on the arrest, President Bush said, "If God had wanted us to have better weapons of math instruction, He would have given us more fingers and toes."

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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