Cartoon by Romi Santiago

If there is anything that the recent Detroit conference of the National Federation of Filipino American Associations (NaFFAA) has achieved, it is the suspension of the steep increase in the fees collected by the Philippine government from Filipino-American groups conducting medical missions in the Philippines.

The imposition of the increased fees on doctors and nurses joining the outreach projects has been the single most discouraging obstacle in the conduct of the medical missions.

The fee being collected from each professional has been increased from $30 to $300. With 10 to 15 doctors and nurses participating in a mission, the sum of the fees is quite burdensome. This is on top of other expenses such as those for round-trip plane tickets of the missioners.

Complaints about this problem had been aired in the past, but these fell on deaf ear.

Noting the widespread discouragement caused by the problem, NaFFAA officers led by National Chairman Ed Navarra included the issue in the list of topics discussed in the conference graced by Philippine Cabinet Secretary Imelda Nicolas, chairperson of the Commission on Filipinos Overseas, who was the guest speaker.

During the discussion, the resource speakers said some groups were forced to cancel their medical missions to the Philippines due to the high fees imposed by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC). This is in addition to the fee for malpractice insurance, they said.

Secretary Nicolas pledged to work on the problem. Three weeks after she returned to Manila, Nicolas communicated to NaFFAA that as a result of several meetings she had with officials of the PRC and the Department of Health, PRC suspended the collection of the increased fee.

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Well and good.

Yet, the problem is not totally solved.

Dr. Victoria Navarra, president of the Philippine American Medical Missions Foundation, told the Filipino Star News that there is a red tape attached to the PRC directive freezing the collection of the fee increase. This lies in a requirement for the missioners to submit to PRC certifications of professional competency from the US licensing board.

This is an added burden, she said, noting that it takes a long time to secure the certifications as the process is quite tedious.

We note that instead of facilitating the conduct of the missions, the concerned Philippine officials are throwing all sorts of obstacles on the missioners’ way. Indeed, this is utterly discouraging to the missioners.

These kind-hearted people, in the spirit of giving back, are making sacrifices to help their sick, poor kababayan, but the concerned government offices do not even cooperate with them.

If the medical missions are cancelled, the losers would be the prospective beneficiaries who cannot afford to pay the cost of medicines and simple medical treatment.

President Aquino himself should act immediately on this problem.