Rep Act 9173 (Phote Credit: Nurseslabs)

Ten-years of wasted Act 2002

Michael Duque (President, PNA UK)

 On 21 October 2002, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed into Law Republic Act 9173 otherwise known as the Philippine Nursing Act of 2002. RA 9173 which originated from the House of Representatives and the Senate is a Law providing for a more responsive nursing profession and effectively repeals Republic Act 7164 or otherwise known as the Philippine Nursing Act of 1991.

 The most significant part of the Nursing Act of 2002 is Article VII, Section 32 which states:

 “Salary – In Order to enhance the general welfare, commitment to service and professionalism of nurses, the minimum base pay of nurses working in the public health institution shall not be lower than salary grade 15 prescribes under Republic Act No. 6758 otherwise known as the “Compensation and Classification Act No. 6758”; Provided, that for nurses working in local government units, adjustments to their salaries shall be in accordance with Section 10 of the said law.”

 Article IX, Section 40 also further states that Republic Act 7164, otherwise known as the “Philippine Nursing Act of 1991” is hereby repealed. All other laws, decrees, orders, circulars, issuances, rules and regulations and parts thereof which are inconsistent with this Act are hereby repealed, amended or modified accordingly.

 When the Nursing Act of 2002 was signed into law, salary grade 15 was equivalent to Php16,093.

 Seven-years from the date the Law was signed by the President of the Philippines, it still has not been implemented. This is clearly a disobedience to the same Law which states under Article IX, Section 38 – “within ninety (90) days after the effectivity of this act, the board and the commission…shall formulate such rules and regulations necessary to carry out the provisions of this Act.” And Section 41 – “This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days upon its publication in the Official Gazette or in any two (2) newspapers of general circulation in the Philippines.”

 It is disheartening to know that after seven long years from the time it was signed into Law, the people responsible for enforcing this law has not made any progress. Final Provisions in the Act clearly states and identifies the people, position, and body under whose responsibility and primary duty it is to effectively implement this Act.

 To further insult and dishonour the profession, PGMA signed into Law last 17 June 2009 Joint Resolution 36, also known as Congressional Joint Resolution No. 4 or Salary Standardization Law III (SSL3). Authored by Senator Edgardo Angara and Sen. Richard Gordon, SSL3 is described as a law “authorizing the President of the Philippines to modify the Compensation and Base Pay of Personnel in the Government.” Effectively, SSL3 provides for an increase in the base pay salaries of government employees. In relation to the Nursing Act 2002, the most salient point of SSL3 is the re-classification of the starting base pay of nurses to Salary Grade 11, presently equivalent to Php 18,088. According to the other details specified in SSL3, barangay councillors are paid at Salary Grade 10 and barangay chairmen at Salary Grade 14. Most ironic of the SSL3 modification is the 71.7% – 142% salary increase for the President of the Philippines and the other members of the Executive branch. Sen. Angara and Sen. Gordon must not have heard of the Nursing Act 2002 and authored SSL3 based on the previous, old and repealed Nursing Act of 1991. Had they efficiently researched and cross-checked their references, they would have come across the simple fact that Nursing Act 2002 supersedes and over-rules Nursing Act 1991. It will also then be clear to them that they cannot re-classify the base pay of nurses to Salary Grade 11 simply because the nurses’ base of pay currently is Salary Grade 15, which sadly is still not implemented to-date.  It is not rocket-science nor does it need a Doctorate degree to realize that salary grades go up and not down. It is simple common sense which clearly our law makers have none. Probably in their pea-sized brain, the only thing that does go up is their asset and the only thing that goes down is their pants and the poverty line.

 Seven years down the long line of government and legislative incompetence from the time of signing the Salary Grade 15 base of pay for nurses into Law, it is still waiting to be implemented and rewarded to the hundreds of thousands of nurses in the country.  It is about time for the government to duly recognize the efforts of the nurses. Internationally, Filipino Nurses comprise the single largest group of Overseas Workers who effectively help keep the country’s economy afloat. Locally, this is the same profession that helps the country manage and care for its sick and dying when natural calamities and health problems occur. While each and every one of us have been cared for by a Filipino Nurse, how would you feel knowing that the nurse looking after you will only provide the nursing service equal to the amount of pay being given to the profession, short-changed and ignored?

 We celebrate Nurses Week this month of October.  While we celebrate our achievements and continuing care for our patients, we also add another wasted year of waiting for the time when the provisions of the Nursing Act of 2002 are implemented. Seven-years clearly demonstrate the enduring patience and tolerance of the Filipino Nurses. However long our patience are, we have now reached the peak of our wait. In support of our colleagues in the Philippines, the Philippine Nurses Association of UK would like to call on those responsible for the implementation of Nursing Act 2002. We want to see some considerate actions now. We will continue to pursue this matter and help generate the global support of our friends and colleagues to help address this unlawful, disgraceful and insulting act towards the Filipino nurses.

 PNA UK also further affirms its support for Ang NARS movement in the Philippines. Ang NARS is not the government’s pathetic Nurses Assigned to Rural Service Areas employment program developed to address the growing number of unemployed nurses in the Philippines by giving them a small percentage of what they should be actually receiving.  Ang NARS is a non-profit and non-stock movement of concerned Filipino Nurses. Ang NARS provocatively means Nurses Advocates for Rights and Social responsibility. Ang NARS aims to strongly advocate to help the many marginalized nurse members, which will ultimately reflect to the greater benefit of the sick, and the impoverished.  The government’s NARS program cheaply offers nurses a dismal Php 10,000 with a misleading promise that the skills and experience they gain from the NARS program will help them get employment abroad. While the program is commendable, it does not provide the exact qualifications, skills and experience sought by most international employers. The Ang NARS movement on the other hand, offers a solution to the problem of largely unemployed nurses and lack of desirable knowledge, skills and experience. Ang NARS movement offers nurse the decent pay of at least Php 24,887. Ang NARS offers advocacy and social and personal responsibility.

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