THE implementation of the seamless flow of dental professionals in the Asean region may take some time as members of the economic bloc are still apprehensive about accepting foreign dental professionals to practice in their respective countries.
“It’s a tricky situation right now. It may take some time,” said Dr. Steve Mark Gan, one of the country’s representatives to the Asean Mutual Recognition Arrangement (MRA) on Dental Practitioners.
Gan was referring to the Dental MRA that was signed by member economies of the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) in March 2009, which is reportedly facing difficulties in terms of implementation progress because of differences in national regulations, among other factors.
The MRA will facilitate the mobility of dental services professionals within Asean, enhance exchange of information and expertise on standards and qualifications, promote adoption of best practices for professional dental services and provide opportunities for capacity building and training of dental practitioners.
This MRA is also in accordance with the efforts of the Asean member states in recognizing the Asean Vision 2020 on partnership in dynamic development geared toward the creation of a stable, prosperous and highly competitive Asean economic region.
According to Gan, while Filipino dentists still can’t work in the Asean, especially in the context of the MRA, the country’s own products remain to be among the world’s best dental care professionals.
“Filipinos are the most skilled, creative dentists in the world,” he said, noting that tourists from the United States and Australia choose to come to the Philippines for leisure and dental care services.
There are about 23 dental colleges in the Philippines that produce 400 to 500 licensed dental professionals annually. Gan said high school graduates are now attracted to take up dental courses.
The Philippines has signed eight MRAs. These are in engineering services, nursing services, architectural services, surveying qualification, medical practitioners, dental practitioners, tourism professionals, and accounting services.
However, these eight professions represent only 1.5 percent of the total Asean workforce of over 300 million, dominated by unskilled and low-skilled workers.
The Asean bloc has only managed to prepare the implementation of MRAs for engineers, architects and tourism professionals.
Indonesian Ambassador to Asean Rahmat Pramono was quoted in a news report as saying some stumbling blocks still exist for a couple of other professions.
He cited services by medical and dentistry practitioners as among the hardest for Asean to negotiate because of the different systems of instruction and curricula used in each country.