logo logo

JPEPA takes effect Thursday

Philippine Daily Inquirer, Manila

JPEPA takes effect Thursday

500 caregivers, nurses to Japan by April

By Veronica Uy

10 December 2008

MANILA, Philippines — The controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) takes effect Thursday, December 11, with simple ceremonies in Tokyo, Philippine labor attaché to Japan Danilo Cruz said Wednesday.

Cruz, who was the principal negotiator for the labor aspect of the treaty, told in an interview that 200 Filipino nurses and 300 Filipino caregivers may initially be deployed to Japan in April under the provisions of the JPEPA.

While the JPEPA officially takes effect Thursday, he said the actual implementation of its provisions will have to be finalized in implementing guidelines.

For instance, in deploying Filipino nurses and caregivers there, guidelines for mutual recognition of training certificates would have to be finalized.

"We are still discussing it and it may be signed within this month. We expect the first deployment of an initial 500 in April," Cruz said.

He said the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration will issue the guidelines that will be hammered out between the two countries as the deployment will be country-to-country.

"No private recruitment agency will be involved here," he said.

The labor official said despite the recession in Japan, he expects more Filipinos to fill the need for health workers there.

"There’s an acute shortage of medical workers in Japan. I don’t think will be affected by the recession," he said.

Cruz also said he does not think Filipinos will be ill-treated in Japan.

"If there’s an excess of medical workers there, maybe they can treat you as second-class, but with the shortage, I think our people’s presence there would be welcome," he said.

Cruz said nursing graduates with two years’ experience can apply for available positions. "No specialties are required," he said.

He said those who are well-versed in Nihongo, "in level 3 or 4," are exempted from taking a language course and can "go straight to the hospitals," but others will have to undergo a "purely language" course for six months.

Those who will take the language course will go to Japan and get $400 a month while studying Nihongo. "That is their allowance per month," he said.

Those who are fluent in Japanese or who finish the language training will get $2,000 a month, he added.

Noting the impending effectivity of the treaty, anti-JPEPA advocates, led by the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition called on the Supreme Court to take decisive action on the constitutional and legal questions surrounding the trade pact.

On October 13, the coalition questioned the constitutionality of treaty and implored the high tribunal to halt its implementation.

The coalition includes the Alliance of Progressive Labor, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, EcoWaste Coalition, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc., Kilusan Para sa Pagpapaunlad ng Industriya ng Pangisdaan, Mother Earth Foundation, NGOs for Fisheries Reform, Philippine Metal Workers Alliance, and Akbayan Representative Ana Theresia Hontiveros-Baraquel.

Lawyer Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the coalition, pointed out that the treaty is "potentially more devastating than Philippine membership in the World Trade Organization and is blatantly unconstitutional."

Soon after the Senate concurred in the ratification of the treaty, Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Japanese Ambassador to Manila Makoto Katsura exchanged diplomatic notes last month.

JPEPA opponents immediately asked the Supreme Court to stop the treaty, but the latter declined to grant the petitioners’ call for a restraining order.

The coalition, which has vigorously campaigned for the Senate rejection of JPEPA on economic, environmental, constitutional, legal, and ethical grounds, called on all Filipinos to exercise continued vigilance on the treaty’s implementation.