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RP-Japan economic deal still on hold

Manila Standard Today,7 September 2005

RP-Japan economic deal still on hold

The number of Filipino nurses and caregivers who will be allowed to enter Tokyo under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) remains to be among the contentious issues preventing both parties from sealing a bilateral accord.

Japanese Ambassador to Manila Ryuichiro Yamazaki said a figure agreeable to both parties regarding the entry of Filipino health care workers has yet to be reached.

“It is under negotiation. We are fine-tuning the agreement,” Yamazaki said in an interview.

Both governments have expressed hope of signing the JPEPA before the year ends but Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Edsel Custodio himself admitted that negotiations will drag on until next year.

“It is impossible to conclude the negotiations this year especially with all the delays,” Custodio said.

A source in the Philippine negotiating panel said 100 Filipino nurses are acceptable to the Japanese health care industry.

The Japanese Nursing Association, one of the more vocal sectors opposing the opening of their health care market to foreigners, said Filipino nurses wishing to work in Japan should first pass two examinations.

The two exams are a language proficiency test and the standard Japanese licensure test for nurses.

If concluded, JPEPA will make the salary of Filipino nurses at par with their Japanese counterparts, which is currently at an average of 280,000 yen (P140,000) per month, almost 10 times the average salary of Filipino nurses in Manila.

Another proposal that is still being studied by both governments is to remove tariff barriers by 2010.

Japan is the biggest trading partner of the Philippines followed by the United States and is also the biggest provider of official development assistance to the country.

Joyce Pangco Pañares

 source: Manila Standard Today