Press Release
September 14, 2007

JPEPA allocation for Pinoy nurses "not enough" -- Loren

Taking the cudgels for tens of thousands of health practitioners, Sen. Loren Legarda on Friday questioned the "highly restrictive" quota-based deployment of Filipino nurses and caregivers to "the land of the rising sun" under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

"We definitely would have preferred the market demand-driven deployment of Filipino nurses and caregivers, instead of a prohibitive quota system," said Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs.

Market demand-driven deployment means that Japanese hospitals and nursing homes, on their own, just like in the United States, would be free to enlist Filipino nurses, physical therapists and caregivers, as needed.

"There is a huge pent-up demand for foreign healthcare workers in Japan due to its rapidly aging population. The (Philippine) government is duty-bound to secure for Filipino professionals the greatest opportunity to cover this demand," Legarda stressed.

According to a study by Nomura Capital Management Inc., Japan's population is aging faster than that of any other country. The study said Japan would soon have only two able-bodied workers for every retiree.

"We now have more than 630,000 students enrolled in nursing schools. The government is obliged to create job opportunities for these future nurses, and push wide open all foreign labor markets for their services," Legarda said.

"This is not just about giving more substance to the mandate of the Constitution for the State to provide full employment. This is also about giving more meaning to the hopes and dreams of aspiring nurses and their families," Legarda added.

Just last month, a total of 31,275 new nurses joined the labor force after they passed the licensure examination. They represented 48 percent of the 64,909 nursing graduates who took the eligibility test.

In a recent forum, the Philippine Nurses Association Inc. (PNA) said Filipino nurses "got a raw deal" under the JPEPA. Besides the tight allocation, the PNA also lamented that Filipino nurses in Japan "would have to start as assistant nurses for three years."

"We have the best nurses in the world. They should at least enjoy the same status as Japanese nurses from the start. Reducing Filipino nurses to mere 'assistants' for three years is definitely not a good deal," PNA president Dr. Leah Samaco-Paquiz said.

She added that other Asian countries "were able to get better terms for their nurses and other professionals" under similar agreements with Japan.

Under the JPEPA, only 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers would be allowed into Japan in the first two years, subject to re-negotiation thereafter. Filipino nurses and caregivers would also have to undergo a six-month language training.

The professional association of Japanese nurses lobbied hard to restrict the entry of Filipino nurses.

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