Saturday, 28 February 2009

Philippine nurses and seafarers in Japan

JPEPA secures Japan jobs
Nurses, caregivers to get first crack

By Angelo S. Samonte
The Manila Times

President Gloria Arroyo announced on Friday that Filipino health workers could now work in Japan starting April through the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

“For the first time, Japan will accept foreign health workers, our very much in demand Filipino nurses and care workers,” the President said in her speech during the 28th joint meeting of the Philippine-Japan Economic Cooperation Committee and the Japan-Philippines Economic Cooperation Committee Friday at the Manila Peninsula Hotel in Makati City.

After the signing of the JPEPA in September 2006, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) immediately signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Japan International Corporation of Welfare Services for the deployment of Filipino nurses and caregivers to Japan.

The POEA said that it is initially targeting 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers for deployment to Japan within two years. The basic monthly salary for care givers is $1,600 while nurses will get a slightly higher pay, the agency added.

Filipinos who are employed under the MOU are guaranteed a contract of three years, provided they have passed the Japanese licensure examinations.

With JPEPA in place, President Arroyo said she is hoping that the agreement would also open more opportunities for Filipino workers who are educated, highly productive and fluent in English.

“We hope to see more trade in outsourcing, tourism, maritime and air transport, banking and telecommunications,” the President added.

Mrs. Arroyo said that the trade agreement is about bringing advantages to both nations while eliminating disadvantages. She allowed, though, that it requires adjustment from both parties.

“We must be bold and try harder in these trying global times. The JPEPA is the greatest test of keeping our bonds strong and our economies open to each other,” the President said.

World-class Filipino seamen

During the same meeting, Mrs. Arroyo was informed that over 70 percent of Japanese maritime operations are now manned by Filipinos.

“Over 200,000 Filipino citizens now live in Japan. In addition, and this is not so widely known, Japanese maritime shipping operations now rely on Filipino sailors for about 70 percent of their crew,” Toshitaka Hagiwara, the senior adviser of Komatsu Ltd., told participants to the meeting.

Komatsu Ltd. is a world-leading manufacturer and distributor of construction and mining equipment and industrial machinery. The company has been operating in the Philippines for decades.

Hagiwara said that most Japanese shipowners have set up training centers in the Philippines, even before the ratification of JPEPA.

“Almost all major Japanese shipping companies have opened maritime crew training facilities in the Philippines, expecting to develop ready access to highly qualified Filipino sailors from hereon,” he added.

Hagiwara said that JPEPA also opens Japan’s doors to Filipino nurses and caregivers.

Even before the JPEPA’s ratification late last year, Mrs. Arroyo had acknowledged Japan’s trust and confidence in Filipino seamen, many of whom have the rank of master engineer or chief engineer.

The President said that the cooperation between the Japan Seamen’s Union and its Filipino counterpart, the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines, in establishing local maritime schools and training centers helped give recognition to the Philippines as the undisputed maritime manning capital of the world.

Doris Magsaysay-Ho, the president and chief executive officer of Magsaysay Maritime Corp., the largest manning company in the country, said there are over 28,000 Filipinos working in Japanese ships who remitted more than $3 billion last year.

With more than 25 years of maritime partnership between Japan and the Philippines, Ho added, Filipinos now comprise 55 percent of the membership of the All Japan Seaman’s Union and are classified as non-domiciled special members.

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