TUCP backs P2-B safety net for workers

Published by rudy Date posted on January 21, 2008

The country’s largest labor group will support the Senate ratification of the proposed Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), provided the government agrees to establish a P2-billion safety net for workers who may be dislocated by the freer entry here of Japanese merchandise.

“Based on our cost-benefit analysis of the likely impact of the accord, we reckon that the potential economic gains outweigh the implied losses,” the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) said.

“We look forward to increased trade with, and investments from Japan to counteract any decline in economy of the United States, which is possibly headed for a recession,” TUCP spokesperson Alex Aguilar said.

After the US, Japan is the Philippines’ second largest trading partner and source of foreign direct investments.

Aguilar also said the labor group expects the JPEPA to open Japan’s door to Filipino healthcare workers such as nurses, physical therapists and caregivers.

“The door may be opened only a bit at the start. However, we are absolutely convinced that Japan will have no choice but to eventually allow the deployment there of thousands of Filipino health staff. The Japanese are aging fast,” he said.

Citing a study by Nomura Capital Management Inc., Aguilar said Japan’s population is aging faster than that of any other country, and that “the land of the rising sun” would soon have only two able-bodied workers for every retiree.

Under the JPEPA, a total of 1,000 Filipino healthcare workers — 400 nurses and 600 caregivers — will initially be allowed into Japan in the first two years, subject to re-negotiation thereafter. They would have to undergo a six-month language-training program prior to their deployment.

The professional association of Japanese nurses has been lobbying their government hard to restrict the entry of Filipino and other foreign nurses.

Aguilar, meanwhile, stressed the need for the government to earmark at least P2 billion to provide emergency assistance to workers in domestic industries that may be adversely affected by the freer trade with Japan.

He said the amount could cover emergency loans as well as funding for skills retooling that would enable displaced workers to readily qualify for new employment.

Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Mar Roxas earlier clearly indicated that the Senate is now inclined to ratify the JPEPA, subject to certain conditions. Santiago is foreign relations committee chairperson while Roxas is trade and commerce committee chairman.

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