Japan twits Philippines over nurses’ access under JPEPA

By Jessica Anne D. Hermosa - bworldonline.com
The Japanese government yesterday countered complaints of Philippine officials over alleged barriers preventing Filipino nurses and caregivers from enjoying the perks of a market-opening deal.
Licensure exams have already been made easier for non-Nihonggo speakers in 2010 and the number of vacancies reserved for Filipinos this year have been hiked, the Japanese embassy told reporters yesterday.
The issue was raised as both countries prepare for a mandated review this year of how the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) has been implemented since it came into force in late 2008.
A batch of 187 Filipino professionals–102 nurses and 85 caregivers–are slated to enter Japan before the second semester to undergo the Tokyo-sponsored training and paid internship, the spokesperson said. The figure is 46% higher than the 2010 slots but less than the 310 slots provided in 2009.
The number of vacancies reserved for Filipinos are determined “depending on how many are offered by hospitals,” the spokesperson said.
Nurses under this program provided by JPEPA can work in Japan up to three years while caregivers stay for a longer four years. They will then have to pass the national licensure exam there if they want to extend their contracts.
Only one Filipino nurse has passed the Nihonggo-based exam ever since the program was implemented two years ago, a concern which the Philippine side has said it will raise at the coming JPEPA review.
“But we are trying to improve this implementation by doing basically two things: we have made those exams more passable for foreign applicants since 2010 by replacing difficult words with easier words in Japanese…and using both Japanese and English words for medical terms,” the Japanese embassy spokesperson said.
Tokyo will also provide two to three months language training here in the Philippines on top of the six months training in Japan which it already subsidizes for program participants, the spokesperson added.