Phl seeks easing of Japan nurse hiring requirements

By Elisa Osorio -
The Philippines will be asking for the relaxation of some of the entry requirements of Filipino nurses to Japan during the renegotiation of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) scheduled this year.
Under the current JPEPA rules, only one Filipino nurse was able to go to Japan.
“Something has to be done about this. Qualifications must be relaxed,” a ranking government official said in an interview.
Other issues that may be raised are the reduction on sugar tariff and the increased access of the country’s agricultural products such as chicken to Tokyo.
The official said the mandated renegotiations of the JPEPA have not yet started. Under the JPEPA, there must be a renegotiation five years after the agreement was signed.
However, in spite of the pressure to renegotiate, the official said it may be beneficial for the country to wait because there are also issues that the Philippine government is avoiding. For instance, the official said that the Japanese would like to bring down the tariff of 3,000 cc vehicles and below.
The official said that although the JPEPA is clear that the two governments must discuss the tariff on 3,000 cc vehicles, the agreement does not specifically say when the negotiations should be. “There is no deadline for this (negotiations on 3,000 cc vehicles),” the official said.
“The Philippines is avoiding this because we do not want to lower the tariff because it will be bad for our local manufacturers,” the official said.
Currently, the vehicles produced here are 3,000 cc and below. Once the tariff is lowered or even removed, imported counterparts may be cheaper thus killing the local auto manufacturing industry.
“We cannot afford to allow all small cars to enter without tariff,” the official said.
In an earlier interview, Assistant Trade Secretary and Director of the Bureau of International Trade Relation Ramon Vicente Kabigting said the Philippines is asking for some help from the Asian Development Bank to come up with a study on JPEPA so that the government could be guided during the review.
Kabigting explained that the five-year prescriptive review period started in September 2006 when then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japan Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed in Helsinki, Finland the agreement and not in December 2008 when JPEPA became effective following the ratification of the Philippine Senate.
However, he cleared that the review will not lead to the Philippines’ abrogation of the treaty. He said there may be some people who would like to modify the deal.