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Aquino asks for JPEPA review

TOKYO, Japan – President Aquino pressed Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda for a review of the four-year-old Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and allow more Filipino workers to enter the Japanese labor force.

In his meeting with Noda, the President said he asked the Japanese leader to study the possibility of relaxing some provisions in the JPEPA, particularly on the entry of Filipino nurses and those in the information technology.

Under the JPEPA, Filipino nurses and IT workers would only qualify and be hired after passing a rigid training on the Japanese language.

Facility in the Japanese language is required for employment and many Filipino nurses and IT applicants were denied after failing the training.

Since it was ratified by the Senate in 2008, only about 500 Filipino nurses managed to enter the Japanese labor force.

Aquino said Noda replied positively on his request to relax some of the provisions in the JPEPA.

“They promised to review the procedure (of employment) and see if it is too stringent,” Aquino said. “Of course, (Noda) is not in the position to commit right now.”

Aquino said he suggested that Filipino nurses could be hired in other sectors, like in health insurance and other related health services.

The JPEPA is a bilateral investment agreement that seeks to liberalize and facilitate trade and services between the two countries. It was signed in 2006.

The agreement came under attack after it supposedly contained a provision that would allow Japan to dump toxic waste in the country.

A side agreement was signed stating that Japan would not export its toxic waste to the Philippines.

The President also announced that the Japanese government had offered “people-to-people exchanges” to enhance cultural and educational ties.

Under this exchange, around 400 slots for Filipino youths would be opened next year to visit and study in Japan.

Aquino said Noda wanted the people-people exchange between the Philippines and Japan, which was observed in the past, to be revived.

One of the present Cabinet officials of Japan was a product of that exchange.

“(Noda) wanted this practice to continue,” Aquino said. Aquino embarked on a four-day official visit in Japan, where he met with Filipino communities and visited areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and the tsunami that followed.

He also went on a marketing spree to spread the good news in the Philippines that it is now open for business.

He also witnessed the signing of several investment ventures and business agreements that were expected to generate jobs for Filipinos.

In his meeting with Noda, the President also secured Japan’s support in ensuring peace and stability in the West Philippine Sea. (Raymund F. Antonio)