MANILA, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Sept. 30) – The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Sunday said Manila should set aside an initial P2-billion to provide a “safety net” for workers who may lose their jobs as a result of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
Alex Aguilar, TUCP spokesman, said the labor group expects the JPEPA, once ratified by the Senate, to eventually cause "significant job dislocation" as a consequence of reduced, if not zero tariffs that will allow cheaper imports into the country.
One of the sectors that would likely be hit hard by the JPEPA is the local automotive industry, which is ruled by Japanese companies, according to Aguilar.
"Our sense is, Japanese car makers with global manufacturing operations will ultimately find it cheaper to just bring in completely built up units from less expensive production facilities in Thailand and possibly even Vietnam," Aguilar said in a statement sent to the Mindanao Examiner.
"We anticipate some of them will eventually scale down their car production activities here," he said.
Japanese firms Toyota Motor Phils. Corp., Honda Cars Phils. Inc., Mitsubishi Motors Phils. Corp. and Isuzu Phils. Corp. dominate the local motor vehicle industry that employs more than 74,000 workers and sells almost 100,000 units every year.
Aguilar said the P2 billion could cover emergency assistance as well as skills retooling programs to enable displaced workers to get new jobs.
He said that part of the fund could also be used to subsidize the language training of Filipino nurses, to allow them to readily qualify for employment in Japan.
Under the JPEPA, at least 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers would be allowed into Japan in the first two years, subject to re-negotiation thereafter. They would have to undergo a six-month language training to be supervised by the Japanese government.
Aguilar, however, said the Philippines should not just totally rely on Japan for the language training.
Despite the prohibitive initial quota, Aguilar expressed confidence that Japan would eventually open up its lucrative health care labor market in a bigger way to Filipino nurses, physical therapists and caregivers.
"This is a function of demographics. As the Japanese population gets older, they will be forced to accommodate more foreign health care workers," he said.
"However, once this bigger opening is created three to five years from now, Filipino nurses will have to compete with practitioners from other Asian countries, mainly South Korea and Indonesia," Aguilar said.
"Thus, we have to stay on top of the game by encouraging our nurses who are keen on seeking employment in Japan to learn the (Japanese) language," he added.