Japan prioritizes hiring of Filipino workers

ACTIVE people-to-people exchange, apart from tourism, is still a priority.

That was the assurance given by Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Kazuhide Ishikawa despite the low passing rate for Filipino caregivers and nurses under the people-to-people exchange provisions of the Philippines-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (PJEPA).

He said that this will be a definite point of improvement for the two country’s relations.

The ambassador made the pledge in a speech before the business community during the Makati Business Club’s General Membership Meeting recently.



Signed on September 9, 2006, the PJEPA is considered a milestone in Philippine international trade relations, because it is the first bilateral economic-partnership agreement entered into by the country with Japan.

PJEPA emphasizes cooperation on a wide range of areas, including human-resource development, science and technology, trade and investment promotion, small and medium enterprises, and the environment.

The pact also covers financial services, energy and environment, and transportation, among others.

Under the PJEPA framework, Filipino nurses and caregivers are allowed entry to Japan, so long as they pass several requirements. 

These include Japanese-language proficiency and national licensure examinations. Candidate nurses and caregivers are also required to undergo six months of language training in the country and in Japan to prepare them for the tests.

They may be required to undergo on-the-job training for at least three years before being allowed to take licensure exams.

The difficulty of the examinations and the process to qualify has been points of contention of the Filipino applicants before, and the numbers reflect this. 

According to Ishikawa, data shows that from 2009 to 2016, the average passing rate for nurses for the national examinations is at 11.5 percent, while that of caregivers’ are at 43.2 percent.

Out of a total of 1,633 candidates for both categories, only 249 have successfully hurdled the examinations to become permanent healthcare workers in Japan.  

The top Japanese envoy has also proposed measures to improve passing rates, such as extension of test hours and additional hours of training.



Further, tourism remains to be at least one area where people-to-people exchange between Philippines and Japan will assuredly increase while significant changes on easing the regulations on the entry of Filipino workers to Japan have yet to happen.

According to Ishikawa, half-a-million Japanese tourists visit the Philippines annually, while an average 300,000 Filipino tourists visit Japan every year.

These numbers are seen increasing, as visa requirements for Philippine tourists have been relaxed two years ago. 

Japan remains to be the Philippines’s largest source of official development assistance, and is also its top trading partner.


Maritime Security 

Meanwhile, according to Defense Minister Kenjie Wakamiya, Japan is seeking cooperation on maritime security with the Philippines.

Wakamiya made the remark during a press conference following the transfer of TC90 training aircraft at Sangley Point in Cavite last March 27.

“The Philippines and Japan both suffer from natural disasters and we like to continue our cooperation in the area of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” Wakamiya said through an interpreter.

“Other than that, maritime security is another area that we like to seek our cooperation in the future, as the Philippines is located in a very crucial point of our sealines to Japan," he added.

Wakamiya said both countries are dependent on the supply of resources and energy which needs maritime transport.

“Therefore, stronger relationship with the Philippines is important as the country is located in the important point of sealanes," Wakamiya said.

Wakamiya said that Japan sees the urgent need of the Philippines to improve its capacities with regards to maritime transport– the very reason why Japanese defense ministry put much importance in building defense cooperation with the country.

"The Philippines comprises many islands and the country faces an urgent need to improve its capacities to responding to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief as well as maritime domain awareness missions,” he said.

He said freedom of navigation and safe sealanes were important for the peace and stability in the region.


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