AS SENATE DELIBERATES ON JPEPA: STUDY SHOWS FOREIGN NURSES, CAREGIVERS FACE EXPLOITATIVE WORK CONDITIONS IN JAPAN

While proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) claim that the pact will create more opportunities for local nurses by allowing them to enter the Japanese market, a study by a Japanese university shows that foreign nurses in Japan face exploitative work conditions and even discrimination. 
  
A study by the University of Kitakyushu in Japan found out that employment programs involving foreign nurses and caregivers have resulted in trainees being forced to work long hours. The Japanese government has also refused to guarantee minimum wage levels, while exorbitant fees of at least 58,000 yen (PhP 23,200) are deducted from the nurses’ salaries every month. 
  
Exploitation of foreign workers on training programs has also been prevalent. Indonesian trainees in Japan , for instance, have reportedly experiencedphysical abuse and been forced to render unpaid overtime, while others have been denied such basic rights as freedom of movement. Meanwhile, non-Japanese in the bigger cities are reportedly subject to racial profiling by being asked to produce their foreign registration cards or passports, which must be carried at all times. 
  
Part of government’s hype is that with the JPEPA, 400 Filipino nurses and 600 caregivers will be allowed to enter Japan for training for over two years. However, the receiving scheme for health workers states that they must work as trainees in designated institutions, undergo six months ofJapanese language training and pass the national certification tests before they can qualify as nurse or caregiver. Although they are already working during this time they will be receiving pay only as a non-licensed worker or trainee or candidate, or as nurse’s aides and caregiver’s assistants. 
  
According to research group IBON, senators debating on the JPEPA should see that the inclusion of nurses in the JPEPA is a deceptive provision that offers uncertain benefits, made only to sweeten the blatantly one-sided, pro-Japan deal. Using Filipino nurses as a justification for approving JPEPA highlights how the Philippine government is willing to sacrifice the welfare of its citizens as well as to cover up for its severe failure in generating jobs and supporting the country’s health system. (end) 
  
The No Deal! Movement for Unequal Economic Agreements in cooperation with the La Sallian Justice and Peace Commission and Benedictines for Peace invite you to the forum ‘JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People’s Issues’, 9 am -12 pm, Sept. 12 at the Fajardo Gonzales Auditorium, DLSU Manila. The program includes discussion on the Senate hearings and the presentation of a manifesto on JPEPA.

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On Achieving Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness:RP’S PROBLEMS WITH AID GO BEYOND LACK OF TRANSPARENCY, ACCOUNTABILITY

Independent think-tank IBON Foundation said that a recent international study which showed that the Philippines lacks transparency and accountability in aid disbursement only confirmed what broadband scandal whistleblower Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. described as a “dysfunctional” official development assistance (ODA) system.

The Baseline Study and Survey of the Government of the Philippines’ Compliance with the Paris Declaration Commitments was made by the Harmonization Committee on Aid Effectiveness, which includes the NEDA. The Paris Declaration is a set of reforms aimed at improving the effectiveness of aid in reducing poverty and inequality in recipient countries.

IBON said that the anomalous infrastructure projects such as the national broadband network (NBN), funded by Chinese loans and is now under Senate inquiry, is an example of how the country’s foreign aid system is easily subverted by political influence-peddling.

Another example is the North Luzon Railways Project (NorthRail) deal whose two components are meant to be financed largely with US$960 million in concessional loans from China allegedly involved some US$50-100 million in “commissions” to high-ranking government officials. The ZTE-NBN fiasco in turn allegedly involved US$130 million in kickbacks out of a US$329 million deal.

Anomalies like these are ultimately shouldered by the Filipino people through illegitimate debt service burdens for projects with unjustifiably low or even negative social and economic returns. Political influence over loan decisions has been aggravated by procedural changes in early 2007 which weakened the control of the NEDA-led Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) over foreign-assisted infrastructure projects.

The Paris Declaration was adopted by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), a group of bilateral donors, under the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in 2005.

According to the research think-tank, the country needs to institute deeper reforms beyond the Paris Declaration to correct flaws in the ODA system.

For one, aid remains oriented towards furthering donor foreign policy interests more than the country’s considerable development needs, as in the case of Japan and the US. Aid from multilateral agencies has also continued to have attached explicit and implicit conditionalities inimical to the interests of the Filipino people.

Donors have also used aid to advance their foreign policy interests at the expense of the country. Japan, overwhelmingly the country’s largest donor, has effectively been using its past and current yen loan packages as leverage for the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). Government economic managers themselves have argued that non-ratification of the JPEPA could antagonize the country’s biggest aid source. The 27th and 28th yen loan packages have been reported to be worth at least P67 billion.

The US, in turn, has been taking advantage of its being the country’s largest source of grant aid to revive, expand and deepen its military presence especially in Mindanao but also in conflict-affected areas across the country. There has been US$460 million in US aid over the 2004-2007 period, not yet including some US$20 million yearly in P.L. 480 loans to purchase US food surpluses.

The biggest loans of the World Bank and Asian Development Bank (ADB) have had “free market” policy conditionalities attached to them since at least the 1980s. These have required changes in overall macroeconomic and sectoral policy frameworks, as well as gone into very specific implementation details.

The World Bank’s US$250-million Development Policy Loan (DPL) in 2006 for instance was essentially given because of the government’s harsh fiscal austerity including cutbacks on social services, the imposition of new taxes, and continued power sector privatization.

IBON believes that the Paris Declaration also has its basic flaws, among these is its narrow focus on aid delivery and management outside of a development, human rights, gender and social justice framework. A broader conception of aid accountability and demand for results is needed.

There are also key developmental issues not in the Paris Declaration. This includes the removal of policy conditionalities, measures to address debt burdens, the need to increase grant aid, de-linking aid from donor foreign policy interests, and sanctioning donors for aid projects that violate human rights and have other adverse impacts.

The inclusion of important concerns such as tied aid and the accountability of donors is welcome in principle, but according to IBON, the commitments here are unclear with time frames and targets conspicuously ambiguous

OFWS FAMILIES MAY LOSE OVER P3,000 PER MONTH BY END 2008 DUE TO STRONG PESO

If predictions that the peso appreciates to P38 per US dollar by the end of 2008 materializes, then the average OFW household will be losing around P3,710 per month compared to the start of 2007, or a loss over the entire year from P30,000 to as much as P45,000, according to a study on the economic outlook released by independent think-tank IBON Foundation.

The roughly 15% increase in OFW remittances in 2007 compared to the past year was not enough to offset the 16% peso appreciation from January to December 2007, thus OFW families have not been able to maintain their incomes and been hit bad. IBON estimates that OFWs lose roughly P700 per $100 remittance.

From January to December 2007, the exchange rate of the peso to the dollar has strengthened by almost fifteen percent. This means that over the period, the family of an OFW who remitted $100 in January were able to exchange it for P4,891. By December this had fallen to P4,174 or a decline of P717.

Such a reduction is especially painful given the increasing prices of basic goods and services in the country. For example, from January to November 2007 the cost of an 11-kg liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) cylinder increased by P76.94 to almost P600. Manila Water also recently implemented a rate hike that will cost consumers who consume 30 cubic meters per month an additional P60 on their bills.

“Overseas workers were forced to tighten their belts and remit more of their income to make up for the lost value,” said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Remittances from January to October grew by 16% compared to the same period in 2006.

The strengthening peso and its effect on OFWs’ incomes reveals the folly of the government’s labor export policy and its continuing reliance on migrant workers’ remittances.