‘JPEPA lowers labor standards for Pinoy nurses, caregivers’

By Maria Aleta Nieva, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at Oct 11 2008 05:04 PM | Updated as of Oct 12 2008 01:04 AM

The recently-ratified Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) sets a bad precedent that other countries may use to take advantage of Filipino nurses and other health care workers, a non-government organization warned.

According to Dr. Gene Nisperos, vice chairperson of the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), the treaty will serve as a "template" of other countries.

"They can actually provide less for health personnel, even those currently employed. Sasabihin nila, ito ang prevailing practice," said Dr. Nisperos told abs-cbnNEWS.com.

Dr. Nisperos maintained that the trade agreement’s provision on labor services would compromise Filipino health workers and put them in a very vulnerable position.

"These senators are willing to sacrifice them [nurses]. Ginagawa silang sangkalan, concessions," said Nisperos.

He said that under JPEPA, nurses’ labor standards, job security, migrant and labor rights, benefits and wages, and other protection for Filipino nurses and caregivers will be compromised "in exchange for so-called trade and investments.”

Because of this, the HEAD is calling on all nurses, doctors, caregivers and health professionals to denounce all the 16 senators who voted in favor of what they described to be as "onerous trade agreement."

"They approved this without thinking of the consequences. Marami ang affected. They will put people at risk," the doctor said.

‘A betrayal’

HEAD Secretary General Dr. Geneve Rivera said the pro-JPEPA senators have institutionalized the commodification of health workers and professionals in a trade deal.

"They should be made accountable for this betrayal," Rivera said in a statement.

The group also criticized Senator Mar Roxas’ assertion that ratifying JPEPA is both "timely and necessary" to keep the country "globally competitive".

"If this was a race to the bottom, if this was an auction of Filipino nurses to the lowest bidder, then Sen. Roxas is right. Is this what he wants? Sen. Roxas has shown an utter incapacity to sympathize with the plight of Filipino health workers, especially nurses and caregivers," said Dr. Rivera.

He noted that around 85% nurses are working overseas and an estimated 15,000 more leave the country annually.

On Wednesday, the Philippines Senate ratified JPEPA, which will allow, among others, nurses and caregivers to work in Japan after getting language training.

For nurses, they will first work and get paid as trainees while preparing for the nursing licensure exam in the Japanese language. If they fail to pass the exam within a three-year period, they will have to return to the Philippines.

Only four senators voted against the JPEPA.

"This is labor export policy at its worst. Senators are conniving with the Arroyo government in allowing the unbridled exploitation of Filipino health workers and professionals." Dr. Rivera said.