Archive for the ‘Exodus’ Category

Wigberto Tañada, Lead Convenor

I would like to thank the Scalabrini  Migration Center and the other organizers of this conference for inviting me to this important forum.  I would like to congratulate Dr. Manolo Abella, a kababayan from Quezon, for his enlightening and provocative piece on migration and development.

The debate on the migration-development nexus is an old one in the Philippines.   Four decades ago, under martial law, Marcos justified the labor migration policy, focused then in the deployment of overseas contract workers (OCWs) in the Middle East, as a stop-gap temporary measure.  The argument then — deploy the OCWs to ease the unemployment problem  while the new economic doctrine propounded our political and economic leaders had not yet delivered the promised full employment.  What was this doctrine?  The labor-intensive export-oriented or LIEO program, which gave birth to the garments, electronics assembly and various EPZ-based enterprises.  The LIEO program was also used to justify the massive borrowings from the IMF-WB.

By the l980s, the debt crisis exploded and the economy collapsed.  The LIEO failed to take off and the outward movement of Filipino OCWs intensified.  This time the destination countries in Asia had multiplied, with the addition of Japan and the Asian NICs.  This time, our economic technocrats deepened the LIEO and baptized it as the structural adjustment program (SAP) backed up by the IMF-WB’s structural adjustment loans.  This time the SAP slogans were even shriller – open the economy through the all out-liberalization of the trade regime, all-out liberalization of the investment regime, all-out deregulation of agriculture, and all-out privatization of government assets and corporations competing with the private sector.

By the mid-1990s, the Philippines was second only to Singapore in economic openness in Asia.  And yet, it still registered one of the highest unemployment and underemployment rates in the region.   Yes, I agree with Manolo Abella — the high population growth rate was and still is a major explanatory factor to the unemployment problem.

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By Fel V. Maragay
Published in the October 5, 2007 issue of the Manila Standard TODAY

THE country’s biggest nursing group yesterday remained skeptical about the benefits and advantages that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement will bring to Filipino nurses in view of what it considers “stringent requirements” imposed by Tokyo on foreign health workers.

With the objections and reservations aired by sectors that are supposed to benefit from the bilateral accord, some senators are considering recommending a renegotiation of the agreement.

Dr. Leah Samaco Paquiz, president of the Philippine Nurses Association, criticized the requirement for Filipino nurses to undergo a six-month Japanese language course and to pass the nursing licensure examination even if they had already passed a similar examination in their home country.

Paquiz said foreign nurses in Japan get an average salary of only $1,197, much lower than the rates in the United States at $3,542, Canada at $3,255 and the United Kingdom at $2,052. Foreign nurses in Bahrain are paid a little less at $1,069.

Japan will hire an initial batch of 400 nurses and 600 caregivers. They will be treated as trainees entitled to a monthly allowance of $400, free board and lodging and free plane fare to and from Japan. But Paquiz said this is lower than the $850 monthly cost of living in Japan and $1,000 in particular in Tokyo.

The PNA president said the Filipino nurses will still be classified as trainees, even if they start working in hospitals after the language course within three years prior to their licensure test.

‘‘This is the concern of the PNA. We do not want our nurses to lose their integrity, credibility and professionalism because of this treaty,” Paquiz told a joint hearing of the Senate committee on foreign relations and committee on trade and commerce.

Edwina Beech, president of the Philippine Association of Service Exporters Inc., said the JPEPA is “not viable” because of the mandatory language training requirement.

Beech lamented that while about 80,00 Filipino entertainers were being hired by Japan on a yearly basis before, this has dwindled to a small fraction of this number due to the “erroneous” allegation that manpower exporters were engaged in trafficking of women.

Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz said the provisions in the agreement on the “Movement of Natural Persons” is a breakthrough because this is the first time that Japan has made a commitment for fair access of Filipino nurses, caregivers and other professionals in its services sectors that are ordinarily closed to foreign workers.

“The Japanese labor market is a very tight one and its immigration policies are very restrictive. The JPEPA allows our professionals to get a foothold in that labor market,” Cruz said.

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Last year, the Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade) brought to the public’s consciousness the economic dimension of the unregulated exodus of our health and mission-critical workers through a one-page ad entitled “Saan Pupulutin Ang Pilipinas Kung Wala Nang Industriya?” The Alliance raised the grave threats facing the country because of the unchecked outflow of mission-critical skills and talents such as the likely closure of more hospitals, the grounding of the domestic aviation industry and the collapse of critical industries, e.g., power, steel, petrochemical and telecoms industries. The ad generated a lot of discussions and debates on the FairTrade’s stand.

Some neo-liberal economists are saying that the exodus problematique can easily be solved through the free interplay of the supply and demand forces, specifically through the increased training and education of pilots, engineers and other mission-critical personnel and professionals. They argued that the remaining industries should simply invest more in the training of new pilots, engineers and other professionals to replace those who have left the country.

This answer is a non-solution.

First, it takes time to identify, develop and hone talents and skills. Second, it is expensive to invest in the development of these talents and skills. Finally, our own industry becomes less competitive and loses out in global competition while waiting for the new talents and skills to be developed.

As it is,we are honing skills and talents for other countries, which have managed to avoid invest time and money in producing their own mission-critical personnel and professionals. In the process, they are able to save their own critical industries and economy, while our own industries suffer and even collapse.

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