Thursday, October 25, 2007

In national convention, nurses pray for Senate’s rejection of JPEPA

Cagayan de Oro, Oct. 24- Gathering here for their 50th National Convention, some 2,000 nurses from all over the country lighted candles during a plenary session and prayed for the senators to heed the opposition of Filipino nurses against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which, in its present terms, they claim will expose them to abuse and exploitation in Japan.

In a prayer led by President Leah Paquiz and the Board of Governors of the Philippine Nurses Association (PNA), the nurses prayed for the senators to pay attention to the “fundamental shortcomings” of the bilateral preferential trade agreement in protecting the dignity and welfare of Filipino nurses and caregivers.

Headed by their president Leah Paquiz, the nurses, under the national organization of the Philippine Nurses Association, have been very vocal in their opposition to the JPEPA and have joined a wider call by civil society organizations to junk the agreement.

In a previous Senate hearing on the agreement, the nurses pointed out that because of the mandatory “on-the-job training” in Japan, a qualified Filipino nurse will effectively be a trainee under the supervision of a Japanese nurse, offering cheap labor with no worker rights’ protection, for up to three years or until she passes the licensure exam in Nihongo.

This arrangement, the nurses said, gives no job security for Filipino nurses and will integrate them into the trainee system of Japan, where non-Japanese nationals do the same work as Japanese nationals but are paid considerably less.

“The stringent language requirements of the JPEPA, although not bad per se, will however conspire so that the Filipino nurse will never gain the status of a Japanese nurse and will be forever relegated to an inferior trainee status with lesser pay simply because she hasn’t mastered Nihongo as well as a Japanese national born to the language,” said Paquiz.

The nurses also noted in their prayer that during the five hearings conducted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations chaired by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, the universal agreement was that the panel supporting the JPEPA miserably failed to convince the senators to ratify the agreement, even turning previous supportive senators into skeptics with regard to the actual benefits of the agreement.

The nurses hoped that the senators would “stand their ground in asserting the rule of law, the sacredness of our people’s sovereignty and the primacy of human dignity, especially that of the Filipino nurses and caregivers.”

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