New plot to the Philippines-Japan migration story

by Carmelita G. Nuqui and Jeremaiah M. Opiniano.

(First of 2 parts)


JAPAN offers lots of memories —good and bad— to Filipinos, not just its rising sun that is an economic magnet for Filipinos to go there.

There’s former overseas performing artist Maricris Sioson who, exactly 20 years ago, was mysteriously killed by alleged Yakuza elements five months after arriving in Tokyo.

Sioson’s mysterious death never stopped a wave of migration by Filipinas doing the same kind of work which, to advocates for migrant workers, is tantamount to trafficking and to putting these women’s homeland into shame.

That kind of migrant worker deployment even had processes and documents to be acquired, as well as a large-scale recruitment business which the Philippine government regulated. The tide changed in 2005, when Japanese immigration law changed and tightened the entry requirements of those wanting to work as OPAs. The amendment included provisions that anyone seeking such a visa must prove that he or she has education or experience as an entertainer. Certification from another government is no longer enough.

This resulted in a steep drop in the number of entertainers being sent by the Philippines from about 80,000 in 2004 to about 38,000 in 2005. In 2010, the number of Filipino women deployed to Japan as entertainers was only about a thousand.

There is now an increase in the number Filipinas marrying Japanese, that being a means to escape poverty (as some departing young Filipina spouses married to elderly Japanese admitted).

Japan-Philippine relations surrounding overseas migration also evolved.

The bilateral relationship became economic, resulting in an economic partnership agreement that has, among its terms, deploying Filipino nurses to Japan. Only two of over-200 deployed nurses passed the Nihongo-laced nurses licensure examination in Japan, and currently the nurses deployment provision of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement is being evaluated.

While distant from a matter that concerns Filipinos’ migration to Japan, the relationship between the two countries is beyond overseas migration.

Japan is among the Philippines’ major source countries of official development assistance, in which civil society groups hope that such development aid undergo transparent and accountable processes.  Nevertheless, the aid from Japan led to bridges, light railway transit systems, and even emergency relief for people in Mindanao.

Japan-Philippine economic relations will not be complete without the Japanese companies heading to the country —from vehicles to electronic equipment, some of which became household names among Filipinos (e.g. Toyota, Sony, among others).

The relationship between the two nations even led to the reverse, i.e. of developing country Philippines helping Japan.

Images of the waves that splashed eastern Japan given an 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami last March simply touched Filipinos’ hearts to help (for example, the Philippines-Japan NGO Partnership, a group of non-government groups here that has a partner NGO network in Japan, donated some money to Japanese NGOs providing disaster relief in tsunami-struck areas in Japan).

(To be coninued)