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Jobs await Filipinos in Guam, Japan

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:19:00 07/02/2009

Filed Under: Employment, Overseas Employment

MANILA, Philippines?Thousands of Filipino workers could be hired in the construction of new military bases on the US territory of Guam, the island?s governor said during a visit to the Philippines.

Jobs also beckon in Japan, which is looking not only for Filipino health workers but also engineers, information technology
experts and other professionals, according to an official of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica).

Guam will be hiring between 10,000 and 15,000 workers to support the US military buildup, including the relocation of 8,000 Marines and their families from Okinawa over the next few years, Gov. Felix Camacho told reporters in Manila on Tuesday.

No to Chinese workers

He said he expected skilled Filipino workers to fill job demands that could not be met by local labor alone.

?It is not exclusive but the likelihood is that most will be from the Philippines,? Camacho said. Chinese workers will not be hired because of security concerns related to work on military bases, Camacho said.

Several years ago, Filipinos were also tapped to build facilities in Guantanamo in Cuba where suspected al-Qaida members linked to 9-11 were detained.

Minimum wage

The US House armed services committee last week passed a bill saying foreign workers won?t be allowed to do more than 30 percent of the work on the Guam projects.

The 2010 National Defense Authorization Act would require that the minimum wage for all Guam construction projects be at the prevailing wage level for similar work in Hawaii, said US Rep. Neil Abercrombie from Hawaii.

The buildup in Guam will cost at least $15 billion. Japan is covering $6 billion of the bill.

Tip of iceberg

Filipino engineers, information technology experts and other professionals are welcome to work in Japan especially since the Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) has already taken effect, said Togo Hiroshi, principal Jica senior representative to the Philippines.

?[Jobs for] caregivers and nurses are just the tip of the iceberg,? Togo said yesterday.

He said the same message was reiterated to President Macapagal-Arroyo during her most recent state visit to Japan.

First batch

Some 270 Filipinos were deployed to Japan in May, comprising the first batch of nurses and caregivers to be allowed to work in the land of the rising sun following the ratification of Jpepa.

Under Jpepa that the Senate ratified in October last year, Japan and the Philippines agreed to improve business ties, such as easier access to each other?s markets. The agreement also allows more Filipinos to work in Japan.

Aging population

Togo said Japan?s aging population made it necessary for the Japanese economy to allow the entry of foreign workers to fill in current and future job vacancies.

Since many Filipinos seek employment and better opportunities offshore, Jpepa is a win-win solution for both countries, he said.

More than 200,000 Filipinos are based in Japan, according to government estimates.

In the first quarter of the year, they remitted $185 million to the Philippines, accounting for 4.6 percent of the total remittances from overseas Filipinos during the period.

Arroyo administration officials said the availability of more jobs in Japan for Filipinos was a welcome development for the Philippines, whose economy is partly dependent on remittances to spur household consumption.

Japanese language

For Filipinos to more easily find jobs in Japan, they must study the Japanese language, said Matsuda Norio, Jica representative to the Philippines.

While most Filipino workers know how to speak English, some Japanese firms prefer applicants who can speak Japanese, he said.

?Many Filipino workers think that learning English is enough. They don?t realize that learning Japanese is important as well,? he also told the Inquirer.

Matsuda said it would benefit Filipinos seeking to work in Japan to undergo enhanced training, as most of Japanese firms? labor requirements are stricter than average.

Robust remittance

The further opening of the Japanese labor market to Filipinos was one reason the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) cited for projecting that remittances would remain robust this year.

Contrary to forecasts by some economists that remittances would shrink, the BSP said the worst would be a flat growth. The country recorded a total of $16.4 billion in remittances last year.

The BSP said robust remittances, which fuel household consumption, would help prevent the Philippine economy from slipping into recession.

Reports from AP and Michelle V. Remo

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