Monday, January 24, 2005

NR0124: Protest against new Japan immigration laws

Mula sa Tanggapan ni Anakpawis Rep. Crispin Beltran
News Release January 24, 2005

Solon says moratorium on Japan immigration control law not enough to protect
OPAs, Filipinos in Japan


Fresh from his working visit to Japan, Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran
today echoed the stand of one of the biggest and well-known alliance of
Filipino migrants and migrant workers Migrante International in saying that
the Philippine government's program to help aspiring overseas entertainers
leaves much to be desired. He said this particularly regarding the issue of
the issuance of Artist Record Books to all overseas performing artists as among
the primary ways the government regulates the deployment of entertainers and the
weak response of the Philippine government to Japan's new immigration law.

The Partial Amendment of the Immigration Control and Refugee Recognition Act
aims to immediately decrease the number of "illegal foreign residents" in
Japan, in reaction to a purported "deterioration of public security" and
rampant human trafficking.

"Closer analysis, however, will show that the law could affect at least 31,000
overstaying Filipinos, 82,000 Filipino entertainers and thousands of Filipinas
married to Japanese. The new law has outlawed their continued stay in Japan,
effective Dec. 2, 2004. Thus, most of the 304,678 Filipinos in Japan may be
subjected to the harsh, inhumane penalties and procedures under the law. These
include warrantless arrests, jail terms, steep fines and deportation," he said.

Beltran said that the law and the crackdown on undocumented Filipinos in Japan
will not solve the the issue of human trafficking. "It will only raise
revenues for the Japanese authorities by further penalizing Filipino victims of
human trafficking. Meanwhile, human traffickers will go scot-free, able to
peddle their flesh trade and victimizing more foreign residents including
migrant workers," he said.

The Arroyo administration has so far only expressed concern for the possible
loss of $1 billion in remittances from Filipinos in Japan. It is, therefore,
only seeking a moratorium in the implementation of the new law and looking for
other country-destinations to deploy Filipina entertainers. In this light, both
the Philippine and Japanese governments are in fact perpetrators in the
trafficking of Filipinas.

"To demand a moratorium on the new law is a weak position that will inevitably
prove useless in stopping the wave of abuse and criminalization of migrants
and OPAs in in Japan," he said. He also called for the scrapping of the
ARBs, saying that they do not help 'professionalize' artists, it only subjects
them to further hardship and expense. He said that Malacanang and its diplomats
to Japan should urge their counterpart authorities to scrap the ARB system.

Under the Department of Labor and Employment's Department Order No.10, series
2001, all OPAs need artist record books before they are sent abroad. The ARBs
are issued by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority. In
2001, there were 74,000 OPAs deployed to Japan, according to the Batis Center
for Women.

"This means the government raked in at least P370 million from entertainers
forced to buy ARBs. But in return, the ARBs do little to protect them from
harm once they're working in nightclubs across Japan or other countries. It
doesn't protect the OPAs against physical abuse, forced prostitution and other
human rights violations.

Batis Center for Women statistics further indicate they documented 351 cases of
abuse against entertainers last year. Abuses include sexual trafficking,
unfair labor practices, domestic violence and abandonment of Filipino wives and
Japanese children."The ARB is essentially useless in protecting Filipino OPAs in
Japan. OPAs are better off without the ARBs," Beltran said.

Beltran said that OPAs who go through promotion agencies and training centers
usually end up beholden to recruiters who initially pay for ARB and other
living expenses they incur while "training". Because of this, entertainers
often end up owing recruiters thousands of pesos even before they go abroad. He
said that because of this, when the OPAs get to their country of destinations,
many are forced to agree to "dohan" (in Japan) or pairing which eventually
results in forced prostitution. If the OPAs do not agree to do this, they are
fined heavily by the bar owners.

Beltran said that the ARB system also lengthens the chain of exploitation tying
the OPAs to the talent manager, the training center, the testing center, the
testing officer and up to the nightclub owner. Bribes to facilitate ARB
issuance are commonplace with ARBs costing as much as P50,000 in some cases.

"But in contrast to moves by local recruiters and agencies to deregulate and
privatize ARB issuance, the ARB system should be scrapped altogether because
it's only an added burden for the OPAs. It fails to protect them regardless of
their skill level as singers or dancers," he said.#

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