Tougher Japan visa rules for entertainers worry Filipinos

Tougher Japan visa rules for entertainers worry Filipinos

MANILA, Nov. 24 Kyodo

Prospects of stricter visa requirements on foreign entertainers wishing to enter Japan worry Filipino recruiters and entertainers who say the restricted entry of Filipino workers into Japan may mean less money for families here who depend on remittances being sent by relatives.

The fears come as a reaction to a Kyodo News report Wednesday of a Japanese draft action plan outlining stepped-up measures on the entry of foreign dancers, singers and other performing artists as part of Japan’s effort to curb human trafficking.

The report said the visa regulations place particular focus on limiting Filipinos’ entry to Japan, considering that they constitute the bulk of entrants to Japan on entertainment visas. There is a plan to abolish the current rule giving six-month residency status to those certified by their home countries as entertainers, the report said.

”There is fear that the present deployment will go down…We are apprehensive that there will be restrictive requirements. They might add requirements that will not be easy to comply with,” said Arturo Pangilinan, secretary general of the Philippine Association of Recruitment Agencies Deploying Artists, or Parada.

Parada represents 260 out of about 400 firms registered with the Philippine government to send entertainers to Japan. Pangilinan said his association has cooperated with Japanese counterparts in the setting up of welfare monitoring centers where Filipino entertainers in Japan can seek help.

Pangilinan said the estimated 80,000 Filipino entertainers who leave annually for Japan contribute about $1 billion in annual remittances.

If Japan limits to 8,000 the number of Filipinos who enter the country using entertainer visas, the reduction in earnings may be substantial for the Philippines, which needs its estimated $8 billion in total annual remittances to keep its economy afloat.

Laira, 39, who trains entertainers aspiring to go to Japan, said she can already feel the pinch of restrictions as 20 girls in her talent pool continue to wait for government certification to leave as entertainers.

Some of the girls come from the provinces and pin their hopes of better lives for their families on the prospect of working in Japan.

”It’s good if the ones affected will be all illegal. But the legal workers like us, they will also be affected,” Laira said.

Migrante International, an organization of overseas Filipino workers, said steep fines and detention for illegal Filipinos in Japan will not solve the human trafficking problem because its roots are not being addressed.

”The Philippines needs to take a look at its labor export policy,” Migrante secretary general Maita Santiago said.

Women’s organization Gabriela, which has pushed hard for the Philippines’ adoption last year of an anti-human trafficking law, said it hopes authorities will lash out at the traffickers and not the victims.

Labor Secretary Patricia Santo Tomas said Japan is not zeroing in on Filipinos and will simply impose a new visa rule.

”The report of my labor attache (to Japan, Rey Conferido) is that this is not centered on Filipinos. We are not being singled out,” she said.

”We have to respect the laws of the country…We should get in there with legal papers,” she said.

Most overstayers in Japan come from South Korea, Santo Tomas said, followed by China and Thailand. Filipinos are only the fourth most overstaying foreigners.

There are simply many Filipino entertainers in Japan because that is the demand there, Santo Tomas said.

Records from the Philippine Overseas Employment Agency, which processes workers bound for abroad, say 77,870 Filipinos left for Japan in 2002, and 62,539 did in 2003.

The Japanese efforts to curb human trafficking come after the U.S. State Department, in a report in June, downgraded its assessment of Japan’s anti-trafficking effort. Japan subsequently expedited measures to combat human trafficking, deciding on compiling an action plan in December.

COPYRIGHT 2004 Kyodo News International, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning