The Philippine ambassador to Tokyo hopes bilateral labor exchanges expand — in particular nurses and other caregivers coming to Japan under a free-trade accord — as part of the efforts to deepen economic relations.

“We are fully committed to increase the (now low) success rates (of nurse and caregiver candidates) in the Japanese licensure examinations through various measures — including improvements in the Japanese-language training of the candidates,” Ambassador Manuel Lopez said in a Tuesday lecture held at Aoyama Gakuin University.

Since 2009, 206 nurses and 302 caregivers from the Philippines have entered Japan under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, which includes an arrangement to increase the movement of personnel across borders.

After on-the-job training, they have to pass Japan’s official tests to qualify as nurses and caregivers to work here. However, their success rate has remained low due chiefly to language barriers.

Lopez gave the lecture, titled “Strengthening the Strategic Partnership of the Philippines and Japan in the Age of Asia-Pacific,” in the latest in a series of events inviting Tokyo-based ambassadors to speak at the university. The lecture series is supported by The Japan Times and other parties.

Lopez said together the Philippines and Japan have a long history, dating back to the 17th century, and have largely enjoyed amicable diplomatic relations after bilateral ties were restored following World War II.

He also stressed the importance for the two countries to beef up cooperation and support in the areas of disaster management and prevention

Citing the dispatch of a Filipino medical team to Miyagi and Iwate prefectures to help evacuees in tsunami-hit areas, Lopez said the country is “ready to dispatch similar teams in the future should Japan so request.”

Lopez, who was assigned to the current post in January 2011, said he was impressed by “the discipline and respect for order of the Japanese people after March 11.”

“I saw that with my own two eyes. In the Philippines or even maybe in the U.S., you wouldn’t see people lining up in the midst of a tragedy to buy two bottles of water — and this was in March when the weather was cold. There was no anarchy, there was no panic,” he said. “It’s hard to describe, because it seems so unreal how you have followed everything that the authorities tell you. It was just unbelievable,” he said.

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