Major licensed entertainment agencies have cited the Philippine government for coming up with the improved Artists Accreditation Card (AAC) system to validate the credentials and credibility of the Filipino overseas performing artists (OPAs), the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) today reported.

In a position paper at a crucial technical workshop on “Preserving Gainful Employment Opportunities in the Overseas Entertainment Industry,” the country’s four major OPAs confederations also bared the constructive contributions that Filipino entertainers have given overseas host economies such as Japan.

A report reaching Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia A. Sto. Tomas said the three-day workshop aimed to assist the development and institutionalization of reforms to revitalize and preserve opportunities in the overseas entertainment sector. It focused on the sector’s state of affairs in the light of the recent developments in Japan and explored solutions to immediate and long-term challenges facing the sector as well as areas of improvement including programs to improve delivery of welfare services to OPAs. It also intended to ensure the continuing vitality of the Filipino overseas commercial performing arts.

Opened on behalf of Sto. Tomas by POEA Administrator Rosalinda D. Baldoz at the POEA Auditorium this week, the three-day workshop was actively led by key representatives of the four major recruitment agencies, namely, the Confederated Association of Licensed Entertainment Agencies (CALEA), Philippine Entertainment Exporters and Promoters Association (PEEPA), Philippine Association of Recruitment Agencies Deploying Artists (PARADA), and the Reliable Entertainment Promoters Association, Inc. (REPA).

The four agencies underscored in unison the need to differentiate legitimate entertainment from human trafficking. With pride, they said, “we would like to point out that even Japan’s National Police Agency (NPA) has reported, as cited by the International Labor Organization (ILO), that in 2003, there has been no single case of a Filipino woman trafficked in Japan.”

The reason is that “the Congress of the Philippines has enacted an anti-human trafficking law, Republic Act 9802, and it is on record that our sector actively participated in the crafting and implementation of that law,” they said.

Thus “Japan’s action (in setting new rules) is understandable, and we respect this sovereign act of our strongest economic and political ally in Asia in response to the US’ Trafficking in Persons Report,” they said.

Nonetheless, they stressed that the more than 200,000 Filipino workers now in Japan, some 95 percent of whom are entertainers, and their predecessors, had done more than boost foreign exchange, jobs, tourism, and investments. The groups cited a study of Professor Mamoru Tsuda of Osaka University of Foreign Studies that the OFWs actually “hastened the transformation of Japanese civil society and enhanced Japan’s rapid opening up and internationalization” following the Second World War.

“In fact, Dolphy, a renowned Filipino actor and comedian, was already performing in Japan as early as 1953 under the original entertainment visa of three to six months,” they said, adding, “the pioneering Filipino OPAs in Japan were indeed true-blooded performing artists.”

The Japanese study showed that the Filipinos contributed significantly to cultural ties and prompted local government agencies in Japan to set up welfare services for foreigners, thus paving the way for the rise of mainstream groups like the Japan Federation of the Bar Association that continues to assist the non-Japanese.

The new AAC system that incorporates tamper-proof security and biometric features in Central Bank security paper “is consistent with the need to ensure the highest standard necessary for workers who will engage in overseas work and performance,” the representatives of the OPAs industry said as they thanked the Philippine government, particularly the DOLE and POEA, for setting up the high-tech system.

Noting that the guidelines for the AAC screening process or audition system are now ready for implementation, they stressed that the “government’s certification is the best testimony of capability and preparedness to perform overseas… attuned to the principles espoused in the free trade of goods and manpower agreements between nations.”

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