by Nolan Casama
There will be 425.6 million retirees in developed countries by the year 2015, and the Philippine government wants at least a million of those to retire in the Philippines. Yes, that’s one million foreigners on Philippine beach resorts who would make up more than one percent of the population. This may become a problem since that there are apocryphal stories of Filipinos turned away from Korean businesses in the Philippines; but even if these stories are true, who is to blame? The Korean who has been graciously accommodated in exchange for his money or the unassertive Filipino who had invited the Korean? In the long run, I believe that—because there is too much money at stake—mutual tolerance will be conceded. Many, many more Koreans, Chinese, Americans, Europeans, and Japanese will call Philippines their new home.
The ambitious goal of settling one million retirees is not an easy task, especially that Malaysia and a more established Thailand are also competing for these same folk. I will side with the opposing view of this argument—which is, the assumption that these migrants are good for the Philippines because they create jobs and bring in money. I will even suggest to encourage the migration of more of them by building a replica of a traditional Japanese city complete with Japanese shrines and bilingual signs.
In 2006, the Arroyo administration designated retirement as a flagship project because they project that each retiree will create four jobs, infusing thousands of dollars into the Philippine economy. Japan is an attractive source of these retirees because of its growing senior population, which makes up 20% of the Japanese population. That’s 26 million people!
A Japantown in the Philippines would provide familiarity to the first wave of Japanese retirees by providing Japanese goods, services, and a relief from homesickness. Similarly, many Americans continue to live and retire in the former U.S. bases of Subic Bay and Clark, where American-style homes and facilities are commonplace.
A Japantown will also have other benefits: It will increase tourism and foreign investment. It can be a natural venue for lucrative ‘animé conventions.’ Conventions for enthusiasts of Japanese comics and animation reputably attract thousands of fans and net millions of dollars each year all over Asia. In Taipei, Taiwan, a government-subsidized comic convention generates $34 million annually.
So who would staff Japantown? Thousands of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who have worked in Japan are trilingual—fluent in Filipino, English, and Nihongo. Filipinos who would live in Japantown can regard this as their preparation for working in Japan.
Some will surely disagree on this concept of a Japantown in the Philippines, seeing this as a promotion of neo-Japanese imperialism. Some may even see this as an affront to Philippine sovereignty; but to me, this is not different from a foreign company creating jobs in the Philippines.
However, Japanese retirement in the Philippines is on its way with the construction of a $10-million retirement village on the island of Tablas, in Romblon, which is expected to open by 2011. A retirement village in Silang, Cavite, is also expected to house one-thousand Japanese retirees next year. A Japantown would be a natural extension of this trend, and tourism and foreign investment would co-occur or follow from that. Accusations of ‘selling-out’ would be absurd in this era of globalization when Filipinos regularly drive Japanese cars and watch Korean shows on Japan-made televisions. A Japantown would be positive because this place would be an open city for Filipinos and Japanese, promoting the exchange of ideas and culture. Building a functional and attractive Japantown in the Philippines would accomplish three things: increase Japanese retirement, increase tourism, and boost foreign investment.
Nolan Casama is a Filipino-American living in San Diego, California.