Toxic Trade News / 8 May 2008
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'Fixing' flawed JPEPA
by Nestor Mata, Malaya
8 May 2008 – If Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago has admitted that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement violated the Constitution, why then did she not call for its junking by the Senate?

Not a few senators, environmentalists, and other concerned Filipinos in civil society groups wonder why did she, as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, along with the chair of the Senate Trade and Commerce Committee, "freeze" action on JPEPA?

Actually, she had suggested a "conditional concurrence" of the flawed treaty, but she withdrew her proposal at the same convenient time that the Department of Foreign Affairs requested the deferment of Senate vote so that they – Gloria Arroyo’s diplomatic and trade subalterns – could "fix the treaty." Their plan is to exchange diplomatic notes between the governments of Japan and the Philippines.

Very strong doubts were expressed by those who have long campaigned for the rejection of JPEPA as to the legality of such a move which they derisively branded as "band-aid" measures to repair the defects of the pact.

Not only this, they said the decision to delay the Senate vote was "an ultimate manifestation of surrender" to the powers-that-be in the corridors of Malacañang Palace.

They pointedly stressed that the Senate’s job is to ratify or reject the questionable pact that was "secretly" negotiated by the administration and signed by President Arroyo and the then prime minister of Japan in Helsinki over two years ago, and not to yield to the wants of the Palace that has since repeatedly claimed there was nothing wrong with JPEPA.

And yet, those same Palace officials who negotiated it are now saying they want more time to correct the economic inequities of JPEPA and what anti-JPEPA groups call the "ultimate form of a national sell-out that is extremely tilted to favor the Japanese interests."

This was the unequivocal message of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), the Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, Mother Earth Foundation, Zero Waste Philippines, and other environmental and civil society groups when they peacefully assembled outside the Philippine Senate last Monday to campaign for the rejection of the JPEPA now and to thwart what they view as "a dubious scheme" to fix its unconstitutional, economic, trade and other infirmities through diplomatic side notes.

"We seriously doubt if band-aid measures like the side notes can set right a discredited pact that has dismally failed to serve and protect the sovereign interests of the Filipino people, including our right to a just economic development and a toxic-free environment," said Manny Calonzo of the MJJC.

The passionate opponents of the JPEPA urged the senators not to succumb to the "strong pressure from no less than President Arroyo herself" to ratify it, not to be pushed around to help fix the problems of the treaty and not to clean up a mess that the Senate did not make.

They gave many, many reasons why the JPEPA must be rejected outright, and these include not only the dumping of toxic and hazardous waste in this country, but also their contentions that the treaty is the ultimate form of a national sell-out; that it’s extremely tilted to favor Japanese interests; that it contains anti-Filipino and discriminatory provisions such as the unequal rules in trade of goods and services and investments, does not provide for national and equal treatment for Filipino nurses and caregivers, and does not require Japan to commit that it will not discriminate against other Filipino workers; that it protects more than 200 Japanese products and protects only two Filipino products; that it agrees to let Japanese nationals to own private lands for purposes other than those in the services and manufacturing sector in violation of the Constitution; that it is highly unjust and oppressive to Filipino farmers; that it throws away several Philippine policies that have defended and promoted for decades like the fight to demand of developed countries to remove trade-distorting export subsidies so that foreign imported products will not slaughter the local products in terms of price; that it will result in more economic hardships for a greater number of Filipinos, and that the proclaimed benefits from JPEPA are simply "proclaimed" and not true.

And, finally, they called on the members of the treaty-ratifying chamber of Congress not to be misled by empty mantra of the JPEPA pushers that the Philippines will "miss the boat" if the Senate will not approve the flawed treaty.

If the senators approve the lopsided pact, the coalition of environmentalists warned, not only will Filipinos "miss the boat," but they also will "drown in a sea of negotiation mistakes. Two wrongs do not make one right."

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