Toxic Trade News / 11 December 2008
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Anti-JPEPA groups ask SC to act on petition
by Jonathan Mayuga (Correspondent), Business Mirror (Philippines)
11 December 2008 – Opponents of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) on Wednesday called on the Supreme Court (SC) to take decisive action on the constitutional and legal questions surrounding the controversial trade agreement.

The call was made by the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), in view of the Court’s inaction on the issue of JPEPA that takes effect on Thursday.

MJJC, which lost the round against the Malacañang-backed initiative, when 16 senators voted to ratify the agreement, vowed to continue the fight saying the lopsided agreement is unconstitutional.

The group was referring to a petition filed by concerned groups on October 13, asking the SC to stop the implementation of JPEPA.

The petitioners include the Alliance of Progressive Labor, Concerned Citizens Against Pollution, EcoWaste Coalition, Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services Inc., Kilusan Para sa Pagpapaunlad ng Industriya ng Pangisdaan, Mother Earth Foundation, Nongovernment Organizations for Fisheries Reform, Philippine Metal Workers Alliance and Party-list Rep. Ana Theresia Hontiveros of Akbayan.

In a statement, MJJC said the SC is capable of acting expeditiously on matters of grave national importance, expressing dismay why the High Tribunal is “dragging its feet on an agreement that is potentially more devastating than Philippine membership in the World Trade Organization.”

Lawyer Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the MJJC, insisted that the controversial trade pact between the Philippines and Japan is unconstitutional.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura had exchanged diplomatic notes last month and set December 11, 2008 as the date that the JPEPA would enter into force.

JPEPA opponents had filed a case with the Supreme Court questioning the constitutionality of the trade treaty, and asking for a restraining order which the Court had declined to grant.

“We ask the Honorable Supreme Court to give justice to the millions of poor Filipinos who will suffer needlessly because of the government’s failure to protect their rights and interests during the negotiation of the JPEPA. We call on our Honorable Justices to abide by their solemn duty to uphold the Philippine Constitution and defend the interests of the Filipino people,” Benjamin stated.

The MJJC also called on all Filipinos to exercise continued vigilance in the light of the impending implementation of the JPEPA.

“Philippine officials have asked us to ‘give JPEPA a chance.’ What they are really saying is, we have no choice but to accept JPEPA because it’s already there. We refuse to accept such a defeatist attitude,” Josua Mata, secretary-general of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, said.

“Contrary to what some JPEPA apologists are saying, implementing JPEPA would only hasten the collapse of our industrial capacities that are now tottering as a result of the global crisis. After all, JPEPA severely constricts our policy space in the areas of trade and investments,” Mata added.

The MJJC will monitor the implementation of the JPEPA very closely, publicly disclose its ill effects and hold government officials accountable and liable.

“We choose not to be defeated. This battle—for economic justice, environmental integrity, national sovereignty and Philippine pride—is far from over,” the MJJC said.

The MJJC, a multisectoral people’s coalition, has vigorously campaigned for the Senate rejection of JPEPA on economic, environmental, constitutional, legal and ethical grounds.

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