DENR's Push for JPEPA: Playing Cheerleader for Trade
In the Star article entitled, “DENR pushes for JPEPA, assures no toxic dumping” by Katherine Adraneda last 29 September 2007, the Filipino public was made privy to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) contortions, through Undersecretary Demetrio Ignacio, in trying to defend the JPEPA and salvage the DENR’s loss at the Senate JPEPA hearings the day before.
The DENR has allowed itself to be reduced as cheerleader for trade in the JPEPA debate instead of being the advocate for the environment. With this new role, Filipinos should distinguish the DENR’s cheerleading rhetoric from the law and facts on JPEPA.
USec Ignacio claims that the JPEPA will not open up the Philippines to toxic wastes. This is cheerleading rhetoric. JPEPA defines wastes as “goods”, and Japanese goods enjoy privileges under JPEPA. Since toxic wastes such as municipal, clinical wastes and other wastes are Japanese goods they will benefit from, such as and not limited to, zero-tariff reduction and simplified customs procedure, which are designed to facilitate entry into the Philippines.
The DENR also states that it is inevitable that toxic wastes are included in the JPEPA. This is another cheerleading rhetoric. There is no law or international obligation that pushed the Philippines to accept toxic wastes in the JPEPA. The DENR itself showed proof to this. Two years ago, the DENR sought for the exclusion of toxic wastes from trading in the JPEPA. The DENR also rejected proposals to reduce tariffs on toxic wastes to zero at the Tariff Commission hearings on JPEPA, because the DENR acknowledged it would directly conflict with the very laws that USec Ignacio is now citing that will safeguard the Philippines.
USec Ignacio heralds that our laws, such as RA 6969, is enough safeguard against Japanese toxic wastes. In the same breath, he admits that RA 6969 allows recyclable materials, containing hazardous wastes, into the country. JPEPA will exacerbate this type of recyclable waste trading. Moreover, Japan has been exploiting existing loopholes in both national and international laws. The spate of toxic waste exports from Japan to countries such as Thailand, India, for instance provides proof to this.
On the issue of reverse dumping, USec Ignacio trumpets the fact that the Philippines is sending toxic wastes to other countries such as Japan, therefore JPEPA is needed to make dumping on Japan easier. Forget the fact that if we don’t want Japan to dump on us, we shouldn’t be dumping on them as well. But why is the Philippines generating toxic wastes it can’t handle in the first place? Shouldn't the DENR be more proactive in stemming toxic waste generation in the Philippines? The sustainable solution lies in preventing toxic waste generation at source NOT in looking for places to dispose of it. This is the very reason why toxic wastes should not be traded under JPEPA, because it acts as a disincentive for the generator to deal with it in the area of generation because it can easily move the waste somewhere else.
Lastly, the article claims that the Philippines has signed the Basel Ban Amendment, the only real international prohibition against toxic waste dumping. The sad fact is that for over 10 years the DENR has failed to start the process of ratification of the Basel Ban Amendment by the Philippines.
The DENR needs to reassert its role as champion for the environment and drop its cheerleading bit, lest it finds itself soon as a mere division of the Department of Trade and Industry.
Richard Gutierrez, JD, Ll.M.
Basel Action Network, Asia-Pacific