Environmental Forum Tackles JPEPA

April 30th 2008

J apan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA): Economic Gain or Environmental Loss? was the topic of the Coffeehouse Forum held April 25 at the CFA Lagerwey Hall. Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition, was the resource speaker.

JPEPA is an agreement signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on September 9, 2006 in Finland. It is a bilateral trade treaty which seeks to promote investments and the trade of goods and services between the two countries. The Japanese Congress approved JPEPA in December 2006. The Senate of the Philippines, on the other hand, conducted several hearings on JPEPA last year, where the legislators scored the government for failing to explain the deal substantively. Senators said they could return the agreement with the recommendation that controversial provisions be renegotiated, or ask the government to conclude a side agreement. Since then, several groups have staged rallies and protests calling for the rejection of the treaty.

According to Atty. Benjamin, the following are just some of the reasons why her coalition considers JPEPA a discriminatory, unconstitutional and unfair treaty, which threatens the freedom and sovereignty of the Filipino people: 1) the JPEPA was negotiated in secrecy; 2) the JPEPA grants preferential treatment to the Japanese and yet the Philippine negotiators made inadequate reservations or exceptions to that commitment; 3) toxic, hazardous, and nuclear wastes are included in the Philippines’ list of tradable goods; 4) Filipino nurses will be paid $400 a month in a country where the average cost of living is $1,000; and 5) the Philippines will drastically eliminate tariffs on agricultural products except for rice and salt, Japan was able to exclude 651 tariff lines from tariff reduction.

Atty. Benjamin pointed out that the conditional concurrence being offered by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, head of the Senate Committee reviewing JPEPA, was an admission that there is something wrong with agreement. In the open forum that followed, Atty Benjamin urged the participants from schools and development sectors to disseminate the information they learned from the forum and to let the government and Senate know that many sectors of society are against the ratification of the treaty as it stands. Atty. Benjamin encouraged the attendees to make their protest known to the media or in the streets if necessary.

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