JPEPA is Poison to Filipinos, said Groups

PASAY CITY– On the eve of the second-year anniversary of the signing of the controversial bilateral and investments treaty between Japan and the Philippines, popularly known as the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), members of the multi-sectoral group Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), trooped to the Japanese Embassy to express their outrage over the poisonous treaty that Japan is forcing the Philippines to ratify.

At the front gates of the embassy, three activists donning masks of Pres. Arroyo and Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Mar Roxas stand behind an ominous black cauldron marked JPEPA. Two of the activists slowly stir the contents of the cauldron, while another continues to pour poison into the mix, while brandishing a Japanese flag. The tableau signifies the continued efforts by the Philippine government and Japan to hide the real nature of JPEPA.

For two years the Arroyo Administration with the support of the Japanese government has tried to get JPEPA ratified, and have failed. One of several serious issues surrounding JPEPA is the patent unconstitutionality of the treaty.Last Tuesday, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago distributed copies of the exchange of diplomatic notes between Philippine Foreign Minister Alberto Romulo and his Japanese counterpart Masahiko Koumura to her fellow Senators, concluding that the constitutional questions under JPEPA are addressed and she expects the JPEPA to be ratified by October.[i]

“The side agreement was entered into to save face, but it will not necessarily save the necks of many Filipinos once JPEPA comes into force,” exclaimed Atty. Richard Gutierrez of the environmental group, Ban Toxics, a member of the MJJC. “JPEPA remains un-ratified because the Senators know the extreme costs JPEPA will put to bear on our country and are concerned with the political backlash this will unleash.”

According to the MJJC losses under JPEPA are real in terms of job displacement and worsened poverty for rural people, citing the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) when the latter studied JPEPA. PIDS concluded that there will be a contraction and rise in unemployment of the agricultural sector if JPEPA is ratified.

77,000 Filipino workers of the automobile industry are also under threat under JPEPA when it opens the floodgates to imported used four-wheeled motor vehicles contrary to Executive Order 156 that clearly prohibits the same.

The MJJC is also railing over the failure of the Philippines to get Japan to remove its the enormous agricultural subsidy (including subsidies on fishing industry) that aversely affects millions of Filipino farmers and fisherfolks who cannot compete with subsidized Japanese products both abroad and at home, questioning Sen. Roxas’ rosy projections on JPEPA.

Concern is further raised over possible exploitation of Filipino nurses once in Japan since the government failed to get Japan to commit to core international core labor standards and protect the rights of migrant workers; exposing Filipino nurses to exploitation and discrimination in Japan.

“The JPEPA is clearly poisonous to a vast majority of sectors in the Philippines. Our government continues to cook up a storm of half-truths about the benefits of JPEPA,” stated Dr. Leah Paquiz, President of the Philippine Nurses Association and member of MJJC. “We need our leaders to stop saving their face in front of the Japanese. Bite the bullet, Junk JPEPA and save our collective necks from Japanese economic aggression. Two years has been far too long.”

For details, please contact:

Atty. Richard Gutierrez, Ban Toxics / Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition, mobile: 917 506 7724, email: rgutierrez@ban.org

Dr. Leah Paquiz, President, Philippine Nurses Association, mobile: 0917 852 0918

[i] In May 2007, the Philippine and Japanese governments also entered into a similar side agreement to address the mounting public concerns over the possible export of toxic wastes from Japan under the JPEPA because the agreement considered toxic wastes as “Japanese goods” and bestowed upon it trade priveleges such as zero tariffs. The MJJC continues to be critical of the side agreement on toxic wastes and has dubbed the instrument as a mere palliative to a bigger problem, that of the JPEPA itself. Primary criticism is aimed at the existing loopholes in the Basel Convention and Republic Act 6969 on which the side agreements are based on. The group also aimed stronger criticism on the issue of governance and lax or inconsistent enforcement of laws in the Philippines that makes any promise to follow laws futile.

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