Philippine Protest Marks The First Senate Hearing On The JPEPA
14 September 2007, Manila, Philippines. - A crowd of more than 300 workers, farmers, fishers, and environmentalists from the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC) today called on the Senators of the 14th Congress to look beyond the rosy projections and government hype surrounding the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), and to carefully assess its short-term and long-term implications. The group's call came on the day of the first scheduled Senate hearing for this historic, precedent-setting treaty.
Presenting a tableau depicting a group of peasants and a Japanese sumo wrestler engaged in a game of tug-of-war, the Coalition warned that approving the JPEPA would be tantamount to unilateral disarmament, as it surrenders the right of the Filipino people to protect itself in the future, and gives up so much for so little. One of the issues being contested by the group is the possibility that the JPEPA will pave the way for land ownership by foreigners.
"The purpose of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) like the JPEPA is to force the country's hand on economic issues, including opening up land ownership and government procurement to foreigners," said Josua Mata of the MJJC. "It is, at its core, about foreigners being given more rights than Filipinos in their own land."
Amongst the rights that the country stands to lose under the JPEPA is the right to require Japanese investors to transfer technology and the right to hire a certain level of Filipino nationals as conditions to doing business in the Philippines. Among all the ASEAN countries that have already entered into economic partnership agreements with Japan, it is only the Philippines which has given up these rights.
By failing to make the proper reservations for future measures in the Investments chapter of the JPEPA (Chapter 8), the Philippines has effectively surrendered its right to enact and implement future legislation and policies to achieve national development goals. Reservations operate as exceptions to the provisions of the treaty, and when no reservations are expressly made, it is understood that the countries cannot subsequently invoke future laws or policies. The Coalition feels that the absence of any reservation of "the right to adopt or maintain any future measures" - which is something present in Japan's commitments, as well as those of Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore - is disturbing and should be cause for concern.
If in the future Congress or local government unit (LGU) enacts a measure that threatens the profit margin of Japanese investors, investors can claim that such a law or ordinance is tantamount to expropriation, and can demand compensation before an international arbitral tribunal, such as what happened in the Fraport-Terminal III case. Even a cursory examination of the experiences of Canada and Mexico under the NAFTA will show that this scenario is not far-fetched at all.
"We are, in effect, giving them the right to do as they please without thought or regard as to how their activities will impact on the Filipino people. Smuggling in provisions like this in EPAs like the JPEPA is a thinly disguised way to circumvent the laws of the land without having to resort to Constitutional change," Mr. Mata added. "The government should start thinking about the country's long-term, strategic interests instead of focusing simply on Japanese investor interests to the exclusion of all else."
The Coalition believes that the Senate must not be swayed by the hype and euphoria of promised Japanese investments and official development assistance, but must take a long, hard, critical look at what the JPEPA actually states. "We trust that the Senators have not forgotten the commitment they made to uphold the Constitution and the laws of the land, and to protect the interests of the Filipino people," said Mr. Mata. "We fervently hope that the 14th Senate will not go down in history as the Senate that sacrificed the future of the Philippines and the Filipino people at the altar of Japanese government and investor interests."
THE PHILIPPINE SENATE SHOULD REJECT THE JAPAN-PHILIPPINES ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (JPEPA)
1. The secrecy, lack of public disclosure and exclusion of stakeholders,including members of Congress, in the processes leading to the adoption of JPEPA violate the Philippine Constitution on people's participation in matters of public interest. Akbayan representatives and concerned groups had to file a Supreme Court case in order to get a copy of the full text and annexes of the JPEPA.
2. Toxic and hazardous wastes are scheduled for tariff elimination despite clear national laws and international commitments. A side note was subsequently issued to supposedly "fix" the problem but the same note covers only toxic wastes. Clinical and municipal wastes remain.
3. Contrary to repeated media statements, the actual text of the JPEPA reveals that the Philippines waived its right to demand from Japanese investors the obligation to transfer their technology to assist their Filipino partners. The Philippines also surrendered the right to require Japanese investors to hire a given level of Filipinos. This voluntary surrender of rights has not been done by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
4. Article 4 of the JPEPA ties the hands of the Senate and the House of Representatives and requires them to "examine the possibility of amending or repealing laws and regulations that pertain to or affect the implementation and operation of this Agreement, if the circumstances or objectives giving rise to their adoption no longer exist or if such circumstances or objectives can be addressed in a less trade-restrictive manner." This provision does not exist in Japan's agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand.
5. Contrary to the rosy picture painted by the Executive Department for Filipino nurses and caregivers, the JPEPA imposes extremely harsh requirements for the entry and employment of Filipino nurses and caregivers that will make it impossible for them to gain access to the Japanese market.
6. In terms of market access, JPEPA is clearly lopsided in favor of Japanese agricultural and industrial products. The Philippines will drastically eliminate tariffs on agricultural products except for rice (5 tariff lines) and salt. On the other hand, Japan was able to exclude 238 tariff lines, which include a wide range of fish and marine products, vegetables, fruits, seaweed, sugar and related products, and footwear. There is much doubt about market access claims raised by the negotiators. For seaweeds, some of the species, for which Japan has made commitments for tariff elimination, do not even grow and/or are not even farmed in the Philippines.
7. Article 27 of the JPEPA mentions cooperation in relation to used four-wheeled motor vehicles; a clear violation of EO 156 that prohibits the same. It is a clear disregard of a ruling by the Supreme Court that upheld the validity of the said law. The negotiators have repeatedly said in various fora that national laws will be respected but Annex 1: Notes of the JPEPA clearly show that "On the request of either Party, the Parties shall negotiate on issue such as market access conditions on used motor vehicles." Furthermore, Article 27 does not exist in Japan's agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand. This commitment is a serious threat to the 77,000 workers of the automotive industry.
8. Contrary to the Executive Department's claim that JPEPA will spur economic growth and alleviate poverty, with the lopsided provisions in favor of the Japanese and the absence of a clear national and development plan for the Philippines, JPEPA may very well hasten the demise of the Philippine manufacturing and agricultural sectors and tragically sink majority of the population into deeper poverty.
9. JPEPA will restrict local government autonomy, legislative and taxation powers.
10. The administration of the treaty will create bureaucratic and financial nightmares that will effectively wipeout whatever little economic benefits there may be under JPEPA.
11. The JPEPA is but the first in a long line of free trade and economic partnership agreements currently being negotiated by the Philippines, and it will set the stage for all future trade and investment agreements. If we cannot strategically defend our interests in this treaty, what kind of future can we promise to the Filipino people?
12. The Executive Department's insistence that JPEPA be concurred with because the Philippines cannot afford "to miss the boat" as the other Asian countries are negotiating "similar" economic partnership agreements with Japan, is inaccurate. The actual text of the JPEPA and the Philippines' severely restricted protections for its own sectors indicate that the negotiators have already caused the Philippines to miss the boat. Surely, the Filipino people deserve a better boat.
This is about our livelihoods. Our lives.
If voting were held today, JPEPA would be junked
The Daily Manila Shimbun, the Philippine Daily Inquirer,and GMA 7 report on the rather disastrous turn of events for the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) when it defended the JPEPA during the first hearing for the agreement's ratification in the Philippine Senate.
In separate media interviews after the hearing, Senators Enrile,Defensor-Santiago, Roxas said that the government was unable to make a sound defense of the JPEPA. Senator Roxas was "underwhelmed." The Junk JPEPA Coalition was more prepared than the government officials, according to Senator Defensor-Santiago. This was despite the fact that there was a full ensemble of top government officials defending the JPEPA (Secretary Favila, Usec Aquino, Secretary Gary Teves,etc)versus only one from the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA COalition: Atty Golda Benjamin of the alternative legal group IDEALS.Senator Enrile said that the pro-JPEPA panel was resorting to scare tactics to bully the senators to vote for JPEPA, the agreement's merits being incomprehensible to ordinary Filipinos.
Also, the invited Japanese panelist, the president of the Japanese chamber of commerce, did not help the case of the pro-JPEPA panel, with senators pouncing on his casual remark that the Philippines "does not have a good image" in Japan. Senators Gordon and Enrile asked if JPEPA will improve that image and bring in the investments from Japan.
THE MAGKAISA JUNK JPEPA COALITION
AKBAYAN Citizens' Action Party * Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL) * APL Davao * Alternative Law Groups (ALG) * ALTEResearch * ANAKAPATIRAN * Bangon Kalikasan Movement * Basel Action Network Asia-Pacific (BANAP) * Buklod Tao Foundation * Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino (BMP) * Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa (BISIG) * Cagayan Valley Center for Rural Empowerment and Development Organization (CREDO) Cavite Green Coalition (CGC) * Center for Agrarian Reform., Empowerment and Transformation (CARET) * Center for Migrants' Advocacy (CMA) * Center for Participatory Governance (CPAG) * Center for Popular Empowerment (CPE) * Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC Party List) * Coalition Against the Trafficking in Women - Asia - Pacific (CATW-AP) * Concerned Citizens Against Pollution (COCAP) * Concerned Citizens for Truthful Information (CCTI) * Crossian Economics Society (CROSSECOS) - Holy Cross of Davao College * Ecological Society of the Philippines (ESP) * Ecological Waste Coalition of the Philippines, Inc. (EcoWaste) * Economics College Faculty - Holy Cross of Davao College * Environmental Legal Assistance Center (ELAC) * F. Bangoy National High School Teachers' Employees Union * Fellowship for Organizing Endeavors (FORGE) * Freedom From Debt Coalition (FDC) * Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA) * Girl Scouts of the Philippines (GSP) - Davao Council * Green Initiatives, Inc. * Greenpeace Southeast Asia * Health Care Without Harm (HCWH) * Institute for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS) * Institute for Politics and Governance (IPG) * Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF) * Kilusang Mangingisda (KM) * KANLUNGAN Centre Foundation, Inc. * Kilusang Makabansang Ekonomya (KME) * Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya (KPD) * Kinaiyahan Foundation, Inc. (KFI) * Kinaiyahan Unahon! Davao * Krusada sa Kalikasan * Labor Education and Research Network (LEARN) * LAGMAN Federation * League of Independent Bank Organizations (LIBO) * Liga Manggagawa * Lingkod Tao-Kalikasan * MAKABAYAN * Miriam PEACE * Mother Earth Foundation (MEF) * Mother Earth Philippines * NGOs for Fisheries Reform (NFR) * November 17 Movement * PKMP * Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK) * PANDAYAN Para sa Sosyalistang Pilipinas * Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Samahang Magsasaka (PAKISAMA) * Pangisda - Kilusan Para sa Pambansang Demokrasya * Partido Kalikasan - Metro Manila * People's Alternative Center for Research and Education for Social Development (PASCRES) * Philippine Alliance of Human Rights Advocates (PAHRA) * Philippine Nurses Association (PNA) * Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) * Pinag-isang Tinig at Lakas ng Anakpawis (PIGLAS) * Sanlakas-Davao * Sanib - Lakas ng Inang Kalikasan (SALIKA) * Sining-Yapak * Soljuspax * Southeast Asia Regional Initiatives for Community Empowerment (SEARICE) * Stop the New Round Coalition (SNR) * Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) * Supreme Student Government - Holy Cross of Davao College * Sustainable Integrated Area Development Initiatives in Mindanao-Convergence of Asset Reform and Regional Development (SIMCARRD) * TAMBUYOG Development Center (TDC) * Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) * Teacher's Organization of Philippine Public Sector - Education International (TOPPS/EI) - Women's Committee Davao * United Small Fisherman Association (USFA) * Zero Waste Recycling Movement of the Philippines Foundation, Inc. (ZWRMPFI)
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