Senate ratifies JPEPA

By Maila Ager

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine Senate ratified the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) on the last session day before a month-long congressional recess.

Voting 16-4, the economic pact was approved on third and final reading after hours-long discussions at the Senate plenary late Wednesday night.

Those who voted yes were Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Senate Pro Tempore Jose “Jingoy” Estrada, Majority Leader Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan, Panfilo “Ping” Lacson, Loren Legarda, Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce-Enrile, Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Gregorio Honasan, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Lito Lapid, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Manuel “Mar” Roxas II and Richard Gordon.

Those against the ratification were Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and fellow opposition Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, and Ma. Ana Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal.

Senators Joker Arroyo and Pia Cayetano were not on the floor to cast their votes while Senator Antonio “Sonny” Trillanes IV is in jail.

But Cayetano said his sister, Pia, and Trillanes would manifest their no vote on the floor.

In explaining his yes vote, Cayetano said it would be “more” damaging for the country if the Senate did not ratify the agreement.

Besides, the neophyte solon believes that the exchange of notes between the two countries were enough to address legal issues raised against the ratification of the agreement.

Roxas, one of the co-sponsors of the treaty which opens Japan to Philippine products and labor, said: “At long last, JPEPA can now be implemented with the assurance that we in the Senate will maintain a hawk’s eye vigilance against any potential abuse by either side.”

“We are witnessing a financial tsunami going around the financial centers around the world. It is timely that we acted on JPEPA at this time. It is necessary for us to keep up our competitiveness with our ASEAN neighbors, who have their respective economic agreements with Japan,” said Roxas.

But Roxas also cautioned the government “to ensure that the best interests of the Filipino people will always prevail in pursuing expanded economic, social and cultural relations” with Japan.

He was apparently referring to fears from several quarters that the agreement will make the Philippines a dumping ground for Japanese industrial wastes and open up local resources and industries to Japan at the expense of local businesses and sectors.

“This is just the beginning. It is up to our government, in cooperation with the private sector, to fulfill and maximize the gains made possible through this treaty,” he said.

In an exchange of notes dated August 22 and 28 this year, both countries agreed that the JPEPA and everything undertaken under it should be in accordance with the constitutions of the Philippines and Japan and that nothing under the pact should require amending any of the parties’ charters.

In the case of the Philippines, these include provisions on the protection and promotion of the right to health of the people; protection of Filipino enterprises against unfair foreign competition and trade practices; the lease and ownership of alienable public lands; and the ownership and transfer of private lands, among others. (PDI)


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