Groups Outraged Over JPEPA Ratification


At stake in our fight against JPEPA is the protection and preservation of our natural resources and our environment, the defense against the exploitation and oppression of human labor against the Arroyo regime’s pimping of Filipino nurses, caregivers and skilled workers, the rightful claim of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, of farmers and workers to the dignity of labor, and the fortification of our citizenship as Filipinos against bilateral measures that intensify the barbaric nature of neocolonialism,” said CONTEND.

BY RONALYN V. OLEA
Bulatlat

Various groups expressed outrage over the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The Philippine Senate ratified the treaty late at night of October 8.

Those who voted for the JPEPA were Miriam Defensor Santiago, Manuel Roxas III, Edgardo Angara, Rodolfo Biazon, Alan Peter Cayetano, Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Gregorio Honasan, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., Miguel Zubiri, Manuel Villar Jr., and Lito Lapid.

Only four senators voted against the approval of the treaty. They were Aquilino Pimentel Jr, Ma. Consuelo ‘Jamby’ Madrigal, Francis Escudero, and Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino Jr.

Members of the NO DEAL! Movement trooped to the Japanese embassy in Manila, Oct. 10 to show indignation over the JPEPA.

The NO DEAL! Movement is a broad alliance of organizations and individuals opposed to unequal economic agreements.

Betrayal

In a news article posted at the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said, “Of course it’s very disappointing because the Senate decided to pass the JPEPA even if there were several provisions that would be detrimental to the Filipino people.”

Iñiguez is the chairperson of the Public Affairs Committee of the CBCP.

Six other bishops have earlier called on the Senate to reject the bilateral agreement. They were Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, Bishops Rolando Tirona (Infanta), Antonio Tobias (Novaliches) and Infanta Bishop-Prelate Emeritus Julio Labayen.

Meanwhile, the Health Alliance for Democracy (HEAD), an organization of health professionals, said, “The senators who ratified the patently onerous trade agreement have placed health personnel everywhere, even those not seeking work in Japan, in a very disadvantageous and vulnerable position.”

Dr. Geneve E. Rivera, HEAD secretary general, said, “Pro-JPEPA senators have institutionalized the commodification of health workers and professionals in a trade deal. They should be made accountable for this betrayal.”

Rivera added, “Parang ‘Bagsak-presyo’ ng mga nurses. (It’s like a rummage sale of nurses). This is the message that the Arroyo government and pro-JPEPA senators is sending to the world.”

Rivera said, “All health personnel working across the globe should make these pro-JPEPA senators feel their wrath by denouncing them in public and in the coming elections.”

No shield

The NO DEAL! Movement belied claims of Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Trade Secretary Peter Favila that the JPEPA will cushion the impact on the country of the worsening US and global economic crisis. Arnold Padilla, NO DEAL! Movement spokesperson said, “The JPEPA will result in the further destruction and underdevelopment of the national economy. The short- and long-term impacts of the global economic crisis on the Philippines will be further magnified as the JPEPA starts its devastation of local jobs and livelihood and marginalize Filipino investors. The supposed benefits that will accrue from the treaty such as increased exports to Japan and more Japanese investment are false as our actual experience in the past decades of export orientation and foreign capital-driven economy clearly show.”

The HEAD also slammed Roxas’ assertion that ratifying JPEPA is both “timely and necessary” to keep the country ‘globally competitive.’ “If this was a race to the bottom, if this was an auction of Filipino nurses to the lowest bidder, then Sen. Roxas is right. Is this what he wants?” said Rivera.

In a statement, the Congress of Teachers for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND), called JPEPA as ‘a bankrupt free market solution.’

“If there is one significant lesson that we must learn from the Wall Street meltdown, it is the fact that our fraught economic conditions will never be solved by the so-called free market solution,” said CONTEND.

The group said, “JPEPA is no different from the World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement rammed through the stomachs of the laboring Filipino masses by US imperialism.”

The Philippines became a member of the WTO in 1994. “Fourteen years after that fatal blow on our sovereignty and dignity as a people, we already know better than upping the ante for yet another project of imperialist plunder. At stake in our fight against JPEPA is the protection and preservation of our natural resources and our environment, the defense against the exploitation and oppression of human labor against the Arroyo regime’s pimping of Filipino nurses, caregivers and skilled workers, the rightful claim of indigenous peoples to their ancestral domains, of farmers and workers to the dignity of labor, and the fortification of our citizenship as Filipinos against bilateral measures that intensify the barbaric nature of neocolonialism,” said CONTEND.

Bad precedent

Moreover, Padilla said that JPEPA would set the precedent for more unequal economic agreements for the Philippines. He cited the upcoming negotiations between the Philippines and the European Union (EU) on their Partnership Cooperation Agreement (PCA) as part the EU-ASEAN negotiation process for a free trade agreement (FTA). Padilla maintained, “Certainly, the EU will use the JPEPA as yardstick for trade and investment concessions it will seek from the Philippines in the PCA. The problem is that the country has already surrendered much of its patrimony and economic sovereignty to the Japanese in the JPEPA such as on unrestricted foreign ownership and investment. The Europeans will ask for more, and then the Americans when they negotiate their own FTA with us. What else will be left for the country?”

In its submitted position paper to the Senate, the HEAD had also warned that JPEPA would set a dangerous precedent for its anti-migrant worker provisions, which may be used by other countries who need Filipino health personnel.

Supreme Court

Padilla said they will question the treaty’s constitutionality by filing a petition before the Supreme Court.

Legal experts have pointed out that the JPEPA’s terms on national treatment, most favored nation (MFN), and prohibition of performance requirements violate several provisions of the 1987 Constitution. (Bulatlat.com)

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