JPEPA ratification upsets bishop


MANILA, October 10, 2008—A Catholic bishop said he is disappointed to know that the Senate ratified a free trade deal with Japan that will allow, among others, Filipino nurses and caregivers to work in Japan.

Kalookan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said he is surprised by the move because many groups are against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

“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 said.

Among the provisions of the pact, which he believed are not favorable to the Filipinos were the issues on sovereignty wherein foreigners would be allowed to set up their own businesses.

He said the entry of foreign products which the Philippines already has and the stringent requirements imposed by Japan when accepting health care workers is likely to create results contrary to its goal.

“I think that they should have studied the JPEPA thoroughly before ratifying it,” said Iñiguez, who is also the Public Affairs Committee chairman of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

But since it’s there already, the bishop urged the public to be vigilant with the implementation and developments of JPEPA.

“We can observe what will happen to the JPEPA and the disadvantages it would bring to the country. This was a great disparity to the Filipino people. We’ve been so kind to our disadvantage,” Iñiguez said.

At least six bishops have earlier been calling on the Senate to reject the bilateral agreement, uphold national interest and defend Filipinos’ rights and welfare.

“We call on the Senate to stand up for the Filipino people on the issue of JPEPA,” they said, adding that side notes will do little to improve the Philippines’ situation.

According to the statement, after several hearings in the Senate, the public have yet to see credible studies to back up the fantastic claims of the government that the deal will boost the economy.

Aside from Iñiguez, other signatories of the statement 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.

Rather than economic development, they said, the agreement is poised to further damage the already crisis-ridden Philippine economy. (Roy Lagarde)(CBCPNews)

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