Archive for the ‘JPEPA’ Category

Editorial Cartoon: (JPEPA) Salisi Gang

October 13, 2008

Tsk Tsk Tsk!

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Favila on JPEPA: ‘Let it work first’

October 13, 2008

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:49:00 10/13/2008

MANILA, Philippines—The government appealed on Monday to critics to give the newly ratified Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) a chance, especially in the wake of the financial crisis sweeping across the globe.

“We have to let it work first,” Trade Secretary Peter Favila told reporters during the inauguration of the new RFM Corp. pasta plant in Mandaluyong City.

Favila said free-trade agreements such as the JPEPA would be more important for the Philippines in cushioning the impact of the global monetary crisis on the local economy.

“With so many problems in the financial markets, all the more that we need these FTAs,” he said in Filipino.

But Favila gave sectors opposed to the bilateral agreement with Japan a glimmer of hope, citing a provision in the JPEPA allowing either country to initiate a renegotiation of specific items.

“We will see as we go along on how the treaty works on both sides,” he said.

The Senate ratified the JPEPA last week despite criticisms pointing to the perceived imbalance of economic benefits allegedly tilted in favor of the Japanese.

The Arroyo administration was ostensibly exploring other markets outside of the US, its traditional trading partner, to help insulate the Philippines from the possible economic fallout emanating there.

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo drumbeat the bright prospects coming from countries like China as new top export markets for Philippine electronic and agricultural products.

On Monday, she encouraged private businesses especially in Muslim Mindanao to explore more trading opportunities with Middle East countries.

“The bastions of wealth with both financial capacity and quick execution are the Middle East powers, given their oil-driven wealth and their unitary government apparatus,” she said in her speech at the RFM plant inauguration.

“The fact that the Philippine has a Mindanao close to the hearts of Middle East powers opens up such opportunities.” (PDI)

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My Take:

Same old appeal.  “Try nyo munang inumin ang lason, at pag namatay kayo e lason nga yan.”  Wehehehe.

Editorial Cartoon: (JPEPA) Trojan Horse

October 13, 2008

Full of Japoks

JPEPA ratification upsets bishop

October 13, 2008

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)

JPEPA Ratification Puts Philippines in More Danger vs Global Crisis

October 12, 2008

Contrary to President Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
Posted by Bulatlat

Contrary to President Arroyo’s statement that the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will protect the country from the global financial crisis, it will make the country more vulnerable to economic shocks.

JPEPA and similar free trade deals further opens the local economy to more foreign plunder and drags the country to the global crisis worsened by trade and investment liberalization, said IBON research head Sonny Africa. Bilateral deals like JPEPA enable beleaguered countries like Japan to pass their crisis to other economies in the region through more liberalization.

Even as Japan claims that it is on the way to recovery, its economy has been grappling with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. The emerging scenario of a US economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

The experience of the country with similar free trade deals such as the GATT-WTO, which the Senate ratified in 1994, has proven that no amount of safety nets could protect the economy and the people’s livelihood from the harmful effects of liberalization.

According to IBON research head Sonny Africa, it is ironic that the Senate ratified the JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization. “When will this government learn from the harmful effects of liberalization on the economy?” he asked.

The approval of JPEPA surrenders Philippine sovereignty and will reinforce the country’s backwardness. The country will be further prevented from implementing economic policies essential for its development and will be obliged to give similar disadvantageous terms in pending deals with the US, European countries and others.

“There is no real gain for the Philippines and especially the poorest and most marginalized sectors with JPEPA. In agriculture it is the big corporate plantations that will gain and not the country’s millions of small farmers,” Africa added.

To protect and build the domestic economy, the country needs trade protection against imports such as tariff and non-tariff barriers and investment controls, and not free trade deals like JPEPA that only further expose the country and deepen its links to the failing global economy. (Posted by Bulatlat)

Groups Outraged Over JPEPA Ratification

October 12, 2008

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)

Senate ratifies JPEPA

October 9, 2008

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)

Constitutional Issues to Determine Alignments in Senate Vote on the JPEPA

September 27, 2008

While the treaty’s sponsors, Senators Miriam Santiago and Mar Roxas, still have a lot to explain to their colleagues about the economic implications of the JPEPA – not to mention the still unresolved issues of toxic waste dumping and dubious gains for Filipino nurses and health workers – it seems that the issue of constitutionality will be the most contentious debate among the senators. Constitutionality has been emerging as a key factor that could determine alignments in the Senate once the JPEPA is put to vote.

BY ARNOLD PADILLA
Contributed to Bulatlat

It has been more than two years now since President Gloria Arroyo and Japanese premier Junichiro Koizumi signed the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in September 2006. But the controversial treaty remains pending in the Senate and despite many delays continues to face rough sailing at the upper chamber.

While the treaty’s sponsors, Senators Miriam Santiago and Mar Roxas, still have a lot to explain to their colleagues about the economic implications of the JPEPA – not to mention the still unresolved issues of toxic waste dumping and dubious gains for Filipino nurses and health workers – it seems that the issue of constitutionality will be the most contentious debate among the senators. Constitutionality has been emerging as a key factor that could determine alignments in the Senate once the JPEPA is put to vote.

Conditional concurrence and side agreement

Since the joint committees on foreign relations, and trade and commerce, chaired respectively by Santiago and Roxas, closed public hearings in December 2007, the JPEPA has been hounded by questions on its constitutionality. Santiago , who has emphatically recognized the unconstitutionality of the JPEPA, has since insisted for a side agreement that will correct the constitutional flaws of the treaty. These legal infirmities pertain to the treaty’s investment provisions on national treatment, most favored nation (MFN) and prohibition of performance requirements.

By April 2008, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) have yet to convince their Japanese counterparts on a detailed side agreement that will amend the country’s unconstitutional obligations in the JPEPA. At that time, Santiago had started to push for what she called “conditional concurrence” wherein the Senate will ratify the JPEPA based on the condition that a side agreement revising the treaty will follow.

Conditional concurrence, however, was criticized by some of her colleagues, notably Sen. Francis Escudero who pointed out that both the Constitution and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties do not allow the Senate to issue a conditional concurrence on the JPEPA. More importantly, Malacañang knew that pushing for a conditional concurrence will put the Philippines in a position that could cause the Arroyo administration diplomatic embarrassment because Japan has remained adamant in its stance not to revise the JPEPA. For Japan , striking out the questionable investment provisions from the JPEPA will cancel the most important concessions that they got under the treaty.

Thus, Foreign Affairs Sec. Alberto Romulo had to ask Santiago to defer her scheduled April 28 sponsorship speech, when she was supposed to officially endorse conditional concurrence, and wait until the side agreement between the two governments has already been clinched. Negotiations for a side agreement continued but has not been produced until Congress took a break from its first regular session in June. JPEPA’s next opportunity to get Senate approval was further delayed to August when Congress resumes session.

During the congressional break, DTI secretary Peter Favila continued pursuing the detailed side agreement with Japan . Even Roxas flew to Tokyo in July and met with top Japanese trade and foreign affairs officials to help convince them on the need for a side deal so that the JPEPA could get the approval of the Senate. But Japan would not budge from its “no revision” position. By end-July, Santiago was forced to admit that the best they could get from Japan was a mere “general statement” of assurance that the JPEPA will not violate the Constitution instead of a detailed side agreement that effectively revises the country’s unconstitutional obligations in the treaty.

Exchange of notes

With the doors for a possible revision of the JPEPA effectively shut, Santiago is left with no option but to endorse concurrence on the treaty as it stands. Santiago , of course, is obliged to do this as political payback to Arroyo for nominating her to the International Court of Justice (ICJ). But Santiago and the JPEPA proponents still need to package the sponsorship for concurrence as if the earlier conditions have been met to counter the anticipated opposition from the public and some senators.

It is in this context that Santiago , in her August 6 sponsorship speech on the JPEPA, said that she is now endorsing (unconditional) concurrence on the treaty because the Japanese have already agreed to an “exchange of notes” that will supposedly correct the constitutional defects of the JPEPA. The exchange of notes actually has not been produced and made public until September 1, which further delayed interpellations in the Senate as some lawmakers including Roxas wanted to see its contents before proceeding with the interpellations.

Only five pages, the actual document is composed of: (1) the diplomatic letter of Romulo to Japanese foreign minister Masahiko Koumura, dated August 22, identifying four major points of “shared understanding” between the Philippines and Japan and (2) Masahiko’s reply to Romulo, dated August 28, citing verbatim the points he raised and a statement confirming the shared understanding.

The first two points of the shared understanding refer to general statements pertaining to the parties’ commitment to respect each others’ national laws, including their constitutions; and to implement the JPEPA in accordance with each other’s respective charters.

Point number three, meanwhile, enumerates the provisions of the 1987 Constitution that the Philippines clarified shall not be amended by the JPEPA. These include provisions in Article II (Section 15), Article XII (Sections 1, 2, 3, 7, 8, 10-12 and 14), Article XIV (Sections 4 and 12), and Article XVI (Section 11). The provisions cover, among others, the protection of Filipino enterprises from unfair foreign competition; restrictions on foreign ownership of public lands and in the exploration and exploitation of natural resources; limitation to Filipinos of certain investment areas; preferential rights, privileges and concessions granted to Filipinos covering the national economy and patrimony; regulation of foreign investments; regulation of technology transfer and promotion; and the promotion of preferential use of Filipino labor, domestic materials, and locally produced goods.

A useless document

A closer look at the contents of the exchange of notes reveals that the document is useless in so far as ensuring that the JPEPA will not undermine the Constitution. It could have been a stronger and more binding document if it explicitly amended the questionable provisions of the JPEPA, as originally proposed by retired Supreme Court justice Florentino Feliciano who first raised the constitutional issues during one of last year’s Senate hearings.

In fact, the exchange of notes could be a Trojan Horse just awaiting the opportune time to attack. A closer look at point number four of the shared understanding reveals the hidden intentions of the document:

“4. The present exchange serves only to confirm the interpretation of and does not modify the rights and obligations of the Parties under the provisions of the JPEPA.”   (emphasis added)

In other words, the unconstitutional provisions of the agreement remain and will still bind the Philippines once the JPEPA gets ratified. The exchange of notes did not resolve the constitutional issues but in effect just deferred the question to be tested by actual legal conflicts over the treaty’s implementation that may arise in the future. This places the Constitution under unnecessary duress because under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, the Philippines could not raise unconstitutionality for failure to comply with its JPEPA obligations.

Legal luminaries share the same observation. In a paper, former UP College of Law dean Professor Merlin Magallona described the exchange of notes as a derogation of the Constitution. Magallona wrote: “The essence of a treaty in international law is that it creates legal relations between the state parties, and the core of such relations consists of rights and obligations embodied in the meaning of the text of the treaty in question. For this reason, instead, the Exchange of Notes appears as reaffirmation of the legal relations between Japan and the Philippines in JPEPA and has the effect of reinforcing the intent to adhere to the rights and obligations as provided in JPEPA”.

Magallona also argued that if the Senate ratifies the JPEPA, there is a danger that the treaty will supersede the Constitution in application and settlement of disputes over JPEPA’s interpretation. “In case of incompatibility between JPEPA and the Constitution as an issue to be decided by an arbitral tribunal that may be created by the parties pursuant to JPEPA, that tribunal will apply JPEPA over and above the Constitution pursuant to the fundamental principle of the pacta sunt servanda and in accordance with the basic norm of international law that a party to a treaty cannot invoke its internal law, including its Constitution, as a justification for failure to perform its obligation under the treaty,” Magallona wrote.

Professor Harry Roque, also of the UP Law, meanwhile, belittled the exchange of notes as a scheme to appease domestic opposition to the JPEPA. “The reality is that in a treaty, neither of the parties can invoke a violation of its domestic law as a ground for its non-compliance therewith. In short, even if the JPEPA were to violate the Philippine Constitution, it will not affect its binding nature. Hence, the exchange of notes is a superfluity”, Roque pointed out.

Both Magallona and Roque said that the remedy to the unconstitutionality of the JPEPA is not the exchange of notes but non-concurrence on the part of the Senate.

Emerging alignments

While Santiago claims that with the exchange of notes, the JPEPA could now breeze through the Senate and perhaps be finally ratified by October, the reality is that more and more senators are being convinced that the treaty is legally indefensible. Since the exchange of notes was made public, a bloc of senators has emerged pushing for a renegotiation of the JPEPA.

Among them is Senate Majority Floor Leader Francis Pangilinan who said that despite the exchange of notes, JPEPA’s ratification is not assured because he thinks it failed to cure the major defects of the treaty. He pushed for renegotiation as a “way out” of the debate over the pact. While Pangilinan is careful not to call the move a rejection of the treaty, a renegotiation will, in effect, mean Senate non-concurrence on the current JPEPA. As Santiago noted, “a call for renegotiation will effectively kill the treaty” and asked her colleagues to simply “love it or leave it”.

Sen. Benigno Aquino III has already confirmed that he belongs to the renegotiation bloc while Sen. Panfilo Lacson has also made public his proposal to renegotiate the treaty. Lacson shares the views that the exchange of notes “may be rejected by the Japanese Diet or could be questioned before an international court”. Unconfirmed reports also list Senators Jamby Madrigal and Antonio Trillanes IV as among those included in the renegotiation bloc although Madrigal has been consistent in her opposition to the JPEPA.

While not reported listed in the renegotiation bloc, Sen. Pia Cayetano has also been vocal since the onset about her serious misgivings on the JPEPA specifically on its environmental impact. In addition, reliable sources also disclosed that Escudero and Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. will likely vote against the treaty or support the call for a renegotiation. Santiago , interestingly, has also named Sen. Gringo Honasan as among those who want the JPEPA renegotiated although he has yet to make any public statement on this.

Thus, there is a fighting chance that the needed eight votes to block JPEPA’s ratification may be mustered as senators forge a consensus around the unconstitutionality of the JPEPA despite the exchange of notes. But nothing is certain at this point considering that the Japanese, according to Senate insiders, have been really aggressive in their lobbying efforts to get the JPEPA approved and unrevised. Also, the propensity of Malacañang to use all the (dirty) tricks in the book to push for its agenda must not be overlooked.

The challenge for anti-JPEPA advocates is to ensure that those who have already come out publicly against the JPEPA, whether for outright rejection or for renegotiation, will firm up their position. The exchange of notes must be further exposed to help convince the other senators who have not yet made up their mind. Public pressure, through the combination of one-on-one dialogues and briefing with targeted senators and direct mass actions to pressure the Senate as an institution to vote against the JPEPA must be intensified. Bulatlat

Arnold Padilla is the spokesperson of No Deal! Movement, an alliance of organizations opposed to unfair bilateral trade agreements.

Indonesia Experience Debunks Claims of JPEPA Advocates of Increased Economic Gains

September 17, 2008

The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan. But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 31, September 7-13, 2008

As proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) continue to warn against the possibility of being left out if the pact is not ratified, the experience of Indonesia shows that its own bilateral deal with Japan has not resulted in increased economic gains.

The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan. But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes. The same situation is expected if the JPEPA is ratified, as Philippine pineapples and bananas would face strict phytosanitary standards before being allowed to enter the Japanese market.

Moreover, major Japanese investors in Indonesia threatened to pull out of the country unless issues such as sufficient power supply were resolved. This discredits claims by JPEPA advocates that the trade pact with Japan would guarantee a flood of Japanese investments as Japanese investors would still have to consider factors other than the JPEPA before they decide to invest in the Philippines, such as labor costs and infrastructure.

Some Indonesian analysts believe that Japan may be the bigger winner in the IJEPA, as the pact could help ensure for Japan a steady supply of Indonesian liquefied natural gas through increased Japanese investments in Indonesia’s energy sector. According to an official of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indonesia will likely become more dependent on Japan, to the detriment of local industry.

The IJEPA demonstrates how Japan’s bilateral trade agreements are not about genuine economic partnership or development but rather a tool it uses to advance Japanese corporate interests. Senators should heed this lesson and reject the JPEPA lest the country be trapped in a bad deal that compromises the Philippines’ future economic prospects. IBON Foundation/posted by Bulatlat

IBON is a convenor of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements.

IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.

Indonesia’s Experience Debunks Claims Of JPEPA Advocates Of Increased Economic Gains

September 4, 2008

Written by IBON Media
As proponents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) continue to warn against the possibility of being left out if the pact is not ratified, the experience of Indonesia shows that its own bilateral deal with Japan has not resulted in increased economic gains.
The recently-implemented Indonesia-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (IJEPA) promised increased exports to Japan. But as the IJEPA went into effect in July, Indonesian Industry Minister Fahmi Idris said that Indonesia’s main exports, such as agricultural products and timber, will continue to face high non-tariff barriers in the form of quality standards, while Japanese high-tech imports will be able to enter the Indonesian market with lower import taxes. The same situation is expected if the JPEPA is ratified, as Philippine pineapples and bananas would face strict phytosanitary standards before being allowed to enter the Japanese market.

Moreover, major Japanese investors in Indonesia threatened to pull out of the country unless issues such as sufficient power supply were resolved. This discredits claims by JPEPA advocates that the trade pact with Japan would guarantee a flood of Japanese investments as Japanese investors would still have to consider factors other than the JPEPA before they decide to invest in the Philippines, such as labor costs and infrastructure.

Some Indonesian analysts believe that Japan may be the bigger winner in the IJEPA, as the pact could help ensure for Japan a steady supply of Indonesian liquefied natural gas through increased Japanese investments in Indonesia’s energy sector. According to an official of the Indonesian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Indonesia will likely become more dependent on Japan to the detriment of local industry.

The IJEPA demonstrates how Japan’s bilateral trade agreements are not about genuine economic partnership or development but rather a tool it uses to advance Japanese corporate interests. Senators should heed this lesson and reject the JPEPA lest the country be trapped in a bad deal that compromises the Philippines’ future economic prospects. (end)

‘Constitutional’ JPEPA a Hollow Victory

August 14, 2008

Written by IBON Media
The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will still be against the best interests of Filipinos and the economy even if Japan accepts the Senate’s proposed “side deal” or any similar legal maneuver to make the JPEPA formally constitutional.

The changes to JPEPA proposed by the Senate still do not transform the deal into a genuine economic partnership agreement that recognizes the vast inequalities between the two countries and takes genuine measures to develop the Philippines.

The “side deal” merely aims to align the JPEPA with the nationalist economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It does not signify a real shift in the country’s economic strategies and merely asserts what is already formally contained in the charter. Unfortunately these potentially important provisions have in practice not been able to hinder the unprecedented implementation of “free market” policies of so-called “globalization” in the country and, indeed, have been observed more in the breach.

The “side deal” falls far short of transforming JPEPA into a truly developmental deal for the Philippines. Such a deal would begin from recognizing the vast inequality between advanced Japan and backward Philippines. It would also acknowledge that Japan has become highly developed in part from decades of taking advantage of cheap Filipino labor and natural resources as well as from access to the domestic market.

On these premises, a genuine partnership deal would have Japan in solidarity with the Philippines and giving real support for its development. Among others this means the Philippines having open access to Japan while still retaining its trade and investment protections, the Philippines maintaining its control over and capacity to regulate the domestic economy, and Japan providing untied financial aid and technical assistance that the Philippines can freely use according to its development priorities.

Introducing reservations/exceptions for future/existing investment measures and introducing the possibility of changing tariff schedule commitments, as the Senate proposed for “conditional concurrence” previously, are only part of this.

The JPEPA signed by the government on the contrary is unequal, defeatist and destructive and will remain so even with the “side deal”. The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of solidarity, mutual benefit and development. (end)

IBON is one of the convenors of No Deal! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements. For more on JPEPA, please visit http://nodeal.ibon.org

Japan Pushing JPEPA due to WTO Collapse

August 13, 2008

The collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks last week are pushing Japan to become even more aggressive in seeking bilateral and regional trade deals that advance its big corporate interests.

BY IBON FOUNDATION
Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008

The collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks last week are pushing Japan to become even more aggressive in seeking bilateral and regional trade deals that advance its big corporate interests, according to research group IBON Foundation.

More than ever, Japan will try to get through the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and other such free trade deals what it could not get through the WTO.

It is ironic that the Philippines appears poised to ratify JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization.

The Japanese economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. It is trying to overcome the crisis of its “bubble economy” which has lingered since the early 1990s. While it claimed to be on the way to recovery in 2002 the emerging scenario of a United States (US) economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent.

As it is, Japanese corporations are already testing the political limits of what can be squeezed from its domestic labor force to support their profits. Hence they are now after the greatest possible access to the
cheap labor and natural resources of the region with the least intervention and taxes from foreign governments.

The JPEPA’s provisions even go far beyond what was proposed in the failed WTO talks. It includes issues such as investment, government procurement and competition policy which were already rejected at the WTO. The tariff cuts it demands are also far greater than in the WTO.

This is why the Philippines will be on the losing end of the JPEPA which is designed most of all to benefit big Japanese corporations even at the expense of Philippine workers, peasants and economic development. There will only be even more foreign-dominated industrial and service enclaves disconnected from and not benefiting the local economy. Millions of Filipinos already merely struggling to survive will remain impoverished as unequal deals such as JPEPA prevent the economy from developing.

Still a hollow victory

The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will still be against the best interests of Filipinos and the economy even if Japan accepts the Senate’s proposed “side deal” or any similar legal maneuver to make the JPEPA formally constitutional.

The changes to JPEPA proposed by the Senate still do not transform the deal into a genuine economic partnership agreement that recognizes the vast inequalities between the two countries and takes genuine measures to develop the Philippines.

The “side deal” merely aims to align the JPEPA with the nationalist economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It does not signify a real shift in the country’s economic strategies and merely
asserts what is already formally contained in the charter. Unfortunately these potentially important provisions have in practice not been able to hinder the unprecedented implementation of “free market” policies of so-called “globalization” in the country and, indeed, have been observed more in the breach.

The “side deal” falls far short of transforming JPEPA into a truly developmental deal for the Philippines. Such a deal would begin from recognizing the vast inequality between advanced Japan and backward
Philippines. It would also acknowledge that Japan has become highly developed in part from decades of taking advantage of cheap Filipino labor and natural resources as well as from access to the domestic market.

On these premises, a genuine partnership deal would have Japan in solidarity with the Philippines and giving real support for its development. Among others this means the Philippines having open access to
Japan while still retaining its trade and investment protections, the Philippines maintaining its control over and capacity to regulate the domestic economy, and Japan providing untied financial aid and technical
assistance that the Philippines can freely use according to its development priorities.

Introducing reservations/exceptions for future/existing investment measures and introducing the possibility of changing tariff schedule commitments, as the Senate proposed for “conditional concurrence” previously, are only part of this.

The JPEPA signed by the government on the contrary is unequal, defeatist and destructive and will remain so even with the “side deal”. The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of
solidarity, mutual benefit and development. Posted by Bulatlat

Fishers’ Group to Spearhead ‘JPEPA-Free Zone’ Campaign

August 5, 2008

The anti-JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement) fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is set
to lead an across-the-country “JPEPA-free zone campaign,” where the country’s fishing waters will be declared as free from the execution of the bilateral trade pact currently waiting the concurrence of the Senate.

BY GERRY ALBERT CORPUZ
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 26, August 3-9, 2008

The anti-JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement) fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) is set to lead an across-the-country “JPEPA-free zone campaign,” where the country’s fishing waters will be declared as free from the execution of the bilateral trade pact currently waiting the concurrence of the Senate.

“The idea is to declare all the country’s archipelagic waters and major fishing grounds as JPEPA-free zone areas,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

“Once a fishing ground is declared a JPEPA-free zone area, Japanese factory ships hunting Philippine tunas and other precious marine resources shall be exposed, opposed and if possible barred from entering the country’s territorial waters,” the Pamalakaya leader said.

However, Hicap admitted that since fishing boats in the Philippines are either low tech or second hand vessels, fisherfolk and fish workers cannot apprehend Japanese factory ships in high seas, but once these Japanese factory ships dock for refueling, that would be the time they could launch protest actions.

Hicap said the JPEPA-free zone campaign will be one of the forms of protest actions which the broad anti-JPEPA alliance No Deal! JPEPA will undertake to heighten the people’s resistance against the one-sided bilateral economic agreement.

On Aug. 4 Pamalakaya activists will install “larger-than-life” protest billboards in Manila Bay near the Philippine Senate to declare the bay as a JPEPA-free zone area. The militants will invite opposition Sen. Jamby Madrigal to post another billboard declaring the Senate as a JPEPA-free zone area.

Pamalakaya said that the major fishing grounds that would be declared as JPEPA-free zone areas include Babuyan Channel, Lingayen Gulf, Manila Bay, Ragay Gulf, Albay Gulf, Kalayaan Group of Islands in Palawan, Sibuyan Sea, Tablas Strait, Guimaras Strait, Panay Gulf, Cebu-Bohol Strait, Samar Sea, Leyte Gulf, Camotes Sea, Bohol Sea, Tañon Strait, Moro Gulf, Daca Gulf, Sulu Sea and Lagonoy Gulf

So far, it is only Madrigal who has stated her position against the JPEPA, and Pamalakaya said it is only appropriate for the opposition senator to lead the ground breaking anti-JPEPA rites in the Senate. The anti-JPEPA bloc only needs eight senators to block the treaty.

Mass flooding of Japanese used ships

Pamalakaya warned that the ratification of the bilateral trade agreement will lead to the mass flooding of Jurassic Japanese ships similar to M/V Princess of the Stars that sank last month at the height of typhoon Frank.

The militant group said that JPEPA will provide the widest latitude of business opportunity for Japanese manufacturing ships to dump more of their second hand ships in the Philippines and still rake windfall profits and huge returns on investments.

“Owners of Sulpicio Lines admitted that the MV Princess of the Stars was acquired as a second hand passenger and cargo ship for $5 million,” Pamalakaya said.

According to Pamalakaya, this practice has been going on since time immemorial and past administrations including the present government of Mrs. Arroyo failed to address this very disturbing issue, the proliferation of second hand and unworthy Japanese vessels sold to local Filipino businessmen.”

“The Philippine has been accommodating Japan’s passenger, cargo and commercial fishing vessels since the Marcos dictatorship under the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, even if the seaworthiness and the performance background of these vessels are highly questionable. The ratification of JPEPA will further worsen this nearly half-a century problem,” the group said.

Pamalakaya recalled that M/V Solar 1 which sank on Aug. 11, 2006 off Guimaras, spilling 21 liters of bunker fuel that was chartered by Petron Philippines from Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation was acquired from Japan.

The group suggested to House representatives and senators to review the records of 45 sea mishaps involving vessels owned by Sulpicio over the last 28 years and where these ships came from including M/V Doña Paz, M/V Doña Marilyn and M/V Princess of the Orient that sank in 1987, 1988 and 1998, respectively.

“Were these ships bought from Japan as second-hand ships? One thing is for sure, JPEPA if ratified will give Japan the full license to dump their old ships under the mantle of bilateral trade pact,” Pamalakaya said.

The militant group recalled that six years ago at the Tuna Congress held in General Santos City on Sept. 9, 2002, Japan announced that it is selling its commercial fishing vessels to the Philippine government to help the country increase its commercial tuna production beginning 2003.

Pamalakaya said there are 10,860 commercial fishing vessels operating in the Philippines in 2002, of which 4,444 commercial fishing vessels weighing 9 gross tons to 1,000 gross tons were probably imported from Japan and other foreign sources as second hand commercial fishing vessels.

The militant group said leading ocean and coastal commercial fishing corporations like Mar Fishing Corp., RBL Fishing Corp., Frabelle Fishing Corp., Irma Fishing Corp., San Andres Fishing, Unity and Development Fishing, Belen and Sons Commodities, Zamboanga Universal Fishing, RD Tuna Ventures and RD Fishing Industries can shed light on where they import their second hand commercial fishing vessels from.

Pamalakaya previously argued that JPEPA will allow Japanese factory ships to exploit the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for its vast tuna reserves. The group asserted that aside from tuna, under JPEPA, Japanese transnational fishing companies will also gobble up other marine resources that are reserved for Filipino consumption.

It had said that a 3,000 ton single factory ship could catch not less than 50,000 metric tons of tuna that is equivalent to $ 242.4 million in total gross earnings per year. “The gains the Philippine government would derive like in the form of taxes and profit- sharing would be minimal compared to what Japan will get from JPEPA as far as the fishing aspect of the agreement is concerned,” Pamalakaya added.

The group said the fishing aspect of JPEPA is meant for the benefit and survival of Japan’s commercial fishing to the detriment of Filipino tuna producers.

With the increase in the supply of tuna produced by Japanese factory ships and their shipment to Japan and other countries, the local tuna producers and small tuna fishermen would be at their mercy by way of depressed prices, or worse, when tuna stocks in Philippine EEZ are depleted, it could lead to supply constraints and closure of local tuna processing plants, the murder of the P18-billion ($407,009,609) local tuna industry and the massacre of jobs and source of livelihood of some 180,000 tuna fishermen and fish workers.

Economic slavery

No Deal! JPEPA spokesperson Arnold Padilla last week informed Pamalakaya and other members of the anti-JPEPA coalition that Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago would push for the ratification of the JPEPA this week, adding that patriots, activists and nationalists should further intensify pressure to convince senators to vote against JPEPA.

“On Monday (Aug. 3 – Ed.), leaders of anti-JPEPA movement will make their presence felt in the Senate so that the senators would know that we are watching the outcome of this latest attempt of Japan to re-colonize the Philippines through economic slavery,” Padilla said in a text message sent to Bulatlat.

The No Deal! JPEPA spokesman said a number of activities have been lined up this week and in the coming weeks, but he did not elaborate what these are and when these activities will be staged.

Santiago, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations told reporters covering the Senate beat last week that she will endorse JPEPA for concurrence by the plenary, even if Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura had “refused to accede” to her request for a detailed side agreement.

Santiago said that instead of a detailed side agreement, the Japanese Ambassador to Manila prefers to include a general provision in the treaty that would state that the RP-Japan bilateral agreement would conform with the 1987 Constitution.

The NO DEAL! said Katsura’s “general statement” is even worse because it practically takes away any concrete obligation on Japan to respect specific provisions of the charter.

Padilla said, “Even if Japan issues a “general” commitment to abide by the 1987 Constitution as proposed by Katsura, the unconstitutional terms in the JPEPA remain and Japan has the right under international laws to question the Philippines’ non-compliance in the treaty even if it is based on constitutional grounds.”

The group said that this latest development in the JPEPA negotiations further proves that the treaty is indefensible and that senators must issue a categorical rejection of the JPEPA to protect the national and the Filipino people’s interest. Contributed to Bulatlat