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Arroyo can’t pressure Senate on JPEPA—Senator Pia Cayetano 04/16/2008

Arroyo can’t pressure Senate on JPEPA—Senator Pia Cayetano

By Veronica Uy

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should not be pressuring the Senate to ratify the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), noting its many loopholes, Senator Pia Cayetano said Wednesday in a statement from South Africa, where she is attending the Inter-Parliamentary Union meetings.

Cayetano, candidate for president of Coordinating Committee of Women Parliamentarians, where she is currently its vice president, said the President should instead "castigate" members of the government panel "for doing a lousy job in securing the best possible agreement for our people."

"Anyone attending the hearings on JPEPA would have concluded that this agreement has so many loopholes and that the government panel miserably failed to secure terms favorable to Filipinos," she said.

The controversial agreement between the two countries, the first comprehensive bilateral deal that the Philippines will enter into, has been criticized first for its provisions allowing for trade in trash.

The Senate needs to give its concurrence in the ratification of the JPEPA by having two-thirds of its members giving its nod to the agreement.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who heads the committee on foreign relations, said she would deliver the committee report and a resolution for conditional concurrence on April 28, a week after Congress resumes its session next week.

Cayetano said she would "appreciate" Japan’s efforts to explain the agreement, its benefits, and the Japanese government’s "good intentions," but noted that "it is not Japan’s job to look out for our interest; that is the job of our negotiating panel. And as I have said, they have failed to do that."

The senator said the experience of Philippine negotiators in JPEPA should instruct them that ratification by the Senate was "not a mere formality."

"We cannot be forced to accept a substandard agreement. It is our constitutional duty to scrutinize these agreements and if necessary, reject any agreement that does not meet the highest standards," she said.

 source: PDI