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Arroyo to push ratification of controversial pact with Japan | 2 March 2007

Arroyo to push ratification of controversial pact with Japan

By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday said she will push for the ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) when the new Congress convenes in July.

In a pooled media interview, Arroyo said the Senate failed to ratify the JPEPA because it prioritized the passage of the anti-terror bill.

At the same time, she said the perceived controversies linked to the agreement, such as the alleged inclusion of a provision which would effect the exportation of toxic waste products of Japan to the Philippines, hampered its ratification.

“Yeah, yeah. Definitely,” Arroyo said when asked if she will push for JPEPA’s ratification during the 14th Congress.

“What happened was that there was controversy, uncalled for controversy, about supposed importation of toxic materials, which is not provided for, so that slowed it [ratification] down,” she said.

Arroyo submitted the JPEPA for Senate ratification late last year, a few months after she and former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the agreement in Finland last September.

Opposition senators and environmental activists have warned that the trade agreement could make the Philippines the dumping ground of Japan’s industrial waste.

But the government claims hazardous wastes were a “nominal inclusion” in the JPEPA to comply with the standards imposed by World Trade Organization in crafting free trade agreements which require inclusion of 90% of the products of the exporting countries.

However, he said it does not mean these products’ actual entry into the country since the importation of these hazardous wastes is prohibited by Philippine laws and international conventions.

A major provision of the treaty calls for the Japanese and Philippine governments to eliminate tariffs on almost all industrial goods within 10 years after it becomes effective.

In another provision, Japan opens its door to Filipino nurses and caregivers, with a guarantee of nondiscriminatory treatment.

 source: INQ7