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Controversial Philippine-Japan Free Trade Deal Not To Be Approved In 13th Congress

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Controversial Philippine-Japan Free Trade Deal Not To Be Approved In 13th Congress

Komfie Manalo - AHN News Writer

4 June 2007

Manila, Philippines (AHN) - The controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, the free trade deal signed between Manila and Tokyo, will have to wait for the next Congress for ratification, as the document is not included in agenda in the last three plenary sessions of the 13th Congress of the Philippines this week.

Oscar Yabes, Senate secretary said the JPEPA was not included in the Senate agenda nor was there any committee reports to discuss the treaty had been submitted. The 13th Congress took a four-month break in February to pave way for the May 14 mid-term elections.

It will convene again on June 6 and is expected to adjourn for the last time after one week.

Before the four-month break, The Senate committees on environment, health, and trade and commerce held separate hearings on the issue.

Under the Philippine Constitution, all treaties negotiated by the executive branch needs the ratification of the Senate.

Environmentalists said a provision in JPEPA allows Tokyo to export toxic wastes to Manila. But both the Japanese and Philippine governments deny there is such a provision in the treaty.

During her visit to Japan last month, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe exchanged diplomatic notes whereby Japan promised not to dump waste in the Philippines. This was believed to expedite JPEPA’s ratification.

According to the schedule released by the Senate Secretariat, two bicameral conference committees will hold discussions this Monday on amendments to the Customs Brokers Act and on the Intellectual Property Code meant to lower the prices of medicines.

Over the weekend, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan said the agenda of the Senate this week will include the New Central Bank Act, the bill amending the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, the fiscal and non-fiscal incentives bills, the environment bills, measures on the use of government ambulances and the creation of new courts, and other pending local bills.