Manila Standard | 18 June 2008
Japan agrees to amend trade treaty
JAPAN is willing to sign a side agreement with the Philippines to quiet concerns about provisions in a free-trade treaty deemed inconsistent with or violate the Philippine Constitution, an official said yesterday.
“The Japanese ambassador, perhaps in a desire to cultivate Philippine-Japanese friendship, gave me a birthday present and wrote down what could be the contents or the substance of a potential exchange of notes,” Senator Miriam Santiago, chairman of the committee on foreign affairs, told newsmen at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, where she donated medical equipment.
She was optimistic the Senate would be able to ratify the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement when it resumes its regular session in July.
Santiago said that in their private meeting in April, Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura had even suggested that the side agreement be in the form of an exchange of notes.
In turn, she proposed that the supplemental agreement be negotiated between Manila and Tokyo to correct the agreement’s constitutional infirmities-including a provision extending nationalist treatment to Japanese investors.
Santiago said the Supreme Court was likely to declare the deal unconstitutional unless its flaws were corrected.
Such flaws had prompted her to recommend “conditional concurrence with the agreement,” which in turn prompted Senator Juan Ponce Enrile to say it deviated from the Philippines’ parliamentary tradition that gave it only two options: to reject or ratify a treaty.
“The Japanese ambassador has indicated that he is amenable to an exchange of notes that he will sign, on authority of Tokyo, where we shall enumerate what constitutional provisions are specifically exempted from the application of the [agreement],” Santiago said.
But she said the side agreement would take effect only after the Senate signed the free-trade treaty. Fel V. Maragay