Inquirer | 21 May 2007
SAYS TRADE CHIEF
Japanese investors want RP-Japan trade pact ratified
By Lira Dalangin-Fernandez
MANILA, Philippines — Senate’s ratification of Manila’s trade pact with Tokyo will be a crucial factor for Japanese investors to do business in the Philippines, Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila said Monday.
Favila said about 200 Japanese businessmen he met late last year expressed that they would invest in the Philippines only after the approval of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
"Until this is signed, we just have to be patient and wait before they actually come in,” he said. “They told us that under no uncertain terms that as soon as the economic partnership agreement is ratified, then they will locate here in the Philippines."
In September 2006, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the bilateral accord on the sidelines of the 6th Asia-Europe Meeting in Helsinki, Finland.
Arroyo hopes senators will put JPEPA’s ratification on their priority list when the 14th Congress convenes in July, saying the pact would enhance the flows of goods and services between the two countries.
But environmental groups scored the agreement, saying it would make the Philippines a dumping ground for Japan’s toxic wastes, and demanded the scrapping of the pact.
Opposition senators also expressed alarm over the admission by the government that some hazardous items were included in the zero-tariff duties which would be implemented once the agreement is ratified by the Senate.
Arroyo acknowledged that the controversy was one of the causes for the delay in the JPEPA’s ratification.
But she dispelled fears the agreement would trigger environmental disaster. She said even Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, during his visit to the country, promised "to maintain the environmental integrity of the Philippines."
Favila expressed confidence Senate would approve the agreement.
"I feel confident that we should be able to get through the Senate,” he said. “Whether administration or opposition, (I hope they) will look at the bigger picture and what is good for the Philippine economy and the future generation of this country."
"I think many of the people we’ve been talking are merely waiting for the ratification of the comprehensive economic agreement because they wanted to make sure that they can see the benefits in this agreement," Favila told reporters in an interview in Malacañang Monday.
Favila will be among the Cabinet officials and businessmen who will accompany Arroyo in her trip to Japan from Tuesday to Wednesday. Arroyo will speak at the Nikkei Forum and is expected to hold meetings with Abe, and potential Japanese investors.