22 June 2005
News in Brief
The government is completing its "clean-up drive" on the country’s legal and dispute settlement mechanism before finally giving its final go signal to the implementation of the country’s first bilateral free trade area (FTA) deal, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Edsel T. Custodio said the legal team led by the Office of the Solicitor General and the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel is undertaking the task. "We have to clean up our legal mechanism for our own protection," Custodio said. Custodio said the Philippines has to clean up to avoid future cases that could reach international dispute settlement. Custodio said the legal aspect from the Philippine side is the lone sore left in the implementation of the JPEPA noting that Japan is already finished on their side. "We are now in the final leg of the negotiation," he said. Based on a timetable, the free trade deal is expected to start kicking off by September this year. The Tariff Commission has already completed hearings on chapters 1-97 of the Harmonized Tariff Code. Another hearing is set on June 14 for the automotive sector. The JPEPA has a comprehensive coverage. But the Philippines has keen interest on Japan’s services sector as it eyes the deployment of the country’s medical (nurses and caregivers) and IT professionals.