Pinoy Press | March 30, 2008
Jpepa Ratification to Worsen Food Crisis
The current rice crisis facing the country should convince the Senate not to ratify the Japan - Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) because the deal threatens to aggravate the country’s food insecurity, the NO DEAL! coalition said today.
NO DEAL! spokesperson Arnold Padilla noted that under the Jpepa, the Philippines is expected to export larger volumes of agricultural and marine products to Japan. “At a time of serious concerns over our rice supply security, the country could ill-afford to enter into a treaty that will facilitate increased foreign plunder of our agricultural resources at the expense of our own food security. Wala na ngang kanin, wala pang ulam”, Padilla said.
Padilla pointed out that according to government negotiators one of the supposed major benefits that will accrue from the Jpepa is an expanded Japanese market for Philippine fish and marine products as well as fruits and vegetables. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) data show that Japan is the second largest market of the country’s agricultural exports, next to the US.
“Increased exports of food products to Japan may put undue pressure on local supply and prices. Instead of aggressive promotion of exports, the government should encourage local production for local consumption especially of food. Filipino direct food producers should also be supported to promote greater productivity”, argued Padilla.
However, the anti-unequal trade coalition pointed out that these are the same principles of sustainable food production and security that will be directly undermined by the Jpepa. “A case in point is our marine and fish resources. Under the Jpepa, large Japanese fishing vessels and factory ships shall be allowed to fish in Philippine waters, which is feared to further deplete the country’s already dwindling fish resources”, Padilla said.
Articles 89 and 90 of the treaty on “national treatment” and “most-favored nation”, respectively, give Japanese investors the same rights and privileges reserved to Filipino enterprises, including the exploitation of the country’s marine wealth. The Constitution only allows a maximum of 40 percent foreign participation in such activity but the Jpepa allows 100% Japanese participation.
Padilla said that this will surely lead to a more aggressive plunder of the country’s marine resources by giant Japanese fishing vessels and factory ships since Japan is among the biggest consumers of Philippine marine and fish resources. “Nothing may be left for our small fishers to catch and for our families to eat”, said Padilla.
To illustrate, Japan accounts for the largest portion of the country’s exports of yellow fin tunas, comprising 41 percent of the total, or around 1.09 million kilograms, in 2006. With increased presence of Japanese fishing vessels and factory ships under the Jpepa, the said figures are expected to significantly increase. The problem, however, is that there is already a tuna scarcity in the country. In General Santos City, considered the “Tuna Capital of the Philippines”, tuna canneries were forced to cut production time by 16 hours last year due to tight supply of stocks.
“We urge our senators to reject the Jpepa and protect the country’s long-term food supply security. The projected huge investments, including the promise of more loans, from Japan if Jpepa is ratified are meaningless if our people have nothing more to eat”, Padilla said.
The Senate is set to vote on the Jpepa on April 28. It needs 16 votes to be ratified and 8 votes to be rejected. So far, only Senators Jamby Madrigal and Pia Cayetano have categorically said in public that they will vote against the treaty’s ratification. #
NO DEAL! Member-organizations and convenors: Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona; Anakpawis party-list representative Crispin Beltran; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) chairperson Rafael Mariano; Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) women’s department secretary Nitz Gonzaga; Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) national chairperson Fernando Hicap; Toyota Workers Union president Ed Cubelo; Alliance of Health Workers (AHW) secretary general Jossel Ebesate; Migrante chairperson Connie Bragas-Regalado; Lila Filipina chairperson Rechielda Extramadura; UP Professor Roland Simbulan; Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) chairperson Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo; Bayan-Southern Tagalog secretary general Arman Albarillo; Bayan-National Capital Region chairperson Roy Velez; Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) national coordinator Clemente Bautista; IBON Foundation research head Jose Enrique Africa