Philippine Daily Inquirer | 02 November 2006
JPEPA will allow Japan to exploit RP’s tuna resources—group
By Delfin Mallari Jr.
A MILITANT coalition of fishermen groups protested the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) as it will allow Japanese transnational fishing companies to corner the country’s tuna resources.
According to the leftwing fisherfolk alliance, Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the JPEPA will allow large Japanese vessels to fish in Philippine waters and hunt for tuna, aside from allowing trading of hazardous and toxic wastes in the Philippines.
“Aside from dumping their toxic wastes, the Japanese government will send its big commercial fishing vessels to the country’s most productive fishing grounds in search for yellowfin and skipjack tunas instead of importing them directly from the Philippines under the controversial trade pact between the two countries,” said Pamalakaya national chairman Fernando Hicap in a statement furnished the Inquirer.
Hicap said the Japanese is targeting the rich tuna deposits in Mindanao particularly in Sulu, Moro Gulf and waters extending to Celebes Sea, which are known to be rich in yellowfin and skipjack tunas.
Yellowfin is commercially the second most important species of tuna and its “sashimi” is a delicacy in Japan.
Hicap branded the JPEPA as one-sided in so far as the fishing industry is concerned. "The Japanese monopolies in tuna industry know that 55 percent of the country’s yellowfin and skipjack tunas are found in the waters of Mindanao. They can send their 8,000-ton fishing fleets there to harvest our tuna under the banner of JPEPA," Hicap said.
In the meantime, Japan will allow Filipino fishers with small fishing boats to fish in Japanese waters and Hicap said this is “unfair, grossly illogical and totally outrageous."
"How could a three gross ton Philippine fishing boat be able to fairly compete with an 8,000-ton Japanese fishing fleet? Give us a break!" Hicap said.
He branded the JPEPA as “a license for Japan to complete its imperialist takeover of the country’s marine resources."
Pamalakaya disclosed that there are 130 large-scale commercial fishing vessels already operating in the country, majority of which are owned by transnational companies based in the United States, Canada, Taiwan and Japan.
Hicap identified Mar Fishing Corp., RBL Fishing Corp., Frabelle Fishing Corp., Irma Fishing, San Andres Fishing, Unity and Development Fishing, Belen and Sons Commodities, Zamboanga Universal Fishing, RD Tuna Ventures and RD Fishing Industries as some of the Filipino companies owning large-scale fishing vessels which have joint venture schemes with transnational fishing companies.
Pamalakaya argued that JPEPA is not an assurance that the Philippine tuna exports to Japan would increase. In fact, the group noted, it has been decreasing since 1995 because of Japan’s protectionist policy blocking imported tuna from the country.
The value of the country’s tuna exports to Japan went down by 55 percent from $267 million in 1995 to $121 million in 2002, while shrimp exports went down by 50 percent during the same period, it said.
Pamalakaya disagreed with reports that tuna exports were diminishing due to the proliferation of tuna canning in the country. Japan’s increasing restrictions on the entry of Philippine tuna actually prompted local tuna producers to sell produce to local tuna canners, it added.
Citing official reports, Hicap said that before 1995, Japan’s import of Philippine tuna increased by 323 percent annually from 1970 to 1994 due to the national policy created by the Philippine Export Council, which is tasked to develop and implement a national export program.
In 1999, Japan is the second largest market for the Philippine yellowfin tuna accounting for 33 percent of the country’s tuna exports, while the United States accounts for 52 percent of the country’s tuna exports.
Japan is also the largest market for Philippine skipjack tuna, comprising 55 percent of the country’s total export.