GMA News | 11 August 2008
Jpepa will worsen food crisis - group
MANILA, Philippines — The food crisis hounding the country today may escalate if the government embarks on a full-scale liberalization of the economy under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), according to food security advocates.
The Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS) said that Jpepa will set in a trade and investment regime that will favor the expansion of Japanese transnational companies in agriculture, thereby dislocating poor farmers from their lands as well as artisanal fishers from their fishing grounds further worsening hunger and poverty in the rural areas.
In a statement, the group said that the tariff elimination schedule offered by the Philippine government under the agreement, which will remove protection on all agriculture and food products except for rice and salt, may increase dependency of the country on imported food and agriculture inputs and will in the long-run undermine domestic agriculture production.
“In the short-term, it may lead to job dislocation of poor fishers whose products like tuna and salmon will face zero tariff at the onset of Jpepa,” said Arze Glipo of Integrated Rural Development Foundation, a member of the TFFS and Magkaisa Junk Jpepa Coalition.
Glipo also stressed that the country’s prospect of achieving food self-sufficiency in the next few years maybe seriously hampered if Jpepa comes into force.
“Jpepa’s investment provisions which allow Japanese corporations and nationals to own and control private agricultural lands will promote the rapid expansion of plantations producing for Japan’s market,” she added.
Banana production in Mindanao, is already growing at an exponential rate of 72 per cent from 1997 to 2006, as compared to only 34 per cent from 1990-1997, fueled by rising demand in Japan, which accounts for 85 per cent of the country’s total banana exports. The area under banana cultivation has almost doubled from 130,353 hectares in 1990 to 225,589 hectares in 2006.
“Increased Japanese investments in agribusiness will surely deprive Mindanao, which is already suffering from the consequences of a mere 60 per cent rice sufficiency, of the land and resources needed to ensure its food security,” Glipo explained.
“Thus, we urge our senators to reject Jpepa to defend and secure food and livelihoods of our people, majority of whom to this day, remain deprived of their basic rights to a decent and humane life,” Glipo said.