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Pamalakaya to spearhead ’Jpepa free zone’ campaign

GMANews.TV | 08/02/2008

(GMA News video coverage of anti-JPEPA action by Pamalakaya on 21 April is available here)

Pamalakaya to spearhead ’Jpepa free zone’ campaign


MANILA, Philippines - A fisherfolk alliance is set to lead an across-the-country campaign to oppose the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa), which is still pending ratification in the Senate.

The purpose of the campaign is to declare all the country’s archipelagic waters and major fishing grounds as Jpepa-free zone areas and to create awareness among the people about the evils that the bilateral pact could inflict on the country, said the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya).

“Once a fishing ground is declared a Jpepa free zone area, Japanese factory ships hunting Philippine tunas and other precious marine resources shall be exposed, opposed and if possible barred from entering the country’s territorial waters," said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.the Pamalakaya leader said.

Hicap admitted that since fishing boats in the Philippines are either low-tech or second hand vessels, fisherfolk and fish workers cannot apprehend Japanese factory ships in high seas. “But once these Japanese factory ships dock for refueling service, that would be the time, they could launch protest or any intimidating action," he said.

Hicap said the campaign will be one of the forms of protest action the broad anti-Jpepa alliance No Deal Movement will undertake to heighten the people’s resistance against the “one-sided" bilateral economic agreement.

Among major fishing grounds that would be declared Jpepa free zone areas, from Batanes in the north down to Mindanao in the south, are the Babuyan Channel, Lingayen Gulf, Manila Bay, Ragay Gulf, Albay Gulf, Kalayaan Group of Islands in Palawan, Sibuyan Sea, Tablas Strait, Guimaras Strait, Panay Gulf, Cebu-Bohol Strait, Samar Sea, Leyte Gulf, Camotes Sea, Bohol Sea, Tañon Strait, Moro Gulf, Daca Gulf, Sulu Sea and Lagonoy Gulf.

For a start, Pamalakaya activists will install “larger-than-life" protest billboards in Manila Bay near the Senate to declare the major fishing ground as a Jpepa free zone area on Tuesday.

The militant group invited opposition Senator Jamby Madrigal to post another billboard declaring the Senate as a Jpepa free zone area.

Since it is only Madrigal who has so far declared her position against the trade agreement, Pamalakaya said it is only appropriate for the opposition senator to lead the groundbreaking anti-Jpepa rites in the Senate.

Eight senators are needed to block the treaty, which President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed with then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki, Finland in September 2006.
The Japanese Diet, or parliament, quickly approved the JPEPA in the first week of December of 2006, but it cannot be implemented until the Philippine Senate ratifies it.

Many senators has earlier expressed concern over the perceived lopsidedness of the deal, which many economists described to beneficial for big Japanese corporations and elite corporate interests in the Philippines, but not for Filipino farmers, fishermen, food processors, nurses and caregivers, and the nation as a whole.

Nonetheless, senators opposed to the deal are worried that rejecting the deal outright could place the Philippines at a disadvantage since most Southeast Asian countries have signed their own bilateral trade pact with Japan.

Pamalakaya warned that the ratification of the Jpepa could lead Japanese firms to dump their old ships similar to MV “Princess of the Stars" - that sank off Sibuyan Island in Romblon last June at the height of typhoon Frank - into the Philippine market at a profit.

“It is now a fact and a public knowledge as admitted by owners of Sulpicio Lines that MV Princess of the Stars was acquired as a second hand passenger and cargo ship for $5 million," Pamalakaya said.

According to Pamalakaya, this practice has been going on for a long time and the past administrations including the present government of President Arroyo failed to address this very disturbing issue on the proliferation of second hand and unworthy Japanese vessels sold to local Filipino businessmen."

" The Philippine has been accommodating Japan’s passenger, cargo and commercial fishing vessels since the Marcos dictatorship under the Treaty of Amity, Commerce and Navigation, even if the seaworthiness and the performance background of these vessels are highly questionable. The ratification of Jpepa will further worsen this nearly half-a century problem," the group said.

Pamalakaya also noted that MV “Solar 1" that sank on August 11, 2006 off Guimaras, spilling 21, liters of bunker fuel that was chartered by Petron Philippines from Sunshine Maritime Development Corporation was acquired from Japan.

The group suggested to lsenators to check the background of 45 sea accidents involving vessels owned by Sulpicio over the last 28 years and where these ships came from including MV “Doña Paz", “Doña Marilyn" and “Princess of the Orient" that sank in 1987, 1988 and 1998, respectively.

The militant group recalled that six years ago at the Tuna Congress held in General Santos City on September 9, 2002, Japan announced to sell its commercial fishing vessels to the Philippine government to help it increase its commercial tuna production beginning 2003.

Pamalakaya said there are 10,860 commercial fishing vessels operating in the Philippines in 2002, of which 4,444 commercial fishing vessels weighing 9 gross tons to 1,000 gross tons could be probably imported from Japan and other foreign sources as second hand commercial fishing vessels.

The militant group said leading ocean and coastal commercial fishing corporations like Mar Fishing Corp., RBL Fishing Corp., Frabelle Fishing Corp., Irma Fishing Corp., San Andres Fishing, Unity and Development Fishing, Belen and Sons Commodities, Zamboanga Universal Fishing. RD Tuna Ventures and RD Fishing Industries can shed light as to where they import their second hand commercial fishing vessels.

Pamalakaya previously argued that Jpepa will allow Japanese factory ships to exploit the country’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) for its vast tuna reserves. The group asserted that aside from tuna, under Jpepa, Japanese transnational fishing companies will also gobble up other marine resources that are reserved for Filipino consumption.

It had said that a 3,000 single factory ship could catch not less than 50,000 metric tons of tuna that is equivalent to $ 242.4 million in total gross earnings per year.

“The gains the Philippine government would derive like in the form of taxes and profit sharing would be minimal compared to what Japan will get from Jpepa as far as the fishing aspect of the agreement is concerned," Pamalakaya added.

The group said the fishing aspect of Jpepa is meant for the benefit and survival of Japan’s commercial fishing to the detriment of Filipino tuna producers.

With the increase in the supply of tuna produced by Japanese factory ships and their shipment to Japan and other countries, the local tuna producers and small tuna fishermen would be at their mercy by way of depressed prices, or worst when tuna stocks in Philippine EEZ are depleted it could lead to supply constraints and closure of local tuna producers’ processing plants, the murder of the P 18-billion local tuna industry and the massacre of jobs and source of livelihood of some 180,000 tuna fishermen and fish workers. - GMANews.TV

 source: GMA News