ABS-CBN News | 27 August 2008
’RP gave too many concessions to Japan in free trade deal’
by DAVID DIZON
A former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law on Wednesday criticized as unconstitutional the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) for allowing Japanese citizens to own land, practice certain professions and operate and administer educational institutions in the Philippines.
In a forum organized by the multisectoral group Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition, Prof. Merlin Magallona said the JPEPA is an essential aspect of the Japanese relocation strategy and its benefits will be accruing to the Japanese subsidiaries in the Philippines.
He said the JPEPA grants extensive national treatment principle and places Japanese nationals and their investments at parity with Filipinos.
"If very little preference is extended to the Filipino vis-à-vis the Japanese investors under the JPEPA, what is the value of being a Filipino in your own national economy?" he asked.
He warned that any amendments to the JPEPA should go through Congress and not just executed between the Philippine and Japanese executive branches.
Edna Espos, former director of the Department of Trade and Industry Bureau of International Trade Relations, said the biggest failure of JPEPA is giving up bigger economic concessions to the Japanese. He said the Philippines under JPEPA drastically eliminated tariffs across the board, exempting only six tariff lines for rice and salt and negotiated on issues that it would not even do so under the World Trade Organization.
Instead of reciprocating the gesture, Japan excluded 197 tariff lines from the agreement, constituting mainly agricultural and marine products where the Philippines has competitive advantage over.
Espos said the purported easier market access for electronics, furniture and automotive parts under JPEPA is not entirely true since even without JPEPA, these products already enter Japan duty-free. She said Philippine garments and footwear exporters cannot take advantage of the duty-free provision under JPEPA because their raw materials do not comply with JPEPA Rules of Origin (ROO), which mandates in part that the raw materials come primarily from Japan or any of the ASEAN countries.
A crucial item that the Philippines failed to get after giving up so much was the removal of the enormous Japanese agricultural subsidy, including subsidies on fishing industry that aversely affects millions of Filipino farmers and fisherfolk who cannot compete with subsidized products both abroad and at home.
Espos said the Philippine eliminated its fish tariffs under JPEPA but Japan will not even commit to reduce its subsidies on fishing vessels and will in fact even exclude fish products from the JPEPA.
"We gave up everything and we gained nothing under JPEPA. For a treaty that is so patently unconstitutional and for its failure to obtain the needed gains for Filipino farmers, fisherfolk, workers and exporters, there is only one logical, just and moral step that the Senate can take and that is to reject the JPEPA," said Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the coalition.