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RP-Japan pact must be scrutinized by Senate — Pimentel

RP-Japan pact must be scrutinized by Senate — Pimentel

Militants hit signing of agreement

By Veronica Uy, Jerome Aning, Inquirer


THE newly signed Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) must be scrutinized by the Senate because of apprehensions by some quarters over its alleged disadvantages to the country, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said on Monday.

Workers’ and other sectoral groups also slammed the signing of the agreement, with the Japan chapter of Migrante International accusing the government of “selling the future of the Filipino people.”

The alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) called on the Senate to “kill” the free trade agreement "in the name of national sovereignty and public’s collective rights and welfare.”

“The free trade pact between Japan and the Philippines must be scrutinized by the proper legislative committees to find out if Japan, a developed country, will have undue advantages over the Philippines, a developing country on the matter of the items that are traded between the two,” Pimentel said in a statement.

Without this, he said, “we may again find ourselves at the losing end of the pact.”

Noting that “Japan is a friend of the country,” Pimentel said he hopes Japan would not object to the legislative scrutiny.

"For President Macapagal-Arroyo, the future of the Filipino people has a very cheap price. So cheap that she has opted to sell it to Japan by further opening up the local economy in exchange for the annual deployment of 400 to 500 caregivers and nurses to Japan," Migrante-Japan said in a statement.

But a Department of Labor and Employment official, however, downplayed the deployment issue saying he doubted many Filipino health care workers would want to go to Japan.

Migrante-Japan representative Nestor Puno said Japan was " aiming for a more liberalized entry of Japanese businesses in the Philippines under the guise of a bilateral free trade agreement. It is particularly interested in the further opening up of the auto and steel sectors. This is what we have to put up with in exchange for the promised transfer of personnel. Japan’s stake is obviously much bigger than the projected combined annual incomes or remittances of these health workers."

The signing of the JPEPA, was delayed for months due to disagreements over the deployment of Filipino workers, particularly nurses and caregivers, to Japan.

Manila wanted a "demand-based" deployment while Tokyo insisted on a "quota-based" system.

There were also differences on how wide an opening would the Philippines allow for Japanese goods and capital to come into the country.