23 May 2007
RP-Japan pact won’t allow toxic dumping
By PAOLO ROMERO
The Philippine Star
TOKYO (via PLDT) - Japan will give formal assurance to Philippine senators that it will not dump toxic and hazardous waste on the Philippines in an attempt to convince them to ratify the controversial Japan- Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
Philippine Ambassador to Japan Domingo Siazon made the announcement ahead of President Arroyo’s four-day visit here where she is scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe today and later with members of Japan’s parliament and business leaders.
“There’s the issue on the environment in JPEPA. That’s a red herring. There’s an agreement that there would be a side letter that Japan will not export materials considered to be bad,” Siazon told reporters.
But he said a letter of assurance would only be given if the Senate would ask for one.
Environmentalists and cause-oriented groups said JPEPA includes provisions that will make the Philippines a dumping ground for toxic and hazardous waste from Japan. JPEPA has been originally intended to facilitate the trading of goods and services between the two countries.
Japanese officials admitted there’s such a provision in the trade pact but stressed that shipment of toxic materials to the Philippines would not be allowed without the approval of local officials. Senators insisted they would only ratify the agreement if the questionable provision would be stricken off.
In defending JPEPA, Siazon pointed out that Japan has similar agreements with Malaysia and Thailand. “We might be left behind,” the ambassador said.
Mrs. Arroyo earlier expressed hope that the Senate would “ratify speedily” the JPEPA.
She said an earlier assurance from the Japanese Prime Minister that JPEPA would not endanger the Philippine environment would hopefully convince the Senate to ratify the trade pact.
Mrs. Arroyo transmitted to the Senate last Nov. 17 the certified true copy of JPEPA together with the Instrument of Ratification for the Senate.
“At the end of the day, it’s still their (the senators) call. We can only propose,” she said.
She said the Philippines would benefit from JPEPA’s eventual implementation as Japan would be “opening up its agricultural market for the Philippines.”
“It (JPEPA) is beyond market access. It includes human resource development, financial services, information and technology, energy and environment, science and technology, transportation and infrastructure,” she said.
She added that under the pact, Japan would also be opening up its healthcare services market to allow more Filipino nurses and caregivers.
Mrs. Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed JPEPA on Sept. 9, 2006 on the sidelines of the 6th Asia-Europe Meeting held in Helsinki, Finland.
Trade Secretary Peter Favila said Mrs. Arroyo is not expected to sign investment agreements with Japanese companies because Japanese businessmen who have committed to invest in the Philippines are still waiting for the Senate to ratify JPEPA.
“Many of the people we’ve been talking to are merely waiting for the ratification of the comprehensive economic agreement because they want to make sure that they can see the benefits in this agreement,” Favila said on Monday.
“Until it is signed, we just have to be patient and wait before they actually come in,” he said.
Favila said as soon as the JPEPA is ratified by the Senate, more than 200 Japanese businessmen would start coming to the Philippines with their investments.