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SC asked to stop RP from finalizing trade deal with Japan

SC asked to stop RP from finalizing trade deal with Japan

Mar. 21, 2006

Tetch Torres

PARTY-LIST Akbayan Citizens’ Action Party has asked the Supreme Court to stop the government from finalizing an economic agreement with Japan, which the party-list group alleges contains a provision that will allow this country to trade its hazardous and toxic waste products.

In its three-page urgent motion for early resolution, Akbayan, through lawyer Ibarra M. Gutierrez III, claimed that the government was allegedly jeopardizing the health and safety of the public by allegedly refusing to disclose the contents of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Akbayan and other petitioners want the high court to compel disclosure of the JPEPA’s full text, including the Philippine and Japanese offers and all pertinent attachments, and to restrain its conclusion and signing until genuine public consultation has been conducted, Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said that during the February 22 hearing by the Tariff Commission, Japan proposed the inclusion of hazardous and toxic waste products such as municipal waste and sewage sludge to be among those to be traded under JPEPA.

The party-list group claimed that the Department of Trade and Industry had resorted to legal gymnastics to avoid revealing the terms of the bilateral agreement.

"There is serious reason to believe that there are other provisions in the JPEPA not being disclosed to the public that, if allowed to be finalized and concluded, will cause grave and irreparable damage not just to the Philippine economy but to the health, safety, and security of the Filipino people," Gutierrez said in the petition.

"Up to the present time, respondents [Thomas G. Aquino, chairman and chief delegate of the Philippine Coordinating Committee for JPEPA] have continuously refused to furnish petitioners with a copy of the full text of the JPEPA...," Gutierrez said.

"In fact Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila has been quoted by the media as saying that DTI will only disclose the full text of JPEPA upon order of this Honorable Court," Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez told the high court that the government was rushing to conclude the agreement within the next two months.

"There is the strong possibility that the petition and relief prayed for will thereby be rendered moot by this concurrence unless this Honorable Court restrains such act accordingly," he added.

Aside from Akbayan, petitioners also include Pambansang Katipunan ng mga Samahan sa Kanayunan, Alliance of Progressive Labor, Akbayan Representatives Mayong Aguja, Etta Rosales, and Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel; Cibac Representative Joel Villanueva and Representative Erin Tañada of Quezon, as well as individuals from the labor and peasant sectors.

The JPEPA was formulated during a meeting held in Tokyo, Japan when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo visited that country in Dec. 4, 2002.

THE JPEPA is a proposed "partnership" that will include possible free trade agreement and other components covering services, investment, human resources development, and other forms of cooperation.