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Senate urged to reject proposed concurrence to Manila-Tokyo trade deal

GMA News 04/27/2008

Senate urged to reject proposed concurrence to Manila-Tokyo trade deal

MANILA, Philippines — Sectors from the urban poor, farmers, nurses, fisherfolk, labor and the environment gathered at a press conference on Saturday, calling on the Philippine Senate to reject the conditional concurrence resolution that Senator Miriam Santiago unveiled during her privilege speech at the Senate re-opening early last week.

In a statement, the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MMJC) expressed alarm that the proposed conditional concurrence could pave the way for the ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

“The conditional concurrence being offered by Sen. Santiago is an admission that there is something terribly wrong with the JPEPA," stated Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel for the coalition. “What must be done is to reject the treaty and begin negotiations for a more just and pro-Filipino treaty."

The MJJC countered Senator Santiago’s proposal, saying that “this so-called fix only talks about the constitutional problems of the agreement. It disregards the unfairness and discriminatory provisions of the treaty. A fix that is half-baked and insufficient to address the multiple ills of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement."

During the press conference, the sectoral representatives unveiled a large blow-up of Sen. Santiago’s proposed resolution, and eagerly stamped it with the red-lettered “REJECT."

“Finally, the true nature of JPEPA is revealed, and even Senator Santiago with her legal acumen cannot hide the stink that JPEPA is giving off," Josua Mata of the Alliance of Progressive Labor said.

“The amendments Senator Santiago are proposing run to the core of JPEPA. It admits that Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s people sold out the Philippines to Japan for nothing. Why should the Philippines legitimize this sell-out with a compromise? Reject the compromise now! Get us a better treaty that holds the Filipinos interest firmly in place. If the present government does not have the courage to do so, then the Filipinos clearly deserve better leaders," said Mata.

Senator Santiago tried to downplay her proposal by describing it as a “technical makeover" that addresses constitutional areas that need to be shored up under the JPEPA. These areas include the constitutional provisions on public health, protection of Filipino enterprises, ownership of public lands and use of natural resources, ownership of alienable public lands, ownership of private lands, reservation of certain areas of investment to Filipinos, and giving preference in the national economy and patrimony to Filipinos.

Included also in the Senator’s proposal are regulation of foreign investments, operation of public utilities, preferential use of Filipino labor and materials, practice of professions, ownership of educational institutions, state regulation of transfer of technology, ownership of mass media, and ownership of advertising firms. These crucial provisions were missing from the JPEPA during the Senate hearings late last year.

Senator Santiago also proposed that the conditional modifications or amendments to the JPEPA be cleared using an exchange of diplomatic notes between the executive of Japan and the Philippines.

It will be recalled that a similar tact was used by the Japanese and Philippine governments last May 2007 in an attempt to quell fears about the massive dumping of toxic wastes into the Philippines through JPEPA.

Groups readily rejected this attempt because the exchange of diplomatic notes failed to provide full assurance from Japan that it will not dump toxic wastes in the Philippines.

 source: GMA News