Senators in no rush to OK RP-Japan pact
By TJ Burgonio
THE SENATE isn’t keen on convening the committee of the whole to tackle the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) this month, further setting back the ratification of the economic deal touted as giving the country unparalleled access to the Japanese market.
The agreement has stirred a furor because of a provision seeking zero tariff on recyclable goods, which environmentalists fear could lead to the entry of hazardous wastes into the country.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who signed the JPEPA with former Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizume last September, submitted the agreement for Senate ratification last November 20.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the foreign relations committee, called off her committee’s inquiry into the JPEPA that was to start tomorrow, proposing instead that the committee of the whole, that is, the entire Senate, be convened to tackle the ratification.
The trade committee, chaired by Senator Manuel “Mar” Roxas II, earlier wrapped up its inquiry into the trade impact of the agreement.
However, the rules committee under Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan would rather the committee of the whole be constituted in January to allow the Senate to wrap up deliberations on priority legislation before Congress goes into its holiday break on December 22.
Though he said he has yet to decide on the issue, Senate President Manuel Villar said there was no need to rush to ratify the JPEPA.