SIGN ON: REJECT JPEPA! DEFEND OUR PEOPLE’S SOVEREIGNTY!
August 16, 2007
WE are concerned people’s organizations who wish to add our voice to the growing number of people who are against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
We urge the members of Senate not to ratify the treaty and to demand transparency from the Executive in its future negotiations so as not to repeat the experience with JPEPA where the Filipino people were kept completely in the dark until the treaty has been signed. We likewise urge the members of Senate to study carefully the implications of JPEPA to the country’s economy, sovereignty and the Filipino people.
Our worry over JPEPA stems from the following:
JPEPA eliminates the remaining national policy space to protect domestic industries, agriculture and environment and undermines national sovereignty.
JPEPA is a very comprehensive agreement that gives maximum freedom to Japanese investors. The agreement directly undermines existing laws and legislations that promote the rights and welfare of small farmers, fishers and workers, protect small and medium enterprises, and guarantee environmental protection.
JPEPA opens up all areas for foreign investment except in areas where the Philippine government indicated existing legal impediments. Unfortunately, the Philippine government did not indicate restrictions to sectors that are strategic to our national development such as iron and steel, oil, petro-chemicals, drug manufacturing, oil exploration, and transportation. While the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was included as a restriction to JPEPA, the danger now lies in re-designing the country’s agrarian reform program to suit the liberalized investment regime.
JPEPA allows full ownership in the in the manufacturing by Japanese investors, allowing them to exploit the country’s cheap labor and rich natural resources, without obligation to meet any standards, pay taxes for a certain period and transfer technology to local industries. JPEPA also removes tariffs on a wide range of industrial and agricultural goods.
All these severely erode the capacity of the Philippine government to pursue its own national industrialization, determine its development priorities, protect domestic industries and regulate foreign investments. The removal of tariff also restricts the government’s ability to remedy problems of import surges and sets the trend for granting preferential rates under future bilateral FTAs with other trading partners.
Worse, even if the Philippine government realize later that JPEPA is detrimental to the country, it cannot simply make new laws or regulations to assist affected sectors or to re-regulate Japanese investments, without the consent of Japan. In addition, any new restrictive measures on investments should be harmonized with JPEPA.
The further opening up of investment under JPEPA subjects local small and medium industries to unfair competition, and eventually leads to job losses and de-industrialization. Under JPEPA, Japanese investments in the Philippines will receive the same privileges as Filipino enterprises or as any other third country. This will subject local manufacturing, with much smaller capital and lower level of technology, to undue competition with bigger and far more technologically advance Japanese industries. The threat of factory closures and displacement of workers is not remote.
The influx of Japanese investments does not guarantee industrialization for our country. These investments will be put in the most profitable areas without due consideration to our country’s industrial development needs. Even the promise of technology transfer is unattainable as JPEPA waives performance requirements that would oblige Japanese investors to contribute to our country’s research and development, consider our national development thrust, use local materials, employ Filipino workers, reinvest their profits in the country, and transfer technology.
JPEPA will not bring about the projected increase of Philippine exports to Japanese market.
Japan keeps its market restrictive. It excluded 600 tariff lines from tariff elimination including important Philippine exports while maintaining non-tariff barriers including stringent sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures and rules on labeling produce. Philippines’ top exports are either imposed high tariff rates, placed in the restricted category, or subject to negotiations much later. For its part, Philippines exempted only rice and salt.
For industrial products, Japan scheduled its tariff elimination in a span of 3-15 years and exempted some products where Philippines have a potential. For its part, Philippines committed to eliminate tariffs on all industrial products within 10 years.
In fact, data over the last six years show minimal growth of Philippine exports to Japan, even resulting to an average of one billion dollar deficit annually. This, despite the fact that almost 80% of Japanese imports are already enjoying zero tariff.
JPEPA will hasten the displacement of poor farmers and fishers from land and water resources.
Even if the Philippines gain more access into the Japanese market, the drive to increase export production will jeopardize local food production, hasten the bankruptcy of small farmers and fishers, and increase the monopoly over land and other productive resources. The entry of more Japanese investors into traditional exports like bananas, pineapples and the fishing industry will strengthen the control of transnational corporations and local agro-business firms over land and water resources.
This Philippine government’s adherence to such measures as allowing foreigners to lease land in the country for 50 years and to engage in deep-sea fishing further aggravate the threat to small agricultural producers’ ownership and control of productive resources.
Despite Philippine government’s notice to Japan that the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) is a restrictive measure to Japanese investments, JPEPA’s investment rules encourage the harmonization of existing laws and legislations to comply with the treaty. This may actually erode agrarian reform, leading to increased land re-concentration and displacement of farmers from their land. Furthermore, JPEPA may undermine existing legislations and regulations disciplining investments in areas that may have adverse impact on people’s social rights, on biodiversity and on environment.
JPEPA will contribute to the country’s environmental crisis. The threat of Japan dumping its toxic wastes to Philippine territory remains even after the conclusion of the side agreement. In addition, the extensive use of chemical fertilizer in commercial farms, such as the aerial spraying in banana plantations in Mindanao, poses serious damages to the environment and to the people’s health.
In exchange for the enormous economic and political losses that Philippines traded off in JPEPA, it will get a paltry gain of employment for 400 nurses and 600 caregivers in Japan in the first two years of the agreement. That is, if these professionals pass strict requirements like high level of proficiency in Japanese language, which even Japanese people find difficult to pass, agree to receive a much lower income and social support than Japanese standards, and endure tough working conditions. However, even this limited benefit is easily negated by job losses resulting from displacement of local industries and agriculture.
JPEPA is anti-poor and anti-development. It is a sell off of the Philippines’ sovereign right, preempts our country’s development and threatens the livelihood of the majority of the Filipino people. JPEPA also exacerbates the unequal economic and political relations between the Philippines and its former colonial master. We call on all freedom-loving Filipinos not to allow yet another surrender of our country to Japan. Reject the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement!
Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)
national farmer federations: Pambansang Kaisahan ng Magbubukid sa Pilipinas (PKMP), Aniban ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (AMA), Pambansang Kilusan ng Samahan sa Kanayunan (PKSK), PAKISAMA, KASAMA-KA, MAKABAYAN Pilipinas, Pambansang Koalisyon ng Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), Benguet Vegetable Farmers’ Federation, Pambukid
NGOs: Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF), PHIL-NET, SEARICE, MODE, Urban Missionaries (UM), Resource Center for People’s Development (RCPD), Asian NGO Coalition (ANGOC), WomanHealth
Urban Poor and Labor: AKTIB, Liga Manggagawa
Bukluran sa Ikauunlad ng Sosyalistang Isip at Gawa (BISIG)
c/o Integrated Rural Development Foundation (IRDF)
87 Malakas St., Pinyahan, Quezon City