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Some senators considering JPEPA renegotiation | 09/04/2008

Pangilinan: Some senators considering JPEPA renegotiation

By Maila Ager

MANILA, Philippines — Four to five senators are considering calling for a renegotiation of the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) as a “way out” of the debate over the pact, Senate Majority Leader Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan said on Thursday.

Pangilinan declined to name the senators but opposition Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, in a text message, said he supports a renegotiation of the trade agreement.

“In as much as I have yet to hear anyone support JPEPA enthusiastically, and Japan has an urgent priority to secure free trade agreements to maintain [its] competitiveness against China, a renegotiation will serve our country’s rights” Aquino said.

At a weekly forum in the Senate, Pangilinan said he and some of his colleagues are studying the option of pushing for the renegotiation of some provisions of the agreement, instead of limiting their options to either ratifying or rejecting the JPEPA.

He also acknowledged having initiated the discussions on a possible call for renegotiation.

But Pangilinan stressed that any renegotiation should still have the end view of ratifying the agreement..

“At this point, some of the senators are discussing, although we have yet to firm up a consensus, that perhaps one way out of this current debate would be a position that we will not reject nor will we ratify, but we will call for a renegotiation of the JPEPA,” he said .

“This [is] something that we are exploring as an option. I’ve talked to a few senators, but I’m still trying to build a consensus, if a consensus can be reached. So right now that’s still up in the air and still pending,” he said.

Asked after the forum how many senators he was referring to, Pangilinan said: “Mga apat o lima. I will not disclose muna [their identities]. Premature pa [Around four or five. I will not disclose their identities yet. It is premature].”

The possibility of a call for renegotiation comes after an exchange of notes between the Philippines and Japan vowing the agreement will not violate each country’s constitution.

Those opposed to the JPEPA have raised fears the treaty would open the country up to imports of industrial wastes and allow foreign ownership of businesses and properties, in violation of the Constitution.

A copy of the exchange was released Tuesday by Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chairman of the Senate foreign affairs committee, who said this would assure the ratification of the controversial treaty.

But Pangilinan described the side notes as “ itself.”

“These are clarifications on issues that need to be spelled out that were not spelled out before. So the spelling out of this provision [that no constitution would be violated] through side notes, if you ask me, takes the form of a clarification and a renegotiation of some of the terms and provisions of the agreement,” Pangilinan said.

“So in effect, ang nangyayari dito, mayroon ng [what is happening here is there is a] renegotiation being undertaken. So why don’t we push it even further and seek additional clarification on other terms particularly the trade provisions?” he said.

The trade issues that should be clarified, Pangilinan said, include the discrepancies in tariff impositions on certain products and the issue of allowing secondhand vehicles in and out of the country.