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’Unity swim’ staged vs JPEPA | 04/21/2008

’Unity swim’ staged vs JPEPA

By Veronica Uy, Abigail Kwok

MANILA, Philippines — Protest rallies are common these days, but on Monday, militants staged a different kind of protest as they engaged in a "unity swim" at Manila Bay against the passage of the controversial trade agreement between the Philippines and Japan.

The activists, members of the No Deal JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement Movement) and militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), claimed that the trade agreement would result in a “fish crisis,” as the JPEPA would allow Japan to fish in Philippine waters.

Seven militants participated in the event outside the Senate at Pasay that was held ahead of the Earth Day celebration and to urge the Senate to vote against the trade contract.

Clemente Bautista Jr., who spoke for the swimmers, said: “JPEPA will prompt Japan to move more of its giant fishing fleets to exploit Philippine seas and further deplete our country’s fish sources and marine ecosystems.”

"The Senate must take a historic and patriotic stand against JPEPA, or else it will face the wholesale condemnation of the Filipino people," Pamalakaya chairman Fernando Hicap said.

"We want a 23-0 vote against JPEPA," he added.

Apart from the fear that Japan might throw their toxic wastes here, Pamalakaya also believed that the trade agreement would be detrimental to Filipinos, particularly to the agricultural and fisherfolk sector.

"No decent and rational thinking Filipino will in for an agreement that will push down employment, an economic pact that will further depress wages and government spending on social services through blood sucking operations of Japanese transnational syndicates," Hicap said.

In an earlier statement, Pamalakaya said that the President (Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was "discreetly blackmailing" the Senate by citing Japanese investments that would be lost if JPEPA were not approved.

Pamalakaya said one 3,000-metric ton Japanese factory ship, accompanied by a support fleet, could capture a minimum of 150 metric tons of frozen tuna per day once in Philippine waters, or around 50,000 metric tons of frozen tuna per year.

It said that if a Japanese commercial fishing company would deploy four factory ships to operate in Philippine waters, the combined catch would be 200,000 metric tons a year.

“It is really possible that massive depletion of fishing areas will happen because there was no quota or maximum annual catch set anywhere in JPEPA. Poor fishing villages, particularly in Mindanao, would be incapable of catching and buying fish [once] they compete with bigger commercial Japanese fishing vessels. If this happens, a fish crisis is inevitable,” he said.

Bautista, national coordinator of Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment, described the agreement as a license for further environmental degradation by foreign entities.

He repeated the earlier criticisms, saying the agreement will legalize the importation and dumping of Japanese waste on Philippine soil.

Bautista thus urged the senators to give Filipinos a reason to celebrate International Earth Day by signifying their intention to reject the deal.

“We only need nine patriotic and pro-environment senators to block the JPEPA ratification,” he said.

 source: Inquirer