Sunday, October 7, 2007

What happens if you don't take the time to study the JPEPA?

If one releases an opinion about the JPEPA, without having read the text of the document, he will fall into the trap of misunderstanding. This happens even to people like Prof. Winnie Monsod. Prof. Monsod committed a blunder: making statements before checking her sources. However, like some traps, there is still time to get out of it and save oneself.

This is a reaction to her article. We may not have a column on a major paper or enough money to launch a media campaign but we have truth and the interests of the Filipino people on our side. We don't need anything else.

Para sa Pilipinas, Para sa Pilipino,

Golda S. Benjamin
Lead Counsel
Magkaisa JUNK JPEPA Coalition

Prof. Monsod's article, "The Other Side of JPEPA," dated October 6, 2007, is a sad reflection of this government's failure to give the Filipino people some well-informed information about the JPEPA. Prof. Monsod is sadly misinformed; unfortunately, she did not check her sources before acting on those information. She says:

"The way the agreement’s opponents see it, the JPEPA is not only one-sided (in favor of Japan, naturally), but the Japanese government is doing this in order to ensure that it can use the Philippines as a dumping ground for all its toxic wastes. Which is why, their story goes, the negotiations were in secret, and copies of the agreement were withheld from the public."

"As mentioned above, it is the Philippines that is sending toxic wastes to Japan, because we don’t have the technology to manage them. Sure, the tariffs on imported wastes will be zero. But that is irrelevant -- because their importation is banned (by international as well as national fiat). And in any case, my understanding is that Japan has signed a side letter making that even clearer."

  • The JPEPA is one-sided. Japan has 651 items in its exclusion list: products that they will not subject to liberalization because they want to protect their small producers. The Philippines only excluded two products; rice and salt (6 tariff lines).

"the negotiations, which took place over a two-year period, were never secret; and the draft agreement has been available on the Internet since sometime the end of 2003/beginning of 2004. And the agreement is renegotiated every five years anyway."

  • Prof. Monsod should be forgiven if she missed the news that Akbayan representatives from our own Congress and other concerned groups had to file a case in the Supreme Court in order to get a copy of the final text of the JPEPA. Having a copy of the mere draft of the JPEPA is not a compliance of the State's duty to provide its own citizens with information on matters of public concern.
  • Prof. Monsod can perhaps be forgiven if she still does not know that our government representatives repeatedly invoked, during the Congressional hearings, that the JPEPA is an exception is to the disclosure requirement. Ma'am, the government panel did in fact attempt to hide the final details of this treaty. They even attempted to bypass the process of Senate concurrence by claiming that the JPEPA is a mere executive agreement.
  • Prof. Monsod is correct: the draft of the JPEPA is on the PIDS website but if she only took the time to read the draft she would immediately notice that the article on scraps and wastes (pp. 16-17) are stricken out. This is consistent with the DENR's earlier opposition against the inclusion of toxic and hazardous wastes. Primarily, the public must be informed that in the first place, the Basel Convention and RA 6969 prohibits the inclusion of these wastes in our list of committed tradable goods. The Convention allows developed countries to accept these wastes because of its recognition of the fact that these countries can manage them; and have in fact made it a thriving business. Because developing countries cannot manage these wastes, the importation ban is established. This is the policy behind the Basel Convention.

  • Prof. Monsod should take the time to read the 2-page diplomatic notes; it only covers toxic wastes. It can easily be downloaded from the MOFA's website.

"Please note that the Philippines was the first country (after Singapore) with which Japan pursued the idea. But it has since entered into the same kind of economic partnership agreements with Malaysia, Thailand (which will be in force by November of this year) Indonesia and Brunei -- with no problems at all. In fact, with Singapore, the five-year period is already up. What’s more, the agreement with Vietnam is pretty close to completion. And here we are, left at the starting post, with everybody moving in front of us."

  • Prof. Monsod should also read page 71 of the Working Draft of the JPEPA which still has the words "Singapore" in one of the provisions; a proof that the negotiators literally used the 'cut-and-paste' method to come up with the draft of the JPEPA.

  • We hope that Prof. Monsod has read Japan's agreements with the other countries. If she has not read these agreements, she must be informed that these countries' agreements are not similar to the JPEPA.
  • Only the Philippines gave up the right to implement our laws requiring technology transfer and the hiring of Filipino nationals in Japanese companies. Only the Philippines agreed to examine its own laws and consider the possibility of amending them if they are inconsistent with the JPEPA. This is a blatant usurpation of legislative power.
  • If Prof. Monsod took the time to read the 99-page draft, she would also discover that the article on used cars was not present in the draft; an article that threatens the jobs of 350,000 workers of the local car manufacturing industry.

"What is the basis for the conclusion that JPEPA’s benefits to us far exceed the costs? These issues were studied by a team of researchers from various institutions under the auspices of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). I understand the accusation has been made that the PIDS, having been financed by the Japanese aid agency, Japan International Cooperation Agency, was partial to Japan. That is another example of ad hominem arguments (you can’t win on the issues, so attack the personalities)."

  • The papers of the PIDS have been accurate and if its recommendations on the protection of our local agricultural industry, on the necessity of technology transfer, and on the sensitivity of the automobile sector were adopted, our government negotiators would not have failed to protect the interests of the Filipino people.
  • Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and even Singapore got Japan to commit to the elimination of trade distorting export subsidies. Our negotiators only got a best efforts commitment to remove export subsidies.

  • The PIDS studies already revealed Japan's request to lift our Constitutional rule against foreign ownership of private lands and yet our negotiators did not make the correct exception to our commitment on national treatment.

  • Prof. Monsod should also read pages 6-7 of the JPEPA Joint Coordinating Team Report so that she will discover that the paper of our own PIDS (Cororaton, 2004) was abandoned as part of the macro-economic studies for the JPEPA. That the "Japanese side provided studies of macroeconomic impact of JPEPA."

"The benefits the country will derive from the JPEPA have been estimated to be anywhere between P6.5 billion to P110 billion based on current GDP figures, due to an improved investment climate (projected foreign direct investment from Japan amounting to P365 billion, plus more than 200,000 jobs, increasing as Japanese investors become comfortable and familiar with local partners)."

  • Prof. Monsod should have attended the first hearing on the JPEPA where the government failed to even justify the basis of their figures. They said it came from their own investment missions, which, the professor must know, is a usual activity made by our government with or without JPEPA. In fact, the senators had to remind the government panel that these investment missions often do not translate to actual investments because the investors hesitate to invest because of the following factors: corruption, poor infrastructure, and very high power costs. Several studies have already shown that FTAs do not directly result to the inflow of FDI.
  • The government panel also failed to justify the basis for their projections as regards job increase.

"In the agreement, because of zero tariffs on both sides, the Philippines will now be open to a free flow of agricultural imports from Japan, and vice versa. Think of it, dear reader. What Japanese agricultural goods can we afford to buy? (Last time I was in Japan, a cherry cost the equivalent of $2.) On the other hand, what agricultural goods from the Philippines can the Japanese not afford to buy? Who do you think will benefit more?"

  • Obviously, Prof. Monsod did not take time to read and review Annex 1 of the JPEPA. Prof, zero tariffs will not be imposed on all our agricultural products to Japan. Japan’s agriculture representatives were clear during the negotiation process that tariff elimination is not their priority; that they wanted to protect their own local industries. Page 8 of the JPEPA Joint Coordinating Team Report would reveal Japan's protective stance on their own agricultural industry.

  • Aside from not agreeing to zero tariffs for most of the agricultural products from the Philippines, Japan has also excluded more than 200 agricultural items in their commitment to liberalization.

  • Prof. Monsod's "cherry argument" is cute but irrelevant. She must be informed that Japan's farmers are now developing themselves so they can produce fruits and vegetables for export. That is why they agreed to the other countries' commitment to eliminate tariffs only after 10 years; by that time, they would be highly competitive in terms of price and quality.

"With respect to services, the Japanese have opened their labor market for nurses and caregivers -- a landmark decision for them -- but the market will be filled, if we wait too long, by Indonesians and other ASEAN countries that already have an economic partnership agreement with Japan."

  • If Prof. Monsod takes the time to read the final text of the JPEPA, she will discover that our nurses will be sent to Japan as trainees; a deviation from the draft's initial position to seek Japan's recognition of our professionals as equally qualified upon entry to Japan. Indonesia got a better deal for their own nurses who undergo only a 3-year nursing course and comply with the requirement of 2-year work experience. There is no national treatment provision in the chapter for Movement of Natural Persons; contrary to the claims of the government representatives in last week's hearing.

  • Prof. Monsod must also be informed that Japan has only allowed Indonesian nurses; but nevertheless invoked the right to decide the maximum number of nurses that can come in.

  • We are certain that Prof. Monsod did not read Annex 8 of the JPEPA. She does not know the provisions as illustrated in the tables below:



(Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement)


(Japan-Indonesia Economic Partnership Agreement)

Who is a qualified nurse under the agreement with Japan?

1. 4-year nursing education

2. passed own national licensure exam

1. Diploma III nurse: 3-year professional education OR having graduated from a faculty of nursing of a university in Indonesia

2. no need for own national licensure exam

Pre-entry to Japan

3 years work experience as a nurse

2 years work experience as a nurse

JPEPA Requirements



Pre-entry requirements

a. have a bachelor’s degree

(from an institution where the minimum period required for graduation is 4 years)

b. certified as a caregiver by the Government of the Philippines


Requirement II:

Natural person who graduated from a nursing school

Minimum requirement

a. High school diploma

b. certification as a qualified caregiver

Minimum Requirement

a. High School diploma

b. certification as a qualified caregiver

"Bottom line: The JPEPA is worth it. In fact, we can’t afford not to sign, because with everyone else but us on board, Japan will bring its business to them, and we may even lose what we already have. Is that what we really want?"

  • We do not want an agreement that opens our private lands to foreign ownership; even before the Constitutional prohibition against it has been lifted.
  • We do not want agreement that will destroy the lives of our farmers and fishermen.
  • We do not want an agreement that clearly violates national law and international conventions.

Japan could have been a great economic partner. In its agreements with other countries, Japan did not force them to give up certain provisions necessary to protect local industries. The pro-JPEPA panel insists that if we do not sign this treaty, we will miss the boat. Unfortunately, the JPEPA in its current form will cause the Filipino people not only to miss the boat but also drown in the sea of negotiation mistakes.

I have faith that Prof. Monsod will change her mind after actually reading the entire text of the JPEPA. She will defend the Filipino people as she has done so many times before.

The dangers of the JPEPA are not the creations of Japan; these are products of our negotiators' failure to ensure that the Filipino people get the deal we deserve.

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