Thursday, November 8, 2007

Ilibing ang JPEPA! Ibangon ang Pilipinas!

Photo by Gigie Cruz/GAIA.

Ilibing ang JPEPA! Ibangon ang Pilipinas!
Civil society groups call on the Senate to bury the treaty

08 November 2007. Manila, Philippines. – A crowd of more than 300 workers, farmers, urban poor and environmentalists from the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC) today called on the Philippine Senate to bury the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) following the government panel’s inability to defend it in the past five Senate hearings on the issues. The Senate conducted its sixth hearing on the treaty today, focusing on the issues surrounding trade in goods and agriculture.

The MJJC, a broad network of civil society groups whose constituents come from sectors that would be most affected by the JPEPA, set up a tableau composed of a number of tombstones for JPEPA and a wreath along with a Grim Reaper at the Senate grounds, and called for the Senate to bring the JPEPA to its final resting place.

Photo by Gigie Cruz/GAIA.
“The Senate needs to bury all the lies and representations of the pro-JPEPA panel six feet underground,” said Marie Marciano, steering committee member of the EcoWaste Coalition, a member of the MJJC. “Government officials have been trumpeting the supposed gains that the country will get under this atrocious treaty ad nauseaum through paid newspaper ads, but could not, in fact, prove any of them in all of the hearings that the Senate has so far conducted. It is clear that the JPEPA is in its death throes. Our senators should lay it to rest.”

In the past five hearings, the coalition had unquestionably established and proven that the JPEPA’s textual provisions are detrimental to Philippine national interest, consistently showing the treaty’s lopsidedness by comparing it with Japan's Economic Partnership Agreements with other ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

“This is really a hideous and horrific deal for the Philippines. It deserves nothing less than a complete rejection from the Philippine Senate,” said Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel for the coalition. “We could have gotten a much better deal had our negotiators not been sleeping on the job. Clearly, after all this time, our negotiators still have not done their homework. Throughout all the five hearings, pro-JPEPA officials could not answer even the most basic questions from the Senators on the benefits of the treaty.”

Photo by Gigie Cruz/GAIA.
In their public pronouncements, Committee for Foreign Relations Chair Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Vice-chair Senator Mar Roxas expressed their incredulity and disbelief at the outlandish claims of economic benefit and job generation that were being made by JPEPA proponents. Sen. Santiago was quoted as saying that if the government panel could not defend the treaty, then “the JPEPA would be dead.[i] The senators even praised the oppositors from the MJJC, saying that the Junk JPEPA advocates had established their case with well-reasoned arguments, and with concrete and indisputable evidence.

In today's additional hearing on Trade in Goods and Agriculture, the oppositors from MJJC put forth additional proof to debunk the oft-repeated and hollow claim by JPEPA proponents that the treaty will boost outputs in Philippine agriculture and lead to a boom in exports that will benefit small farmers and fishers, citing the government’s claims that the elimination of tariffs will result in a free flow of agricultural imports and exports between the two countries.

Photo by Gigie Cruz/GAIA.
“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,” said Atty. Benjamin.

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.

“They wanted to protect their own local industries,” Atty. Benjamin continued. “Japan is actually being very protective of its agricultural industry. 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.”

“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,” concluded Atty. Benjamin. “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.”


More photos:

All photos by Gigie Cruz/GAIA.

[i]Santiago sees 'dead' JPEPA if gov't won't explain benefits,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 20 September 2007. See also “Santiago agrees with legal experts’ opinion on Japan treaty,” Philippine Daily Inquirer, 09 October 2007. To wit, “’Virtually, if we go by the objective analysis of these independent experts, the JPEPA is dead. JPEPA is unconstitutional in several constitutional grounds, and then they went on to explain which ones of these provisions are, and why they adversely impact the validity of the JPEPA,’ Santiago said.”

1 comment:

Ronnel Lim said...

wow galing ni kamatayan ah! congrats from jakarta here.