28 April 2008, Pasay City, Philippines – Various people’s movements, all part of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition, staged several activities today around the metropolis to signal what they call “Black Monday”; a day of action and outrage over the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). Their activities were in anticipation of a Senate plenary deliberation on the proposed conditional concurrence resolution submitted by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, as Chair of the Foreign Relations Committee and Mar Roxas III, as Chair of the Committee on Trade and Commerce, which Sen. Santiago deferred late last week due to the opposition raised by various Senators.
As early as 6 a.m., more than 50 members of the MJJC congregated at the Welcome Rotunda in España Ave., raising the banner “Walang Ilusyon, Walang Kondisyon, JPEPA Di Solusyon!” At 10 a.m. members of the MJJC held a creative demonstration at the Quezon Memorial Circle, and protest activities culminated at around 2 p.m. in Pasay City, before the Senate gates, where at least 600 MJJC members congregated and held a three-hour vigil over the Senate proceedings as they begun deliberating on the proposed conditional concurrence for the ratification of JPEPA.
“The executive branch negotiated away the future of the Filipino people. By signing an unconstitutional and unfair treaty, the President sold the Philippines at a bargain without the people’s consent. These are the very acts that the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Trade and Commerce wish to nevertheless bless with a vote of approval,” stated the group in their formal statement.
The JPEPA was signed by Pres. Arroyo and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi of Japan back September 2006 in Finland. Ever since the treaty has been heavily criticized by a wide-swath of sectors from nurses, farmers, fisherfolks, environmentalists, labor, academia, public health groups, and even Japanese civil society groups have joined the fray.
Last week over 100 Japanese individuals and groups sent an e-mail letter to the Senate raising the concern of the Philippines receiving their toxic wastes, and acknowledging that “"The potential for job creation for the Philippine people under JPEPA, as argued by the Japanese and Philippine governments, will in reality be extremely small when compared with the jobs lost as a result of the destruction of Philippine industry and agriculture caused by JPEPA."
The MJJC has released various briefs on the JPEPA’s impact on nurses, the environment, constitutionality, labor, agriculture, and investments, and continues to expose how lopsided the JPEPA is in favor of the Japanese.
According to Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the MJCC, “We were generous even where we had cause to be stingy with the Japanese. Fish, crustaceans and mollusks are excluded from the WTO Uruguay Round commitments of member countries because developed countries refused to reduce their export subsidies especially those on fishing vessels. Despite this the Philippines still bound its tariffs at the WTO, albeit at very high rates. Japan did not. Of the 200 tariff lines for fish products in Japan’s JPEPA schedule, 59 are forever excluded from duty-free treatment; 15 are for deferred market access negotiations; 72 for phased tariff removal; and, 25 duty free from year 1. Of the 114 in the Philippine schedule, 46 will enjoy duty-free treatment from year 1 while the remaining 68 are subject to phased tariff removal. Not a single fish escaped our net or was excluded.”
“The welfare of the Filipinos, our country, should never be compromised!” stressed Dr. Leah Paquiz, President of the Philippine Nurses Association, an MJJC partner. “The conditional concurrence that Senators Defensor-Santiago and Roxas are advocating is simply unacceptable to us. We need leaders who will pull all of us together, not abandon us one by one. The conditional concurrence only addresses an aspect of an atrocious treaty. Our leaders should stop putting band-aids on JPEPA, and simply put it to rest.”
For more details:
Atty. Golda Benjamin, Lead Counsel Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition, mobile: 0917 314 1016
Dr. Leah Paquiz, President, Philippine Nurses Association, mobile: 0917 852 0918