16 April 2008, Quezon City. The Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC) and former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. rejected President Gloria Arroyo's latest pitch for Senate approval of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
In a joint statement, they questioned what President Arroyo said in her speech last Monday at the Yazaki-Torres factory in Calamba City regarding the P365 billion in direct investments and 200,000 jobs that would be generated if JPEPA is approved.
Guingona, an outspoken nationalist who was among the so-called "Magnificent 12" senators who voted in 1991 to end the RP-US military bases agreement, rallied the country's senators to resist the pressure to give their stamp of approval on the tarnished pact.
"The Senate should not be deceived by the specious benefits of JPEPA that are being peddled by President Arroyo and her adherents. The economic and financial gains that our country is supposed to reap once the treaty is ratified are purely speculative and lacking real merits as the proceedings of the Senate hearings would show," Guingona said.
"Japan's own study reveals that the Philippines is not a priority destination for Japanese investments, at least for the next three years, because of ‘inadequate infrastructure, an underdeveloped legal system and problems with legal operation,’ among others. JPEPA won't cure the reasons behind low foreign direct investments, but it will definitely be a grand-scale surrender of our rights as a sovereign people," he added.
Atty. Golda Benjamin, lead counsel of the MJJC, echoed Guingona's word of warning regarding the much-ballyhooed profits to be gained from JPEPA's ratification, stressing their hope that the Senate will assert its institutional independence and fight for the sovereign interests of the Filipino people.
"The President promises P365 billion in direct foreign investments from Japan if JPEPA is signed, something not found in the actual text of the treaty. Even if it was in the treaty, we now ask: is that the price for Filipinos to violate our own Constitution, to surrender our lands and seas, and even surrender the lawmaking powers of Congress? If the President answers yes to that question, we hope the Senate is brave enough to go against it. Surely, this nation deserves leaders who can say no to the illegal sale of Filipinos and their rights," Benjamin said.
Guingona and Benjamin cited the recently released results of the 2007 survey on the international operations of Japanese companies by the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), a government related agency, which ranked the Philippines as last among 18 Japanese investment destinations. The same survey showed the country as among the top five places where there are many risks of doing business.
Last week, the MJJC met at the University of the Philippines to plan for a more vigorous campaign against the ratification of JPEPA, which they condemned as "a greater bitter poison for the public to stomach" compared to the outrageous NBN-ZTE deal.
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago had earlier said that the committee report will be released on April 28. As of today, the date for the voting has not been announced. For the JPEPA to pass, 16 affirmative or yes votes are required.