Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Playing with the Law, Fooling the People, Endangering the Nation

Statement of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition:

It is admitted by the Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) violates the Constitution. Several hearings prove that the JPEPA has many serious, dangerous, and onerous flaws. The logical and pro-Filipino choice should have been made a long time ago: JUNK JPEPA.

However, because of strong pressure from no less than President Arroyo herself, the Senate is now being pushed around to fix the problems of this treaty; to clean up a mess that this institution did not make. First, a conditional approval was suggested. However, strong opposition and doubts as to the legality of the move was registered by some senators and civil society groups, including the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC). In a surprising move, the proposal was withdrawn at the same convenient time that the Department of Foreign Affairs told the Senate to defer their vote so that it can now “fix the treaty.”

Unfortunately, like all band-aid measures, the proposed conditions or changes is limited in scope – it attempts to rectify one problem, un-Constitutionality, and leaving the other equally grievous problem of environmental degradation, de-industrialization, labor, displacement, migrant exploitation, and other such problems, unanswered. . The Committee on Foreign Relations and the Committee on Trade and Commerce has also not asked the opinion of the other remaining senators as regards the conditions to be proposed. The current band-aid measures the Arroyo administration is patching is conveniently missing the following realities:

o that the JPEPA is the ultimate form of a national sell-out

o that the JPEPA is extremely tilted to favor Japanese interests

o that the JPEPA contains anti-Filipino and discriminatory provisions:
+ Unlike the rules in trade in goods and services, and in investment, the chapter on nurses does not provide for national and equal treatment among Japanese and Filipino nurses.
+ The JPEPA does not require Japan to commit that it will not discriminate against Filipino workers.

o that the JPEPA is unjust and oppressive
+ It protects more than 200 products of the highly advanced and rich country, Japan. It only protects 2 Philippine products.
+ Because Japan requested for it, the Philippines agreed to let Japanese own private lands for purposes other than those in the services and manufacturing sector. Not only is this unconstitutional; it is also highly unjust and oppressive to the Philippines’ own farmers who have long suffered and died to own the land that they have worked for and worked on since time immemorial.

o that the JPEPA throws away several Philippine policies that have been defended, promoted, and asserted for decades; both in the national and the international level
+ like the fight to demand developed countries to remove trade-distorting export subsidies so that foreign imported products will not slaughter the local products in terms of price

o that the JPEPA will result in more economic hardships for a greater number of Filipinos than benefits.

o that the proclaimed benefits from JPEPA are simply that: “proclaimed”

The proposed side notes will not fix these ills. The decision to delay the vote is an ultimate manifestation of the concerned committee’s surrender to the powers of the Executive Branch of government. The Senate’s job is straightforward: to approve or disapprove the treaty.Now, the entire body is being bullied into extending their own powers to yield to the wants of the Palace: all these efforts are now made after several months of the Executive Branch’s repeated claim that there is nothing wrong with the JPEPA and that this is an all-or-nothing deal that cannot be renegotiated.

It must be asked: What will the 21 remaining Senators do about this serious disrespect of procedure and the serious denial of their right to express their opinion about the JPEPA on the Senate floor?

This nation must not be pushed around with similar empty threats that were used when the government was pushing for the GATT/WTO. You will miss the boat: the ultimate mantra of the JPEPA pushers. We, the members of the Magkaisa JUNK JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), believe that the JPEPA, if approved, will not only cause us to miss the boat but also to drown in a sea of negotiation mistakes. . Two wrongs do not make one right.

The pro-Filipino choice for all of us is to JUNK JPEPA and to JUNK JPEPA NOW.

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