29 July 2008, Pasay City: "A vote for JPEPA is a vote against Filipinos,"was the cry of close to 300 members of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition (MJJC), a multi-sectoral network formed in late 2006 opposing the ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), during their rally in front of the Senate today.
The activists held images of Senators in silhouettes with a question mark emblazoned where the Senators' faces ought to be. A giant streamer bearing the message "JPEPA is Anti-Filipino" served as the main backdrop for the many placards held by the demonstrators.
"At the center of this controversy really is whether JPEPA will be clearly beneficial to Filipinos," explained Atty. Golda Benjamin, MJJC lead counsel. "From the past hearings conducted by the Senate on this very issue the Government has totally failed to prove its case that this damned treaty is good for the country."
The issue of the JPEPA once again took center stage after the Supreme Court dismissed the petition filed by several party-list lawmakers and NGOs requesting Malacanang to divulge negotiation information about the much contested treaty. Last week Senate President Manuel Villar intimated the JPEPA will be one of their priorities when session resumes this week.
NO FOOD FOR FILIPINOS
"Our study shows that much of the trumpeted JPEPA gains are imaginary, but the losses are real in terms of job displacement and worsened poverty for rural people who will be driven away from their land and natural resources. The Senate cannot ignore the impacts of JPEPA to the basic food producing sectors," stated Ms. Arze Glipo of the Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS), a member of the MJJC.
The group further argues that the JPEPA's text allows the full entry of Japanese multinational companies in crop plantations, fishery, mining, power, etc, depriving the Filipinos the prior right and access to their land and other productive resources.
NO JOBS FOR FILIPINOS
In addition to the loss of jobs in the agricultural sector, JPEPA's is poised to axe at least 77,000 Filipino workers in the automobile industry. Even without the JPEPA, second hand vehicles are already coming in through various ports, most recently the controversy involving Port Irene in Cagayan. With JPEPA, it will open the floodgates to imported used four-wheeled motor vehicles despite the existence of Executive Order 156 that clearly prohibits the same.
"If JPEPA passes in spite of these clear threats to Filipino jobs, it will only worsen the jobless growth we have been experiencing under the Arroyo regime," exclaimed Josua Mata, Secretary General of the Alliance of Progressive Labor, another coalition partner of MJJC.
"The supremacy of Japanese interests in JPEPA, and not the interests of the Filipino people has totally eroded any shred of JPEPA's presumed political and economic ascendancy," Mata emphasized.
NO FUTURE FOR FILIPINOS
JPEPA disregards the basic contract between the government and the Filipino people. Unbiased and respected legal experts, such as retired Justice Florentino P. Feliciano have out rightly called JPEPA as unconstitutional. No less than Senator Miriam Santiago, agreed to Justice Feliciano's conclusion when she spoke to the press after the Senate hearing on the Constitutionality of JPEPA, "it (JPEPA) will be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. That is my humble opinion as a
scholar of constitutional law."
As if the issue of unconstitutionality is not enough, JPEPA's threatens the Philippine environment as well, since the entry of toxic wastes, and other banned or controlled substances such as ozone depleting substances, chemicals that are attributed to climate change, persistent organic pollutants, such as the cancer causing PCBs, and nuclear wastes are facilitated, promoted, and protected under JPEPA.
The Administration attempted to plug this loophole with a side note with Japan, but according to the MJJC no amount of side notes would safeguard the interests of the Filipinos against the problems of JPEPA.
"Can the Senate remain untarnished amidst Malacañang manic push for this illegal and immoral treaty? How will our Senators comport themselves amidst this offensive from President Arroyo? The answers to these questions will be the bellweather of our Senate's independence, their nationalism, and if they are even worthy to be considered come 2010. We hope for all our sake they muster the needed courage to say no to GMA and to JPEPA," the MJJC stated.