Last September 9, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA in Helsinki, Finland during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations-Europe meeting.
According to Manila Standard Today:
“The JPEPA provides that almost 95 percent of Philippine exports to Japan will be slapped zero duties. It binds both parties to eliminate the tariffs on almost all industrial goods within 10 years from the date of entry into force. It ensures access to the Japanese market of Filipino service providers. It will pave the way for the deployment of Filipino nurses and caregivers to Japan.”
But environmentalists believe JPEPA will be used to transport toxic or hazardous wastes from Japan to the Philippines.
While the Philippine government has already denied reports that it will allow toxic materials to enter Philippine soil, Blurry Rain thinks the government must address the following issues:
1. The emergency action provisions (safeguard measures) in JPEPA provide less protection than that provided for by Philippine laws and the World Trade Organization (and note that the domestic cement, steel, and ceramic industries have sought or been seeking safeguard measures from imports),
2. The Rule of Origin provisions allow the use of three methodologies that could create a bureaucratic quandary resulting in more transhipment and technical smuggling concerns,
3. The inclusion of the ‘Singapore issues’ in JPEPA, which we rejected in the WTO, thus putting in question the consistency of our trade policy.
Gerry Albert Corpuz Presents accuses the government of duplicity. He said JPEPA “will further empower Japan to flood the local market with surplus fish products contaminated with Mercury and other toxic materials dangerous to public health.”
Believing JPEPA is a “super disaster in the making” leaders of a fisherfolk alliance will petition the National Diet of Japan to reject the pact.
The group said JPEPA will allow Japanese transnational fishing companies to fish in Philippine waters which are known to be rich in yellowfin tuna and skip jack tuna “deposits”.
“The Japanese monopolies in tuna industry know that 55 percent of the country's yellowfin tuna and skipjack are found in the waters of Mindanao. They can send their 8,000-ton fishing fleets there to harvest our tuna under the banner of JPEPA. This is the implication of this one-sided agreement which will hurt the small fishermen.”
Kalikasan Peoples’ Network for the Environment discusses how the Philippine's supposed gains in the Japanese labor market are “illusory and minimal at the best”.
The Filipino Mind thinks JPEPA will facilitate the 3rd invasion of Japan in the Philippines. The blog also links to a comprehensive analysis of the agreement.
Mga Diskurso ni Doy links to the statement of the Center for Migrant Advocacy. The blog of Fair trade Alliance gives regular news updates on the JPEPA. Diego K. Guerrero points to an online petition for the scrapping of the agreement.
Youth green warriors held a protest in front of the Japanese embassy decrying “waste colonialism.”
I totally agree with the observation that JPEPA would allow Japan’s fishing fleets to fish for tuna (yellow fin, big eye, skip jack) in waters of Mindanao.
Let me clarify however that it will not only be in Mindanao but throughout the Philippine archipelago’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the 200 miles stretch of water from the shore, where these tuna are found abundantly that Japanese fishing fleets are allowed to fish for tuna under JPEPA.
Unfortunately, this is one of Japan’s hidden gain under JPEPA. The provisions of JPEPA involving “factory ships” were specifically and cleverly tailored for Japanese fishing fleets and industry as the Philippines does not have a single factory ship. These factory ships have an advantage over Philippine entities engage in tuna fishing simply because they can ship the processed tuna directly to Japan “as if of Japan origin”, being owned by Japanese nationals, free of any customs duty/certifications unlike Philippine entities where they have to pay higher customs duty (~29%) and comply with Japan’s health requirements.
The Philippines’ government entities (Department of Trade and Industry and Department of Agriculture) are fully aware of this lopsided provisions but they just keep their mouth shut and close their eyes to this impending disaster to Philippine tuna industry.
The way I see it if JPEPA will be concurred by 2/3 of the Senate, in a span of 3 years Japanese factory ships will be able fully exploit and deplete tuna resources in Philippine EEZs, probably with annual catch of 100,000 to 200,000 metric tons per year (about US$60M-120M per year). After 3 years, the effect to Philippine local tuna industry will be akin to Philippine garment industry – massive loss of jobs, closure of processing and canning plants in Gen. Santos City and other support businesses, bank foreclosures/losses, loss of govt taxes, etc. I am wishing that the Philippine gov’t and JPEPA has mechanism to reimburse any losses suffered by local entities as a result of market access brought by JPEPA – unfortunately there is none!