No waste shipments sans RP okay

Published on the October 30 issue of BusinessWorld

The Japanese government has issued assurances that Tokyo would not be dumping hazardous waste in the country in the wake of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

The Japanese embassy in Manila yesterday said Tokyo would follow international and national rules on the environment and waste disposal.

Critics of the trade deal have pointed to a provision providing for zero tariffs on imports of wastes. The criticism, the embassy said, was unfounded.

“Judging from the recent media reports, there seems to be some misunderstanding in the Philippines that toxic and hazardous wastes will be exported from Japan to the Philippines as customs duties of waste materials will be eliminated after the JPEPA comes into effect,” it said in a statement.

The embassy said Japan would not ship waste and toxic materials without an explicit go signal from the government.

It also said Japan would strictly enforce rules on the export and import of toxic wastes and hazardous materials as it is a signatory to the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and Their Disposal. Manila is also a signatory.

“Japan remains strongly committed to the strict enforcement of such export/import control, which will prevent any illegal export of toxic and hazardous wastes to the Philippines,” the embassy said.

Philippine trade officials led by Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila last week said Manila would not become Tokyo’s dumping ground, declaring that the waste provision in the JPEPA “does not mean anything.”

Mr. Favila also claimed that the inclusion of waste and toxic materials – a tradeable good under World Trade Organization rules – in the talks was aimed at avoiding offering another product that has bigger economic implications.

“If we didn’t do it, we would be forced to offer another product … It’s a negotiation strategy,” the Trade chief said.

In a meeting last week, newly installed Japanese Trade Minister Akira Amira and Mr. Favila affirmed their commitment to the Basel agreement.

In a related development, the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) yesterday called on the government correct the controversial issues in the bilateral trade agreement with Japan when the two parties meet to draft protocols.

The group scored the toxic waste provision, intellectual property rights, and the so-called “Singapore issues” which pertain to investments, government procurement, trade facilitation, and competition policy. It said these issues would limit the Philippines’ rights to set its own development agenda.

“The agreement provides a mechanism for self-correction. A Senate ratification is one. The prudent action, however, is to make the correction now, get back to the negotiating table and not risk rejection of the trade treaty by the Senate,” said the FTA’s Dave Diwa.

The controversies and opposition against the JPEPA – the Philippines’ first bilateral trade deal – have also put the spotlight on the Philippines’ negotiations with the United States for preferential treatment on garments.

Noting that the Philippines was put at a disadvantage in the JPEPA, FTA officials called on the government to stop negotiations with the US.

Rene E. Ofreneo, FTA executive director, said the government appears to be rushing free trade deals and has skipped consultations with concerned parties. Negotiations for a preferential trade agreement on garments also appear to have the same “cloak of secrecy” that surrounded the JPEPA, he added.

Government and private sector representatives have been going to Washington D.C. to talk to legislators and Department of Commerce officials.

Another mission is expected to leave in December.

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  1. student

    you should put more stuff about trade alliances that japanese ppl have. Duh

  2. Reming Tong

    I think it is not only hazardous wastes that is an issue in JPEPA.

    There are lopsided provisions in JPEPA that need to be brought up to the attention of the Filipinos and concerned industries.

    Among these issues, is the highly unwarranted granting of unrestrained access to Japan fishing fleets, particularly factory ships, to fish for tuna (yellow fin, big eye, skip jack) not only Mindanao but also throughout the Philippine archipelago’s Exclusive Economic Zone, the 200 miles stretch of water from the shore, where these tunas abounds.

    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 and handline tuna fishermen.

    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 to 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!

  3. Dear Reming Tong,

    We at FairTrade thank you a thousand times for the very incisive input. We’ll integrate your views in our new JPEPA paper. Is there a way we can meet you so we can discuss more on JPEPA and other development issues? Salamat po muli.

    >wes mendoza




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