Japan’s ‘monster ships’

By Bernardo V. Lopez
Published in his UPSHOT column, September 20 issue of BusinessWorld

Japan’s ‘Factory Ships’, which can easily dwarf those from China or Taiwan, are very dangerous monsters. Under JPEPA, they can violate Philippine waters and fish at will within our 200-kilometer marine turf, not go to any of our ports, not pay any taxes, and, being capable of processing onboard, simply go straight to Japan. The fact that JPEPA has very specific provisions on ‘factory ships’ shows Japan has a malicious intent to usurp our territorial rights, and ‘invade’ rather than trade with us, while GMA, Tom Aquino, and Peter Favila stand idly by in support for whatever strange reasons.

Continue reading Mr. Lopez’ column after the jump.

This is why the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA), a nationalist coalition for the protection of the Filipino economy, says the Senate should not ratify JPEPA, but instead move for more studies and renegotiations to protect the Filipino people because it is fraught with imbalances. For sure, JPEPA has some merits for our development interests, but we cannot permit the Japanese to use it as a tool for a blatant invasion, while GMA, Tom Aquino and Peter Favila sell our marine territory and resources to the Japanese on a silver platter. Can they not be a little bit more sensitive to Filipino interests, for once?

According FTA, a JPEPA draft was done by the Japanese side, but there was no Philippine draft. The Japanese therefore authored JPEPA with no or little inputs from the Philippine government or private sector and no consultations with the general public. According to congressional hearings of the Committee on Globalization in 2005 (Rep. Hermie Teves as chair and Rep. Neri Tanada as vice chair), although there were subsequent studies by Filipino consultants through NEDA’s Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), these were funded by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA), Japan’s version of USAID. JPEPA therefore is virtually authored by the Japanese for their interests without we considering ours.

Yet, FTA says there are no JICA-funded PIDS studies on Japanese commercial fishing. This is a closely guarded secret which would reveal Japan’s fishing prowess on a worldwide scale resulting in the dramatic depletion of marine resources.

The role of JICA, whose Japanese consultants are also consultants of their multinationals, reminds me of the controversy over AGILE consultants manipulating our policy formation in behalf of USAID and American interests. USAID was accused of aiding the US, not its beneficiaries. JICA is doing the same via its study grants that led to the JPEPA. The word ‘cooperation’ in the JICA acronym should be changed to ‘co-prosperity’. Studies should not be funded by grants from donors who have vested interests. These ‘aid’ agencies become fronts for economic intervention of foreign powers. They have a quid pro quo, their cent for our dollar, in their loans and grants. It is not pure humanitarian assistance. There is a subtle selfish motive.

JPEPA and the Japanese factory ships have direct bearing on our food security. FTA crunches some figures. A single factory ship working 24 hours a day can produce a staggering 50,000 metric tons of frozen tuna annually. Our total tuna catch for 2005 is 357,000 metric tons (DA Bureau of Agricultural Statistics). A single factory ship can catch a mind-boggling 14% of our national annual harvest. If you talk of four factory ships, which is FTA’s presumption, the Japanese will steal 60% of our tuna in the blink of a JPEPA eye. If we allow these ships into our tuna corridors, there will be nothing left for us.

If we include non-tuna catch, one factory ship can gross $243 million a year. With only four ships, Japan can gross $1 billion from fish caught in our “Exclusive” Economic Zone (EZZ). Japan does not care if it there is extreme over-fishing because it is not their waters. Today, there is a serious global shortage of tuna attributed to over-fishing in the Atlantic. If the Pacific is not yet that depleted, Japan wants all the tuna remaining, and do the ‘clean up job’. Japan consumes a third of global catch of tuna. Japan’s appetite for fish is a global irresistible force that will lay havoc Third World nations. Our archipelagic environment is a prime tuna spawning ground. The Japanese know this, that is why they put the factory ships specifically and blatantly into the JPEPA deal, which remained secret for a long time because the government kept the Japanese-authored JPEPA under lock and key.

Our tuna producers do not want to protest against JPEPA in fear the government will not renew their tuna licenses if they do not support JPEPA. To the producers, please note that no license is better than no fish. You need to raise your voices now or be trampled upon by the factory ships later.

The time has come for Filipinos to rally together and unite against JPEPA. Never mind if it is pro-Japanese. But it is anti-Filipino, to which our very government, which is supposed to serve us, supports. If we agree to JPEPA in its present form, millions of fishermen and farmers will go hungry. We will end up buying canned imported tuna from
Japan, tuna harvested from our very waters. We cannot permit this to happen. The Senate is set to vote in JPEPA soon. We must raise our voices to them and tell them, JPEPA’s aim is not to trade but to invade. If you think the WTO is a bad deal, JPEPA is ten times worse.

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