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Ms. Domini Torrevillas, in her From the stands column in the Philippine Star, provided a summary on the JPEPA controversy. You can access her full column here.

Published online in the February 1, 2008 issue of Business World

SENATOR MIRIAM Defensor-Santiago yesterday said she will propose a “conditional” Senate approval of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), pointing out that the wide-ranging free trade deal needed to be amended or else be rejected by the Supreme Court for being in conflict with the Constitution.

“The JPEPA is very controversial. Amending or changing some provisions in the treaty is needed,” said Ms. Santiago, head of the Senate committee on foreign relations, adding that it is a “very, very rare” for the Senate to simply approve a treaty.

Many senators are in favor of approving the JPEPA, she said, but warned that without the amendments, the treaty will be deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The provisions being contested involve “national treatment,” in which Japanese businesses will be treated as Filipino entities; the “most-favored nation treatment” where Japan will be equally treated with other countries with regard to other international treaties and concessions; and performance requirements, where Japanese firms are not required to transfer technology to the Philippines.

“If we insist on approving JPEPA but there are provisions against the Constitution, we can be sued by Japan in the international court,” Ms. Santiago said.

“The problem is, when we signed the JPEPA with Japan, we have not opposed the privileges for them that were included in the deal,” Ms. Santiago said. “It seems that they have tricked us.”

Fair Trade Alliance Executive Director Rene Ofreneo told BusinessWorld conditional concurrence would be favorable “if it amounts to a renegotiation.”

The group’s senior researcher, Errol A. Ramos, said the JPEPA promotes “economic imbalance.”

“We are not saying that we do not want [to be a trading partner of] Japan,” he said in a telephone interview. “We just want a fair and equitable trade treaty with them because it will be the basis of future trade agreements.”

He noted that the JPEPA is the Philippines’ first bilateral treaty after a parity rights deal with the United States following World War II.

Senate President Manuel B. Villar had said the Senate would make a decision on the JPEPA within the first quarter. Senator Manuel A. Roxas II, who heads the Senate trade and commerce committee, has decided to vote in favor of the treaty, saying the Philippines risks being cut off from the global supply chain without a free trade deal with Japan.

Under the JPEPA, tariffs on 95% of Philippine exports to Japan will be eliminated upon implementation. Import duties on industrial goods such as electronics and automobiles will be phased out within a ten-year period.

Immediately, sectors such as farming, fishing, and food processing will benefit from zero duties in Japan. As a sweetener, a limited number of Filipino nurses and caregivers will be allowed to work in Japan but they have to train first and learn Nihongo.

Japanese lawmakers have already approved the treaty and the Philippine Senate must do the same for the JPEPA to take effect.

The analysis of the Universal Access to Competitiveness and Trade, a nonprofit think-tank, estimated the JPEPA’s benefits to four industries — electronics, automotive, garments, and furniture — and found that investments could also increase by nearly $300 million to $445 million.

Upstream industries could also benefit when exporters purchase more inputs or raw materials, to the tune of $500 million to $751 million, said the think-tank, which is connected to the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The study was done on an assumption that exports of the four “vital” industries would go up by 20% to 30% with easier market access to Japan.

Much of the increase in export output and employment will come from semiconductor exporters (up to $1.26 billion in additional value and 135,549 new jobs), as the sector, on the average, accounts for 7% or $2.7 billion of total exports to Japan, the study showed. — B.U. Allauigan

Published in Bernardo Lopez’s UPSHOT column in Business World, January 31, 2008

In a last ditch effort to make solons listen to reason, Bobby Tanada and the Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) gave a rebuttal to the ‘tabla-talo’ logic of Senator Mar Roxas concerning the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Mar Roxas, chair of the Committee on Trade and Commerce, in his ‘tabla-talo’ campaign, is saying that the Philippines stands to lose more by rejecting JPEPA. Bobby Tanada, on the other hand, says we should strike a ‘win-win’ situation, a position of equality, rather than a tabla-talo situation, a position of subservience.

Indeed, ‘tabla-talo’ is a defeatist attitude that since we cannot achieve equality, we might as well try to get what we can even under severe inequality. In other words, his logic runs – let us be blind to our position of inferiority so we can at least pick up a few crumbs. It is our colonial mentality all over again, the inability to stand up and fight for our rights. It is surrendering without putting up a fight.

Mar argues from the fact that Japan is our largest trading partner next to the US. Rejection he says means heavy economic losses. But we do not have to reject. All the FTA is asking, the middle position, is to DEFER, until we can rectify the imbalances and inequity, just a bit more time to make amendments before ratification.

We can tell the Japanese, “Hey, please wait a bit. Our government officials kept the deal a secret for a long time, and when it was presented to our legislature, they had no choice but to show the deal finally. And by that time, it was too late to make a full fledge evaluation. Of course, we will consider ratification, but please let us remove the inequalities.”

The worms started to come out in trickles. They reared their ugly faces at the senate hall, without any public consultation. Secondly, my dear Japanese friends in trade, you authored the JPEPA with very little inputs from the subservient Filipino panel. You were talking to subservient political appointees, not true traders or economists like yourselves.

The JPEPA controversy ultimately boils down to the issue of subservience.

Continue Reading »

Like Malaya columnist Nestor Mata, we’re also asking our good senator Mar Roxas: why the strange turnaround in JPEPA? As Mata puts it:

“During the heated public hearings on the controver-sial economic and trade treaty with Japan, Sen. Mar Roxas clearly indicated his grave doubts about its feasibility and beneficial effects on the Philippines. But he now favors its ratification even though it would bring only “token benefits” to Filipinos. As he put it, they will only “draw or lose” in the event of its implementation.

Why this strange turnaround by Roxas? Why is he singing a different tune this time? And why is he even trying to convince his fellow senators to ratify a patently defective pact?”

Mata also echoes the sentiments of the Alliance:

“Has Roxas so soon forgotten the wise advice of former Senator Wigberto Tañada, his own party mate in the Liberal Party of which he (Roxas) is the president? Tañada, one of the constitutionalists who testified that the JPEPA contained numerous provisions in clear violation of the Philippine Constitution, had urged Roxas to offer a ‘win-win’ formula, and not just a ‘draw or lose’ option.”

with a VERY strong statement:

“…in the coming 2010 presidential elections, Filipinos will have another chance to choose the kind of leader that they have longed for, one who will lead the country to victory, and certainly not a presidential wannabe who can only offer a “draw or lose” in a crucial issue like the controversial JPEPA, and not a “win-win” formula that is a mark of a true and strong national leader.”

Link to Mata’s full column here.

Tañada sinalungat si Roxas sa pagsuporta sa JPEPA
FairTrade renews call for JPEPA renegotiation

Strange turnaround on JPEPA

Published online in the January 22, 2008 edition of ABS CBN Interactive

The Fair Trade Alliance urged the government anew to renegotiate the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) after Senator Manuel Roxas II has favored its full ratification.

Former senator Wigberto Tañada, lead convenor of the multi-sectoral FairTrade, said the alliance is hoping that Roxas would still change his mind on the controversial deal with Japan.

“FairTrade thought that Sen. Roxas, after several public hearings on JPEPA, was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,” Tañada said.

“The Filipino people cannot accept a ‘tablo-talo’ (tie-lose) scenario. What we want is a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” he added.

Tañada clarified that the group is not against economic partnership with any country, saying it is inevitable under a more globalized economic climate. But he said that the country must be cautious in entering into trade agreements.

The JPEPA, which has been signed by President Arroyo and ratified by the Japanese parliament, will lift all tariffs on about 80 percent of Philippine exports to Japan.

Tañada argued that close to 90 percent of Philippine exports already enjoy a duty-free access to Japan even without JPEPA.

Tañada also warned that the deal will only allow entry of used clothing and second-hand vehicles in the Philippines.

“That is why from the very start the position of the alliance is to renegotiate the treaty because of these inherent economic and constitutional questions. The Senate must correct these patently one-sided contents in JPEPA so that it will effectively benefit Philippine industries and the Filipino people.”

Various parties want the Senate to kill JPEPA because they said it will only create low-paying jobs and allow Japan to dump toxic waste in the country.

Roxas, who heads the Senate committee on trade and commerce that reviews the JPEPA, said the Philippines may end up losing more if it failed to open up to neighboring countries.

Published in the January 23, 2008 issue of the Manila Bulletin

Former Senator Wigberto Tañada, lead convenor of the multi-sectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FairTrade), is hoping that Senator Mar Roxas, who is now proposing the full ratification of JPEPA, will still change his mind.

Based from media reports, Sen. Roxas admits there is no or little gain in ratifying JPEPA, but that the country will be left behind if we do not ratify it. He said JPEPA is a case of “tabla-talo” (tie-lose).

“FairTrade thought that Sen. Roxas, after several public hearings on JPEPA, was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The Filipino people cannot accept a ‘tablo-talo’ scenario. What we want is a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” Tañada said.

“We are not against economic partnership with any country, in this case Japan, because this is not inevitable under a more globalized economic environment. But we must be cautious about entering into these trade arrangements so that in the end it will truly serve and support the national development agenda of the country,” Tanada emphasized.

FairTrade also argued that it is not true that more market opening will happen if there is JPEPA, in fact as of now close to 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan are already enjoying duty-free access to Japan, whether there is JPEPA or not. On the other hand, local industries will suffer because JPEPA allows the entry of used clothing (ukay-ukay) and second-hand vehicles to the Philippines.

“That is why from the very start the position of the Alliance is to renegotiate the treaty because of these inherent economic and constitutional questions. The Senate must correct these patently onesided contents in JPEPA so that it will effectively benefit Philippine industries and the Filipino people.

Published in the January 23, 2008 edition of The Daily Tribune
By Ayen Infante

The multisectoral Fair Trade Alliance (FTA) has renewed its call for the renegotiation of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) amid the proposal of Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas to prioritize the full ratification of the trade deal.

FTA lead convenor and former Sen. Wigberto Tanada expressed high hopes that Roxas, will still change his mind since admitting that there is no or little gain in ratifying JPEPA.

Roxas was reported as saying JPEPA is a case of tabla-talo (tie or lose) once it was not ratified.

“Fair Trade thought that Senator Roxas, after several public hearings on JPEPA, was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The Filipino people cannot accept a tabla-talo scenario. What we want is a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” Tañada pointed out.

“We are not against economic partnership with any country, in this case Japan, because this is not inevitable under a more globalized economic environment. But we must be cautious about entering into these trade arrangements so that in the end it will truly serve and support the national development agenda of the country,” Tanada emphasized.

Fair Trade also argued that it is not true that more market opening will happen if there is JPEPA, in fact, as of now close to 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan are already enjoying duty-free access, On the other hand, local industries will suffer because JPEPA allows the entry of used clothing (ukay-ukay) and second-hand vehicles to the Philippines.

Published B2 in the January 23, 2008 issue of the Manila Times
By Katrina Mennen A. Valdez

The Fair Trade Alliance has appealed anew for a renegotiation of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement following the proposal of Sen. Mar Roxas to ratify the accord.

FTA head Wigberto Tanada said the Philippines should still push for renegotiation, citing the admission of Roxas that there is little, if at all, to be gained if JPEPA is ratified, except that the country will be left behind if it is not.

“Fair Trade thought that Senator Roxas, after several public hearings on JPEPA, was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand,” Tanada said.

The Filipinos should accept only “a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership” and not settle for a “tie-lose” scenario, he added.

FTA clarified it is not against economic partnerships with any country as this is inevitable in a globalized economic environment, but that the government must ensure that any trade arrangement it enters into will “truly serve and support” the national development agenda.

The lobby group further said that “close to 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan are already enjoying duty-free access to Japan, whether there is JPEPA or not.”

On the other hand, FTA said local industries stand to suffer since JPEPA allows the entry of used clothing and second-hand vehicles to the Philippines.

“The Senate must correct these patently one-sided contents in JPEPA so that it will effectively benefit Philippine industries and the Filipino people,” Tanada said.

Published online in the January 22, 2008 edition of GMANews.tv

Tutol sa ratipikasyon ng kontrobersyal na Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) maging ang kapartido ni Senador Manuel “Mar” Roxas sa Liberal Party.

Ayon kay dating Sen. Wigberto Tañada, isa mga iginagalang na kasapi ng LP, umaasa siya na nagbabago ang isip ni Roxas na naunang nagpahayag ng suporta sa pag-apruba ng JPEPA.

Si Roxas ang presidente ng LP, habang pinuno ng partido sa Kamara de Representante ang anak ni Tanada na si Quezon Rep. Lorenzo Tanada III.

Sinabi ni (Wigberto) Tañada, convenor ng Fair Trade Alliance, na ang nais ng mga Filipino ay “win-win situation,” at hindi tablo-talo na tila posisyon umano Roxas.

Unang inihayag ni Roxas na hihikayatin niya ang mga senador na suportahan ang JPEPA kahit aminado siyang maliit lamang ang magiging pakinabang ng bansa sa tratado. Nagbabala ang senador na hindi dapat mapag-iwanan ang Pilipinas sa nagaganap na ugnayan sa kalakalan ng mga bansa.

“Sen. Roxas was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The Filipino people cannot accept a tabla-talo scenario. What we want is a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” pagdiin ni Tañada.

Bagaman patuloy ang nagaganap na pagtutulungan ng mga bansa sa ilalim ng “globalized economic setting,” iginiit ni Tanada na, “the Philippines must be cautious about entering into these trade arrangements so that in the end it will truly serve and support the national development agenda of the country.”

Hindi naniniwala ang grupo ng dating senador na makakatulong ang JPEPA upang mabuksan ang merkado ng mundo para sa mga produkto ng Pilipinas.

“In fact as of now close to 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan are already enjoying duty-free access to Japan, whether there is JPEPA or not. On the other hand, local industries will suffer because JPEPA allows the entry of used clothing (ukay-ukay) and second-hand vehicles to the Philippines,” pahayag ni Tañada.

Tutol ang ilang kritiko sa JPEPA dahil sa paniwalang magdudulot ng panganib sa kalikasan ng bansa ang mga ipapasok na “basura” mula sa Japan.

Si Roxas ang itinuturing pambato ng LP sa panguluhang halalan sa 2010 elections. – Fidel Jimenez

Published online in the January 22, 2008 edition of GMANews.TV

Former senator Wigberto Tañada on Tuesday said he was hoping that Sen. Manuel “Mar” Roxas would still change his position supporting the ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Tañada, convenor of the Fair Trade Alliance, said that what the Filipinos wanted “is a win-win situation,” and not a tablo-talo or tie-lose scenario, which Roxas said would be the likely effect of nodding to JPEPA.

Earlier, Roxas reportedly said that while the Philippines would have little or no gain in ratifying JPEPA, the country would be left behind if it won’t approve the agreement.

“Sen. Roxas…was able to see the economic balances in the treaty and the serious constitutional flaws, and that it was inferior to the agreements entered into by Japan with Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand. The Filipino people cannot accept a tablo-talo scenario. What we want is a win-win situation, a mutually beneficial economic partnership,” Tañada said.

Tañada said that while partnership with other countries was “inevitable under a more globalized economic setting,” the Philippines “must be cautious about entering into these trade arrangements so that in the end it will truly serve and support the national development agenda of the country.”

The former senator’s group also belied claims that JPEPA would make international markets further open up to Philippine products.

“In fact as of now close to 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan are already enjoying duty-free access to Japan, whether there is JPEPA or not. On the other hand, local industries will suffer because JPEPA allows the entry of used clothing (ukay-ukay) and second-hand vehicles to the Philippines,” said Tañada.




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