With a vote of 16-4, the Philippine Senate got enough votes to meet the 2/3 requirement to ratify the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
What is JPEPA anyway? What's the big deal about this particular treaty?
While the more famous items in JPEPA are the nurses for toxic wastes, the treaty covers the gamut of industries, goods and services that can be opened up for trade between the two states. It also includes agreement on the lowering or elimination of tariffs on certain goods and services.
It sounds advantageous, or at the very least, harmless.
Believe me, it's not.
For the pros:
1. It is possible that the Philippines can gain as much as $419 million-worth of agricultural and fishery exports to Japan through tariff eliminations and other improved market-access concession.
2. As for healthcare workers, Japan reportedly first agreed to allow a limited number of nurses (100 in the first year) to stay beyond the current four-year time limit if they acquire a Japanese licence. In the final agreement, the quota was raised 400-500 per year.
For the cons:
1. This is a treaty which considerably favors Japan, not the Philippines. As stated in junkjpepanow.wordpress.com:
A comparative study on the commitments and concessions of the Philippines and Japan reveals that the JPEPA is primarily for Japan’s benefit. While Japan insisted on excluding, for purposes of protection, more than 200 (651 tariff lines) of its products (mostly agricultural and fisheries), the Philippines only chose to protect two of its products (6 tariff lines) by way of exclusion (rice and salt).2. Article 29, Number 2 of JPEPA provides that tradeable goods include:
xxxThis simply means that toxic wastes and scrap materials, denominated as "goods," can be "traded" to us. It is funny to note the irony of the words used to sugarcoat garbage.
(i) articles collected in the Party which can no longer perform their original purpose in the Party nor are capable of being restored or repaired and which are fit only for disposal or for the recovery of parts or raw materials;
(j) scrap and waste derived from manufacturing or processing operations or from consumption in the Party and fit only for disposal or for the recovery of raw materials;
(k) parts or raw materials recovered in the Party from articles which can no longer perform their original purpose nor are capable of being restored or repaired;xxx
3. There are too many provisions that are inconsistent with our Constitution. Among the issues in question are the ownership of land; lifting of citizenship requirements for certain industries; right over marine resources; and preferential use of Filipino Labor.
4. There are smaller issues involved which are too many to mention. For a litany of the cons, click here and here.
In an era of multilateralism, a bilateral treaty like the JPEPA is a peculiarity. Japan, in an effort to protect her hide, has been aggressively (albeit quietly) pushing for EPAs with her neighbors one by one, proposing bilateral treaties away from prying eyes. And Japan, in her take it or leave it stance, has bullied the Philippines into acceding to the treaty. Unfortunately for us, our politicians easily caved in to the pressure and ratified the treaty without giving a fight. The result? A lopsided "agreement" which we may very well regret in the future.
Japan screwed us over back in World War II. They're doing it again today, with chump change in return for the screw job.
Photo: Joe Shlabotnik, Flickr Creative Commons