For the first time, the Philippines would be entering into a bilateral agreement if the JPEPA would pass through the scrutiny of the Senate. In accordance with World Trade Organization (WTO) Pres. Arroyo and Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi signed the Japan- Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA. The agreement offers numerous benefits to economy and labor. It would generate job to thousands jobseekers, create livelihood to small businessmen, open opportunities to those engaged in industrial and agricultural business, invite more investors in the country , strengthen ties between the two nations and would build up business confidence of the Philippines. Interestingly, the tariff of the exporting and importing goods and services is eliminated by the agreement. Thus, making the trading convenient for both nations.

While the agreement is being studied and debated in the Senate, the people have staged rallies and speeches supporting and opposing the agreement. Certain groups like the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI) and the League of Municipalities of the Phils. (LMP) have strongly expressed their support to the President. They cited that the agreement would benefit them and the Filipino nation as it will generate jobs and would open free trade of goods and services. On the other hand, environment groups strongly oppose the agreement basically on the environmental risk that the agreement poses.

In Art. 29 of the agreement, the products which are covered by the agreement includes, (a) 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; (b) 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; and (c) 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. These products, however they may be called by the agreement, are basically wastes. Maybe some would be recycled but definitely some will just end up in the dumping site adding to the mountainous garbage of the Filipinos.

This particular stipulation in the agreement is the very fear of those opposing the agreement particularly the environment sector. With the elimination of tariff and including these products in the agreement, hazardous and toxic wastes can enter freely and legally in the Philippine jurisdiction. Japan is known to be a great generator of hazardous wastes because of their manufacturing processes. It can be recalled that barrels of toxic wastes from Japan were left unattended in the Philippine port and no news was heard if the said waste was claimed by the responsible Japanese. Notably, when the Japanese embassy was asked on their stand on the environment impact of JPEPA they said that Japan would not export toxic wastes to any country UNLESS THE GOVERNMENT OF SUCH COUNTRY APPROVES SUCH EXPORT. From their statement, it can be drawn that the intention of exporting toxic waste is present and by the JPEPA alone it can be drawn that Philippine agrees to such export. When toxic wastes enter the Philippine jurisdiction, the Filipino health is in jeopardy.

With the issues raised by different groups, the Senate should carefully scrutinize the JPEPA or better yet kill the agreement. Economic gain should not compromise with the future of the country. What is money when people would helplessly die of toxicity? What is economic progress if nature would helplessly die of pollution?


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