Toxic Trade News / 12 October 2006
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DTI asked to disclose RP's commitments to JPEPA
by (UK)
12 October 2006 – Administration Senator Pia Cayetano on Thursday directed the Department of Trade and Industry to make a public disclosure of the country's commitments to the recently-signed Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Cayetano, chairman of the Senate committees on health and demography, and environment and natural resources, is concerned over reports that said pact will facilitate the entry of hazardous and toxic wastes to the country.

She also requested the Executive Branch to immediately transmit the bilateral pact to the Senate, along with the attached commitments of both state signatories, for the chamber's scrutiny and its subsequent concurrence or rejection, in line with the requirements of the 1987 Constitution.

The neophyte senator said that it was incumbent upon the DTI to provide a detailed accounting of the country's commitments, considering JPEPA's far-reaching implications on the economy, environment and people's health.

"Prior to its signing, several groups have spoken out against the absence of public consultations and lack of transparency that marked the manner of negotiations between the two countries. I can't see any reason why the government should continue keeping the public in the dark on our commitments a month after the pact's signing," she added.

She stressed that the DTI would have to clarify what became of the reported proposal by Philippine negotiators to drastically reduce tariffs on medical and municipal waste and sewage sludge, as this potentially violates Republic Act 6969, or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990; RA 9003 or the Ecological Solid Waste management Act of 2000; and the Basel Convention of 1989, an international treaty controlling the movement of hazardous wastes, to which the Philippines is a signatory.

She pointed out that during the Senate Committee on Finance deliberations on the budget of the DENR, she asked Secretary Reyes if he was aware of the environmental measure provision in the JPEPA and he replied that he was consulted on the matter.

"I gathered from Secretary Reyes that this arrangement to bring wastes into our country was acceptable, provided it will not violate any of our pertinent laws on waste management and hazardous wastes. I find this situation unacceptable though, because we have not even fully implemented the provisions of RA 9003 despite its passage into law almost six years ago. So how can we take responsibility for the wastes of other countries?" she lamented.

The senator added that while there is no specific reference to toxic wastes in the text of the 120-page agreement itself, the same may have been contained in the attachments which detailed both parties' trade and investment obligations in the coming years. (PNA)

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