Negotiator admits prohibited waste on list
by Ronnel Domingo, Published on Page A1 of the October 25, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
25 October 2006 –
The Philippines’ chief negotiator in the trade talks with Japan yesterday said the agreement signed by the two countries covered a comprehensive range of products but did not necessarily mean the entry into the country of prohibited or toxic waste.
Senior Trade Undersecretary Thomas G. Aquino said in an interview the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was an “all-trade” pact, which means that all products produced in both countries are covered.
This is why waste -- even the hazardous and toxic ones -- is included, said Aquino.
Asked why the JPEPA talks covered items that were in the first place prohibited by Philippine law, Aquino said this was a technicality that needed to be done.
He said various types of waste were on the list of products that have HS classification, or harmonized system. This lists products under tariff headings or tariff lines that are given specific numbers to identify each class of particular products and their corresponding duties.
Aquino admitted that different types of prohibited waste were placed on the list of products under the JPEPA.
“In essence, the tariffs for these products have no real use because the products are banned. That is why during negotiations (like what we had for the JPEPA), this is one of the easiest and first things to be done -- eliminating useless tariffs.”
Following Philippine laws, prohibited products cannot enter the country, Aquino said.
The Japanese were perplexed at why it took the Philippine side so long to agree on the waste issue, he added.
The issue of waste had been one of the last items tackled before negotiators wrapped up the JPEPA following four years of work, including two and a half years of actual negotiations.
Legislatures to approve pact
Also, Aquino said Manila and Tokyo were set to work on a protocol on how to implement and realize the JPEPA after it had been ratified by both legislatures.
“This would not mean more negotiations, but setting up a protocol or rules on how to do things under JPEPA.”
Aquino said the pact was considered a building block of multilateral efforts at the World Trade Organization, which would be notified of the agreement.
“Based on WTO rules, all products that are subject to tariffs must face reduced duties, including ‘waste,’” Aquino said. “But there are also laws that define regulations and prohibitions on the trade in waste.”
The JPEPA may encourage trade in waste if the resulting reductions in tariffs will make it worthwhile economically -- or profitable -- for a firm to engage in such trade, Aquino said.
“But (the Philippines) would allow only trade in regulated -- and not prohibited -- waste allowed under Philippine laws and international agreements that the country is a party to.
“There is much such waste from Japan that we may not yet be familiar with like some waste from the electronics industry,” Aquino said. “JPEPA would help us learn about these waste.”
Aquino said the protocol would strengthen the efforts of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources as well as the Bureau of Customs on the prohibition against toxic waste. “(It) would serve to safeguard and complement our internal policies.”
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