Toxic Trade News / 25 October 2006
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RP-Japan trade pact to 'go through eye of needle'
by Veronica Uy, (Philippines)
25 October 2006 – The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which includes controversial provisions critics say allow the dumping of toxic wastes in the country, will " go through the eye of the needle" once transmitted to the Senate for concurrence, Senator Pia Cayetano said in a statement Wednesday.

Cayetano, who heads the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, also urged the executive branch to immediately transmit the ratifying documents to the Senate -- along with the attached commitments of both state signatories -- for scrutiny and subsequent concurrence or rejection, in line with the requirements of the 1987 Constitution.

A senior diplomatic official earlier told that the Department of Foreign Affairs is in the process of preparing the ratification papers for the Senate.

Cayetano said careful scrutiny is needed for the agreement, particularly Article 29, which outlines the types of "originating goods" that may be traded between the two parties.

She noted that among those mentioned in the provision are articles "which are fit only for disposal," as well as scrap and waste from manufacturing or processing operations, and parts or raw materials "which can no longer perform their original purpose nor are capable of being repaired or restored."

Cayetano expressed grave concern that the supposed "goods" as described in Article 29 were a euphemism for Japan's unwanted industrial, municipal, and clinical waste, which she noted the Philippines has disturbingly offered to host.

The senator said that while she supports the government’s effort to give Filipino health workers access to the Japanese labor market, she said access must not be traded for the health of environment and the Filipinos.

But acting labor secretary Danilo Cruz, who sat in the JPEPA negotiating panel for the movement of natural persons, told "We were never involved in the discussions of the controversial provisions. We never traded the possible deployment of our workers for the [toxic waste provisions]. That was discussed separately by the trade and investment panel."

Cruz also said the agreement needs the Senate’s concurrence.

Cruz’ position is supported by the senior diplomatic official and Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, who both said the Senate cannot do a line-veto of the treaty as it comes as a package.

The JPEPA negotiations took over two years, culminating in the signing of the treaty in Finland last September.

Cayetano first raised questions about the implications of the agreement during the Senate committee on finance's deliberations on the budgets of the Departments of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Trade and Industry (DTI).

On both occasions, she said Secretaries Angelo Reyes of the DENR and Peter Favila of DTI told her the agreement would indeed allow waste from Japan as long as it will observe the country's environmental laws and its commitment to international treaties like the Basel Convention of 1989.

"I gathered from both DENR and DTI 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 waste," she said.

Cayetano echoed the concerns of environmentalists who raised the issue before the public.

"I find this situation unacceptable, however, because we have not even fully implemented the provisions of RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) despite its passage into law almost six years ago. We cannot even manage our own garbage, so how can we take responsibility for the wastes of other countries?" she asked.

She said even the more advanced countries have been having problems dealing with their own industrial wastes even if they have far better technologies.

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