Environmentalists need 9 senators to junk RP-Japan pact
by Blanche Rivera, INQ7.net (Philippines)
6 November 2006 –
For environmentalists opposing the inclusion of toxic and hazardous waste in the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), the search is on for at least nine “green-minded senators.”
With the opening of the Senate on Monday, the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA, a coalition of academicians, environmentalists, trade lawyers, lawmakers and individuals against the JPEPA, is ready to get into the numbers game to block the ratification of the controversial treaty signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki on September 9.
The JPEPA needs two-thirds of the Senate vote -- or 16 of 23 senators -- to be ratified and to take effect as a law. Critics of the JPEPA need only nine senators to reject the JPEPA.
“I think we have nine already, but if we could get a unanimous vote, that would be the best,” Green Initiatives Inc. chief Mimi Sison said during the official launch of the coalition at the Miriam Environmental Studies Institute on Monday.
Based on initial talks with the senators and their statements in the media, Sison said Senate president Manny Villar, Senators Joker Arroyo, Ramon Magsaysay Jr., Pia Cayetano, Aquilino Pimentel Jr. Ana Maria Consuelo “Jamby” Madrigal and Ralph Recto have expressed deep concern over the JPEPA provision on waste.
Opposition senators Luisa Ejercito and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada are also being eyed to complete the nine senators needed to thumb down the JPEPA, the first bilateral agreement entered into by the Philippines since 1946.
Ecowaste Coaliton secretary Manny Calonzo said the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA coalition would do a two-pronged approach when they engage the senators.
Aside from blocking the ratification of the treaty, they would also push for the ratification of the Basel Ban amendment, which prohibits the export of all hazardous waste from industrialized to less developed countries.
“One of the very first things the Philippines should do is to ratify the Basel Ban amendment,” Richard Gutierrez, a lawyer member of the Seattle-based Basel Action Network monitoring compliance to the Basel convention, said in a press conference.
Gutierrez said the Philippines was the “target” of Japan as a dumping ground because its neighbors Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei have ratified the amendment.
“When we open our door to toxic waste through the JPEPA, will we be able to close it? The government is very weak,” Gutierrez said.
Bukidnon Representative Nereus Acosta, principal author of landmark environmental laws like the Clean Air Act, said the JPEPA was not merely a health and environmental issue but a an issue of national sovereignty.
“This flies in the face of the integrity of the entire policy-making process. This is an issue of self-respect for the Philippines, an issue of national sovereignty,” Acosta said.
He urged environmentalists to increase public pressure on the Senate to ensure that the senators scrutinize the treaty and set aside political affiliations when they vote.
“At the end of the day, this almost always gets reduced to a numbers game. The biggest factor that can tilt the balance is public pressure,” Acosta said.
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. The Basel Action Network is making this article available in our efforts to advance understanding of ecological sustainability and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.