Roxas bats for Senate probe on RP-Japan economic deal
Iloilo City (26 October) -- Senator Mar Roxas, Chairman of the Senate Committees on Trade and Commerce and on Economic Affairs, insists that the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) should be scrutinized more thoroughly to ensure transparency.
"The breadth and scope of JPEPA requires that it should be ratified first, with the Senate's scrutiny and concurrence," he said.
But "until now, the Senate has yet to receive an official transmission of the JPEPA and its annexes from the executive branch," he lamented.
He stressed that thorough and transparent deliberations on JPEPA must be made in public in light of emerging issues; not only publicized complaints regarding allowing toxic waste imports but other issues which may arise due to the alleged lack of transparency during negotiations on the said trade pact.
The concurrence process, he said, will allow senators to gauge the treaty on various grounds. Among these, he said senators would need to gauge whether JPEPA upholds or violates Philippine sovereignty, and whether it is economically equitable to both parties.
Senator Roxas said the Senate committee on trade and commerce will invite different stakeholders to shed light into the advantages and disadvantages of the agreement from the standpoint of the Philippine economy and local industries.
This hearing, he said, would complement future concurrence proceedings in the Senate after Malacaņang officially transmits the JPEPA. The Senate's concurrence in treaties is needed before the President may ratify such.
He said the issue is also relevant to the committee's ongoing hearings on a pending bill that seeks the creation of a Philippine Trade Representative Office.
"Kailangan nating sukatin kung "sulit" ba para sa atin ang kasunduang ito (We need to measure if we are at the winning end in this accord). We need to determine if we will be giving away too much, and if we are going ahead of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in the trade concessions we will be giving Japan ," he said.
"For example, what are we giving up in exchange for the entry of our nurses or tuna exports to Japan ? We need to compute the aggregate amount of these concessions, for we may be at the losing end in the long run," he said.
He explained that while several Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) have been classified as executive agreements, which did not require the Senate's concurrence in the past, the JPEPA may be of a larger scope. He noted that past FTAs fall within the already ratified General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, but JPEPA, as some stakeholders claim, contains "WTO-plus," or provisions exceeding those of approved and pending matters in the World Trade Organization.
Meanwhile, Senator Roxas is pushing for the approval of the Senate Bill No. 2236, or the proposed creation of a Philippine Trade Representative Office, which would mainly be responsible for all the government's free trade negotiations.
The bill seeks to improve the consolidation of the Philippine position in trade talks by creating a single agency to be responsible for trade pacts, divest from the Trade and Agriculture departments the function of trade negotiations to allow them to focus on their main mandate of developing industries and agriculture, streamline coordination among government agencies and branches, improve processes for consultation with various stakeholders, among others.
"There have been complaints on our present negotiating set-up, that it does not effectively consolidate the country's negotiating position, with stakeholder groups often left out of these discussions," he said.
"We could have avoided all this talk about 'toxic' issues had we created the Trade Representative Office earlier," he added. (PIA-6) [top]