Press Release
August 12, 2007

Don't send amateurs to JPEPA hearings, Villar urges gov't

Foreseeing tough times ahead for the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), Senate President Manny Villar urged the government to assemble a "top-tier" group of experts who will argue its merits during the Senate deliberations on JPEPA.

"It cannot be denied that the connotation of toxic wastes made JPEPA unpopular to the public and made legislators think this is a bad deal undeserving of support. That is why we want people who can quote JPEPA in their sleep, not just those who can read sections of it from giant cue cards," Villar said.

Villar said that for all the millions government is spending to market the treaty, the public perceives it as nothing but a "mere waste import agreement" when it covers a great deal of commercial issues between the Philippines and Japan.

"The government must be ready because the Senate in its public hearings will be inviting oppositors to the agreement who have so far been articulate in presenting their case," Villar, who is also president of the Nacionalista Party, said.

"Government is already doing a poor job in selling JPEPA both to the public and to the Senate that will ratify it. It may lose the battle by default if it sends representatives who are not up to the task," Villar said.

"Parang recitation yan. Expert pa naman ang teacher nila dyan, si Miriam," he added, referring to Foreign Affairs committee chair Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, a noted expert in international law.

By law, the support of two-thirds of all the members of the Senate, or 16 senators, based on its current membership of 23, must be secured for a treaty to be ratified.

"Even some administration senators in the Senate have their own misgivings about the treaty, mostly on environment and waste issues," Villar said.

Villar warned that if JPEPA is found to impinge on Philippine environment laws, then the chances of the treaty being ratified is dim.

The Senate President said the major sticking points that must be resolved are JPEPA provisions that are said to contradict local laws and an international convention against the illegal dumping of toxic and hazardous wastes.

These include Republic Acts 6969, or the Toxic Substance and Hazardous and Nuclear Waste Act of 1990, which prohibits the entry of hazardous wastes into and their disposal within the country, for whatever purpose.

"We would also like to know if the entry of poisonous incinerator ash under the treaty is a violation of Republic Act 8749 or the Clean Air Act," Villar said.

There are also claims that by ratifying JPEPA, the country will be violating its own commitment under the Basel Convention, both adopted by the Philippines and Japan, which minimizes the production and regulates the trafficking of hazardous materials, Villar noted.

"The Senate's vote on the treaty will be based on the larger national interest. The burden of proof lies on the Executive, if the benefits for our countrymen outweigh the costs in this agreement," Villar said.

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