Press Release
October 4, 2007

Pia suggests back-channel renegotiation for JPEPA

After failing to adequately defend the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) from criticisms in the last three public hearings conducted by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the Executive Branch may want to consider resorting to back-channel negotiations with their Japanese counterparts to correct the perceived flaws in the controversial treaty to benefit the country.

This was suggested by Senator Pia S. Cayetano, Chairperson of the Senate Committee on Environment and Natural Resources, to avert what she warns as a "major diplomatic embarrassment" for the Philippine government should the Senate decide to junk the agreement in its present form.

"I've been suggesting back-channel renegotiations for the JPEPA because an outright rejection by the Senate would be like a slap on the face of Malacanang and would result in a major diplomatic embarrassment not only to the eyes of the Japanese government, but also the international community," said Cayetano.

On the issue of movement of natural persons which was tackled today, Cayetano said, "I don't understand why other countries can negotiate very good terms for their nurses when it is the Philippines which produces nurses who are considered among the best in the world.

"We did not manage to obtain more favorable terms such as subsidy for nursing schools and students in the Philippines in exchange for our nurses who'll work there. Our nurses and caregivers will be made to comply with higher standards in Japan under JPEPA compared to other countries. So how can we say that this is the best possible deal for our people?" she added.

"In all the public hearings conducted so far, the government representatives haven't been able to respond convincingly to the issues and hard evidence raised by the opposition, particularly on the so-called uneven provisions of JPEPA and the possibility of it opening up our borders to toxic waste materials in the guise of recycling.

"Why even the Department of Health (during the third hearing) was honest enough to admit that it had serious reservations about the possible impact of JPEPA to people's health," added the lady senator, who also chairs the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

"Even on the question of what the Philippines will gain in exchange for what it gave up to Japan in terms of trade and investment, and how come other countries like Indonesia and Thailand were able to secure better terms in their bilateral deals with Japanóthe government panel seemed dumbfounded. These are very basic questions that they surely would have anticipated and should have been ready to defend from Round One (of the five-part hearing)."

Cayetano however maintained that she still has an open mind about the agreement.

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