Press Release
January 15, 2008


Senator Mar Roxas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce, said the committee report on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will be circulated by the end of January.

He said the report to be drafted by the Senate Committees on Foreign Relations and on Trade and Commerce will be circulated shortly after session resumes for the review and signature of both committees' members before being reported-out to plenary.

Asked by reporters during an open forum held by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines this morning, Roxas, the country's former chief trade negotiator in the World Trade Organization, said that while it is "too soon to tell" if JPEPA will be ratified by the Senate. But on his part, he said that after going through all the position papers, facts, data and provisions of the treat itself, he believes that the non-ratification of JPEPA would result in definite losses to the country.

"Without preempting our committee report, and based on the results of our hearings, I've concluded that there is not much gain that is inherent in the treaty, as negotiated, thus far. But the loss arising from not ratifying it is certainly calculable and definite," he said.

"I will certainly be circulating it among my colleagues and trying to convince them to come along on board. With respect to the treaty, it's a two-thirds [vote] requirement [in plenary]. We'll see what happens, whether in fact the 16 [votes] are available," he added.

As far as the issues concerning the Constitutionality and legality of the JPEPA treaty, he said he will defer final judgment to the Foreign Relations Chairman, Sen. Miriam Santiago, an expert on the Constitution. He said he has been consulting with Sen. Santiago, who, according to him, has so far said "she's fairly comfortable the Constitutional issues have been surmounted."

Roxas explained that in and of itself, the treaty text of the JPEPA "is not providing us so much" in terms of real gains. Whatever potential gains there are in terms of increased market access for Philippine goods into Japan will "require behavior by Philippine businesses and the Philippine government that heretofore we have not seen."

On the other hand, he said "the loss to us as a nation is certainly quite definite," as the non-ratification of JPEPA would mean the exclusion of the Philippines from the free trade area between Japan and members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, which will soon be formalized in a few months.

For instance, he noted that lowering tariffs on particular goods exported to Japan may not help much if not enough of these are produced in the first place. Aside from this, other countries that export to Japan and have made trade deals with Japan would have an advantage over the Philippines, if the treaty is not ratified.

In the automotive sector, Roxas said whether or not the treaty was implemented, the Philippines would have to face greater competition in the manufacturing of completely built units (CBUs). The competition would include other ASEAN countries with EPAs with Japan.

For nurses and caregivers, he said although Filipinos would have to take an exam in Nihonggo, the government could aid through language seminars and training.

Roxas had earlier said that JPEPA, in and of itself, will not cause the unbridled entry of toxic wastes and hazardous substances from Japan.

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