Press Release
October 8, 2008

Senator Aquino's Speech On His Vote For The JPEPA

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues, in a privilege speech about this treaty, Senator Santiago informed this body that "ayaw naman talaga natin ang treaty na to".

The JPEPA is an economic partnership agreement, where there is supposed to be a mutual exchange of benefits between both parties. To my understanding, anything mutually exchanged involves one gaining something while the other gets something in return.

In studying this treaty, this representation has found that its disadvantages far outweigh the treaty's projected hoped-for benefits. In fact, we gave away practically everything and instead settled for maintaining the status quo as our sole benefit.

What we give away today cannot be used to bargain with in the future.

Under the JPEPA, Japan has reserved 197 tariff lines while the Philippines excluded only 2, leaving the rest of our agricultural products open to competition from Japan.

Even worse, Japan maintains protection for agricultural products where the Philippines does not yet pose a threat to its domestic economy, limiting our potential for growth. However, the same protection is not given to Philippine products.

Various gains arising from the treaty have been claimed. However, we question how these gains will be achieved.

How can we attain the growth projected by the proponents of the treaty as a result of inward investment, remittances and increase in exports when:

- JPEPA will not address many perennial roadblocks to investing in our country such as poor infrastructure, high cost of power, an inefficient transport network and poor governance as noted by the ADB, the CEO and Chairman of Toyota Corporation, the Japanese Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines and the Japan External Trade Organization, among others.

- The focus of projected remittances as a result of JPEPA is the deployment of nurses to Japan. However, the desire of our graduating nurses to be deployed to Japan has not even been demonstrated. How do we project the JPEPA?

- JPEPA already constrains most of our agricultural exports as well possible exports in the future by either excluding them or listing them in their reservations.

- The increase in our industrial exports is threatened by the fact that our manufacturing sector is constantly on the decline.

It has been claimed that our non-ratification of this treaty will result in decreased economic activity with Japan, because Japan may prefer to engage with those countries with whom it has effective economic partnership agreements. We have achieved our current levels of trade with Japan without JPEPA. No deterioration of these levels has been shown as a direct consequence of Japan's enactment of its EPA's with other countries.

It is clear that with this treaty, Japan gains, whereas the most that we can hope for, after sacrificing a lot more, we will merely maintain that which we already have.

As legislators elected to represent the interests of the people, the question that meets us squarely at the end of the day is whether or not we have lived up to our mandate of protecting the welfare of the people we serve. We have but one master which is the Filipino people. We should not give away what is rightfully theirs without ensuring that they gain something of equal value in return.

Mr. President, distinguished colleagues. I therefore vote NO to Senate Resolution Number 555 and Committee Report No. 90 to pave the way for a renegotiation of a better treaty.

Thank you.

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