BEST SAFETY NET IS COMPLETE REJECTION OF THE JPEPA

In contrast to their earlier hyperbolic claims, government negotiators are now at least finally acknowledging that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will have adverse effects, hence the need for “safety nets”. But no amount of safety nets will be enough precisely because Japan ’s intention is to create conditions for the maximum exploitation of the Philippines ’ natural and human resources through the JPEPA.

The country’s experience with the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995 also clearly shows that so-called safety nets are only token mechanisms that have completely failed to stop the disastrous effects of free trade. Anti-JPEPA group No Deal! reiterates that the best safety net against the JPEPA is to reject it completely.

The WTO was questioned before the Supreme Court in 1994. Although the high court eventually found the WTO agreement constitutional, the subsequent trade liberalization has had disastrous effects on the Philippine economy, severely damaging local agriculture and forcing millions of Filipinos to go abroad to seek work. The past decade of poor economic performance actually gives the Supreme Court a reason to revisit its arguments in Tañada, et al. vs. Angara , et al. (G.R. No. 118295) of May 2, 1997 .

That the main beneficiaries of trade liberalization are First World corporations is clearly shown by the fact that foreign firms have taken an increasingly larger share of manufacturing sales. Transnational corporations’ share of total manufacturing sales among the country’s top one thousand firms has grown from 56% in 1999 to 75% in 2004.

The negative effects of WTO-mandated trade liberalization on Third World countries has resulted in a breakdown in further trade talks since 2001 as underdeveloped countries are unable to accept the deeper liberalization being pushed by First World countries through the multilateral trade organization.

Thus, countries such as the US , Japan and the EU nations are seeking further liberalization through bilateral free trade agreements such as the JPEPA. These countries are also using such agreements to force countries to accept issues for liberalization such as investment, government procurement and competition policy, which were already rejected at WTO negotiations.

Government negotiators also appeared to have committed a grave abuse of discretion by entering into JPEPA motivated by a stubborn adherence to free trade dogma unsupported by sound scientific studies and economic reasoning. This is why they are having difficulty defending the JPEPA’s benefits before the Senate committee on foreign relations, forcing senators to continue scheduling hearings in a frantic attempt to find a pretext for sending the agreement before the body for ratification.

Indeed, government representatives have continuously played up the benefits to Japanese investors and domestic big business interests while glossing over the adverse effects on millions of Filipino fisherfolk, workers and farmers. This is a gross betrayal of government’s avowed duty to govern for the benefit of the majority.

The economy has only been weakened by free trade agreements such as under the WTO and like the proposed JPEPA. If the government is prepared to truly develop the domestic economy instead of surrender it to foreign traders and investors, then safety nets would not be needed. If it is not prepared, then no safety net will be good enough.

CONVENORS

Former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Former Senator Wigberto Tañada Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran Rafael Mariano, Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas Nitz Gonzaga, Kilusang Mayo Uno Fernando Hicap, Pamalakaya  Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan Jossel Ebesate, R.N., Alliance of Health Workers Connie Bragas-Regalado, Migrante Clemente Bautista Jr. Kalikasan People’s Network Rechielda Extremadura, Lila Filipina Arman Albarillo, Bayan-Southern Tagalog Roy Velez, Bayan-NCR Ed Cubelo, Toyoto workers union president Sonny Africa, Ibon Foundation Prof. Roland Simbulan, UP Arnold Padilla, spokesperson


Conference on Ethical Governance

Dear Friends,

Warmest greetings!

The Philippines Transparency and Accountability Council (PTAC), an independent people’s council would like to invite you to a Conference on Ethical Governance on November 23, 2007, from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM at the Penthouse, UP Law Center, Quezon City.

Most Rev.Luis Antonio Tagle, Bishop of the Diocese of Imus and Court Administrator Zenaida N. Elepano will be the keynote speakers. A workshop will follow in the afternoon.

PTAC is a gathering of non-partisan and independent minded individuals acting as a point of initiative to create public focus on the issue of corruption. It also aims to promote the people’s call for genuine democratic governance as the long lasting solution to this problem.

The conference aims to gather individuals, sectors, organizations and groups to come up with timely resolutions and concrete actions that will somehow address the systemic and endemic problem of graft and corruption which continuous to reach an alarming proportion.

It is a big challenge to us Filipinos to take a decisive and sustained action. The conference is a step towards working for the moral upliftment of our nation. Your participation will be greatly appreciated.

For inquiries, please contact 425-1387 and look for Ms. Susan Cruz or Ms. Reileen Joy Dulay or send your email through scruz@ibon.org or rdulay@ibon.org

In solidarity,

Most Rev. Deogracias Iniguez, D.D.

Bishop, Diocese of Kaloocan

Antonio Tujan, Jr.

Director, IBON International

SURVEY SHOWS MOST FILIPINOS NOT AWARE OF JPEPA

While the Senate continues to conduct hearings on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement

(JPEPA) as part of the ratification process, results of IBON’s latest nationwide survey show that the public awareness of the pact is very low, despite being signed last year.

However, those who were aware of the JPEPA believe that the Senate should not ratify the controversial free trade pact.

Out of the 36.8% of respondents who were aware of the JPEPA, 73.7% said they were aware that the agreement is currently before the Senate for ratification. Of these, 55.7% said they were not in favor of the ratification of the JPEPA.

The IBON October 2007 survey was conducted across various sectors nationwide from October 1 to 9 and has a margin of error of plus or minus three percent.

On the JPEPA

Do you know that there is an agreement between the governments of Japan and the Philippines called the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement or JPEPA that intends to liberalize trade, service and investment?

October 2007

Frequency

Percentage

Yes

551

36.78

No

944

63.02

No answer

3

0.20

Total

1,498

100.00

Do you know that the JPEPA is now for ratification at the Senate?

October 2007

Frequency

Percentage

Yes

406

73.68

No

143

25.95

No answer

2

0.36

Total

551

100.00

Are you in favor of the ratification of JPEPA?

October 2007

Frequency

Percentage

Yes

153

37.68

No

226

55.67

Don’t know

23

5.67

No answer

4

0.99

Total

406

100.00

LOST REVENUES FROM CORRUPTION ‘SCANDALOUS’ AMID WORSENING STATE OF POOR FAMILIES

Latest results of the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES) indicate that Filipino families are getting poorer. But while this could be partially compensated by increasing public expenditures for social services, resources are being diverted to debt servicing or lost to corruption.

According to IBON executive editor Rosario Bella Guzman , corruption results in loss of government revenues going to private pockets that could have been used to provide the poor of basic social services.

The ZTE’s reported of US$130 million-overprice (roughly P5.9 billion), for example, could have been used to increase the subsidy of government hospitals catering to indigent patients. Guzman said that the overprice is enough to provide for the operating costs of the Philippine General Hospital (PGH) for five years, serving 70,000 indigent outpatients per year.

She added that the amount can also hire 2,889 public school teachers and pay for their salary for one year. The Department of Education estimated the backlog of teachers at 2,733.

Guzman said the unabated corruption allegations against the Arroyo administration are made even more scandalous because of the worsening poverty and income inequality in the country. Based from the 2006 FIES and government’s family living wage, poverty increased to 86% in 2006 from 82% in 2003



AMID RECORD-HIGH OIL PRICES:THINK-TANK RENEWS CALL TO REPEAL OIL DEREGULATION LAW

Drastic measures are urgently needed to minimize the vulnerability of the Philippines to high global oil prices. Independent think-tank IBON Foundation says this includes the immediate suspension and eventual repeal of the Oil Deregulation Law and setting up a mechanism for government control of oil price hikes to ensure reasonable pump prices.

At present, the only measure that the Arroyo regime is implementing to cushion the impact of increasing global oil prices is the automatic tariff mechanism. But this measure only delays oil price hikes and does not ensure fair price adjustments.

As noted recently by the United Nations, the Philippines is among the countries that are most vulnerable to oil price shocks because it is heavily dependent on imported oil. Worse, more than 90% of the local oil industry remains in the monopoly control of giant transnational corporations (TNCs) through their local units Petron, Shell, Caltex, and Total.

The monopoly of these companies has been further strengthened by the Oil Deregulation Law where automatic oil price hikes are allowed. Consequently, oil companies took advantage of the policy, hiking pump prices of all petroleum products by around 535% since the Oil Deregulation Law was first implemented in April 1996.

The Oil Deregulation Law also provided the big oil companies more space to manipulate pump prices. IBON estimates show that since 2000, pump prices are overpriced by as much as P4.55 per liter as oil price hikes were left unregulated.

Unfortunately, the Department of Energy (DOE) could only talk about its “long-term plans” anchored on questionable programs such as biofuels, aside from its tariff adjustment mechanism, when drastic measures are needed by the people urgently.

IBON reiterates its call for Congress to suspend and repeal the Oil Deregulation Law. Only state regulation and control can assure the country’s energy security right now amidst a highly speculative and volatile global oil market.