Invitation to Jepa Forum

NO DEAL! Movement Against Unequal Economic Agreements, St. Scholastica’s College, Benedictines for Peace, and the Institute of Women Studies cordially invite you to a forum entitled “JPEPA: Deal or No Deal? The People’s Issues” on September 4, 2008 at Barrion Hall, St. Scholastica’s College Manila from 9:00 am to 12 noon.

As the Philippine Senate prepares its deliberation on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement(JPEPA), we believe it is timely for the members of the Senate to once again hear the people’s concerns on the JPEPA. Many issues remain unresolved as far as the impact of the said treaty on the national economy and industries and the livelihood of our poor and marginalized sectors are concerned. The treaty continues to be controversial also because questions on its constitutionality remain, in spite of the efforts of Senator Miriam Santiago to forge a so-called side deal with Japan , not to mention the fear of toxic waste dumping which has not been substantially assuaged even by the “exchange of notes” between Japan and Philippines .

Among the invited speakers are Senators Manuel Villar, Francis Escudero, Pia Cayetano and Former Vice-President and No Deal! Lead convenor Teofisto Guingona.

For details on the forum, please contact the NO DEAL! Movement Secretariat at 435-6930 or Benedictines for Peace Secretariat c/o Rose Buyucan at 526-8075 loc. 107.

NO DEAL! Movement is a broad coalition of organizations and individuals campaigning against unequal economic agreements. St. Scholastica’s College, Benedictines for Peace and the Institute of Women Studies are Catholic institutions promoting the call for “SSS” : Serve Others, Save Mother Earth, and Seek Justice and Peace.

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Invitation: Book Fair

CONSTITUTIONAL’ JPEPA A HOLLOW VICTORY

The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) will still be against the best interests of Filipinos and the economy even if Japan accepts the Senate’s proposed “side deal” or any similar legal maneuver to make the JPEPA formally constitutional.

The changes to JPEPA proposed by the Senate still do not transform the deal into a genuine economic partnership agreement that recognizes the vast inequalities between the two countries and takes genuine measures to develop the Philippines.

The “side deal” merely aims to align the JPEPA with the nationalist economic provisions of the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It does notsignify a real shift in the country’s economic strategies and merely asserts what is already formally contained in the charter. Unfortunately these potentially important provisions have in practice not been able to hinder the unprecedented implementation of “free market” policies of so-called “globalization” in the country and, indeed, have been observed more in the breach.

The “side deal” falls far short of transforming JPEPA into a truly developmental deal for the Philippines. Such a deal would begin from recognizing the vast inequality between advanced Japan and backward Philippines. It would also acknowledge that Japan has become highly developed in part from decades of taking advantage of cheap Filipino laborand natural resources as well as from access to the domestic market.

On these premises, a genuine partnership deal would have Japan in solidarity with the Philippines and giving real support for its development. Among others this means the Philippines having open access to Japan while still retaining its trade and investment protections, the Philippines maintaining its control over and capacity to regulate the domestic economy, and Japan providing untied financial aid and technical assistance that the Philippines can freely use according to its development priorities.

Introducing reservations/exceptions for future/existing investment measures and introducing the possibility of changing tariff schedule commitments, as the Senate proposed for “conditional concurrence” previously, are only part of this.

The JPEPA signed by the government on the contrary is unequal, defeatist and destructive and will remain so even with the “side deal”. The only acceptable deal for the Philippines is one based on the principles of
solidarity, mutual benefit and development.

ROLLBACKS WELCOME BUT PRICING TRANSPARENCY STILL NECESSARY

The recent series of petroleum pump price rollbacks are welcome but independent think-tank IBON Foundation believes that oil firms should be transparent with their pricing particularly in the wake of windfall profits earned by oil firms due to record-high world crude prices.

According to research head Sonny Africa, how the oil firms determine pricing and the amount of rollback remains a mystery. Unless these firms reveal their pricing structure, the public remains captive to the whims of oil companies and dependent on the government’s “moral persuasion”, he added.

IBON pointed out that because of the practice of transfer pricing by global oil firms, it has become increasingly difficult for the Department of Energy and other stakeholder groups to determine how much local pump prices should move in relation to global oil prices and the peso-dollar exchange rate. Through transfer pricing, oil transnational firms are able to artificially bloat the price of oil as it passes through the different stages of production and distribution chain which they control.

IBON further pointed out that global oil prices whether Dubai spot crude or Mean of Platt’s Singapore , which are the benchmark that oil firms use in determining local pump prices, are unreliable as they are bloated by speculation. A 2006 study by the US Senate showed that 30% or more of world crude oil prices are driven by speculation. Locally, IBON estimates that prevailing pump prices of unleaded gasoline are overpriced by 23% because of speculation.

Oil firms have been allowed to further achieve monopoly control over the industry because of deregulation, which makes urgent the need for government regulation and control over the local oil sector to help ensure transparency in pricing, said Africa .

JAPAN PUSHING JPEPA DUE TO WTO COLLAPSE

JAPAN PUSHING JPEPA DUE TO WTO COLLAPSE The collapse of the World Trade Organization (WTO) talks last week are pushing Japan to become even more aggressive in seeking bilateral and regional trade deals that advance its big corporate interests. More than ever, Japan will try to get through the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) and other such free trade deals what it could not get through the WTO. It is ironic that the Philippines appears poised to ratify JPEPA even as the WTO talks broke down precisely because of questions on the supposed development gains to be achieved from trade and investment liberalization.

The Japanese economy has grappled with stagnant growth and high unemployment for nearly two decades and is aiming to further open up other economies to cope with its internal problems. It is trying to overcome the crisis of its “bubble economy” which has lingered since the early 1990s. While it claimed to be on the way to recovery in 2002 the emerging scenario of a United States (US) economic slowdown, financial disorder, soaring energy and food prices only make its situation more urgent. As it is, Japanese corporations are already testing the political limits of what can be squeezed from its domestic labor force to support their profits. Hence they are now after the greatest possible access to the cheap labor and natural resources of the region with the least intervention and taxes from foreign governments.

The JPEPA’s provisions even go far beyond what was proposed in the failed WTO talks. It includes issues such as investment, government procurement and competition policy which were already rejected at the WTO. The tariff cuts it demands are also far greater than in the WTO.

This is why the Philippines will be on the losing end of the JPEPA which is designed most of all to benefit big Japanese corporations even at the expense of Philippine workers, peasants and economic development. There will only be even more foreign-dominated industrial and service enclaves disconnected from and not benefiting the local economy. Millions of Filipinos already merely struggling to survive will remain impoverished as unequal deals such as JPEPA prevents the economy from developing.

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