04 June 2007

Senate Asked to Junk JPEPA

PASAY CITY- As Senators of the 13th Congress meet for their final session starting today, community and environmental activists gathered at the Senate gate to restate their opposition against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in light of unsettled issues regarding the treaty's impacts on the country's agriculture, fishery, labor, economy and the environment.

Held on the eve of the World Environment Day, some 100 members of the EcoWaste Coalition and the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition appealed to the Senators to heed the people's voice and remain vigilant in ensuring that the far-reaching implications of the treaty are fully disclosed, dissected and decided in favor of the country's requirements for a healthy environment and a sustainable development.

Atty. Tanya Lat of the Magkaisa Junk JPEPA Coalition said: "The fact that the Philippine government specifically offered to accept Japan's waste and actually formalized this in the JPEPA puts into serious question its commitment to uphold the national interest and the right of all Filipinos to a balanced and healthy ecology under the Constitution. Before even considering the JPEPA, the government must ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, and plug the loopholes in our environmental laws and customs enforcement. Anything less than this would be utter irresponsibility."

To underscore their stance against the use of bilateral agreements to hasten trade in toxic waste, the groups presented to the Office of Senate President Manny Villar an oversized postcard that says "Philippines is not Japan's waste colony! Toxic waste trade will only worsen our garbage problem.Senators were given copies of the groups' statement calling on the Senate to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment, junk JPEPA and address the broader concerns in the pact through robust and transparent hearings.

The civil society groups pointed out that the recent exchange of diplomatic notes between Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo and his Japanese counterpart Taro Aso is inadequate to dispel doubts that Japan will not send toxic waste into the country as defined and prohibited under the laws of the two countries and in keeping with the Basel Convention.

Environmental health and justice advocates reminded the Senators that while Japan and the Philippines are parties to the Basel Convention, neither has ratified the Basel Ban Amendment, which prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from developed to poorer countries for all intents and purposes, including recycling and disposal. They stressed that the Senate must first ratify the Basel Ban Amendment as it provides a strong first line of defense for the Philippines and other developing countries, by shifting the onus of preventing the exports of toxic waste generators, such as Japan.

The groups welcomed the statement by Sen. Pia Cayetano, chair of the Senate Environment Committee, stating that Japan and the Philippines need to do something that is "more definite and legally binding" than an exchange of diplomatic notes.

"Ratifying the Basel Ban Amendment would provide greater protection to the Philippines from becoming a dumping ground for toxic wastes, not only from Japan, but also from other industrial countries," she said.

Grassroots leaders at the protest assembly demanded that community health and environmental interests must take precedence in any Senate decision on JPEPA. They made their conviction felt as they joined the roving picket under the searing sun.

Community leader Romy Hidalgo of the EcoWaste Coalition's Task Force Dumps/Landfills said, "JPEPA is a matter of serious concern for the communities who will suffer the brunt of toxic waste dumping. We're here to make it known that no community should be turned into a toxic sacrifice zone in the name of free trade." Hidalgo, from Navotas City, is campaigning for the closure of all dumps and their replacement with ecological alternatives.

Noli Abinales from San Mateo, Rizal told the crowd: "Coming from a town where Metro Manila used to dump its garbage, I know how unhealthy, unjust and inhuman it is to serve as burial site for unwanted wastes. Let us not allow a repeat of our tragic experience through legalized dumping of toxic waste via JPEPA."

For her part, Ochie Tolentino from Carmona, Cavite said, "We expect the Senate to assert its constitutional duty of scrutinizing the controversial treaty through open and transparent public hearings and to vote as one body in rejecting the flawed and lopsided agreement."

Stakeholders were not consulted until after the JPEPA was signed, with very little democratic space being given to ensure that stakeholder concerns were heard and considered. Also glaring is that no one has been held accountable for the reckless action in putting the toxic provisions in. For the benefit of future agreements, the groups believe that it is paramount that these mistakes not be made and for the Senate to re-assert itself as a counter-point to the executive branch of government.


For more information, please contact the EcoWaste Coalition at (02) 9290376, Romy Hidalgo at0917-9436221, Noli Abinales at 0918-6247525, Ochie Tolentino at 0918-4221769.


Notes:

1.The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal is a global agreement for addressing the problems and challenges posed by hazardous waste. Its key objectives are: a) to minimize the generation of hazardous wastes in terms of quantity and hazardousness; b) to dispose of them as close to the source of generation as possible; and c) to reduce the movement of hazardous wastes. It entered into force in 1992. The Philippine Senate ratified it in 1993. (www.basel.int).

2. The Basel Ban Amendment of 1995 prohibits exports of hazardous wastes (for any purpose) from developed countries (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, European Union, Liechtenstein) to developing countries. The Basel Ban Amendment has to be ratified by three fourths of the Parties who accepted it in order to enter into force. The Philippines has ratified the Basel Convention, but not the Basel Ban Amendment. (www.basel.int)

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