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Santiago slammed for ‘conditional’ stance on JPEPA

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:40:00 04/26/2008

Filed Under: Politics, Diplomacy, International (Foreign)Trade, Agriculture

MANILA, Philippines -- A coalition of civil society groups opposed to the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) denounced Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Saturday for contradictions in her position that the treaty be subjected to a ?conditional concurrence? by the Senate.

The No Deal! Movement said it got hold of a copy of the minutes of the Senate discussions last Monday in which Santiago, chair of the Senate committee on foreign relations, officially asked her colleagues to issue a ?conditional concurrence? on the treaty.

Under interpellation by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, Santiago admitted that ?nobody likes the JPEPA? but cautioned that ?there would be many economic repercussions if the treaty would not be ratified.?

Later, during the same interpellation, she explained that if Japan refused to accept conditional concurrence and the JPEPA becomes null and void, ?nothing much would happen since Japan is already the foremost trading partner of the Philippines even without the JPEPA and it could not afford to exclude the Philippines as its trading partner because of certain benefits that it would gain.?

No Deal! spokesman Arnold Padilla said Santiago's statement should help dispel the ?unfounded fear? of the Department of Trade and Industry and other JPEPA proponents that rejection of the treaty will spell economic doom for the Philippines.

Besides, the strong foundations for economic development include a foreign policy based on mutual benefits, which the JPEPA greatly undermines, Padilla said, adding that the conflicting statements of Santiago further exposed the JPEPA as ?indefensible.?

The group also said that while some quarters look at conditional concurrence as tantamount to rejection, the surest way to protect the national interest was outright rejection of the treaty.

?Conditional concurrence is still ratification. As such, there is no guarantee that our Constitution, economic sovereignty, and patrimony will not be undermined,? argued Padilla.

The fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (National Strength of Movement of Fishers in the Philippines), which fears the ?invasion? by Japanese tuna fleets Philippine waters once JPEPA is approved, said Japan would use its economic, political, and military power and international advantage as an imperialist power to compel the Philippines to follow what are stipulated in JPEPA and scrap all conditions.

No Deal! said the Senate could avoid such ?future complications? by simply rejecting the treaty.

To press their demand for outright rejection of the JPEPA, the movement has lined up a number of activities on April 28 when Santiago is expected to sponsor the treaty?s approval.

One of the highlights of the group?s actions is a ?10-kilometer swim? from Bacoor, Cavite to the Senate wherein 14 activists will participate.

No Deal! member-organizations and convenors include former Vice President Teofisto Guingona; Anakpawis (Toiling Masses) party-list Representative Crispin Beltran; Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Movement of Farmers in the Philippines) chairperson Rafael Mariano; Kilusang Mayo Uno (May One Movement) women's department secretary Nitz Gonzaga; Toyota Workers Union president Ed Cubelo; Alliance of Health Workers secretary general Jossel Ebesate;

Migrante chair Connie Bragas-Regalado; Lila Filipina chair Rechielda Extramadura; University of the Philippines Professor Roland Simbulan; Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New People?s Alliance) chairperson Dr. Carol Pagaduan-Araullo; Kalikasan-People's Network for the Environment national coordinator Clemente Bautista; and Ibon Foundation research head Jose Enrique Africa.

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