RP, JAPAN SLATE NEW JPEPA TALKS
Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chair of the committee on foreign affairs, said she has deferred her Jpepa sponsorship speech, to give more time for senators to study her committee report, and to give time for foreign affairs secretary Alberto Romulo to discuss and negotiate with the Japanese ambassador a possible exchange of notes before the Senate debate.
“The committee recommended conditional concurrence, and insisted on compliance with 15 specified provisions of the Philippine Constitution. The senators first want me to explain what all this means. I have a problem using layman’s language to explain complex issues of political economy,” Santiago said.
But the senator said that her printed and bound Jpepa report for senators, written in layman’s language, will be distributed this week, possibly together with a separate report written by Sen. Mar Roxas, chair of the committee on trade and commerce.
“Unfortunately, the reports will take a lot of reading, because they are thick. That would delay the concurrence process. It cannot be helped,” the senator said.
Santiago said that in a nutshell, the Philippines is merely asking for the same concessions that Japan has already granted in its economic partnership agreements (EPAs) with such countries as Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, and Indonesia.
The senator said that senators are wary of the term “conditional concurrence,” because they are unfamiliar with it.
“The term ‘conditional concurrence’ is often used in the United States to refer to a package of reservations, understandings, and declarations that become a common attachment to major treaties, particularly to multilateral human rights conventions. This became the practice in the last century, because strictly speaking, the Senate cannot amend a treaty,” she said.
Santiago said that in the past, the Batasan during the martial law years made a similar conditional concurrence with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, coincidentally the center of another treaty controversy in Philippine politics today.
“My original recommendation was for the Senate to extend conditional concurrence, to be followed by an exchange of notes between the two governments. Now we shall reverse the process: exchange of notes shall come first, to be followed by Senate concurrence,” the senator said.
Santiago said if the Jpepa is accompanied by an exchange of notes between the two governments, the senators would find it easier to understand Jpepa implications. “The main issue is the difference in viewpoints.
Japan sees Jpepa as a free trade area agreement involving the elimination of import duties and the inclusion of all economic sectors, such as trade in services and trade-related areas.
The Philippines believes that Jpepa should support our economic development, contribute to the elimination of poverty, and include measures to promote the structural transformation of the Philippine economy,” she said.
Santiago said it was “highly laudable” of Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura to explore the possibility of an exchange of notes that will facilitate Senate concurrence in Jpepa.