JPEPA a done deal — Miriam

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — It’s still several days before the judgment day on the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, but a buoyant Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, sponsor of the measure, sounded as if she was ready to hoist the victory flag.

Santiago, chairman of the committee on foreign relations, enthusiastically said that the Japan deal, which she described as the country’s most important bilateral economic treaty in 50 years, was just one vote short of 15 votes or two-thirds of Senate members required for ratification.

But the Senate’s concurrence with the controversial agreement is virtually assured since 14 senators, including her, have already signed the report which her committee had prepared.

“The required two-thirds vote of the Senate is only 15 senators, so we need only one more vote. That won’t be hard because the issue of constitutionality has already been settled,” Santiago, a recognized constitutional law expert, said.

Apart from Santiago, the 14 senators who have signed the committee report were Mar Roxas, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo, Juan Ponce Enrile, Richard Gordon, Lito Lapid, Bong Revilla, Juan Miguel Zubiri, Rodolfo Biazon, Loren Legarda, Jinggoy Estrada, Francis Pangilinan and Aquilino Pimentel. Except Angara and Enrile, all of them, however, expressed reservations over the deal.

The five senators who did not sign the report were Gregorio Honasan, Jamby Madrigal, Antonio Trillanes, Pia Cayetano and Francis Escudero. They are all members of the committee on foreign relations and committee on trade and commerce which spearheaded the series of nine public hearings on the Japanese agreement.

Senate President Manuel Villar said that although he was skeptical of the treaty’s provisions on the export of toxic waste materials, he was willing to go along with the vote of majority. Senator Panfilo Lacson has issued a statement in favor of ratification.

In her sponsorship speech, Santiago said that the legal impediment to the deal’s ratification has been removed when a few days ago Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura authorized Ambassador Makoto Katsura to sign a supplemental accord in the form of an exchange of notes with Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo.