Cayetano suspects ‘goods’ means ‘wastes’

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — SEN. Pia Cayetano yesterday warned that the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement would face “rough sailing” in the Senate amid suspicions that it would make the country a dumping site of toxic wastes from Japan.

She also urged the Executive Branch to immediately transmit the ratifying documents to the Senate, along with the attached commitments of both State signatories, for the Upper Chamber’s scrutiny.

Cayetano, who chairs the Senate committee on environment and natural resources, said the agreement would have to be carefully scrutinized, particularly Article 29, which outlines the types of “originating goods” that could be traded by the two parties.

Among those mentioned in the provision are articles fit only for disposal, scrap and waste from manufacturing or processing operations, and parts or raw materials which can no longer perform their original purpose or can no longer be repaired or restored.

The senator expressed concern that the supposed “goods” as described in Article 29 were only an “euphemism” for Japan’s unwanted industrial, municipal and clinical waste.

“I am supportive of government efforts to give our health workers access to the Japanese labor market, but I don’t think trading this for the environment and the health of our own people should even be considered,” Cayetano said.

The senator first raised the issue in the Senate committee on finance’s deliberations on the budget of the DTI and DENR. Secretary Angelo Reyes and Secretary Peter Favila told Cayetano that the JPEPA would “indeed allow waste from Japan but would observe the country’s environmental laws” and guarantee commitment to international treaties like the Basel Convention of 1989.

“I gathered from both the DENR and DTI that this arrangement to bring wastes into our country was acceptable, provided it will not violate any of our pertinent laws on waste management and hazardous wastes,” Cayetano said.

“I find this situation unacceptable, however, because we have not even fully implemented the provisions of RA 9003 (Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000) despite its passage into law almost six years ago. We cannot even manage our own garbage, so how can we take responsibility for the wastes of other countries?,” she asked.

Cayetano noted that even the more advanced countries are having problems with industrial wastes.

“As far as I’m concerned, any extra time, effort and resources that we have in waste management should be devoted to managing our own garbage, rather than other people’s garbage,” she said.