Greenpeace slams government plans to ratify JPEPA

Senate cannot brush off serious concerns on toxic waste

Manila, 16 January 2007–Greenpeace today denounced plans in the Senate to ratify the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) soon, saying that it is unacceptable for the Senate to brush off serious concerns on the treaty’s toxic waste dumping provisions which until now remain unresolved. Greenpeace issued the statement following a press announcement from Senator Mar Roxas, chair of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce that he is advocating the ratification of the JPEPA.

“It would be a mistake for the Senate to ratify the JPEPA. Senator Roxas himself admits that ‘there is not much gain that is inherent in the treaty.’ The toxic waste provisions in the JPEPA, in contrast, are inherent in the treaty. In short, benefits remain to be seen, but the toxic threats it presents are real and cannot be ignored by the Senate,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis.

“JPEPA is a rotten treaty. The Senate must reject this unjust agreement and immediately ratify the Basel Ban Amendment to further protect the country from all forms of hazardous waste trade,” Baconguis added.

While the JPEPA does not guarantee potential benefits for our country, provisions which open the country to shipments of toxic and nuclear wastes–including those ‘fit only for disposal’ such as used diapers, incinerator ash, and radioactive nuclear waste–are plainly written in the agreement. No attempt has been made to remove these and other toxic provisions from the text of the treaty. Last May 2006, both Japan and the Philippines have attempted to downplay these provisions using diplomatic notes meant to assure Filipinos that no toxic dumping will take place. However, the toxic provisions remain intact in the agreement itself. Greenpeace believes that assurance outside the treaty is doubtful–just as Japan’s intentions in pursuing ratification of the agreement are questionable.

Environment groups presented evidence early last year that Japan has been aggressively pursuing trade agreements with Southeast Asian nations in order to re-open the region to toxic waste trafficking. In August 2006, the Japanese government signed a contract with the company Shinko Research Co. Ltd. to assess the use of bilateral agreements ‘for bidirectional movement of toxic wastes between Japan and Asian countries.’ Greenpeace therefore believes that there is clear intent on the part of Japan to dump its unwanted wastes in the country, and that Japan is banking on the desperation of the government to improve trade status with Japan or to get developmental aid.

Both the Philippines and Japan, while parties to the Basel Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous Wastes, have not ratified the Basel Ban Amendment. The Basel Ban Amendment prevents all forms of hazardous waste trade, even those in the guise of recycling. Japan is therefore not prevented from shipping hazardous substances to the Philippines so long as they are declared recyclable. Under the JPEPA, toxic wastes, even those declared ‘fit only for disposal,’can be shipped to the Philippines under a zero tariff agreement.

“Japan already exports goods to the Philippines, which, although not declared as waste, are highly toxic and are illegal under the Basel Ban Amendment. These wastes are disguised as recyclables but eventually end up in our dump sites, contaminating our groundwater, air and soil. The JPEPA will open the floodgates to even more of this underhanded trade,” said Baconguis. “It would be criminal for the Senate to ratify the JPEPA. Sen. Roxas and other pro-JPEPA government officials should not reduce our country to a nation of desperate beggars.”