Bid to void Japan trade deal fails as SC rejects waste import claim

Bid to void Japan trade deal fails as SC rejects waste import claim

THE Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed a petition seeking to void the Senate’s concurrence in the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), rejecting claims that the trade deal will facilitate imports of toxic waste.

In a 95-page decision, the High Court said the provisions contained in the Senate-ratified free trade agreement did not violate the Constitution, adding that JPEPA’s provisions were above board.

The Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services, Inc. (IDEALS), one of the groups that filed the petition, argued that JPEPA violated the right to health and to a balanced and healthful ecology under the Constitution by allowing the “indiscriminate importation of toxic and hazardous wastes in the country.”

“Contrary to the contention of petitioners, the preferential tariff treatment given to these products (scrap and waste, raw materials derived from manufacturing) does not equate to the indiscriminate importation of toxic and hazardous wastes into the Philippines,” the SC said.

“JPEPA acknowledges that the parties are entitled to adopt and implement policies necessary to protect the health of their people and the environment.”

The tribunal added that former Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso had committed not to export toxic waste to the Philippines.

The group said the free trade deal also violated Executive Order No. 156, which governs the motor vehicle development program, for allowing the entry of used four-wheeled motor vehicles into the Philippines.

The court disagreed, saying JPEPA abides by the Land Transportation Office’s emissions standards when allowing the entry of used vehicles.

Public consultations were also alleged to be insufficient, failing to consider the views of various stakeholders, the petitioners said.

“These are questions of fact that require a formal trial,” the High Court said, referring to the consultation argument.

In a 2002 visit to the Philippines, former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi proposed a framework for a bilateral trade agreement that would lead to the removal of tariffs on certain fruits, vehicles, steel products, electric appliances, and garments.

Negotiations for the trade pact started in February 2004 during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The deal was signed two years later.

The Senate concurred with JPEPA’s ratification in 2008 after several hearings conducted by the committees on foreign relations, trade and commerce. — John Victor D. Ordoñez