Rep. Acosta: Liberals in Senate, House will ‘scrutinize RP-Japan toxic pact

Acosta, principal author of the Clean Air Act and other major environmental laws, said LP President Senators Franklin Drilon; Francis Pangilinan, Mar Roxas and Rodolfo Biazon would look into the alleged ill-effects of the RP-Japan agreement.

"We did not enact landmark laws on clean air, clean water and proper solid waste management only to be made a dumping ground of other countries' hazardous wastes. This does not have only far-reaching implications on the health and environment protection policies of the country, but more so, on the core issue of national sovereignty, " the congressman said in a statement sent to MindaNews.

"Consistent with the Liberal Party's cherished principle upholding national sovereignty and patrimony, LP senators and congressmen will revisit this RP-Japan pact and ensure it would not be detrimental to the country's long term interests," he said.

"It is sadly ironic that we enter into bilateral agreements to deploy health care professionals abroad but in return import health hazards and toxic waste in total disregard on the people's welfare," he added.

On Tuesday, pro-environment groups warned the Philippines would turn into a dumping ground for Japanese toxic wastes with the signing of JPEPA by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi last Sept. 9 in Helsinki.

Newspaper reports said that under JPEPA the Philippines will allow the entry of toxic wastes from Japan in exchange for the export of nurses and caregivers. The Philippine negotiator in the trade talks, Senior Trade Undersecretary Thomas G. Aquino, said the accord covers a broad range of products but that only regulated wastes would be allowed into the country once the pact is ratified by the legislatures of the two countries and comes into force.

Environmentalists and advocates of nationalist trade policies have asked the Senate to reject the JPEPA which it described as simply an elaborate exchange of health care for waste.

The Constitution provides that any treaty entered into by the government should obtain the concurrence of the Senate for it to become legally binding.

Reports noted that this is the first time a bilateral trade and investment agreement will include and encourage trade in hazardous wastes, including the highly toxic incinerator ash, a practice banned by the Basel Convention to which the Philippines and Japan are signatories.

Trade experts described the pact covering 11,300 tariff lines or commodities as a mega-treaty that could set the tone for future bilateral agreements. A briefing paper prepared by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) says 141 of these items are "environmentally sensitive products deemed potentially hazardous to health and the environment if not handled properly."