No solid opposition vote on JPEPA

Only 22 senators, however, will be able to vote as Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV is in jail on coup charges for leading the 2003 Oakwood Mutiny.

“The Senate committee on foreign relations and committee on trade and commerce are now drafting the report on the JPEPA for signing by committee members and later for plenary deliberations and voting,” Pimentel said.

Pimentel said that aside from himself, the so-called Solid Minority Bloc is composed of Senators Rodolfo Biazon, Panfilo Lacson, Loren Legarda, Jamby Madrigal, Mar Roxas, Benigno Aquino III and Trillanes.

But the senator did not say how the members of this bloc would vote on JPEPA. He did not also mention about the prevailing mood in the Senate regarding the treaty.

The Constitution requires that two-thirds of the members of the Senate should concur with a treaty before it is ratified and becomes effective.

Pimentel said his vote on the bilateral treaty will be based on how the government addresses and resolves three main concerns, namely:

First, whether or not Japan will be allowed to export and dump toxic wastes into the country.

Second, whether Japanese investors will be given preferential treatment in doing business in the country to the disadvantage of Filipinos, including the right of the Japanese fishing vessels and factory ships to operate and catch fish and other marine products within its 200-mile exclusive economic zone.

Third, whether Filipino nurses and caregivers will be accorded treatment commensurate to their status as health professionals by receiving adequate and reasonable compensation, instead of being initially categorized as trainees.

“The Philippine Nurses Association has vigorously opposed a requirement under JPEPA that Filipino nurses and caregivers should undergo training in the Japanese (Nippongo) language and should take the licensure test in this language,” Pimentel noted.

He likewise cautioned that any “side agreement” to resolve the issue that certain provisions in JPEPA may not conform to the Philippine Constitution will not necessarily amend the treaty itself.

“Once a treaty is entered into, side agreements are of no moment. It is the treaty that will prevail,” he said.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the committee on foreign relations, had said the side agreement will be in the form of an exchange of notes between Manila and Tokyo to the effect that the JPEPA will be consistent with the constitutions of both countries.

“Such side agreement will at best help guide in implementing the bilateral agreement,” Pimentel said.

But he cited the protocol earlier signed by the Japanese and Philippine governments regarding the prohibition on the export or transfer of toxic waste from one country as a good one.

“It will assuage our concerns that there may be all kinds of toxic wastes entering the Philippines,” he said.

Environmental groups have pointed out that JPEPA would lead to dumping of toxic wastes from Japan. (MindaNews)