Roxas: Japan leaders back need for a constitutional JPEPA

LP President Senator Mar Roxas stressed before leaders of the Japanese government how important it is for the Philippines to preserve and protect its Constitution in relation to the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), and said that the Japanese officials agreed to this.

Roxas travelled to Japan this week to discuss vital regional issues, particularly the JPEPA and the ongoing food and oil price crisis, with former and incumbent members of the Japanese Cabinet.
"For the sake of Japan-Philippine relations, I told them that it's important for us to have a meeting of minds on this issue, and put this in writing in an official exchange of letters. They understand how important this issue to us, and I'm glad to report that they assured us that they will certainly respect our Constitution," he said.
While in Tokyo, Roxas met with Nobutaka Machimura, Chief Cabinet Secretary; Masahiko Komura, Minister of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) ; Yasuhisa Shiozaki Member of Parliament (MP) and former Chief Cabinet Secretary; and Taro Aso, MP and former Minister of Foreign Affairs.
"We need to strengthen ties with our key economic partners at this time when world food and oil prices are going through the roof. These adversely impact upon our people's interest in terms of incomes, jobs and livelihoods as well as our country's competitiveness and geopolitical strategies," Roxas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce said.
At the same time, he stressed that "in all trade agreements, our national sovereignty and interest must be paramount."

JPEPA is now pending plenary deliberations in the Senate for its concurrence. It was signed and ratified by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and former Japanese Primer Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2006. The landmark treaty encountered a major stumbling block in the Senate when questions as to its Constitutionality were raised by legal experts and various stakeholder groups.

Plenary discussions on the treaty have not yet begun, after Philippine Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo requested for time to discuss the concerns about the constitution with his Japanese counterparts.

Roxas earlier disclosed his findings on the economic provisions of the treaty. In sum, he determined that while the treaty provides marginal potential benefits, its rejection by the Philippines would result in real and wide-ranging losses in terms of jobs and incomes. "Our country will get left behind because the rest of ASEAN already have EPAs with Japan."
"Ang mga pagkakataon na nakapaloob dito sa JPEPA ay hawak natin. Hamon sa gobyerno na itong mga 'potential gains' ay maipatupad sang-ayon sa ating pambansang interes," Roxas said.

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