Roxas: JPEPA experience highlights need for gov't reforms

Senator Mar Roxas, Liberal Party President, said the harrowing experience in having the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) passed underscores the people’s distrust of government, and consequently, the need for reforms in state institutions.
I think a lot of the mistrust associated with JPEPA began not as a result of the actual provisions of the treaty, but the secretive manner in which the government went about with it,” said Roxas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce and co-chair of the JPEPA joint panel. 
He noted the Supreme Court case filed three years where executive privilege was cited to prevent the disclosure of information on JPEPA. Although the government was cleared by the high court, Roxas said this lack of open communication between stakeholders fostered ill will.
The government must shift from this policy of ‘minimum disclosure’ that the government seems to have adopted in all its dealings, from the NBN-ZTE project to the GRP-MILF agreement on the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, and others,” he said.
 The Senator maintained that although the JPEPA would not benefit Filipinos much, it would be far more harmful to not pass it and be left behind by other ASEAN countries trading with Japan.
Some say we could have gotten more. Others claim, we gave up too much. Let me be candid. I too feel that we could have negotiated better. We could have gotten more,” he said.

The choice before us is not the present JPEPA versus another better JPEPA that we can pick and choose from. The choice before us is the present JPEPA versus no JPEPA and an uncertain future as to when it could be renegotiated again and what terms we could actually obtain at that future time,” he added.
In order to address environmental concerns raised by some groups, Roxas has called on the executive to transmit to the Senate the Basel Ban Amendment, which would widen the coverage of hazardous substances banned for export, to include items for recycling. “It’s about time that the Senate reviews and consults with stakeholders on the need to ratify the amendment to the Basel Ban Convention. The important thing is to get started with the discussions,” he said.

He has also filed a bill to increase the penalties for violation of Republic Act No. 6969, the Toxic Substance and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990.

Roxas said a way to encourage transparency and accountability in government is his proposed Free Information Act, Senate Bill No. 109. A counterpart bill has already been passed in the House of Representatives, sponsored by fellow Liberal Erin Tañada of Quezon. The measure would require government offices to respond to all requests for public information within two days, unless this would place at risk national security, diplomatic relations or the peace and order situation.

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