“In the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, particularly articles twenty-eight and twenty-nine in the agreement, outlines that huge fishing fleets from Japan will be allowed to explore our national waters in the Philippines, particularly our exclusive economic zones.”
BY STEFAN CHRISTOFF
Contributed to Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 27, August 10-16, 2008
Opposition to a bilateral trade accord between Japan and the Philippines is growing increasingly public throughout the Pacific archipelago and this week Pamalakaya, a national fisher-folk alliance, announced a national campaign to oppose the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
As negotiations within international trade institutions such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) continue to falter, multiple G8 nations, such as Japan, the U.S. and Canada, are switching their attention to negotiating bilateral or regional trade accords throughout the world. Bilateral trade accords generally articulate a similar economic vision common to the WTO, which views natural resources, public sector institutions and the environment in terms of rapid economic profit.
In the Philippines, Pamalakaya is standing to oppose the bilateral accord with Japan because articles within the agreement will open exclusive economic zones in the Philippines to Japanese fishing corporations. National waters in the Philippines which already are facing problems of over fishing would fall prey to major factory ships from Japan, a stark different to the traditional fishing methods that the majority of fisher-folk in the Philippines utilize until today. Impacts on the environment and over fishing by Japanese corporations are major concerns expressed by fisher-folk across the Philippines many who are already struggling to survive.
This is an interview conducted by Stefan Christoff with Fernando Hicap, the national chair for Pamalakaya, the national fisher-folk alliance set to launch a national campaign against the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
Fernando Hicap: Pamalakaya [a national fisher-folk alliance] is strongly opposing the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), as the agreement will allow tuna factory ships from Japan to explore and exploit exclusive economic zones in the Philippines. Under the free trade agreement, Japanese corporate ships will enter the most plentiful fishing grounds in the Philippines. For this reason we are opposing this so-called free trade agreement with Japan.
Fishing grounds in the Philippines aren’t healthy today mainly due to foreign actors or companies working in our waters. Today, waters around the Philippines are over fished. This proposed trade agreement with Japan will mean that national marine resources in the Philippines will be opened completely for foreign companies, leading to more overfishing, a very serious situation. Small fishers in the Philippines will be heavily impacted by this agreement; the livelihood of fisher-folk could be taken away due to overfishing by foreign corporations.
Stefan Christoff: Can you explain how the free-trade agreement with Japan will impact the income and ability to survive of fisher-folk in the Philippines, please outline in detail how this agreement will impact local fishers in the country?
Fernando Hicap: First it’s important to highlight that the fishing industry in the Philippines is basic compared to other countries. In the Philippines fishers don’t often have the equipment to explore the national waters in the same way as foreign fishing corporations. Also, traditional equipment often used in the Philippines means that the local industry is much more labor intensive than in other countries, while the end result equals much less product, much less fish for the market due to traditional fishing methods.
Other countries clearly want access to our waters, countries with corporations that have much more advanced technology which would be used to rapidly fish and eventually deplete our waters. In the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, particularly articles twenty-eight and twenty-nine in the agreement, outlines that huge fishing fleets from Japan will be allowed to explore our national waters in the Philippines, particularly our exclusive economic zones.
Essentially this agreement will mean the free-wheeling exploitation of our resources in the Philippines by Japanese fishing corporations, who will harvest our tuna. Elements in the agreement that directly allow the exploitation of our national waters in the Philippines are alarming. Stipulations in the trade agreement with Japan, will cause massive depletion of fish from waters in the Philippines and from our exclusive economic zones.
Based on our studies and general industry standards, a one-ton Japanese factory fishing ship will most likely harvest at least fifty-thousand metric tons of tuna each year. Japanese companies generally work with a number of factory ships, so once they are allowed to enter the exclusive economic zones in the Philippines they will potentially collect hundreds-of-thousands of tons of tuna from the Philippines each year. This trade agreement will cause the rapid depletion and over exploitation of fishing waters in the Philippines.
Small fishers in the Philippines can’t compete with foreign products entering our country, these products are often highly subsidized by other governments, while the government in the Philippines, will not subsidize the local fishing industry. Foreign marine products flowing into our local markets in the Philippines will kill our local industry, an industry that equals survival for many small fishers.