'Diplomatic exchange' on JPEPA toxic provisions not enough, Greenpeace says

Press release - May 28, 2007
Philippine Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto Romulo announced that the Japanese government has confirmed that Japan will not export toxic waste to the Philippines under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). The confirmation is contained in an exchange of diplomatic notes signed on the same day by Sec. Romulo and Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso.

Environmental health and justice activists satirized the famed flag-raising during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II to mark the first Global Day of Action against Japanese Waste Colonialism initiated by environmental and civil society groups, which coincided with the observance of Japan’s Constitution Day.

Greenpeace Southeast Asia Toxics Campaigner Beau Baconguis said:

"Far from allaying fears of toxic waste dumping in the Philippines, the diplomatic exchange unfortunately still reinforces the pervading concern that there is an underlying intention to trade in hazardous waste within the JPEPA.  The fact that the JPEPA still includes provisions which incentivizes trading of hazardous wastes suggests that the diplomatic notes now being packaged as some kind of side agreement to the treaty are not as clear-cut as both parties would like to make it appear.

"The diplomatic notes state that 'Japan would not be exporting toxic waste to the Philippines as defined and prohibited under the laws of the Philippines and Japan, in accordance with the Basel Convention.'  This is where the loophole and ambiguity lies.  The alarming fact is that current hazardous waste laws in the Philippines are among the weakest in Southeast Asia, and allow the entry of toxic waste under the guise of recycling.  In essence, what the diplomatic notes say is that Japan will not be sending its hazardous waste to the Philippines unless the latter party agrees to it.  Given what we know about the DENR's slack permitting system for hazardous waste imports, we are constrained to take this latest pronouncement with a grain of salt.

"Moreover, while both countries have signed the Basel Convention, neither has ratified the Basel Ban Amendment.  Without the Ban Amendment, the Philippines is not fully protected from hazardous waste dumping by industrialized countries.  Hazardous waste can still enter the country under the excuse of recycling--an excuse that Japan can use to ship out toxic waste legally, since it is also not party to the Ban Amendment.

"With the current text of the JPEPA, the Philippines is wide open to a shameless list of toxic waste that includes used diapers and radioactive nuclear waste.  If indeed both countries are strongly committed to addressing environmental concerns, they would opt for removing such toxic provisions in the treaty--rather than merely issuing diplomatic letters external to the original agreement, and whose weight, in the face of the bilateral treaty itself, is highly questionable."

Greenpeace is an independent campaigning organization that uses non-violent creative confrontation to expose global environmental problems to force solutions that are essential to a green and peaceful future. Greenpeace Southeast Asia has been working on the issue of toxic waste trade in the Philippines for more than a decade.

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