Landlessness, environmental health hazards to increase with JPEPA

Nov. 06, 2007

The militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) Southern Mindanao Region and No Deal! Movement against Unequal Economic Agreements are spearheading today a protest rally against Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in San Pedro Street, Davao City as the Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs is expected to submit today its report on JPEPA in the plenary.

According to Celso Pojas, regional spokesperson of KMP Southern Mindanao, “more and more peasants will be denied of their right to own and till a land when JPEPA is ratified because it gives license to massive land-use conversion towards mono-crop plantations of multinational corporations. The Macapagal-Arroyo regime has already targeted 2-million hectares to increase the landholdings controlled by foreign agro-corporations like AJMR-Sumitomo, Dole Philippines, Tagum Development Corporation (Tadeco), and del Monte.”

“The Philippines is Japan’s largest source of banana (58% of Japan’s total fruit exports). With JPEPA, this will also definitely increase the use of hazardous pesticides and expansion of banana plantations to watershed and forested areas. In Davao City alone, the most important Talomo-Lipadas and Tamugan-Panigan watershed areas are surrounded with 5,000 hectares of banana plantations and 1,000 hectares of pineapples plantations that are heavily pesticides-dependent”, said the peasant leader.

Pojas also stressed that peasant and agricultural workers will also suffer even more from contract growing arrangements with multinational agri-business corporations. “Due to lack of genuine agrarian reform, backward agriculture, lack of government subsidy, and high quality standard of Japan for exportable agricultural products, more peasants and agricultural workers will suffer great losses from contract growing. Massive contract growing is now also being used by big plantation corporations to evade from the requirements of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environment Clearance Certificate (ECC) from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)”, he added.

“We peasants are calling for the rejection of this onerous and unfair economic treaty because this agreement is grossly lopsided in favor of Japan. The provisions of JPEPA will further reinforce the unequal economic relations between countries by removing the tariffs for all Philippine products while Japan will continue to protect its own products and by allowing Japanese corporations to plunder our country’s rich agro-biodiversity and marine and coastal resources such as the tuna reserves and important aquatic species in Mindanao, particularly in Saranggani, Sulu and Moro Gulf”, the peasant leader stressed.

Instead, KMP and its allies will push for an alternative genuine agrarian reform law in Congress, through the initiative of progressive party-list groups Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela Women’s Party, that will truly serves the interests of the peasantry. Such law will ensure free distribution of lands to tillers, conservation and wise utilization of natural resources and promotion of sustainable agriculture”, Pojas concluded.#

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