Friday, June 15, 2007

Will the JPEPA help our fishery sector?

Jaime Escober of Tambuyog Develeopment Center claims in this Business Mirror op-ed that the JPEPA doesn't make sense in terms of promoting the local fishery interests. According to Escober, even without the JPEPA, the tariff for tuna is already at 3.5% and for frozen shrimp at 0%. Therefore, as far as these two products are concerned the Philippine fishery sector doesn't gain anything substantial out of JPEPA.

What the Philippine negotiators should have pushed is for our sardines, mackerel, anchovies, cuttlefish and seaweed to gain reduced-tariff entry to Japan because these would have greatly benefitted our smalltime fishermen. The JPEPA in its present form, however, expressly excludes these products from commitment of tariff reduction or even of future negotiation.

Another unacceptable thing about the JPEPA, according to Escober, is that it includes whales, dolphins, porpoises and dugongs as tradable goods. Tariff line # 0210.92 in the Japanese schedule of tariffs (pdf) in the agreement specifies that the tariff on these lovable sea creatures are to be eliminated in six equal annual installments from the date of entry into force of the JPEPA. We should probably start booking our trips to Palawan, Bohol and Donsol where we can still see these creatures now before they get sucked up by the Japanese market.

To summarize, JPEPA does no great good to Filipino fishermen and exporters of aquaculture products. For purported benefits of the JPEPA, one should look elsewhere becuase they sure can't be found in the fishery sector.

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