Monthly Archives: April 2009

Earth Day outrage: Fishers, environmental activists are mad with top environment chief

Earth Day outrage: Fishers, environmental activists are mad with top environment chief

Manila, Philippines-Staunch critics of environment secretary Joselito Atienza on Earth Day expressed their outrage against the controversial DENR chief by dumping a sack of mud sourced from dredged soil near the site of the 11-kilometer R-1 Expressway Extension Project in Bacoor, Cavite.

Around 200 members of the fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and its Cavite affiliate—Samahang Magdaragat ng Bacoor, Cavite (SMBC) joined forces with the environmental activist group Kalikasan-People’s Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE) in assailing secretary Atienza over the DENR’s massive uprooting of small fishpens and mussel growing structures in Manila Bay to pave way for the construction of the P 4.3-billion Cavite Coastal Road Phase 2 Project.

In a joint statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap and Kalikasan-PNE national coordinator Clemente Bautista charged Atienza of spearheading the destruction of Manila Bay to allow the construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project, which both leaders said will destroy the livelihood of the people and the remaining marine life in Manila Bay.

“We are mad with the Office of the President and Secretary Atienza. They are responsible for the massive loss of livelihood and all-out destruction of the bay in the name of corporate interests and bureaucratic corruption. On the occasion of Earth Day, we declare President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Secretary Atienza as enemies of the people and environment, and coddlers of big time plunders and destroyers of the environment,” the Pamalakaya and Kalikasan-PNE leaders said.

According to SMBC President Rodolfo Torres, the R-1 Expressway Extension Project had already displaced 26,000 fisherfolk families from their main source of livelihood, and he blamed Atienza for issuing the environmental compliance certificate to the project jointly undertaken by the Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) and the Malaysia group UEM-Mara Philippines.

Torres said the ECC granted by DENR to PRA and UEM-Mara allowed the national government and its foreign investor client to reclaim not less than 5,000 hectares of coastal waters in Bacoor and nearby towns of Rosario, Noveleta, Kawit and Cavite City.

But Pamalakaya, its regional chapter Pamalakaya-Southern Tagalog and Kalikasan-PNE said the ECC granted by the DENR to R-1 proponent UEM Mara-Philippines Corporation in 2007 clearly stipulated that the 11- kilometer expressway shall be constructed on top of a viaduct to avoid flooding in the low-lying areas of Bacoor, Cavite.

“Secretary Atienza is politically, lawfully and morally obliged to reply in all honesty about this public inquiry. Did his office gave UEM-Mara the go signal to reduce the ECC into a plain piece of thrash paper and do whatever they wanted to do. There is a big difference between a viaduct and a solid land expressway made possible by all-out reclamation,” the groups asserted.

Based on the document obtained by Pamalakaya, it said the ECC awarded to UEM-Mara Philippines Corporation, the private firm was not allowed to destroy the remaining mangrove areas and reclaim coastal waters for the R-1 Expressway Extension Project.

Pamalakaya said a resolution of the municipality of Bacoor urging President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to temporarily halt the construction of R-1 Expressway Extension Project until the design is modified for the benefit of the people of Bacoor.

In the resolution dated October 20, 2008 and signed by Bacoor Mayor Strike Revilla and councilors Rolando Remulla, Hubert Gervacio, Normita Celestino, Avelino de Castro, Miguel Bautista, Bayani de Leon, Catherine Sarino and Gianne Louise Olegario, the local government of Bacoor appealed to President Arroyo to immediately order the temporary cessation of the R-1 Expressway construction, as they urged Malacañang to construct the road project on top of viaduct and not by reclamation involving thousands of reclaimed and to be-reclaimed areas.

In said municipal resolution, Mayor Revilla and other councilors reiterated that the R-1 Expressway Extension project as specifically mentioned in the ECC granted by DENR shall be constructed on top of a viaduct to avoid flooding in the low areas of Bacoor.

Mayor Revilla and the councilors asserted that UEM Mara through its contractor SARGASSO Construction and Development Corporation reclaimed large tracts of land in Bacoor Bay resulting in the economic displacement of hundreds of small-scale fisherfolk. #

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Protesters outside Batasan gate, hold own plenary session as peasant lawmakers

Protesters outside Batasan gate, hold own plenary session as peasant lawmakers: Junked Chacha, and passed new land reform law

Leaders of the militant farmers and fisherfolk groups camping by the gates of House of Representatives on Tuesday conducted their own “rural people’s parliament” and voted against House Resolution 737 and the other Chacha (Charter Change) resolution seeking to convene both chambers of Congress into a constituent assembly.

Imelda Lacandazo, spokesperson of the Southern Tagalog-based peasant group Katipunan ng Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan, acted as the Speaker of Rural People’s Parliament and led in voting 50-0 in favor of junking HR 737 and the other Chacha resolution authored by former Kampi (Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino) President and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte.

Lacandazo, was joined by other leaders of the militant peasant group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), the peasant women federation Amihan and the agricultural worker group Unyon ng mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura (UMA) in shooting down the twin Chacha bills.

The militant leaders who posed themselves this time as people’s lawmakers and agents of politics of change, also passed the controversial House Bill 3059 or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB) and a number of wage bills allowing P 125 across-the-board wage increase for private workers, P 3,000 for government employees and P 9,000 salary increase for public school teachers nationwide. All these bills were authored by militant lawmakers from Anakpawis, Bayan Muna and Gabriela.

Also voting 50-0 the rural people lawmakers affirmed the impeachment cases filed against President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Ombudsman Atty. Merceditas Gutierrez and they vowed to transmit the impeachment cases before the Philippine Senate anytime next week.

Kasama-TK’s Lacandazo also led her “peasant lawmaker colleagues” in approving the Magna Carta for Women, which was previously barred by some women legislators allied with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

KMP Secretary General Danilo Ramos and Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap who acted as majority floor leader and deputy floor leader respectively led their “peasant lawmaker colleagues” in shooting down the “right-to-reply bill” and in passing the compensation bill for victims of human rights during the Marcos dictatorship.

Likewise, the two rural leaders rallied their “peasant lawmaker colleagues” in approving the Rice Industry Development Act (RIDA) sponsored by militant party list lawmakers Rafael Mariano of Anakpawis, Bayan Muna party list Reps. Satur Ocampo and Teodoro Casiño and Gabriela party list lawmakers Liza Maza and Luzviminda Ilagan.

Ramos and Hicap also led the 50-0 onslaught in favor of scrapping the Oil Deregulation Law and the Anti-Terrorism Law. The two leaders also led their colleagues in passing a resolution honoring the late Anakpawis party list Rep. Crispin Beltran as the “man of century” for the late labor leader’s outstanding contribution for the militant workers’ movement all over the country and for defending the rights of the poor all over the country.

Earlier, Kasama-TK, KMP, Amihan, UMA and Pamalakaya challenged House Speaker Prospero Nograles and other pro-Charter Change (Chacha) lawmakers to debate the controversial measure seeking to effect revisions in the 1987 Constitution through constituent assembly outside the Batasan complex. #

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DENR chief told: Stop blaming poor over sorry state of Manila Bay

DENR chief told: Stop blaming poor over sorry state of Manila Bay

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday urged Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Joselito Atienza to stop blaming small fishermen and urban poor folk over the sorry state of world famous Manila Bay.

“We strongly urge Secretary Atienza to stop misinforming the Filipino public about the real score on Manila Bay and quit from castrating and blaming the fisherfolk and urban poor over the sorry state of the bay. He is committing an across-the-nation foul play here, nothing more, nothing less,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The fisherfolk leader on February 23 questioned before the high tribunal Secretary Atienza’s aggressive use of a Supreme Court ruling on Manila Bay clean up, asserting that the environment secretary has been abusing and illegally using the SC decision to effectively carry out massive demolition of fishpens and communities in Bacoor, Cavite and other parts of the National Capital Region.

“The DENR secretary is the no.1 protector of big business groups dumping their toxic wastes and changing the landscapes and waterscapes of Manila Bay for their own profiteering adventures. He is putting the blame to small and ordinary people and exonerate the real masterminds behind the destruction of the bay,” the Pamalakaya leader added.

Hicap said Secretary Atienza like Metro Manila Development Authority Chairman Bayani Fernando sees the small fisherfolk and urban poor along the bay as eyesores and nuisance groups of people who don’t deserve decent life and should be evicted along the shorelines of Manila Bay, Laguna Lake and Pasig River.

“Secretary Atienza wants to get rid of us to allow transnational takeover of Manila Bay and the two immediate bodies of waters connected with the bay—Laguna Lake and Pasig River. For the environment secretary, what is important is the interest of big business groups doing profitable ventures and business escapades along Manila Bay,” he added.

Likewise, Pamalakaya dismissed anew, the ambitious 10-year P 100-billion Manila Bay rehabilitation program being eyed by the DENR for the bay’s rehabilitation as the biggest money making scheme of the 21st century.

“P 100 billion for the 10-year rehabilitation plan on Manila Bay is really money making scheme that makes DENR the biggest source of bureaucratic corruption fund in the country. It is like income generation campaign for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the rest of her corrupt gang in and out of Malacañang,” said Pamalakaya.

During the SC environmental forum last week, Secretary Atienza told forum participants that the government needs P 100 billion to rehabilitate Manila Bay. The DENR chief said it would be impossible to clean the water in the Manila Bay as long as domestic wastes flow into the canals into the Pasig River and into Manila Bay.

“The Operation Plan for the Manila Bay Coastal Strategy which details the projects and budget to rehabilitate Manila Bay was completed in 2005. It is now 2008 but nobody knows what this master plan is all about. It is only Secretary Atienza, the master showman of DENR who is aware that there is such a thing as P 100- B Manila Bay rehab plan,” said Pamalakaya.

The militant group said 60 percent of pollution entering Manila Bay comes through the Pasig River, and 80 percent of the pollution comes from industries and commercial establishments situated along the country’s major river system in the National Capital Region. Another 15 percent of the pollution that gets into Manila Bay comes from Pampanga River, which the group said, is colonized by big and small polluting factories.

“The government is blaming over fishing as a major factor in the degradation of Manila Bay. That is a flimsy and ridiculous excuse. The massive privatization and conversion of public lands and coastal communities along the bay since the Marcos dictatorship up to present administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the principal reason why Manila Bay is under the Intensive Care Unit, and suffering from environmental comatose,” Pamalakaya said.

The militant group said not less than 20,000 hectares of Manila Bay have been subjected to reclamation to pave way for the construction of special economic zones in Bataan and Cavite, the commercial spaces presently occupied by Manila Film Center, the GSIS Building in Pasay City, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and Folk Arts Theater in Manila, and the SM Mall of Asia and other commercial companies in Pasay City.

Pamalakaya said the government intends to reclaim areas in Pasay City for the setting up of $ 15-B Casino Project in Pasay City, and it is also inclined to reclaim another 8,000 hectares of foreshore areas in Cavite for the coastal road project from Bacoor to Sangley Point in Cavite City. The coastal project alone will evict 26,000 small fishermen and urban poor from their main source of livelihood and communities. #

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Anti-corruption group linked

Anti-corruption group linked
P 20-billion irrigation projects to 2010 polls

Manila, Philippines–Rabid critics of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Friday said the ambitious P 20-billion irrigation rehabilitation of projects earmarked by the Office of the President for 2009 and 2010 was part of the administration’s grand plan to make money to fund the electoral campaign of Palace favored bets in the 2010 national elections.

In a press statement, the left-wing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) said the allotment of P 20-billion of taxpayers’ money for rehabilitation of irrigation systems all over the country was the first in Philippine history, and the implementation will be timed near, during and immediately after the 2010 national elections.

“All of the sudden the government is now thinking of releasing P 20 billion for the repair of damaged irrigation facilities all over the country. Something fishy is going here,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader added: “This is grand money making scheme in the offing. It seems the government is now preoccupied with the quick releases of billions of taxpayers’ money in preparation for 2010 general elections.

According to Hicap, the national government intends to spend between P 12 billion to P 20 billion to rehabilitate irrigation areas serving 290,000 hectares of farm land this year and next year under the GMA Rice Program.

GMA Rice Program Director Francisco Malabanan said the rehabilitation of existing irrigation facilities will cost the government between P 6 billion to P 10 billion. According to Malabanan, in 2006, irrigation facilities serving about 368,000 hectares were identified for rehabilitation. This year, there were 290,000 hectares left to rehabilitate.

Malabanan said the rehabilitation of existing irrigation systems will cost the government
P 60,000 per hectare and this will be the priority of the government, since setting up new irrigation systems will cost the government between P 600,000 to P 800,000 per hectare.

At present, a total of 1.3 million hectares of farm land are currently served by the irrigation facilities of the National Irrigation Authority.

“After the fertilizer fund scam, the hybrid rice scam, swine cam and the vegetable scam, the Office of the President and its money making lieutenants in and out of Malacañang are now orchestrating the irrigation rehabilitation scam for the 2010 polls,” Pamalakaya said.

“P 20 billion is P 20 billion, and Malacañang has the power to dispose it and channel the entire if not 40 to 60 percent of the fund for the election campaign of its presidentiable, vice-presidentiable, senatorial candidates down to the local levels,” the group added.

Last year, the government spent P 9.52 billion for the rehabilitation of irrigation systems covering 142,255 hectares of farm land and constructed new irrigation facilities covering an additional 20, 353 hectares of agricultural areas. #

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Pamalakaya demands P 32-billion production subsidy

Pamalakaya demands P 32-billion production subsidy

Manila, Philippines- Members of the left-leaning fisherfolk alliance (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list on Monday fried two kilos of assorted fish at the Department of Agriculture (DA) as a symbolic gesture of presenting their demand for P 32-billion yearly production subsidy to caution the impact of global economic and financial crisis.

“This fighting demand of the small fisherfolk for monthly production subsidy to arrest the uncontrollable hikes in the prices of petroleum products was submitted to the office Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on July 2008. But nobody in this government wants to listen and our position paper was reduced into a scratch paper,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.

Pamalakaya said the main purpose of the P 32-billion production subsidy is to keep the wheel of production in the fisheries sector moving, because it is currently battered by high prices of oil products and skyrocketing prices of fishing gears and equipments.

Under the annual P 32-billion production subsidy for the fisheries sector proposed by Pamalakaya, all fishermen who own a small motorized banca will receive a minimum P 4,500 monthly oil subsidy, while those who operate non-motorized banca will receive P 2,000 monthly production subsidy.

According to Hicap, the P 4,500 monthly subsidy constitutes about 50 percent of the monthly expenses spent by fishermen owning a small fishing boat in their daily fish capture. The Pamalakaya leader said the proposed measure if approved will benefit 313,985 small fishing boat operators and will cost the government a monthly production subsidy of P 1.4 billion per month or P 16 billion per year.

Pamalakaya’s proposal for production subsidy for 630,000 non-motorized fishing boats operators across the country, will cost the national government some of P1.3 billion per month or roughly P 15.67 billion per year. All in all, the total subsidy for a little over small fishermen will cost he government some P 32 billion in total production subsidies annually.

For her part, Anakpawis party list secretary general Cherry Clemente said 100 percent of the production subsidy for fisherfolk operators of small fishing boats will go to oil, while around 50 percent of the proposed subsidy for owners of non-motorized fishing boats will go to gas subsidy, while the rest will go to other production and food needs of small fishermen.

Clemente said the production subsidies for small fishermen could be addressed by immediately and indefinitely suspending the annual payments of foreign and domestic debts that eats up more than one-third of the annual national budget.

“The proposed fishery production subsidy program is about 10 percent of the national government’s allotment to debt servicing. It would be better if we suspend if not totally stop paying these fraudulent loans acquired and accumulated by the previous and present administrations for their own corruption purposes,” the Anakpawis official added.

Clemente also said the national government should also oblige commercial and aquaculture operators to give their fish workers the mandated minimum wage and certify as urgent the pending bill in both houses of Congress granting private workers a P 125 across the board, across the country wage increase.

To improve the purchasing power of the Filipino fishermen, the workers and the poor, both groups said the government should scrap the 12 percent expanded Value Added Tax on all petroleum products, consumer good, utilities and services.

“These are doable items and sound economic measures to ease the burden and cushion the impact of global economic and financial crisis. But this government is not listening to the concrete and legitimate demands of the people,” Anakpawis asserted.

Pamalakaya likewise dismissed the 700 jobs being offered by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) in Eastern Visayas to displaced fishermen as “pittance and highly trivial”.

“The small fisherfolk in Eastern Visayas are not begging for alms nor asking for some kind of charitable escapade from the national and local governments. They are asking for decent, sustaining and life-supporting production activities not pittance and super roadshow charity work from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, “ lamented Pamalakaya.

The fisherfolk group was referring to the P 4-million livelihood and emergency employment assistance fund released by DOLE-Region 8, which Forter Pugon, regional director of the employment department said would benefit about 700 marginal fishermen and displaced workers in the region.

Of the P 4-million, P 1.468 million was alloted by the DOLE Region 8 to employment generation projects billed as Integrated Services for Livelihood of the Fisherfolk (ISLA) and the Tulong Pangkabuhayan sa Ating Disadvantaged Workers (TUPAD), which are currently being implemented in Lapinig town in Northern Samar.

Under the ISLA project of the labor department, the beneficiaries would undertake a small-scale fishing project in Lapinig town, using fish cage and other fishing methods. The project for small fisherfolk will also include enhancement trainings to prepare fisherfolk for another employment once the project is completed by concerned local government units. #

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Fishers group urges Palace to lift state of emergency in Sulu

MILITARY OPERATIONS DISPLACED FISHERS, FARMERS
Fishers group urges Palace to lift state of emergency in Sulu

The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Sunday urged Malacañang and the Department of National Defense to immediately lift the state of emergency imposed all over Sulu in connection with the Sulu hostage crisis.

In a press statement, Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro should immediately recall the declaration after learning that the measure meant to crush the Abu Sayaff hostage takers and free the remaining two hostages are now affecting the economic activities of farmers and fishermen in the island province.

A report said like thieves in the night, farmers tend to their crops under the cover of darkness to avoid being mistaken as Abu Sayyaf bandits, and the same applies to Sulu fishermen who go out to sea at night and return with their catch at dawn to evade being suspected as members of the Abu Sayyaf kidnapping group.

The same report said a total of 434 families from the villages of Kagay, Kagay proper, Baunuh, Badbad, Bakud, Lawum Saing, Purut, Lahnagan and Maligay in Indana town have left their homes due to military operations in connection with the hostage taking of three International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“Whether the Palace and the defense department admit it or not, their extreme political paranoia and strong bias for militarist solution in Mindanao have created an island wide economic displacement and psychological disturbance among the poor farmers and fisherfolk in Sulu,” Pamalakaya’s Hicap said.

According to Hicap, the farmers and fisherfolk of Sulu are the main food providers in the island. If they fail to harvest their produce, it would create a problem bigger than the hostage crisis in the island province.

Pamalakaya said President Arroyo and the National Security Council (NSC) should be held liable and accountable for the ongoing economic chaos and mental torture being experienced by the small farmers and fisherfolk brought about by the all-out military drive and declaration of state of emergency in Sulu island province

“Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Teodoro should scrap the state of emergency in Sulu Island and allow the rural people to go back to their normal lives. The state-sponsored reign of terror in Sulu which is being effectively used to put the island under de facto Martial Law is now turning into an island wide nightmare for innocent folks,” the group said.

Pamalakaya said President Arroyo and top defense and military officials comprising the National Security Council are exploiting the criminal activities of Abu Sayyaf bandits to justify the imposition of emergency rule and the all-out military operations in Sulu.

“The kidnapping escapade of Abu Sayyaf bandits, who according to some insiders, have ties with warlords and top honchos of the military and police establishments is supposed to be a police matter, and therefore, should be addressed by elements of the Philippine National Police. How come the military people are there, directing operations which should be delegated to local police? It is really a major puzzle,” the group added. #

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Anti-FTA group sees 10-million European food aid to Manila as grease money for rapid OK of RP-EU pact

Anti-FTA group sees 10-million European food aid to Manila as grease money for rapid OK of RP-EU pact

Manila, Philippines—An anti free trade agreement (FTA) group in Manila on Sunday said the 10 million Euros or roughly P 640 million worth of food aid granted by the European Commission to the Philippine government was a form of grease money to fast-track the approval of the RP-European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which the group asserted has been kept from public scrutiny since 2004.

The Office of the Delegation of the European Commission to the Philippines in a press statement said the P 640 million grant was part of the first package of projects to support agriculture and improve food security in the country.

It said the projects will be implemented by the Department of Agriculture and co-financed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) will help to assure supply of rice seed and increase rice production to prevent the repeat of last year’s rice crisis.

But Fernando Hicap, national chair of the fisherfolk group PAMALAKAYA asserted the 10 million Euro food aid as oil money to facilitate the rapid approval of RP-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Manila and the European member states.

“The granting of the P 640 million food grant is highly questionable since it was timed when the Manila government and the European Union are negotiating on a bilateral pact which was authored, written and pursued by the EU giants”, the Pamalakaya leader said.

According to Pamalakaya, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her top economic and diplomatic officials never facilitated in the drafting of the RP-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and were reduced as mere audience as they European Union counterparts proceeded in writing the bilateral which is supposed to be a joint partnership agreement.

“The RP-EU is supposed to be a bilateral agreement to be drafted by the two parties involved. But the Arroyo presidency never participated in the drafting and was only made to wait for the final version of the pact that would be finalized by their EU counterparts. On the other hand, the P 640 million food grant looked like a prize for the Arroyo government for performing its role to the hilt as willing lapdog of the EU transnational giants,” the militant group said.

Earlier, Pamalakaya urged the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto Romulo to make available the content of the RP-European Union Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which was initially drafted by EU a few years ago, and a copy of which was obtained by the Philippine government on Feb.1 2006.

The militant group also learned that Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo requested the office of Secretary Romulo to furnish him documents regarding the ongoing negotiations between the Macapagal-Arroyo government and the European Commission but what was given to activist lawmaker was the statement of the DFA on the RP-EU ongoing negotiations on the partnership and cooperation agreement.

“Why this agreement is being processed through the syndicate way? What is the big secret being concealed by the Philippine government and the European Commission from the Filipino people? If there is nothing wrong or sinister about the PCA, then both governments, by all means, should reveal the content and let the Filipino people judge according to their collective interest,” said Pamalakaya.

Likewise, Pamalakaya urged Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and 22 other senators to compel the DFA Secretary Romulo to furnish the Senate all the important and vital documents concerning the PCA that involves issues such as trade and investment cooperation, economic and development cooperation, political cooperation and institutional framework.

“While the executive department’s job is to negotiate, the Philippine Senate which is the sole ratifying body should not be kept in the dark. The senators are constitutionally bound, legally mandated, politically and morally obliged to look into the impact and consequences of the PCA is which is currently being syndicated among top officials of Malacañang and the European Commission,” the fisherfolk group stressed.

Pamalakaya further asserted that the Senate should not be caught flat footed like in the case of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) where the Senate, the ratifying body were kept in the dark in the early stages of the negotiations and was compelled to seal the agreement despite Jpepa’s all-out violation of national interest and the 1987 Constitution.

“If Jpepa is nightmare, the RP-EU partnership and cooperation pact is an across-the-nation tragedy that will soon hit this nation of impoverished and starving people. The real agenda of EU in orchestrating this biggest sell-out of the century is to pass the burden of their economic and global crisis to the downtrodden people of the Third World like RP,” the militant group said.

DFA undersecretary Edsel Custodio on Feb.19 released a foreign affairs statement on Feb.9, 2009 on the draft RP-EU PCA which was submitted by the European Commission on Nov.21 2006.

Usec. Custodio said the Philippines had received from the EC the initial draft of the PCA on 1 February 2006. At that time, the PCA consisted of two separate Framework Agreements: the first refers to the main PCA, while the second refers to the political elements on WMD, Terrorism, and the ICC.
In May 2006, President Macapagal-Arroyo had met with then-EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, and expressed the Philippines’ keenness on pursuing negotiations after thorough evaluation by the agencies of the Philippine government. In accordance with this directive, the DFA established the Inter-Agency process on the PCA.

According to Custodio, since then, the initial draft underwent further revisions by the EC. The second revised PCA draft dated 21 November 2006 merged the two separate Agreements of 1 February 2006 into one omnibus PCA. It is this version that has undergone a lengthy but thorough Inter-Agency process, spanning a period of over two years and involving around 30 agencies and offices of the Philippine government.

Inter-Agency deliberation continued throughout much of 2007. Some issues—particularly the nature and rationale behind the PCA and its relation to the regional FTA—emerged that required further discussion. For this reason, the DFA and the EC held the first informal consultations on the draft PCA on 24 September 2007. There we discussed the draft PCA with the EC in order to arrive at some clarity on the nature and rationale of the PCA and how to proceed further with a view to engaging in more substantive discussions.
Inter-agency discussion intensified in frequency and deepened in analysis in 2008. The number of agencies involved in the PCA increased, while some sub-clusters consolidated due to the inter-relatedness and cross-cutting nature of certain provisions.

The Philippine response to the PCA—the Counter-Draft—was now taking shape.
On 6 October 2008, a second informal consultation was held with the EC. By this time, our agencies have thoroughly deliberated on the PCA, with some changing positions reflecting the changing times and the complexity of the issues.

A Philippine Counter-Draft was almost substantially complete. Both sides tackled the issue of how to proceed further towards actually commencing formal talks and some institutional matters regarding possible structure and modalities of the impending bilateral negotiations.
On 24 October 2008, at the fringes of the ASEM Leaders Summit in Beijing, our Leaders, President Macapagal-Arroyo and EU President Jose Manuel Barroso, had made the announcement that both sides have agreed to commence negotiations. With the political mandate clear, and with no foreseeable legal or substantive impediment to negotiations, the only question left unanswered is when.

According to Usec. Custodio, this question was taken up during the 6th RP-EU Senior Officials Meeting, the official bilateral dialogue of the Philippines and the EU. There both sides agreed to start the first round of negotiations on the PCA on 9-10 February 2008, in Manila.

The EC also announced formally that an updated PCA draft, with new sections on labor and employment, justice, governance, and climate change, was to be transmitted to the Philippines by the end of 2008.

“This new EC draft, dated 22 December 2008, is still being considered by the Inter-Agency. Notwithstanding this development, the Philippines stands ready to discuss in more substantive detail its counter-proposal in this first Round of Negotiations on the PCA,” the DFA official added..#

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