Japan and the Philippines have recently concluded a Free Trade Agreement. In a puzzling move, the Philippine Government gave tariff preferences on Japanese waste materials. Under the JPEPA, waste products such as waste pharmaceuticals, ash and residues from incinerated waste, sewage sludge, clinical waste, and even articles like used surgical gloves can be shipped from Japan at zero tariffs.
Government officials have explained these products are for “recycling.”
Apparently zero tariffs are supposed to encourage importation of products in short supply or not manufactured locally, or if there is little demand. But it seems there is no great need for Japanese waste.
Based upon my own experience, conducting environmental audits in the Philippines, there are very limited facilities for these kinds of wastes and all responsible waste generators are storing and exporting these kinds of wastes. Why the Philippines would be agreeing to import these kinds of wastes unless there were some kinds of hidden agendas is mystifying. There are virually no industrial waste landfills, no industrial waste treatment and almost no solid waste management facilities that would pass any kind of western standard.
According to local critics of the agreement, other questions need to be answered: Can local recycling facilities handle a deluge of waste materials? Are authorities adequately prepared? My judgement is NO and NO. A local expert also warned that other countries could take advantage of the agreement to dump waste on the Philippines via transshipments. Well no shit Sherlock IMHO. This already happens every day and this agreement will only make it worse.
Another expert said that it is questionable that the Philippines is allowing waste products in while getting only a few concessions such as the entry of Filipino nurses and caregivers to Japan.
Japan and the Philippines are complementary economies — the former can supply industrial goods while the latter can readily export farm commodities — but Filipino agricultural products such as mangoes, bananas, pineapples, and tuna have already made headway in Japan, he said. Being perfect FTA partners, the Philippines is supposed to gain from closer trade relations with an affluent trade partner.Loopholes could also come under the form of non-tariff barriers that Japan may impose. For example, Tokyo has been using sanitary and phytosanitary standards (SPS) to block Philippine products, such as smoked tuna (because of carbon monoxide residue).
Nice arrangement, Japan and their allies get to dump all their toxic waste, the Philippines gets to dump some of their excess labour force (they are Catholics after all) and all food exports are either discounted, banned or controlled.
Nice arrangement. Free Trade. Gotta Love It.