(STAR) ROSES & THORNS By Alejandro R. Roces - Tomorrow, it will be 63 years since Gen. Douglas MacArthurís historic landing in Leyte, dramatically announcing ďPeople of the Philippines. I have returned! By the grace of Almighty God, our forces stand again on Philippine soil.Ē The Americans, although a foreign invader before the Japanese, were then seen as heroes by the people when they liberated the Filipinos from four years of brutality and cruelty by the latter.

Before this, the Japanese coveted our islands so much, their own not large enough and with no sufficient resources to sustain their ambitious conquests then. The Philippines contained rich natural resources and plantations like rubber. The island chain was also the gateway to Borneo and Sumatra which brought petroleum to Japan. Manchuria and the massive resources of China could supply raw materials for steel, with which to make guns and ammunitions. Furthermore, securing Philippine command was key to further their militaristic plan to conquer the world. Our country held immense advantages, being a feasible base of operations to strengthen the military command of the Japanese Air Force and Naval forces. From here, they could target the English-held Australia. By taking the island from the Americans the Japanese were removing an important Allied command post in southern Pacific.

With the help of the more friendly American forces, the Philippines prevented the Japanese to gain control. The war caused great loss of lives and resources for the Japanese. With their military dominance and pride demolished after a series of losses from the Battle of Iwo Jima and the dreadful atomic bombings by the US of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Japanese announced their full surrender. Demilitarized by the Allied Forces under the leadership of the United States through Gen. MacArthur as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, a reformed Japan shifted to peaceful and constitutional rule to achieve economic objectives. Manila, on the other hand, was the second most destroyed city in the world during World War II, next only to Warsaw.

Fast forward from then into what is now a global village, we are now considering negotiations with Japan in a proposed trade agreement called Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). In a press conference early this week, a Trade and Industry (DTI) official said the Japanese government is expected to bring in P365 billion in new investments, consisting mostly of investments in infrastructure and utilities in the energy sector totaling P192.3 billion. Under this agreement, Japanese investors are expected to build power, ethanol and bio-diesel plants.

Whatís in it for us? I like the fact that 211,147 new jobs will be created for our kababayans in the mining, transport equipment, electronics and telecoms and agriculture sectors. Increased tariff rate quotas will also be achieved for our pineapples and bananas, benefiting our small farmers. A group called Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport) said we will be at a great disadvantage if JPEPA is not signed because higher duties will be imposed on our products compared with ASEAN countries already in economic partnership with Japan. On the other hand, I donít like the possibility of our country becoming a dumping site for Japanís toxic wastes, as other protesting groups are claiming. It is good that the Senate is carefully reviewing the terms of the agreement and a Philippine Coordinating Committee studying its feasibility.

We are wiser now, armed not with guns but with technology and expertise in different fields. Our country remains to be a key stronghold, now with full sovereignty; rich with natural resources, people buoyed by a strong will and determination to succeed and survive. Unlike before, we do not fight in an armed battle but for global survival. We must play our cards well.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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