(STAR) By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio - The last stumbling block for the ratification of the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) is expected to be addressed this week as the Senate is set tackle the constitutionality of the bilateral agreement.

“That is the only issue left and people have their own opinion on the matter,” Trade secretary Peter B. Favila told reporters.

According to Favila, they will submit a prepared memorandum to Sen. Miriam Santiago. The memorandum, which answers the issue of constitutionality, contains the legal advice of legal luminaries such as retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban and Ateneo president Father Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J.

He said the government will come up with a matrix that will specifically cite provisions that will answer all questions the people opposing JPEPA might have.

Favila also reported that he recently visited his Japanese counterpart Akira Amari in Tokyo to update him. “I’ve told Mr. Amari that the Senate is known to make decisions that are best for the country. That is a very comforting statement,” Favila noted.

The ratification of JPEPA is expected to bring in P365 billion in investments in the country Trade Undersecretary Elmer C. Hernandez said in a recent interview.

The biggest potential investments will be in infrastructure and utilities, specifically the energy sector at P192.3 billion. Under this, the Japanese are expected to build power plants, ethanol and bio-diesel plants.

This is followed by the mining and minerals processing sector. The P100-billion investment is earmarked for nickel processing projects.

Under the transport equipment sector, Japan is expected to infuse P22 billion for auto parts and components. Electronics and telecoms equipment sector will get P20 billion while chemical-based consumer products will get P16.56 billion for liquid caustic soda and vinyl chloride monomer plants.

Other sectors include agricultural products and allied services — P1.68 billion; chemicals, textiles and leather — P1.54 billion; engineering products — P300 million; information technology services — P307 million; tourism — P7.25 billion and trading and other services — P3.01 billion.

According to Hernandez, the figures are based on leads gathered by the government through trade fairs. He said the investments will come in from 2007 to 2010 or once the JPEPA is in place.

“The Japanese will have more level of comfort (to invest) once the JPEPA comes in,” Hernandez told reporters.

He said most Japanese firms are in exploratory stage because of the pending bilateral agreement. When asked how many of the leads turn into actual investments, Hernandez said 90 to 95 percent of Japanese firms push through with their investments after conducting due diligence.

In terms of additional employment generated by the potential investments, Hernandez said the entire thing can create 211,147 new jobs.

Most of the jobs created will be for the agricultural products and allied services sector where 96,000 more people will be employed, followed by the mining sector which will open up 50,000 new jobs. In the transport equipment sector, 44,000 jobs will be opened and 10,000 new employees will come in the electronics and telecoms sector.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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