Browsing through Inquirer I saw this. So would the proposed free trade agreement with Japan lead to free entry of Japanese fleets into Philippine waters? I'd never heard of this argument. Intrigued, I downloaded the full text here (care of PCIJ). I even went to the Junk JPEPA blog to see where I could find fishing access anywhere in the Agreement. The claim is bodacious:
"JPEPA through Articles 28 and 29 of Chapter 3 allows unhampered access Japanese fishing industry to Philippine EEZ."
In reality, Chapter 3 is about defining "rules of origin", i.e. how does a product get to be classified as "made in the Philippines" or "made in Japan" and get free trade treatment. (Given that a lot of foreign inputs may be used, the classification is not trivial). Article 29 says we can classify goods like fish as Filipino-made, even though they were caught outside our territorial waters, as long as a Filipino fleet owns them. It adds furthermore: "Nothing in this sub-paragraph shall affect the rights and obligations of the Parties under International Law, including under the United Nations Convention of the Law of the Sea." Absolutely, the Philippines retains its rights to the Exclusive Economic Zone under the UNCLOS.
So why the qualification? Simple: when we import a fish from Japan caught in say Chinese waters, and give it duty-free status because it was caught by a Japanese ship, we don't want to be entangled with legal problems with China who could dispute the legality of Japan's incursion into Chinese waters. We don't accept the fish was caught legally, but under the treaty we would still give it duty-free status.
What is behind this staggering falsehood of natural resource plunder by Japanese fleets? I don't know. I just hope the debates in the Senate are not conducted at this level of analysis. If this is the norm, we're done for.