Press Release
February 16, 2011

Opening Statement

Chair of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations
Wednesday, 16 February 2011, 1:00 PM
Tañada Room, Senate of the Philippines

Good afternoon and welcome to the hearing of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations. I now call the hearing of this Committee to order. We have before us two treaties that we ought to discuss with the end in view of recommending concurrence by the Senate if we find out that these will ultimately be beneficial to our people.

First of which is the Philippine-Japan Technical Cooperation Agreement (TCA). Japan is the largest Official Development Assistance (ODA) donor of the Philippines. In 2008, Japan accounted for 33% of all ODAs to the country that include technical cooperation. The TCA provides for the general scope and coverage of the technical cooperation and the privileges that will be granted to technical cooperation experts or volunteers that may be dispatched by Japan to the Philippines under the Agreement.

While the country would clearly benefit from this Agreement, we cannot simply jump into it without studying its possible implications. Before we concur with any treaty, we have to consider two important principles--its constitutionality and the national interest.

There are several articles in the Agreement that need to be elucidated, otherwise, these could lead to misinterpretation of the provisions and might place the country in a complicated position in the future. We have to scrutinize every bit of this accord to ensure that what we are entering into would actually lead towards the development of our nation and the enhancement of our people's welfare.

On the other hand, the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT) requires State Parties to establish an independent national preventive mechanism that would regularly monitor all places of detention, inspect its facilities, and recommend solutions to prevent torture and other ill-treatment.

This Treaty would also require us to improve the country's detention facilities and the living conditions of prisoners to meet the norms and standards of the United Nations. Our government has finite resources and given the massive budgetary requirements for this exercise, it may take years before the standards are fulfilled by the Philippines. However, we do not think we have to be discouraged by this.

We are conducting this hearing to discuss provisions of the agreements that may need refinement and to ensure that the country can comply with these.

Just for the record, these treaties were already submitted in the 14th Congress. The distinguished former Chair of the Committee, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, already submitted a committee report on these agreements recommending senate concurrence. However, these Committee Reports, probably due to time constraints, were not approved on third reading in plenary.

This hearing therefore aims to get some more inputs and comments from various stakeholders, represented by resource persons present here today.

So before we hear a "Backgrounder" on these treaties from the DFA, may we ask our colleagues to give their opening statements.

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