Japanese textbooks refer to such Japanese atrocities as the destruction of the Chinese city of Nanjing (Nanking) during World War II as instances of “mischief-making.” In the Nanjing “incident”, mischievous Japanese soldiers massacred 100,000 men, women and children, raped some 20,000 women, and burned, looted and practically destroyed the entire city.
But if that was “mischief,” North Korea’s test of a puny nuclear weapon last month was a “provocation” and a “threat”. Then there’s the US “war on terror,” under whose umbrella the Japanese government has managed to deploy Japanese troops abroad for the first time since World War II.
Japan’s conservative government is likely to use North Korea’s apparent entry into the Nuclear Club and its efforts at developing its missile systems as a pretext to amend its peace constitution and accelerate Japanese rearmament. The “war on terror,” meanwhile, also allows Japan to build up its military strength so it can meet “international commitments.” These are options Japanese militarists have been aching to exercise for decades, and they’re likely to get their wish, given current perceptions of North Korea as a “rogue state” and as part of the terrorist “axis of evil.”
If Japanese militarists are slowly but surely getting their fondest wishes, Japanese corporations have been having their way in Asia for years, and not only in the sense that Toyotas have replaced Chevies in much of the region, where Japan is the most industrialized and most developed country.
The less developed countries of the region are the sources of the raw materials Japan needs for its industries but doesn’t have, among them tin and rubber, iron, copper and bauxite. The same countries are at the same time markets for Japan’s finished products. Japanese corporations benefit as well from the cheap labor in countries like the Philippines, where they often have offshore manufacturing facilities.
But industries generate wastes, much of them hazardous to human health. Environmentalist groups in developed countries have succeeded in getting laws passed to reduce toxic waste generation at the production level. But this can be expensive, the shift to clean production often requiring investments in sophisticated technology. Exporting toxic wastes to other countries is thus an attractive option to cost-cutting transnationals, and this is where the less developed countries come in.
These countries’ environmental laws are weak, non-existent, or poorly enforced. In many cases run by corrupt, uncaring governments such as those the Philippines has been plagued with, they are convenient dumps not only for substandard products but also for the toxic wastes their home government’s laws prohibit transnationals from dumping in their own countries.
The transnational movement of toxic wastes has for decades been from developed countries to less developed ones. While no secret, however, it was only in 1995 that this seemed to have been recognized. That was when the Basel Ban Amendment was added to the Basel Convention.
The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, which came into force in 1992, was initiated by the UN Environmental Program (UNEP). It regulates international trade in hazardous waste, its principal aim being to minimize such trade as well as the generation of hazardous waste. More than 100 countries, including Japan and the Philippines, have ratified the Convention.
This is the Basel Convention the Japanese Embassy in Manila was referring to in its October 29 statement in which it claimed that hazardous wastes would not be imported by Japan into the Philippines under the terms of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).
The embassy claimed that “the government of Japan has an established legal framework based on the Basel Convention and has been enforcing strict export/import control, which does not allow any export of toxic and hazardous wastes to another country including the Philippines, unless the government of such a country approves such export.”
Reassuring on the surface, but mischievous at bottom. The Japanese government’s “legal framework based on the Basel Convention” has not prevented Japan from exporting hazardous and toxic wastes to China and other countries, among them the poorest countries of Africa.
Equally mischievous is the embassy’s failure to mention, as the Basel Action Network has pointed out, that while it has indeed ratified the Basel Convention, Japan has not ratified the Basel Ban Amendment of 1995 and has no intention to do so. Because not enough countries have ratified it, the Amendment is not yet in force. The Amendment prohibits the export of hazardous wastes from OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or most developed countries), to less developed countries.
Without this amendment, the Basel Convention does allow such exports from, say, Japan (a member of OECD), to, say, the Philippines (a non-member), if the Philippine government approves it.
What are the odds that the Philippine government, once the JPEPA is in force (and Malacanang says it is already in force, apparently because it will declare the agreement an executive agreement rather than a treaty requiring Senate ratification), would mischievously approve such imports from Japan? I would say the odds are about as much as a typhoon’s hitting the Philippines in July-August, except that it would have an impact worse than a typhoon’s.–###