MANILA Philippines — Senate President Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday urged people opposing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and look at the bigger picture, especially on how this may help the country.
The RCEP is a free trade pact between all Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states, as well as six of the regional bloc’s trade partners, including Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.
“We have to look at the totality of this measure. The totality of how many people it can help in the future. I’m here to listen to the pros and cons of the measure, but in the end we have to look at the overall picture of how this would help our country to grow into tiger status,” said Zubiri during the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ deliberations on whether the country should ratify the said trade agreement.
Zubiri even noted that, considering there are 14 out of 15 signatory countries who have already ratified RCEP, the said partnership must have economic benefits.
“And I say this because, out of the 15 countries that had signed on, we’re the only one that has not ratified. There must have been something good for 14 other countries in the ASEAN region, plus – China, Japan, Korea, New Zealand, and Australia to sign on,” Zubiri said.
Zubiri said the country cannot be left alone “when this economic partnership progresses and prospers these nations.”
He then stressed the need for the agriculture sector to produce more efficiently and effectively.
However, Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives, Inc. (FFFCI) President Leonardo Montemayor along with other oppositors including United Broiler Raisers’ Association (UBRA) President Elias Jose Bong Inciong reiterated that RCEP cannot remedy nor address the long standing deficit of the agricultural sector.
They repeatedly debunked the projections and the supposed “advantages” of RCEP and claimed that said avantages cannot be maximized due to the country’s uncompetitive agricultural sector, stemming from a series of National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and Free Trade Agreement’s (FTA) neglect and lapses.
“Ang magproprovide naman ng tunay na protection is competitiveness. Ang problema, kaya ho tayo hindi competitive, kayo ho tayo panay ang importation, hindi makapagbigay ang agrikultura ng tamang supply ng tamang production, kasi ho in dereliction of duty yung NEDA at FTA sa pag i-implement ng overall design ng WTO (World Trade Organization),” Montemayor exclaimed.
(It is competitiveness which will provide production protection. The problem is, the reason why we are not competitive, we are import-dependent, and that the agricultural sector cannot provide the ample supply or production is because of NEDA and FTA’s dereliction of duty in implementing the overall design of WTO.)
Senator Loren Legarda, for her part shared the same sentiment that RCEP cannot immediately rectify the current problems in the agricultural sector, but expressed that it is crucial for the Philippines to ratify said partnership, unless there are serious problems with the provisions, so as not to get left behind which may either render the sector stagnant or in an even worse situation.
“I believe that because our ASEAN neighbors have ratified it, we may need to ratify it so we are not left behind or lost in translation, so to speak. But we did not, as a nation, prepare our industries in the agricultural sector all these decades, all these while we failed. But if we do not ratify it, the situation will stay the same or make it worse,” said Legarda.
Concluding the session, Senator Zubiri called for the creation of a technical working group for the instructions and guidelines of the ratification of RCEP.
It can be recalled that more than 100 groups and individuals from various sectors appealed for the rejection of the RCEP, earlier this month. —Vance Chan, Inquirer.net trainee