Zubiri, Legarda to lead RCEP ratification
MANILA, Philippines —Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda voiced farmers’ dissatisfaction with the world’s largest free trade pact as the Senate resumed deliberations on the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).
Legarda ensured that farmers’ concerns are heard and addressed during a Senate committee on foreign relations special subcommittee meeting.
“The Senate leadership is one with you. Iisa-isahin ano ang issue ninyo at didinggin ng lahat ng ahensya ng gobyerno. Ito ba’y nasa probisyon ng RCEP? Ito ba’y talagang makakasama? O baka may panukalang batas na dapat gawin para masolusyunan ang inyong concerns. Kami po ay nandito para sa inyo,” she said.
Among the issues raised by agricultural groups opposing RCEP:
– Lower tariffs on certain products would lead to an increase in imported food products.
– This would bring down local prices and eventually harm local farmers’ earnings.
They also mentioned that free trade agreements with RCEP countries are already in place.
READ: RCEP is critical to our national interest
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Fred Pascual defended RCEP and assured that the government would continue to provide the needed support and level the playing field to help equip and sharpen the capacity of local businesses.
“RCEP provides a framework of rules and disciplines to ensure regulatory consistency, creating a conducive business environment that is key to ensuring the confidence of the business sector and spurring further economic growth,” he explained.
“While we recognize the concerns raised by some sectors, it is important to understand the bigger picture and view RCEP in terms of the opportunities it can bring to us,” Sec. Pascual furthered.
Legarda stressed she is one with the farmers being a farmer herself, but also considers the benefits that the country could get from RCEP.
“Ramdam ko kayo at pinag-aaralan ko ito. On the other hand, naiintindihan ko rin kasi hindi tayo puwedeng maiwanan sa ASEAN,” she said.
After hearing the farmers’ concerns and the government’s side, Legarda stated that the stakeholders would be consulted to help draft the guidelines, which will be part of the Senate’s concurrence to the agreement’s ratification.
READ: RCEP: 100 groups ask Senate to reject world’s biggest free trade pact
Since the RCEP standards don’t include environmental and sustainability provisions, she added them to the recommendations.
A special oversight committee will be formed with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri’s approval.
It would monitor the recommendations’ implementation and ensure that government agencies support farmers and other sectors.
“Gagawa tayo ng guidelines, policies, programs, funding, resources, commitments, and oversight that will ensure that the agencies who negotiated for this — [the DA] who are mandated to bring about a robust agricultural sector, and the DTI to bridge the trade deficit — will do better than better, will do their best,” Legarda said.
READ: Zubiri tells people opposing RCEP: Look at bigger picture, how this may help PH
Five of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ key commercial partners—Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea—are RCEP members.
The regional accord is believed to offer investors, particularly export-oriented businesses, a wide range of market prospects and boost economic efficiency in its member states.
Among the 15 member economies, only the Philippines has not ratified.
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