Senator Nancy Binay on Thursday said the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP) will remove the barriers an restrictions on at least 90 percent of imported or exported products.
From an economic point of view, the Philippines will get substantial market opportunities and benefits from the RCEP, which intends to harmonize the trade agreements of the ASEAN members with big trading partners like China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
Binay said it would have huge negative impact on the country’s trade once lost.
“But we don’t want to rush things just yet,” she said. “Let us first wait and hear the contentious issues on some essential sectors, and when it will be brought to the plenary to inquire if there are still questions.”
All concerned agencies and sectors, she said, should also be prepared for a transition.
“Whether it will be passed or not, RCEP will continue, with or without the Philippines,” she stressed.
“However, the most important and what we need to know is our readiness for RCEP, and if we have already prepared parallel programs for the labor sector, and subsidies in the agricultural and production sectors,” the senator added.
Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda are expected to lead the RCEP ratification.
Presiding over the resumption of the Senate deliberations on its concurrence on its ratification, Legarda shared the frustration of farmers, who are among the direct stakeholders of currently the world’s biggest free trade pact.
During the public hearing conducted by a special subcommittee under the Committee on Foreign Relations, Legarda wgave assurance that the farmers’ concerns were heard and answered by the pertinent agencies.
Among the issues raised by agricultural groups that expressed
opposition to the country’s move to participate in the RCEP was that a free trade agreement among its member-economies would lower the tariffs on certain products, leading to an increase in imported foods.
They said this does not protect the Philippines’ agricultural produce as it would bring down local prices and eventually negatively affect the local farmers’ earnings.
Moreover, they said there were already existing free trade agreements with RCEP member countries.
Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Alfredo Pascual defended the RCEP and gave assurance 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 viwew RCEP in terms of the opportunities it can bring to us,” Pascual said.
Legarda stressed that she was one with the farmers, being a farmer herself, but added that she also considered the benefits that the country could get from the RCEP.