According to Pro Tempore Senate President Lauren Legarda, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) can help develop the country’s agricultural sector and allow the Philippine economy to adapt to rapidly changing global trade.
However, the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) party condemned the RCEP ratification, saying that the country’s local industry, including the agro-fishing sector, would be “negatively affected”.
Legarda said she and Senate President Miguel Zubiri have called for the creation of an oversight committee that will closely monitor the agencies’ programs to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) and the agricultural sector. The resolution, approved by the Senate, takes into account the concerns of various stakeholders and those who oppose RCEP.
The senator assured that the recommendations presented by opponents are part of the operative paragraphs of the resolution and that there will be state support programs in favor of farmers and fishermen, as well as the representation of indigenous peoples, women and other marginalized groups. “I am taking a big leap of faith, so to speak, so that we can walk along with other ASEAN countries, our neighboring Indonesia, and Myanmar and Laos. Huwag naman tayong maungusan pa ng ibang bansa kung hindi tayo makasama sa This is RCEP drownLegarda said.
“We must move forward, and we must move forward together with our neighboring ASEAN countries, otherwise we will be left on the sidelines.”
She noted that only 15 groups of agricultural products, corresponding to 33 tariff lines, will have lower tariff rates under the RCEP compared to the rates in some of the ASEAN+1 free trade agreements. Referring to the National Economic and Development Administration, she said that this is equivalent to only 1.9 percent of 1,718 agricultural lines and 0.8 percent of total agricultural imports.
Of these 33 tariff lines, 17 relate to raw materials, 8 to intermediate products, and only 8 to finished products. The remaining agricultural tariff rates will be equal to or higher than other Asean+1 free trade agreements or excluded from import tariff concessions under the RCEP.
“All ASEAN countries have ratified the RCEP, and it is disadvantageous for us if we do not join the RCEP, because the RCEP countries, which are our trading partners outside of ASEAN, will reduce their tariffs for other ASEAN countries that will export the same As such countries such as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand, and goods from the Philippines will enter these countries at high tariffs,” Legarda said.
She also emphasized the important role of the implementing agencies and the implementing department in improving the country’s agricultural sector.
“We cannot say that there is no more hope. For me, hope is eternal. That is why we turned to our farmers and fishermen for help. If the Ministry of Agriculture does not do its job of eradicating smuggling and helping farmers who cannot access the Rice Competitiveness Fund, the lives of our farmers and fishermen will not improve,” she said.
“Kailangan natin ang whole-of-government approach for harvesting, agriculture, flashing ng akainan sa taonga kakalan ng akainan s ating hapag kainan.
“The Curse of the Fishermen”
“RCEP will flood our local market even more with cheap imports at the expense of our farmers and fishermen,” Pamalakaya National Chairman Fernando Hicap said in a statement.
The Philippines imported nearly 200,000 metric tons of horse mackerel and other pelagic fish from China, Vietnam and Taiwan in 2018-2022, Hicap said. He noted that this was done even when the RCEP had not yet been put into effect.
“Now that the Philippines has officially joined the RCEP, large volumes of agricultural imports are expected to flood our country. This will endanger our local industry, which has been neglected and will be displaced by imports.”
Hickap said that other RCEP impacts on the fishing sector include possible “intensive fishery and coastal conversion projects by Chinese investors and developers; and the expansion of private aquaculture in municipal fisheries financed by Chinese firms for export to their countries.”
“By abandoning the RCEP, the Marcos administration has openly shown its subordination to foreign countries, especially China, which has promoted said mega free trade deal. It is very disappointing that the Marcos administration and its legislators did not even think about the ongoing Chinese usurpation of the West Philippine Sea before they approved the RCEP.”
Pamalakaya, an umbrella organization with local chapters across the country, has argued that import liberalization policies should end, insisting that the government instead support and strengthen the local fishing industry.
“By abandoning foreign policies that favor powerful countries like China, the Philippine government can only effectively uphold our national sovereignty.”