Malacanang seeks Senate concurrence of RCEP

Malacanang has already given its go signal for the Senate to “concur” the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which failed to pass in the previous Senate during the Duterte administration on strong opposition from various farmer groups.

Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual said that the Cabinet as a whole approved in October this year for the Senate to concur the RCEP ratification. He said that Senate is expected to tackle RCEP after the budget hearing.

“We have a Cabinet decision in October where the Cabinet as a whole made a decision to request the concurrence of the Senate,” said Pascual noting that President Ferdinand Marcos has already reviewed the RCEP and has given his go signal. Marcos, who designated himself as agriculture secretary, expressed hesitance over RCEP early in his administration as the farmers made it clear that local agriculture is not yet ready for more intense competition.

The DTI has also prepared a communication to Malacanang to submit its approval to the Senate for the RCEP concurrence. “We will check because we are now asking the Senate to give its concurrence to RCEP because it has been approved by the executive branch,” he added.

Informal talks between the executives and the legislative branches of government have also been conducted, he said.

“It is important that there is understanding on how important RCEP is to our country,” he said adding that every time he met an investor he would be asked as to when the Philippines will become part of RCEP. He explained that if an investor would put up a factory in the country, he would like to trade in RCEP countries and avail of the reduced tariff for his export.

Pascual said he also met with representatives of some farmer groups, stating they understand the big stake for the country to be in RCEP. “They are prepared to cooperate,” he said.

RCEP will be the world's largest free trade agreement by members' GDP. It comprises the 10 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) members plus Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.