'Safety nets' needed for local industries under RCEP, says Quimbo

Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo said that "safety nets" for local industries must be established under the era of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Marikina City 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo speaks during a press briefing. (Ellson Quismorio/ File photo/ MANILA BULLETIN)

Quimbo had this to say to Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) officials even as she noted that the country hasn't fared well historically in implementing such measures for sectors that have been impacted by economic liberalization.

“I’d like to urge government agencies…to do a good job in providing the support service...kasi, historically sa totoo lang hindi tayo naging magaling, unfortunately, sa pag provide ng safety nets sa mga naging losers po ng mga economic liberalization. In fact lagi tayong huli (because, historically, the truth is we haven't fared well, unfortunately, in providing safety nets to the losers of economic liberalization measures. In fact we've always lagged behind)," Quimbo said during a House panel hearing Tuesday, Feb. 21, a few hours ahead of the Senate's ratification of RCEP.

The economist-solon cited as an example the Rice Tariffication Law, which according to her was a noble law that sought to bring down the price of rice.

One safety net of the law is the Rice Competetiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF), which, through the use of collected tariffs, was supposed to capacitate local farmers through mechanization and distribution of inbred rice seeds.

"Ngunit hindi ito gumana (But this didn't work out)," said Quimbo, senior vice chairperson of the Committee on Appropriations.

So, all of these failures give economic liberalization a bad name. That’s the reality today...may existential fear, dun po tayo nanggagaling. Kasi hindi tayo magaling historically sa pagpapatupad ng mga safety nets for economic liberalization (there is an existential fear, that's where we're coming from. Because historically, we're not good at implementing safety nets for economic liberalization)," she explained.

To the DTI, Quimbo added: "Yun ang aking hiling sa inyo (That’s my request to you). Please do a good job on this and if there’s a need to centralize all of these efforts by way of creating an economic liberalization safety net fund of sorts, and maybe make it private-led para siguradong maibaba ang mga pondo na ito (to ensure that the funds will trickle down) in a timely manner and in a rational manner, ako ay bukas sa ganyang mga kaisipan (I am open to such thinking) and just get in touch with me I will gladly sponsor that kind of initiative.”

The Senate ratified the RCEP agreement via vote of 20-1-1 (yes-no-abstain) late Tuesday night.