By Revin Mikhael D. Ochave, Journalist
THE PHILIPPINES risk losing investment opportunities to other Southeast Asian countries if they continue to delay ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Commerce Secretary Ramon M. Lopez.
“Any delay in ratification means we run the risk of losing some export markets and good opportunities for new investments as they move to participating countries that are already part of the RCEP system,” he said. said in a Viber message to reporters.
“There may be lost opportunities in investments and jobs for our people, investments such as agribusiness, manufacturing for export and services.”
The commerce chief made the statement after the Senate failed to give its consent to RCEP on Wednesday before it was adjourned sine die despite repeated pleas from economic managers and business groups.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Senator Aquilino Martin L. Pimentel III said it would be up to President-elect Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. to approve the mega-trade deal in the Senate when the 19e Congress opens next month.
” The 19e Congress (will wait) for (the Office of the President) to re-approve said treaty in the Senate,” he said in a mobile message to Business world.
Pimentel said there was no vote on RCEP as only 17 senators were present during Wednesday’s plenary. The trade deal needed 16 affirmative votes to be ratified by the Senate.
“Two senators are abroad, one quarantined, two are out. In short, many members were not on the floor. We did not want to deprive them of the possibility of participating and/or voting on the measure “, did he declare.
RCEP, which came into effect on January 1, is a trade agreement involving Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the Association of Asian Nations Southeast (ASEAN).
The Philippines is one of three countries that have not ratified RCEP, along with ASEAN members Indonesia and Myanmar.
Mr Marcos had previously said he wanted to review the trade deal to protect the local agricultural sector.
Although it is “unfortunate” that the Senate did not act on RCEP, Mr Lopez remained optimistic that the new senators will ratify the trade agreement.
“RCEP has the support of the incoming economics team and we understand this will be high on their agenda… I can only hope for early ratification at the next Congress. We leave that to the next administration and the next Congress,” he said.
Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort said in a Viber message that the delay in ratifying RCEP could slow the economic recovery, in terms of lower foreign direct investment and exports.
“As RCEP is the largest free trade agreement (FTA) in the world, the country’s membership in RCEP would be a consideration for foreign investors who could access the export markets of other RCEP member countries at zero or reduced fares,” he said.
Makati Business Club executive director Francisco “Coco” Alcuaz, Jr., said in a Viber message that the new Marcos administration should push for the country to participate in RCEP to boost trade and investment and create more. jobs.
“It is a policy President-elect Marcos should consider leveraging his election victory to secure and send a signal of openness for business in the region. The sooner we ratify RCEP, the sooner we can more fully compete for trade, investment and jobs. All businesses in all countries are rushing to recover. No one is waiting for us,” he said.
European Chamber of Commerce Philippines (ECCP) President Lars Wittig said in a Viber message that the group continues to support RCEP.
“Joining RCEP will bring significant economic benefits to the Philippines and help expedite the recovery from mounting debt as well as the negative economic impacts inflicted by the ongoing COVID pandemic. As such, we urge new lawmakers to endorse the RCEP deal when it returns to session later this year,” he said.
Meanwhile, Free Farmers Federation (FFF) National Director Raul Q. Montemayor said in a statement that the Marcos administration should consult with agriculture stakeholders on how they can prepare for RCEP. and take advantage of export opportunities.
“Our industry’s opposition to RCEP is largely due to the mishandling of the issue by the Department of Agriculture (DA)…The DA has never acknowledged RCEP’s threats to the industry, despite the data showing that our farmers were unprepared and our trade deficits were growing by the billions of dollars every year,” he said.
“Our farmers and fishermen do not wish to remain poor and unproductive and simply rely on government protection to survive,” he said. “They want to increase their yields and reduce their production costs in order to be profitable and competitive, even under trade agreements like RCEP. But they expect the government to stand firmly behind them and not just sit idly by or, worse, work against them. — with entries from Alyssa Nicole O. Tan