The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA) joined calls for the Philippine Senate’s immediate concurrence of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in a statement released Monday, 31 January 2022.

PBGEA Executive Director Stephen Antig highlighted the employment generated by the sector and noted that the industry was reliant on imported inputs which have increased in price significantly.

“The economic sustainability of the industry, on which the lives of more than 520,000 families depend, is today threatened by the unprecedented increase in prices of imported key inputs like fertilizers by 100%, kraft paper used for boxes by 53%, plastics by 65%, and maritime freight by more than 100% due to global shortage of containers and movement in fuel prices.” Antig explained.

He also cited declining trade costs as a potential benefit from acceding to RCEP, and cautioned that opportunities may be lost should the country not ratify the trade agreement.

“Studies showed that with RCEP, the Philippines along with Vietnam, a major competitor in supplying the foreign markets with fresh banana and other tropical fruits, would be winners because of the decline in trade costs. We cannot afford to miss out this opportunity of being a part of the world’s most important regional economic bloc” he added.

Antig concluded by emphasizing the banana industry’s contribution to the economy and reiterated that ratifying RCEP would greatly help in rationalizing production and trade costs, ensuring the future of the sector.

The RCEP agreement is an economic treaty brokered by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which the Philippines is a member, and its dialogue partners – Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. It is estimated to be the largest trade bloc in the world, representing 30% of global GDP.

The RCEP Agreement was signed by the ministers of 10 ASEAN Member States and 5 dialogue partners last 15 November 2020. The Agreement took effect last 1 January 2022 for 10 Signatory States, for South Korea on 1 February 2022, and will be implemented by Malaysia on 18 March 2022.

The Agreement was ratified by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte last 2 September 2021, with the measure being deliberated in the Senate for concurrence. ♦

Date of Release: 3 February 2022