Amidst the busy schedule of the Senate this week and the need to urgently act on other important local bills, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez expressed optimism that the Senate will eventually concur on the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement when it resumes session this year.

“There are just many equally important bills and legislative reforms to be done, and we are really grateful to our hardworking legislators in pushing for their realization, and these include the amendments to the Foreign Investment Act and the game changing Public Service Act which are major reforms in keeping our business climate more attractive to foreign investments,” Sec. Lopez said.

With respect to the Senate concurrence on RCEP, Secretary Lopez emphasized that this a very important trade agreement and crucial in enhancing the conducive business environment in the country. “RCEP complements our ongoing legislative and economic reforms especially as it pertains to a wider market opportunity in RCEP for investors coming in,” the Trade Secretary added.

“While we understand the concerns raised by the groups of farmers on the RCEP Agreement, we have assured them including the Senators that these are well addressed in the Agreement. We also understand that some Senators need more time to study fully the RCEP,” the trade chief explained.

Secretary Lopez recognized that support to the agriculture sector must be further enhanced not only for them to be competitive in the global market but also in ensuring the country’s food security. This can now be further realized with the bigger budget for the Department of Agriculture (DA), that is, committed to help the agriculture sector. He also stressed that our trade agreements complement our national programs including those in agriculture and sustainable development. 

“It is always a holistic approach, we cannot afford to just focus on certain sectors. Our goal is a strong economy not only for businesses and investors but for the general welfare. And that means, more investments, more production, more jobs, more opportunities, poverty reduction, and inclusive growth,” the Trade Secretary stressed.

Given the period until the resumption of the session of the Senate, Senators will have ample time to see not only the value and importance of the RCEP agreement but also an opportunity to figure out how to align pending legislative agenda to further support local industries and producers.

“Our participation in RCEP is a matter of time.  The Philippines could not afford to miss this. It would be devastating to stay out of the Agreement. It will be costly, and we will be missing a lot of opportunities. It sends a wrong signal to the international community, and this may impact the country’s effort in promoting competitiveness of our local industries as well as our ability to attract foreign direct investments, especially when compared with our ASEAN neighbors that are already part of the RCEP. This may also affect other international trade engagements we are pursuing,” added Secretary Lopez. Recently, business organizations, industry associations and foreign chambers joined the urgent call for the immediate Senate concurrence of RCEP noting its advantages not only for the Philippines but in the region. Most economists and trade experts are also one in saying that RCEP will be a catalyst for economic development especially in the post-economic recovery efforts of the region. ♦

Date of Release: 3 February 2022