With the implementation of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement early this year, the legal and institutional regime for the ten-member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), as well as Australia, China, Japan, Korea, and New Zealand will be further strengthened in such a way that more transparent and stable rules can be relied upon by businesses and investors engaged in the e-commerce and business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

According to Trade Assistant Secretary Allan B. Gepty, RCEP provides a comprehensive Chapter on E-Commerce intended to create a conducive environment for electronic transactions, promote cross border trade online, and foster cooperation and capacity building in the region. RCEP is also the first FTA of the Philippines with comprehensive provisions on E-Commerce.

From a business perspective, the Chapter ensures that covered businesses will not be required to transfer or relocate computing facilities as a pre-condition for establishing presence in the region, and that the cross-border transfer of information by electronic means must also be respected and will continue to be unhampered to facilitate conduct of business.

“While this rule is not absolute as it is subject to certain exceptions such as essential security interests and legitimate public policy objectives, having this kind of stability will encourage more investments in the country particularly in the BPO sector whose transactions are mostly cross border and require an enabling environment to provide digital services.  This also means more employment opportunities for Filipinos,” said Asec. Gepty.

From a consumer perspective, RCEP recognizes the importance of adopting and maintaining transparent and effective consumer protection measures for electronic commerce as well as other measures conducive to the development of consumer confidence.

In line with this, the RCEP requires parties to adopt or maintain laws or regulations to ensure protection of consumers against fraudulent and misleading practices that cause harm or potential harm to such consumers. The Chapter also requires parties to ensure protection of personal information of e-commerce users including through online consumer protection.

To complement this regime, RCEP also has a Chapter on Intellectual Property that provides, among others, a balanced and inclusive approach to the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights.  The commitments and obligations include harmonizing the protections and enforcement of intellectual property rights including provisions relating to technological protection measures and enforcement in the digital environment. 

“That is why it is imperative for the country to be part of this mega trade deal if we want to strengthen our niche in the BPO sector and build more opportunities in the digital economy,” Gepty further emphasized.

Services is one of the strongest and fastest-growing sectors of the Philippine economy. As of the third quarter of 2021, the sector accounted for 63.9 percent of the country’s GDP, maintaining its post as the top contributor to GDP relative to the agriculture and manufacturing sector. Professional and business services, where the BPO sector is classified, increased by 11.5% compared to the same period in 2020, demonstrating further growth in economic activity. ♦

Date of Release: 20 January 2022