Geneva, Switzerland – Building on the statements of Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Ramon M. Lopez at the opening plenary session where he emphasized the three priorities of the Philippines for MC12 (food and agriculture, trade and health, and fisheries subsidies), DTI Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo spoke at the closed-door ministerial session of the “Challenges to Multilateral Trading System” to highlight the need for the WTO to address the current existential issues facing humanity.

Undersecretary Rodolfo, accompanied by senior officials from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), headed the Philippine Delegation to the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) at the World Trade Organization (WTO) headquarters from 12 – 15 June 2022 in Geneva, Switzerland.

As the world looks to an optimistic post-pandemic scenario, Undersecretary Rodolfo reported that the Philippines’ GDP grew by 8.3% in the first quarter of 2022, while registering record-level Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) in 2021. Nonetheless, he underscored the economic struggles faced by many countries in terms of rising prices of food and fuel. To address these challenges, he called on all WTO Members to deliver on its agriculture and fisheries subsidies package to realize the goal of achieving long-term food security and sustainability.

He likewise urged Members to agree on a trade and health package that will deliver the greatest possible access to available knowledge and technology for COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics, to facilitate more widespread manufacturing of vaccines across the globe. Finally, he conveyed

the Philippines’ support to modernize WTO processes to be more responsive to current 21st century global challenges by incorporating into the core WTO agenda the issues of e-commerce, MSMEs, gender, investment facilitation and Environment.

Philippine Statement

MC12 Thematic Session: Trade and Health

12 June 2022

As delivered by DTI Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo

Thank you Chair. Excellencies, I bring greetings from PH Minister Ramon Lopez.

After two very difficult and challenging years, we were seeing positive developments that allowed us to be a bit more optimistic of our collective near-future. In the case of the Philippines, our Gross Domestic Product grew by 8.3% in the first quarter of this year and our Foreign Direct Investments in 2021 reached the highest ever on record, even surpassing pre-Pandemic levels.

One very worrisome challenge however is Inflation, particular driven by Fuel and Food prices—commodities that disproportionately affects the Poor most gravely. The annual inflation rate in the Philippines climbed to 5.4% in May 2022, still modest but it is our highest level since November 2018.

In this context, the Philippines supports efforts to conclude the agricultural package, including through the Declaration on Food Security and Decision to Exempt World Food Program purchases from export prohibitions or restrictions. While short-term measures are important, a comprehensive and balanced agricultural reform is essential if we are to realize long-term food security. Reform must 1) encompass substantial cuts in domestic support, 2) a permanent solution to public stockholding to respond to emergencies like the current crisis, 3) an effective special safeguard mechanism to mitigate against import surges and commodity price declines, and 4) the reduction of non-tariff barriers which unduly burden the ability of MSMEs to participate in global commerce. In short, we have to continue chasing the dream that we launched in Doha.

And when we talk about Food Security, we need to also discuss Food Sustainability. Hence, let us not forget the need to effectively address the issue of harmful fishery subsidies, while recognizing that the cause of fisherfolks depletion cannot come from small, impoverished fisherfolks.

Aside from Food, the other existential issue that we have the opportunity to address in MC 12 is Health, in particular in ensuring that we have outcomes that will allow WTO members to attain Health security and sustain our shift from Pandemic to Endemic by providing greatest possible access to available knowledge and technology for Covid therapeutics; and to be better prepared for the next Pandemic by making vaccine manufacturing more widely spread.

Lastly, we have to also give attention to strengthening and modernizing the WTO. We support a concerted focus on WTO reform across all its pillars, including the dispute settlement system. We have to further integrate new initiatives on e-commerce, MSMEs, gender, investment facilitation and services, and crucially, the Environment into our core agenda. PH also associates with the Pathfinder proposal mentioned earlier by SG Minister Gan as a pragmatic way to demonstrate our responsiveness and relevance. Dear Ministers, we are here this week to represent not just Trading Economies, but we are to represent Humanity as it cries out for solutions on the existential issues of Food and Health; and our desire for a modern WTO that can serve as a platform to advance our collective desire for a more inclusive and sustainable global trading system. Thank you. ♦

Date of Release: 15 June 2022