Sixteen senators signed the committee report backing the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement which was sponsored on the Senate floor Wednesday night by Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda.
The RCEP, which was among the priority bills tackled during the recent LEDAC Meeting, is subject to approval and concurrence in the Senate.
“Is good to go back to RCEP now, especially since we can now observe how well our fellow RCEP signatories have been faring since they all greenlit the implementation of the agreement,” Zubiri said.
Covering all the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), plus Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, and New Zealand, the RCEP Agreement is the largest regional Free Trade Agreement in the world.
To date, the Philippines remains the sole RCEP signatory that has yet to concur on the ratification of the agreement.
“It’s want that we should left be behind. I don’t like that they will see us as a revolutionist and an isolationist,” Zubiri said, adding “but it would be wrong to simply argue that we must join it because others did. Rather, we should join out of the belief that it will create a snowball effect on jobs for our people, and market for our produce.”
The RCEP Agreement, Zubiri said covers almost all aspects of the economy.
“We have to appreciate it in its broader context. In a globalized economy, products are put together in one country from components sourced in other countries and then sold all over the world. As a result, vastly fewer products are solely made in any one country,” Zubiri said.
“This is what RCEP is all about. It provides a stable platform so that countries in the region can optimize their participation in the global economy.”
To illustrate the benefits of RCEP, Zubiri pointed out the growth of ASEAN countries like Vietnam, which exported $108.48 billion to RCEP countries in 2022, up 16.4 percent from the previous year.
“In just one month, Vietnam earned nearly $50 million from exporting durian to China. This is one product where the Philippines should have a competitive advantage, which is not being utilized as we continue to withhold participation in the RCEP bloc,” he said.
He also brought up Thailand, whose exports to RCEP countries totaled $140 billion in 2022 (7 percent growth); Cambodia (4 percent growth), whose rapidly growing garment industry earned $10.25 billion from exports in just the first three quarters of 2022; and Malaysia, who is forecasting a 9.3 percent growth in exports this year.
“Definitely, this development is a clear indication of RCEP’s positive effects, and we cannot afford to be a fence-sitter while witnessing other ASEAN member states reaping the benefits of the Agreement,” Zubiri stressed.