The country can withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Partnership (RCEP) agreement if local industries are overwhelmed by imported products, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Friday.
In a press conference, Zubiri said the Senate resolution ratifying the trade deal also provides that the Senate president may recommend to the President that the country withdraw from the agreement.
“So, [it’s] guaranteed. If it looks like we’ll be disadvantaged and there’s an influx of goods from all over that swamp our manufacturing, swamp our garments, swamp our agriculture, then definitely a review will be in place and will be in order, and we can recommend to the President [that we withdraw from the RCEP] if need be,” Zubiri said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Zubiri added, however, that the public should not focus on the worst that may happen after the RCEP is ratified.
“But let’s look forward. Why are we looking at the worst [that can happne]? Let’s look at the best,” he said.
Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, who was present in the press conference, said the RCEP agreement should be effective in 90 days.
Pascual said the government is bullish that the RCEP will hasten the country’s economic growth in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Surely the way to recover is to stimulate investments, strengthen our MSMEs (micro-, small-, and medium-enterprises) and suppliers,” Pascual said.
He said the benefits of being part of the trade pact would begin “the moment we open our country for investors and companies who will take advantage of the provisions of the RCEP.”
Zubiri said the export industries of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia became more vibrant after they joined RCEP.
If the country were not part of the trade pact, it would be ignored when it came to foreign investments, Zubiri added.
“I brought to the office last week, EVT, the biggest producer of electric vehicles for public utilities… They are looking at relocating to the Philippines. They called me and asked if we are part of RCEP,” Zubiri said. “Because if we are part of RCE, he said, it will be easy for us to sell in 15 countries.”
The senator said the immediate effect would be an increase in foreign investments.
Senate Majority Leader Loren Legarda added: “If we didn’t enter RCEP, how are we going to compete with other countries?”
Pascual also emphasized the government can revive industries which shut down operations due to the absence of raw materials.