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Protect the agricultural industry as the RCEP is ratified, says Solon

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Senator Francis Escudero stated on Saturday that regardless of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) free trade deal, the government must ensure that it is resilient to internal or foreign shocks.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ 10 member nations and five of its key trading partners—Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand—have signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the largest trade and investment pact in the world.

Around 29.3% of global trade flows and more than 25% of foreign direct investments in 2021 came from the region.

In a statement, Escudero asked the legislative and executive branches to cooperate in order to solve the government’s agriculture deficit issue, which is evident in the stagnant growth of the farm sector brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

He stated, “In 2022, the value of crop, animal, poultry, and fisheries production was PHP1.756 trillion, computed in 2018 constant prices, which was more than PHP1.086 trillion lower than the production noong (in) 2018.”

Kaya naman tumaas ng 28 percent ang presyo ng gulay, 25 percent ang presyo ng isda, 30 percent ang sa karne sa loob ng apat na taon (That’s why there was a 28 percent growth in vegetables, 25 percent in fish, and 30 percent in meat in four years),” he continued.

Escudero argues that the RCEP pact needs rigorous study in order to ensure that stakeholders in the country’s agricultural sector, particularly farmers and fisherfolk, are protected. The Senate is still holding hearings on the RCEP treaty for ratification.

President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. is pressing for the RCEP to be ratified, according to the Presidential Communications Office, while Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri anticipates that it would happen in the first quarter of the year.

In November 2020, the Philippines ratified the RCEP.

On January 1, 2022, it came into effect for the other signing nations; but, without Senate ratification, it cannot be put into effect.

The Philippine Statistics Authority published its 2018 research in June 2020, which revealed that farmers (31.6%), fishermen (26.2%), and people living in rural areas had the greatest rates of poverty (24.5 percent).

The Department of Trade and Industry projects that the RCEP will raise exports by 10.47 percent and real gross domestic product by 2.02 percent.

No one wants to fall behind in a global economy, as I’ve said, but we also need to make sure that by signing more trade agreements, we don’t neglect the most fragile parts of our regional economy. According to Escudero, growth must always be inclusive in order to avoid feeding the cycle of poverty.

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