Press Release
February 7, 2023

SENATE PRESIDENT JUAN MIGUEL "MIGZ" ZUBIRI'S INTERVIEW WITH SENATE MEDIA

On RCEP

Senate President Juan Miguel "Migz" F. Zubiri: On the RCEP, first of all I would like to report, napakaganda ng hearing namin kaninang umaga hanggang hapo. We started at 10AM and ended at 3PM, and yung purpose nitong RCEP hearing today was actually para mapakinggan natin ang mga oppositors. So, ininvite po natin yung mga oppositor ng RCEP, nandoon po yung iba't-ibang agricultural federations, and then ang ginawa po namin, we veered away from the old setup and rules where magsalita sila, magsalita yung opponents, and then magco-comment after. Ang ginawa po natin, punto by punto, pinasagot namin sa DA at sa DTI para mas mabigyan kaagad ng linaw yung mga iba't-ibang issue ng RCEP. So, the nice thing about it was when it the issue about the importation of agricultural products, nilinaw po ng DTI at ng DFA at ng DA na hindi kasama ang mga basic agricultural products dito sa RCEP. So wala po tayong kailangang pagdebatihan. In other words, hindi po kasama sa RCEP yung rice, hindi po kasama sa RCEP yung sugar, hindi po kasama sa RCEP yung poultry products, for example, corn, hindi kasama, so napakaraming mga agriculture products hindi kasama sa RCEP. Yung kasama sa RCEP, yung binanggit, olive oil, wala naman po tayong olive oil sa Pilipinas, nandoon lang yun sa may Middle East or drier countries, and the like. Products that hindi po kasama sa produkto ng ating bansa. So, that is very clear. When they asked also about the issues on lack of government support, sabi namin, and this I think, we put this on the record, and we are going to do this, when we ratify a measure, we always come up with the whereas clauses, and the whereas clauses of the ratified measure we usually put instructions and guidelines. It is called instructions and guidelines. So, we are going to put under, together with our chair as, as the committee chair, Sen. Loren Legarda, is we are going to put guidelines instructing the DA, the Department of Agriculture, to vigorously support the agriculture sector. We will of course which measures, what to be done, etc. etc. on the technical working group that we created this morning. So, also instructing the Bureau of Customs to pay attention and follow the full force of the law when it comes to smuggling, and what you call hoarding of these products, together with the DA. So, yan ang instructions namin. Then we also said, para ma-appease din ang hinanakit ng ating mga farmers, we are going to create a special committee, with the permission of the body, the plenary, we will create a special committee to oversee the instructions and guidelines in the ratification of RCEP. So, magkakaroon tayo ng special committee na ipapatawag namin from time to time, ang DA, ano ba, ginawa ninyo ba ang instructions, ang directions na binigay po namin, and guidelines dito sa pagratipika ng RCEP. So, yan ang napakahalaga. And, I think there... partially, we were able to appease our farmers organizations, of course, marami sa kanila anti-trade talaga, anti-WTO, anti-RCEP, anti-free-trade, but we cannot be an island in this whole region. Let me stress, out of 15 countries that signed for the inclusion of RCEP, tayo na lang po ang naiwan na hindi nakasama. So, there must be something right, they must see something right in this, and in the Asean we are the only one that has not signed this. Even the smaller countries in terms of smaller GDP growth rate in the Asean, have signed into this RCEP. So, yan po ang napakahalaga, we cannot be isolationists in our position. We have to be part of this trading partnership para umasenso din ang iba't-ibang industriya na nangangailangan ng imports for their inputs to be able to export once again and for our exports to be able to reach these markets.

Q: (Unclear)

SP ZUBIRI: Yes, we had lunch with the Executive Secretary, of course, he reiterated the priority measures ng ating mahal na pangulo, kasama na doon po yung RCEP. And he really clearly stated that RCEP is a priority of the administration, and sabi naman po namin, na talagang binibigyan po natin ng ito ng pansin at umuurong naman ng maayos itong RCEP. Of course, dinaan namin sa proseso kung saan pinakinggan natin yung oppositors of this measure. And we had (unclear) the agency to answer them point by point, kasi lagging complaint nila, may (unclear) kami na opposition, meron kaming hinanakit, meron kaming gustong ipalabas, iparinig sa kanila, hindi daw sila pinapakinggan. Kaya, ginawa po namin, nandoon sila lahat, sagutin ang mga issues na binabanggit ng agriculture sector. Kaya napakaganda ng kalalabasan ng meeting namin na ito. So, we are looking at a TWG within this weekend, up to next week, magkakaroon ng TWG, so it could be sponsored on the floor hopefully either Wednesday, and we could probably go for a vote on the week after for RCEP. Remember that it is a treaty, so we need 16 votes, that is a two-thirds vote.

Q: Sabi po ni Sen. Legarda that she noticed the sense of the hearing na dapat sana sumasagot (unclear).

SP ZUBIRI: Well, nandoon naman yung mga DA na Asec and Usec positions, they were there. Of course, you cannot compel the president to come, since he is the concurrent secretary and he is busy with the trip to Japan tomorrow...

Q: (Unclear)

SP ZUBIRI: Hindi naman kasama yung... we were able to establish that a lot of the agricultural products, marami sa mga kinatatakutan ng ating mga magsasaka, na produkto nila, hindi kasama sa RCEP. Hindi kasama. Tiningnan namin yung listahan, hindi po kasama. In other words, hindi po sila mababawasan ng taripa, status quo, ika nga.

Q: (Unclear)

SP ZUBIRI: Yes, and hopefully, the sponsor can sponsor it on the floor. Si Senate President Pro-Tempore Loren Legarda.

Q: Are you confident na makakakuha po ng 16 votes si Sen. Legarda (unclear)... raised some concern (unclear) ...

SP ZUBIRI: I believe that we can get 16 votes. As I said, hindi naman kasama yung mga agricultural products natin sa RCEP. Pero why we will suffer, why will we make other industries suffer - our semiconductors, our exports, our handicrafts, that can now go to... I'll give you an example: Country A - Cambodia has the same type of handicrafts we are making and will now send to Australia. Australia will choose handicrafts from Country A Cambodia because mas mahal yung atin by 10-20 percent. Mas mahal dahil may taripa e. Diba? So, ang makukuhang produkto itong mga countries na kasama sa RCEP. Tayo, maiiwan tayo sa kangkungan. That's my point. For example, we want to send products to South Korea, New Zealand, they will always work with countries within the economic partnership. Ang mangyayari kasi diyan under RCEP, they are going to come up with basic, simplified guidelines for import and export. Parang Bluebook. Meron silang guidelines, simplified guidelines for import and export in RCEP countries. Tayo, wala tayo nun so some people might find it difficult to do business with the Philippines because of that. That is why bukambibig talaga ng DTI sa atin na kailangan nating ma-ratify ito. Kasi kung hindi baka maiwan nga tayo sa kangkungan in terms of other countries being able to have access to these markets in a simplified guideline for import and export which is easy to understand and easy to implement.

Q: 10 years for agricultural products to be included in RCEP?

SP Zubiri: Yes. Actually, 10 to 15 years. Minimum of 10 years up to 15 years before certain agricultural products ay makakasama sa RCEP. But right now, within the next 10 to 15 years, all the basic commodities that I have mentioned are not included in RCEP.

Q: Clarify your earlier statement that maybe by that time you will not be in politics anymore as you are planning to retire after this term?

SP Zubiri: Ibang kwento naman yung retirement ko. Syempre, I have to retire, I cannot stay in the Senate forever. I have two terms already so I have to rest from politics.

Q: So you are not planning to run for higher office after your term?

SP Zubiri: Im not running for higher office, that's for sure. I am going to go fishing. That's my statement. You can all join me. Punta tayo sa Siargao, mag fishing tayo doon.

Q: After coming up with the guidelines, can you categorically say that it will be ratified?

SP ZUBIRI: Yes. Isasalang natin yan before sine die. I dont wanna jinx it. I dont want to preempt the votes of my colleagues but it's safe to say that definitely - not before sine die - before the Holy Week break, malayo-layo na yung sine die.

Q: (Inaudible)

SP ZUBIRI: Yes. I need help. We have had a lot of hearings already. We have had several hearings already in the time of Sen. Koko Pimentel when he had sponsored it. I have had several one-on-one discussions with Sen. Koko Pimentel and with different teams of government. More or less, we understand the issue and it also helps na ang lahat ng bisita ni Presidente sa ibat-ibang bansa in the Asean - Indonesia, Singapore. I believe he was in other Asean countries which he went to and also in other countries he's visited, Thailand, I believe he was also there. Bukambibig ng leaders diyan is "Mr President, why are you not part of RCEP? You should make your goods and our goods easier to go to and from other countries."

SP ZUBIRI: - Last Sunday, kung last- was it two weeks ago when I met to the President together with Speaker Martin Romualdez, talagang request ni Presidente na maratify na po namin ito and that's our constitutional mandate to ratify treaties and so we're gaining all sectors the chance to these hearings to be heard but eventually we have to take it on the floor, we have to push our colleagues to make a vote and we'll have to vote on this measure.

Q: (unclear) statement niyo kasi may statement sir si Sen. Imee Marcos na mayroon daw pong kung anong puwersa na nag-uudyok na madalian ang RCEP (unclear) na para bang ang Pilipinas nalang ang hindi pa pumipirma pero magiging (unclear) daw ang DA, customs, at DTI sa pagsagot ng concerns ng agriculture sector (unclear)

SP ZUBIRI: But that will never end. The problems of the agriculture sector are multi- are multitude of problems hindi ba. Very expensive fertilizer, kasalanan ba ng RCEP iyan wherein RCEP is supposed to be able to bring in goods nga here for tariff free eh. Diba ang paghuhuli ng smuggling, kasalanan ba ng RCEP iyan, hindi kasalanan ng RCEP iyan. Kasalanan ng agency iyan. (unclear) is headed by her brother, so I think they should have a long talk together, the two of them.

Q: SP, papaano po yung (unclear) kapatid ng presidente (unclear).

SP ZUBIRI: Hindi naman. Ako siguro maganda sana kung nanduon siya kanina sa hearing, kung nakita niya yung point by point sagot ng government agencies sa mga katanungan ng agriculture sector hindi ba. Lahat iyon ay programa ng gobyerno eh, how to- paano palaguin ang agriculture sector and I'm coming- because it's the sector that I'm also in. I'm educated agriculturist and I'm a practicing agriculturist so ang sinasabi natin diyan, for example the issue on smuggling, why are we smuggling- why are they smuggling goods to the Philippines? Bakit po? Anyone can give me a guess? Ako naman ang magtatanong. Why do you think there's smuggling in the Philippines? Sige nga, ako naman magtatanong sa inyo.

Q: Because of corruption (unclear)

SP ZUBIRI: No, no, no, that's (unclear) with corruption. Because foolish expensive. Boom. Hindi ba. Absolutely correct. Because the products here are expensive. They will not have smuggled items here kung yung presyo for example ng garlic ay pareho sa presyo ng kung saan pinanggalingan niyan hindi ba. Kung pareho yung presyo sa China or sa Taiwan nanggaling which is the same, one hundred pesos, no one is stupid enough to bring it in or smuggled it kasi walang kita. Now, for example sugar, napakamahal ng sugar dito sa ating bansa kaya nagkakaroon ng sugar smuggling because in Thailand it's half- maybe let's say 30% cheaper. In India, it's 30% cheaper. Brazil it's 30% cheaper. I'll ask you why, because they've been able to focus and modernize their farming practices in these areas due to competition. Tayo, we keep protecting it so gusto lang natin mataas ang presyo pero kawawa diyan ang ating mga kababayan dahil mahal po, magiging mahal ang pagkain. So ang sabi ko nga kanina let us establish the fact, okay, number one sa lahat ng agricultural products dito, you all agree na kulang ang ating produksyon para sa ating mga kababayan, lahat sila nag-agree. From poultry to pork to sugar to rice and I give sugar as an example, this year we'll only produce 1.9 million metric tons for the Philippines. Philippines, local iyan ha- local farms in Negros and in Bukidnon and in Cebu and all. But the need of the country is 2.4 million ton- metric tons, meaning may kulang tayo ng 500,000 metric tons. Kung hindi po tayo mag-iimport, magmamahal ang presyo ng sugar, hindi ba. So kawawa- sinong kawawa? Consumers. Farmers are happy, high prices. Consumers and inflation will be rising and the consumers will be unhappy. So we have established the fact that many agricultural products in the country may need to be imported because kulang nga ang produkto nito. For example, rice. We can only produce I think half. The rice needs of our people kasi ang lakas natin kumain ng rice kaya tumataba ako bwiset na rice na iyan kain tayo ng kain, masarap eh. Pero we are the biggest user of rice in the whole world, so we have to import rice.-

SP ZUBIRI: kung ang produkto nito. For example, rice. We can only produce half the rice needs of our people kasi ang lakas natin kumain ng rice kaya tumataba ako bwisit na rice na 'yan. Kain tayo ng kain. Masarap e. Wala tayong magawa pero we are the biggest user of rice in the whole world kaya we need to import rice. So , again, we need to import rice pa rin. Kaya sabi natin we have to do. Kasi kung isolationist po tayo. Hindi tayo papansinin ng ibang bansa kasi wala tayong partnerships sa kanila. Kawawa rito ang taumbayan kasi nga kulang nga yung producer natin. It's easier said than done. Buhusan natin ng pondo 'yung mga agriculture sector pero 'yung implementation palpak kaya galit nag alit kami sa DA kasi palpak nga kaya kailangan natin tulungan sila paano maayos itong problema sa agrikultura but that's a different discussion altogether. It will take us another one day to discuss the problems of agriculture. Ang sa akin lang diyan, 'wag natin ibinbin ang iba't ibang industriya pa na matatamaan if hindi tayo dito papasok sa RPCEP na ito. And I have mentioned it, our exports, semi-conductors, electronics--all the staff that we do for airplanes. 'Di ba 'yung components ditto pinapagawa sa atin, 'yung ine-export natin for cars, 'yung abaca para sa mga Mercendez Benz panel. These are all here and without that, how can we, without our agreement with RCEP, hindi natin ma-export nang maayos 'yun. They'll go to other countries. There's a possibility, they'll go to other countries. So, let's keep an open mind. Again, I've said, if 14 out of 15 other countries have signed up for RCEP, there must be something wrong, I mean, there must be something right with their policies and there must be something wrong with us why we're holding out. Hindi naman tayo nagsasanto. Hindi tayo 'yung pinakamagaling na bansa sa buong mundo. We're just a developing country. And mind you, all those countries that signed up also have developing agriculture sector. Hindi po sila ganoon kalakas in terms of agriculture but yet they want to be part of a bigger community. Thank you!

Q: Nabanggit kanina 'yung problema ng implementation among agencies, regardless-- UNCLEAR

SP ZUBIRI: Kaya nga ito 'yung ipapangako ko sa inyo, we will come up with a special committee para mabantayan itong guidelines na ibibigay namin sa implementation ng RCEP particularly on the agri industry. So, hindi po natin i-aabandon itong agri-industry. Itong special committee will be made up by key members of Congress, of the Senate. Babantayan namin, tututukan namin 'yan. Bakit hindi niyo na-implement ito. Bakit ito hindi niyo nagawa? Itong mga programa. At pangalawa, ilalagay nga namin 'yang mga guidelines na 'yan to protect them. Para may protection ang ating agriculture sector.

Q: UNCLEAR

SP ZUBIRI: It will be part of the treaty. When we ratify the the treaty, 'yan 'yung mga whereas clauses diyan, of course. Hindi mo na mapapalit 'yung treaty itself. Hindi mo mapapalit 'yan pero itong mga guidelines, for example, A. Strengthen quarantine and first border controls, entry products, safety standards in the Philippines; stronger anti-smuggling system. Ito, draft lang ito a. Ginawa lang namin ito kanina ng staff ko. Implementation of DA, DTI, DOST support programs that will improve productivity and enhance competitiveness. Ito pa, strong implementation with stakeholders and consultation participation system.

Q: Any sanction Sir, pag hindi nila nagawa?

SP ZUBIRI: Pagdating nila dito sa budget hearing talaga isa-sanction namin sila. Puwede namin bawasan ang budget nila. You know, pagsabihan, we can put, we can redirect the budget to better programs. They know that we Oversight functions. The Senate and the House of Representatives have Oversight functions, particularly in this programs of the government. So yan para may kalalabasan, hindi po sayang yung hinanakit ng ating mga kababayan sa sektor ng agrikultura. Meron po tayong guidelines na gagawin para sa inyo when we implement RCEP. We will make sure that these guidelines to protect the agriculture sector would be in place.

Q: (unclear)

SP ZUBIRI: We urge the PNP and the DOJ to immediately prosecute these violations of these statutory rape age law. Klarong-klaro sa mga news items na may mga nabubuntis na eleven years old, twelve years old. Batas na yan, ikukulong dapat yan. That is like, that's rape. Alam niyo naman that rape is a heinous crime and therefor, they can be arrested obviously, and no bail granted to them under heinous crimes, laws on heinous crimes. So that should be implemented with the full force of the law. Umaapela po kami sa PNP tiyaka sa DOJ, Secretary Remulla and to PNP General Azurin pag meron po kayong naririnig na mga kasong ganyan may batas po tayo, kung puwede ikulong po ninyo itong mga violators na ito. Wala na pong debate iyan, there's no debate, there's a law - if they're below sixteen years old, pag yan po'y nabuntis, obviously there was sexual intercourse and under the law, that's statutory rape. It is illegal. Even if the minor had agreed to do so. Even may consent yung minor under the law bawal pa rin yan, makukulong kayo. Kaya sana ikulong na po ninyo sila lahat itong mga sexual predators. It's very disturbing.

Q: Older men talaga yung nakakabuntis sa kanila...

SP ZUBIRI: Yan talaga ang bawal. Kasi meron tayong Romeo and Juliet clause. Sa Romeo and Juliet clause, kung yung boyfriend niya ay sixteen, siya po ay fourteen, okay pa lang yan, kasi magka-edad more or less. Pero 'pag sumobra na at a certain age, pag limang taon yata, four or five years, if I'm not mistaken, if there are five year difference in between gaps - example, fourteen yung bata more than five years yung lalaki, twenty years old siya, statutory rape po yan. So ikukulong talaga yan. Pasensya na lang whoever gets hurt. There is a law and just like all developing countries, all developed countries, mga first world countries, developed countries may batas po yan. Kaya sa US tawag nila diyan, jail bait diba. Kapag masyadong bata ang itsura hingin mo muna ng ID kasi baka mahuli't makulong kayo sa Estados Unidos. Ganon din dapat dito sa Pilipinas, dapat itigil na natin yung ganyang klaseng mindset nitong mga manyakis na to. So kailangan makulong talaga sila at magdusa sila sa kulungan at dapat mabulok sila doon. I have a fourteen year old daughter and God knows if anything happens to her especially with an older person, baka pati ako makukulong na. Ganon lang yun. Yung interviews niyo sa akin, nasa kulungan na. 'cause you know, you have to protect always, we have to protect children from these from happening to them. Thank you very much, thank you guys, God bless.

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