Press Release
February 16, 2023

Zubiri: PH Agri is Safe Under RCEP

In his sponsorship of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement for approval and concurrence in the Senate on Wednesday, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri assured the agriculture sector that the agreement will not pose a threat to them.

"Bilang isang agrikulturista rin, naiintindihan ko po ang mga pangamba ng mga magsasaka. Alam niyo naman po kung paano ko ipaglaban ang mga magsasaka natin laban sa sobra-sobrang importasyon," Zubiri said.

"Kaya gusto ko pong tiyakin sa sektor na hindi tatapakan ng RCEP ang ating mga magsasaka, at hindi nito papatayin ang ating agrikultura. Hindi ko rin naman po ito isusulong kung hindi benepisyo ang nakikita kong dala nito--at ako ang unang haharang dito kung makakasama ito sa atin." He further stressed that highly sensitive agricultural products such as rice, swine meat, poultry meat, potatoes, onions, garlic, cabbage, sugar, carrots, are excluded from tariff liberalization under RCEP.

"In RCEP, the Philippines merely gave additional preferential arrangements to 33 agricultural tariff lines specifically for Australia, New Zealand, China, and Korea, compared to the existing ASEAN +1 FTAs," he explained. "At itong 33 tariff lines ay equivalent lamang po sa fifteen products, most of which pose no threat to our local products."

The fifteen products are fish fillet; frozen mackerel; celery; sausages; olives; spinach; olive oil; live swine; live chicken; black pepper; palm nuts and kernels; preserved sweet corn, chilis and other capers; preserved onions; corn starch; and feeds for primates.

"Napaka-insignificant po ng trade natin sa mga produktong ito. Ikumpara mo sa benepisyo na makukuha natin sa RCEP, walang duda na mas lamang po ang arrangement na nakuha natin."

Zubiri proposed a set of guidelines for the implementation of the agreement, identifying protective measures and capacity-building programs for the agricultural sector.

"Under these guidelines, two-pronged po ang atake natin para gawing competitive ang agri sector against importation: patitibayin natin ang border and quarantine controls kontra smuggling, and we will modernize and empower our own sector," he said.

Under the guidelines, the Department of Agriculture is directed to strengthen its various developmental programs such as the National Rice Program, the National Corn Program, the National High Value Crops Development Program, the National Livestock Program, the National Organic Agriculture Program, the National Fisheries Program, and the Agricultural Machinery, Equipment, Facilities and Infrastructure Program under the Agriculture Modernization Plan.

"We also have trade promotion, productivity, profitability, and competitiveness programs such as the Manufacturing Resurgence Program, Shared Services Facility, the Philippine Export Competitiveness Program, and the Consultancy for Agriculture Productivity Enhancement Program, among others," he added.

The guidelines also ensure good governance through stakeholder representation in government boards, councils, and committees.

Zubiri also cited job generation, cross-skilling, environmental protection, and trade remedies as part of the guidelines.

Finally, he assured that a Senate Special Oversight Committee on the RCEP Agreement will be created to monitor the policies and programs of concerned government departments, agencies, and if necessary, come up with legislative proposals to pursue structural reforms and address implementation gaps.

"We will also have an advisory group of stakeholders to guide the Committee in its functions, which will include our agri stakeholders," he assured.

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