The Manila Times - 08 February 2022
Food producers reject RCEP
By Ben Gines Jr.
Local fish, pork and chicken producers formed a united front against the Regional Comprehensive and Economic Partnership (RCEP) and urged the Philippine Senate to defer ratification of the "lopsided" international trade accord.
RCEP will severely harm local fishing and aquaculture, including the pork and chicken industries, food security advocacy group Tugon Kabuhayan convenor Asis Perez said in a regular press briefing.
According to Perez, bangus (milkfish) and tilapia are covered under the RCEP Agreement.
The tariff for these products is going to be reduced to make way for bangus and tilapia imports. However, looking at the data, the production of bangus and tilapia (along with its value) has been steadily increasing over the years."
The tilapia and bangus industries have reached the point where the supply for these commodities is abundant and prices are steady. Bangus and tilapia have since replaced the so-called ’poor man’s fish’ both in availability and affordability," he explained.
Forum guest and former Department of Agriculture Secretary Leonardo Montemayor said there was lack of consultation as local farmers and producers were kept in the dark for two years.
He said they were only informed of RCEP benefits that our country will receive if this agreement is ratified but didn’t mention any expected threats or disadvantages."They didn’t give us any assurance that there are safety nets in place to protect our local industries," he stressed.
He said there was a resolution transmitted from the Committee of Foreign Affairs, but there was no report, making it an unusual committee resolution endorsed to the Senate for concurrence."
The senators don’t even know the arguments of DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) and DA (Department of Agriculture), the counterarguments of the private sector, what our economists said, because there are different studies with different conclusions.
Which of these studies should be closely looked into by the Senate?" Montemayor asked. For his part, United Broiler Raisers Association President Bong Inciong said RCEP is a more liberalized version of the World Trade Organization."
Other countries make good use of their data to anticipate future problems, so they are able to avert it from happening. Here, it is the opposite. We always wait for it to harm our local producers first before our government steps in.
RCEP will further damage our industries. This agreement favors importers, not our local producers," Inciong said.