Breeders, fish farmers in the Senate: Postpone the ratification of RCEP
Filipino ranchers and fish farmers on Monday urged the Senate to postpone ratification of the Regional Comprehensive and Economic Partnership (RCEP), which they called an “unbalanced” international trade deal.
In a press release, Tugon Kabuhayan’s attorney, Asis Perez, said RCEP would seriously harm local fisheries and aquaculture, including the pork and chicken industries.
According to Perez, bangus and tilapia are covered by the RCEP agreement.
“The tariff for these products will be reduced to make room for imports of bangus and tilapia. However, looking at the data, the production of bangus and tilapia [along with its value] has steadily increased over the years. the tilapia and bong industry have reached the point where the supply of these products is plentiful and prices are stable. Bangus and tilapia have since replaced the so-called ‘poor man’s fish’ both in terms of availability and affordability,” he said.
RCEP is an economic treaty negotiated by ASEAN, of which the Philippines is a member. It is a free trade agreement between the 10 members of the Asean Plus five – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, and Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and South Korea. . It is considered the largest trading bloc in the world, accounting for 30% of global GDP or $26.2 trillion.
RCEP has already entered into force on January 1, 2022 for 10 countries, namely Australia, New Zealand, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, China, Japan, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, with Australia as the original party.
For the Republic of Korea, RCEP will come into effect on February 1, 2022.
The Philippines has yet to fully ratify RCEP. President Duterte ratified the deal in September 2021, but it needs Senate approval to take full effect.
Lack of consultation
For his part, former agriculture ministry secretary Leonardo Montemayor said there was a lack of consultation as local farmers and producers were kept in the dark for two years.
“We were only informed of the benefits of RCEP that our country will receive if we ratify this agreement, but they did not mention any threats or expected disadvantages. They gave us no assurance that safety nets were in place to protect our local industries,” he said.
“There was a resolution transmitted from [Senate] Foreign Affairs Committee, but there is no report. This is an unusual committee resolution approved by the Senate for adoption. Senators don’t even know DTI’s arguments [Department of Trade and Industry] and AD [Department of Agriculture], the counter-arguments from the private sector, what our economists have said, because there are different studies with different conclusions. Which of these studies should be scrutinized by the Senate? asked Montemayor.
In addition, United Broiler Raisers Association (UBRA) President Bong Inciong said RCEP was a more liberal version of the World Trade Organization (WTO).
“When we joined the WTO, we weren’t prepared. Other countries are making good use of their data to anticipate future problems so they can avoid them. Here it is the opposite. We are still waiting for this to harm our local producers first before our government intervenes. RCEP will further harm our industries. This agreement favors importers, not our local producers,” he added.
Since local producers do not receive much support from the government, he said RCEP does not give the country any competitive advantage to compete in the global market.
“We focus too much on importers and neglect our own [producers]. We are on dangerous ground right now as we are experiencing climate change. We don’t want to depend on imports for our food,” Inciong said.
National Swine Farmers Federation President Chester Warren Tan said the Philippines was not ready for RCEP.
“We are not prepared. We asked the government to give priority to our local producers. It is difficult for us to compete with foreign imports. It’s all one way and our industries are struggling. We must aim for food self-sufficiency. It is dangerous to rely on imported products. If there is a shortage, what will happen to us? said Tan.
Meanwhile, the president of the Fresh Fish Traders Association of the Philippines, Jonjon Santos, also said the local fishing and aquaculture sector had also not been consulted.
“It came as a surprise. We could not monitor the passage of this agreement. RCEP does not favor local production, it favors products from other countries,” he added.
He also said that all RCEP member countries receive huge grants given to them by their respective governments.
“They get billions of dollars in support. They are supplied free of charge with water, machinery, fuel, boats, etc. India allocates 50 billion dollars to its farmers. They protect their local industries. Here, it is only distributions of money and food. Our farmers only receive 5,000 pesos. If we want to be part of RCEP, we have to prepare. You have to know what you’re getting into. This is how we can protect local producers,” Santos said.
Picture credits: Roy Domingo