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Zubiri: PH can withdraw from RCEP if imports flood local industries

The Philippines can withdraw from the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) if the local industries are flooded with imported products, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri said Friday.

In a press conference, Zubiri said the Senate resolution which concurred in the ratification of the mega-trade deal provides that the Senate president may recommend to the President the withdrawal from the agreement.

The last paragraph of the Senate Resolution No. 42 also read as follows: "Resolved, finally, that the President of the Philippines, may with the concurrence of the Senate, withdraw from the Agreement."

"So, guaranteed. If kung mukhang dehado tayo and there’s influx of goods from all over that swamped our manufacturing, swamped our garments, swamped our agriculture, then definitely a review will be in place and will be in order, and that we can recommend to the President if need be," Zubiri said.

Asked if he is willing to initiate the withdrawal, Zubiri said: "Yes, all of us. I mean, even — it says here the President may and the Senate may. So each and every senator has the opportunity to make that review."

However, Zubiri said the Philippines must not look at the worst that may happen after the RCEP ratification.

"But let’s look forward. Why are we looking at the worst? Let’s look at the best. Parang lagi tayong ‘the worst’. We look at the best that may come, ‘di ba? Let’s not look at the worst. But it’s there. The safeguard is there," the Senate president said.

Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, who was present in the press conference, said the effectivity of the RCEP is expected within 90 days.

Pascual expressed confidence that RCEP would help the economic recovery of the Philippines.

"Surely, mapapabilis because the way to recover is to stimulate investment in our country. So new businesses will be established and new businesses will create the jobs that were lost during the pandemic and also... create the possibilities of strengthening our MSMEs that will act as suppliers to bigger businesses that will be established here," he said.

Meanwhile, Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda disclosed that Senator Imee Marcos told her that there was nothing wrong with RCEP but the problem lies on the lack of support to the agriculture sector and the problem in smuggling.

Right after she was elected as chairperson of the Senate foreign relations subcommittee on RCEP,  Legarda said she consulted with Marcos on the agreement.

"I approached the chairman of the foreign relations committee, I said 'Tell me what is wrong with RCEP?' And I was assured there's nothing wrong with RCEP. It is the agri sector's neglect and the smuggling and many other issues and the trade deficit but not RCEP itself," she said.

Marcos was supposed to lead the hearings on the RCEP as chairperson of the Senate committee on foreign relations, but the Senate formed a subcommittee headed by  Legarda to tackle the agreement.

In a previous statement, Marcos said RCEP would kill the local industries, particularly the agriculture sector.

GMA News Online asked Marcos to confirm this but she has yet to respond as of posting time.

Marcos abstained from voting when the Senate passed the resolution concurring in the ratification of the mega-trade deal.

Legarda also said that she asked Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel III about the problems that may be caused by RCEP.

"He said that essentially there is nothing wrong with RCEP. It is smuggling and the lack of support to the agri sector," Legarda said.

Pimentel voted in favor of RCEP.

With 20 affirmative votes, one negative vote and one abstention, the Senate last Tuesday concurred with the Philippine government's ratification of RCEP.

The RCEP is a free trade agreement first floated in August 2012, covering members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its partners Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.—AOL, GMA Integrated News