The Manila Times : Marcos on RCEP: 'Let's have another look at it'

By Catherine S. Valente | The Manila Times

PRESIDENT-ELECT Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. has not made a decision yet on the ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) as he wants to ensure the trade agreement will not be detrimental to local industries.

In a statement released by his camp on Saturday, Marcos said he wants an assessment of the country's competitiveness first before pursuing the ratification of the trade agreement.

"Anyway, sa RCEP, tingnan natin ulit (this RCEP, let's review it to see) what will be the effect, pag-aralan natin ng mabuti (let's study it carefully) — if we ratify it now, what will be the effect on our farming community, our farmers especially?" Marcos said.

Sen. Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, said it would be up to Marcos to endorse the trade deal to the Senate when the 19th Congress opens next month.

The RCEP, which was ratified by President Rodrigo Duterte last September, still needs Senate concurrence before the country can deposit its instrument of ratification to the Asean Secretary General.

Marcos, who will assume the presidency on June 30, said that RCEP is good as it aims to encourage trade and all great economies engage in the same.

He, however, pointed out that the state of the country's competitiveness could be a stumbling block to the effectiveness of RCEP.

The incoming president explained that the agricultural sector should be sufficiently robust to take on the competition that will ensue with the opening of the markets.

"Ako, I'm a great proponent, a believer in trade. Walang yumaman na bansa na hindi maganda ang kanilang trade, meron silang manufacturing, meron silang ine-export (No rich countries that doesn't have a good trade, they have manufacturing, they have their exports)," he said.

But Marcos reiterated that the country must first ensure that it is ready to compete with fellow member nations before entering into the pact.

"I don't know if our agricultural sector is sufficiently robust to take on the competition that opening of the markets will cause. So, let's have a look at it again, and make na hindi naman malulugi ang ating agri sector (the agri sector will not be at a disadvantage)," Marcos said.

He said the country's farm sector should be in a competitive position before the country enters another trade agreement.

"Panay na naman ang import natin and we don't want that. We want to beef up the agricultural sector. We want to have sufficient food supply for the Philippines in case of any crisis," he added.