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On eve of RCEP, farmers vow to document trade deal impact on agriculture industry

FARMERS said they intend to document the impact on domestic industry of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) trade deal, which is expected to take effect in the Philippines next month.

“We will track and document the threats arising from RCEP both at the national and local levels,” according to Rafael V. Mariano, former agrarian reform secretary and chairman of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Speaking at a news conference, Mr. Mariano said the impacts to be monitored should go beyond imports and exports, but extend to producer’s livelihoods and welfare.

“One of the ideas that I think is important is having a technical working group, or a policy study group,” he said.

The Senate gave its concurrence to the RCEP on Feb. 2 via Senate Resolution No. 42. The Philippines became the last country to join the trade deal.

Other signatories to the trade deal are Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, South Korea, and the members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

Rosario Bella Guzman, executive editor and head of research at Ibon Foundation, said despite trade deals, the Philippines posted its “worst trade deficit” of $8.9 billion in 2021.

“RCEP (prevents the Philippines) from developing an agriculture industry,” she said.

“It (also) provides foreign transnational companies with agricultural and raw materials, cheap labor, and captive markets for their products,” she added.

United Broiler Raisers Association President Elias Jose M. Inciong called for strengthening agricultural output to mitigate the impact of climate change, which will also require an increased budget for the Department of Agriculture.

“We have been in the World Trade Organization for 28 years but… we remain import-dependent for food and industrial goods,” he added.

Former Negros Occidental Governor Rafael L. Coscolluela said that the government needs to support agricultural productivity.

“We need to have a competitiveness enhancement and productivity improvement program that works for the benefit of the producers, para naman may laban tayo (so the Philippines can compete) in the face of RCEP,” he said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

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