Using RCEP for agriculture | Inquirer Business

Using RCEP for agriculture

Though the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) ratified by the Senate last Feb. 21 poses a threat to agriculture, it can still be used as an opportunity to hasten the sector’s transformation.

The six conditionalities related to agriculture recommended by the AgriFisheries Alliance (AFA), but denied by the executive branch for over a year, are now getting the attention they deserve. This is because the newly created “Senate Special Oversight Committee on the RCEP Agreement” will help ensure implementation.


This committee will be headed by the Senate President Pro Tempore (currently Senator Loren Legarda), the majority and minority leaders, and the heads of nine critical Senate committees.

Legarda specifically identified the Committee on Finance, which will recommend budget decreases for government agencies that will not comply with the conditionalities.


Emil Javier, former University of the Philippines president and Science and Technology Minister, and currently the Coalition of Agriculture Modernization in the Philippines chair, said: “In any international trade agreement, there are winners and losers. We must also address the concerns of the losers, and not leave them behind.”

In RCEP, the perceived winners are in the industry and service sectors. The perceived losers are in the agriculture sector. But in addressing the losers’ concerns, they may actually become winners.

Losing sector

With or without RCEP, our agriculture is a losing sector. However, the RCEP oversight committee can ensure compliance with the conditionalities that AFA identified as early as Jan. 5, 2022.

The Senate, not forgetting the potential losers, makes special mention of agriculture: “The Philippines must have competitive and comparative advantages in the country’s economic sectors, including the agriculture sector.“

In its resolution, the Senate said: “For the effective implementation of the RCEP agreement, the Senate of the Philippines deem it necessary for the following (conditionalities) to be adapted and implemented …”

These are:

• Vastly improve border controls, including quarantine and safety measures, and the restoration of the “public-private oversight committee on antismuggling;”


• Proper use of agriculture funds, including the restoration of the “public-private budget monitoring committee;”

• A market information network mandated in the 2007 Agriculture and Fisheries Act, but has not yet been implemented;

• A cluster-cooperative approach to achieve economies of scale;

• Identification of RCEP threats and corresponding measures; and

• Specific action plans to address the new RCEP environment.

The Senate likewise highlighted the following in the resolution if the conditionalities are not followed and implemented: (1) “that the Senate of the Philippines may recommend to the President the withdrawal of the Agreement; and (2) “that the President of the Philippines may, with the concurrence of the Senate, withdraw from the Agreement.”

For effective follow-up, the Senate resolution further states: “The Oversight Committee shall be provided with a comprehensive strategy and plan to harness competitiveness in various economic sectors within three months from the adoption of this Resolution. The [Department of Trade and Industry] shall prepare this document …”

But since the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) represents the winning sectors of industry and services while the Department of Agriculture (DA) represents the losing sector of agriculture, it is important that the DA be an equal party to the DTI in preparing the document. This will be consistent with the Senate’s welcome attention to the agriculture sector.

With the oversight committee now involved in specific agriculture development issues, the new trade pact can provide a creative opportunity to hasten our needed agriculture transformation. INQ

The author is Agriwatch chair, former secretary of presidential flagship programs and projects, and former undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Trade and Industry. Contact is

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TAGS: agriwatch, opportunities, RCEP, threat
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