Marcos pushes RCEP ratification

RCEP liberalizes trade in goods and services by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers

President Bongbong Marcos | Photograph by Yummie Dingding for the Daily Tribune

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. is hoping for swift congressional action on several pending bills including the Maritime Industry Authority Regulatory Functions Act, the ASIN Law Amendment, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership or RCEP and the Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act.

The Presidential Communications Office on Wednesday said the President is vigorously pushing for the ratification of RCEP in the Senate.

RCEP is a free trade agreement between the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam) and its five FTA partners (Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea).

The agreement liberalizes trade in goods and services by eliminating tariff and non-tariff barriers. It contributes around 30 percent of the global gross domestic product and more than 25 percent of world exports.

In December last year, Senator Imee Marcos, the President’s sister, presided over the meeting of the Committee on Foreign Relations on the proposed ratification of the RCEP by the Senate.

Marcos quizzed heads of government agencies, including Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual, on the provisions of the RCEP and its possible impact on the country’s agriculture sector and micro, small and medium enterprises.

She also questioned the preparedness of the government in enforcing the trade deal as she noted its “vague” provisions. On the other hand, Imee expressed elation about the progress of her priority legislation.

During his maiden state of the nation address last year, Mr. Marcos enumerated his administration’s bills that, he said, are essential in the implementation of the administration’s plans and programs for the country, particularly the eight-point socioeconomic agenda.

Certified urgent

Among those he certified as urgent included the Fiscal Year 2023 General Appropriations Bill, Amendments to Republic Act 11709 (AFP Professionalism), Maharlika Investment Fund, the Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and National Service Training Program.

As of 18 January, 10 out of the 20 SoNA priority legislative measures had been passed by the House of Representatives and transmitted to the Senate, according to the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office.

The measures include the Tax Package 4: Passive Income and Financial Intermediary Taxation Act, and Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery Bill.

Also passed were Tax Package 3: Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act, Internet Transaction Act or the E-Commerce Law and Condonation of Unpaid Amortization and Interests of Loans of Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries.

The creation of the Medical Reserve Corps, the creation of the Philippine Centers for Disease Prevention and Control, the creation of the Virology Institute of the Philippines, and an amendment to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law are among the priority legislations.

The remaining 10 SoNA priority bills are at the level of the committees in both houses of Congress.

These include the Department of Water Resources, E-Government/Governance Act, Government Rightsizing Program, National Land Use Act, Budget Modernization, Natural Gas Industry Enabling Law, EPIRA Amendments, MUP Pension Reform and National Defense Act.

There are bills certified as urgent by the President and the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council — priority bills that have been passed by the lower house but are still pending in the Senate.

The LEDAC-priority bills include the New Passport Law, Leyte Ecological Zone, Waste Treatment Technology, Free Legal Assistance for Military and Uniformed Personnel, Eastern Visayas Development Authority, Revised National Apprenticeship Program, and the Magna Carta of Barangay Health Workers.

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