SENATORS sponsored out to the plenary the bill providing the chamber’s concurrence to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), while pledging to exercise adequate oversight when the trade agreement is implemented.

Senate President Pro Tempore Lorna Regina B. Legarda, who co-sponsored the legislation, said accession to RCEP comes with strengthened governance.

“Attached to the resolution that we have sponsored is the establishment of the oversight committee on RCEP implementation to monitor and ensure that the promised aid for the agricultural sector, including the allocation of the budget and financial and technical assistance to our farmers,” she said during her privilege speech.

She said deliverables will be monitored corresponding to the funding given, and that structural reforms will be pursued if necessary if RCEP threatens to disadvantage domestic industries like agriculture.

Ms. Legarda also vowed to “ensure that our MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) are supported, so they can take advantage of the opportunities in the RCEP, and to require stronger public-private cooperation and partnership.”

The Senate has said that it will monitor RCEP’s impact in consultation with economic managers and affected industries.

RCEP, which started taking effect on Jan. 1, 2022 in the various jurisdictions, involves Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the 10 members of the ASEAN.

The Philippines has yet to join RCEP as the Senate was unable to ratify the agreement before adjourning on Feb. 3. President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the trade agreement on Sept. 2.

Ms. Legarda called for the departments of Agriculture and Trade and Industry, among others, to give due importance to the interests of the agriculture and other affected industries.

Ms. Legarda also noted the need to ensure transparency to optimize the benefits of global and regional trading systems offered not just by RCEP, but also other multilateral and bilateral trading systems.

“Share information that will allow our sectors to grow and be informed of the vast opportunities in the domestic, regional, and global marketplace,” she said. “Use data to drive production efficiency.”

“All promised programs (to improve industry competitiveness) must have a due date,” she said. “There is no forever and it is forbidden to wait endlessly for the promised aid to our farmers and sectors that need help.”

“We cannot be competitive based on promised assistance to our ailing sectors,” Ms. Legarda said. “We need concrete action to be delivered fast.”

Senate President Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, also a co-sponsor of the trade deal, said at the plenary. “Full house, full support.”

He has said that the Senate is working to ratify the RCEP within the first quarter. — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan