February 23, 2023
MANILA – Following the Philippine Senate ratification of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) expresses a grave warning on the free trade agreement’s (FTA) possible violation of the Filipino people’s economic, social and cultural rights. The 20 senators who voted for the ratification of this unfair agreement showed their anti-people stance by dumping the poor Filipino people further into poverty.
“As a comprehensive free trade agreement covering the biggest economies in the Asia-Pacific, the RCEP puts local producers and markets in the Philippines at a disadvantage as they will be forced to compete with a flood of cheaper and high-grade imported goods from highly-industrialized countries”, said Peter Murphy, ICHRP Chairperson.
The RCEP eliminates 90 percent of tariffs among its participating economies, the 10 member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Australia, China, Japan, New Zealand, and South Korea. The RCEP covers roughly 30 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP). It is widely perceived as China’s counterweight to the US-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA) from which then President Donald Trump withdrew participation in January 2017.
Despite gross violation of human rights in Myanmar, China and the Philippines, the RCEP has no commitments to human rights, labor rights or environmental standards.
“The RCEP will surely mean the worsening violation of workers’ rights. Filipino workers already suffer from contractualization, low wages, unsafe working conditions and the non respect of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on their right to associate and to collective bargaining. Peasants will face impossible competition from giant agri-corporations, and indigenous peoples (IPs) will be confronted by the expansion of destructive mega-mining projects,” continued Murphy.
“Following a neoliberal framework, it will also open up basic social services to further liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, making it more difficult for the Filipino masses to have access to desperately needed medical, education, and transportation services.”
“Instead of participating in unfair free trade agreements like RCEP, the Philippine Government should focus on improving its national economy and supporting its local producers and businesses who are already reeling from the continued rise of inflation in the country. A primary focus should be given to genuine land reform and national industrialization which would generate quality jobs and would respond to the actual needs of the Filipino people,” concluded Murphy.