Philippine’s senate ratifies RCEP with more than two-thirds voting for it

The Philippines is the last country to ratify the pact among the five members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and five other countries.

Daniza Fernandez

Daniza Fernandez

Philippine Daily Inquirer


Facade of the Senate of the Philippines building. FILE PHOTO

February 22, 2023

MANILA — The Senate ratified on Tuesday the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), with 20 senators voting for Senate Resolution No. 485.

Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and Senate President Pro Tempore Loren Legarda sponsored the resolution during the plenary session.

Only one senator, Risa Hontiveros, voted against it and another, Imee Marcos, abstained.

Imee Marcos is the sister of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who is pushing for RCEP.

“A two-thirds vote of all the members of the Senate is required in order to make valid and effective any treaty or international agreement per Article 7, Section 31 of the Constitution,” Deputy Majority Leader JV Ejercito said.

“There being 20 senators who voted in favor, which number is more than the two-thirds of the Senate as required by the Constitution, proposed Senate Resolution No. 485 is hereby approved on third and final reading,” he added.

To explain her vote, Hontiveros said she was not convinced that RCEP would benefit the country and that it would not put public health at risk.

She added that 131 organizations of farmers, fisherfolk, trade unions, health advocates, and fair trade advocates nationwide were not ready for the agreement.

“These represent millions of Filipinos who say that our country is not ready for this deal, that we already obtain the benefits from our other agreements, and that we even stand to lose. The calculations for me are simple, Mr. President. Our agriculture is down. We have not recovered from the pandemic. This is not the time for RCEP,” Hontiveros said in a mix of English and Filipino.

On the other hand, Marcos said she abstained from voting because she was thinking about the effect of RCEP on farmers.

“I would like to stress that my worry is brought by my principle, not because I’m the sister of someone powerful, but because of my father’s legacy which is to prioritize the marginalized — farmers and the needy,” she said.

“Allow me to abstain from voting, not because I am avoiding my duty, but because until now, most of those in the farms and fields are frustrated.”

The RCEP is a free trade agreement among the five members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and five other countries — Australia, China, Japan, South Korea, and New Zealand.

According to Zubiri, the agreement is foreseen to generate 1.4 million jobs for Filipinos.

But despite projected benefits, at least 100 groups pushed the Senate to reject RCEP as the “lives and welfare of millions of farmers, fishers, workers and other stakeholders are at stake.”

The Philippines is the last country to ratify the pact.

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