NEDA Board approves RCEP, social protection floor EOs

NEDA Board approves RCEP, social protection floor EOs
The Philippines joined the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement or RCEP on Tuesday. The Marcos Jr. administration lauded lawmakers’ swift ratification but questions remain.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines — The National Economic and Development Authority Board greenlit two measures on Thursday, one that would enforce the Philippines’ tariff commitments under the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.

In a Palace press briefing, details surrounding the two measures were fleshed out by Trade Secretary Alfredo Pascual and NEDA chief Arsenio Balisacan.

The first was an executive order that would operationalize the country’s tariffs commitment under RCEP. This EO will be effective on June 2, intentionally coinciding with the country’s entry into the trade agreement, 60 days after the country submitted its instrument of ratification.

Pascual noted that RCEP EO will maintain current preferential tariffs of at least 98.1% of the 1,718 agricultural tariff lines and 82.7% of the 8,102 industrial tariff lines.

As it is, the country’s entry into the RCEP also meant that 1,685 agricultural tariff rates were retained at current rate, 1,426 kept at zero. The trade chief also noted that 154 tariff lines will remain in its respective most favored nation (MFN) rates, which meant exclusion from any tariff concessions.

Agricultural tariffs on 105 lines, products considered to be sensitive and highly-sensitive, will be lower than MFN rates. Pascual explained that these tariff rates will not undermine the ASEAN Plus One rates that the country is committed to.

“If you examine the tariff lines, it will involve agricultural products which are not really being produced very much in the Philippines,” Pascual said.

The trade chief spotlighted tariff concessions that the country will benefit from. These include lower tariffs for pineapple, ignition wiring and adhesives in China, fish fillet, pineapple, sunflower seeds, and chocolates in Japan, and concessions for tilapia, cheddar cheese, canned tuna in Korea.

“The industrie are not yet here, hopefully we can revive garment industry under RCEP. They can import textile they need to make garments,” Pascual added.

President Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. heads the NEDA Board.

The second EO approved by the NEDA Board were recommendations for the Social Protection Floor. Balisacan noted measures under it would institutionalize measures current initiatives for the poverty alleviation in the country.  

As it is, the SPF would cover four basic guarantees health, which include maternity care, children, active age, and older persons.

“I would like to reiterate that social protection and human capital development are among the government’s goals as outlined in the Philippine Development Plan for 2023 to 2028,” Balisacan said. — Ramon Royandoyan

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