RCEP approval will worsen poverty, forced labor migration

February 28, 2023

Press Statement
28 February 2023

MIGRANTE International joins all nationalist- and progressive-minded Filipinos in condemning the Bongbong Marcos government for bringing the Philippines into the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) with the Senate’s ratification on February 21. 

Like all free-trade agreements that preceded it, RCEP will further destroy the country’s agriculture and manufacturing sectors; increase joblessness, hunger and poverty among Filipinos; and overall worsen the conditions that push Filipinos to go abroad to find work. 

As another neoliberal agreement, RCEP will further expose the country’s already fledgling agriculture and manufacturing sectors to competition from member-countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Such competition has proven disastrous for Filipinos, who have been forced to contend with soaring prices of rice and other agricultural products, lack of industries to employ the swelling ranks of the country’s unemployed, among other economic, social and political problems.

The RCEP is another step away from the only viable path to meeting Filipinos’ basic needs and creating decent jobs in the country: government investment in, and support for, agriculture and manufacturing primarily in order to service local demand. The country has been limiting the government’s role in the economy in trying to compete for foreign investors for decades and has been suffering because of this.

After decades of free-trade agreements like the RCEP, the Philippine economy now has two “bright spots” — labor export and the Business Process Outsourcing sector. Both do not meet the basic needs of Filipinos and, while they put food on the table of the households of those employed, do not generate decent employment, make Filipinos vulnerable to abuse, and cause a “brain drain” in the Philippines. 

RCEP is a continuation of the neoliberal policies that have been implemented by the Philippine government for decades, and have brought the country to its sorry state at present. It is business as usual, and does not embody change. It is sheer bullshit for the Marcos regime, its so-called economic managers, and its rubbert-stamp Senate to claim that RCEP will finally bring about development to the country.

We demand a junking of the RCEP and all free-trade agreements. We demand a serious rethinking of the development path being pursued by the Marcos regime and the country. We contend that only through a people’s led government process of genuine land reform combined with upliftment of local peasant livelihood and farmland in order to ensure food sovereignty and national industrialization with security of tenure and just wage can the country really develop, create decent jobs, and end labor export.###

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