The Center for Environmental Concerns-Philippines (CEC) was among the civil society and people’s organizations which participated in the Stakeholder Engagement on the 18th Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Meeting held in Manila, Philippines last May 10, 2017.
The CEC raises issues and concerns of the proposed trade deal between country governments of China, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, India and the ASEAN. The RCEP, while alluding to be pro-development, will only worsen destruction and depletion of the region’s resources and expose the region’s peoples to more disasters.
RCEP will also further threaten critical ecosystems that could be impacted by the expected influx of foreign and corporate investments in areas of mining, forestry, fisheries and agriculture. Lifting market restrictions and barriers to the export of natural resources to meet the demands of more developed and industrialized countries could contribute to rapid degradation of already critical environments in the region. Southeast Asia is in fact at the center of the center of biodiversity and has rich mineral resources that are in high demand in the global market.
The expected influx of foreign direct investments through RCEP in the sectors mentioned above and the provision on International State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) could also erode the capacity of governments to manage and utilize their natural resources. Under ISDS, foreign corporations will have the power to sue national governments for implementing laws that are deemed unfavorable to their commercial interests, which can be used against national and progressive policies on the environment.
RCEP’s provision on patents over flora and fauna as reflected in Chapter 15 of the leaked documents could also lead to unnecessary barriers to socially beneficial natural resource products and services.
RCEP is also silent on the SDGs, in particular, on environmental sustainability, and lacks provisions on corporate pollution.
Thus, the CEC is calling on negotiating governments—the Philippine government and the ASEAN to reconsider RCEP and defend national patrimony and assert national sovereignty over control and utilization of natural resources benefitting the people.