The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement can help realign Philippine economic reforms and be a driving force to become more aggressive in bringing in investments for tourism.

This was emphasized at a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). The webinar featured the studies “Opportunities for the Philippines under RCEP: Trade in Services” by John Paolo Rivera and Tereso Tullao Jr. and “Analysis of the Readiness of the Philippine Tourism Enterprises for Trade Liberalization in Asia-Pacific" by Eylla Laire Gutierrez, Marie Jel Bautista, and John Paolo Rivera. All the authors are PIDS consultants.

The studies investigated how the RCEP can improve services trade’s contribution to the Philippine economy and the readiness of tourism enterprises for trade liberalization under the RCEP and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, another free trade agreement (FTA).

Department of Trade and Industry Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty, a discussant at the webinar, explained the RCEP introduced needed reforms such as simplified and better rules for trade liberalization.

“The focus [of RCEP] is the laws and regulations you have to adopt and implement to establish and create [a] conducive business environment,” he said.

Gepty noted that the country’s economy is “heavily anchored in the services” sector, contributing to at least 60 percent of the gross domestic product. He said government policies must focus on “empowering and capacitating” its citizens, the country’s asset.

“Opportunities [under the RCEP] are vast. It’s something we can take advantage of as we move toward a knowledge and creative economy,” he added.

Meanwhile, fellow discussant and Safe Travel Alliance Lead Convenor Maria Cherry Lyn Salazar-Rodolfo emphasized that RCEP offers a broader platform for exchanges and dialogues among tourism-related enterprises.

“RCEP gives opportunities to form institutional setups like working groups wherein tourism can be part of the priority agenda, similar to what the Association of Southeast Asian Nations has done for its member-states and their physical and cultural connectivity dimensions,” she said.

Salazar-Rodolfo pointed out that the country must focus on innovating and transforming its tourism institutions to maximize the opportunities that RCEP and global tourism bring.

She added that investment and travel trade campaigns could boost tourism flow and spending in more destinations outside Metro Manila.

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