Senate of the Philippines (File photo)

MANILA – The ratification of certain foundational treaties should be ensured for the Philippines to maximize the benefits under the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), Senator Francis Tolentino said on Tuesday.

The RCEP is the world’s largest free trade agreement (FTA) that provides simplicity in trade relations with its uniformed terms and conditions among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) member states Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam and their FTA partners China, Japan, India, South Korea, Australia, and New Zealand.

Foundational treaties that include the Hague Choice of Court Convention, United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, and Convention on the Use of Electronic Communications in International Contracts should be reconsidered before engaging with the RCEP, Tolentino said.

"There are a few more other relevant and foundational treaties that we have yet to reevaluate and discuss. The foregoing are just illustrations of how the Philippines will be at a disadvantageous position in case we become a state party to the RCEP without ensuring that the basic building blocks of international commercial transactions are in place," Tolentino said in a statement.

He urged his fellow lawmakers to reassess all treaties which the Philippines are non-state parties to and consider the protection of the country's international commercial transactions for the betterment of the Philippine economy, which is a clear priority of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Tolentino noted that the foregoing dispute settlement mechanisms are provided under the RCEP but warned that acceding to the RCEP alone would put the country at a disadvantage compared to other member-countries who are state parties to other foundational and relevant treaties.

He cited an example of a Filipino trader having an international trade agreement with a Singaporean trader. Any dispute shall be brought to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of the Philippines.

"The Hague Choice of Court Convention, which Singapore is a state party to and which the Philippines is not, provides for the binding nature of the judgment rendered by the exclusive court chosen by the parties and obliges the contracting state parties to recognize or enforce such a judgment. Now, since the Philippines is not a state party to the said Convention, the Filipino trader may have difficulties in making Singapore courts recognize and enforce that judgment," Tolentino said.

In terms of perfection of international trade contracts, he believes the Philippines may also be on the losing end in cases where the other contracting party is choosing to contract between a state party to the United Nations Convention on Contracts for the International Sale of Goods, where the Philippines is likewise a non-state party to.

"Since this Convention provides for a modern, uniform, and fair regime for contracts for the international sale of goods, thereby decreasing transaction costs and promoting efficient international dealings because of the uniform terms and conditions, the other contracting party may prefer dealing with a fellow state party to the Convention as opposed to the Philippines who has yet to impose their own terms and conditions," Tolentino said.

In case of disputes, the RCEP provides settlement mechanisms like choice of forum, consultation provisions, mediation provisions, and establishment of a panel which allows interested third parties to participate in disputes, with their views considered during the panel process. (PNA)