Press Release
February 11, 2015

Sen. Vicente C. Sotto III
Privilege Speech - World Trade Organization (WTO)

NOTE: Pls Check Against Delivery

Mr. President, my topic may not belong to the genre of today's headlines, but I consider it no less important. Sovereignty and Justice may be the issues of the day, but judging from the slogans of a time not too long ago, Food on the table and Jobs for all, do occupy and will always occupy our people's minds. Food and Freedom, Jobs and Justice, go hand in hand.

Mr. President, twenty years and fifty-nine days ago, December 14, 1994 to be specific, the Philippines through the 9th Congress of the Philippine Senate entered into the World Trade Organization. This milestone of two decades should be long enough for us to assess its impact on our people and economy.

Affordable food on the Filipino table, and access to available jobs for the Filipino farmer and laborer had been at risk since we joined the World Trade Organization. When the Senate voted with 18 affirmative votes, there were five who voted for the negative side. For the record they were: 1. Sen. Tolentino 2. Sen. Maceda 3. Sen. Coseteng 4. Sen. Tanada 5. Sen. Sotto. I distinctly remember the last portion of my speech on my negative vote, and together with those words, I was fervently praying and hoping deep within me that I was wrong. I could almost hear the words of my friends who are farmers in Nueva Ecija who asked me to look after their welfare as we were about to join the WTO. I shared their fear that our entry into the arena of world economics without adequate safeguards may adversely affect available jobs, markets for our products, and our people's standard of living.

Simple lamang po ang aking naging pananaw nuong bumoto ako laban sa pagsanib natin sa WTO. Ang kaisipan ko po nuon ay bunga ng aking pangambang walang laban ang mga maliliit na bansa na makipagkumpitensya sa mga higanteng bansa sa larangan ng ekonomiya kung hindi tayo bibigyan ng kaunting partida. Ganyan po sa sports, pag di magkapantay ang mga manlalaro, tiyak na may madedehado. Kung baga sa basketball, ang iba ay pang Olympics ang kakayahan, samantalang ang iba ay liga ng mga barangay lamang. Sa larangan ng boksing po ay may weight class, at sa golf naman ay may sistema ng handicapping. In the free-for-all world of economics, the economic giants would always win. When a big mall opens in a city or town plaza, the sari-sari stores nearby are bound to lose sales and customers.

Our rice supply alone is import dependent, despite attempts at self-sufficiency. Our fruit and vegetable growers are constantly under threat of foreign products being dumped here at much lower prices, despite their additional cost of transportation. Imported apples and oranges routinely beat our mango in price and availability.

Let us take a second look into the matter. Twenty years is a good time to take stock of how we are faring with real time experiences against promises and expectations. Sabi nuon, our farmers and land-dependent workforce have nothing to fear, for there are going to be safety nets. Where are the safety nets? What do they consist of in the present time? We were convinced to fly into the WTO membership like flying trapeze artists since there were safety nets, but lo and behold, when our hands were slipping through the rope and bar, the safety nets were not there, and if there were any, there were holes in them. Are we still trapeze artists, Mr. President? Or is it time to send in the clowns.

It is my submission, Mr. President, that after all these twenty years, that a thorough assessment be made of the impact to us of our entry into the World Trade Organization by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Intellectual Property Office (IPO).

Only by looking back can we move forward, as the Filipino saying goes.

Thank you, Mr. President, esteemed colleagues.

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