MANILA – Philippine officials led by Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez and Special Envoy to the European Union Edgardo Angara discussed political and economic matters with an EU delegation Tuesday (July 18), covering trade relations to human rights and the war on drugs, and both affirming a commitment to optimize their robust relations.
They freely exchanged views on the political and economic fronts of the PH-EU relations, according to a report from Lopez’s office at the Department of Trade and Industry.
“On the issue of human rights, Sec. Lopez stressed that President Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign and state efforts to apprehend illegal drug elements have always been anchored on the tenets of human rights and the rule of law. He said that majority of Filipinos feels safer today and approves the President’s leadership, citing the latest 82% approval rating,” the DTI reported of the meeting.
The meeting also touched on “the need for EU to engage the Philippines through the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+),” the DTI added. There had been concern in some quarters earlier – notably from Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon – that the GSP+, under which the Philippines became the first Asian country to get substantial preferential rates for some 6,000 product lines exported to Europe, might be jeopardized by President Rodrigo Duterte’s sharp rebuke of previous EU concern over the blow to human rights and due process of the war on drugs. Drilon pointed out earlier that continuation of the GSP+ involved some periodic “monitoring” by the EU of the Philippines’ adherence to some EU basic principles.
The DTI, alluding to how the GSP+ was tackled at Tuesday’s meeting, described the GSP+ as “precisely a meaningful program assistance developed by EU to help a trade partner institute socio-economic reform resulting from greater trade and economic activities. Such also increase income in rural communities, as well as in areas experiencing conflicts.”
Meanwhile, trade chief Lopez encouraged EU to maximize its economic relations with the growing PH domestic market and its free trade access to ASEAN and its Dialogue Partners.
Former Senate President Angara and Trade Undersecretary Ceferino Rodolfo assured the delegation that a whole-of-government approach is being undertaken to comply with the GSP+ monitoring requirements.
They also shared the government’s move to put a stop on the end of contract (endo) scheme despite its perceived short-term impacts on the competitiveness of domestic industries.