November 16, 2022
MANILA (UPDATED) — European lawmakers could visit the Philippines next year, an ambassador said on Monday, adding that he expected more positive talks between Manila and the European Union.
The bloc and the Philippines saw testy relations under former president Rodrigo Duterte, following concerns over his anti-narcotics campaign that killed thousands of drug suspects.
"Definitely there are issues of concern, that have been discussed between Philippines and EU, related to, in particularly, to the past concept on the war on drugs. And it is very interesting to see that the new administration has reformulated the war on drug, that is different from what was in the past," said Luc Veron, European Union Ambassador to the Philippines.
"So there is a new policy, and I think what is also very important, is we can have this conversation between PH and EU. In other words, the quality of the conversation is very important. If we have issues of concern, if Philippines have issues and concerns, we can certainly discus it," he said.
Veron said the recent visit of Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri and a contingent of Filipino lawmakers to Europe was also a very positive step.
"I am very happy that we were able to restart the process, and that there will be a visit of European Parliament to the Philippines next year, I guess, as a reciprocation of the visit that just took place," he said.
There is, however, more work to be done to take Philippine-European Union trade relations to the next level. For one, the Philippines needs to reapply for the Generalized Scheme of Preferences or GSP+ next year before new regulations kick in by 2024.
The GSP+ allows some 6,000 Filipino products to enter the European Union duty-free.
Veron said the success of that application would directly affect the possible resumption of Free Trade Agreement (FTA) talks with the Philippines.
He said the EU is contemplating the resumption of FTA talks with one ASEAN nation, and that Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines are being considered.
"I am not making predictions, but it is very important that we keep our focus on the objective. I said there is a reflection, or a period of thinking as to which country to restart first the FTA, and definitely Philippines is part of the mix of countries. But I cannot speak at this stage as to which country will come first," he said.
GSP+ benefits are closely tied to the observance of human and labor rights, good governance, and environment protection. Veron said they would submit a report on this to the European Parliament soon.
"I think there is a very good engagement, we had a monitoring mission this year in February, March. There will be a report, sent to our legislature, the European parliament toward the end of this year, early next year. That will contain the findings of the European Commission on the application of GSP+ in the Philippines. I am confident we will have a perspective for the continuation of GSP+ of the EU with the Philippines," Veron said.
The Philippines is very interested in continuing these talks, said Vichael Angelo Roaring, officer-in-charge of the trade department's Foreign Trade Service Corps.
"We have enjoyed greater market access to the EU that led to a significant increase in exports. GSP+ has been helping us generate employment and spur countryside development particularly focusing on MSMEs and small export communities. We see it as an instrumental tool in helping us address the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, and building back better," he said.
Roaring said the Philippine side also believed that success in the application to continue enjoying GSP+ benefits will lead to an FTA between Manila and Europe.
"To this end, the PH remains committed to constructively engage the EU on the effective implementation of the 27 international core conventions," he added.
Roaring and Veron spoke at the 2022 European-Philippine Business Dialogue hosted by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. As part of the dialogue, the ECCP turned over 11 advocacy papers covering multiple issues such as energy, tourism, and financial services.
Roaring, together with other government officials accepted the papers, on behalf of the Marcos administration.