The Philippines is confident it would be able to dodge for the fourth time the human rights and other issues raised by the European Union (EU) in qualifying it to the trade bloc’s duty-free privileges for exports, the removal of which endangers the livelihood of some 600,000 workers.
Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a television interview there is no reason for the EU to withdraw the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Plus status for the Philippines, saying “we have been faring well, and we have been very successful showing to the EU we are compliant, ” referring to human rights, labor, climate change/environment and good governance the EU had raised against the Philippines.
DTI Assistant Secretary Allan Gepty at the Roundtable@Lido, said the Philippines in its Sept. 15, 2020 report to the EU explained the bills proposing the revival of the death penalty and the reduction to 12 years old the minimum age of criminal liability are still proposals “and all deliberations to the pending bills will look at how they affect our international commitments.”
Gepty added the issue on environment is highly debatable as it is not just political but economic and even religious.
On press freedom, Gepty said the Philippines also explained to EU the state of media in the country, which has about 2,276 outlets.
Gepty said EU companies in the Philippines also benefit from the GSP such as those which export their products at competitive costs resulting in lower prices for consumers in the EU.
He said based on the GDP contribution and employment analysis, removal of GSP privileges will create tremendous impact on the socio-economic development of the Philippines.
Sonny Matula, chairman of NAGKAISA and president of the Federation of Free Workers , said some 600,000 workers especially in manufacturing and those related to agriculture in economic zones will be displaced and not just 200,000 as earlier projected.
The tuna industry alone has about 121, 350 workers.
Exports to the EU stood at 7.63 billion euros in 2019, of which 2.71 billion euros are qualified to GSP +.
Some 1.95B billion euros worth actually entered duty-free, or a utilization rate of 72 pecent
The scheme covers 6,274 products or 66 percent of EU tariff lines. The top commodities exported under the scheme include crude coconut oil and vacuum cleaners tuna.
Half of the Philippine exports of tuna go to the EU.
Bobby Amores, president of the Philippine Food Exporters of the Philippines, the country’s agriculture sector would lose its competitiveness once tariffs are raised.
“We have competitiveness issues, the cost of production, logistics (are high)… we still need product development and the peso continues to appreciate against the dollar. If we lose the GSP, we would be affected,” Amores said.
Lopez is confident the Philippines would retain GSP since this is not the first time the EU Parliament passed a resolution proposing to remove the GSP status of the Philippines, raising the same issues.
As part of the privileges, the EU Commission monitors the country’s compliance to 27 international conventions through scorecards. (I. Isip)