By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
Establishment of a Joint Committee composed of senior level officials from both the Philippines and EU sides is being mulled to push for the implementation and promotion of the objectives of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA).
This was raised during the recent conference on "Reaping the Benefits of the Philippines-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement" where the Philippine government and the European Union had a constructive exchange of views on how to enhance bilateral relations. This event was the first of this kind after the Senate gave his concurrence for the ratification of the PCA early this year.
Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo considered that the PCA provides for the establishment of the joint committee to be followed by the establishment of specialized sub-committees to deal with specific areas covered under the PCA.
Meanwhile, Ambassador Jose A. De Vega to Belgium said that while we can have different views on various issues, we are of the same mind that the EU and the Philippines will work for the benefit of all and the PCA will facilitate this.
Retired Ambassador James Moran who was the EU Chief negotiator when Manalo was Ambassador to Belgium and to the European Union also considered that the next step of implementation of the PCA was to finalize the rules of procedure for the Joint Committee and its specialized sub-committees.
EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said that the PCA will serve as the general framework of relations between the Philippines and the EU on areas such as political matters, human rights, justice and security, trade and investment, migration and development and other economic development and sectoral issues.
"Entry into force of the PCA with the Philippines clearly illustrates the maturing of Philippines-EU relations between equal partners who share common values and interests," he said.
Manalo who was posted in Brussels in 2010-2011 said that the Philippines is ready to bring its relations with the EU forward to a higher level through the Agreement on the basis of equality and mutual respect.
"The PCA allows the Philippines and the EU to address new challenges in a more coherent and sustainable manner through regular dialogue and cooperation. The PCA will provide a platform for the Philippines and the EU to discuss candidly not only our common concerns, but equally important, to understand, to manage, if not, transcend our differences," said Manalo.
Moran stressed that it would be helpful to take into account experience of the other PCAs in the region such as in Indonesia where the Agreement has been operational since 2016.
In Indonesia specifically, the PCA has helped to strengthen the dialogue on a whole series of issues, from the economy, trade to human rights and security matters.
The EU remains an important economic partner of the Philippines.
Preliminary figures show that the EU is the Philippines' third largest export partner, with exports in the first half of 2018 reaching US4.6 billion.
This includes an increase in the agri-food, fisheries and footwear sectors, thanks to the GSP+ preferential treatment. EU Foreign direct investments represent the largest amount of FDIs in the Philippines.
They represent over 500,000 jobs in the country.