By Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
EU Ambassador to the Philippines Franz Jessen said that the results of the studies on labor rights by the International Labor Organization in the country may be part of the elements in their review process of the country’s continued GSP+ benefits, but stressed that EU will come up with its own independent decision based on its own monitoring and evaluation process.
Jessen stressed this in an interview with reporters following the unveiling of the two ILO projects, which are funded by the EU related to the GSP+, namely “Strengthening the Impact of Trade on Employment in the Philippines (Strengthen); and the Freedom of Association and Collective Bargaining Projects (FOA).” Both projects were extended, with Strengthen ending in October, and FOA by May this year.
At the “Stakeholders Forum” on Thursday, the ILO report showed some gaps in government agencies monitoring process on worker rights.
Jessen, however, said that while such gaps in the ILO study could be a concern, ”It is not also something that surprises us that much because things are difficult in many GSP+ recipients also.”
Jessen explained that the important part of the GSP+ process is it is measuring developments overtime. “So, we don’t expect things to be perfect from day one, but it’s a question of movement if things are getting better or getting worse.”
“Of course, we will look at the ILO report and we can have that as one of the elements but the monitoring referred to will be done ourselves so we make our own independent decision,” he said.
Jessen, however, has also acknowledged that labor rights situation in the country has been found gradually improving.
The two ILO projects are linked to the GSP+ initiative of the EU and are intended to help the Philippines in its implementation of its commitments particularly with regard to the labor standards as well as promote better utilization of GSP+, which grants zero duty on Philippine exports to the EU.
In his speech at the forum, Jessen said: “I should here underline that while the EU is a strong support of free and fair trade and has always endeavored to leverage trade as a tool for development, we are also mindful of the fast that trade can be disruptive of traditional economic relations and that special attention must be devoted to the harmonious development of working relations and labor rights.”
These collaborative projects, according to Jessen “promote and advance the ILO International Labour Standards and Decent Work in the context of expanding trade and investments.”
The collaboration has produced various tools, manuals, and reports – which will be made available to various stakeholders – that seek to enhance the Philippines’ institutions of work and harness opportunities for decent and sustainable work as underscored in the Global Commission Report on the Future of Work.
The tripartite and multi-sectoral stakeholders of the FOA project highlights the signed Manifesto of Commitment last September 2017. This manifesto committed to respect and observe the ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on the freedom of association and collective bargaining principles. The signatories included representatives from various government agencies such as Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of National Defense (DND). It was also supported by representatives from trade unions, employers’ groups, and other civil society groups.