Lopez confident PH will keep EU-GSP Plus status

Published September 24, 2020, 5:00 AM

by Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez yesterday categorically said there is no reason for the EU to withdraw the duty-free privilege on the Philippines 6,274 export products.

Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon M. Lopez

 “There is no reason to withdraw EU-GSP Plus,” said Lopez during a television interview stressing, ”We have a good system.”

According to Lopez, the EU Commission has a system of monitoring when countries submit reports of their compliance on the 27 international conventions.  

 “We have been faring well, explained all issues raised every year,” he said. Lopez noted this is the fourth time EU passed resolution every year and the Philippines replied with by giving them the correct and factual information and numbers.

As the trade chief remained confident the Philippines will retain its EU-GSP Plus status, he also does not see a potential massive adverse impact happening on the country’s exports to the EU.

The Philippines exports 7.3 billion euros worth to the 27 EU countries. Of this number, 2.7 billion euros are GSP eligible of which the Philippines was able to export worth 2 billion euros or a high utilization rate at 72 percent.

In another virtual meeting, DTI Undersecretary Allan B. Gepty echoed the same optimism stressing that the same issues have been raised against the Philippines for the past four years already since 2016 and the Philippines successfully defended its position.

“We have been successful in showing we are compliant and our explanation was well taken by them. What is important is we have to be cooperative and construction. We just have to focus on facts and not perception because clarity is very important,” he stressed.

Atty. Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers, agreed with Gepty that human rights violations charges have remained the same over the years but he disagreed that these are the same victims. He said there have been new killings of labor leaders citing the death of a labor leader in an economic zone in June 2019.

“These cases have no concrete resolution,” he said.

In a resolution adopted on September 17, the EU Parliament called on the European Commission to immediately initiate the procedure for temporary withdrawal of the GSP Plus privileges of the Philippines “given the seriousness of the human rights violations in the country.”

The EU legislative body again expressed “its deepest concern at the rapidly deteriorating human rights situation in the Philippines under President Rodrigo Duterte and calls on the country’s government to implement all the recommendations outlined by the UN [United Nations] High Commissioner for Human Rights to address a range of serious issues, such as the ‘widespread and systematic’ killings related to the authorities’ anti-drug campaign.”

The resolution stated that EU members  “strongly denounce the thousands of extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations related to the so-called ‘war on drugs’.”

It cited a June 30, 2020 report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which found “widespread and systematic” killings related to the government’s anti-drug campaign. Official data showed 8,663 people had been killed, but other estimates triple that number, according to the report.

EU lawmakers also “also condemn all threats, harassment, intimidation, rape and violence against those who seek to expose allegations of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations in the country, including human rights and environmental activists, trade unionists and journalists.”

Since December 2016, the Philippines enjoys enhanced trade preferences with the EU under the EU GSP Plus, which is unilateral on the part of EU. The special incentive arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance GSP Plus grants full removal of tariffs on two thirds of all product categories, aiming to support sustainable development and good governance.

In order to maintain GSP Plus, the Philippines is subject to a regular monitoring of its obligation to the effective implementation of 27 core international conventions on human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance.