President Duterte said the Philippines and the European Union (EU) should reinforce their ties amid present challenges but added there should be mutual respect and protection of human rights.
Duterte made the statement as he accepted the credentials of Ambassador-Designate of the EU to the Philippines Luc Varon in Malacañang on Wednesday, February 10.
In his remarks, President Duterte said the Philippines and the EU share a deep respect for democracy and the rule of law that can improve even more the relationship between the two parties.
“This will serve as a solid foundation for robust cooperation on the basis of mutual trust, respect, and benefit,” he said of the long-standing ties between the Philippines and the EU that started in 1964.
“We should continue to redefine, refine and reinforce our ties in face of new challenges and opportunities,” he added.
The President said that despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Philippines will partner with the EU to enhance trade and to promote the protection of the rights of all.
“Notwithstanding the pandemic, our priority is to intensify trade and investment through a free trade agreement,” Duterte said.
“We wish to partner with the EU to protect and promote all rights of all, especially the human rights of migrant workers,” he added.
Duterte likewise expressed the Philippines’ readiness to further enhance cooperation on climate change and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
“[The] most responsible for climate change must be held to account even as we work together to build our communities, resilience, and preparedness,” he pointed out.
President Duterte, meanwhile, thanked the EU for its support to the Philippines’ justice sector and peace-building and development efforts in Mindanao, particularly the Bangsamoro.
“Excellency, the Philippines is ready to work constructively with the EU for the greater good of our peoples,” he told Varon.
For his part, Ambassador Varon assured President Duterte that the EU is eager to pursue the effective implementation of its partnership and cooperation agreement with the Philippines in all areas.
“By closer political relations, we together will strengthen multilateralism and cooperation on bilateral region and global issues. And we will be true to our shared pledge to our rules-based international order,” he said.
Meanwhile, Varon said that the EU has a strategic interest in a stable, prosperous, and secured Philippines.
“The EU is working with the Philippines to expand trade and investment, to promote maritime security, and to maintain open and safe shipping routes,” he said.
Varon said that the EU and the Philippines have developed a strong economic and trade partnership characterized by a substantial trading goods balance in favor of the Philippines worth P715 billion.
He added that since 2014, the EU has provided the Philippines with preferential trade access to the EU market based on sustainable development, principles, good governance, and human rights.
He also noted that the EU with its business community is also the first foreign investor to the Philippines.