The Management Association of the Philippines urged the government to heed the call of the European Parliament to revoke the country’s exports tariff exemptions seriously as it will result in dire consequences on the country’s economy.
“Our economy will suffer more damage, especially given the contraction we are already experiencing with the pandemic,” MAP president Francis Lim said in a statement.
“Our government should not take the matter lightly for the sake of our people. We hope it will be discussed and addressed by both parties in a mutually satisfactory manner,” he added.
In a resolution dated September 17, the EU Parliament asked the EU Commission to temporarily withdraw the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) of the Philippines, citing human rights violations.
Under the GSP+, a mechanism that gives developing countries the privilege of exporting zero-duty merchandise to EU-member states, some of Philippine exports to Europe are benefiting from tariff breaks.
In the Philippines, the GSP+ covers 6,274 locally made products.
On Friday, however, Malacañang dared the EU Parliament to make good on their threat to revoke the tariff-free status of some Philippine exports.
According to Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, the government cannot do anything if the European Commission heed the call of the European Parliament to slap economic sanctions on the Philippines.
Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, meanwhile, shrugged off the Parliament’s resolution.
Lopez said that the Philippine government was so far “able to explain objectively the Philippines side on issues that are raised and we don’t see any reason why our GSP+ privilege will be withdrawn.”
“We fervently hope that the removal of the GSP preferences by the EU countries will not push through,” Lim said.
The business group said should the EU removes the tariff perks of the country’s exports to Europe, this will make local products less competitive and will seriously impact several industries.
It added that it will also increase the number of the unemployed among our countrymen at the time when they most need jobs,” Lim said.
In 2019, at least €2 billion or about P113 billion worth of Philippine goods entered the EU under the zero-tariff GSP+ mechanism.
The EU is the Philippines’ fourth largest trading partner, accounting for almost 9% of the country’s total trade, while trade in goods between the two partners equaled € 14.9 billion in 2019.
Detained Senator Leila de Lima, meanwhile, said the Parliament’s move to ask the European Commission to temporarily suspend the grant of trade preferences to the country was the expected consequence of the Duterte administration’s refusal to heed their earlier calls to end the summary executions in the country.
She said this development is only expected as Europe escalated measures in the face of the President’s dismissal of their concerns arising from the drug war carnage in the Philippines.
Trade preferences are granted by the EU to countries who have signed various international agreements and treaties on human rights.
“What Europe is saying is that countries who respect human rights will be given preferential treatment in trade, as opposed to those who do not,” said De Lima.
“Europe therefore has no obligation to maintain trade preferences once a trade partner country starts to treat human rights with disdain and contempt, like what the Philippines under Duterte is doing,” she added.
De Lima said that aside from the EU’s impending action, Duterte may also face an arrest warrant from the International Criminal Court.
“Duterte would rather continue killing Filipinos than keep the trade benefits the EU extends in exchange for the PH government’s respect for human rights,” she said.
“Duterte calls it defending Philippine independence and sovereignty. What he is not saying is that no government in the modern world can still claim to have the independence and sovereignty to summarily execute its own citizens.”
According to de Lima, governments todaysimply no longer have a blank check to murder their own people. She said the doctrine of absolute power of the sovereign over its subjects has long ended in the twilight of the 19th century.
“Only Duterte still lives in that century when he thinks that he can go on ordering the murder of Filipinos without being held accountable by the global community.”
She said Malacañang’s flippant retort on the trade sanctions is the signature response of a bankrupt regime.
She also accused presidential spokesperson Harry Roque of peddling a lie when he said without any ounce of proof that Jose Ma. Sison is responsible for the EU’s action of withdrawing trade preferences.
“A murdering, lying regime simply cannot feign indignance over an imagined affront to its murdering and lying ways. Murderers and liars can never complain that they are being treated unfairly by a world that values human life and truth above all,” said De Lima.
“Is it too much for a continent that has grieved over millions of deaths in two world wars to tell the Philippine government to stop killing its own impoverished people in a drug war that is not even real?” De Lima asked.