TRADE SECRETARY Ramon M. Lopez is confident that the Philippines will retain its tariff perks with the European Union (EU), after the European Parliament voted in support of their removal.
“This is not the first time that this happened. So we are addressing anyway their concerns — just giving them the right information,” he said in an ANC interview Wednesday.
The European Parliament last week asked the European Commission to start the process for temporarily withdrawing GSP+ or Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus, privileges enjoyed by the Philippines after the government failed to improve the human rights situation.
GSP+ is an incentive agreement in which 6,274 Philippine products enjoy zero-tariff entry to the European Union provided the country adheres to 27 core international conventions that include human and labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance.
“So far we’ve been faring well. We’ve been able to explain all issues that are raised every year,” Mr. Lopez said, noting that the government responds to information requests during monitoring visits.
European legislators in the resolution cited Philippine human rights issues, including President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s war on drugs that has killed at least 8,663 people.
They also raised concerns about the detention of opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima and the convictions of Rappler founder Maria A. Ressa and former researcher Reynaldo Santos, Jr. for cyber libel.
The Management Association of the Philippines on Wednesday asked the government to take the matter seriously, noting that the removal of tariff perks would hurt various industries and worsen unemployment.
Goods exported under GSP+ preferences usually account for around a quarter of total Philippine exports to the EU each year. — Jenina P. Ibanez