The Philippine’s largest labour federations on Saturday warned the government that as many as 200,000 Filipinos could lose jobs if the European Union withdrew its trading privileges.
The EU has granted the Philippines trade benefits under the Generalized Scheme of Preferences Plus (GSP+) but could withdraw it due to allegations of human rights violations by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration.
Europe’s parliamentarians on Thursday voted overwhelmingly 626 to seven, with 52 abstentions, to adopt a resolution to withdraw the trade benefits if the Philippine government did not abide by international conventions on human rights.
It was the third time since 2016 that the European Parliament has made the threat in the wake of extrajudicial killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody war on drugs in addition to deadly attacks on social activists, continuing corruption and threats against press freedom.
“We urge the government to take the right action and take more steps in addressing the issues raised by the resolution,” said Gerard Seno, national executive vice president of Associated Labour Unions (ALU), a 66-year-old labour federation which counts in its ranks more than 200,000 unionized workers in the manufacturing, services and agriculture sectors and sea-based Filipinos.
“[I]f the Philippine government fails to make the right response to the resolution, we will lose the [European] market, which [will]result [in]more unemployment and loss of business opportunities,” Seno said.
Citing figures from the Department of Trade and Industry, Seno said that since the GSP+ privilege was granted in 2014 Philippine exports to the 27-nation European Union have increased by 35% and created 200,000 more jobs.
“If the revocation of the GSP+ privilege is completed, we will lose these jobs,” he said.
No tariff is imposed on the more than 6,000 products exported to the European Union from the Philippines under the GSP+ trading privilege. Among these products are pineapples, mangoes, tuna, footwear and coffee.
Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Karl Kendrick Chua last week said 8.8 million jobs were lost between January and April due to the “very strict quarantine” imposed to control the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chua said the unemployment rate next year could range between 6% and 8%. The latest unemployment rate in July “improved” to 10% from 17.7% recorded in April, he said.
Aside from trade sanctions, the European Parliament’s resolution also called on the EU members to support a proposal to establish an “independent, international investigation” of human rights violations in the Philippines.
It said there were also threats, harassment, intimidation, rape and violence against those exposing extrajudicial killings; killings of human rights workers; and “deteriorating” press freedom in the country, citing the case of Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, who was convicted of cyberlibel, and the shutdown of broadcast giant ABS-CBN.
The resolution also called for the immediate release of detained Sen. Leila de Lima, saying she was being held on “politically motivated charges.”
The European parliamentarian’s vote drew an angry reaction from presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who dared them to “go ahead” and impose the sanction.
Opposition Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman said Roque’s reaction was “sheer braggadocio.”
Roque’s assertion that “domestic institutions” like the courts, the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) are in place to “promote accountability” in cases of rights violations is “a patent evasion of an independent international inquiry,” Lagman said.
“The CHR has no prosecutory powers, while the DOJ is a virtual adjunct of the presidency even as the courts have failed to resolve pending human rights cases, except for a very few,” he said. (Source: INQUIRER.net)