MANILA – The European Union (EU) has cited the willingness of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s administration to engage the international community on the issue of human rights in its latest report on the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP).
The assessment was published in a staff working document that accompanied the Nov. 21 European Commission and the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy joint report on GSP for the period of 2020 to 2022.
“The new administration has shown willingness to engage with the international community on human rights, having actively participated in multiple mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC),” it reads.
It noted “several positive steps” taken by the government, including its "new focus" on prevention and rehabilitation in the campaign against drug and the visits of several UN Special Rapporteurs.
“The new government, which came to power on 30 June 2022 through open and competitive presidential elections, has affirmed its commitment to the compliance with the GSP+ commitments since the beginning,” it said.
“Recent dialogue under the GSP+ framework as well as in other fora has been constructive and the Philippines has taken several steps to address points of concern. The situation continues to progress under the current administration,” it added.
The EU also noted some progress in the fight against child labor, especially on legislation against the online sexual exploitation of children and tackling trafficking in persons.
Renewed engagement with the International Labour Organization (ILO), including the high-level tripartite mission in January 2023, is “another positive development,” it said.
In addition, the Philippines has made “good progress on the implementation of all environmental and climate conventions”.
The EU further cited Manila’s ratification of the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol and plans to ratify the Basel Ban Amendment to the Basel Convention.
The EU added that compliance with the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) has also “improved” and the government is “taking strides” towards e-government with the intention to reduce the risk of corruption in administrative procedures.
‘Priorities for engagement’
The bloc, meanwhile, hoped to see “more resolute actions” to ensure accountability for extra-judicial killings and other human rights abuses, specifically on the “war on drugs” campaign, and on the protection of the civil society and journalists.
Further efforts, it said, are also needed to protect minors from online sexual abuse and exploitation as well as those working in the informal economy.
In addition, it hopes to see reduced gender pay gap and improved access to the labor market for all in the country.
“The national legislation needs to align with ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise,” it said.
The EU GSP has three arrangements —the general GSP, Everything But Arms, and the GSP+, where the Philippines falls under.
The scheme provides the Philippines preferential access to the more than 300 million consumers from EU through reduced or removed import tariffs.
Under GSP+, a beneficiary country must ratify 27 international conventions related to human rights, labor rights, environment and climate, and show no serious failure of implementing them.
Based on the latest EU report, Philippine exports to EU under the GSP+ reached EUR6.6 billion from 2020 to 2022.
The EU is in the process of the adopting a new GSP regulation that would update the list of international conventions in the scheme and enhance the monitoring and implementation of GSP+ commitments, among others.
While legislative procedure is still ongoing, the European Council and the European Parliament have voted in favor of extending the current rules until the end of 2027.
“The reports on the Philippines and other countries were adopted yesterday, so (the GSP+ is) pretty much still in the cards,” EU Ambassador to the Philippines Luc Veron said during the 2023 Pilipinas Conference in Makati on Wednesday.
“(On) areas that need to be done, that will actually form part of the next monitoring phase,” he added. (PNA)