Rody’s ‘unsettling’ rhetoric driving away EU investors

The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - Investors from Europe are having second thoughts about setting up shop or expanding in the Philippines and are considering other Southeast Asian countries as alternative due to President Duterte’s unsettling rhetoric.

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) executive director Florian Gottein said two potential investors in the manufacturing and information technology sectors have canceled expansion plans in the country, dashing hopes for the creation of 4,000 to 5,000 more jobs for Filipinos.

Gottein said one of the two investors is now diverting its investment to Vietnam, a major competitor of the Philippines in the region in terms of foreign direct investments.

“Companies have decided not to double their investments here and rather look into other opportunities in the region. There are alternatives in the region, we are aware of that,” he said. “It is basically because of a series of statements done in recent months which caused that decision.”

He said the feedback the chamber got from some international companies already operating in the country was that investments are being put on hold because of uncertainty.

Gottein maintained European companies belonging to the small and medium category are eager to enter the Philippine market, while multinational and blue chip companies are putting their investments on hold.

“Business can live with and calculate risks, but uncertainty is something that is difficult to plan with,” he said.

“So I think when the environment is the right one, then European businesses will definitely continue to invest and create jobs for the long run,” Gottein stressed.

The Duterte administration’s setting the stage for the revival of the death penalty as well as reports of rising cases of extrajudicial killings in its so-called war on drugs have put the country’s privileges with the European Union under the Generalized System of Preferences Plus (GSP+) at risk. An EU monitoring team for the GSP+ visited the country late last month.

“We had a mission coming out here at the end of last month. It stayed for 10 days in the country and it looked at many different aspects including labor conventions, the environment situation and human rights,” EU Ambassador Franz Jessen said.

“One of the key aspects for the mission that came here was of course to see whether the Philippines is adhering to the conventions that are preconditioned for the GSP+ scheme,” he added. Jessen said the EU team is writing a report for submission to the government.

Old enemy, new face

In Switzerland, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairman Chito Gascon said on Tuesday populist leaders are taking advantage of the people’s frustration to propagate and impose their repressive brand of governance.

“It may now appear that this once ascendant democratic consensus we had sought so long to nurture, deepen and widen is now once more presented with a familiar adversity, albeit manifesting itself in new, contemporary and popular forms,” the CHR chief said at a human rights summit.

“It essentially posits the same old argument it has always employed to entice all of its adherents: that – in uncertain and difficult times such as we currently have – the only safety and security one can obtain is what can be given by a strongman; that we must obey and now surrender our fundamental rights too,” he added.

Gascon, a known critic of President Duterte’s anti-drug campaign, did not identify the leaders he was referring to.

In his speech, he criticized those who make the people choose only between lawlessness in a democratic setting and security without freedom.

He warned his listeners of the emergence of “violent extremism and an illiberal populist demagoguery,” which he said in the past pushed humanity to the brink of extinction, apparently in reference to the Second World War instigated by populist leaders like Adolf Hitler.

“If we are unable to muster both the courage and energy to push back against the twin menace of our time, then I am afraid that we might suffer the same fate that our forebears had to endure in the first half of the last century,” he said.

“We must be clear about this – an attack upon any people’s human rights is an assault on democracy itself.”

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