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Opinion

Remembering PNoy, a friend of the EU

NOTES FROM THE EU DELEGATION - Luc Véron - The Philippine Star

The death of former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III caught the Philippines and the world in disbelief. Noynoy Aquino was a friend of the EU. We are forever grateful for his contribution for the deepening of our bilateral relations.

Like his mother, Benigno Aquino III, despite his aversion for traveling, visited Europe as president of the Republic of the Philippines and left a strong impression of friendship between the EU and this country. It was under his term that the bilateral Partnership and Cooperation Agreement was signed in 2014 and eventually ratified four years later.

Sadly, I did not have the chance to personally meet with the former president. I have therefore asked one of my predecessors, my friend Guy Ledoux, whose tenure coincided with President Aquino, to share some of his memories.

Ambassador Ledoux recalled the time of his presentation of credentials as one marked with significant bilateral challenges. At the time, the EU had banned all Philippines air carriers, it was considering to put to a stop the recruitment of Filipino seafarers on its ships and was ready to ban the import of fishery products from the Philippines. Quite a harsh panorama for a new ambassador, I would say.

All those issues were solved thanks to an efficient administration and the president’s leadership. “The lifting of the air ban was an amazing success achieved in a very short time,” according to Guy Ledoux. He recounted that in 2014, President Aquino personally sent transport secretary Abaya to Brussels to explain the extensive measures by the Philippine government to ensure that the EU would lift the warning regarding the recruitment of Filipino seafarers on European vessels.

In 2013, President Aquino signed an Executive Order (No. 154, s. 2013) approving National Plan of Action to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (NPOA-IUU). As a result, stringent sanctions on illegal fishing were imposed, which enabled the EU to lift its warning against imports of fishery products from the Philippines. This was, and remains, a major step in ensuring the sustainable exploitation of fisheries in the Philippine waters.

My predecessor also recalled fondly President Aquino’s methodology and approach. ”President Aquino’s objective was always to protect the jobs of Filipino people, whether in the maritime transport industry or the fisheries industries. His aim was to defend the interests of the Philippines both at home and abroad, whether in the relations with the EU or any other international partner and he stood firmly on his principles.”

In the speech President Aquino delivered in Brussels in 2014 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of EU-Philippines relations, he cited the shared core values between the EU and the Philippines: the rule of law, democracy, inclusive growth and the protection of human rights – including the rights of those who might not be from our respective countries, such as migrants or migratory workers. These words remain valid today in our partnership.

In the speech, he said, “We live in a world challenged by pandemics, by cross-border terrorism and by climate change.” As a true multilateralist, he said that only on a global level could we address these challenges. He continued, “The choice is clear: Together, we can confront and overcome these challenges, or we can succumb to them individually.”  Timeless words indeed.

Then European Commission President Barroso hailed President PNoy for his efforts to bring peace, stability and development to the country of which the successful accomplishment of the Mindanao peace negotiations and signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on Bangsamoro were remarkable examples.

The EU is pleased to have accompanied the Philippines by supporting the Mindanao peace roadmap and governance framework and contributing to the delivery of peace dividends at the grassroots level up to this day.

The EU shall always regard President PNoy as our true friend, an ally best remembered for nurturing the ties and the peace that bind the EU and the Philippines together.

Maraming salamat at mabuhay PNoy!

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