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Opinion

Forging ahead: EU and the Philippines

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

With what he said on the Philippine economy last Monday in his first State of the Nation Address, President Marcos got off to a good start.

His emphasis on putting the Philippines on the path of recovery and growth was both expected and welcome.

Listening to the President, I also noted his welcome insistence on sound fiscal management, increasing productivity and enhancing domestic and foreign investments.

The European Union will definitely continue to work with the Philippines in strengthening our bilateral trade and investment, thus contributing to the recovery efforts of the Philippines amidst the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the consequences of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In particular, we look forward to the full implementation of recently enacted economic reforms including the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises or the CREATE Law.

We are also equally eager to see the enactment of the amendments to a number of laws approved by the 18th Congress, such as the Foreign Investment Act, the Retail Trade Liberalization Act and the Public Services Act. These economic reforms are crucial to the economic recovery of the Philippines.

For its part, the European Union will continue to cooperate with the Philippines in implementing the Generalised System of Preference (GSP+). The EU’s GSP+ gives developing countries a special incentive to pursue sustainable development and good governance. Eligible countries have to implement 27 international conventions on human rights, labor rights, the environment and good governance. In return, the EU cuts its import duties to zero on all their exports to the EU market.

Moreover, the European Union will continue to sustain open trade and investments to generate growth and jobs needed to limit inflationary pressure and to reduce the risk of food shortage.

President Marcos has underscored his belief in international collaboration and the multilateral approach to address the world’s challenges. We therefore remain steadfast in our goal to work with the Philippines and others in addressing a number of global issues, be it climate change or the defence of the rules-based international order.

For example, the President mentioned that he would not even budge a single square inch of the Philippines’ rights in the West Philippines Sea. The EU remains committed to secure, free and open maritime routes in the Indo-Pacific, in full compliance with international law, in particular the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.

President Marcos rightly mentioned the uncertainty and negative effects that the Russian military invasion and continued war of aggression against its neighbor Ukraine has brought – not only to Ukraine and Europe but – to the whole world, including the Philippines. Besides the sheer loss of human lives and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, the Russian aggression – including its blockage of Ukrainian ports and destruction of the latter’s agricultural facilities – has caused the disruption of agricultural production and trade in Ukraine. This war has also caused a rise in the energy costs that will hamper recovery and increase the cost of living for all of us. The EU counts on the Philippines to continue to speak for the respect of the principles of the UN Charter and the immediate halt by Russia of its aggression and withdrawal of its troops from the territory of Ukraine. It is solely in Russia’s hands to stop this tragedy.

As the Philippines is currently the ASEAN-EU country coordinator until 2024, we would work together to further advance the EU-ASEAN strategic partnership. There is space to collaborate in the areas of peacebuilding, prosperity and security, especially in the light of the EU’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.

The EU foresees a good opportunity to increase cooperation and exchanges in areas such as digital connectivity, climate and the environment, and energy. More specifically, in line with the President’s forward-looking vision on the extended use of science and technology to hazard management, the EU will continue to pursue innovative applications of space technology for better prediction, analysis and rapid response to natural disasters.

During my courtesy meeting with then president-elect on 30 May, he was firm on climate change action and environment protection. In his first SONA, the President put renewable energy on top of his climate agenda. This augurs well for the EU’s development cooperation program in the Philippines, which aims to work towards building back better towards a more inclusive and greener post-pandemic world, achieve sustainable development goals and address the impacts of climate change.

Together, we would strive to enhance sustainable connectivity, to create more green jobs for both women and men, which will hopefully open up new business opportunities, including for European companies.

The importance of education and the return to face-to-face classes after two years was another welcome news. It is also equally important to note that this administration is focusing on STEM and is bent on improving its digital capacities.

We look forward to hearing more about the President’s stance on the EU-Philippines joint commitment to promote and protect human rights, democracy and the rule of law. We will continue our constructive engagement with the Philippines in these areas as well.

We are still at the beginning of President Marcos’ mandate and a newly elected Congress; many challenges lie ahead but I have no doubt that we will step up the EU-Philippines relationship and overcome whatever hurdles we may find in the road ahead, like long-standing partners.

*      *      *

Luc Veron is the Ambassador of the European Union.

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