MANILA - The Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) on Tuesday called on the government to talk to the European Parliament over its call to review trade privileges to the country over what it said was “the deteriorating level of press freedom in the Philippines.”
The influential business group said the country would suffer if the EU carries out the sanctions.
“We fervently hope that the removal of the GSP [Generalized Scheme of Preferences] preferences by the EU countries will not push through. It will make our products less competitive and will seriously impact on several industries. It will increase the number of the unemployed among our countrymen at the time when they most need jobs,” said MAP president Francis Lim.
Lim said the Philippine economy would “suffer more damage, especially given the contraction we are already experiencing with the pandemic.”
“Our government should not take the matter lightly for the sake of our people. We hope it will be discussed and addressed by both parties in a mutually satisfactory manner,” Lim said.
Last week, the EU Parliament called for a review of the tariff incentives extended to Manila over alleged human rights abuses and attacks on press freedom.
The EU Parliament called on the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte to grant ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise, drop the charges against Rappler CEO Maria Ressa, and free detained Senator Leila de Lima.
Malacanang responded to these calls by daring the European Union's lawmaking body to push through with its threat to revoke tariff incentives.
The Department of Foreign Affairs meanwhile said it is already talking with other world bodies over the issue. In a tweet, DFA Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. also said the country was “more important than a small social media outfit, a failed franchise, De Lima avoiding a court trial.”
The Philippine economy shrank a record 16.5 percent in the second quarter, officially plunging the country into recession, as the government locked down the country to check the spread of COVID-19.
Despite one of the world’s longest and strictest lockdowns, the Philippines still emerged with the most number of confirmed cases in ASEAN.