MANILA - It is unlikely for the Philippines to lose its zero tariff privilege on exports to the European Union if Manila addresses the international bloc's concerns, a Filipino envoy said Thursday.
The Philippines is among 9 countries that qualify for the EU's GSP+ scheme, which removes tariffs on 66 percent of products as long as they commit to international agreements on human and labor rights, environmental protection and good governance.
"That’s what I’m most fearful about. It’s possible, but not probable if we can do some quick remedial actions," said former Senator Edgardo Angara, President Rodrigo Duterte's special envoy to the EU.
Angara was asked if it was possible for the Philippines to lose its GSP+ status. A review is ongoing and results are due early next year, according to the EU.
The Philippines has relayed to the EU the President's offer to set up an independent monitoring center to track human rights violations.
"They’re happy to do it and I think there’s reciprocal value to that because then we can ask the monitor country, ‘please give us trainors of police investigations, surveillance; and give us state of the art camera and all that’ because it’s fair," Angara said.
"We allow them to do what they (want to) in pursuance of human rights, then please help us because they asked, ‘how can we help’," he added.
The Philippines is always a "valedictorian" in environment protection and workers' rights but human rights is "more problematic," Angara said
Angara said Duterte was "doing a different approach" on the war on drugs, which had been criticized by international rights monitors.
Angara said news about teens getting killed in alleged police operations broke while Filipino officials were at the EU headquarters in Brussels. The Filipino delegation told EU officials that these were being investigated, he said.
"He (Duterte) never condoned, he never encouraged anyone to kill someone. If you need to kill, only because it’s self-defense, which is allowed by law," he said.